It is not common for good music albums to have matching design and be wrapped appropriately. However, one thing I realized while working on this article is that musicians who write good music, also care about its artwork and try hard to make it nice. Designers exist to do this work, these people have actually made this field another work of art. Therefore, now we, music listeners are waiting not only for the music itself and the content, but also its artwork. In the article I will present 22 best and 11 worst designs of 2013’s music albums. These have been created by artists, who worked diligently to obtain the name of the Best, and those who also tried, but could not get it this year.
1. Fort Romeau – Stay/True
Label: Ghostly International
Artwork: Michael Cina
This is the case when abstract painting has not got any meaning, but still is the best one. Michael Cina‘s this artwork is the result of artist’s different experiments and lots of work. The first time I saw it I literally couldn’t take my eyes of this piece of art. Dynamic and stunning scale of colors and the emotion, which you get after seeing this amazing work of art makes the music inside much more interesting.
2. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Artwork: Leif Podhajsky
Leif Podhajsky is a famous Australian artist. He is known for his amazing artworks for musicians like: Foals , Lykke Li,The horrors,Grimes ,Bonobo and etc. He also owns the video for Mount Kimbie’s track : “Made to Stray“. If you check his works, you will understand how much energy and Professionalism they have and how special each of them is.
Artwork: Giorgi Chichinadze
For those who don’t know, Landmark is a Georgian band, which makes very good music. At first I remembered VOID because of beautiful cover. Music didn’t disappiont me either,it is still in my favorite albums list
Artwork for this album was done George Chichinadze. Dynamic gradation of the colors, simple font of caption and the deer, which is coming out from the fog of the mountains , seems enough for VOID to be in the list of the best ones, where this cover definitely deserves to be.
4. Baths – Obsidian
Label: Anticon Records
Artwork: Alex Takacs
This dark cover is clearly linked to Baths’s emotion, which he had when was working on this album and to the music which is inside it. Young director Alex Takacs, who did the artwork of this album, is also an author of the video on Baths’s track : “Lovely Bloodshow”. This album cover is the best, because designer could make exactly the same emotional artwork what you get, when you will listen to the music inside it. Actually, you know what kind of music u are going to hear from the very beginning.
5. The Horrors – Higher
Label: Banquet Records
Artwork: Leif Podhajsky
Another amazing artwork of Leif Podhajsky. This is a limited edition which initially attracts by its design, describing the psychodelia of Marble. This artwork reflects the texture of Marble material in different shades. They’re connected with each other , with nice and sharp eye-catching tones.
6. Zomby-with love
Label: 4AD Records
I adore this dark and lonely boy Zomby. This album is special, because of everything. At first because of the music and then its roses of darkness. I have always loved floral theme in artworks and in this one Zomby perfectly adjusted purple roses to his dark and mystical music.
In the link below there is a Gif animation from the 4AD Records, where the details of the album can be seen better.
7. Sigur Ros– Kveikur
Label: XL Recording
Artwork : Lygia Clark
Compared to the other albums of Sigur Ros,Kveikur has a heavier sound, which can also be seen from the design of the cover. This is a photo of Brazilian photographer Lygia Clark, who took it in 1967.It looks like a scene from a horror movie: Two people can be seen on a dark background in black and white masks, which Clarke called Abyss masks. She created a few more photos on the same topic and as I have read in her articles, they’re based on a psychological basis and have a fairly deep content. If you’re interested in these works, you can read more here:
8. Jesse Futerman- Exquisite Basement
Label: Jus Like Music Records
Artwork :Alice Dufay
I have always liked colorful, smooth and positive energy charged artworks. The cover of this music album is like that, with its music and design. Lovely girl Alice, who created the artwork also has other amazing works in this style.
Her childishly naive attitude and very cheerful mood , clearly marked her works and the album Exquisite Basement is obviously one of them.
If you’re interested, Alice’s another works you can see her blog below: http://alicedufaydessine.blogspot.com/
9. Lumerians – The Hight Frontier
Label: Parisian Records
Artwork : Bruno 9li
The young Brazilian artist Bruno 9li is distinguished from others with his unique vision. He paints a world, where nothing look like itself, but still you understand what is what. In this album cover, there is an animal of unknown origin with the background of nature and strangely-shaped flowers , which look at us with an meaningless eyes. Bright colors, their harmonious relationship with each other and the artist’s characteristic charisma, is what makes the artwork so fascinating.
10. Foals – Holy Fire
Label: Warner Bros/Transgresiive
Artwork: Leif Podhajsky
And again the Australian artist Leif Podhajsky, who apparently used all his energy this year and created the works, from which most of them were nominated as the best ones. He definitely deserves it, cause his every artwork is signified with its own history and individual point of view.
In my opinion, Holy Fire is one of the greatest works. Sunset, water floods, the people who are riding horses, entering the waves and the excitement that goes on in this cover, ideally continues when the music starts. It is when perfect music replaces the perfect cover.
