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Album Covers

May 26, 2010

One may notice that I talk about not hearing the following albums, but clearly I played them on my radio show last week.  I wrote this before my show, Obviously.  I’m totally on top of things and then saved this as a draft on WordPress and just realized my error.  Still, enjoy!

So, I have in my possession two brand new albums released by New Amsterdam Records:  Corey Dargel’s Someone Will Take Care of Me and Matt Marks’ The Little Death: Vol. 1. I haven’t listened to either, but the album artwork/layout/presentation of the music is so cool, and I’d rather talk about it before hearing any of it.  I’m saving myself, you know… for the right person.

What I do know about the music is that both discs are song cycles (perhaps not quite the right term, but I think it suffices) and feature the composers as vocalists (with Matt Marks singing alongside Mellissa Hughes.)

The cover of Someone Will Take Care of Me features Dargel leaning against the wall, passed out (but still appearing very dashing, despite being unconscious).  This is without a doubt, not how your grandmother was introduced to her classical music favorites.  Inside, there are some very thoughtful remarks from Molly Sheridan (of the recently blacklisted-by-Google Arts Journal. That might sound really terrible, but I think you all wish you could be cool enough to be recognized by the Gods of the Internet).  Sheridan skips by any of the actual music and goes straight to the heart of Corey’s art. Who cares what Molly thinks about the music? People are about to listen to it anyways and can make their own opinions.  Instead, she sets in motion the thought process behind the art… it’s more like priming the pump than explaining that there’s water in the well.

Matt Marks on the other hand, goes ahead and stages the songs right on the cover and insides, facing Mellissa Hughes, praying next to each other and generally looking a good mix between pious and bewildered.  Inside, there’s no deep commentary on the music (which begins with the piece Penetration Overture… perhaps the second New Am record to feature the word Penetration.)  Instead, the text reads more like a legal transcript of a conversation between two people.  The entire presentation of the music is ‘in character,’ and leaves you a little more intrigued about how the music will comment on the action.

I know I’m not saying anything new, but I think it’s important to point out that record labels like New Amsterdam and venues like Le Poisson Rouge are clothing art music in trendy clothes.  This is controversial for a number of reasons, which I don’t want to get into (right now).  What, to me, is interesting is that the music (I’m going to guess, having not listened to it yet) and its album presentation ally themselves popular music.  I could bring either of these albums to any of my non-classical listening fans, and I’d be able to get them to at least pop it into the CD player (which, amusingly, no one uses anymore…. Luckily NewAm offers up copious mp3 downloads from their website).

Let’s be honest.  We don’t live in a society that gives things a fair shot… we live and consume by snap judgments.  To win attention, you have to play the game by the rules that the game makers have written for themselves, and with New Amsterdam’s approach at least the Good Guys are getting a chance to enter the tournament.

Or, maybe I’m totally mistaken and I’m in the minority of the minority… new music fans who are easily swayed by pretty pictures and shiny objects.  Still, I’m impressed with how clear of an idea about the music I get just by looking at the art work.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010 3:54 pm

    Talk about inspirational; music AND design together. This is done by my wife, and she is utilizing the album covers as inspiration for her interior design stylings. Check these out: (Flaming Lips) (BlackStar, Bjork,
    Yeah Yeah Yeahs) (Just Jack, The LK) (Crystal Castles, Cut
    Copy, Passion Pit, Cold Cave, Jay
    Electronica, The xx)

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