10 Best Album Covers of 2013
Music may have gone digital, but with the rise in vinyl sales and popularity of Spotify and Soundcloud, album art is just as relevant now as it’s ever been. This year saw a wide range of cover images — everything from colorful, psychedelic designs to nude shots — and whether artists wanted to shock us with creepy visuals or make us feel like peeping toms, 2013 brought plenty of sleeves that inspired us to check out new artists, and we even hung a few up on our wall. Scroll down to see our picks for the 10 Best Album Covers of 2013.
One look at the cover for Washed Out’s latest LP, ‘Paracosm,’ and you’re back in your grandmother’s house, staring at her vintage rugs and furniture. Washed Out mastermind Ernest Green wanted the music on his sophomore effort to sound floral and natural, so why not reflect that in the art? “Ernest really wanted the art to look natural and low-fi,” said Sara Cwynar, who took inspiration images of flowers from the New York Public Library to create the cover. “He wrote all the songs in a house in the country outside Athens, Georgia, looking out into a lush natural setting and wanted the art to reflect the surreal, natural landscape where the songs were made, and also the warmer, analog instruments he used for this record.”
‘Push the Sky Away’
Aside from being provocative, the album art for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ latest LP is just plain beautiful. From the sepia look to the placement of Cave and his wife, Susie Bick, in the image, it’s something that could easily hang in a gallery. Photographer Dominique Issermann took the shot in the couple’s bedroom. “Despite its sepia quality and the ambiguity to surround the otherwise exposed Bick, it’s an astonishingly warm and radiant depiction that directly replicates the open lucidity of the song itself,” Josh Holliday wrote for Dots and Dashes.
One look at this cover, and you get a sense of what you’ll hear on Lucius’ ‘Wildewoman.’ The band blends ’60s pop with the harmonies of two strong female lead singers, and with all the bright colors, they really give themselves away. But don’t think the ice cream cone is intended as anything sexual. “It’s not meant to say, ‘We’re sexual.’ It’s meant to say, ‘This is a painting that was done in the ’60s by a Belgian pop artist named Evelyne Axell,'” singer Holly Laessig told Death and Taxes. “At the time, she was making a statement that was incredibly bold, and we think our show is bold, we’re strong women. There’s nothing shy about the way that we sound and the way we put ourselves out there. It’s a strong image. And if you’re looking at fifteen record covers on iTunes, what’s going to stick out to you?”
‘Trouble Will Find Me’
If you were just as creeped out as we were at the National’s ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ album cover, don’t worry, it’s all the in the name of art. The image comes from Virginia artist Bohyun Yoon’s 2003 installation ‘Fragmentation’ at the Rhode Island School of Design. The piece features a man and a woman who are both nude and divided by four strategically placed mirrors. According to NothingMajor.com, the installation was supposed to convey the parallel between the consequences of plastic surgery and modern science. Perhaps the coldness of the image corresponds with the dark and low sound we’re used to from the Brooklyn band.
Arcade Fire has really stirred up hype with their latest LP, ‘Reflektor.’ From putting on a last-minute pre-release pop-up gig in Brooklyn to making costumes mandatory at their shows, they’ve kept the buzz going since before anyone even heard the thing. The cover art is another story — one best told by creative director Caroline Rober, who the band hired to come up with the concept for the cover art. “For REFLEKTOR, the band fell in love with Rodin’s sculpture Orphée et Eurydice (that we have on the album cover),” Brown told Juxtapoz.com. “Orpheus’ myth inspired them while writing some of their songs. They were also talking a lot about the influence of Caribbean culture on their music and their desire to bring back carnival energy into live performances. They wanted to create a clash between those 2 worlds: super classic and beautiful (Rodin’s sculpure, black an white) versus raw and spontaneous (Haitian raw art, voodoo, carnival, textures and colors). A tension that is very strong in their music.”
Kanye West isn’t really a fan of norms. From donning skirts on the red carpet to causing scenes on live television, he isn’t afraid of making a statement. So what better way to prove that point even further by releasing an album that just doesn’t have any cover art? Genius? We’ll let you be the judge.
Although they didn’t go for some variation of a Campbell’s soup can or Brillo boxes, Phoenix’s ‘Bankrupt’ is an ode to the late Andy Warhol’s Pop Art style. Like the intentional addition of the exclamation point at the end of the album’s title, the band wanted to make something “Warhol!.” “It’s very crucial,” guitarist Laurent Brankowitz told KROQ.
Janelle Monae wanted to portray the ‘Electric Lady’ for her new album of the same name, but she didn’t just want photos that would be digitally turned into a mosaic of Janelles. Instead, she called New York artist Sam Spratt to sketch it all out. The project took two months and endless drafts to get to the final product. “I was largely left to do my thing at the beginning — just given intentionally vague guidelines to see where I’d head visually,” Spratt told Pitchfork. “Chuck Lightning, Nate Wonder (who, as Deep Cotton, produced the album) and the entire hive-mind at Wondaland offered me a lot of knowledge and suggestions, though. They way they make music, they’re not going to record something once and think, ‘Nailed it!’ and then move on. They want to explore every way of doing something until it’s just right. Painting this cover was no different.”
‘The Next Day’
David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ cover pays homage his 1977 album ‘Heroes,’ but with a twist. Not only did designer Jonathan Barnbrook and his team cross out the ‘Heroes’ title from the top of the shot, but he also kept the simple, minimalistic feel to the cover. “We wanted to do something different with it – very difficult in an area where everything has been done before – but we dare to think this is something new,” he wrote on his blog. “Normally using an image from the past means, ‘recycle’ or ‘greatest hits’ but here we are referring to the title The Next Day. The ‘Heroes’ cover obscured by the white square is about the spirit of great pop or rock music which is ‘of the moment’, forgetting or obliterating the past.” While it might seem like a cop-out, the intentional simplicity is what makes it completely genius.
‘Night Time, My Time’
Sky Ferreira’s debut, ‘Night Time, My Time,’ was already a must-have before its release. But the buzz skyrocketed once the LP’s cover image, shot by filmmaker Gaspar Noé, hit the web. It shows Ferreira nude in the shower, looking a bit scared and a bit crazy, and it sure grabbed everyone’s attention. Sky, however, says it wasn’t a ploy for record sales. “I wasn’t like, ‘OK, I’m going to be nude on my album cover,’ it just kind of happened,” Ferreira told MTV News. “We were shooting and we did different shots and he sent me all the shots and that was my favorite one that I think I connected to the most. It was kind of annoying that people say that it was a marketing-type scam, because it wasn’t.”