Santigold – 99¢
Brooklyn-based musician Santigold appears shrink-wrapped alongside an assortment of personal possessions on the cover of her latest album, 99¢.
The image was shot by Haruhiko Kawaguchi (Photographer Hal), who has vacuum-packed over 400 couples and their belongings for his series Flesh Love and Zatsuran, as well as for a campaign promoting Japanese condom brand Condomania (you can read an interview with Kawaguchi about his work and process on Vice).
Santigold says the artwork is a playful reflection on our consumerist society. “We have no illusion that we don’t live in this world where everything is packaged,” she says. “People’s lives, persona; everything is deliberate and mediated. It can be dark and haunting and tricky, and freak us out, but it can be also be silly and fun and we can learn to play with it.”
Visuals have also been applied to her website alongside a spoof promo for a ‘3D selfie generator’:
Label: Roc Nation
Co La – No No
Co La is the moniker of Matthew Papich, a Baltimore-based experimental music producer and guitarist. His latest record, No No, is described as an investigation of “the sensual and emotional aspects of terrestrial life” and is composed of musical loops and samples mixed with recognisable sounds from laughter to screaming.
The artwork was designed by Bobby Houlihan, whose elegant typographic treatment plays on both the album’s title and its key themes.
“I listened to No No and decided that I wanted to illustrate the idea, or the practice, of taking an object and having a look at it from multiple angles,” he explains. “I think that No No is really sculptural in the way it takes common, domestic sounds and places them together in a sort of Duchamp ready-made model. Using a mirror to examine and reflect the album’s title seemed like a good way to communicate these ideas and practices that I was hearing in the music.”
Jim O’Rourke – Arco
Arco is the latest instalment in Italian label Die Schachtel’s Zeit New Composers series, which features work by new, contemporary and experimental producers. The album features music by Jim O’Rourke and Belgian-based composer Giovanni di Domenico.
Die Schachtel co-founder Bruno Stucchi created the artwork for the series (he has designed all of the label’s sleeves since 2003), and each release features a matt silver and black imaginary landscape. Images are hand-drawn by Stucchi before being redrawn in Adobe Illustrator and each CD or vinyl record comes with a three-panel illustrated insert.
“The Arco cover was born out of a series of sketches and explorations around the idea of the Zeppelin, and my fascination with the work of Leon Spilliaert,” says Stucchi. “I can draw tens of [sketches] before getting into the right mood and the right image. Of course they are inspired by the music, yet – if I may say so – they live a parallel life of their own,” he adds.
Label: Die Schachtel
Joanna Newsom – Divers
The cover of harpist, singer and musician Joanna Newsom’s fourth album Divers features an ethereal-looking image by Kim Keever, an artist and former thermal engineer at NASA. Titled Wildflowers 52i, it depicts a seemingly vast landscape but was in fact shot in a 200 gallon fishtank using plastic flowers.
Keever has shot several series in tanks, using miniature rocks and foliage along with dry ice, water and gel coloured lights to create some dream-like visual effects. Images have to be shot before colours mix and water turns a murky brown, leaving Keever just a few minutes to take each picture. Keever says the image was inspired by a nature documentary which revealed that wildflowers originated from China.
Label: Drag City
Darkstar – Foam Island
Electronic music duo Darkstar’s third album, Foam Island, provides a thought-provoking exploration of political disenfranchisement in the north of England. Tracks are interspersed with interviews the band conducted with young people in Huddersfield, which reflect on politics, poverty, employment, cuts and the north/south divide.
Photographer James Medcraft made several trips to the area with the band to photograph interviewees. “Before I started the project Huddersfield to me was just an old mining town north of the Peaks,” he says. “I met with Darkstar before my first visit and listened to some of the interviews of the people I’d later meet, forming identities in my mind of the people whom James and Aiden had spent time with for over a year.
“Over 4 months, James, Aiden and Myself too approximately 5 trips to the town to record interviews and take portraits. The trust of our subjects was a vital part of making a genuine project and it’s what took the most amount of time. From listening to the original interviews to meeting the people I was photographing, my image of Huddersfield changed from one of a forgotten town to one of a proud culture, forging their own future during austere times. The process of taking the portraits is a very important part of my investigations into people’s lives. Shooting on large format, the photographic process takes time, allowing the subject to relax and for subject and photographer to talk.
“The image of Sara and her girls [above], for me was a pivotal moment for me in the project. Travelling to Huddersfield for many times, she was reluctant to be photographed and the children we’re off limits. On our last trip she called James and invited us for a cup of tea at her house and a portrait. About to shoot the last sheet of film, she invited the girls for a family portrait. For me this summed up the level of trust and depth Darkstar went to to create the album; not only to create an honest representation of a town but a project that involves a community without exploitation.”
Artwork was designed by Build. “The band and I were really keen from the outset that the photography was the hero in all formats,” says Build’s Michael Place. “This meant as little as possible in terms of typography on the images, including the cover which just goes out with a sticker. Once that is removed it’s just the image with a simple tracklist on the back.
“We also wanted the sleeve to be very classic, the typography elegant with nice little moments in terms of ligatures. We used a variety that was inherent in the typeface’s opentype features, and we designed a selection especially. The record is a beautifully quiet but powerful and we wanted the sleeve design to reflect that,” he adds.
Olga Bell – Incitation
Lettering artist and designer Alex Trochut (a previous CR Annual Best in Book winner) has designed a handsome typographic sleeve for the limited edition release of New York musician Olga Bell’s album, Incitation.
Limited to a run of 1000, the package comes with an embossed holographic sleeve, a grey-and-white marbled disc and a photographic insert featuring an image shot by Noah Kalina, which appears on the standard and digital editions of the album.
Label: One Little Indian
Florin Büchel – Operation Midnight Climax
Released on Los Angeles-based label Peak Oil, Operation Midnight Climax is an album by Swiss musician Florin Büchel. The record is inspired by the CIA mind-control research project of the same name which ran in the 1950s and 60s (unwitting subjects were given LSD and other substances, then monitored to dertermine the effects it had on their brain).
The vinyl edition, produced in a run of 300, features a neon printed sleeve with a psychedelic comic-book style character, and tear-off perforated blotting paper similar to the patterned papers often used to distribute LSD. Each piece of paper is printed with the Peak Oil logo, which also appears in fluoro pink on the album’s reverse. The record comes with a printed insert featuring mock redacted documents.
“It was a real collaborative effort. Aaron Draplin made our logo, as featured on the blotter, Peak Oil was responsible for designing the cover, Matthew Spiegelman executed it and Briar Levit made the logo for the insert,” explains label co-founder Brion Brionson.
Label: Peak Oil