“I see where the inspiration came from,” someone might say squinting at a smudge of brown paint on a canvas in a brightly-lit gallery. But it’s often difficult to see where an artist is coming from when the only explanation is a neatly printed card with a singular word or phrase accompanied by a high-price tag.
If you’re looking for a different type of sensory experience, settle in with the Indie Rock Poster Book featuring posters from some of the most badass illustrators in the industry. What makes this book so unique is that the artists handpicked the songs they illustrated, allowing the viewers to see the rationales behind their illustrations and work processes.
Here are six of our favorite posters from the book along with the songs that inspired them.
1. Julia Rothman
TV On the Radio – “Dancing Choose”
The dizzying maze of objects and shapes in Julia Rothman’s interpretation of TV on the Radio’s “Dancing Choose” closely mimics the tone and pace of the song. The tree is so packed with objects it feels as though it will topple at any time. Similarly, any song where the singer spits out words like “Weimaraner” in close-knit lines of lyrics feels as though it will crash down at any moment. The song itself is chaotic yet so upbeat that there is an overwhelming desire to pluck the shoes out of the giant tree in the illustration and get to dancing.
2. Gemma Correll
The Dears – “Lost in the Plot”
There’s a girl and a cat. They’re alone in the middle of the ocean. At first glance, the illustration is whimsical and almost evokes a chuckle. It could be the intense determination in the eyes of the girl or the fact that she’s holding a flaming torch of skulls, but the chuckle is quickly disguised into a cough. The “edge of panic” that Correll illustrates in this poster is closely tied to the escalating intensity of The Dear’s “Lost in the Plot.” “Leave me in the middle of the ocean/ I can walk the rest of the way/ and I promise not to cry anymore.”
3. Chris Gray
“Lykke Li – “Tonight”
The geometric symmetry of this poster is visually stunning, but the only description that Chris Gray wrote for his interpretation of Lykke Li’s “Tonight” is a mysterious sentence, “The space between the tick and the tock.” After the cloud of confusion clears, and the music and sentence are viewed as a whole the connection is blatant. The opening piano chords mimic the chimes of a grandfather clock while the rest of the song sounds like the inner workings. The mechanical rhythm of the song and geometric shapes drive the metaphor of the clock leaving a feeling of desperation and longing “don’t you let me go let me go tonight.”
4. Will Bryant
Beach House – “Take Care”
If Beach House’s “Take Care of You” is a reminder of being lost in a daydream, then Will Bryant’s illustration is a drug-induced trance. The dreamy colors and hypnotizing rhythmic swirls and shapes are described perfectly by the words “hazy nostalgia” drawn in the center of the poster. “The vibe of a track always has more impact on me than the lyrics,” Bryant says.
Wolf Parade – “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”
“I spotted this guy—a guy who seemed dispirited—as if he’d given up.” At first it’s difficult to see this dispirited guy that illustrator Yehteh uses for inspiration. The lyrics of Wolf Parade’s “Dear Sons and Daughters of Ghosts” initially feel more like a powerful anthem. “I got a hand, so I got a fist so I got a plan.” But as the song goes on, it takes more of a desperate tone. As if he’s trying to convince people of a new plan—tricking them into thinking rust is gold. He’s “given up, kneeling on the ground, looking at the reflection of his failures,” Yehteh says.
6. Ben Chlapek
Elliott Smith – “King’s Crossing”
Ben Chlapek’s illustration and explanation of the connection between his poster and Elliott Smith’s “King’s Crossing” are equally brilliant. “This is because winter is a time for listening to songs that remove you from cold walks through gray streets—songs that have so much visual imagery that you don’t have time to think about freezing, although “King’s Crossing” still makes me think about freezing,” he says.
It’s the darkest song from Elliott’s last full-length release, From a Basement on the Hill, and it addresses the ever-present demons he fought throughout his life. This struggle is portrayed in my poster illustration in the way everything is climbing the hill toward the house, relentlessly trying to consume him. I wanted it to seem like he finally found a way to get away from it all, but when he broke free, something went awry.”
Well said, sir.
To see more of the posters and to purchase the Indie Rock Poster Book, visit YellowBirdProject.com. Not only will you feel great about having the coolest posters on your block, you’ll feel even better about giving your money to a great cause. The people at Yellow Bird Project “seek out only the coolest of cool artists, collaborate with them to design awesomely awesome tee-shirts [and poster books], and give all the prettiest of pretty profits to charities of the artists’ choice.”
The project raises money by the “barter and trade” of their tee-shirts and books, but they no longer accept goats as a form of currency as “money proved to be an easier currency to store.”