Art Appreciation – Kii Arens for Big Grams’ Self-Titled EP

Big Grams' Album Cover

Kii Arens‘ (1967 – ) artwork for Big Grams (2015) is a series of trophies features golden women depicting the seven deadly sins. Rather than condemning these transgressions, the premise of this seven-song EP is a celebration. You can check out the all the trophies and descriptions on Big Grams‘ page.

  • Sloth – a woman covered with a sheet and smoking from a bong
  • Pride – a woman crowned with a tiara and receiving her own trophy
  • Envy – a woman holding a knife as she looks over her shoulder at another woman happily sniffing a rose
  • Lust – two women embracing and also appears on the EP cover
  • Greed – a woman dropping cash while drinking wine
  • Gluttony – displays a woman with her arms around a large ketchup-covered, crinkle-cut French fry.
  • Wrath – a woman crouching with a gun pointed up at another woman ready to come down with a chainsaw

Arens has also designed Eagles of Death Metal album, Heart On.  He has created concert prints for musicians such as Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and Tame Impala as well. Aren’s has even had stints as a DJ, MC, guitarist and vocalist, and video director.

Feel free to check out more Art Appreciation posts or e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you like these posts, consider buying my music.


Art Appreciation – Nigel Evan Dennis for Clair de Lune’s Marionettes

Clair de Lune's Marionettes Album Cover
Nigel Evan Dennis began designing as Electric Heat the same year that Clair de Lune formed and released their first album, Marionettes (2004). He has done album artwork for bands including another Minneapolis band Pomegranates and rapper Common. Dennis’s other commercial work includes shoe advertisements and magazine spreads, such as Playboy layouts inspired by Tron:Legacy and Back to the Future, Part II. On his website, there are also links to his fine art prints and mandala-like hand-painted records. Dennis is a musician as well, composing a score and playing in the band, A Lull.

The album artwork for Marionettes is a bit rougher, but still has the energy of his other work. The main design in brown is an bursting collage of the band members, animals, trees, and towers.  Many birds, a gazelle, and a zebra are in the mix. while an elephant stands apart next to an Olde English “Shadow.” A water tower, bell tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and antenna towers peek out. There are also some odds and ends mixed in — an old camera, cassettes – (“CLAIR DE LUNE” on Side A and “MARIONETTES” on Side B), orange slices, a crown, and a windmill. Swirling cords, arrows, and stars ornament the imagery.

The base layer is a two-tone orange on the front and faded shades of blue and purple on the back. The are mostly splashes of paint, but there is a cityscape and skyscraper in the orange. The faded colors are mostly splashes, too, but there maybe a phone and “1982!!” in there. The inside of the booklet is even more faded behind the credits and likely just splattered paint.

The disc has a cassette labeled “CLAIR DE LUNE” that looks like it is falling across the disc, but the drops are birds and streaks are towers. The band name and album title appear vertically in the spine on the tray card. “Your body cant carry the [indiscernible] anymore!” is under that, ornamented by a skull and crossbones, hearts, and a spray paint spot.

Check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider buying my music.

Click “Continue reading” to see a poster showing the artwork on the outside of the disc, and watch the “Passenger View” music video in the same style as the album art. Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Nigel Evan Dennis for Clair de Lune’s Marionettes”

Art Appreciation – Scott Sinclair for Hot Water Music’s A Flight and a Crash


Hot Water Music's A Flight and a Crash Cover
Insert Front

While Scott “SINC” Sinclair‘s paintings have appeared on at least nine Hot Water Music (1993 – ) albums, he is better known for his work on video games — the BioShock series and Guitar Hero series. In addition, his illustrations have made their way onto other album covers and in multiple publications. Beyond his artistic endeavors, he enjoys playing music, gaming, and fly fishing.

A Flight and a Crash (2001) is Hot Water Music’s fourth studio album and seventh Sinclair cover. His artwork appears on the front and back of the insert and the back of the case (tray card). A person on the cover is in pieces – head floating and arms disconnected at each joint, thrown up in surrender.  The hands have red halos. His torso is translucent and you can make out some [non-anatomically-correct] organs. Red plants on either side have leaves rising like flames. Some pale green plants are barely visible in the background. The red head is split in two with a solemn look of disgust.

The back of the insert is pencil sketch of a telescoping eye extending from a well-shaded ear. In the background are a series of floating heads vomiting in different angles. In addition to the signature at the bottom (“sinc.”), there is some writing, mostly “Blah”.

The tray card is similar to the abstract style and palette of the front, but has a lot more going on. A man and woman stand across from each other, faces contorted yet stylishly dressed. The man reaches for the woman while she crosses her arms over her lap. There are tiny houses below them and bluebird at their feet. White plants obscure the couples’ faces and colored leaves float around like confetti. The background has fruit trees in front of a checkerboard pattern.

