And the winners are…
There’s not a more fitting cover for a band that is a patchwork of sounds, ranging from psychedelic, prog, drone, funk, African, and folk. The glimmer of a “W” and an “M” proclaim this Swedish band’s mission to create “World Music.”
Years Past Matter
For an album that sounds like it is echoing from the darkest depths of Mordor, the image of bubbling lava seems about right.
18. Action Bronson
On “Rare Chandeliers,” Action Bronson takes on the persona of pimp-gamgsta-mercernary with a hankering for fine food. He’s ready to take on all comers on this blaxploitation of a cover, whether it be a knife wielding stripper, a gun-toting alligator, or a kung-fu wizard.
17. JK Flesh
While a close-up photo of a person’s hand may seem lazy, this simple image cam take on multiple visions depending on how you look at it, ranging from a rainy night, a parched desert landscape, or the hazy ghost of reptile’s skeleton.
16. Kendrick Lamar
good kid, M.A.A.D. city
Last week I may have trashed Kendrick Lamar’s over-rated “good kid M.A.A.D. city,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t love this Polaroid taken from Lamar’s childhood. Featuring what I can only imagine as relatives, Kendrick can be seen as a shirtless toddler next to a table featuring items like a baby bottle, a Thanksgiving centerpiece, and a 40 oz. of Colt 45. Now if only the music was as revealing as the cover.
Yellow and Green
While “Yellow and Green” was a major disappointment, we can take comfort in knowing that guitarist John Baizley always has an Art career to fall back on.
“1999” is an album that hearkens back to hip-hop of the 90s, and this straightforward album cover of two kids skateboarding through an urban neighborhood has a wistful feel to it (even if I didn’t grow up in the inner-city).
13. Fiona Apple
The Idler Wheel…
“The Idler Wheel…” is one of the most revealing, delicate albums of 2012, so it is fitting that Fiona Apple would take the doodles found within the same notebooks where many of her lyrics were spawned and use them as the album artwork. Is there anything this woman can’t do?!
12. Dinosaur Jr
I Bet On Sky
In terms of album art, J. Mascis and the rest of the Dinosaur Jr gang are on quite a roll. In 2009 they released “Farm” with its trippy image of walking tree people, and Mascis’s 2011 solo release “Seven Shades of Why” featured another memorable cover, with an adorable little fur monster sitting atop a harmless-turtle-beast. The string of engaging covers continues this year with “I Bet On Sky” and Travis Millard’s illustration of what can only be described as a wall of cloud faces.
Who said death and doom can’t also be beautiful?
Thanks to the album artwork, I liked Pilgrim before even hearing one note of their music – a morbid medieval painting with a wizard standing over a miserable assembly of deformities: a crab/worm woman, a saggy-titted burn victim with tentacles for arms, a two headed premi-baby without limbs – all of them standing/sitting/lying in what resembles a ghostly amniotic fluid while the devil looks on from the background.
9. James Blackshaw
Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death
The Important Records label that released James Blackshaw’s “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death” describes the album as “an incredibly warm and intimate recording,” and what’s more warm and intimate that a beautiful campfire? Forget buying James Blackshaw’s “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death” for the music; I want to hang this gorgeous oil painting of a campfire on my wall.
8. Young Magic
Created by Lief Podhajsky, quickly becoming a legend in the world of album art, the cover for Young Magic’s latest album “Melt” is a stunning blur of digitized blisters and smears.
No Can Do
“No Can Do” has a pretty symbolic cover for an album that reflects on the downfalls of adulthood (also, take note that there isn’t a lifeguard on duty).
6. Father John Misty
In a recent interview, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman described the character he created for his latest project, Father John Misty, as, “a horny, drunk, shamanic drifter character offering you a cup of his home-brewed ayahuasca tea.” So, yeah, the cover says it all.
5. Car Bomb
I’m a sucker for album covers that play tricks with your vision, and Car Bomb’s cover for w^w^^w^w is certainly a trip down a worm hole.
4. Dog Shredder
As it is, the cover to Dog Shredder’s “Brass Tactics” is pretty bad-ass, but the fact that it’s an allusion to the cover of Chick Corea’s album “The Leprechaun” makes it twice as sinister (Don’t worry, Chick Corea isn’t dead).
Here’s the inspiration:
3. Sun Airway
Created by Japanese artist NAM, the cover for Sun Airway’s “Soft Fall” is an intricate web of dishes, flowers, and a candelabra. When asked about his inspiration, NAM said, “Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway’s music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually.” Mission accomplished.
Here’s a video on the making of this cover:
Unsane’s music has been described as “blunt,” “violent,” “visceral,” and “raw,” and the cover for “Wreck” helps convey these sentiments loud and clear. As much as I love the sadism of the gruesome image, I think a more fitting title for the album would be “You Should See the Other Guy.”
Hasta La Muerte
The band moniker “Xibalba” comes from the name of a Mayan Underworld, and in a year when the Mayans are expected to bring an end to it all, there is not a more fitting album cover in 2012 than “Hasta La Muerte.” Artist Dan Seagrave describes his inspiration as, “I imagined a giant pyramid structure, keeping in mind the Mayan architecture, over which had later been built more modern layers of city tower blocks. The passage of time ultimately sending those to ruin whilst the original culture and civilization is once again revealed.” This album cover provides reassurance that even though the end of the world will suck, at least it will look cool.