Dig 'em.

Here are three of my favorite YouTube videos of 2008. (1) The Grizzly Bear performance is dazzling; I probably watched it twenty times. (2) Gillis pulls a remix out of his ass, likens his process to your band's last Beatles ripoff, subtly toots his own horn, and smirks. (3) The Bon Iver song builds to a percussive and emotive frenzy. For me, this band strikes the same nerve that Elliot Smith's music does. Dig 'em.

Grizzly Bear 'Two Weeks' on Letterman June 08

Greg Gillis (Girl Talk) mashes up Elvis Costello

Bon Iver 'Skinny Love' on Letterman 12/11/08

List Fever

It's that time of year again! The time of year when every publication under the sun publishes its 'best of the year' list or '2008 roundup.' Hell, Time even published a 'list issue.' So it is in the spirit of the season that I present the 'Magnet Cat Best of the Best of Lists' award for 2008. The best 'Best Of' list of 2008 is actually a 'Worst Of' list and it's located here.


Ween Designs!

So I came into contact with the mighty Ween recently and they were kind enough to consider four t-shirt designs that I pitched to them. Unfortunately, they did not decide to print any. Here are two of the four designs (click images to enlarge). For those of you who are not initiated Ween fans like the rest of us, here are three very brown facts about the band: that toothy face you see below is The Boognish (Ween's logo/mascot), the band's debut album is titled GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, and Ween's favorite adjective is 'brown' (carrying connotations of 'cool,' 'chocolate,' and 'shitty'). Thanks to Ween. Stay brown.

Design #1 'God Ween Satan'

Design #2 'The Ween Trinity'


Jenny Holzer's Truisms

Confusing yourself is a way to stay honest

People are nuts if they think they control their lives

Being happy is more important than anything else

Lack of charisma can be fatal

Protect me from what I want

Myths make reality more intelligible

Anything is a legitimate area of investigation

Believing in rebirth is the same as admitting defeat

It's crucial to have an active fantasy life

Stupid people shouldn't breed

more info


Werewolf Sale

'The Party Werewolf' shirt by Magnetic State is on sale for only $8.99! Everybody knows that the economy blows and everything's on sale this year. Celebrate by taking advantage of this great deal before these shirts are gone!

Garment Goodness.

I often surf the web looking for artists and designers that are up to interesting things. Rarely do I find them. Here are three t-shirts that rule.

'Arpie Tee' by Jon Knox at Hello, Brute

'Slime City' shirt by Creep Street

'4-point' tee by M. Carter


Comes with FREE MC Hammer Pants

Sometimes you find the funniest (not to mention manliest) writing where you least expect it. Now put down that barbell, crank up the Van Halen, and read this.


DJ A-Trak has a blog and he is calling out suckas that perpetrate. He recently blogged about a flagrantly ripped-off Maroon 5 album cover design as well as another by Good Charlotte. Read/watch this post I wrote about A-Trak in June.


Bookend Cat

Check out these cool cat bookends by Alpha Workshops, mentioned in the New York Times' Gifts For Hard Cases feature (I also thought these were particularly ingenious). Alpha Workshops is a cool nonprofit, so proceeds from the bookends go to a good cause. Plus, you never have to empty a litter box.


Stingray Sam

Check it out! It's the trailer for Cory McAbee's Stingray Sam, in which I was fortunate enough to briefly participate last month. Stingray Sam premieres at Sundance 2009. Watch the trailer; it looks like a boatload of comedic sci-fi-musical-space-western fun. Also check out Cory's blog and the official Stingray Sam website.


Here are three excellent Onion A.V. Club interviews with some of my favorite dudes: musician, label owner and voice-over artist Mike Patton, rapper Kool Keith (you need only to read his answer to the first question to find out why he's the most entertaining interview in the genre), and comedian Michael Ian Black.


New Web Design

I'm happy to announce the launch of www.kimandteo.com, built and designed by yours truly. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Please contact me if you or anyone you know is in need of a website. Artists - need your portfolio online? Drop me a line!


Presidential Doodles

Obama draws fellow politicians, Sarah Palin doodles like a high school freshman, and LBJ's 'devil cat.' Check out this CNN Video.


New Shirt

Today I added this new shirt for Judge Roy Bean to the Magnetic State portfolio. It's currently available for sale at the band's shows. Click the design view to enlarge!