Check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider buying my music.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see the album art.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Scott Sinclair for Hot Water Music’s A Flight and a Crash”

Art Appreciation – Houston for Modest Mouse's Strangers to Ourselves

Strangers to Ourselves CoverThe cover for Strangers To Ourselves (2015), Modest Mouse‘s (1993 – ) sixth studio album, appealed to the urban planner in me. Though maybe not as creative as the subjects of past Art Appreciation posts, Houston‘s (Matt Clarke) art direction and design still has a lot to offer. His other collaborations with the band include the artwork for Good News For People Who Love Bad News and the music video for “Coyotes”.

This album’s design features highly-resolution satellite and planetary images from DigitalGlobe and NASA/JPL-CalTech, respectively. The cover is an octagon-shaped subdivision with radial streets emanating from a central circle. Each radii creates a slice filled with rows of houses, all the same size, shape, and angle toward the street. In most slices, there looks to be sports fields or courts near the center. It seems like a forced community rather than one happening naturally as in a traditional neighborhood. If the cover catches just the right light, you can see a nice little touch — the word “STRANGERS'” printed in a matte finish in the center. “STRANGERS” is in reverse on the back to mirror the front.

Two more aerial shots fill the inside of the case. On the left, a single vertical road with cookie-cutter houses on either side cuts into the natural surroundings — no side streets or backyard neighbors. On the right, four cul-de-sac streets cut into a square lagoon, but do not connect in the middle. The green water initially looked like vegetation, but a closer look made it clear that it was water. The little streets jutting into the water likely create a little community, but the whole thing seems a contrived and unnatural, just designed to maximize waterfront property without any life.

The booklet folds out into a four-panel square, with the lyrics and other credits are arranged in an octagon similar the the cover image. Two half-planets are in the center of both sides. The compact disc keeps the planetary theme with an image of the moon. The design maintains continuity with Modest Mouse’s past albums by including the radial design cut out of the image.

The golden spine seemed out of place until I read the golden lettering for “THE GOLDEN CASKET VOL 1”. More research revealed that the band had accumulated about 35-37 songs from these recording sessions, so Vol. 2  and perhaps an EP are likely coming soon.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see album artwork and check out more Art Appreciation.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Houston for Modest Mouse's Strangers to Ourselves”

Art Appreciation – Malleus for ASG's Blood Drive

ASG's Blood DriveBlood Drive (2013) is Malleus‘s (2002 – ) third album art collaboration with alternative metal band ASG (2001 – ).  Malleus’s style focuses on feminine — often erotic — imagery.  The front and back cover reflect similar women with long, flowing hair – golden on the front, crimson on the back, textured in a delicately shimmering pattern.  With heads bowed and eyes closed, both women pose with their hands up – the blonde with her palms facing back in sort of a claw and “W”, the redhead with her palms facing outward and fingers extended.  The background is a gritty pattern of bulbs curving concentrically around each other.  “ASG” is reflected in the upper corner in ring of blood red, pouring out down the spine of the case.

Similarly, inside the case is an slightly asymmetrical design of two women.  They lay naked on their sides with their hair flowing upward, creating a golden and crimson background for the lyrics.  The CD tray is framed with what appear to be flaming wings.  Barely visible in the black background is a dark replication of the CD design – a circle containing “ASG” reflected over the four quadrants.  The disk is in the same style and color as the on the “ASG” on the outside.

An interesting detail is that the background color on the cover is different on the CD (reddish-brown) than the digital download and vinyl (blueish-green).  Since the CD is in a Digipak, the aspect ratio is not a square, so the case extends a fraction of inch to the right and the album title is shifted as much. The color change maybe to more clearly differentiate the products.

For further viewing, see also ASG’s Win Us Over and Volcom Entertainment Vinyl Club #11.  Malleus has also created one-of-a-kind concert posters for not only ASG (here and here), but for other favorites including Deftones, the Mars Volta, and several for Queens of the Stone Age.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see album artwork and check out more Art Appreciation.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Malleus for ASG's Blood Drive”

Art Appreciation – Chuck U at Lollapolooza

Chuck U Public Art at Lollapolooza
Chuck U’s Live Public Art at Lollapolooza, Photograph by Colby Nelson

Chuck Ungemach (Chuck U) was one of the talented graphic designers at Copycats Media.  He was only there a short period of time — and whipped up the sweet Half Dug cover — before he returned to his freelance work. He came the Copycats’ attention for the album artwork he created for MSP indie rappers.  His artwork is very distinct, combining classic pen drawing techniques and intricate textures with cartoonish sketches and bizarre creatures.

Earlier this month, Chuck was in Chicago doing some live painting for Lollapalooza. Over three days, he did three projects. The first day’s art is a two-panelled piece of a bear-like creature with crystal eyes.  It’s colorfully dreadlocked fur emerges back up from the bottom as furry worms. Day two features a smiling, three-eyed face with antlers, and other facial tubes.  A furry friend hangs out, perhaps ready to bite into the exposed brain.  Rain cut day three’s project short, but it features another three-eyed face.  This one is gagging, though.  The projects all feature fairly symmetrical images, and detailed textures on a flat background.  Though it isn’t clear from the pictures, I’d guess that all three made up a cube with an open top and bottom.

