Christopher Gold is a Kentucky-born songwriter living in Wisconsin. Together with his band The New Old Things he has written and recorded folk songs, country songs, rock & roll songs, and everything in between citing a love for songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and anybody else whose work begins with paper and pen. That’s the official word.
Unofficially, yet well-known, Christopher is one the hardest working, prolific, thinking, funny, and big-hearted people you’ll come across. And his music is good, too. And he’s right here. Go see him. Go to christophergold.com to learn about all things Christopher Gold including shows and latest music.
We asked him for his latest playlist…and in Christopher Gold fashion, he took the assignment in his own direction. Because Christopher Gold loves everything about records, and maybe you do too. So, this week we offer a “visual” Listening Room. And as long as we’re talkin’ art, Christopher Gold and The New Old Things artwork is by Oliver Gold. Seems fitting.
And now for something completely different…
I love records. I’m on the move as much as or more than most people so I have a use for mp3s and CDs and all that, but I love records. I love talking about them, I love hunting them down, I even love organizing them. As for how many I have, I like to paraphrase the Jerry Seinfeld quote about his cars, “I have enough that if I told you how many you wouldn’t say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’”
I enjoy the sound of a record more than an mp3. I enjoy being at a record store more than being on Spotify. I enjoy sorting records on a shelf more than scrolling through titles on my phone. But for me one of the biggest points in the “records vs. any other medium” debate is the artwork.
I love these big 12x12 works of art. I love knowing or theorizing how this particular imagery is meant to interact with or increase the impact of these particular songs. I love learning who did it. I love comparing the various covers through an artists’ history to see if I can spot a theme. Did they use the same artist throughout? Did they evolve from minimal to complex? Did they use the same font every time? I obsess about these things and every other little detail about a record.
When I decided I wanted to write about album art, two bands immediately came to mind. Neither band is hugely popular, and both are probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them and their album covers are perfect examples of what I’m talking about here.
The first band is The Builders and The Butchers. They are originally from Portland and, though they are somewhat dormant these days, they are one of the most unique and exciting bands in my collection. It would be lazy to just call them a folk rock band. Yes, they often hit the stage with acoustic guitars and banjos and mandolins, but they also have 2 drummers playing pieced-together kits made of mismatched drums and whatever else seemed to be lying around. There are horns, melodicas, distortion, and shouted backing vocals. They play percussive, minimalist songs that verge on gospel territory, melodic sea shanties, creepy murder ballads, and crashing rock songs about the devil. What’s not to like about that?
Each of their album covers was done by a guy named Lukas Ketner and they are wonderfully complex and eye catching and creepy and funny and a perfect complement to the music. Ketner, among other things, also did a graphic novel called “Witch Doctor” that I love for all of the same reasons.
The other band that springs to mind when I think of great album covers is mewithoutYou. Hailing from Philladelphia, mewithoutYou has been part of my life for 17 years. In that time they have released 7 albums combining hardcore, rock, punk, folk, psychedelia, shoegaze, indie rock, and post-hardcore all somehow held together by the talking/singing/screaming of frontman Aaron Weiss. I struggle to think of a older band for comparison, but I can name a couple of younger bands that likely wouldn’t exist without them. On the 15 year anniversary tour my wife and I drove 7 hours to see the show and would’ve driven longer if we had to to see them.
They are also another band that has used the same artist for each of their albums. Each time I rush to the record store on release day to buy their latest album I am greeted by a painting by Russian artist Vasily Kafanov. No band name, no album title, just a painting. Each one is different than the last, but feels somehow familiar at the same time. Kafanov has become yet another thing to look forward to when they release a record, and that is the kind of Russian involvement I can get behind.
I have a great fear that the days of album art are fading, but it will always matter to me. It may be on the decline, but there are still a lot of artists out there putting a lot of thought into their album covers and I’m happy to have a bunch of them on my shelf. Enough that if you heard the exact number you wouldn’t say, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
What are you listening to?
Listening to something cool?
Tell us about it. We may feature you on The Listening Room!