Great Design in Music Now

So I've browsed an abundance of bands' websites recently. I'm learning new web design techniques and I've also noticed a great deal about how some friends and design clients choose to represent their music, both online and off. I see your shows, your merch, your MySpace pages, your fans and goals. Viewing as both a designer and a musician, I tend to react strongly when I see something that brings a smile to my eyeballs. I thought I'd share some of the best music-related designs I've come across during the last few weeks. It's by no means comprehensive; I've just listed the best out of what I've come across while browsing the work of forty or fifty bands. I could spew forth a torrent of vitriol about all of the heinous design mistakes I've come across, but in most cases, these incoherent logos and timid t-shirt designs ensure that a lot of awful bands go where they belong (nowhere fast) and we should all remain thankful. However, I do not intend this post to be about the most popular band or the hippest genre; it's about successful work. Each entry includes a link to the band's MySpace page or website. If you have a favorite shirt/logo/whatever design, post it or email me and I will put it up!

Some say the album's a dying format but the jury's still out on that one. For now there are still bands who care about a striking album cover that gives a visual voice to the music within. One thing we can agree on is that album covers have shrunk from the size of an LP sleeve to the size of an Ipod screen, so go forth and be bold.

Paint It Black New Lexicon
If eyes had mouths, this would make my eyes' mouths drool. The stunning photograph conveys ethereal stillness and the danger of darkness in a setting that seems to epitomize the suburb. The typography is tasteful and austere. My favorite thing about this cover is that it transcends the genre; I don't think I would guess that this record was hardcore punk.

Also notable:

The Death Set Worldwide
Everything about it screams. They say the devil is in the details and the killer details here are the mouth and the weird tale/phone cord.

Bands have a unique opportunity because in the music industry it's not uncommon to use a new logo for every album or tour. Some bands do it right the first time and stick with it (Nine Inch Nails' symmetrical 'NIN' logo comes to mind), but others take advantage of the opportunity and re-brand themselves every few years.

The Raconteurs 'R' Logo
The Raconteurs used several different versions of this script 'R' logo during their tour for Consolers of the Lonely. The image on the left is a copper lapel pin. The image on the right is the floor of the performance space in this live performance of 'Level.' Pure class.

Also notable: The Faint's logo

Say what you will, but MySpace has offered instant access to bands and their music whether you're on a major label (do those still exist?) or still in the garage. That said, the site has been the laughingstock of the web design community since its inception due to poor design; and yet it's highly customizable, offering bands the opportunity to put their personal stamp on their site provided they have access to someone with the necessary skills. Sometimes it works best when a band embraces the ridiculousness of the social-networking site and chooses a layout that's tongue-in-cheek or over-designed (see Mastodon and Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, respectively). When in doubt, choose simplicity. Just because you can make an animated gif doesn't mean you should. Visit Magnetic State on MySpace.

Every Time I Die
Every Time I Die has clearly hired a talented photographer, the color scheme is catchy, and the imagery is bold and bizarre (the combination rarely fails). The layout provides for user-friendliness and clarity of function.

Some bands have an online presence that's big enough to require more than one site; others want more creative options than what MySpace offers. The band below does both.


Fuck 'music-related,' this is one of my favorite anything-related websites ever. You have to visit in order to experience the ingenious interactive Flash-animated cow's head at the center of the site. Design by Honest.

Ensuring that there are high-quality videos of your band available online means that fans and (more importantly) potential fans will have access to a visual representation of you and your live performance.

Dub Trio 'Bay vs. Leonard' (Fearless TV)
Dub Trio has this video imbedded on their MySpace page. It's got great sound, quality recording, and a mean performance from a talented band with a unique sound. Plus, I just think they're nasty.

So I saved the best category for last. I've always been a sucker for rock and roll t-shirts (a primary obsession during adolescence) and they're one of my favorite design challenges. Frankly, there's not much competition out there, and this area is where bands make the worst mistakes. Most bands' shirts are adorned with boring, dull and criminally small designs. You have to squint to read the band name, and you don't know why you're looking at a bleeding skull with wings or a geometric drawing of a guy in a suit. Everything's fucking 'distressed.' I think most bands have their drummer's brother do it because they hear he can draw and he'll do it for free, and they wind up with a stack of hideous rags stacked on the merch table. Now you've saved money on the free design, but it's backfired; no one wants to buy the shirts you paid a couple hundred bucks having printed up. My goal in designing a shirt for a band is to attract potential fans; I want to make a shirt that customers will want to buy even if they don't know the band (yet). A cool shirt is a cool shirt. I also want to make designs that might get noticed from across the street. When designing, I follow the mantra 'make it bigger,' as Paula Scher likes to say. Anyway, here's my selection for the best t-shirt design I've seen recently.

