Our Assistant Music Directors, Bella Genolio and Tyler Clark, chose albums that were sent to our music department, and tried to guess what they sounded like solely based on their covers. Check out their reviews!
Everything is Magick by Impuritan (Tyler)
I really like the cover art on this album. The imagery is sort of abstract and grotesque, my first thought is that this album is definitely in the Metal genre. Something about the almost techno-horror style of the cover makes me think it’s some form of Art Metal, maybe falling closer to the Prog or Nu Metal side of things. There’s also a clear dichotomy present within the cover, so I wonder if any of these themes carry into the album.
Upon listening to the album, it is clear that “Everything is Magick” does indeed fall somewhere within the broad Metal genre. It is likely that someone with more experience with the many subgenres of metal might be able to categorize it further, but I would choose to perhaps call it Psychedelic Metal. It is worth noting that in my research I did find a band of the same name who specializes in Deathcore, but as far as I can tell this is a different Impuritan. “Everything is Magick” heavily relies on synthesizers, esoteric vocals, and psychedelic instrumental soundscapes: almost bordering on a sound that enters into the land of Krautrock at times. Occasionally the music will speed up, bringing in elements of distorted guitar and drums more traditionally associated with rock or metal. Overall, I would say this album was pretty aesthetically consistent with its cover, although I was a little off with my predictions.
Time Skiffs by Animal Collective (Bella)
I think this cover’s really cool and makes the album an ambiguous pick for a first time listener. I would guess that the broad genre this album fits under is experimental indie rock. The constellations overlayed on top of what looks like images of household items, maybe cut out from vintage advertisements makes me think that much of the lyrics reference the past and predestined fate, and perhaps the collaging of these items is an attempt to overcome a set timeline. I think this album is going to have dreamy vocals, likely from a female singer, and I think the instrumentation is going to vary from heavy, loud guitar, to minimal instrumentation to showcase the artist’s voice. I feel like they’re gonna throw in a non-traditional instrument as well, maybe a mandolin or a trombone or something like that.
As soon as I looked up this album, I realized I knew this band and that my predictions were a bit off, though I think I nailed the dreamy, experimental part, as well as the non-traditional instruments. Animal Collective is an experimental indie pop group that combines elements from psychedelic rock, electronic, and noise genres to create a sort of sound collage, which is what the album cover is representative of. This album is definitely a headphone listen. Different musical elements shift from ear to ear, providing the listener with a multi dimensional experience as the album progresses. Every song has so many different layers happening at once, while still maintaining a cohesive sound. Listeners can appreciate the complexity of each song without feeling like too much is going on. The vocals seem to almost draw the listener away from this complexity, the main voices follow the melodies driven by the instrumentation and allow for a very well integrated sound. At times, the vocals are overlaid with other vocals which contribute to the albums overall strange and psychedelic feel. These vocals are often repetitive to the point of a meditative sound and are stretched or contorted into nightmarish warnings. The album starts with a mystical feel, the instrumentals provide a dream-like backdrop for the mythical lyrics. Then goes into a rougher couple of instrumental songs that showcase the complexity of the instrumentation while providing more of a noisy background. Around the middle it builds to a couple of upbeat summery songs that combine a classic 60s psych rock sound with mallet instruments and repetitive vocals. The album ends with some slower songs that use distortion to make the vocals dreamy, while using reverbed harps and synths, – a tie back to the start of the album. Overall a very strange and experimental album that kept my attention all the way through. RIYL: Ariel Pink, The Microphones, Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal.
Showtunes by Lambchop (Tyler)
This cover is throwing me for a bit of a loop… the dramatic lighting and styling makes it look like a Rembrandt – but it’s just a little dog. Also the name of the album is “Showtunes”, which I’m guessing isn’t meant to be taken literally but maybe rather tongue-in-cheek. I’m thinking it’s some sort of art rock: contemporary music inspired by “classical” sensibilities.
“Showtunes” is most definitely experimental, and most definitely inspired by western art music. I would say the instrumentation is similar to avant-garde jazz. Traditional wind, brass, and piano is joined by synthesizers and aided by a host of editing tricks, looping, distortion, and the sampling of other obscure pieces (such as what sounds like an old opera record on “The Last Benedict). The vocals and lyrics, on the other hand, seem almost post-folk: reminiscent of artists like Lou Reed or the late Leonard Cohen. I would say that “Showtunes” did live up to its cover, but my prediction of it being art rock was definitely off the mark.
