Album Art Aesthetics

Great album art is incredibly powerful, but I feel as if it’s often overlooked by consumer and producer alike. People take it for granted, thinking of the physical representation as just a means to deliver the real product, the music. However, I would argue that the music is only half of the product, and that the music itself is almost entirely defined by its presentation. I’ve always been fascinated by the wide variety of art styles on album covers, but my passion was recently reignited when I saw the album cover for the new Flume mixtape Hi This Is Flume. It grabbed my attention and didn’t let go; the vivid colors, the straight lines and framing of the picture, and most importantly the beautiful painting on the hood of the car. Even though I knew who Flume was and didn’t mind their music, I never really cared for it much. However, I listened to the entire album right when I saw it, that’s how intrigued I was by the cover. My point: it’s all about first impressions, just like meeting a new person. Sure the music is important, but nobody will listen to it if you can’t get their attention first.

Hi This Is Flume – Flume

Beyond being eye-catching, I think an album cover has the power to enhance the music and add an entirely new element to the project. It sets a certain mood and interpretation for the album; you listen to it differently than if it didn’t have an album cover. For example, when I listened to the Flume album I expected it to be interesting and experimental, just like the album cover. As a result, I interpreted it through that lens and ended up loving it. I honestly don’t think I would have cared for it much if I wasn’t already expecting it to be different and experimental. I’m not saying the music isn’t good, I’m saying that the aesthetic of the cover opens up your mind to the music before you listen, and then continues to contribute to the overall feeling of the album. A lot of great albums use this to their advantage (such as the ones in the header image), and it makes a noticeable difference. It really ties the project together as a whole, and turns the album from a collection of songs into a musical journey. When I think back on an album that I loved, the first thing I remember is its aesthetic; the feeling and tone of the album that makes it entirely unique. It’s the album art that always determines this, because it’s the album art that gave the first impression.

Looking towards the future and the increase in purely digital music raises a lot of concerns with me. There’s something to be said for being able to hold the music as a product, and experience it in more ways that just auditory. If you’ve ever listened to a vinyl record or a cassette tape, or even just looked at one and admired its ingenuity, then you know what I’m getting at. Not only does digital music lack these things, I’m also worried that album covers for purely digital projects will more often be overlooked. It’s no longer a work of art that you can hang on your wall or collect; if you’re lucky it’s a thumbnail size image with good resolution. Obviously physical forms of music will always be around, and I’m sure there will still be artists such as Flume who continue to realize the importance of presentation, but I also think that we should all take a minute to appreciate the unique artistic medium of album covers and realize their importance in the art of music.

Paper Books & Analog Clocks

Sci-fi-induced-idiocy has severely altered our perceptions of the future.

Chrome-plated floors, ceilings, and walls. Transparent touch screens with rapidly flashing data. Android housemaids. Flying cars. Strange blue foods consumed through a straw. While our view of the distant future may not be the cover of a discounted 1980s paperback sci-fi, much of our understanding of the future focuses on the technological change without a regard for aesthetics. As we progress into the future, new technology rises to replace the old–but we should not forget about the form of beauty it can take.

I do not believe anyone would argue paper books to be more practical than digital e-books. Digital books are more environmentally friendly (no need to chop down trees for paper) and more economically viable, for both the writer, publisher, and reader. There is little to no overhead to generate these books as no physical materials are required. This medium for a work enables the buyer to save money and the writer and publisher to share a great percentage of the profit, for no money flows into the creation of materials. The practicality is furthered by the ease of reading–as one could theoretically carry an entire library in one’s back pocket. Despite all of this, however, paper books still persist and will likely continue their existence in the coming years. There is something illogically satisfying about holding a paper book, bound and printed. Perhaps the smell of the paper? The bend of the pages? The light crackle of binding glue when pulling open the front cover? The ability to rip out pages, dog-ear the corners, and scribble broken thoughts in the narrow margins is what gives us the satisfaction. To mar a physical book and make it our own, to form a relationship with the book and have it be personalized for own agenda. It is the aesthetics that keep paper books alive.

Digital clocks are considerably more efficient than analog clocks. It is much easier to read a series of four numbers and know the exact time than deduce the approximation from twirling analog hands. Our cell phones bear the precise time from satellites. They adjust with time zones, appropriately switching with daylight-savings and leap-years. They are incredibly more practical in our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean we lose the watch around our wrists. Large analog clocks look beautiful when hanging from a wall. They are a work of art, equivalent to a painting, with a slight practical purpose. The toll of a bell-tower is no longer necessary to proclaim the time when we see it in the corner of our laptop screens. The beauty of that chime and consistent rotation of the time-bearing hands gives clocks an aesthetic value that cannot be replaced, despite technological changes in efficiency.

The future will be overridden with new technology, like driver-less cars and self-regulating homes to conserve energy, but the beauty of certain technologies will be conserved for the sake of aesthetics. Paper books and analog clocks, both beaten in efficiency by new inventions, will remain a part of our lives. Aesthetic value outweighs efficiency.