Grizzly Bear T-Shirt by J. Penry

I had conflicted feelings about this shirt at first, because I was unsure that it reflected Grizzly Bear's music. I'd expect a shirt like this from maybe Melvins or a punk band. But Penry's shirt is weird and demented (both qualities that exist within the band's sound), the drawing rules, and he's taken advantage of the entire canvas of the garment. It's a one-color design but he does it so well, it transcends the limitation. And conflict is good; my feelings of conflict have caused me to continue thinking about the design.


Tricked Out

One of my goals this month was to learn how to customize a MySpace page, as this is a service I want to offer bands and clients. I especially wanted to embed a banner above all the other content, and I just finally nailed it. There is also a full portfolio there now, so check out the new Magnetic State MySpace page! The design is nothing too complex, but I'm pretty sure it counts as 'pimped.' Where's Xzibit when you need him?


Halloween Photos Part One

Rachel and Molly as 'Pot Brownies.'

One of the most inventive Halloween costumes I've ever seen. She dressed her leg as the lamp from A Christmas Story. Complete with functional light bulb!

Blurry half-female Wayne and Garth Number One. Party Time!

Blurry half-female Wayne and Garth Number Two. Excellent!

Halloween Photos Part Two: Blue Sky Law

Halloween Photos Part Three: Judge Roy Bean

My great friends in Judge Roy Bean performed as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at Uncle Mike's in New York City on Halloween 2008.


Monuments at Union Pool 11/13

Here's a flyer I made for my good friends in Monuments. Click the image to enlarge.


"This One Is A Gasser"

I recently resumed the Music Class I teach for teenagers at the Lighthouse International. One of the items we will discuss and listen to this week is Billboard's Top Ten Songs of the last fifty years (August 1958 through July 2008). This extraordinary chart (the online version is complete with embedded videos) is the result of compiled sales and radio play data and serves as a condensed survey of American taste over half a century. From The Beatles to LeAnn Rimes, this list does not represent what is good but rather what is popular. Staggeringly popular. But beware: the most-represented decade in the top ten is the nineties with four entries, and they're probably all songs you'd prefer to forget. But like it or not, these songs have delighted (or assailed) more ears than you can likely fathom. The number one most popular song of the last fifty years is Chubby Checker's 'The Twist;' below is a video of that vampire Dick Clark introducing Chubby during the dawn of the sixties. The novelty dance that accompanies a hit pop song is still in vogue; only these days instead of doing The Twist, we lean back or brush our shoulders off.


The American Astronaut & More

Today, the Photoplay boys and I had a helluva lot of fun participating in a film production helmed by our friend Cory McAbee (the production was also recently mentioned on Cory's blog, The Smallest Star). I'll post more details about the project when Mr.McAbee does, but for now, watch this trailer for his previous film, The American Astronaut. The film is an exuberant "musical space western" that overflows with surreal humor and stunning black-and-white imagery. Mr.McAbee not only wrote, directed, and starred in the film, but he's an accomplished visual artist and musician as well. That's an awful lot of creative ambition and I admire it. I'm quite curious to see what he's got in store for the future.


'RoadKillOvercoat' Cover Art

This cover design for hip-hop artist Busdriver is beautiful - or "beauteous," as my former illustration professor Alan Reingold used to say. Epitaph credits the album artwork to Seripop. Also check out Seripop's blog.

Click image to enlarge.


Well Said.

(The following is excerpted from this CNN article)

Barack Obama scored endorsements from The Denver Post and the Miami Herald Saturday, two major newspapers in key battleground states.

“Republicans love to mock Obama's history as a community organizer," said The Denver Post. "But here was a man with no money to offer, no patronage to dispense, no way to punish his opponents. All he could do was to work with people from all walks of life, liberals and conservatives, business people and the unemployed, and bring them together in common cause for a better community. Could there really be better preparation to reunite a worried and divided America to again pursue our 'more perfect union'?"



When I saw that documentary about the four year-old girl whose paintings made her a star in the art world, I thought, "Gee, the art world couldn't get any more exciting than this! No wonder the state of contemporary art is such a vital topic of discussion in most American homes!" Turns out I spoke too soon, 'cuz check out this newcomer who just burst onto the scene! That precocious tyke can fuck off, cuz I've got a new favorite artist!


'ABC3D' by Marion Bataille

Now that's ingenuity. This pop-up alphabet book is ABC3D by Marion Bataille.


