Music lovers often experience album covers before hearing the album itself, so it's pretty appropriate that we're publishing our list of the best album covers of 2014 before our list of best albums of 2014 (stay tuned for that one in a few weeks, by the way). Here are the year's top 10 album covers.
10. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Much like David Bowie, Kate Bush, and PJ Harvey before her, Annie Clark’s image and visual aesthetic is an integral part of the St. Vincent experience, and goes through metamorphoses as consistently as her music does. The cover of her latest album is a simple representation of her latest image, a sort of futuristic, emotionless guitar-bot.
9. Grouper – Ruins
Nearly all of Grouper’s album covers have been in black and white, but they’ve proven to be perfect visual counterparts to her lo-fi, dream-like soundscapes. The cover to her latest album Ruins is no exception, an eerie black and white photo of Liz Harris through a murky, rain-streaked window.
8. The Roots - …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
The late Romare Bearden created the cover of the Roots’ latest album …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin back in 1964 under the name Pittsburgh Memory, combining photographs of several black men to create two faces, which is a wonderful visual representation of the album’s theme of violence within the hip-hop community and America’s inner cities.
7. Aphex Twin – Syro
Richard D. James (a.k.a. Aphex Twin) has always had a mischievous, irreverent streak in him, which he continued with the anti-artwork for his album Syro. Other than the Aphex Twin logo on the right side, there’s not really any artwork within the cover, but rather a list of the album’s expenses, including equipment, promotion, and pressing.
6. Meatbodies – Meatbodies
I am just an absolute sucker for colorful, psychedelic visuals (see number 1), so naturally I would find the cover of Meatbodies’ debut album to be mind-meltingly delicious. What makes it even more powerful, however, is the black and white border surrounding the image, which provides a nice contrast and makes the cover easier to look at.
5. Swans – To Be Kind
Though the cover of Swans’ 2012 album The Seer featured a sinister image of a growling wolf’s head, the crying baby head on the cover of their latest album To Be Kind is far more unsettling, as if terrible things had to be done in order to make this album. Frontman Michael Gira reportedly wanted to use the image as far back as 1981, but only recently received permission from its artist Bob Biggs.
4. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End
Everything Will Be Alright in the End is by far Weezer's best album since Maladroit, with their best album artwork since the gorgeous Japanese print on the cover of Pinkerton. The cover was created by artist Chris McMahon, who is famous for adding monsters to thrift store landscape paintings, and though The A.V. Club called the cover “extremely dumb,” I found it to be oddly beautiful, simultaneously serene and chaotic.
3. FKA twigs – LP1
The cover for FKA twigs’ LP1 is the sort of image that you can’t simply view in passing. Once you catch a glimpse of it, you realize that something’s off, but can’t quite figure out what it is. She simply doesn’t look real on the cover, but more like a plastic doll (is it a plastic doll? I seriously can’t even tell). A cover that demands so much attention and analysis is a truly effective one.
2. J Mascis – Tied to a Star
Tied to a Star is J Mascis’s third collaboration with painter Marq Spusta, who also designed the covers to Mascis’s previous solo album Several Shades of Why and Dinosaur Jr.’s Farm. The cover has a warm, richly detailed storybook quality that makes me want to live inside of it forever. Hopefully Spusta ventures into animation one day, because I’d love to see a full-length movie that looks like this.
1. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
A great album cover should make you want to buy the album, even if you’ve never heard the band before and have no idea what they sound like, and Mastodon’s Once More ‘Round the Sun has exactly that type of cover. To use a scientific term, the cover is simply bonkers, an explosion of psychedelic horror created by Oakland-based painter Skinner. Even if this was the cover to the latest Florida Georgia Line album, I'd probably be at least a little tempted to buy it.
What are your favorite album covers of 2014? Let us know down in the comments section below!