I want to change the way you look at records. There is much more to an LP than having it look totally cool on your shelf when your friends come over. The album cover alone is one of the most under-appreciated art forms in today’s culture, even though they are literally everywhere you look. Nobody really notices anymore and that’s a pity, because album artwork and production has only gotten better and stronger over the last 10 years, bringing back those of us who connect to music with more than our ear canals. Think of it like a pair of boobs. Sure, they look nice on the shelf and are great display pieces, but it’s not until you crack ‘em open to get a better look, feel, and smell that you get the full experience and truly appreciate them for what they are. For anyone not interested in boobs, replace that with any body part you are attracted to. Same idea.
This will not be a series of album reviews. Fuck, for the purposes of this column, I could really give a shit what’s actually in between those grooves. Color variants, special packaging, album art and other forms of creativity outside of the actual music will be discussed and dissected. This might be a niche column, but those packaging nerds out there will feel me on this. My goal is to get you to give a fuck about the entire process that goes into making a record.
It’s all about aesthetic here and I’ve got a couple choice nugs from my personal collection to start this thing off.
Signals Midwest – Light on the Lake
First up we have the third full-length album from Signals Midwest, Light on the Lake. From Tiny Engines, this junior release got a solid layout and design treatment by Jeff Finley, famous graphic designer/all around solid dude from Go Media Inc. The cover features photography of what I can only assume is an industrial waterfront district in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as some beautiful hand lettering – hand lettering is basically type or words that someone uses a “pencil” or “pen” to “draw” – centered around a foil-stamped flame. You heard me right, foil-stamped. This shit shines like sunlight hitting a shiny copper penny. It adds a little something extra to the cover to make it super special. It’s the little things, ya know?
I purchased all four color variants on vinyl during the pre-order like some sort of basement dwelling collector has who mined enough bitcoin to buy the entire world (yeah I got paper.. what?!) Starting from the top and going clockwise: up top, we have a version called “Lake,” an opaque, murky blue with hints of lighter blue to represent, you guessed it, the lake; immediately to its right is the “Light” variant, which looks more like a melted traffic cone (in a really cool way); on the bottom, we have your standard clear variant which no vinyl pressing should be without, (between clear and cokebottle, you can hardly ever go wrong); and finally, on the left hand side, the cleverly titled “Sludge,” representative of the scum and other disgusting shit found in and around Lake Erie. Personally, this is my favorite one. It’s white with a bit of green/grey marbling. Truly, a beautiful looking record.
As an added bonus, this preorder came with a silkscreened poster featuring lyrics from the song “A Glowing Light, An Impending Dawn.” It’s a nice addition to an already complete package. Unfortunately, I BELIEVE they are no longer available. So if you didn’t pick one up, tough shit.
Get your hands on the vinyl here:
The Mighty Fine – Brothers and Smugglers
I get really excited when Creator Destructor – Ben Murray from Heartsounds’ label – puts anything out, and there are several reasons why. First, Pirates Press – the vinyl pressing plant producing these records – does some of the most incredible custom vinyl on the West Coast. I’ve never seen color variants with this quality and originality from any other pressing plant. They have a “Record of the Week” blog (piratespress.com/rotw), which I highly suggest checking out if you’ve got a few days to kill looking at sweet, sweet colors. The thing I appreciate most is that they are able to match the colors of vinyl to the album’s artwork, creating some of the most unique and cohesive packages around.
As an example, I’ve chosen to feature the newest album from San Luis Obispo’s The Mighty Fine. It’s the perfect mix of genius artwork and simple, but effective packaging. The cover was illustrated by Justin Santora (JustinSantora.com), the same artist who did the latest Red City Radio album. He’s one hell of a talent, so check him out. Just look at that illustration! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? The yellow and maroon go so well together. And when you put it next to the actual record? Fuuuuuck. It’s a visual orgasm. It feels so complete. Like butter scraped over just enough bread. The actual jackets are made of quality material as well, so this puppy just feels good in the hands. An all around quality release from Creator Destructor. I look forward to seeing what else they can accomplish with Pirates Press in the future.
Get your hands on the vinyl here:
Frameworks – Loom
Lastly, we have a release from one of my favorite labels, Top Shelf Records. I had been waiting for this release for quite a long time and when it finally came, I became filled with joy because I had no idea what to expect.
Frameworks’ Loom came to me well packaged (like all Top Shelf albums) and when I opened it I found, to my surprise, what appeared to be a die cut cover with the album title cut out like it were a stencil. This was just foreplay, however, as I pulled out the record and noticed that the entire front face was in fact cut out so the insert with the artwork featuring the purple clouds popped through. Beautiful. On the backside of the album we have a gorgeous, lightly embossed, glossy black track listing and label logo sitting on top of a matte back board. If you asked me for my favorite color combination, the answer you’d get would be a very loud and wet war cry from me saying, “BLACK ON BLACK, MOTHERFUCKER!” This just does it for me in so many ways. It should be noted that only the first pressing of this album comes with a die cut cover, and as of writing this, there are only a few left so swoop in on that!
The first pressing of 1037 copies comes in 4 different color variants; 107 gray with black and white splatter copies, 159 cream copies, 259 180 gram black copies, and 510 translucent purple copies. I was lucky enough to grab a cream copy and it looks absolutely dreamy with the black and purple color scheme. It’s definitely something you should have picked up. If you didn’t, better luck next time, dork.
Get your hands on the vinyl here:
Thanks for listening to me nerd out. I hope you enjoyed our time together. Stay tuned, because there will be more from me in the future as I discover new and awesome records that cry out for reverently detailed explanations. Support indie labels. Support major labels. Support artists directly. Just fucking support some shit. Those digital downloads you love so much could come with a nice vinyl copy for around the same price, and you ACTUALLY GET SOMETHING TO TOUCH! Crazy, right? Catch ya on the B-side.