I appreciate album covers in an artistic manner, almost as much as the plastic inside of them. From the minimalism of “Beatles for Sale” to the complexity of Talking Heads’ “More Songs About Buildings and Food,” album covers give every album its own identity before you even put it on. This year has brought many good album covers. Here are my five favorites.
1. Iris DeMent: “Sing the Delta”
I appreciate the “Sing the Delta” album cover for its lack of glamour. I love it for the way it captures the blues that a lot of modern country tries to deny. DeMent has always been all about being truly country at a time when that’s really not that common.
In a way, that’s what’s kept her out of the country mainstream. While many of today’s popular country artists are just as pretty as pop stars, DeMent has the guts to put out an album cover where she doesn’t look groomed, where she doesn’t look like she’s posing for an album cover and, to be honest, where she looks a little sad.
Sadness is a big part of what country music is about, so I love the “Sing the Delta” cover for capturing that. And, although she may not look as good as Carly Rae Jepsen or Taylor Swift, this album cover is the most beautiful of the year.
2. The xx: “Coexist”
I don’t like this band, much. I don’t like the album either. But, is the album cover ever gorgeous. While their debut featured a white X on a black background, “Coexist” features the same X, over a white background, filled with the image of an oil spill. I wish their music was as conceptually brilliant as that image.
3. Fiona Apple: “The Idler Wheel…”
Bizarro artwork for an experimental record. Its abstract weirdness is fitting for Fiona.
4. Chromatics: “Kill for Love”
“Kill for Love” is another case of great cover art for an album I don’t particularly care for. I love it when the image of someone playing guitar graces an album cover, like on Sleater-Kinney’s “Dig Me Out” (an album I absolutely love). “Kill for Love” is the most dream-poppy that I’ve ever seen that concept done.
5. Taylor Swift: “Red”
Taylor Swift may be part of the groomed, model-esque state of modern country music. You may not even be able to call her country anymore. Still, as a breakup-based concept album, “Red” at least captures the sadness. The album cover captures it further, featuring a widow-looking Swift, the top part of her face covered by shadow and her red lipstick completely sticking out. No matter how sad she seems in her songs, Swift still always seems to have a happy face when in public. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see her putting on a sad look to match her sad persona, and that she’s finally realizing who she is. She’s a sad girl, full of high expectations and optimism, but who never has things work out as well as she wants them to. Maybe she’ll get married, and will spend her later years writing excellent marriage songs. Maybe things will finally go her way. Until then, I hope we see more album covers as good as “Red.”