Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life is Decay: Tinymixtapes' Top 25 Album Covers of the Year

A couple of days ago, the main website I write for put out their list of the best 25 album covers of the year. It's a bit of a methadone situation, because I'm anxiously waiting for TMT's best records of the year list (which I voted on and wrote a blurb for) to come out.  But the covers list is interesting in its own right, mainly because this year I really got back into music, and I feel really invested in both a lot of particular records and the general gestalt.  The covers list (which I wasn't involved in) forms an amazingly coherent statement about our life and times, even independent of the records in question, many of which I haven't heard.
oOoOO - oOoOO

The main theme that I was struck by was simply that of imperfection and limitation adding up to something very intentional and careful.  TMT is arguably the biggest site that really has a substantial focus on experimental and "noise" acts (a label that is quickly becoming, like "indie" and "alternative" before it, more about approach and attitude than sound), and the world that today's noise bands live in is one that is decaying.  There's not a more accurate way to try and reflect back the condition of the first world these days, which can basically be divided into those fighting decline (Europe) moping about it (Japan) and living in spirited idiot denial (America).  Either way, this mechanical bull is falling apart.

Teams - We Have a Room With Everything
But it's great to enter the worlds of (visual and musical) artists who neither deny that reality nor accede to it.  2010's best record covers show what's possible with primitive tools, with recycled images, with old aesthetics.  Things get weird, and wonderful, and point toward the possibilities of how to live a more enchanted life even if you have less to live it with.  It's something I struggle with - I just started making real money, and I know that I've foreclosed some portion of joy to get here.  It's a roundabout route to get back to it.

Small Black/Washed Out "You'll See It"/"Despicable Dogs" 7-inch
One way to try and reconnect with the possibility of being happy is to constantly search for the wonderful and strange in the everyday - or even to make it yourself.  I don't think anyone has ever really taken graffiti seriously enough, or done enough street theater, or spent enough time ranting like a madman on a street corner.  We all deserve to live weirder lives.  Some of us have gotten way too comfortable with the idea of 'going out' as this one very regimented way of having a good time.  I think about all this stuff because I've known people who live differently - have collage night!  and sewing circles! and just hang out and jam! and yet somehow I've never quite been that person.  I like to watch TV and play video games, and mostly to read and write.  Sometimes other people scare me.  But there's this amazing world in my head and it's great to see some suggestion that in fact it's in other people too.

Sometimes it's impossible to put our feelings into words - feelings of otherworldliness, of expansiveness, of infinite possibility.  Music is maybe the best way to get those thoughts out into the world, and give them form. But clearly, there are ways to do it visually, too.
Gatekeeper - Giza

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