My choice for the best album cover of 2011 featuring a photograph is If Not Now, When? by Incubus. The photograph of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit was taken in the 1970s by Thierry Orbach. Art dirction is credited to Sheri Lee and Incubus vocalist Brandon Boyd.
The album cover was selected the best album cover for the week of July 12, 2011 in our AlbumArtExchange Blog poll. It received 39% of the votes cast by our readers.
For a second year, the AlbumArtExchange.com Blog has been asking readers to vote on the Best Album Covers for the Week all year. Since we have passed the halfway mark of 2011, it is time to do a recap of the 25 album covers that have been selected as the best of the year so far.
The covers below are presented in chronological order. As always, you can click the image to see a larger view.
Contrary to what we often see reported by pop culture critics, the album cover is not a dead art form. During 2010, we saw quite a few remarkable album covers. A few represent some of the best modern works in the fields of photography, illustration, and graphic design.
The album covers below are listed in countdown order from #10 to #1. There is also an honorable mention at the end of the list.
#10 Retribution Gospel Choir – 2
Art Direction: Jeff Kleinsmith
#9 Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back
Graphic Design: Marc Beesant
#8 Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two
Art Direction: Kyledidthis; Erykah Badu Illustration: Emek
#7 Devo – Something for Everybody
Creative Direction: Mother Los Angeles
Photography: Joshua Dalsimer Design: Danny Phelps
#6 Elvis Costello – National Ransom
Art Direction: Larissa Collins Illustration: Tony Millionaire
#5 UNKLE – Where Did the Night Fall
Art Direction: Warren du Preez; Nick Thornton Jones
#4 Brian Wilson – Reimagines Gershwin
Art Direction: Steve Gerdes Illustration: Steve Sterling
#3 Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
Art Direction: Jo Ratcliffe Original Painting: Will Cotton
#2 Widespread Panic – Dirty Side Down
Artwork: Marq Spusta
#1 Sade – Soldier of Love
Art Direction: Sophie Muller
Honorable Mention: Michael Jackson – Michael
Cover Art: Kadir Nelson
Now that the decade has officially come to an end, it is time to publish my lists of the best album covers of the decade, 2000 to 2009. I know that many websites begin publishing their “best of” lists in December, but I wanted to wait until after New Year’s Day. Otherwise, people just keep publishing their lists earlier and earlier — kind of like putting up Christmas decorations in October.
An honorable mention goes to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. The optical illusion is created by a unique combination of art and science, thanks to Japanese Psychology professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka.
Honorable Mention: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Number five on my list of the best album cover illustrations is Beastie Boys To the 5 Boroughs. The album cover features an amazing illustration of the New York City skyline. The design was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package in 2005.
Number four on my list is the cover of 10,000 Days by Tool. It is a very unusual painting done in black and silver tones. I believe it is one of the first album covers that really looks best on a high resolution computer monitor. Shifting your gaze brings out more detail. The design won the Grammy for Best Recording Package in 2007.
In second place is The Fogotten Arm by Amie Mann. This retro illustration of a boxing match won the Grammy for Best Recording Package in 2006. The cover is designed to look like that of a pulp fiction novel.
My choice for the best album cover illustration is of the entire decade is Attics to Eden by Madina Lake. The fantasy painting by fine artist/illustrator Lynden St. Victor is one of the few that I would like to frame and hang on my wall.
I know that there were many other great album cover illustrations created during the decade. Like most “best of” lists for the decade, several of my favorites are from this year — that’s due as much to changing tastes and styles as lack of memory. If I’ve left out one of your favorites, let me know by posting a comment.