Post Falls, Idaho by Volatile Youth (Bella)
The name of the band and the album cover lead me to believe the main theme of this album is the dangers and excitement of being young. I would guess this album sounds like 90’s punk and has a male vocalist. I think the instrumentation for this album is mainly heavy guitar with a solid yet subtle bassline.
The overarching sound of the album was a lot different than what I expected, it’s more of a combination of avant-garde and surf rock, though I think the sound still fits with the cover. The album combines a lot of nostalgic sounds from psychedelic rock to traditional western to dream pop. This album is definitely a summer album, it’s very mellow and generally upbeat. I can picture listening to this while laying in the sun or driving home from a friend’s house late at night. Despite the dreamy surf rock sound the lyrics discuss heavier topics such as murder, supernatural happenings, and loneliness. In every song, the guitar shines through as the prominent instrument, though it goes through different sounds including heavy rock, jangle pop, and slide guitar. In certain songs the vocals are altered to sound like the singer is in a large open space with an echo or the vocals are changed to sound slurry. This further connects the sound to the lyrics about occultism and provides a dream-like atmosphere throughout the album. RIYL: the Velvet Underground, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Mazzy Star.
Another Miracle by Steve ‘n’ Seagulls (Tyler)
This cover kind of looks like a Picasso – definitely inspired by cubist/surrealist art of the early 20th century. Upon closer inspection it has a few string instruments, a violin, something resembling a banjo, and what I think is perhaps a tanbur (though I could be wrong about this). Based on the style and the instruments they included, I expect that this will be some sort of Folk music, but maybe adapted to sound more “contemporary”.
When I said that perhaps the music could be adapted to be more contemporary, I could’ve never expected this. As it turns out, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a Finnish bluegrass band, and this album includes a number of covers in their style (as well as a few originals), from Master of Puppets to a cover of My Sharona that would make even Weird Al blush. But it is so much more than that. Given that the band is Finnish, their inspiration, while bluegrass at heart, definitely includes a number of European Folk traditions: Scandinavian, Baltic, and Celtic to name a few. They absolutely shred the accordion, banjo, mandolin, etc. and it all rocks.
Bronze Star by Alien Eyelid (Bella)
Judging by the way the people are dressed in the photo, this album looks like it’s going to be country, folk, or americana. Given their name is Alien Eyelid, I think they’re going to diverge from standard instrumentation and incorporate unusual instruments. I also think that they’re going to take inspiration from acid rock, maybe with wah guitars. I think the themes throughout this album are going to be nature, drugs, loneliness, and longing.
This album was a lot more country than I expected, though I think I did a pretty good job of predicting the album’s sound. I’m a big fan of old country, and this album does a really good job of replicating that sound and combining it with Texas roots rock. This album feels like living in the backcountry, relying on old friends and music to get by. The vocals do a great job of encapsulating that classic country sound, they’re slurry, twangy, and charming and manage to keep the songs lighthearted and fun in spite of their melancholy lyrics. The instrumentals dip into 60s country with slide guitars and fiddle, while incorporating a solid bassline and subtle yet interesting percussion. On one of their songs, Wicked Mind, they use saxophone which gives the song a fantastical sound. The themes throughout this album contrast the upbeat sound: loneliness, nostalgia, heartache, and alcoholism, though they stay true to the old country genre. Check out these tracks: Easy Times, Where Elgin Begins, Kissed By The Sea.
Antiphone by Trey Pollard (Tyler)
I picked this album because the cover reminded me of one of those old “I Spy” books. I think it’s pretty cool, it’s just a random assortment of various knick-knacks and objects. For me, something about the “I Spy” books were inherently so nostalgic, so for this album I want to say that perhaps it’s some sort of experimental synthwave, maybe even ambient or soundscapes… something that tugs on the ol’ nostalgia heartstrings.
It became apparent pretty early on that my guess on this one was far off the mark. Antiphone is not synthwave, actually quite the contrary: it’s classical. I quite enjoyed this album, I don’t get to hear a lot of contemporary composers, and I thought the arrangement of this album was great. I think contemporary classical music has a reputation of all being sort-of postmodern, relying heavily on strange orchestration and atonality, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. Antiphone manages to feel modern and innovative while still being melodic and generally accessible to an audience who may be more familiar with romantic or early-modern classical music. The arrangement consists primarily of a string quintet, wherein at times each instrument is highlighted and no one is favored more heavily than the rest. I especially enjoyed the interplay between the lows and highs – the violins and the cello or double bass. Perhaps I am biased, but I cannot help but think that there was still an element of nostalgia present in the music, as was reflected in the cover.