For the sake of keeping things interesting, I have tried to steer clear of the obvious and iconic covers. Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are all incredible covers, but they don’t tickle me in quite the same way as these ones do.
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary
I love it. An image of plastic people with painted smiles in a stereotypically perfect family, and they are all oblivious to the smoke filling the room. Also, the use of shadows on the faces of each character is powerful. It is a strong image of the traditional family gone wrong.
Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise
I don’t have the slightest idea of what is going on here, but it looks important. And kind of icky. Wait a minute, does that thing have eyes? Holy shit it does! That is terrifying! IS IT PLAYING A FUCKING TRUMPET? I need to lie down.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Another fantastically strange cover. It conveys all of the quirkiness that Neutral Milk Hotel delivers on this album. It is soft, disconcerting, and kind of funny, and it wraps these aspects together effortlessly.
Thursday – Five Stories Falling
At first, I thought that this was a photo of hilariously detailed action figures. It turns out they are mannequins. But aren’t mannequins just giant action figures in the end? I like this cover because it makes me think of the deep stuff.
Right Away, Great Captain! – The Eventually Home
Every aspect of this cover is well thought-out. I love the crumpled look to it, which not only gives a sense of the passage of time, but of the irreparably damaged relationship of the protagonist in this concept album. It is a visual display of his emotional wear, but it is understated. The imagery is soft and only the black robes of the sailors hint at the dark future to come. This is a nice companion to the music of the story, which is also softer than its topic would suggest.
Band of Horses – Everything All The Time
The cover art off the debut album by South Carolinian Americana roots rockers Band of Horses comes off exactly as one might ultimately expect the record to sound; Everything All The Time, much like the setting depicted here, is a particularly relaxed and serene environment. The further you venture in, the quieter things suddenly become and the more entrenched you find yourself in the beauty of your surroundings. Think of the perfect summer evening spent sipping whiskey from the comfort of your favorite rocker off the front porch of one really beautiful lake house you built from scratch, and with your bare hands, over the course of a couple hard earned years. That’s essentially the place Band of Horses takes me to every time, with the aforementioned cover piece only serving to further the notions.
Pete Yorn – musicforthemorningafter
In and of itself, there’s nothing particularly ambitious, clever or striking about an album cover featuring the seemingly innocuous photo of the man to whom the act is being named after; and there is in fact, a pretty good chance you may still feel that way after reading this. Yet for me, 2001’s musicforthemorningafter represents a time and a place, as it would ultimately become the soundtrack to one of the very best summers of my life. I’m taken back to the exact moments and memories that made that summer so special every time that I crack this one off the shelf before even hitting play. It evokes emotions in me that run pretty deep, and sometimes, that’s really about all you need to make a “Top 5” list. Kind of like what we have here right now.
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Make no mistake about it, when Metallica’s Master of Puppets arrived on the scene in 1986, people knew they had been swiftly kicked in the face by something pretty special. Fueled by the devastating one-two punch that saw Lars Ulrich’s unrelentingly ferocious percussive assault meeting James Hetfield’s searing and unabashedly precise speed metal riffing, the record was immediately hailed by fans and critics alike. Yet even then, no one could have imagined the indelible mark it would leave on the thrash metal “community” for years to come. For me, this album cover is thrash metal. It represents everything about every reason why so many of the great metal albums I’ve come to know and love today even exist in the first place. It’s iconic in stature and certainly deserves to be referred to as such, or at the very least, mentioned here at Type In Stereo.
Brand New – The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
Taken from a piece out of a Nicholas Prior collection titled “The Age of Man,” ‘Untitled #44’ would eventually come to be the album cover setting the tone for Brand New’s third studio outing, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Often described as representing a much darker stylistic shift for the group with complex textural and sonic layers unfolding at every turn, it only seemed fitting that the art direction would soon follow suit in sending a message subtly darker and foreboding in nature as well. The innocence of the girl to the left clashing with the apparent evil (or maybe just a couple of well-to-do trick or treaters) on the right is astonishingly powerful. It evokes an emotion in me every time that is unmatched by most covers to have come before, or gone on since this masterpiece fell in our laps somewhere late in the fall of 2006.
Jimmy Eat World – Invented
“The work I was using is really composed. There’s a story there. It’s not like this photojournalistic grab kind of thing, there’s a story there. Even if you weren’t coming at it from a writer’s perspective, you’d start asking yourself questions about it. Who are these people? What’s happening here?,” so goes the explanation from Jim Adkins when describing his source of inspiration for 85-90% of the lyrical content scattered throughout Invented. In paging through random pictures by renowned photographers Hannah Starkey and Cindy Sherman, Adkins says he became very drawn to the fact that there was a greater story to be told of the figures portrayed in many of these photos, a story he sought to understand even though he was only getting a fleeting glimpse of a suspended moment in time from their lives. I can’t help but feel the same way with the album cover for Invented. The woman portrayed here has a story to be told, and while we certainly may never know it, I find myself wanting to understand it just a little bit more every time I see this cover.
