I spend a lot of time listening to music throughout the year, making my lists of favorite records, the best songs and so on and on. But in the process I cannot help but look at and think about the album artwork and how that accompanies this music. Increasingly, in this digital age, album art is relegated often to postage stamp-sized icons on our screens and iPhones, already downsizing from the pretty small size of CDs. Maybe people do not think about album covers as much, yet I still love to stare over them like I did as a kid. And I still tend to buy albums in LP format because I like seeing that cover nice and big.
In lieu of a best albums of the year list, I decided to curate this list of my favorite album covers of the year. Below is but a sampling of some of the excellent artwork from 2011, some of which point to a few of the thematic trends in imagery, typography, illustration and intricacy.
Recently Washed Out performed for Sirius XMU Sessions, during which they performed a short but well-realized cover of Chris Isaak’s lovely 1989 slow jam ballad “Wicked Game,” from his record Heart Shaped World. It’s a great reminder to how amazing the original is.
Check out Isaak’s performance on Late Night with David Letterman (back when he was on NBC) from March 1991. Excellent version.
Seemed like for awhile every indie band would use a seemingly low fi cover made from a Polaroid or retro-looking candid photograph as their album cover art. Pitchfork even looked at this trend not too long ago.
Now, I’m starting to see a new trend develop. Photos of beds, sheets, pillows and people ON said beds.
Here are three recent ones I’ve found, but I’m sure there are way more if I dug a little deeper.
Houses, All Night
Washed Out, Within And Without
Holy Other, With U
So what other albums are employing this? I’m told that according to the New York Times, three makes a trend. So what is the origin? Excluding general laziness or lack of creativity when it comes to album art, because that would be too easy to blame, why is this now a “thing?” Is it group think? Copy cats? Coincidence? YOU DECIDE!
UPDATE 6/18/2012: Recently I found yet another album cover that can be added to this trend of album art to employ bed sheets and pillows and scantily clad bodies. Here’s Violens’ True.
UPDATE 8/30/2012: Holy Other has another bed sheets-inspired cover for their album Held.
UPDATE 4/29/2014: Found yet another bedsheets album cover, this time for the new EP from Tourist, Patterns. Behold:
UPDATE 8/1/2014: The upcoming album from shoegaze metal band Whirr, Sway, has sheets too.