Our third-annual album cover art feature uses interviews with artists and musicians to highlight the philosophical, thematic, and conceptual significance of great album cover artwork.

THE BREAKDOWN

   12 Collage
+ 14 Digital Illustration, Drawing, Design
+ 19 Illustration, Painting, Drawing
+ 8 Black And White Photography
+ 22 Color Photography
+ 6 Deluxe Packaging
+ 10 Fashion, Sculpture, Installation
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   91 Album Covers For 2011

Best Of 2011 Album Cover Art

Battles

Battles – Gloss Drop
A suite of amorphous blobs unify Battles’ year of singles and full-length releases. Different in material and style yet similar in overall form, these sculptured mounds are colorful, strangely compelling, and without a doubt represent some of the most visually iconic album art off 2011.

Record Label
Warp Records

The Artists
Design & Art Direction – Dave Konopka
PhotographyLeslie Unruh

Mediums & Materials
Photography, Sculpture

 

Bjork

Bjork – Biophilia
Biophilia takes Bjork’s love for multimedia and multi-disciplinary art to the next level. In addition to a signature wardrobe, the entire Biophilia suite includes an iPhone app, themed video materials, and a limited edition boxset which includes a wooden box, essays, and a tuning fork. An entire research paper could probably be devoted to this project, which looks to capture all of nature’s beauty, from its most microscopic to its most macroscopic.

Below is a quick sampling of some of Biophilia‘s related materials, all of which are unified by a similar terrestrial-meets-celestial aesthetic. As both stated by David Attenborough and Bjork for Biophilia:

“Forget the size of the human body; remember that you’re a gateway between the universal and the microscopic, then unseen forces that stirs the depths of your innermost being, and nature, that embraces you and all there is. We’re on the brink of a revolution that will reunite humans with nature through new technological innovations. Until we get there, prepare, explore, Biophilia.”

Record Label
One Little Indian

Mediums & Materials
Photography, Fashion

lighting by Björk


“Organic.”

Betzefer – Freedom to the Slave Makers
For Freedom to the Slave Makers, Israel’s Betzefer wanted to create an album cover that stayed true to their music, which relies only minimally on digital manipulations. They employed an entire team of artists to create an album cover that is compelling while staying true to analog creation.

QUOTES FROM:
AVITAL TAMIR, BETZEFER’S VOCALIST
SHAHAR HEMO, ART DIRECTOR
NIR DOLINER, ART DIRECTOR

THEMES & CONCEPTS
“The theme behind the record is the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood, as approached from several angles — mainly on the personal level (the experience of the author) but also the current state of the recording industry and the different turmoils it is going through in this exciting digital age. Since the philosophy behind the entire recording was to create a fully live and organic album which doesn’t utilize modern ‘shortcuts’ often used in contemporary recordings in order to create an organized and massive sound, we decided the same philosophy should apply to the creation of the artwork — which meant keeping Photoshop use to the bare minimum and acheiving the desired goal using precise make-up, lighting, and photography.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
“We actually went through several concepts and photoshoots for the artwork for Freedom to the Slave Makers before finally fixating on the cocoon.  It was a lengthy process which took well over a year.”

“We built the cocoon around the model [Omri Jones] using a metal net, cob web spray and cloth before taking a photo of it to be digitally finalized. In the end, the computer’s involvement was kept to the bare minimum which meant cropping and color correction — pretty much the same as with the music itself.”

“Since the record is ultimately a metal record, an industry which has its own language and tradition, it was of paramount concern for the band that just like the music on the record, its artwork would be done first and foremost in good taste and for the sake of art, but [also] fit right in with other metal records on the shelf. In other words, we didn’t want to alienate more traditional crowds, all the while keeping the artistic integrity behind the product. At the end of the day, seeing the work being embraced both by the traditional metal industry and crowds as well as in different art circles makes all the countless hours we spent on the project worthwhile.”

COLLABORATION
“The model [Omri Jones] had to lay there motionless for eight hours straight while the cocoon was being built before finally being released. That moment of finally cutting him loose and photographing him in his anxious state, dripping sweat from the hours he spent inside the contraption under the studio lighting, was really a sight to be seen and ultimately what we wished to capture.”

