Thursday 15 November 2012

The Top 20 Album Artworks of 2012 (according to me)

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 20. Guy Gerber - Fabric 64

20. Guy Gerber - Fabric 64

Guy has stated that he was going through some sort of an emotional turmoil at the time of creating this album, and the sounds were his way of opening up to his weaknesses. In some way, this is probably represented by the above image. You know, flowers? He also went on to say that “with electronic music there are no lyrics, [so] the name of the track and the visuals are very essential to understanding the world of the track”, which means something super deep, I’m sure.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 19. Jack White - Blunderbuss

19. Jack White - Blunderbuss

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about this album cover is the colour scheme. Because while every single one of The White Stripes' artwork focused heavily on the shades red, black and white (because Jack claimed this was “the most powerful colour combination of all time” based on peppermint candy, Coca-Cola and the Nazi banner), this round he went for an all blue approach. It even extends further than the image above, for it is the only colour he allows his back up band to wear on tour. The reason he chose this tone is perhaps to distance himself from the old White Stripes connotations. Or perhaps to reflect the more moody tone of the album itself, which was inspired by his recent divorce. Or perhaps it's because he is essentially a blues-rock musician. No idea, ask Jack.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 18. Ghosting Season - The Very Last of the Saints

18. Ghosting Season - The Very Last of the Saints

The artwork for this glitchy record was put together by the very talented David Lupton, whose eerie style has been hired by a multitude of clients including The Guardian, The Times, and The Horror’s in their She is the New Thing video. Applause.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 17. Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man In The Universe

17. Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in the Universe

"What’s wrong with his thumb? On the cover—why is like that? Is it broken? ... things are grey. Never has artwork so aptly prefaced the album it accompanies." - Consequence of Sound review
Regardless of the hard-to-find details, rumour has it that this is Womack’s own hand, and is (hopefully) a result of being double-jointed or some nifty Photoshop job - otherwise I simply couldn't handle it. Because (while I love the typography), let it be known that I hate this image. It creeps me out, and I can never get it out of my head. And that’s what all good artwork should do, at the end of the day.
You can view two of his hands doing the same thing on the title track's own artwork, here.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 16. Aesop Rock - Skelethon

16. Aesop Rock - Skelethon

To promote Skelethon, Aesop Rock released a series of short videos featuring himself taking his dead cat Whiskers for a walk, fending off the Grim Reaper as he does so (you can start watching them here). One can only assume that this was inspired by the above artwork (or vice versa), which was created by Barcelona street artist Aryz.
Aesop Rock himself has consistently used rad artwork since 2001’s Labor Days, so I recommend you do a little bit of homework for yourself.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 15. Katatonia - Dead End Kings

15. Katatonia - Dead End Kings

This fantastically eerie piece was supplied by the band’s long-time visual collaborator Travis Smith, who is one of the most prolific metal album artwork designers in the world. His client list speaks for itself, and includes such names as Iced Earth, CKY, Devin Townsend, 36 Crazyfists, King Diamond, Soulfly, Avenged Sevenfold and Opeth - to name a few. Which basically means you could never afford him.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 14. Gazpacho - March of Ghosts

14. Gazpacho - March of Ghosts

This static clay image was put together by Ashley Dean under the name Broken Pixel. And as if this warm artwork wasn't enough, he also went ahead and made the band's music video for Black Lily in much the same style. It's like, the cover, except it's moving.
Besides this, he has also done some stuff for other nice acts such as Panthu Du Prince and Lone Wolf. It's all quite pleasing.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 13. Lone - Galaxy Garden

13. Lone - Galaxy Garden

Created by the artist Konx-om-Pax, Lone gave him one simple instruction: Listen to the record. As a result, this image was “pure synaesthesia," according to Lone. "The colours and movements are quite literally representing the notes, the chords, the melodies, everything. It’s just a total visual representation of what’s going on musically.”
Konx-om-Pax went on to create the trailer for this very album in much the same style. It's like, the cover, except it's moving. Woah, déjà vu.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 12. Swans - The Seer