I tend to make things complicated, and this Top 5 will just be further evidence of my pretentiousness and fondness for making things messy. For this Top 5 I used all albums that I own, and took my own pictures (actually my wife took the pictures– I am holding the covers though). I wouldn’t consider these 5 albums to have the best covers ever– but at this time in my life, and when I went through my LPs, these are the 5 that really stuck out.
Set Fire to Flames – Sings Reigns Rebuilder
This album cover so perfectly embodies the music on the album. The band itself is one of the side projects of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and the connections are clear; complete with dark imagery and an elaborate booklet. The music itself is more experimental than G!YBE, but it is beautiful and eerie none the less. Perhaps my the reason I am drawn to this album cover is that the image completely makes sense once you hear the album. Check it out here. The LP is OOP, but the CD is still available.
I think the main reason I picked this cover is that the picture of this girl seems so vivid– As if you are looking through a reporter’s proofs. The album itself is gatefold and has several up close pictures of what appear to be girls that are distressed and/or hurt. The band, a French metal/hardcore outfit that bring the proverbial “heat”– are brutal, intense, and scathing. Recommended for anyone that likes metal, good packaging and solid album art. It should be noted that the band’s label, Denovali, is well known for its thick LP sleeves and elaborate art and glossy images, so this album, like most Denovali releases, has a “spare no expense” feel to it. Download for free here. Purchase from the label here.
This album sticks out specifically because I bought it back in 2001, based purely on the album art without ever hearing it. I was not disappointed, and have went on to collect other Dirty Three albums. This Australian instrumental three piece have been around since 1992, and this album features the art of the guitarist Mick Turner on the cover. His beautiful broad-stroke painting style has adorned all of the Dirty Three albums. That Turner made the art for all of their covers just seems to make sense; it leaves me thinking, “well yeah, if I made an album, it would be cool to put some of my own art on the cover.” Considering his talent, it seems less of a convenience and more related to his strengths as an artist – both visual and aural.
I love old photos, and I love the simplicity of this cover. I do not know who the cover picture is of, or if it has any significance. I do however know that this album cover is beautiful in so many ways. The color and wash of the album cover make me think of quieter and simpler times in my own life – a time when jumping over puddles really was a blast. The horizon, and the shadow of the girl jumping really stand out for me. The photo is simple, yet you start picking out things that give it more finger prints. In the distance you can see a person, and again I wonder who that is. Is that who the little girl is running towards? Is it just a coincidence? Art is always what you make it, what you interpret, and this cover echoes that sentiment. As for the music, check out “Exactly Where We’re From” from the album right here.
Mount Eerie — No Flashlight
One of the first things that my wife and I did together when we were dating (and way before we were married) is go record shopping. We went to two record stores, and between the both of us, spent over $400 over one weekend on vinyl. We went from A-Z in both stores, recommending different artists to each other, and I remember this album specifically. The album cover is a huge piece of heavy poster paper, the kind that one would get a print done on, but the paper was folded in such a way that it was used as the LP jacket. I remember when we got back to my apartment, she took out the poster and it was huge – I mean crazy big. At the time, I had not heard Mount Eerie, or any of the Phil Elverum incarnations, but this was a great introduction. The LP came with the CD, which she let me keep since she had the record. I love that there is a Polaroid on the cover, and the art is epic – which is hard to say about anything now a days, because everything is epic. I included pictures of me holding the poster to document its girth (bear in mind that in the background is a 5×5 Ikea Expedit). Click here for image. Here is Phil Elverum’s Website, which is worth a look, and here is where you can listen to the album.
I feel like this is a Top 5 for people over the age of 20. The kids just don’t pay attention to cover art anymore. With everything going digital, the only thing saving this awesome art form is the resurgence of vinyl (thankfully). Vinyl, however, is still a fanboy thing to purchase, and thus most artwork is cast off into the infinite abyss, only to be appreciated in a one inch by one inch square in iTunes. That being said there are still bands out there that take the time to make some cool covers for all the crazies out their like me who still appreciate it. Hell, I almost bought this album by a band I had never heard of, purely based on the cover. I tried to make this list as balanced as possible with a little of everything. Enjoy.
Best. Album. Cover. Ever. This album just barely came out and it is already my favorite album cover ever. It says a lot about the band that they can release an album with cover art such as this. What else can you really say about this? It has left me speechless ever since I first laid eyes on it. I want the poster so I can frame it. The album itself is great also, but slightly less great than the cover.
Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
My favorite painting of all time is ‘Starry Night’ by Van Gogh, and this cover reminds me of it a lot. Explosions in the Sky actually have a history of cool cover art and this one is my favorite of them. Whenever I listen to this album, usually with headphones, I picture this cover in my mind as the tasty post-rock sounds of EITS help me slip into a state of bliss.
Hot Water Music – A Flight and A Crash
It wouldn’t be a list of the best album covers if Hot Water Music were not represented. Just as Thrice with the album closers, I could have made a Top 5 album covers list of just HWM and been totally fine with it. Scott Sinclair is the artist that has created so many of these great album covers for the band. I have many times gone to his personal website and almost bought some artwork for my place. Out of all the great covers he has done for HWM, this one is my favorite. It should also be noted that this is the album that got me into HWM (yes I was late to game on them), so it might hold some sentimental value as well.
Defeater – Travels
I remember seeing this cover before I had even heard Travels and being intrigued by it. I wondered who the woman pictured was and why they chose her to be on the cover. Once I gave the album a listen (which was followed by hundreds of more listens because it is a stellar album) I learned that the woman on the cover represented the mother in the story that the album tells. The bleak narrative that spans this album, the Lost Ground EP, and Defeater’s second album, Empty Days and Sleepless Nights, goes into detail about a family in post WWII New Jersey. This picture really captures the darkness of the story and the depressing times that many had in that era of history.
This was an 11th hour switch and I think I made the right decision. The cover art on Nightbook describes what goes through my mind as I listen to the smooth piano of Ludovico Einaudi. Nightbook takes you on somewhat of a dark journey of highs and lows, but always leaves enough light at the end of the tunnel to keep you from being depressed while listening to it. I lived in North and South Dakota for two years of my adult life, and this cover reminds me of countless snowstorms I found myself traversing through in that period of time. Nightbook would have been a fitting soundtrack for those times in my life.
I Hit Nancy Kerrigan
Animosity – Shut It Down
It’s just good pixelated art work and hell, who wouldn’t wanna throw a Molotov cocktail. It’s on my bucket list.
Nicki Minaj – Starships
I’m not typically attracted to chicks like this, but holy shit! She only gets better looking as she acquires more wigs and weaves…the way she raps though, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has a dick.
I’m sure this one dates me, but it has a certain amount of nostalgia about it. I’m positive only a small group will know what I’m talking about. I love the cheesy ass outfits and stupid comic book font. It makes me laugh almost every time I see it. Oh, side note, yeah that’s Travis fucking Barker. He’s that dude with the mohawk and tattoos from some other band. He has this spandex side he only embraces in private now I guess. Once an Aquabat, always an Aquabat.
The floating ghost guy, not quite in heaven, and kinda hanging around, seems pretty feasible. The actual CD came with a handheld mini book of instructions of what to do when you’re dead. 1 of the steps was haunting…that alone allows it to make this Top 5.
Holy shit! It’s awesome! It’s like Siegfried and Roy were reincarnated and formed a band. Awesome make up! I feel that this album has a ‘Never Ending Story’ feel to it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I fucking nailed that one.
I’d never really thought about this topic much before, and in fact the first one on the list was the only clear choice for me. It was fun to go through all of my records, hypothetically, since my real collection is back in the states, and decide which covers really struck me as awesome. Here they are.
This album cover is absolutely beautiful and I’ve always wanted to frame it, except the album is also good so I frequently listen to the LP. I love the colors, the font, and the clarity of the clouds and sky as it bleeds into the swirl of the spiral arm of the Milky Way. Clean, gorgeous and a great name for an album as well.
Norma Jean – Redeemer
I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, but damn is it ever striking. I love it. Great record too.
Converge – Jane Doe
As far as hardcore goes, is there a more iconic album cover? It was the first piece by Jake Bannon I ever saw, and still my favorite.
The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About
I don’t know if I like this album art because it is one of my favorite albums of all time (it’s tied with Mineral – The Power of Failing), or if it’s good on its own accord. Who cares though, I love it enough to give it a spot, and I think if you went to college in the late ’90s, it probably conjures up a a few memories.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
I feel like this picture has a lot to say even though there’s not a whole lot going on. It’s like that six word short story Hemingway wrote, “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Not a lot in the content department, but it tells so much. That’s the way I feel about the looks on these two kids’ faces; so much unidentified meaning happening below the surface. It’s also the first time I can remember that at the age of 13 I looked at a cover and said, ‘Wow, that’s really cool’. Either way, great album cover, and an epic album.