Best of 2011
2 January, 2012, 8:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

‘Coming out of blog hibernation to bring you my “Best of 2011” list (oddly enough, the last recorded post on this blog was the release date of my favorite record from this year. A few things have changed since I last blogged – most significantly a new and way better job and the birth of a joint venture between myself and my girlfriend Samantha. Admittedly I kinda slept on listening to a lot of records that came out this year. Instead, most of my music listening consisted of going backwards and listening to bands I’ve always loved (read: lots of 90’s bands) or discovering records I should have in 2010 (I’m looking at you Shannon Wright’s Secret Blood). But there were definitely records released this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Yes, I liked that new Bon Iver record… No, it does not appear on this list)

Sonic Youth - SYR9

11. Sonic Youth – SYR 9: Simon Werner a Disparu
I loved The Eternal, but this release reminds me of my favorite era of Sonic Youth recordings. This release fits right in with records like SYR1, Washing Machine, NYC Ghost & Flowers and the like. Like many, I’m a little concerned for this bands future output (and sad for the people involved) due to recent developments. I have no doubt that the individual members will continue to make great music (Thurston Moore’s solo outing from this year was considered for this list) in other outlets, but the future of this particular collaboration seems uncertain.

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

10. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
Soundtrack for a trip to the ether. Seriously, this is what the most amazing dreams sound like. Played many times during early mornings or late nights working on freelance projects.

9. Battles – Gloss Drop
People may have been skeptical about this release due to the departure of vocalist experimentalist Tyondai Braxton. The vocals were a new thing for Battles on their last release and seemed to be a large part of the success of that record. The band not only succeeded with this record, but outdid themselves – enlisting a handful of guest vocalists to give these new songs an even greater dimension. Add to this the amazing visuals the band put together throughout the year. From the jaw dropping performance of “Wall Street” in Paris’ City Hall and the hilarious video for “My Machines” featuring new wave icon Gary Numan.

8. The Appleseed Cast – Middle States EP
The fact that The Appleseed Cast is still making music in 2011 is impressive and inspiring. The band has long proved themselves as something different and more complex than their “emo” beginnings. In four songs the band proves that they might just have their best material still in them. The 14 minute B-side improv jam is worth the price of admission alone.

7. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
It’s no secret I like the band Mogwai quite a bit. But this year the band pushed themselves a bit and introduced some new textures and approaches to their sonic palette while reminding everyone why they are seasoned veterans in the game of controlled chaos.

6. The Psychic Paramount – II
Take the skill and craft of a band like The Mercury Program and add in some fuel-injected catharsis… and you’re maybe just getting close to describing The Psychic Paramount. This record made me want to listen to lots of “heavy” records again. Not that this record sounds like you’re typical “heavy” record, far from it, but The Psychic Paramount pour every amount of the best kind of aggression into this long player.

5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (Live from the Basement)
Sure, I liked the studio version of The King of Limbs alright. But, like 2001’s I Might Be Wrong, the band show that they are possibly at their best when fleshing their shit out in a live setting and all the little nuances in their studio creations come screaming to the forefront. Things that are barely hinted at in their previous form become the lifeblood of each composition and propel each song to new heights.

4. The Drift – Blue Hour
The death of a close friend and band member can have a devastating effect on a band, not to mention the personal lives of all involved. The Drift picked up the pieces after the passing of member Jeff Jacobs and put together this stunning statement in celebration of his life. Equal parts pensive/meditative and tribal celebration of life.

3. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien
I never bought into the hype surrounding this band with their last release. I tried to really like them… and they just sort of seemed “OK”. On a whim, I listened a song from this record that was floating around the interwebs at the time. Suddenly I was hooked. But could the rest of the record be this good? Yes. Yes it could. Seemingly more focused, more catchy and more agressive and more better than any previous output.

2. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
All the best parts of the previous M83 releases congealed into one beautiful double album. Either Anthony Gonzalez was holding out on us all these years or his entire career has been building to this.

