For as long as I can remember, I have been personally fascinated with album artwork and the ways we visually present and perceive the music we create and listen to. Topshelf released ten records in 2019—EPs and full lengths spanning a sonically and geographically diverse spectrum of sounds and locales, respectively. With the year coming to a close, we wanted to highlight each of them. So I opened up the artwork files and went to work creating digital collages for each, utilizing and re-purposing elements from each album’s artwork into a visual release retrospective of sorts.
We also asked each artist to provide some words on their mindset in creating the music—we left the prompt pretty open, and the responses vary a good deal! Hopefully you learn something new about an album you already enjoy or discover something ~ new to you ~ that might have gone overlooked from earlier in the year.
Thank you for taking the time to check out the music we release and the artists we work with! We had a great 2019 and are already well underway in planning our 2020 for you. Should any of these 2019 titles resonate with you, we’re currently running a 20% off sale for all 2019 releases—use the code BUBBLEMONKEY in our store or on bandcamp for the discount.
Thanks from all of us at Topshelf!! <3
TSR199: Bellows - The Rose Gardener words by Oliver Kalb.
The year of releasing an album is always a weird thing to experience because you’re sort of catching up with a previous self. My new record The Rose Gardener came out in February of this year, but it was written and recorded a whole year before that, in early 2018. After more than a year removed from the writing process, it becomes an unforeseen task of touring to find new meaning in the songs after their original dramatic subject matter isn’t such an important thing in your life. Touring new Bellows albums always feels like discovering the true nature of the songs — since I write and record mostly alone, the band only learns the songs after the album’s finished and the live arrangements are usually pretty different from the recordings, sort of like we’re covering my songs.
Our first tour on The Rose Gardener was this last March. I found that there were some songs, like “The Tower”, that felt like they achieved a new life as live songs, like they’re able to strike emotions in a live setting that are different from what they’re doing in the recording. Other songs like “Housekeeping” feel like they sometimes aren’t appropriate for every venue, like the lightness of the guitar playing and the particularity of the samples doesn’t always come across in smaller house show or DIY spaces. Right now I’m on my first full U.S. tour on the new record, and I’m still in the process of discovering how these songs go. On the previous Bellows album, Fist & Palm, we toured the songs heavily for two and a half years, and by the end of the touring it felt like every song on the album had a completely distinct quality in the live setting, almost like we’d made the album all over again as performers. I’m excited to be in the process of re-making this new Bellows record in the live world.