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.
Last week I was introduced to a great new unknown band called The Antlers. The new album Hospice is a dark orchestral and electronic pop album that recalls Arcade Fire’s bombast and the quivering and mannered voice of Antony. The song that sold me was the opener “Kettering.” But this one below really blew me away this morning while eating breakfast and reading the news; it’s much more joyful and upbeat musically, though of course a hint of sadness in the lyrics.
UPDATE 3/11: Just saw The Antlers perform live tonight at The Black Cat for probably 35 people tops. We were taping the show for NPR Music to put up at a later date, but all I can say is wow. Going in, didn’t know what to expect: For as intricate and full a sound they have on the album, I was curious if they would be able to recreate it live, or if they would adapt the material. Many bands like this often end up a tad underwhelming or pale in comparison.
But The Antlers — with only 3 members (guitarist\vocalist, drummer, keyboardist on a Fender Rhodes) — managed to capture the songs but expand upon them in new ways…usually in a wash of guitar feedback and heavily distorted Fender Rhodes fed through a myriad of pedals and a Korg mini synth. Although the set was quite short, it definitely was pretty great. They’ll be a really good band if they keep it up. I shall post a link to audio when the concert goes live on NPR Music.