1. Wye Oak – Civilian
Without a doubt, this is the record that I kept coming back to again and again, every song becoming ingrained with each spin. A perfect listen from to start to finish. Lush, dreamy guitars, the soulful and husky voice of Jenn Wasner, the steady pulse of the drums – not overly complex, but every hit perfectly placed – all make for a listening experience that is haunting and beautiful. The song “Holy Holy” gets stuck in your head and doesn’t leave without a fight. It starts out alternating between dirge and terrifying squall before it’s glorious climax immerses you in a wall of sound that you’ll never want to escape from. Similarly, “We Were Wealth” begins in a state of beautiful melancholy before transitioning into a surge of beautiful noise. The band most certainly delivers in the live setting as well. If you can believe the “big moments” sounding even bigger as Andy Stack plays one-man-rhythm-section, handling drums and keys simultaneously, you’ll be swept off your proverbial feet for sure. I was anyway.


Mastodon – The Hunter – Atlanta’s favorite sons of metal soar to new heights.
The Soft Province – The Soft Province – One current member and one former member of The Besnard Lakes make one hell of a catchy dream pop/gaze album.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient – Bossgaze. In all seriousness, a lush record with raw beauty.
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – EITS return with a record as strong as the material that originally made them great.

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream – In a recent interview regarding the reissue of Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan stated: “I captured Chicago suburbs, 1991.” Being in that exact place at that exact time, I have to agree. He did. This reissue does a great job of paying the proper respect to the original album. It always kinda bums me out when a band chooses to re-do the artowrk on these things (*AHEM* Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart) but honestly, the artwork is done very well if you were to consider it without the original packaging in mind.

Sigur Ros – Inni – Stripped of their string section and sounding as raw and powerful as ever.

Yo La Tengo at The Variety Playhouse
Minus the Bear at Masquerade (due mostly to all the early material played on their 10th anniversary tour)
Wye Oak and Explosions in the Sky at The Tabernacle

The Life and Times
The Appleseed Cast
Shannon Wright
Bear In Heaven
Codeine Reissues
Sigur Ros

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Super 8

If you’ve read all the way through this, I say “thank you.” Lists are silly little things sometimes. For a good read on such things as lists and their complexity go here. I definitely have similar thoughts on the matter.

P.S. I miss Do Make Say Think. Their albums always sound like they are meant for the turntable.


What Glorious Things / New iPhone Wallpapers
8 March, 2011, 7:38 am
Filed under: Design, Music

I recently wrapped up some artwork for my good friend Jason Hansen, who has a new band called What Glorious Things. The plan was to release his band’s EP via download only, but I convinced him to do a small run of CDs for any fans who might still appreciate holding some sort of physical product in their hands.

I ordered up a small quantity of my favorite paper in the world from the good folks at French Paper and designed envelopes for the CDs to easily slide into. A total of 50 were made (i.e. cut with an exacto knife and glued one by one) and each was numbered as an edition. A lot of people probably don’t care about this kind of stuff but I thank Jason for indulging the nerd in me and letting me try to create some sort of minimal experience for the release of his new music.

As an additional thanks for those who purchased the EP physically or from the band’s bandcamp site, we offered a series of iPhone wallpapers inspired by the art we’ve been working on for the EP and forthcoming album.

Click on the images to download the wallpapers.

5 x 15
25 February, 2011, 9:24 am
Filed under: Design

Just a quick note to say that I’ll be speaking at Trinity Artist’s 5×15 Series Tonight.

I’ll be speaking on my experience as an intern/volunteer at Hatch Show Print back in 2007 and how that experience has affected my work going forward. I have a lot of respect for the people behind the scenes at this event and the various dialogues about art that take place at 5×15. So if you’re in the Atlanta area – come out. It’ll be a good opportunity to get a peek at what some local artists are up to.