Don’t get me wrong: I love art. But I don’t want to seek out art somedays. Currently it’s rainy and drab and nasty outside.

I prefer to become art.
Now this isn’t some pseudo (or real) hipster montage of postmodern thought about how all of us are performing our identities and subjectivity at all times, even though we are (ba-zing!), but rather “becoming-art” is a lifestyle choice that I’m very conscious about. I’m very aware about how my body can be positioned as, wear, or become art itself.
For example, at no time do I walk around without performing. I am either:
1) Singing/”Rapping”/Humming/Whistling to music. Which isn’t, hopefully, me as a white man taking up more space than I need to, but me as a bored white queer man who is sick of listening to the buzz and hum of cars and cookie cutter robot-peers. I’d rather be listening to Azealia Banks. Music and sound and noise is beautiful and, especially, when I’m mid-travel I need a little extra inspiration to get where I’m heading (and to forget about the looming drones).
2) Wearing ridiculous clothing. I am a huge fan of monochromatic aesthetics and gray as a way of being; however, there comes a point when the seasons shift, or die, and the sun seems to fade away into a palate of only white/gray/black. THIS MAKES ME SAD. So I cope by wearing neon prints with other stripes with other fabrics with leather with hats and scarves and giant earrings, and rainbow umbrellas. Becoming the overwhelming stimulus I try to avoid or cling to is comforting. When I know that it is myself that is obnoxious–I can handle that. The trees no longer lay claim to being that beautiful shade of emerald, the sky can’t brag that its really that sky-blue, fire can’t embody all that is red, but I can: all in one outfit.
3) Reciting quotes from my favorite books. At no point are there not lines from books circulating in the vast cavernous hole that is my mind. Because I read for the majority of the time that I’m awake, I find it nice to recite lines and share literature with the world! From Toni Morrison to Jesus to James Joyce to bell hooks to Vladimir Nabokov to you name it (or rather I’m a snob so I’ll stick to the people that I know). People always get confused when I tell them that I study English and Philosophy, so it’s nice when I can actually share how cool these areas are. How beautiful they are. How “AHHHHH” they are.
Now I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to be art all the time but I find it’s the way I cope best with being in Ann Arbor. It gets boring looking at the same white, hetero, temporarily able-bodied men in their polos, boat shoes, and pastel shorts–so I say, “liven it up!”

While it can be overwhelming being the art for the designated spaces I’m in, it is more comfortable to seek solace in groups.
Have nail painting parties–there is nothing more I enjoy than having sparkly middle fingers.

Have team shopping events or days where you swap clothing with your friends.

Have days where you and others can annoyingly match in terrifying ways.
Although I’m a broken record and constantly talking about how I’m art itself (. . .) I find it important to reemphasize that I’m glaringly semi-offensive to everyone’s eyes. The sensory overload that is myself is so important to who I am these days. I actively want to be a bit too much because being just enough is so banal.
As I come into senior year I realize more and more about how much I don’t care about most things in my day to day life. I care when and where and how I need and want to care. But other than that . . . I’m a canvas full of life ready to explode.

Death of the Meme

On Thursday night at the Michigan Difference Leadership Event there was a portion of the show dedicated to “dying memes and other cultural phenomena.”

What does this even mean?

It was a montage of Honey Boo Boo–who I luckily avoided on my recent hiatus from tv/internet, the Harlem Shake–aka appropriative white people convulsing to a bastardized song, someone driving a car–sadly not Glozell, Taylor Swift–singing without goats (because that gem will never die), and others. Put to sad music we “mourned” this YouTube video while staring at a screen, in the union, in Ann Arbor: far away from anyone who is connected to these glimpses of “culture.” I felt like I was cheering for a cement wall so I decided to eat more cheese.

But these “cultural” phenomena won’t pass away. There will always be someone getting their own TV show for being “different,” white people will always be awkward and offensive, people will always drive (not me!), Taylor Swift will continue to age but sing for adolescent girls while she simultaneously shames their existence.

Even then, these “2012-2013” memes and videos will live on. Bon Qui Qui and Nyan Cat are still out there, Afrocircus? Still out there. As long as we have Internet we will always have our entertaining distractions.

That’s what fascinates me. Do things ever disappear from the Internet or get destroyed? Or do they stay on the web forever? Will we be able to access these things in years to come? Decades? Centuries?

New forms of art have a lifetime that is infinite and preservable. That awkward vlog you made will outlast you. That offensive tweet I tweeted will stay on twitter till it tweets its dying tweet. My rage toward the world on Facebook will be eternal rage. That’s badass.

So as I write my final papers, study for my last exams, drink pots of coffee, check the weather for NYC (and not Ann Arbor), dress inappropriately for the rain, accidentally leaves bits of clothing everywhere I visit, and eat carrots—that man’s abs I reblog that are “artsy” or that video I favorite will never leave the world. They may leave my vision, or my mind, but they are only a click away.