Friday Top 5: 2010 Album Covers

It’s time again to turn the music down and put on your art-critic monocles and top hats. Yes, today is the day we judge 2010 releases strictly on their visual packaging aesthetics as opposed to their auditory aptitude. It’s also a way to highlight the ‘other’ artists who have created the artwork and often don’t get the credit besides a sub-par blurb in the liner notes. 2010 was filed with beautiful artwork and it has been a struggle to dwindle them down to 5, but alas, my favorites are to be found below. Just like last year, I’m looking at the entire package; composition, balance, tone, meaning and originality. Use of text is not necessary as we saw last year, but when it is used, it must compliment the piece as a whole. I don’t claim to be an expert, but when looking back through this year’s album artwork, here are the ones that caught my eye.

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The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream

Rating: ★★★½ ·

You’re probably reading about The Black Angels because you think you’re into psychedelia, but you know what, as much as the band seems to live up to the name in their own attitude, its about time we just focus on the music rather than stuffing it in some tired sack with the rest of the bands unfortunately labeled as such.  Phosphene Dream sticks with the same pastiche the band’s utilized in the past, so don’t necessarily expect to find a whole lot of new territory covered, unless you’re looking for the ghost of Arhtur Lee.

It’s always a brooding affair when you get involved with an Angel’s record, and right from the get go there’s this coating in feedback and atmospherics, probably the one that gets them tagged as psychedelic. It sounds like another run of the mill track for the band (not that that’s a bad thing), but with about a minute to go the band just jumps into this driving energetic trip down the highway, fueled by squalling guitar and heavy-handed drumming. A brilliant closing minute. But, of course, they’ve got to pay homage for a bit to their San Francisco brethren of the sixties, which means “Haunting at 1300 Mckinley” is going to show you that jangling guitar stomp covered with guttural vocal accompaniment. Maybe its par for the course, but its never bad with this group.

There’s some changes adrift for the group, but you think that The Black Angels could take it even further.  “Sunday Afternoon” only gets tied into their typical sonic attributes with that little organ grinding in the background, not to mention the hollow effect of the vocal, but its one stepped up from being super stripped down.  You’ll love that solo and the jam in the middle for its raucous power, but man, if they just got rid of all that noise, that could be ridiculous.  Wait, they do get rid of it.  Listen to “True Believers” and you’ll find the direction that seems most logical for the band following Phosphene Dream. Just because they peel back a few layers doesn’t make the track any less dangerous or ominous, especially if you use the closing moments as your measuring point. Perhaps you’ll even notice hints of Clutch, with an homage to Austin, of course, on “Entrance Song.”  The throbbing bass builds the momentum, and while its a touch repetitive withe “rolling fast down I-35” lyric, there’s a bit of a haunting to this presence, perhaps one that can only be felt by those cruising down one of the most dangerous stretches of American highway.

While it may seem like there’s some criticism for The Black Angels with this review, its far from that.  They’ve been so successful with their efforts in the past, and dominated this dark sixties influenced rock scene, that it’s hard to find things to say that haven’t been thrown around hundreds of times.  Personally, they sound a whole lot more like Love than 13th Floor Elevators, but that’s one man’s opinion.  Phosphene Dream is going to be just as successful as their last effort, and perhaps the records in the future. They’re a great band with great songs.  It’s just plain simple.


Download: The Black Angels – Sunday Afternoon [MP3]

New Music From Black Angels

Austin friends The Black Angels just premiered this sweet new track “Bad Vibrations” earlier today on The Gum.  You’ll of course hear that droning sound we’ve grown accustomed to from the band along with a frantic finish at the end.  This new single will appear on the Austin groups upcoming LP Phosphene Dream due out September 14th via Blue Horizon.


Download: Black Angels – Bad Vibrations [MP3]