11. Washed Out – Paracosm
Label: Sub Pop
Artwork: Sara Cynwar
Who else, but Washed Out definitely knows whom to entrust its exquisite music to wrap with the best artwork. The cover of the first album was amazing and so it happened again now .
Designer Sara Cynwar found these flower varieties in the library of New York. She processed them in Photoshop, gave vintage style and with white font wrote name of artist and album. As she mentioned in her interview for Creativebloq magazine ,she chose floral theme,because Ernest (Washed Out) asked her .On this album musician worked far away from the city noise, in the nature (what is clearly seen from the very first track) so he wanted this cover to be appropriate and something very simple. Sara guessed very well what was in Ernest’s heart and made an amazing and decent work.
12. Tyler The Creator – WOLF
Label: Odd Future
Artwork: Mark Ryden
Tyler is already distinguished by his very characteristic style and the songs he wrote are adult-like. But this bastard is only 22 years old and has already established his place in the music world. WOLF’s cover was made by a famous painter Mark Ryden. Beyond the music, he saw cubs, which I already mentioned before and draw a surreal portrait of Taylor, where it is perfectly shown how childishly naive he is. As for the details (eye on the wood, doll head in the log etc ), I will leave them for your own individual perception.
Artwork: Brendan Monroe
“Flats” is the album of a Georgian based musician Gigi Jikia aka HVL. I liked this artwork because it’s simple, but has sophisticated design. On the cover there is an illustration named: “Walk” by a Californian painter Brendan Monroe. As the artist says:
“The comic is about a solitary journey through a dream that mixes astrophysics and bending realities. The main character discovers that things are not what they have always seemed to be. ”
I think the music of HVL will perfectly fit a journey in the dreams, dreams about the universe.
14. James Blake – Overgrown
Label: Universal Republic Records
Actually I wasn’t going to write about this album. Firstly, mostly I don’t like covers with an artist’s face on it and second, I’m always subjective about this musician and I only write good things about him. This album is the case when Blake, who is walking in the snow, does not seem common, blue air on the background is making him more mysterious. And the cold mood which appears after seeing the snow and bare wall disappears after the first melody of the music.
15. Atoms for Peace-AMOK
Label: XL Recordings
Artwork: Stanely Donwood
Stanely Donwood is a good friend of Thom Yorke and frequently called personal artist of Radiohead, because most of the artworks of this band belongs to him. Design for the album AMOK is also a detail from his illustration. Thins black & white colored cover doesn’t seem monotonous, on the contrary, the world which is inside it seems more interesting and you can’t wait to play it.
16. Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
Label: Roc-A –Fella/Roc Nation/Universal
I think Jay-Z is the most powerful person in music and not only in music. I have always liked his attitude towards art, his taste and quality of the works –whatever he does is well thought and refined.
Magna Carta Holy Grail is also one of the bests. Inspiration hit musician when he saw the sculpture of Battista Di Domenico Lorenzi : „Alpheus and Arethusa” (XVI c) This is an Ancient Greek sculpture and shows how a nymph Arethusa is trying to escape from the god Alpheus and transform into a river.
The album cover is black & white photo of the detail from this sculpture. I don’t know if Jay Z shows his transformation with this artwork, or just saw it and thought that it would look great on his new album cover, but what is clear is that we’ve got a very nice piece of art.
17. Killer Mike & El P – Run Jewels
Label: Fool‘s Gold
Artwork: Nicholas Gazin
Oh, how great music is in this album and what an amazing cover it has. This year is particularly relevant to the topic of zombies. I was never attracted much by it, but I just fall in love with this blue zombie hands and golden necklace artwork. Nicholas Gazin made the coolest album cover for these two music monsters called Killer Mike and El-P and what is important: it fits the music 100%.
18. Free Time – Nothing But Nice
Label: Under Water Peoples
I realized that I remember seemingly senseless artworks better, than organized ones, where everything is clearly visible. This design caught my attention when the album was announced. The album is called “Anything but Nice” and has the exact same cover as the title-Nothing, water based painting with meaningless forms, but eternally beautiful, pleasant to watch and you just like it. This is it, without any sub-texts.
Very talented German based musician Siriusmo made simply designed artwork for his new album “Enthusiast”. On the cover photo there is shown piano with a broken key, name of the album and for more diversity toy of wolf. I liked that vinyls are red and green, not standard black one.
20. Phoenix – Bankrupt
Label: Glassnote Records/Loyaute
Interest in this artwork was instantly caused when this album was released. As the band members explained, this was influenced by Andy Warhol’s works. Sharp colored peach has balanced background hue. As I guess it’s the only thing left to bankrupt phoenix.
21. The National-Trouble Will Find Me
Label: 4AD Records
Artwrk: Bohyun Yoon (Instalation, 2003)
The album cover features a detail from Bohyun Yoon’s installation called “Fragmentation”. In this work naked woman and man are divided by four panels of mirrors. The main idea of this work is to draw a parallel between the modern science and results of the plastic surgery on the human bodies.
