With the year coming to a close, it’s that time again to take a look back at some of the best that the music world had to offer in 2015. First up, I will run-down the most compelling album covers of 2015. Throughout the year, I kept a list of album covers that I found strange, beautiful, and provocative. This list is a compilation of my favorites from this year-long collection. Anyone who loves the album as an art form knows the importance of a powerful LP image, and the following 20 covers elevate their corresponding albums.
20. The Breathing Effect
Mars Is a Very Bad Place For Love
This is pretty much what I imagined when I read The Sirens of Titan.
19. Little Simz
A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons
This cover art by Gui Soares exemplifies the music of Little Simz – handcrafted, intricate, and multifaceted. I suspect you’ll be hearing more from Simz in the very near future.
18. Father John Misty
I Love You, Honey Bear
Now this is a nativity scene I can get behind!
Pilot Talk III
Graphic designer David Barnett said that when Curren$y brought him in to create the album art for the Pilot Talk series, he wanted Barnett “to bring that 60’s rock and roll look to these projects, even though they were hip-hop records.” The mold-breaking continues with Pilot Talk III.
16. Mike Krol
In a year where police brutality became a hot-button issue, there’s nothing more anti-authority than dressing up like the authority.
15. Action Bronson
Part of what makes Action Bronson’s music so enjoyable is the larger than life character he conveys in his lyrics. Artist FRKO played off Bronsolino’s cartoonish nature with the album art for Mr. Wonderful.
14. Cult Leader
The darkly beguiling cover art for Cult Leader’s Lightless Walk has me ready to strap on some Nikes and drink the Kool-Aid.
13. Lianne La Havas
Fashion photographer John-Paul Pietrus is known for his vivid and refreshing photographs, and this cover for Lianne La Havas’s Blood continues in his tradition of captivating compositions.
12. Dan Deacon
When asked about her work on the cover of Dan Deacon’s Gliss Riffer, artist Joanna Fields said, “I feel like in some way thematically the images I create are similar to the music that he makes in some way. There’s sort of a playful and psychedelic aspect to the images that I make, despite the fact that they are these creatures with snot coming out of their eyes and they’re bleeding and drooling, and being poked at and pulled at. But they’re euphoric at the same time.”
11. Joanna Newsom
This photo by Kim Keever is a perfect match for the majestic and mysterious blend of melodies on Joanna Newsom’s Divers.
10. Jamie xx
This is one of those covers you’re either going to love or hate due to its simplicity. That modesty is exactly what makes it so great: the crisp prism of colors all converging toward the middle while that strange white space leaves just a hint of mystery. Or maybe I just like rainbows.
You Disgust Me
This cover photo pretty much sums up what it feels like to grow up.
8. Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
While the wrestlers may get the spotlight in this Leela Corman comic style cover, the downcast masses in the shadows are the true story, all of them looking toward the ring, hoping for their hero to provide them with just a moment of glory to brighten their mundane lives.
7. The Armed
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, band member Cara Drolshagen said, “The whole album is sort of a commentary on appropriation in art and the culture of curation versus creation. The Bowie cover was our way of nodding toward that theme.”
It Feels Like Space Again
Every song is represented in this psychedelic cover art, and it also happens to be an ode to Robert Crumb’s illustrations on Big Brother & the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills. The music on It Feels Like Space Again is comprised of the same mix of nostalgia, silliness, and hallucination found on the album art.
5. Modest Mouse
Strangers to Ourselves
While I may have been a bit disappointed with Modest Mouse’s 2015 effort, Strangers to Ourselves, I did feel that the cover photograph (a satellite image of Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona) fit perfectly with the band’s common theme of isolation in the modern world.
4. La Luz
As if cat’s cradles weren’t already confusing enough.
I like when an album cover can tell its own story, and that’s the case with this image of an abandoned car on the side of a gravel road. When I look at the photograph, i can’t help but be reminded of The Sopranos.
2. Kamasi Washington
Listening to Kamasi Washington’s three hour album The Epic in its entirety is a religious experience, so it’s pretty fitting that he looks like a modern day messiah on the cover, the moon and stars as his backdrop, the cosmos at his heels, and his saxophone, a golden idol, in his hands.
1. Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell
On Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens explores the detached and broken relationship he had with his mother who suffered from depression and schizophrenia. The cover photo of his mother and stepfather only heightens the pain found on the album – the frayed edges, the cracked and water damaged surface, and his mother, in the forefront, her eyes, the windows to the soul, closed and disconnected from the world around her.