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August 13, 2018

6 Times Indian Musicians Nailed Their Album Art

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

These artists have gone the extra mile to satiate the appetites of those who ‘see’ music instead of just listening to it

Pop quiz. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you listen to the familiar guitar strain of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit? Options: A. Kurt Cobain in his striped green and black t-shirt B. The nihilistic nature of your own youth C. A naked baby in a pool swimming towards a dollar bill dangling from a fish hook. If you picked option C, you belong to a group of people who ‘see’ music along with ‘feeling’ and ‘listening’ to it; the kind of people who prefer to watch music videos instead of simply saving the song in their playlist. Musicians go to great lengths to appease the visual indulgences of their audience and it begins with conceptualising the artwork for an album or EP. Special artists are commissioned to create covers which are then released ahead of the album to give the fans a glimpse of what’s to come.

Pop quiz No.2. Think of album artworks in the international space. Which ones come to mind? Pink Floyd’s prism from Dark Side of the Moon is an obvious choice, as is The Beatles’ Abbey Road. More recently, The Weeknd’s album art for Starboy and Ed Sheeran’s mathematical ÷, X, + and are recognised and loved by millennials all over the world. Now, try to recall the artwork for an album/EP by an Indian musician and there’s a high chance that you will come up short. This is because the indie music scene in India has gathered steam only very recently with a few musicians and bands that are delighting with their ingenuity.

Prateek Kuhad

The mellifluous musician’s recently released 6-track EP captures both the beauty and agony of a love that is and a love that was. With song titles like with you/for you, did you/fall apart, cold/mess, you can almost feel the numb helplessness take you over as the music sinks in and you lie quietly in bed staring into space. Adding to the emotions is a set of photographs by collaborator Anubhav Syal documenting couples sharing intimate moments against varying backgrounds. The cover art is of a couple kissing underwater, a telling portrayal of the tumultuous nature of relationships, which can even be suffocating at times.

Parekh & Singh

Parekh & Singh may have stormed the music circuit in all their suited glory and their Wes Anderson-esque music videos for I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll and Ghost, but we go back to them for their dreamy sounds. Singing of a love that is sweet, simple and uncomplicated, the duo takes us back to a time that was unadulterated by the stresses of today.  Their artworks feature many references to the animal kingdom with a trippy kaleidoscope effect. In fact, some of their suits also feature storks and pandas on the pockets, which nicely ties everything together.

Undying Inc.

The kind of album you would listen to on loop while gaming furiously, the artwork for Alpha Absolute features two humanoids with exposed innards locked in combat. Looking like characters straight out of a Mortal Kombat scene, Anirudh Singh’s handiwork is almost an ode to the famous fatality blow from the video game, except this one is quite mutual with the female impaling the male on her machine gun-cum-lightsaber while he yanks on her entrails. In fact, one of the songs on the album is also based on a similar premise and features a sort of never-ending fight between mixed martial artists Siddharth Singh and Emilia Emila, interspersed with shots of the band performing. Badass to the core.

The Down Troddence

A reinterpretation of how humans are bound to the chains of society, what really stands out in the artwork for How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You is the feeling of enslavement. The throne lacks a true leader and thousands of skeletal humans lie in the dodgy hope of a better tomorrow. Artist Abhijith has infused the artwork with a catacomb-like vibe which holds the remains of more than six million people in an eternal state of unrest. The macabre aesthetic of the cover art resonates with the morbid music of the metal band.

Last Remaining Light

Sidharth Basrur’s album from last year was a mix of mellow and heavy sounds and that duality is best represented in the form of Paul Thomas’ whimsical artwork. Featuring an uprooted floating lighthouse (reminiscent of the alien pods from Arrival) with shards of broken rock indicating destruction and Ron Weasley’s fantastical flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the artist — whose work includes designs for Marvel’s X-Men series — aimed for a magical vibe and hit the nail on the head. Adding to the eccentricity is a couple looking out happily into the vast emptiness from the lighthouse.

Bhayanak Maut

If the band’s name isn’t enough to send chills down your spine, then the artwork for their album Man will surely do the job. Featuring a young boy holding a decapitated head while staring balefully into the camera, Mexican artist Kikyz also incorporated a pair of ravens — which always spell doom — along with a sinister pair of eyes at the bottom left and right. A quick listen to the album will clear any doubts about why the band opted to go with such an eerie creative, not that we’re complaining.

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