Squarepusher – Just A Souvenier

This album was on my Top 10 list of ’08 for making me interested in Squarepusher again. I wanted to highlight the cover because I thought it went well with the futuristic alien rock band theme attached to the tracks. The designer behind it is Sam Blunden, but I can’t find much information about him other than his portfolio. Below is the cover of Squarepusher’s new EP, Numbers Lucent, also done by Blunden.

Sam Blunden

P.O.S. – Never Better

I was linked to this video featuring the design of P.O.S.’s new album on Rhymesayers Records. The cover had caught my eye a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t aware of this crazy packaging. I never got to pick up a P.O.S. album back when I was heavy into Rhymesayers but I may have to check this out. Artwork and design by Eric Timothy Carlson, an artist/designer out of Minneapolis.

Eric Timothy Carlson

Obligatory Top 10 Albums of ’08

Every music blog has a end-of-the-year top 10 something. 2008 was a good year for music, I think. This list is a sample of all the great things released in ’08. There may be a slight advantage to music released towards the end of the year. Ah well.

10. Elzhi – The Preface

It was difficult choosing between this and Black Milk’s Tronic, both produced by Black. But I think the combination of him and Elzhi wins out. Also, “Motown 25” got me to listen to Royce da 5’9″s Bar Exam 2 a few hundred times.

9. Squarepusher – Just a Souvenir

Jenkinson’s Hello Everything was decent, but something was missing. This album seems like a sort of evolution of the previous and ended up being a really solid Squarepusher album. I like the unexpected punk rock edge along with his usual jazz-fusion influence. The album was a surprise favorite.

8. Johnson & Jonson – Johnson & Jonson

I waited about a year for this album after seeing the video for “Bout It Bout It” on YouTube. Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens was a great, introspective album. Ta’Raach & Blu as C.R.A.C. was just crazy. This is more battle-rhyme oriented, I guess. I like Mainframe’s loose beats on this.

7. Jackson Conti Sujinho

After wishing Brasilintime came with a bonus CD like Keepintime did, I was excited about this. Madlib worked with Ivan Conti to make Yesterday’s New Quintet-style covers of Conti’s band Azymuth tracks. It worked out very well. Madlib’s Speto Da Rua mix on Mochilla is worth listening to as well.

6. 88-Keys – The Death of Adam / Adam’s Case Files

Both of these grew on me after a few listens. I’ve actually tended to listen to the Case Files mix more because 88-Key’s beats on there are so good. But the diversity and story-telling aspect of both are addicting. Poor Adam.

5. Jazzanova – Of All The Things

Back in high school I was huge into Jazzanova’s In Between. It inspired me to look for more “nu-jazz” style music, so it was a little concerning that they waited 6 years to finally release another group LP. It was worth it. I was nervous with the drastic change of their style, focused more on soul than jazz. But thankfully, it turned out beautiful.

4. Samon Kawamura – Unfold

I didn’t know who this guy was before I heard his album, honestly. I caught myself listening to it continuously. Really, I think Samon needs to be heard more. He’s right up there with artists like Jneiro Jarel, Flying Lotus, etc. It also looks like he’s friendly Jazzy Sport Records which can only be good. I’m excited to see what he does next.

3. Daedelus – Love To Make Music To

I’ve never been disappointing by anything Daedelus has released. He’s been one of my favorite artists for years and this album represents a nice evolution in his sound. The hip-hop influence isn’t as blatant as Exquisite Corpse, which leaves a nice medium between his hip-hop and electronic influences.

2. The Foreign Exchange – Leave It All Behind

This is a beautiful album. A lot of people were turned off by the lack of Phonte rapping on this. But “Closer” was one of my favorite tracks from their first LP, so I thought it was perfect. It also introduced me to Muhsinah, who’s new album I’m really looking forward to.

1. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles

Flying Lotus knocked Dilla off the top of my Last.FM charts. That means something. His music, and the entire collective surrounding him including artists like Daedelus, Ras G, The Gaslamp Killer, Samiyam, BTS Radio, etc, has been really inspiring to me over the past year. I hope they become even bigger in ’09.

Honerable Mentions

Black MilkTronic
Black SpadeTo Serve With Love
Brendan CanningSomething For All of Us
Count Bass DL7
DeerhoofOffend Maggie
DweleSketches of A Man
Erykah BaduNew Amerykah, Pt. One
Esperanza SpaldingEsperanza
James Pants – Welcome
Jamie LidellJim
StereolabChemical Chords
Ras GGhetto Sci-Fi
Royce Da 5’9″Bar Exam 2

And I know there’s still ’08 albums I have left to buy. Too much music…

Jean-Jacques Perrey & Luke Vibert – Moog Acid

An album I should have picked up a while ago, Moog Acid is a collaboration between electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey and Luke Vibert (aka Wagon Christ/Plug/etc). Australian artist/designer Dan McPharlin is responsible for the cover, featuring some of his signature miniature cardboard analog synths. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to find out who made these. Besides all of the amazing synth models, McPharlin also has some impressive illustration work in his portfolio.

Dan McPharlin
Luke Vibert
Jean-Jacques Perrey

Count Bass D – Neon Soul

I am very concerned that I don’t own this album yet. I need it before the year ends so it can be placed on my obligatory Best of 2008 list. Anyway, this is a weird video for Count Bass D’s new album, L7, directed by Distrakt, featuring illustrations by Illord the Ques, who I’ve mentioned before.

Illord the Ques
Count Bass D’s

Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer

Everyone’s favorite source for independent music culture, Pitchforkmedia.com, posted an article highlighting the “20 Worst Album Covers of 2008”, a few that I actually thought were pretty good. That includes Santogold’s self-titled album and Death Cab for Cutie’s Narrow Stairs. Another that caught my eye was Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer, designed by Matt Moroz. I’ve glanced at this before and I thought it was pretty cool. Maybe collage and intentionally rough drawings are an acquired taste?

Matt Moroz
Wolf Parade

T.I. – Paper Trail

This cover has caught my eye a few times in the music stores. I didn’t realize who the cover artist was until someone shared a post about it from Kanye’s blog. I’ve seen Ian Wright’s work in a few of my illustration books. He’s known for making his images using objects, resulting in some cool mosaic-like pieces. Below is a piece he did for Black Book Magazine as well as portraits of The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Ian Wright