12. Swans - The Seer

This creepy artwork was designed by a guy named Simon Henwood, who is best known for directing Kanye West‘s video Love Lockdown, as well as being the creative force behind Rihanna‘s Rated R campaign.
Perhaps the most interesting fact about this piece in particular, is that the teeth of the wolf-creature are Swans' singer/songwriter Michael Gira’s own teeth. Or maybe just a photo of them, details aren't too clear.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 11. Battles - Dross Glop

11. Battles - Dross Glop

Unlike most of the artwork on this list, the above piece was designed by Dave Konopka, the band's very own guitarist. And as a remix album of their 2011 release Gloss Drop, it echoes that style perfectly. Click that link and look at it. Don't you think it looks like some kind of flouro pink paste squeezed into a pile - sorta like that mechanically separated chicken nuggets you get from KFC? Well, I reckon this above album artwork looks much like that same pile, except grown old and hard, now covered in some brightly coloured syrup. It all seems far too disgusting yet edible to me.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 10. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

10. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

“I have always been a fan of the album artwork for Stott’s releases, especially his two EP’s from last year. The cover for Luxury Problems, however, had outdone them. The cover features a still of a diver in the middle of the air doing flips before entering the water. Many of the tracks off Luxury Problems have a very cyclic feel to them, done through the repetition of samples and the steadiness of the beats featured in them, which immediately make me picture the diver on the cover doing endless flips through the air.” - Beat Farm review
Couldn't have said it better myself. Nothing to add.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 09. BADBADNOTGOOD - BBNG2


Alexander Sowinski (the drummer from BADBADNOTGOOD) is often seen wearing the above pig mask in band photos and promotional artwork, which has become quite a signature look for them.
However (and as we all know) this is not the first example of a pig-man musician, the most well known being the recently deceased bassist from SlipKnot, Paul Gray. He had been donning his disguise from as early as 1997, but surprisingly, he was still not the first. This is because the bassist from Mushroomhead - known only as Pig Benis (Big Penis, geddit? Heh) - had been wearing his piggy get-up since 1995, but changed to the band’s trademark X mask a while later, probably due to SlipKnoT’s popularity.
I hardly spoke about BADBADNOTGOOD there at all, but they are a VERYGOODNOTBAD band, trust me.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 08. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

08. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

Not only is this album cover totally rad, but so is the story behind it. The shoes you see belonged to the singer Alexis Krauss, and so does the blood. During one of their live performances, Derek Miller accidentally smacked her in the face with his guitar, and drops of her blood spilled onto her feet.
Although none of this was planned, the symbolism in hindsight was obvious to Miller. He once stated that "if Keds [shoes] are a symbol of youth and purity, having them tainted can be seen as a loss of innocence." Also, I need not say that Alexis is so hot that I'd lick any of her body fluids off any piece of material she so desired.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 07. Infected Mushroom - Army of Mushrooms

07. Infected Mushroom - Army of Mushrooms

Despite being one of the biggest-selling acts in the psytrance genre, as well as in Israel’s entire musical history - I fucking hate Infected Mushroom, and this album is a pile of crap.
However, the artwork is a different story. It was created by the relatively unknown Russian artist Anton Semenov, and I recommend you click his name and check out some of his other work, because the dude's got mad skill.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 06. Pete Swanson - Man With Potential

06. Pete Swanson - Man With Potential

When reading this album's title together with the artwork, it does seems like some sort of a smart-ass ironic statement. However, Pete himself disagrees, believing the title is ambigous enough to be a positive or a sarcastic and self-deprecating statement, which “interacts with the music and artwork in an interesting way.”
The name itself stems from “a very mundane conversation about dating with one of my friends”, but I am pretty sure he was talking about the moptop-man in the image. 'Cos, you know, Pete doesn't have any friends. Hahaha, just kidding, don't know him personally. I didn't even listen to this album. See all the fucks I give.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 05. Die Antwoord - Ten$ion

