Category Sights & Sounds

‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News’ by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Riley Cran

'Good News for People Who Love Bad News' by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Riley Cran

Riley Cran

This is where most people first heard Modest Mouse. With the release of Good News For People Who Love Bad News they had a little single called Float On which you may have heard every 10 minutes in the summer of 2004. The beginning of the album isn’t bad, and in most respects it still sounds like Modest Mouse, but it’s too polished and too refined for my taste.

Then a few songs in, sadly, Isaac Brock’s song style dips into Tom Waits territory and they’ve totally lost me. I’m not a fan of Tom Waits at all, so this was the last thing I ever wanted from the band. Thankfully though the album ends on a positive note with a cluster of good songs like Blame It On The Tetons, and the star of the album, The Good Times Are Killing Me.

For the wallpaper this month, Riley Cran has illustrated the first lines from Float On with perfect execution.

I backed my car into a cop car the other day
Well he just drove off sometimes life’s ok

I love how simple and straightforward this piece is. The illsutration of the type on the badge looks great and I love all the details in the cars. A huge thanks to Riley for nailing this one.

‘Building Nothing Out of Something’ by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Deke Smith

'Building Nothing Out of Something' by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Deke Smith

Deke Smith

We’ve reached, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Modest Mouse, the last great album they ever released. I’m talking about Building Nothing Out Of Something, a collection of songs that were released between 1996 and 1998. The album was released in the beginning of 2000, 12 years ago, it seems like a life time ago. Listening to this album I think of how I had no idea that this wasn’t a cohesive thought, that I never paid attention to the fact that it was a menagerie of tunes.

This collection to me is the embodiment of what Modest Mouse sounds like. It encapsulates the uneasiness of Brock’s lyrics, the fascination with travel, math, the moon, ice. It also has some of the most sensitive lyrics he’s ever written. Songs like Broke and Baby Blue Sedan are what Modest Mouse sounds like, though I’m not sure others hear them that way. There was something about their sound back then that was honest. They sounded like a bunch of guys trying to make an album with the best tools they had. Brock’s voice is slightly out of tune, as are the guitars. The flaws and character were a part of the charm.

If you’ve never been a fan of Modest Mouse, I implore you to listen to this album. It defies all the expectations you may have, and could maybe show you a side to their music you didn’t know they had.

As for the wallpaper, super illustrator Deke Smith has created this awesome piece that sums up the album so well. The album is made up of pieces and parts and so is his wallpaper, but each work as a cohesive thought. He’s created some pretty rad symbols, and I love the color palette he chose as well. A huge thanks to Deke and be sure to check back next week as we hit up The Moon and Antarctica.

‘This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About’ by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Rick Murphy

'This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About' by Modest Mouse, wallpaper by Rick Murphy

Rick Murphy

Back in 1996, a little band named Modest Mouse released their very first album with a mouthful for a title: This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About. I picked up the album around 2000 or so. This album, along with Yo La Tengo’s Elecr-O-Pura shaped my musical tastes forever.

The album in my opinion is a raw expression of emotions. Modest Mouse had a lot of EPs prior to this album, but this is such a cohesive thought of being over the town you live in and wanting to travel and be somewhere else. I suppose 18 year old Bobby could certainly relate with these ideas. The songs on this album are spread out like the countryside, long and vast, never seeming to end. Isaac Brocks vocals are sing songy but harsh at times. This variance is gives such grit and life to each track, something that’s definitely been list over the years.

The lyrics of each track are also nearly perfect. Each song is filled with one gem of a line that you end up getting stuck in your head, even 10 years later. It’s also pretty extraordinary that almost half the songs on the album are over 6 minutes each, a feat in and of itself. I can’t say enough good things about this album. If you’re not a fan of Modest Mouse I implore you to put this album on while you’re heading off on a long drive or if it’s late and night and you’re deep in thought.

For the wallpaper, Rick Murphy has done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of this album. A gigantic moon, which comes into play in a lot of their work, a car looking out over the ocean, and a hi-fi and record player. The piece is both nostalgic and contemporary at the same time, perhaps even romantic.

Check back next week and we’ll talk about The Lonesome Crowded West and feature another beautiful wallpaper.