EXTRAS
The final product was inspired by a ‘phases in the birth of the moon’ poster that hangs up on Shahar’s (the art director for the project) wall. We figured it would be great creating a similar poster which depicts the phases of a man being ‘birthed’ out of his cocoon.

Record Label
AFM Records

The Artists
Art DirectionShahar Hemo & Nir Doliner
PhotographyGal Hamo
Makeup & Special Effects – Kearn Telias
Model – Omri Jones

Mediums & Materials
Photography, Sculpture, Photoshop


Canyons – Keep Your Dreams

Record Label
Modular Recordings

The Artists
Design – Trevor Tarczynski
PhotographyNeil Krug

Model
Joni Harbeck

 


“New Exotica.”

Co La – Daydream Repeater
Co La’s album cover for Daydream Repeater recreates an image from an old fashion magazine and revitalizes it in a way that gives a nod to ’50s exotica.

QUOTES FROM:
MATT PAPICH, CO LA

THEMES & CONCEPTS
“I’m always looking for images that are equally evocotive and unsettling as a kind of parallel to the Co La sound. In general, this means finding something that is familiar, something that communicates quickly because of its familiarity. I’m then interested in pushing the limit of what the image could signify. Sometimes it becomes more vague, or more confusing. I’m into confusion, not as an aesthetic so much, but as a medium.

“I’d been digging into a lot of ‘exotica’ music from the ’50s – Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman etc. Many of those records cover’s combine an idealized woman with an idealized environment. I was interested in replicating that impetus, but stripping it down to more minimal terms.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
“The cover of Daydream Repeater is a reproduction of a illustration from the cover of a dated fashion monthly. I found a model who was a doppelgänger of the original. With the help of a photographer and designer, we restaged the vintage picture and made it more rich, in color, style, etc.”

Record Label
NNA Tapes

The Artists
Art Direction & Concept – Matt Papich
DesignSheena Callage
Photography – Joyce Kim
Model – Devon Deimler

Mediums & Materials
Photography, Digital

RELATED ARTICLES: TRIP REPORT MIXTAPE

“Lonely”

Fool’s Gold – Leave No Trace
The album cover for Fool’s Gold’s Leave No Trace uses the strange icon that is a neon sign, with all of its inherent connotations and symbolisms, and uses it to hint at the amusement that can be found in loneliness.
Listen to “Street Clothes” – DOWNLOAD MP3

QUOTES FROM:
JOSHUA JAMES BREIDENBACH, CREATIVE DIRECTOR

THEMES & CONCEPTS
“Do you know when you’re kind of lonely but you kind of like it? This is partially how the record makes me feel, but mostly when you’re really far from home, somewhere new, unknown and really foreign, and you really don’t know anything, but you like that feeling too. I wanted that art to look like that. The fact that it’s a neon sign makes it almost humorous. A neon sign is a beacon to attract, and when there is no one around, it has this whole other thing going on.

“Fool’s Gold have a very mixed international influence… We wanted the images to look like no single place. It could be africa, it could be Vietnam, the Middle East, it could be LA. Nothing in the images really gives it away, but it’s somewhere kind of off the known path. As for concept, as artists ourselves, we don’t feel fulfilled unless there’s an idea informing the work. [But] we tend not to look into album artwork too much. As long as we felt these things I mentioned in the imagery, we knew we were on track.

“They told us about the mood, what they were inspired by musically and visually as they we’re making / finishing the record. They had a quite specific idea about imagery of nighttime and lighting and color. They shared with me a picture of a Rio beach at night, and some bright fluorescent type on a black background.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
“There was an all important Skype moment. It was with with both Lewis and Luke from the band. It was actually our first meeting. I had been thinking hard for days about what to do for this project, We started talking about night time scenes, desert scenes, lighting, artificial lighting and neon colors. It all became clear for a momant, and I told them that I would make a custom neon sign of their name, and have it shot at night on a sand dune. There was kind of a massive ‘yes’ in response to that.”