Chuck’s website shows off his designs, prints, and paintings. Click ‘Continue reading’ to see more artwork and check out other Art Appreciation posts.

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Art Appreciation – Esao Andrews for Circa Survive's On Letting Go

Circa Survive's On Letting GoEsao Andrews (1978 – ) has created artwork for all Circa Survive‘s (2004 – ) four full-length albums and two EPs.  On Letting Go (2007) has the most iconic and colorful imagery of their catalog.  The cover features a woman with head aflame heating a hot air balloon. Her pink dress and colorfully patterned balloon pop in front of the ocean and ominous clouds, and even in front of the intricate frame.

The cover visual treat for the those in the digital realm, but the physical CD packaging offers even more.  It is merely  slip case.  Concentric circles cut inside the booklet inside, each page revealing the layer behind.  Outwardly, the layers seem to be the same, but as the pages turn, the painting contracts in watercolor splotches until it only colors the woman and part of the balloon.  The middle of the booklet features a gate fold with a crest featuring the man and woman balloonists over a banner with the album title.  Inside the fold are the album’s lyrics.The back of the insert mirrors the front, but instead has a man in a pink suit.  The tray card and back of the slip case show the two hotheads floating together in the distance, inland toward potential better weather.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see album artwork and check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider buying my music.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Esao Andrews for Circa Survive's On Letting Go”

Art Appreciation – Strom Thorgerson for the Mars Volta's Frances the Mute

Frances the Mute Promotional PosterFrances the Mute  is The Mars Volta‘s second collaboration with acclaimed rock-album designer Storm Thorgerson  (1944-2013), best known for his work with Pink Floyd. Along with Peter Curzon, Dan Abbott, and Bill Thorgerson, Storm created rich, finely detailed imagery to compliment this post-hardcore, progressive rock album.

Frances the Mute is a concept album that draws its inspiration from a diary found in a repossessed car.  The diary’s author describes his interaction with a series of characters in the search for his real parents.  Each song draws on a these characters as their basis.  However, the song and character “Frances the Mute” is a separate single that is not on the album.

The imagery in the album artwork is highly stylized and well-defined, which really does not hint at the psychedelic tone and flow of the songs.  Rather, the art reveals the precision and detail of the rhythms and orchestrations.  The vivid red hoods, stark phonograph, and stapled mouth in  pieced-together photograph illustrate the sensory deprivation of a mute.  The tree climber facing his roots and dummy reflecting a man seem to symbolize the search for family roots and self.  Meanwhile, the shiny metal cars could signify the journey or the source of the diary.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see album artwork and check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider buying my music.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Strom Thorgerson for the Mars Volta's Frances the Mute”

Art Appreciation – Josh Franke for Motion Jones' Detours

Motion Jones' DetoursWrite to Remember is proud to announce that Motion Jones will be releasing Detours on February 11.  We are highlighting album artist Josh Franke to give some insight into what the album is about. He is a friend and graphic designer from La Crosse who has created other album art, websites, logos, paintings, sketches, and sculptures.

Franke has taken on this project in a form of collage of crumpled love letters symbolizing the grief in the lyrics. Michael sings about finding his way through the end of his marriage.  The sun set reflects this ending, while the road leading northeast hints at a journey out of Arizona, back to Minnesota.  The colors are bright, though, indicating the music’s vibrancy and  Michael’s resiliency.

Check out Josh’s prints for sale to get a piece of his work for yourself.  This is only the second album that hasn’t been created in-house — Chuck U designed Half Dug‘s album art — but won’t be the last.  Check out more Art Appreciation, too.

Art Appreciation – Damon Locks for At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command

itemAt the Drive-In released the much-anticipated Relationship of Command in 2000.  After hearing some songs and some hype, I bought my first ATDI album.  The raw emotional singing and complex music drew me down the rabbit hole of post-hardcore music.

Damon Locks takes on the relationship of command by  juxtaposing an iconic image of historical subterfuge with a backdrop of modern civilization.  The Trojan Horse is bold and subversive, indicative of the music.  Faceless masses run from men in chariots on the back cover while slaves construct buildings on the inside.  Inside the booklet with a Caesar’s head coin on the cover, gladiators do battle. The images are generally two-tone complementary colors, but the overall collection includes warm and cool tones.

Locks has made artwork for several other albums, concert posters, movies, and even for Portlandia: Season One.  At the Drive-In has recently re-released Relationship of Command with two bonus tracks on vinyl through their own Twenty-First Chapter Records.  The compact disc originally came packaged in a Digipak.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see album artwork and check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider buying my music.

Continue reading “Art Appreciation – Damon Locks for At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command”