The Refreshing Album Art of Odradek Records

(By Brian Davidson)

With the declining prominence of CDs and with that the loss appreciation for album art, many will respect Odradek Records not only for their fine catalog of releases within the past year but also for their often attractive, humorous cover art that goes outside the norm.  The non-profit artist-controlled label whose slogan is a “new way of doing classical” validates that mission with some of the best cover art we’ve seen in 2013 not only in classical music but in all genres.  One only needs to see a few examples to see how great Odradek’s album art really is.

Signing a young, rising pianist in Mei Yi Foo required not only an album of a carefully crafted debut program, but also a fresh spin album presentation that makes her stand out from her other  young contemporaries.

mei-yi-foo-musical-toys-

Featuring two little legomen (ahem, women) Foo’s album cover not only aptly suits her record title Musical Toys, but is one of the more hipper, more youthful  album covers without over-trying, seldom seen in classical music releases.  Put this on a shelf at a record store and take away the artist names and repertoire and you’d be hard pressed to not think its the cover for the latest White Stripes or Vampire Weekend album.

Another great spin from the artists of Odradek Records is their take on the usually mundane “album cover headshot”  with a willingness to have fun with themselves.

Goofy and a bit whacky, Duo Miho & Masumi Hio’s album cover for Piano Four Hands capturing the duo mid-air as they reluctantly jump, is a playful, humorous spin on the album cover shot that’s more welcoming and vibrant than the staunchy, stiff cover photos of their contemporaries.  Again, put this on a record store shelf in comparison to your typical classical record and Duo Miho & Masumi Hio’s album will more often than not look like the more pleasurable listen.

Odradek Records duo

And when it comes to the more traditional album art direction, Odradek Records is still a leader in visual identity.

Take a look at the more subdued photo for Yukiko Kojima’s latest record of Akira Miyoshi’s piano music (our runner-up pick for Best Album of 2013).  Kojima’s photoshoot on an isolated beach is deeper and more artistic (once again, without overly trying) in feel than standard classical releases.  There’s heart and soul to   to Odradek’s “artist cover photos” that’s more natural and poetic, and less glossy-ed up than the tackier covers you see from the major labels. In fact, its even fitting to say that Kojima’s photo package ranks up their with the more subdued “artistic-styled” photo packages of the year.

Odradek records kojima

The genre as a whole can learn a lot from the art direction of Odradek Records. Their album art brings a sense of naturalness to their artist roster and in a sense a greater respect for their music and the listener. As the classical music field strives to find new, younger audiences and as the relevance of the compact disc becomes increasingly diminished, classical labels and their artists will need to adapt and steer away from the mundane art styles of their predecessors not only for a better commercial impact but for the growth of the genre itself.

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