by Ben Shine
Sleevefacing (noun)--One or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of a body or bodies with record sleeve(s), causing an illusion.
It's not in Merriam-Webster's. But I think it's hilarious and should be.
I don't know how I didn't know about sleevefacing as a phenomenon, beyond hanging out with friends and grabbing a random cover, until recently. There is a website, which led to a book devoted to this act of vinyl tomfoolery. There's an app that takes the guesswork (and part of the fun) out of it. Search Instagram for "#sleeveface" and the hashtag will call up just shy of 4,000 images.
Why do I love it? Because it provides people with the chance to dig through records, pull out a few based solely on their sleeveface-ability, and maybe end up listening to them. Because it gives music nerds the opportunity to have fun with music and take a break from serious collector claptrap. Because it celebrates one aspect of music culture that often gets downplayed, especially in the age of digital downloads -- the beauty of a big vinyl record cover.
After seeing several dozen impressive examples online, I went through my own vinyl collection, looking for the best contenders. David Bowie's "Low" is an easy pick -- one that's used in several sleevefaces online. Other nice choices from my record shelf include T. Rex's "The Slider" (front and back), Prince's eponymous 1979 album, Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense," and The Car's "Shake It Up."
Recasting your favorite musician or the model on your favorite album's cover is fun, but it's also tricky. You can be very serious and match your outfit, the backdrop and the lighting perfectly, with some effort. Or, you can just grab it, play with the perspective and angles, and have a good time. A lot of the best ones online involve pairs or groups. Again, those may take a bit more work, but they are little collaborative art adventures.
As much fun as flipping through my collection and taking some iPhone pictures is, the mother of all sleeveface fodder can be found at your friendly neighborhood record store. Not to play favorites, I set out to my three regular stops - LUNA music, Indy CD & Vinyl and Vibes Music. And I asked the clerks behind the counters to play along. Full disclosure: This may have also been a good excuse to flip through records on a chilly afternoon.
If you want to play along, pull out your copy of Phil Collins "No Jacket Required" or Buckingham Nicks' self-titled release and get to posting your own sleeveface. Add the "#sleevefaceindy" hashtag when you upload your image to whatever social media site you're using this week, and we can all laugh together.