There are plenty of bands catering to the old-school sensibilities of nostalgia-hungry indie rock fans, but nobody does it better than the Hold Steady. In honor of their new album Heaven Is Whenever (which drops today), the group celebrated Record Store Day by releasing a limited-edition clear vinyl version that became an instant collector's item among aficionados. But even if you don't pick up the album on wax, the CD version is just as rewarding, as the artwork is a thing of beauty.
The album cover depicts a simple shot of a hand raised up toward the sky. "It seems elated, right?" frontman Craig Finn says. But then when you open up the CD case, there's a darker reveal. "It turns out it's a drowning hand — or at least someone submerged in water." For Finn, it ties into the lyrical themes of the album. "To me, the record is about struggle and reward, and that kind of juxtaposes the two images."
The art for Heaven Is Whenever was designed by Christian Helms, a designer from the Decoder Ring who not only took care of the art for the Hold Steady's last album Stay Positive but has also designed covers for Modest Mouse, Spoon and Wilco. "I think Christian did a really great job of tying all the themes together," Finn said.
And in case you're wondering, the dude underwater is not, in fact, the singer himself (nor is it anybody else in the band). He's a guy named Matt who Finn met at South by Southwest in Austin, where the photo shoot was taking place. "Not only does he have a great hand, but he was also willing to get into the cold water in March," joked Finn.