A Study In Album Artwork

Today it’s all about the visuals, as we take a look at the coolest, weirdest and worst album covers through the ages.

Browsing through Spotify, Pitchfork, the rest of the internet (and your local record store), it’s fascinating to see the dazzling variety of album (and single) covers that are available at the moment, with popular designs including a mixture of dreamy washed out hues, vintage themes, quirky photography and angular contrasting shapes. Current favourites at Songkick HQ include TemplesSun Structures, Warpaint’s self titled record and Graze’s Edges.

PicMonkey Collage

Bold Designs

The National used a peculiar optical illusion type image for their 2013 album Trouble Will Find Me that undoubtedly helped create a sense of intrigue about what the record would sound like when it was released. Kanye’s Yeesuz went further with it’s bold but brilliantly minimalist plain red duct tape seal. ‘Artwork is not even needed with this record’, it seems to audaciously proclaim. And it was right.

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There’s something delightful about owning great music that’s complemented by the perfect cover image, but some bands don’t always get it right. The Beatles Yesterday And Today (1966) was famously banned in the US after a public outcry over the “butcher-like” imagery. But more recently in 2009 the image of a bloodied face, painted by artist Jenny Saville, offended UK supermarket chains so much they hid the cover of Journal For Plague Lovers by the Manic Street Preachers and sold the album in a plain sleeve. Singer James Dean Bradfield said: “You can have lovely shiny buttocks and guns everywhere in the supermarket on covers of magazines and CDs, but you show a piece of art and people just freak out.” Oh to be a poor, misunderstood artist!


What were they thinking?

Does anyone else get overwhelmingly reminded of US sitcom super nerd Sheldon Cooper whilst looking at Maximo Park’s latest album cover? Sometimes the artwork just doesn’t do the record justice… at all.


Awful $#*!

Google does most of the hard work for this one, with it’s search results for ‘terrible album covers’ proving highly entertaining, so I’m just going to leave you with the link and say nothing more.

…Apart from: pretty much anything by Nicki Minaj (sorry Nicki!)

Cool $#*!

 In today’s digital age artists have an increasing number of tools to help intensify interaction with their fans. The likes of Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake have used sites like Thinglink to create interactive images to entice and entertain eager followers pre-album release. Bon Jovi even created an app that animated the images on their 2013 record What About Now when held over it. But some artists have gone even further with their quest to engage and speak personally to each of their fans; In their limited edition album Pappeltalks experimental musicians Andrea Neumann and Ivan Palacký created a cover design that would be unique to each person that opened it. This little Vimeo explains more:

There’s much to debate over whether the transition into digital releases has devalued album artwork or encouraged it to flourish in new ways, but if you are still in love with old school vinyl check out Secret 7” who pay homage to the tradition format in the form of open artwork submissions for 7 great tracks from 7 well known bands. With each song pressed 100 times (in 7 inch of course) 700 designs get picked, resulting in an individual interpretation for each.

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The winning sleeves will be exhibited downstairs at Mother in London on 12 & 13th April, and later on Record Store Day. Submissions are open until 17th February, so get your thinking caps on! :)


Oh and one last thing: http://thekittencovers.tumblr.com/

Do you have an all time favourite album cover? Or is there one you just can’t get your head around? Let us know! 


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