Part of my routine for finding new music involves doing a weekly scroll through Bandcamp. And while I like getting recommendations from their writers and contributors, I generally prefer to explore the wilds on my own. The amount of stuff uploaded there daily is pretty overwhelming and even if you are only looking through the offerings of a specific genre, it can be hard to know where to start. As for me, I use the most basic human algorithm there is to determine what I’m gonna press play on; the album cover. More often than not, that’s the determining factor over whether I give something a spin.
I am an old-school-album-art lover and my childhood dream was to draw (literally) album covers for a living. And so, I’m kinda partial to actual art. When I see a childhood photograph of the artist opening Xmas presents or wearing a Halloween costume being used as a cover or to represent an album or song, I feel angry. I recoil at the overt attempt to illicit cheap “awwws”. I shudder at the self-absorption. I rage at the laziness. Fuck those album covers. Give me something weirdly beautiful (this). Give me something cheap and disgusting (this). Give me anything but a 5-year-old on vacation in neon-framed sunglasses or wearing a batman outfit.
Music is not always just about the music; the way it’s presented is part of the experience. I admit my feelings are rooted in the fact that I grew up listening to vinyl albums so that cliched ritual of putting a record on and then analyzing the cover as it played was a foundational experience for me. That experience was even better if the album came with a poster or stickers. These “gifts” never ceased to thrill me. Sliding out a cool poster ( which I ALWAYS hung up) or stickers (which I ALWAYS slapped on my school notebooks and then regretted because they were then “gone forever”) was genuinely exciting to me. It got to a point where I felt cheated if there wasn’t a “present” inside an album ( “what, there’s no poster? Fuck you fill in artist name here“).
So for me, the outside of an album has always set the table for the music inside. When I see a drawing, painting, sculpture, or cool photo on a Bandcamp page, I’ll usually give the song or album it represents a listen.
Back in 2018, during one of my Bandcamp hikes, I stumbled upon a weirdly magnetic album cover featuring the torso of a reclining Barbie doll with a brain in place of her head. The image was so striking compared to what surrounded it that I instantly wanted to hear the album it represented. The record was called Surgery and it was by Cherophobiac (aka Alexandra Sullivan).
I couldn’t believe my luck. Surgery was amazing. Sonically, it sat somewhere between the balladic tracks on Radiohead’s exceptional opus Moon Shaped Pool and Laura Nyro at her saddest. Four years have passed since its initial release and its dark, melodic piano-based balladry still sounds freakin’ amazing.
This past week saw the release of an extended video for two songs from Surgery; the title track and “Prayer Hands”. It was created by Olivia Rotante and emanates a gloriously sinister seventies vibe, where the decor is brown, the wives are Stepford-ian and the food is toxically terrifying in its banality. It’s like looking through a blood-stained copy of a Family Circle, Redbook, or McCall’s magazine from 1973.
You can check out the video right here. Come feel the creepy contradiction!
And now please join me in welcoming the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the BEST new songs that have crossed our path in recent weeks. It features two holy-jeezus-are-these-good covers of songs originally done by Paula Cole and The Long Winters as well as lustrous offerings by some sweetly familiar names. Yup, it was just one of those homecoming-type weeks. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
Listen on Soundcloud
Listen on Spotify