Wednesday 27 November 2013

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013

(according to me)

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 10. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury

10. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury

Admiring this artwork, one wouldn’t immediately assume it disguised some serious black metal beneath, but now that you know, doesn’t it take on a much darker and more eerie undertone? I think so anyway. Created by Pariah Productions, this shot is one of the final frames from Altar of Plagues' God Alone music video, which is an unsettling extension of this very idea: graceful contortions, shot classy in black and white, awkwardly balanced on top of distressing agony. It’s an odd combination which doesn’t work to such a degree that it does work, much like everything else from this band who have built a reputation for disregarding any black rule book written on the genre.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 09. Apparat - Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theatre)

09. Apparat - Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theatre)

As wonderful as this album is musically, it is only one small slice of a much bigger picture pie. Originally conceived as a reworking of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Krieg und Frieden was an experimental theater production by Sebastian Hartmann, complete with a 30 piece ensemble of performers as well as surreal sets of imagery designed by a man named Tilo Baumgärte. And as you may have assumed, it was that said artist whose work was chosen to represent the soundtrack, which itself was produced by the ever impressive Apparat and his Apparatty fingers. Ambitious project, some might say, yet so loose in approach that apparently the play was perpetually reworked, completely changing per show, and not even 100% complete after the final performance. I’m well into that kinda procrastination.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 08. Xenia Rubinos - Magic Trix

08. Xenia Rubinos - Magic Trix

Here is one relatively unknown album from one relatively unknown artist with cover art from one relatively unknown photographer who (at this time) has a website which isn’t really there (although check out Camilo Fuentealba’s Tumblr instead, awesome stuff). Because of this, information is scarce, the only thing I can talk about from the shrine-like scene being that B-grade mask which appears to be of Warner Bros. cartoon character, Marvin the Martian. Often described as the softest spoken yet smartest of all the Looney Tunes’ villains, I’m just trying to fulfil my word count here, folks.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 07. Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

07. Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

I can’t imagine why I like this album cover so much.
Could it be because of her facial expression? Lazily despondent, almost as if caught off guard in the shower yet too stoned to care.
Or could it be because it was shot by Gaspar Noé? An artist better known for his three feature films (I Stand Alone, Irréversible and Enter the Void) as well as some proper killer music videos (Nick Cave’s “We No Who U R”, Placebo’s “Protège-Moi” and Animal Collective’s “Applesauce”, to name a few), not to mention that this piece stands as his first and (currently) only album artwork to date.
Or could it be because Sky has recently got herself into so much trouble? As merely a month before this album’s release, she and her DIIV frontman boyfriend were arrested for heroin possession, the kind of vibe this artwork portrays perfectly.
Or could it be because NIPPLE! THERE! I SEE A NIPPLE woooooo! She knows what she is doing.
In all honesty though, I don’t like her music in any crazy amount, but I am in love with her. I just want to help her. Or at least party with her, perhaps even fuck her, let’s just take things slow.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 06. Prodigy and Alchemist - Albert Einstein

06. Prodigy & Alchemist - Albert Einstein

”In interviews leading up to this album's release, the storied Queensbridge rapper Prodigy described himself as a painter filling in the gaps between The Alchemist's beats. To this effect, Dom Rinaldi created a perverse, dripping portrait of Albert Einstein (the album's namesake) to accompany the tunes. It mirrored the aggression that Prodigy would slather across the release, where he brags about his skill to kill both lyrically and literally. The pseudo-zombie nature of the imagery also alludes to Prodigy's return to form, after being released from prison. He has always been brilliant, much like Einstein. He just had to take a few years to re-emerge and piece himself together again.”
- Dale Eisinger (for
I couldn't really say it better myself (my original review reading something like “oooh, look at the pretty colours, you guys, ooooh!”) so instead I shamelessly stole that above quote. It’s better for everyone this way.
However, I will conclude that (while many did enjoy this album a lot), I didn’t think it was all that good, and obviously it's my opinion which matters the most.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 05. Juno Reactor - The Golden Sun of the Great East

05. Juno Reactor - The Golden Sun of the Great East

Who says talent doesn’t run in the family? Because while Ben Watkins (aka Juno Reactor) was the musical genius behind this gem of a trance album, it was his award-winning brother Simon who painted the above apocalyptic masterpiece. As if some futuristic nativity play, there is definitely something biblical going on in this concept, and as a result, some may grade it as “blasphemous”. However, the only real blasphemy to be found here is the HEINOUS pink typography at the bottom, blatantly slapped on at the last minute by someone who’d just learned what a drop shadow was. Ignore that at all costs, perhaps even scribble over it with a permanent marker, and you will be left with one very rich image indeed. I see God, God, I see God.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 04. Julie Ruin - Run Fast

04. Julie Ruin - Run Fast

Featuring members from pioneering riot grrrl band Bikini Kill, one has come to expect nothing but feminism all up in your face when it comes to Julie Ruin, so why should the cover art be any different? For this is just one of the six she-beasts from Allyson Mitchell’s Ladies Sasquatch art installation, the concept fiercely representing the ugly side of feminist misjudgment, pretty and pink yet giant and terrifying. At least, that’s what I think anyway, but what do I know? I am a boy. I am the enemy.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 03. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

03. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Stealing from art exhibitions is so hot right now, and Bohyun Yoon’s (NSFW!) Fragmentation installation is probably a pretty good place to do so. The fantastic concept is some stab at modern day science and plastic surgery by depersonalising the human body, and it’s also quite cool because of tits and vagina and penis and stuff. I am super mature. Still, we have to give mad props to The National themselves for seeing something special in that exact frame, desaturating and cropping it out of context like that. Because it’s freaking beautiful.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 02. The Joy Formidable - Wolf’s Law

02. The Joy Formidable - Wolf’s Law

“We met Martin in Brooklyn last year. He’d just started work on a new exhibition called Empire, and we were blown away by the paintings in his studio. They’re dramatic, fresh and modern in their subject but classic in their references.” - Joy Formidable
Yes, critically acclaimed Martin Wittfooth painted this amazement, and much like all of his animal-centric created worlds, it feels like it has some deeper meaning upon closer inspection, a statement about the cycle of death in nature or perhaps something even smarterer than that. It’s no surprise, then, that Joy Formidable were “honored to have worked with Martin Wittfooth on the art for this album,” because the artwork was better than the album itself. Oh, I went there.

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 01. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

01. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

And this is it: the greatest artwork I’ve seen in 2013, because unlike every other entry on this list, it was completely incidental. Photographer Dominique Issermann was at the Cave household for a photoshoot with Susie Bick (Nick’s wife) for some French magazine. Nick Cave himself walked into his own bedroom and onto the scene, opening one of his shutters just as Isserman happened to press the button, and then there it was. "I was more reluctant to use it than she was, to be honest," Cave confessed, but I am sooo grateful he did.
On a side note, some smarty pants internet people have pointed out similarities between this shot and John Lennon’s Imagine video (around 1:15), which is surely unintentional yet still far too cool to go unmentioned.

Other Brilliants
Beady Eye - BE
The Dear Hunter - Migrant
Eluvium - Nightmare Ending
Goldfrapp - Tales of Us
O'Brother - Disillusion
Phosphorescent - Muchacho
Sigur Rós - Kveikur
Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013
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Wednesday 20 November 2013

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013

(according to me)

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 10. CSS - Planta

10. CSS - Planta

Truth be told, I actually kinda dig this image. It’s so bad, it’s good; the very car-crash confusion of it all turned my tummy runny and that alone warranted it this position. However, the presentation has been speculated to have some deeper meaning, Echoes and Dust reporting that “the cover artwork itself carries an abstract feminist message,” due to the spore like bodies and turban-donning heads. Oh God, way to go for getting all serious and shit, ruining EVERYTHING for EVERYONE. Assholes.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 09. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual

09. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual

About as annoying as the music itself, this Martin Falck designed eyesore does have some merit, as it turned out exactly how they intended it to be (i.e: hideous). Originally conceived as a political comic by illustrator Liv Strömquist about that whole 1% thing, this “open design” whose “first aim [wasn’t] to be perfect” (you think?) took just under two years to produce with three different versions in existence, all folding out into Strömquist’s aforementioned cartoons. “We didn't want to create a slick and generic album design,” Falck concluded, to which I do respect the man for playing with anything except for safety. Now if only the fucking thing didn’t physically hurt my vision when I stared at it for too long, and then I might actually be able to snort lines off the cover, which is the only reason people still buy CDs, right?

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 08. Pet Shop Boys - Electric

08. Pet Shop Boys - Electric

The designer in question (going by the name of Farrow) has anything but a bad reputation for himself. His crazy extensive list of A-grade clientele include the likes of Kylie Minogue, Orbital, Manic Street Preachers, Snow Patrol and Spiritualized, so I can’t really diss the guy. Which is to say, I can, because there's no escaping the headache of such terrible artwork for an album with such a terrible name which truly could have been the album of the year, if it hadn't been for such terrible vocals ruining the whole terrible experience. That said, some people around the internets have praised this piece based on the fact that it’s an (ancient) optical illusion which cons the viewer into thinking its moving when focusing on different areas. And to that I say, congratulations, Animal Collective did it better.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 07. Miley Cyrus - Bangerz (Deluxe Edition)

07. Miley Cyrus - Bangerz (Deluxe Edition)

Granted, this is only one of four covers associated with this release, but each of them were pretty bad, most featuring her legs cut off before they reached the edge with some weird Miami Vice like colouring and typography—the kind of Photoshop job I hope no one actually got paid for, or perhaps Miley did herself. However, it was this specific deluxe edition which really made me feel uncomfortable, and it has everything to do with her face. It’s an unflattering angle. I imagine her bald. She looks a little bit squint. Her ears and hair are reminiscent of a creepy woodland creature. And all of this scares my already weak erection. I mean, make no mistake, she’s an easy target these days and I am no Miley hater (if anything, the polar opposite), but I think she should probably stick to what she is good at in the future (hint: getting naked).

