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Behind the Album Art: West Way Out

Updated: Apr 17

"West Way Out" by NAIMS is out now on all major music streaming platforms, including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, and YouTube! Find them on Instagram @naimstheband

Cassette tapes are currently being sold in Anchorage, AK at Obsession Records and Rage City Vintage!

Would it be surprising if I told you this is the first album art I've ever created?

Well, it is and it was a blast to develop!

This piece is filled with exciting experimentation using free high-resolution images from Unsplash, old collections of Photoshop textures from Tumblr, and the new AI generate feature on Photoshop. Initially, I was given the track list, the name of the album, and an early mix of the album. The overarching theme was described simply with "isolation" and "trying to break the cycle".

My first impression of the album was, "I'm driving out of town, into the unknown on a long and open road, ready to let go of the past and start anew." It was important to me that the album imagery also symbolized the key themes. The sound design gives this nostalgic feeling that had to be captured in the artwork. Through the sounds of percussions and guitar, I pictured vintage Americana magazine collages like that of Instagram artists @phibstuff and @postwook.

The initial idea was a vintage car alone in the desert, driving towards psychedelic sunset skies. I began the collage with the desert landscape, cutting out the sky to add in the dreamy cotton candy skies which transitioned later into darker, warmer tones. After scrolling through several texture packs saved on my laptop, I found these reaching hands that I felt drawn to incorporating into the album cover. The gesture adds an extra flavor of surrealism to an already otherworldly landscape, ready to reach in and pull the car out of the story completely. The reaching hand, vintage car, and street sign are all their own cut-out, blended into the landscape with subtle shadows and cloudy exhaust fumes. My favorite detail is the darkened, flowing lines that tie all the elements together. It's giving "puppet master" vibes when combined with the hand reaching down into the scene.

So what's AI generated? Since the original landscape image I used for the desert wasn't long enough to extend completely around, I utilized the expand tool to create the entire back side of the vinyl cover. The road is also generated so you may notice the car on the wrong side or the odd road lines.. Take it as another extra flavor of surrealism rather than AI bugs, hah. As it turns out, there isn't that many free high-resolution images of long empty roads in the desert... Though, I think I'm far happier with that nuance of strangeness that I would've never though to add using an authentic image.

Believe me when I say, I listened to this album SEVERAL times on repeat during the making, to ensure the aesthetic fit each song. As you can see above, there were two other variations that did not make it as the cover. The original cotton candy version was a little too bright and.. well poppy? Considering that this is not a pop album, that was not the final version. There's another version tinted more blue/yellow, giving a moody Frank Ocean's Nights and night drives vibe that doesn't quite resonate with the sound of this album. With the themes of isolation and letting go, we settled on the warm-toned dreamy sunset, like a movie coming to a close with the curtains ready to be dropped, bittersweet but hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.

Let me know what you think of the album and artwork in the comments!


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