Record Label
IAMSOUND Records

The Artists
Creative DirectionJoshua James Breidenbach
Art DirectionChi An De Leo & Gregory Jewett
PhotographyNeil Massey
Makeup & Special Effects – Kearn Telias

Mediums & Materials
Sculpture, Photography, Van, Car Battery


“Cinematic

Glasvegas – Euphoric / Heartbreak
An idea brainstormed by Glasvegas’ frontman, James Allan, utilizes photography and projected imagery to abstractly reference the band’s surroundings during the recording of Euphoric / Heartbreak.

QUOTES FROM:
JOSS MCKINLEY, Photographer

THEMES & CONCEPTS 
“The concept for this sleeve came from James Allan (Glasvegas) who wanted to use projected imagery in some way. As the project progressed, he had ideas about including the people who had been involved in the making of the album, and he had very definite setups he wanted to achieve for each member. He supplied Village Green, the design studio, and myself with drawings of these setups, which we tried to put into practice.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
“James was pretty adamant that Marilyn Monroe should feature on the sleeve. The band had recorded their album next to the beach on which she had been photographed for the cover image, and James felt that the shot encapsulated the band’s vision for the album. When this picture of James and the projection of Marilyn was shot, there were still questions over image rights, and we weren’t certain we could use it. James was happy to go with a plain white sleeve if the marilyn image couldn’t be used.

“The Marilyn Monroe image could not be used for the US market so the sleeve features James Allan’s mother.”

Record Label
Columbia Records

The Artists
Art Direction & DesignJames Allan
DesignVillage Green
PhotographyJoss McKinley

Mediums & Materials
Photography (film), image-making, projection

BELOW: US SLEEVE FEATURING JAMES ALLAN’S MOTHER + ALBUM TEASER TRAILER



Those Dancing Days – Daydreams & Nightmares

Record Label
Wichita Recordings

The Artists
Art Direction & Drawings – Cissi Efraimsson
Additional Design – Anders Wirström
PhotographyJohan Bergmark
Back Cover PhotographyEmelie Lava Lindgren
Insert PhotographyOlle Kirchmeier


Yelle

Yelle – Safari Disco Club
Sex kitten Yelle puts on her stretchy animal-print suits and embarks on a safari-meets-African-bush fashion shoot for her latest album, Safari Disco Club. The result is lots of similarly-themed photography, and a music video to match.

Record Label
Cooperative USA / Downtown

Mediums & Materials
Photography, sculpture


“sterile, mist, fog, white, cold, dust”

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus – Conatus
Repeat collaborator, Seattle’s Angel Ceballos, worked with a team of stylists and designers to add to the visual direction of Conatus with floating, airy fashion photography.

QUOTES FROM:
ANGEL CEBALLOS, PHOTOGRAPHER

THEMES & CONCEPTS
“The idea here was derived from abstract inspirations such as sterile, mist, fog, white, cold, dust. It was a vibe, a feeling, an olfactory that needed to take shape visually. I wanted it to be as white as possible. A lot of this would need to be portrayed with styling.”

CREATIVE PROCESS
“[I was provided with] some beautiful examples of visual inspiration in several forms. This help set a vibe or a flavor for me to run with. There was definitely a common flow to all of them.

“The concept for makeup was white like a mask, but I didn’t want it to look Kabuki or mime-like, so I opted for a sort of half coverage for the face done slightly lazily.  We did the hair a little messy [and] unsettling; we added white powder to it. We also added white powder on her hands and feet. Then we got adventurous with her arm since the gorgeous dress we used had one arm almost in a cocoon and it left a bare limb. Nika likes to use a lot of graphic lines in her web, t-shirt and projection design, so we pulled from that for the white graphic make up on her arm.

“I had bought this length of white silk to use in the shoot but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted other than some kind of ‘motion’. The result is the encompassing yet escaping white yolk.”

COLLABORATION
“Nika [of Zola Jesus] and I have shot together several times for her promo materials. We have a symbiotic chemistry that is rare between collaborating artists. It is always wonderful and so much fun working with her.”

Record Label
Sacred Bones

Mediums & Materials
Photography, Fashion

The Artists
PhotographyAngel Ceballos
Makeup & HairBrandie Carlos
WardrobeLinda Kwon
Album LayoutDavid Correll


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