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 06. Kanye West - Yeezus

06. Kanye West - Yeezus

On the one hand, this is undoubtedly the laziest album artwork in the world, because it doesn’t actually exist. I mean, even the initial announced piece was pretty confusing at best. Was the cd made of melted gold? Can even you afford this, Yeezy? Evidently not, as the second announced version had that warpy bit removed, leaving only a piece of red tape with the album title scribbled onto it. Ok, cool, so at least that’s something, aaaaand it’s gone, with the final release replacing said tape with one solid red label, now void of any indication as to what might actually be on this blank cd, lost amongst your other piles of porn back-ups and soppy undelivered compilations for your ex-girlfriend. Great, well done. But it’s “innovative”, correct? At least he’s being “different”, right? WRONG. What about Glassjaw? Or (on a much much more incriminating scale) New Order?? You simply cannot do nothing and expect to be called original, trust me, I’ve tried.
On the other hand, many of the surrounding entries in this article beg the same question: “why did you even bother making a cover at all?” so maybe that’s the case here, and we gotta respect it. I think.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 05. David Bowie - The Next Day

05. David Bowie - The Next Day

Brought to you by the same hands which designed the fantastic Heathen and Reality album covers, Jonathan Barnbrook defended this piece by stating it was meant to “forget or obliterate the past”. He elaborated that “if you are going to subvert an album by David Bowie there are many to choose from but this is one of his most revered, it had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way and we thought 'Heroes' worked best on all counts." Furthermore (intentional or not), I feel like I am the only one who connected the line “we could be heroes just for one day” with the fact that, perhaps now, it was The Next Day.
Which is all very well and clever, except that it looks apathetic and boring. Hell, even the text is not properly centered, and surely that’s the very least he could have done. Well, except for doing nothing at all, which brings us back to Kanye.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 04. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2

04. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2

I don’t think we can exclusively blame celebrity photographer Tom Munro for this annoying presentation, as he probably just did what he was told and got paid a lot of money for it. After all, his other works for Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Rihanna all stand out as some very respectable compositions, visually pleasing and conceptually nice or whatever. No, instead let’s blame Justin Timberlake’s “friend”, who apparently described this record as “music you can see”, which gave some stupid people in charge this stupid idea. I mean, I would almost forgive the sadness if the double-split album actually featured 20/20 tracks, instead of 20/21, which makes me wonder all sorts of things, for example: This is crap. Are optometrist check-ups supposed to be sexy now or something? Have I been doing them wrong all this time?
And yet the real kicker is that this isn’t even as bad as it gets. The “Complete Experience” release of the two albums together was somehow even worse. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t even stomach including it, but it's over here if you’re braver than me.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 03. When Saints Go Machine - Infinity Pool

03. When Saints Go Machine - Infinity Pool

When the album trailer for this underrated album first dropped, it became perfectly clear that this band had some sort of a skew sweet tooth for shitty mid-90’s video game graphics. I don't care, it was still no excuse to represent their music with the most boring frame from said promotional material, especially once they slapped that completely illegible ohmygodawful title logo on top of the mess. It’s a pukey cringe, and I don’t think anyone should be even remotely impressed by this one, because that will only encourage this type of disappointing behaviour in the future. That said, it was pretty cool when their single Iodine came out with this video, which begins with a much better rendered version of that exact same graphic. SO WHY DIDN’T YOU USE THAT ONE THOUGH, HEY GUYS???

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 02. Æther Realm - One Chosen by Gods

02. Æther Realm - One Chosen by Gods

Okay okay, compose. COMPOSE, GODDAMNIT.
Don’t judge a book by its MS Paint-styled horror cover is probably a good cliché to start with, so let it be known that this is anything but an accurate portrayal of the damn decent album which lies beneath. It is tragic, then, that Laura Greenwood has been the band’s go-to artist for all of their albums, each one of them average at best, but none of which are as ludicrous as this amateurfest. More tragic still (and believe it or not), Greenwood is actually a really really good craftswoman, erecting sculptures made from roadkill animal bones, which is a fuckload more metal than whatever that thing is above. And so I conclude: Æther Realm, please, rather use one of those pieces next time, or hire someone else. I'm being honest for your own good here.

The 10 Worst Album Cover Artworks of 2013: 01. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito

01. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito

And as it has been rightfully stated by many many people before me (including Popdust and The Guardian), here is the worst album artwork of the year. Created by B Shimbe Shim (an otherwise good artist with a bad website), he maintains that Karen O wanted a “fucked-up image” for this LP, to which he complied by reportedly combining ideas from Alice in Wonderland, Seventies/Eighties children illustrations, an uncomfortable version of Hollywood CG animation, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and the Garbage Pail Kids. Apparently he "kind of hoped for a controversial response," yet didn’t expect it to get as bad as it did, admitting “it freaked me out at first,” but quickly reassured all of us that it’d make more sense in context, especially once we saw the image and the videos together as one. Erm, we’re still waiting, Shim.

Other Terribles
Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Jack Johnson - From Here to Now to You
James Blunt - Moon Landing
Jason Derulo - Tattoos
The Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True
Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
Siriusmo - Enthusiast

The 10 Best Album Cover Artworks of 2013
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