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Popular music, especially rock 'n' roll, has always been a highly visual medium. Every standout album has an eye-catching album cover, and that's no less true of local acts. We chart the evolution of local music through some of the best artwork to grace the releases of exceptional Utah bands, which helped them make their mark in Salt Lake City and beyond. And one that's just plain weird.
Koala Temple—Blue Milk (koalatemple.bandcamp.com, 2014)
Artist: Andrew Sato
Now inactive, these Psych Lake City stalwarts released several albums, and the mixed-media collage for their second and final LP is a stunning work of art: a tour-de-force overspill of images including topiary, insects, automobiles, astronauts, spaced-out faces and slight nudity. This is such a splendid visual piece that you might hang it on your wall. If you do, you get extra cool points for framing this photo of framed art. Andy Warhol would be proud.
Numbs—Nfinity (Earth Burn, 2007)
Artist: Cornel "Rooster" Saluone
These local hip-hop pioneers burst onto the scene with their 2001 debut, The Word, but NFinity found them maturing, and the split-screen action portrait cover art emphasized Numbs' collective effort and the teamwork inherent in great hip-hop groups. A decade later, it's still an essential release: a brilliant work in the genre and unabashedly Utahn.
Puri-Do—A Red Sequinned Spirituality (8ctopus, 1996)
Artist: Lincoln Lysager
The music of Puri-Do combines an unconventional eroticism with acidic, plaintive punches against the local majority religion. Instead of their usual sepia-toned photos, a cartoonish character set against a moonlit sky reveals this as our local counterpart of Sebadoh—a bit awkward, yet rugged and emotionally vulnerable.
Bob Moss—Folknik (Soundco, 2002)
Artist: Daniel Clowes
By the new millennium, everyone's favorite local musical eccentric finally started to get attention outside the Zion Curtain, and Soundco Records engaged comic artist Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) for this cover, a moving image of the loneliness at the center of Moss' music.
Salt Lake Electric Ensemble—Perform Terry Riley's in C (saltlakeelectricensemble.bandcamp.com, 2010)
Artist: Charlie Lewis and Oliver Lewis
The Salt Lake Electric Ensemble's performance of experimental composer Terry Riley's in C was a landmark event in the local music scene, a multimedia extravaganza updating the 1964 composition with laptop computers' more precise ability to sculpt sound. The cover art recalls the '60s—an effusion of musical notes speaking in concert.
Spaces—Border Radio (Red Giant, 1981)
Artist: Neil Passey
The late '70s/early '80s were the heyday of jazz-fusion and progressive rock, and this was our local entry into a field of sometimes spacey music with oftentimes far-out cover art. It was all about blending genres, baby—and plenty of borders got crossed.
The Stench—Crazy Moon (Running Records, 1989)
Artist: Greg Overton
The Stench was one of the original Salt Lake punk bands in the '80s, and though they were as hardcore as anybody, Terrance D.H. and Co. had a sense of the lyrical, and that shows in the album art, which is reminiscent of more artistically inclined groups like TSOL.
SubRosa—More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore, 2013)
Artist: Glyn Smith
All of local goth/doom band SubRosa's album covers are gorgeous—broodingly beautiful, embellished yet restrained, echoing the contradictions in their music. The band's most musically funereal album melds the somber and the sensual with exquisite subtlety for a release that finds them perfecting their own art.
Vile Blue Shades—Live! in Salt Lake -or- Live! in Denver (I Don't Remember) (8ctopus, 2013)
Artist: Sri Whipple
Local collective of musical (and probably, actual) debauchery Vile Blue Shades went out with a bang with their final release, as chaotic as ever, and Sri Whipple's cover art depicted the mesmerizing monstrosity. If you want to feel strangely aroused, check out Whipple's fast and bulbous art, a labyrinth of extremities and orifices, on their 2009 album John Thursday: California Adventure.
Wasnatch—Front to Back (cdbaby.com, 2013)
Uncredited photo, supposedly from a 1970s porno
It's impossible not to mention a local album that made it into Billboard's "Worst Album Covers of The Year." The image, which the internet believes comes from a 1970s porno, suits the eternally loopy ska/reggae genre—in the key of ... F?