Sights & Sounds: A collection of Modest Mouse wallpapers

Sights & Sounds: A collection of Modest Mouse wallpapers
Photo thanks to Jeff Faulkner

For the next five weeks The Desktop Wallpaper Project will be another collection of wallpapers I like to bundle under the name Sights & Sounds. The Sights & Sounds tasks creatives to create wallpapers based around the albums of some of my favorite musical artists. This time around I’ve asked Ellis Latham-Brown to help me visualize the albums of Modest Mouse, who like Ellis, are Washingtonians at heart.

I know some of you out there may not be huge Modest Mouse fans, but that’s ok. The wallpapers that have been created are for the most part neutral, meaning you can stil put them up on your monitor and no one will even think you’re a secret fan. It’s all great art (and free, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth), so be sure to check in later today, 10AM PST, and over the next few weeks to see what happens.

You can see previous installments of Sights & Sounds here:

Sights & Sounds: My Bloody Valentine
Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective
Sights & Sounds: Broken Social Scene
Sights & Sounds: Wilco

Sights & Sounds: My Bloody Valentine featuring Alex Synge and Philip Kennedy

Sights & Sounds: My Bloody Valentine - 'Loveless' by Philip Kennedy

Philip Kennedy

Anniversaries are always good occasions to celebrate, so why not the 23rd and 20th anniversary of a pair of classic albums? Today’s wallpapers are technically Sights & Sounds installments, but done in one amazing post. The albums I’m speaking of are Isn’t Anything and Loveless from the Irish band, My Bloody Valentine.

With the release of these albums they helped to usher in the idea of shoegaze, which was defined by band members staring down at their feet as they used effects pedals to create a blaring cacophony of sound. With the release of Isn’t Anything back in 1988 My Bloody Valentine the band had managed to find the sweet spot of Jesus and Mary Chain, the wail of Sonic Youth and make something quite their own. With the follow up in 1991 of Loveless, they refined that sound to a new level and made one of the most revered album of the last 20 years. You can hear their sound in many bands today, M83 being a great example, and just how important they were to the generations that followed.

Figuring out who to get to make these wallpapers was a cinch, since our very own TFIB author Philip Kennedy is Irish. He, along with his buddy Alex Synge, tackled My Bloody Valentine’s only two albums, and they did a fantastic job. Alex’s design is stunning, it honestly makes me think of something Peter Saville might have come up with for a New Order album, minus the crazy color coding system. Philip’s wallpaper is a perfect representation of Loveless, simply put, it’s a beautiful mess.

The guys also put some of their thoughts down as to why they created their wallpapers, I’d suggest reading them both, especially Alex’s. He went into crazy detail and gives you so much insight into his production.

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Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / ‘Merriweather Post Pavillion’ by Anthony Mattox

Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / 'Merriweather Post Pavillion' by Anthony Mattox

Anthony Mattox

After 7 albums and lots of amazing artwork we’ve finally reached the end of our Animal Collective Sights & Sounds series. We’re finishing things up with their last album Merriweather Post Pavillion which came out back in 2009. Unbeknownst to me, the album was made without Deacon, who normally plays guitar on the tracks. So they made an entire album without guitars, relying only on samplers to fill the void. It’s weird that I never noticed that the guitars were missing at all, but I guess that shows just how talented these guys are.

To handle the artistic duties on this wallpaper is Anthony Mattox, a digital artist and interaction designer from Baltimore. I love Anthony’s work because it’s pushing that weird boundary between art and technology, where the abstract data becomes beautiful looking designs. Here’s what he had so say about his wallpapers.

Merriweather Post Pavilion has the most frenetic and persistent energy throughout all of their albums. Animal Collective mashes together so many strange little sounds to create a droning, rhythmic, and optimistic sound. Inspired by this, I wanted to create an image with the same explosive energy and complexity.
I made a script using Processing which generates images by repetitively branching circles. As it grows, the branching algorithm itself evolves to create a variety of different patterns and textures and forms a complex knot of twisting tendrils and clustered circles.

A big thanks to Anthony for the beautiful wallpaper and the biggest thanks goes out to Andy Mangold. Andy did such a great job of choosing an eclectic, talented bunch of artists and I appreciate all of his work. Check back next week as we get back into a more regular groove of things with more wallpapers from amazing designers and artists.


Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / ‘Strawberry Jam’ by Jen Mussari

Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / 'Strawberry Jame' by Jen Mussari

Jen Mussari

Creating desktop wallpapers around an artists catalog of music might not interest everyone, but for me it’s partly like cultural anthropology. Every time a new wallpaper comes out I do my bit of research on the album, learning more about a collection of songs than I ever had before. For example, this week’s Animal Collective influenced wallpaper is based on Strawberry Jam, which in fact was inspired by the desert. The band recorded the album in Tucson, Arizona because they liked the idea of recording in the desert, something they had never done before.

I also thought it was interesting how the name of the album came about, a chance encounter with a travel sized pack of strawberry jam.

The name Strawberry Jam came from singer and drummer Panda Bear as he and the band were on a plane headed to Greece for a show. Upon receiving his complimentary tray of food, he opened up the packet of strawberry jam that had been provided for the bread. As he removed the cover of the packet, he was drawn to the look of the glistening jam, and he expressed his desire for the production of their new album to sound like the jam looked, “that is to say, something that’s really synthetic and sharp and futuristic looking,” but also “tangy and sweet, almost in a kind of aggressive way in terms of the way it tastes”.

Handling the job of interpreting the album is a lady named Jen Mussari, an illustrator with an amazing eye for color and composition. I remember when I first saw Jen’s wallpaper and I started laughing out loud because it’s such a random image, but that’s exactly why I think it’s so great. The colors are great as well, and I love the handmade feeling of the piece. As it turns out, the image is based on kind of a sad premise from the last track, which I’ve posted above for you to listen to.

“This is a narrative image based on the last song from Strawberry Jam, Derek. Up until this point the album wavers back and forth between carnal, physical ideas (like eating, cooking, etc.) and super-trippy transcendental ideas that Animal Collective is known for. Derek is a regretful memory about a family dog that passed away from neglect. The boys who own him witness a moment when Derek speaks English, and then passes away in the night.”

I owe a big thanks to Jen for making such a rad wallpaper and for all the support she’s given throughout the project. And again, a big thanks to the curator of this series Andy Mangold for picking such a talented group of individuals. Check back next Wednesday for our last wallpaper of the series, Merriweather Post Pavillion.


Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / ‘Feels’ by Christopher Muccioli

Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / 'Feels' by Christopher Muccioli

Christopher Muccioli

It’s Wednesday and we’re continuing our visual journey into the albums of Baltimore based band Animal Collective, today’s album being Feels. At this point in Animal Collective’s career, they were putting out an album a year, which is a feat for any band. Feels feels to me like what an Animal Collective album is supposed to be, it has all of those necessary ingredients like frantic drum beats, complex vocal layering and and a piano that’s become naturally out of tune. It’s one of my favorites because of it’s diverse range of songs, which honestly go all over the place. My favorite song off of the album is Banshee Beat because it shows that range really nicely. It starts out quietly, with a strumming guitar and a faint piano, until the drums start to slow filter in and the song bursts.

Handling the artwork for the album is Christopher Muccioli, a Baltimore designer/illustrator who’s work I totally admire. His site is a joy to explore, he plays with some really interesting ways of presenting his work. The work itself is annoyingly good, with lots of love in the area of screen printing, both t-shirts and posters. I feel like his love of screen printing is blended into the vibe of his wallpaper as well, with this big smears of paint dripping down over the cymbal and drum, which play such a pivotal role in this album. Here’s what Chris had to say about his wallpaper.

Listening to the album “Feels” I focused in on the various sound characteristics that come out through the dynamics of the album. Some of the most energetic parts of the album happen through the use of a cadencing floor tom which has influenced a number of bands and musicians around today and being a drummer myself I felt it appropriate to focus on. The splashy crash on tracks like Did You See The Words? and The Purple Bottle add a lot of color and dynamics that really drive the songs and pull you in.

I think the simplicity of this wallpaper is a big plus, I know how a lot of you readers are! A huge thanks to Chris for participating and yet again, another huge thanks to Andy Mangold for being an awesome curator. Check back next Wednesday when we tackle Strawberry Jam, the wallpaper is fantastic, I promise you’ll love it.