Yo La Tengo
31 January, 2011, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Music

Until three days ago, I would’ve called myself a casual Yo La Tengo fan. No longer. On Friday night, my girlfriend Samantha and I saw the band perform at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. I think it’s a sign of a great show when you’re still thinking about it three days later. And so… I think I’m developing a serious crush on Yo La Tengo.

In their over-25-year career, the band always seems to have such a passion for their craft in addition to a reverence for the music that has preceded them. If not releasing albums full of covers they also seem to throw in subtle winks and nudges at rock ‘n’ roll’s history within their own material. In turn, they’ve probably inspired countless other musical acts themselves. The fact that they’re still cranking out quality records is quite impressive.

In regards to Friday night’s show, it’s even more impressive how easily they can cull from their immense discography. For this tour the band decided to let their first set of each night’s performance be decided by the spin of a wheel, a la Wheel of Fortune (the tv show’s theme music played as the band took the stage). There were several categories that would establish the direction of that first set. One being “S Songs” – songs from the band’s oeuvre that started with the letter “S”, to which the band claims could easily amount to over 45 minutes of music. We got “Sounds Of Science, Part 2” (the second half of the band’s score for filmmaker Jean Painleve’s underwater documentaries and shorts. A bit meandering and abstract for some, but it really showcased the band’s ability to do more than just write great pop songs or scorching rockers.

For the second set we were treated to a slew of gems from the YLT pantheon. Starting with “Autumn Sweater” and running through personal faves like “Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1),” “Today is the Day (EP Version)” and “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.” This was followed by an encore featuring “We’re An American Band” (their own composition), followed appropriately by a cover of GFR’s “We’re An American Band” and ending with a mellow reading of “Big Day Coming.”

I was in awe of the band’s musicianship, their energy and their connection to their audience. It was loud, it was delicate and it was beautiful. It was a perfect show. It made me reminisce about playing music myself. Ultimately, I think that’s why the showed impressed me so much and why I’m such a huge fan now. Yo La Tengo remind me of why I love music.

Bonus points, because the band were selling coffee mugs at their merch table.

ATL Collective identity
14 January, 2011, 8:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been some time since I posted some work that I’ve actually done. I recently completed an identity for my friends in the ATL Collective. According to their mission statement, “ATL Collective was established to foster the Atlanta music scene, encourage collaborations and cross-pollination and to create happenings that will inspire and entertain.” These happenings often include the selection of a record to cover from start to finish. The musicians take their turns interpreting each successive track on said record. December’s event saw them tackling Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. Next month, they’ll be putting their spin on Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen.

As a music lover and a friend to several of the members of ATL Collective, this was not only a fun project but a “must-do” project. I’ve often attributed any interest in design at all to growing up with my father’s record collection. Many of the record’s covered at their events are records I heard skipping on the turntable as I would run rambunctiously past the stereo and promptly (and rightfully) be scolded by my father for making the records skip. It’s exciting to hear the Collective’s take on these records, and in a way, discover them again. I’m happy to do a poster for these events when asked, so naturally the choice to help them brand their mission was an equally fun endeavor. The mark will be featured on posters, a new website and any collateral produced in the future. Stay tuned for future events, now being held at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta.

Best of 2010
8 January, 2011, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Music

Like the list I did in 2008 (‘totally slept on a 2009 list…), I make no claim to having any critical acumen when it comes to talking about the “BEST” records of the year. What follows is a conversation about the albums that I enjoyed the most this year.

Eluvium - Similies

10. Eluvium – Similies
Master instrumental composer Matthew Cooper mixes things up a bit and releases a record of songs that prominently feature vocals. The gamble turns out to be some of his most beautiful and haunting work. The vocal performances become another layer of his compositions and in no way subtract from the atmosphere he so excellently crafts.