"Pleasure helps your disposition."

And you thought contemporary advertising was crass and insulting.

This week, a new exhibit of antique cigarette ads called Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking opens at The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library's Healy Hall (188 Madison Avenue). I've just become addicted to Mad Men and this exhibit represent a startling period of advertising history that the show addresses directly as well. The exhibit is also represented in an extremely dense and thorough online gallery.

'I like giving what they like getting.'
Say it's presents, dear God, please say you mean presents...

According to the site, the exhibit intends to tell "the story of how, between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, tobacco companies used deceptive and often patently false claims in an effort to reassure the public of the safety of their products." Two particularly savory slogans from the ads include "It’s a psychological fact: Pleasure helps your disposition" (Camel) and "Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboros."

One particularly thoughtful function of the exhibit is the 'Then and Now' gallery, which contrasts ads of decades past to current ones. Some are nearly identical. Take these two ads, which advocate that age-old trick of blowing toxic smoke in your girl's face to turn her on.

The brand name on the right translates to 'Chick Repellent'
Click image to enlarge.

Much like Mad Men, these images portray a time when the act of buying and selling a product was vastly different then it is now (although our willingness to be told what we want to hear hasn't changed much at all). But more than anything else, these advertisements represent a time when it was okay to hope you'd find a couple dozen cartons of Viceroys under the tree on Christmas morning.

Japan or Bust


The Best of Thrash Metal Cover Art

It's time to pay tribute to a genre that has more great album artwork than it has deliriously fast songs about the most evilest shit a stoned, teen-aged mind can conjure. The genre was epitomized in the early eighties when a handful of drunk virtuosos in skinny black jeans and high-tops decided to call themselves Metallica and play the lean essentials of heavy metal at really, really fast tempos. Other dark lords of the thrash universe include Exodus, Anthrax, Venom, Kreator, Overkill, and macabre masterminds Slayer. Here are the seven best thrash metal record covers of all time.

Motörhead, Iron Fist

Forget thrash, this is one of the best record covers in any genre. Turns out the pummeling, cold fist of death is sheer eye candy. Who made that thing? Did it fall out of someone's nightmare? If you want a couple more reaons to love them, Motörhead frontman Lemmy hoped his band would be "the dirtiest rock n' roll band in the world" and once said that if "Motörhead moved in next to you, your lawn would die."

Metal Church, Metal Church

Um, it's a cruciform Gibson Explorer, zombified in the graveyard of Metal Church. Gnarly. Did they shoot this photo on the set of the Thriller video? Same year. Just sayin'.

Venom, Possessed

I like this cover because it defies the genre. No overwrought Iron Maiden-esque oil paintings, no overt Satanism, zero cheese factor. If anything, you would expect this fucked-up photocopied negative from a punk rock band. The androgynous demon children immediately remind me of Richard D. James and the Aphex Twin video for 'Come To Daddy' (directed by Chris Cunningham). Genuinely creepy.

Vio-lence, Eternal Nightmare

Oh no, it's your worst nightmare: you're tucked into bed, wearing your nice clean starched white pajamas because you are a total dickweed poser, and you wake up to discover that you are TUMBLING DOWN A NEVERENDING VAMPIRE MOUTH 'TIL THE END OF TIME! The essential theme of thrash metal is that each generation of bands has to try and out-evil the last. Eternal Nightmare epitomizes the losers of the evil arms race (hey, not everybody can be Slayer). The boys of Vio-lence failed miserably in their attempt to be insidious and foul; looking at this cover is about as scary as tickling a leprechaun. And that's why it rules.

Metallica, Kill 'Em All

The record is a masterpiece and so is the cover. No wonder they've had carte blanche ever since. It's got the unfuckwithable red-black-white color combination, the photograph is beautifully lit, and the blood puddle has a great Rorschach thing going on. This record almost got called 'Metal Up Your Ass' as a goof; thankfully they decided otherwise. Now if only they'd hang up the guitars (and the midlife crises) once and for all. Photo by Gary Lee Heard.

Death, Leprosy

Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner was clearly no fan of subtlety. This cover creeps me out because somehow I feel like maybe you could get leprosy just from looking at it. The real star of this show is the Death logo. Logo design requires boiling a concept down to its distilled essence, but not for Schuldiner, who designed and re-designed this logo himself throughout the band's career. This incarnation features a spider dangling from its web, a bloody scythe (which is not incorporated into any of the letterforms for some reason), a flaming inverted crucifix, and a shrunken demon skull head thing. Only someone who doesn't know the rules can break them all and produce something this exuberant. Oh, also check out that sweet nuclear sunset. Artwork by Ed Repka.

