Album art’s become this weird thing in the the super duper fancy dancy new digital age of music. It used to be a huge part of a purchase, and was indeed huge itself. Vinyl’s had a lot more room to work with, and while it’s not as bad as cassettes were, with CDs losing their edge over digital copies of music, album art’s become little more than that 50 pixel image you sometimes see on your ipod, and maybe your actual iTunes if you use Apple’s ill-focused cover flow mode. (This is assuming you are forced to deal with iTunes because you have an iPod.) And even when it’s actually on CDs, it’s usually marred by stickers and ads and other useless such stuff that detracts from the image itself.
Overall, though, the art itself has reached a weird point of being kind of pointless but still a universal standard. It has a well-known history and its own landmarks (see : Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon) to be sure, but speaking contemporarily it almost always seems to be an afterthought. But that doesn’t stop the occasional gem from standing out, so I decided I’d highlight my favorite album covers. I’m going to try to avoid well-known ones, as they can be far too obvious, and avoid any covers that take their source from somewhere else, like movie soundtracks.
After the jump!
First up is
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
I can’t say exactly what it is about this picture that is so intriguing to me. It represents the music within well, giving a visual representation of Grizzly Bear’s slightly rustic feel. But it’s more than that. I simply really like the picture, it’s beautiful despite being insanely mundane. I mean, it almost gives you a smell to go with it. It’s the image of your grandmother’s house.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F♯A♯∞
This cover scares the shit out of me. I don’t know why, but it’s dark, apocalyptic and strangely mechanical. It doesn’t help that the first song on the album, “Dead Flag Blues” (which is itself 16 and a half minutes long) starts with the words, “The car’s on fire, and there’s no one at the wheel.” It is an excellent representation of this masterpiece album from GY!BE, which is needless to say about as apocalyptic as one might be able to get. I couldn’t get a high-quality version of the image, which reduces the intimidating factor significantly, but I think if I saw this on vinyl, and not heard the music within, I would have been strongly inclined to stay away from it. GY!BE is a weird band, but they make beautiful, dark music, and this album cover, I think, perfectly shows that aesthetic.
Tycho – Past is Prologue
The next one stands in direct opposite of the previous one. It’s colorful, natury and gives a wonderful sense of calm happiness. The music within is itself of the laid-back electronic kind, the kind that you thrown on while doing something else and can still tune out to. I happened upon Tycho through a free Adult Swim compilation release, and while I liked the song, it wasn’t until I saw the album art that I was inclined to listen to the whole thing. That drawing power is unique, I think. Plus, I think I just love the colors. Also, if you dig Boards of Canada, Tycho’s stuff is easily worth checking out. In fact, I think he may trump BoC.
Common – Be
Yeah, ok, a sharp picture’s nice. A well-balanced picture’s nice. But damn does this just capture a feeling. I wish this had been the era of vinyl, so that when i first heard the bass opening to “Be (Intro)” I would’ve known exactly what Common felt. It’s a celebration, and Common’s enigmatic smile thrown on top gives the perfect flavor. It’s a feeling that Common rides throughout the entire album, this energy that becomes almost palpable by the end of “It’s Your World.” And damn, is it a ride.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weeknd / Contra
I couldn’t pick between the two. I can’t really say what it is about these two covers that I like so much, they’re just starkly different from anything else I’ve seen. The first is some house party? Maybe? And the second is a preppy girl from the ’80’s with the strangest expression on her face. Neither is particularly artistic, nor are they anything better than the average snapshot, and neither really says anything at all about the music within. They’re just weird pictures tagged with text.