I’d never heard of Bright Eyes before, even with his huge back catalogue out there, but on my two day journey around Sydney to find the deluxe digi-pack version of this album I’ve had three people tell me they are big fans. This was one album I had to own, I had to experience the “Spectral Decoder” myself and also there was jack all imagery online for this album.
The album itself looks unassuming. It’s a white cover with tiny black lines on it like, which feels like an ultra complicated Unknown Pleasures or minimal Autechre cover. The central image is a sticker added to the shrink wrap or CD case which is then removed.
It’s only when you open the case and use the enclosed “Spectral Decoder” that the album really shines. The entire package contains hidden imagery and messages. I feel like a kid in the 60′s with a spy kit.
The patented technology was created by 3D Images in the UK and originally developed for “Instant Win” promotions.
Here’s a detail of the front covers lines. I have a headache from looking at this too closely.
Conner Oberst from Bright Eyes originally wanted a “Magic Eye” image for the cover, but due to the small size of the CD packaging had to find a different technique. This is one time the small size of the CD packaging paid off as I hate those Magic Eye pictures. It just reminds me of the mid 90′s in shopping centers with crowds of people around a frame saying “I can’t see it…. oh wait a dolphin jumping a teapot. Wow!”.
Where as lenticular covers can become costly, this looks to be the cheaper option (music to any record labels ears) priced between 15 – 3p per unit. I’m guessing a little more for the decoder insert but still cheap. And due to it being a new technology and underused in the industry it stands out from the pack. Look for this technology to use used in advertising campaign soon. Something for the defense force might be award fodder.
The album contains Victorian era spiritual imagery and messages in several languages. Conner Oberst wanted people to still have to decipher the text even after using the Decoder. You can read more about this in a great article on NME.
I’ve tried my best below to reveal how the Decoder works but you should really try it out for yourself.
Here’s a video someone made using it. Presented in Youtube’s blurry goodness.
Another pleasant surprise was the booklet for the album has a nice spot varnish on it. It’s nice to see they didn’t just rest on the cover’s “gimmick” and forget the rest of the package.
The cover was art directed by Zack Nipper from the band’s label Saddle Creek. Zack’s done quite a few covers for Bright Eyes (see here) and his name is perfect if he ever wants to become a porn star or Futurama character.
The album is also nominated for “BEST RECORDING PACKAGE” in this years Grammy awards. As is Menomena’s Friend or Foe we featured a while back. While it’s a tough call, I’d have to say this is my fav from the list.
See the full list of finalists here.
Here’s one of the singles Four Winds off the album.
Check the Wiki entry for the album to have all the secret messages revealed and more info.