Balmorhea - Constellations

9. Balmorhea – Constellations
A bit more of a hushed affair compared to their previous release, “All is Wild, All is Silent”, but just as equally captivating – if not more. Using strings, banjos, pianos and stomping percussion, the band creates fantastic passages of contemplative beauty. Not necessarily an immediate listen… but careful attention will reward the listener. Catching the band live this year was an added bonus.

8. Aloha – Home Acres
After the excellent “Light Works” EP, fans of Aloha became very eager for the full length that was rumored to follow. Three years later proved to be well worth the wait. Possibly Aloha’s finest moment in their 13 year career. All enclosed in beautiful artwork by Daniel Danger.

7. Kenseth Thibideau – Repetition
Pinback/ Sleeping People/ Tarentel/ etc member Kenseth Thibideau releases his first solo album of summertime krautrock-inspired jams. Half the disc is peppered with breezy vocals that lend a carefree 60/70’s pop vibe to the record. Put this in your car stereo and cruise around as summer days turn into night.

6. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Superchunk is easily a band I should have been listening to a long time ago. I have no idea why I didn’t listen to them before they broke their 9-year silence and released this gem. Immediately catchy rock and roll songs that just get better with every listen. As a bonus, go here and check out this excellent cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days.”

5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I think this is another choice influenced by seeing the band live this year. I also think it’s pretty freaking awesome that an independent band topped the Billboard charts. Oh yeah, the record’s about growing up in the suburbs and stuff.

4. The Octopus Project – Hexadecagon
Intended as a document of shows the band played earlier in the year, where the band played in the round and the audience was then surrounded by speakers and video screens. Naturally, the listening experience wouldn’t be the same on a conventional stereo… but still, at the heart of listening is what’s being listened to (i.e. the content). TOP get their Steve Reich on and compose 8 pieces of swirling melodic gorgeousness. You’ll be a better person for just having listened to the third and fourth tracks.

3. Pomegranates – One Of Us
For such a young band, Poms show a lot of growth on their third full length. One of Us is choc full of catchy, dreamy anthems. The contrast between the tenor of one vocalist to the deeper voice of another broadens the pallet with which this band paints its songs that seem to incorporate many influences. Yet, this record marks their most cohesive statement.

2. Shipping News – One Less Heartless To Fear
This was a strong contender for number one. Shipping News have been a favorite for some time. Born out of other faves, June of 44 and Rodan, this band is equally essential. A couple of factors make this album so compelling. 1. The band have traded in their usual long, slower-paced songs for short bursts of controlled chaos. 2. This is a live recording. An illness in the band forced plans for a studio album to be scrapped. This in no way detracts from the quality of One Less Heartless… If anything, it speaks to the band’s strength as a tight, cohesive unit. The energy contained within the recording is invigorating and only serves to compliment the shift in sound.

1. The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night
Most pleasant surprise of 2010. Yes, their last record was good, but this one is GREAT. Song for song, listen for listen, this record just kept finding its way into the speakers at work, in the car and on the home stereo. Not a weak moment. Each listen revealed more. Songs would mysteriously appear, lodged in my brain, when not actually listening to the record. Mixing elements of shoegaze, Beach Boys-inspired melodies and straight up rock-and-roll, Are The Roaring Night is quite something to behold. The opening two tracks alone are worthy of a record called “The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night.” Lyrics about trains to Chicago don’t hurt either.


Parlour – Simulacrenfield – Awesome jams by Louisville instrumental vets.
Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin – Another “come back” record that sounds like the band’s best.
Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself – No, not the baseball player.
Medications – Completely Removed – DC band changes it up a bit and writes their best record.

Arcade Fire at Verizon Amphitheater
Tortoise at The Earl
Balmorhea at The Earl
All Tiny Creatures at 529

Collections of Colonies of Bees
All Tiny Creatures
Rival Schools (yup… been waiting since my 2008 list for this)
The Appleseed Cast

Click HERE to download a .zip file containing a mix of songs from this list.

29 December, 2010, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Psst. Still here?

Me too. More soon. ‘Been to long (again).