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 2017. First up on the “Best of” docket is my annual “Best Album Covers” list. 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 yearlong 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. Iron & Wine
This hand stitched album cover by Fort Lonesome in Texas is a nice change of pace from the glossy, digitized work we’ve grown accustomed to.
19. Nine Inch Nails
On Nine Inch Nail’s Add Violence EP, Trent Reznor returned to his 90s sound, and this dusty old device encapsulates the elements that defined his classic work.
18. Robert Sotelo
Painted by artist Daniel Sean Kelly, the cover of Robert Sotelo’s Cusp is a simple representation of the album’s themes of loss and confusion.
If the cover to Pharmakon’s Contact makes you feel claustrophobic or queasy, you’re probably not going to handle her music too well.
16. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
Master of Puppets, hip-hop style
15. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
The French Press
Going up, looking down.
On the surface, the cover to Spoon’s Hot Thought is a colorful watercolor, but if you look a little closer, a creepy little demon, reminiscent of the Alien films, is hiding within.
Most musicians would just have their head photoshopped between some mountains, but give a band like Deerhoof some crayons and a pair of scissors, and they’ll do it themselves.
12. Couch Slut
“And now let’s go live to the Trump rally in progress…”
Jump headlong into pleasure.
10. Los Campesinos
In an interview with Los Campesino’s band member R.N. Taylor, he describe the inspiration for the artwork he created for Sick Scenes, saying, “After the Brexit, I sort of started thinking about this cultural depression the world was experiencing, this self harm. I had this image of George Michael, the Michael Cera character from Arrested Development. He gets rejected by a girl, and he just goes and lies flat on his face on the living room floor. I kind of had this feeling that’s sort of what everybody’s doing, this feeling that basically they’ve won, and it’s all over.”
The cover, like the Beyond Serious EP , pushes the capabilities of the classic 808 to its limits.
8. The xx
I See You
This seems like a basic photo of a reflective surface, but the faint image of the band looking down plays off the album’s title cleverly.
7. Father John Misty
The cover to Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy is a “Where’s Waldo?” of human depravity.
6. Brand New
This may just look like a cool photograph of two girls jumping off of a roof, but with the added weight of the album’s religious themes, the cover provides many levels to uncover.
5. Wayfaring Strangers
I suppose getting chased by a giant, pink demon while trying to drive a motorcycle with melting tires would be the definition of an acid nightmare.
4. Bell Witch
The work of polish artist Mariusz Lewandowksi is a reminder to never say “reaper” three times in front of a mirror.
Brooklyn-based artist Sam McKinniss said of the cover art he created for Lorde, “She asked me to create a kind of colorful teenage restlessness and excitement and energy and potential—to put that into color and put it in my hands. It has this kind of lushness and sensitivity to light and color and touch that I bring to my portraits, so it felt like a collaboration.”
For the album cover, Thundercat frontman Stephen Bruner jumped into producer Flying Lotus’s pool and according to an interview, he said, “It felt totally natural, like I was searching for something.”
When artist Rob Hunter first received a call from Elbow, it was to simply create the cover art: “They had seen my books Map of Days and The New Ghost and wanted a storybook quality, but not too childish, a bit darker. A few times he mentioned a girl venturing into a new world, which became the character in my illustrations.” Inspired by the lyrics and the songs, Hunter sent the band a pile of artwork that resulted in a stunning storybook and animation shorts that go with the album and its themes.