05. Die Antwoord - Ten$ion

There is quite a nice story of dominoes that lead up to this potent image. The first came in the form of a tatto on Ninja's chest, which read “how can a angel break my heart?”. I guess Ninja liked that phrase a lot, because a year later, said words were featured in the chorus to She Makes Me A Killer, a song on the outfit's debut Interscope release.
Some fan thought this was very clever, and drew a picture of Yo-Landi Vi$$er as an angel eating a bloody heart based on this line, and the concept was born (NOTE: I have seen this image before, but can't for the life of me find it now, or even find the artist's name who made it. If you happen to have this info, please send! Will credit!). Anyways, Die Antwoord loved this fanart so much, they decided to recreate said image in real life, and the above album cover was the result of all that.
But the inspiration dominoes didn't end there, and continued in the band's trailer for the Ten$ion album. This clip features Yo-Landi in a more demonic form as she approaches Ninja, who is made up to look like one of The Butcher Boys (which is pretty much the most famous sculpture in South African history). She rips out his heart and eats it, as you do.
Unfortunately, The Butcher Boys’ artist Jane Alexander was unhappy with the use of her art without consent, and got her lawyers to force the removal of the video - making it quite difficult to find. But I can find it.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 04. Graham Coxon - A + E

04. Graham Coxon - A + E

As a great visual representation of the title, the best fact I could find about this cover is that Coxon shot the photo himself. On his phone. Which was an old-school Nokia. You'd think he could afford a better mobile. Dude was in Blur, after all.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 03. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

03. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

In great contrast to Bat For Lashes' previous covers, this Ryan McGinley photographed piece was inspired by other iconic female singers such as Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, and was as raw as they could get away with, featuring no colour, make-up, or retouching.
Needless to say, a few people freaked out a bit, covering up the artwork in their stores and in the album's advertising. Natasha Khan (she is Bat For Lashes) thought this was a “shame”, and elaborated by saying “It’s crazy because the naked body is the most natural thing in the world. Kids should see it and think it’s natural and normal, not think of it as being sexy. [...] It’s weird that when a naked body appears that isn’t being overtly sexual, it’s considered shocking.”
This all sounds very mature, until you read about how hard she giggled when the man’s willy was squashing against her shoulder. Regardless, I can see a bit of your pubic hair, lady, put it away. Just kidding, I like it.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 02. Norah Jones - ...Little Broken Hearts

02. Norah Jones - ...Little Broken Hearts

This heartbreak album was produced by Danger Mouse in his own studio, which is apparently decorated by Russ Meyer posters, serving as the inspiration for the image you see above. Norah explained that “...this particular one...was right over the couch where I sat every day. I always was looking at it and thinking ‘that’s so cool I want to look like her!’ I remember staring at the poster the whole time we made the record. It’s a great visual."
She got the celebrity photographer Frank Ockenfels III (Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Tom Waits, R.E.M... his list is sickening) to create the artwork, and it is such an amazing piece that it was the actual inspiration for me to write this article.

The Best Album Artwork of 2012 - 01. The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Blood Vinyl Version)

01. The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends

(Blood Vinyl Version)
Click here for the NSFW version
For those of you that don’t recognize, this album cover is a parody/collage of the infamous Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins artwork by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It also strangely echoes the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band artwork by The Beatles too, so classics all round.
This is even more interesting when you realise that, not only have they duplicated John Lennon’s exposed cock all over the show, but they have also replaced his various heads with the many guest artists featured on this very album. The funniest aspect of this idea for me, is that the album features a collaboration with the Plastic Ono Band. This means Yoko Ono’s younger image remains untouched, yet still represents her inclusion. This also means that her and John Lennon's son, Sean, is featured here too (to Yoko's left). In case you didn't catch this all first time round, allow me to break it down: Sean Lennon's head has been photoshopped onto his dead Dad’s naked body. Er, creepy much?
But even with all this into consideration, this isn't even the half of it. This special vinyl edition (limited to a mere 10 copies in existence) contains samples of blood from a large amount of the artists on the record, sandwiched in the middle of the disc. These samples include the band Lightening Bolt; Alan Palomo of Neon Indian; Jim James of My Morning Jacket; Justin Vernon of Bon Iver; Erykah Badu; Ke$ha; Chris Martin of Coldplay and even Sean Lennon himself. They sold for $2,500 each and you can hear much more about it from Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne right here.
I'm sorry, but that's fucking insane, and thus the champion. Take a bow, The Flaming Lips. Now if only this album's music was as good as the artwork, and then we'd really have something worthwhile to talk about.

The Top 50 Albums of 2012 (according to me) coming very fucking soon...