Cover of the album:”Trouble Will Find Me” is a black and white photo, taken on this installation. It’s a very emotional one and if you’re interested in the whole composition of the cover here is a small animation:
Also here are the pictures from the installation.
22. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Artwrk: Georges Shwizgebel – “Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein” (animation 1982)
The cover of the album is taken from Georges Shwizgebel’s animation “Rapture of Frankenstein” which was created in 1982. It’s a surreal animation, where Frankenstein moves in the rooms. Cover of the album is a picture of one of those rooms. At first you see the characteristic shapes and colors, which are a little bit tough and make strangely mysterious atmosphere. If you haven’t seen this animation yet , catch it below:
11 Worst Album Covers of 2013
1. Lorde – Pure Heroine
It’s a very “interesting” cover, because nothing is happening on there. “Pitchfork Magazine” wrote that in the current pop firmament Lorde is a black hole, which is very clearly seen in her definitely low-concept video: “Tennis Court”. Album artwork is also non conceptual: on the black background we see gray inscription of artist and album name. The point is that Lorde is only 17 years old girl, it would be nice to see a bit more joy and creativity from her.
2. Kanye West-Yeezus
Officially album doesn’t have an artwork .On the plastic CD cover there is only a red scrap of paper where the name of the album:Yeezus is written. Lots of magazines nominated this album for the best of the year, but despite my propensity toward minimalism, I still think that as senseless music is in the album, as stupid cover it has. Kanye forgets that everything genius is simple, but every simple thing is not genius.
During the work on this album musician lived in Paris, he was searching inspiration in the Museum of Louvre. He supposed to make some good work, but we ain’t got anything valuable.
3. Yong Yong – Love
Label: Night School
This is the case, when paying attention is pointless, but I couldn’t resist this stupidly funny cover.
4. DJ Koze – Amygdala
Label: Pampa Records
With a hamlet on his head our precious Dj Koze is sitting on a deer and watching something with his suspicious eyes. Nature behind him is pinky, but it doesn’t seem positive at all.
5.The Strokes-Comedown Machine
Artwork: Brett Kilroe, Tina Ibanez.
The Strokes is one of my favorite bands, but this vintage album cover, where all the attention is paid to the Label logo, disappointed me. This is true, that a lot of music magazines vote for this artwork as the best, but when I also saw the other nomited best ones , it was clear that this one can’t even come close.
6.Yeah Yeah Yeah – Mosquto
Label: Dress Up; Interscope
My another favorite band and yet another obscure album cover. This artwork belongs to the category, when you need a specially arranged brain to understand it. The sight of this child, who is bitten by a monster mosquito shocked me, but I’m definitely not the only one, as Shimbe, author of this artwork said to Rolling Stones magazine, he was also scared as hell when he saw the final result of his work.
7. Tyga – Hotel California
Label: Cash Money Records
Tyga is among the rappers who like to show in public how rich they are and you can see this clearly on this new album cover : Hotel California. On the left side of the cover there is a tiger, which is laying on the terrace of an expensive villa (btw this is the real tiger,not a photoshop). To the right, let me introduce you Mr.Tyga, who is dressed as a fucking hustler, looking at us with his royal look.
I think,that this album cover could be among the best ones, without all this excessive stuff.
Label: Secretly Canadian
I really like this guy with his creative videos and simple,cheerful music. Nightlands aka Dave Hartley’s this album is also made in this mood, but I can’t say the same about the cover.
On the picture musician is painted in silver color and standing in front of green leaves like a robot. Well he looks really funny, at first I thought that neighbors’ asshole kids made him naked, then painted and now he’s just ashamed to come out from the bushes.
9. Panteros 666 – Baby F-16
Victor Watel aka Panteros 666 was always distinguished with his eccentric style. He writes interesting music, but I always thought that u need specific taste to like it. Either way this album cover is not a really good one especially that that it’s uninteresting and meaningless.
10. Chase & Status- Brand new machine
Label: Mercury Records
Artwork: Big Active ( Mat Maitland/Alan Sailer)
Big Active is a famous design company ,which was founded in 1990 in London. They made artworks for musicians like: Elton John; Muse; Keane; Foals; London Grammar; T.E.E.D etc. This company also worked on the Chase & Status new album’s cover: Brand New Machine.
Red background with black inscription is clearly not justified, also I didn’t get what form it is where the smile is painted. Unfortunately, authors have not written about it, which is apparently a common affliction, cause noone, nether musician, nor designer considers that it is necessary to write a little explanation to attribute what they meant in their works.
So in the end what I’ve got is completely ambiguous artwork.
11.Arctic Monkeys – AM
Another of my favorite bands with minimalistic album cover, which is taken from their music video on the track: “Do I wanna know?”. What we’ve got here is black wallpaper with the white electric wave painted on it. It does not have a special implication, so it’s up to you how you perceive it.
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
English Edit: Nino Namoradze