The Internet is a constant flood of new music, and unfortunately it can be tough for an artist to stand out from the pack just off the strength of the sound. Even in this digital world, a good album cover can give an artist a leg up in getting noticed amid scores of similar releases. Some are visual extensions of the mood and aesthetic. Others are totally unrelated but still enthralling. From the kitschy to the breathtaking to the unsettling, each of our top 10 album covers of 2010 is pure eye candy. What were your favorites?
10 Wavves: King of the Beach
Everyone knows that the hierarchy of music industry cats goes a little something like this: Dude from Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” video reigns supreme, followed by Best Coast’s tweeting mascot Snacks, and, of course, the cat astronaut from the Klaxons’ Surfing the Void. Well, they all got a run for their money when lo-fi skater-stoner Wavves unveiled the blunted cartoon kitty on the front of King of the Beach.
09 Rosetta: A Determinism of Morality
Philadelphia-based sludge metal band Rosetta packs more than its share of white hot intensity, explosive riffs, and serene, exploratory passages into the 50 minutes of A Determinism of Morality. Determinism's cover is a real treat for the eyes, playing up the contrast of the stark, monochrome scene of nature in the background with the vibrant, colorful geometric wonder in the foreground. Are they limbs? Branches? You can't tell. And you can't stop looking.
08 N*E*R*D: Nothing
Nobody believed Pharrell when he said that N*E*R*D’s Nothing was inspired by the music of ‘60s acts like the Doors, America, and Crosby Stills and Nash. Sure enough, Nothing blended N*E*R*D’s trademark hip-hop-tinged dance music with psychedelic flourishes and political commentary, and the album’s “Make love, not war” cover is a great signifier of what the group was going for.
07 Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Of the five suitably grotesque covers that artist George Condo designed for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the one with Kanye clutching the beer and banging the monster got the most press. That one ultimately shipped horribly pixelated, but this alternate, looking like King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King gone Picasso, captures the tortured, maligned spirit of the album much better.
06 The Foreign Exchange: Authenticity
Hip-hop/R&B duo the Foreign Exchange’s adventurous third album, Authenticity, is a slight, and sonically spectral meditation on relationships on the ropes and love lost that slyly folds outre production into more traditional R&B. The cool autumnal tones on its cover looks to be an extension of the album’s dejected demeanor.
05 Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox has a knack for choosing attention-grabbing cover art, from Deerhunter’s debut album, which features a naked Jared Swilley (of the Black Lips) with a moose's head, to Atlas Sound’s Logos, whose cover was a shot of his own gaunt torso. Halcyon Digest’s cover is similarly arresting. Halcyon’s picture of a male contestant in the annual Miss Star Lite Pageant held in Cox’s native Atlanta is both reverent and unsettling all at once.
04 Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid
Our own Dan Nishimoto pontificated at length on the ways in which pop chameleon Janelle Monáe’s body of work draws inspiration from Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian masterpiece, Metropolis. Add the intricately designed and delightfully futuristic album art for her debut album, ArchAndroid, to that list; it is almost certainly a doff of the cap to the old film posters for Metropolis. ArchAndroid's regal color scheme and gorgeous typography really pop, and Monáe's face positively glows.
03 Bruce Springsteen: The Promise
Bruce Springsteen’s decades-long career is peppered with songs about travel and escape, about finding oneself in transit. Like much of the Boss’s catalog, the cover of The Promise is all about the infinite possibilities of the open road. Stark, simple, and gorgeous, The Promise is a winner.
02 Curren$y: Pilot Talk
Stoners are suckers for psychedelic art, so it should surprise no one that weed rap connoisseur and Dame Dash affiliate Curren$y would have a keen eye for spacey visuals. Illustrator David Barnett, art director at Dash’s DD172, worked in close collaboration with Spitta to craft Pilot Talk’s stunning cover. Something tells us those lush fields of green are made from exactly what we think they’re made of.
01 Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma
Actor, author, and artist Leigh McCloskey is responsible for the clean and simple illustration that graces the cover of Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma. Cosmogramma’s cover is part of a 20-year series of illustrations that have been compiled in a series of books called the Codex Tors. McCloskey's codices, much like FlyLo’s masterful album, blend the cosmic with the terrestrial, the futuristic with the primeval.
Share your favorite cover art from 2010 in the comments below.
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