Last week, we posted Optigram’s selection for the best record covers of 2012, which was a great way to discover some sleeves unknown to me (and maybe you.) Naturally, there were some overlaps, most notably Jam City or Andy Stott (the latter which I included anyway), but fortunately I have collected enough over the year to come up with a full article.
Old Apparatus – Derren (Sullen Tone)
Old Apparatus released four EPs in 2012, all of them following a similar style in their artwork. My favourite is pictured above, a menacing image of some kind of man machine. One of the qualities that makes it so appealing to me is the golden metallic texture you will only get to see on the physical release.
In Aeternam Vale – D.U.B. (Minimal Wave)
In recent years, we’ve seen artists hiding behind masks to try and avoid the cult of personality, preferring their audience to be interested in their art, not the artist. But beyond mystification, masks also carry a visual quality, as exemplified by the tribal looks of last couple of SBTRKT sleeves. Pictured above is the cover for Dust Under Brightness (D.U.B.), one a collections of remastered songs by French In Aeternam Vale. Painting by Eamon Ore-Giron.
Jacques Green – Ready (3024)
Redshape – Throw In Dirt / The Land (3024)
Jon Convex – Lied To Be Loved (3024)
Jeroen Erosie has been in my book for some time now. I love his approach to street art, the flow of his lines, the use of colour. He’s been responsible all the sleeves for Martyn’s 3024 label, so I’m confident his artwork will make it in my list for years to come.
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
Despite it’s classic look, I didn’t expect the picture above to be an old photograph. You have to look closer at the imperfections, like the ripples around the head of the diver, to reveal traces of its age. Photographer Otto Bettmann has been responsible for one of the most iconic shots in the history of the medium, sold on postcards and at IKEA stores around the world, yet his name is relatively unknown. Being a fan the aesthetics in Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, this cover is an easy favourite.
fLako – Eclosure (Five Easy Pieces)
Pictures of nature, forests in particular, or the colour green alone easily win my sympathy, as you can see in the following series of three. The cover for fLako‘s most recent EP is one of my favourites of the year. Beside the visual beauty, it makes you think about the motif and the mysticism for some time. Artwork by Clemens Fantur.
Slugabed – Time Team (Ninja Tune)
I remember seeing the sleeve for Slugabed’s debut album on some worst-artwork-of-the-year lists. I can understand that people are growing tired of the triangle in general, it has been one of the most used geometric shapes in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they make bad covers per se. I’ve been thinking about this one for quite some time, trying to figure out if this was done digitally or if it’s simply a mirror put up on a meadow. Also, it looks like the gateway to the Black Lodge to me, and that speaks to the Twin Peaks fan in me. Artwork by Francisco Infante-Arana.
Gerry Read – Jummy (Fourth Wave)
Thanks to Google Earth and the likes, it’s seems so everyday to look at the earth from space. I don’t even like the typography too much, yet there’s something about this that made me include the record.
Jimmy Edgar – Sex Drive (Hotflush)
It’s funny, while Jimmy Edgars’ album would’ve easily made it on my list for the worst covers of the year (if I made one), I’m quite fond of the sleeves of his recent EPs. I like the eighties-inspired use of gradients and the (possible) hommage to that Grace Jones Citroën ad and some of her own record covers. Airbrush by Jimmy Edgar.
How about a little bonus round? I buy a lot of records and not all of them are new, actually it’s quite the opposite. Here are two more records I bought last year that I also love for their looks:
Soft Machine – Bundles (Harvest, 1975)
This is an unusual cover to say the least, but it got me thinking about it for some time: what makes a band put that in its record? The somewhat comforting, peaceful motif, the soft style of painting have probably to be seen in a Cold War context. There’s clearly something that made me remember Raymond Brigg’s When the Wind Blows, a comic book about an elderly couple living on the verge of nuclear war. Artwork by Reg Cartwright.
Liquid Liquid – Slip in and out of Phenomenon (Domino, 2008)
The cover for this greatest hits compilation seems to capture the spirit of the post-punk, no-wave hey-days of New York, which is exactly what you’ll find on this record. Artwork by Richard McGuire.