2016 saw a wealth of releases from musicians with a conscious effort in giving their work the artistic platform it deserved. From Bauhaus-inspired efforts and subtle illustration work to age-old photography and artwork that offers more than meets the eye, take a look at some of the best album covers from the past 12 months.
01. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Artist Eric Timothy Carlson collaborated with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on the artwork at the same time that Vernon was recording the new album. Packed full of symbolism, each song was given an individual icon and challenged a different aesthetic to what had previously been delivered with the Bon Iver project.
02. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Stanley Donwood is responsible for another iconic Radiohead cover. Attaching speakers from the band’s studio to his work room, he was able to take influence from the tracks for the final cover piece. The band also encouraged fans to create their own cover, with the release of Donwood’s ‘How to Make Your Own A Moon Shaped Pool Artwork in 66 Easy Steps’ booklet.
03. David Bowie – Blackstar
Sleeve designer Jonathan Barnbook wasn’t going to let David Bowie leave us without a truly stunning artistic accompaniment to his final album. Earlier this year, fans discovered that by leaving the vinyl sleeve exposed to sunlight, the artwork transformed to reveal a galaxy of stars. The perfect parting gift for our Starman.
04. Half Waif – Probable Depths
Created by artist Maria Conejo, their work focuses on shapes of the human body, without the distraction of a face or a head. The cover for New York musician Half Waif suggests a longing for meaning; a body searching for a reflection of who they’re supposed to be. With a backdrop that deters from showcasing a particular time of day, the simple colour choices bring a certain magic to the forefront.
05. Biosphere – Departed Glories
The photo on the cover of Norwegian artist Biosphere’s first album in over five years was taken more than a hundred years ago. Taken by photographer and scientist Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, a collection of his works was recently discovered, showcasing a vivid Russian empire. Prokudin-Gorsky pioneered a form of colour photography by using three sheets of glass to bring his images to life.
06. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
The first album from the iconic group in almost two decades, A Tribe Called Quest have taken inspiration from the past for a forward-thinking and fresh cover. The artwork pays homage to Tribe’s sophomore album ‘The Low End Theory’ and brings the project into the modern era with a woman taking a selfie.
07. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
British songwriter James Blake teamed up with iconic Roald Dahl collaborator Sir Quentin Blake on the cover art for his album ‘The Colour in Anything’. Various sightings of posters and billboards of Blake’s watercolour work appeared ahead of the release, with some noticing the inclusion of a naked woman in the final piece.
08. Shura – Nothing’s Real
Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy is a graphic artist and illustrator based in London, with her style ingrained in a mix of hand-drawn line and digital colour. She created this fun cover for Shura’s debut album – as well as a colouring book – with art direction by Mat Maitland and original photography by Andrew Whitton.
09. C. Duncan – The Midnight Sun
Christopher Duncan is not only a musician but he’s also an accomplished painter, creating cover art for each of his own records. Stating that he aims to express the same musical ideas through painted image, the cover for ‘The Midnight Sun’ depicts the view from Duncan’s apartment into the stairwell.
10. Deftones – Gore
Despite the album title having a particularly dark aspect to it, frontman Chino Moreno has said that the album artwork aims to be a juxtaposition of that. Speaking to Kerrang, he said “I think Deftones have always flirted with dynamic and that yin-and-yang of things that are provocative and things that are beautiful.”
Next page: 10 more of the best album covers of 2016…