Category Archives: Art

My Top 8 Album Art Part 2

Continued from yesterdays post

The Decline of British Sea Power

This album makes my list as I feel it sums up the entire aesthetic of a band I love. British Sea Power are like no other band I’ve ever known, avoiding standard rock n roll iconography to in favour of their own images. The album artwork here is inspired by penguin paperbacks, and features silhouettes of leaves and a quote from an obscure novel (The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder). It carries over into their live shows as well which feature stuffed animals, foliage and chanting songs about the north atlantic ice shelf. I’m not American, I’ve never been to a milk bar, I don’t wear leather jackets and I don’t ride a motorbike. I have however had wet holidays in the lake district, been to second hand bookshops and lived next to a second world war museum. So an album which seems to be about these all these things and other british peculiarities, which is summed up by the literary inspired artwork earns a special place is something I can relate to.

Velvet underground and Nico
Heres another absolute classic that I really couldn’t not include. Although I think of it as probably the most overrated album of all time it does have some really fantastic cover art thanks to Andy Warhol. The cover is a great example of  his bold pop art style, what I like best about it though is the interactivity. On the original vinyl release the banana was a sticker which you were invited to “peel slowly and see” and which revealed behind it a pink peeled banana, a fairly see through cock joke but funny anyway. another album cover which almost made the list but didnt as I decided it was too similar to this is the Rolling Stones, also designed by Andy Warhol but featuring a working zipper.

Kraftwerk-Man Machine
When The Man Machine was released it caused a fair bit of controversy over its use of constructivist imagery. Pioneered by the soviets and used exstensively in propaganda it led to some accusing Kraftwerk of fascist sympathies. This was of course stupid and got in the way of people seeing the cover as a really fantastic one which present the band like early communists setting out with a new brand of modernistic ideals. The uniform colours also evoke the dutch de Stijl movement, which adds to the association with modernisation and futurism.

Animal Collective-Merriweather Post Pavilion
I decided that to stop this being purely a list of old classics I’d also bring in one of my favourite recent album covers. Animal Collective love messing with your head and doing the unexpected and it continues with their album sleeves. Firstly it’s presented in a slightly unusual manner, with a outer casing featuring the optical illusion which unfolds at the back, to reveal another cd case inside which is mostly black with surreal coloursplashed photos of people swimming. It seems like a journey to get to the CD, or like a game of pass the parcel with the CD at the centre. The optical illusion artwork is also pretty inspired, its making me feel slightly nauseous just looking at it on my screen now. It works pretty well to describe the album, at once playful, childish and disturbing.

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My Top 8 Album Art Part 1

The other day while writing about Spotify I touched upon something I feel very strongly about. In the increasingly digital music market I have a real fear that album artwork will suffer tremendously as may the album itself. Album artwork seems now to just be that picture that comes up beside the track name in itunes, Hard-Fi even went so far as to not include any artwork with their last album (although in my opinion this was more of a publicity stunt as eventually the CD release came out with a cover paradoxically stating NO COVER ART.) In short I feel the idea of an album being a work of art is being forgotten, replaced by something which is just a mere commercial product, with a sleeve designed by advertisers not artists.

So as my own way of striking back I decided I’d to try and draw your attention to some of my favourite pieces of album art. I originally decided on making a top 5, but this soon expanded pretty rapidly and then I found that some were simply incomparable on so I decided to bring you my top 8 in no particular order.

Pink Floyd-Animals

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a massive pink floyd fanatic and so thats definately a factor in why I’m including them in this list but I’m also a massive fan of Hipgnosis. Hipgnosis was a design group formed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell that specialised in surreal album artwork and created pretty much the majority of my favourite album covers. For the sake of not repeating myself though I’ve limited myself to just one for this list though. Amongst Hipgnosis’s work are other greats such as Led Zep’s Houses of the Holy, ACDC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Peter Gabriels self titled album, as well as albums by Genesis, Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath and ELO. Storm Thorgersons later stuff also includes work for Muse, Biffy Clyro, The Mars Volta and The Offspring. I think animals is my favourite of their work because it seems typical of their surreal, dream like feel but also carries a dark humour and definate britishness which fits brilliantly with the themes of Animals.

The Beatles- Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

This one really had to be on the list due to being probably one of the most iconic album covers of all time. What I love about it is not only how fantastically surreal it is but also how on what is considered the Beatles finest work, they chose to make a cover featuring the faces of all of their biggest idols and influences giving credit to where they came from. Also worth a mention is the cut out moustaches and army stripes included with the sleeve which are also a great fun touch.

ACDC-Back in Black

Another absolute classic rock album, although it might seem a strange choice when considering great album art. But you have to know the story behind the album to see why I think it’s so great. Back in Black was the first ACDC album to be released after the death of their first lead singer Bon Scott, many thought they couldn’t go on without him until this was released. It was a bold black statement of mourning for a lost friend but also a clear statement that they were still there.

Nick Drake-Bryter Later

This may be Nick Drakes weakest album but its artwork is one of my favourites. At first glance it can seem fairly standard, a straightforward picture of Nick Drake with a guitar and a purple border. But then if you look at the way its lit, with his face half in shadow, something about it just stays stuck in my memory. Then add in the bizarre giant purple shoes and antique chair and you get an image which is burned onto my minds eye.

Click here for part 2

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