Slayer, Reign In Blood

Much like the music it represents, the cover of Slayer's 1986 major label debut made everything that preceded it look like sugar-coated sunshine in comparison. Illustrator and artist Larry Carroll provided the band with a grim cover illustration of Satan-as-goat reigning over a medieval, Bosch-ian vision of Hell. What else would befit an album with a song called 'Raining Blood' that opens with the sound of blood rain? I heard this dude Gaahl (from notorious Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth) explain the meaning of the 'Satan as a goat' symbol during an episode of the VBS tv (Vice's online video channel) series 'True Norwegian Black Metal'; he claimed that the goat represents beings motivated by free will, as opposed the rest of us, who are sheep. Being a sheep is lame: you're a slave to the masses, shackled by ideology and oppressed by tradition. I guess the one cool thing about it is that, um, you don't have to rot in Hell for eternity.

That shit is so fascinating to me. When it comes to mythological grandiosity, few other genres can fuck with metal.



There's been a deluge of great television comedy recently (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes to mind) and I've got my hopes up for Adult Swim's new Superjail. I've only seen the clip at their site so far, but if the irreverent humor and ornate, psychedelic animation are any indication of what's to come, this show will be a hit with fans of Wonder Showzen and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! This clip includes a bizarre whirlwind of a narrative in under two minutes, all without the use of dialogue. The show is directed by Christy from Cheeseburger and the eye-boggling animation comes courtesy of the folks at Augenblick Studios, who are also responsible for animating some of the best Wonder Showzen sketches.


The Wrestler & Burn After Reading

There are two movies dominating film discussions this week and they are The Wrestler and Burn After Reading.

The Wrestler stars Mickey Rourke and is directed by Darren Aronofsky (who made that epic bad trip Requiem for a Dream). This one has festival buzz whipped up into a clamorous frenzy. There are a lot of die-hard Rourke fans among the film buffs I know; guys who latched on to the actor's presence in eighties classics like Angel Heart and Diner speak of him like he's a long-lost brother who they miss dearly. His battered face has been on the silver screen a few times recently (Sin City, Domino), but his true comeback is long overdue. View clips from The Wrestler and read this frank Time review.

Burn After Reading is a star-studded spy comedy by the Coen brothers. I'm conflicted about this one. The Coens made a comeback of their own last year with No Country For Old Men, one of my favorite films of all time. I find its absorbing style to be utterly riveting no matter how many times I watch it (best dialogue exchange: Loretta: "Be careful." Ed: "Always am." Loretta: "Don't get hurt." Ed: "Never Do." Loretta: "Don't hurt no one." Ed: "Well, if you say so."). So I should be excited about Burn After Reading, but the trailer doesn't do much for me. Brad Pitt's intentionally flamboyant character and costume simply look abrasive and gaudy. So Pitt and costar Clooney are the coolest, most charming guys ever invented - okay, I saw Ocean's Eleven, I fucking get it already! I'm kind of over it. The only cast member I was truly excited to see is Coens alum Frances McDormand. I want to like this film, but the trailer didn't make me laugh once. But I have to trust them because they are masters. Right?


Good 'N Funny

Two blogs with self-explanatory titles that are worth at least a hundred ha ha's: Photoshop Disasters and Stuff White People Like. I'm glad 'Photoshop Disasters' exists as a source of justice for all the lazy advertisers out there (also the site just hipped me to Dane Cook's blog entry on the Photoshop disaster that is his latest movie poster). My favorite entries on 'Stuff White People Like' are expensive sandwiches, shorts, and trying too hard. View a CNN interview with the site's creator here.


Vintage Movie Magazines

The following are images from a batch of old movie magazines that a friend brought in to Photoplay today. I have to admit that I'll take the pulp over the esoteric avant-garde stuff any day. Click any image to enlarge.

'Serial Pictorial' Number 8 features the work of Roy Barcroft, "Republic's Greatest Villain." His character on the cover and in the image below is The Purple Monster (I'd particularly like to watch The Purple Monster Strikes).

I like the above page so much, I'm probably going to frame it. He looks so silly and that gun is utterly impotent, but he's gonna shoot you anyway. I also like it because it reminds me of Charles Burns; this kind of imagery is what fuels his imagination (this image looks like something straight out of Burns' El Borbah).