At the Movies: Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass is a movie about high school kids who dress up as superheroes and (you guessed it) kick ass. The movie also has a “kick-ass” soundtrack album with artists like The Prodigy, Primal Scream, New York Dolls, Sparks and The Dickies. It also has tracks by Ennio Morricone and Elvis.


The cover art for the soundtrack is a square version of one of the many posters created for the film. The album was released digitally yesterday. The film is scheduled for release on April 16, 2010.

Posted by: zeefritz
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My Christina Aguilera Bionic cover

caguil-bionic_04.jpgWhen I first saw the album cover for the forthcoming Christina Aguilera album, Bionic (right), I took an instant dislike to it. Now that I have seen the original photograph on which the cover is based, I hate it even more.

So, I opened the photo up in Photoshop and started messing around with it to see if I could come up with an album cover that conveys the “bionic” theme without making Aguilera look like a robot zombie that has had half of its face removed. The Rocky Horror mouth that the artist pasted on her doesn’t even resemble Aguilera’s.

I also dislike the horror movie blood streams that have been applied to the typography. The typography is also very weak and not proportioned well on the image.

DebbieHarry-KooKoo2.jpgI decided to apply some futuristic tattoos to Aguilera’s face. I wanted the effect to be subtle, yet convey the idea that she is perhaps part machine. I think that the result is a nice start. The tattoos need quite a bit more detail and 3D effects, but I think this is a major improvement.

I think what I would like to end up with is something that is similar to what H.R. Giger did for Debbie Harry (right), just not as morbid and creepy. I haven’t found just the right font yet either. I think a custom font would be nice for a major artist like Aguilera. (I’ll be updating the image as I work on it.)

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Seriously, what is up with Tim Urban’s American Idol single covers?

americ-ldewyz-treath.jpgTwo weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between the cover art for American Idol contestant Tim Urban’s single and that of the other contestants. The quality of Urban’s cover was inferior to the others and included an open window with a van and a traffic light. This week, Urban’s cover art is once again different from the others.

All nine of the other contestants are shown with a bright teal background (see example, right). Instead of teal, Tim Urban’s cover (below) has a dreary gray background instead.

I have uploaded all ten of the covers to the AAX gallery. Check them out and you will see that they all have a warm light effect except for Urban’s. His is very cold and not as professional-looking as the others.

As I wrote last week, Urban was a last minute replacement for another contestant and the judges seem annoyed that he made it into the top ten. But, would they really give this young man substandard photo shoots? Perhaps Urban is making these choices himself. Either way, this has me quite puzzled.

Posted by: zeefritz

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New and Notable: Angus & Julia Stone

stonea-blackc_03.jpgThe sophomore album from Austrailian brother and sister folk duo Angus and Julia Stone is Down the Way. The album debuted at number one on the Austrailian chart and one listen makes it easy to understand why.

I saw the music video for the first single from the album, Black Crow (right) a few weeks ago on YouTube. It is a cool animated video and I am somewhat disappointed that the art used in the video doesn’t appear on at least the cover for the single.

Both the single and the album follow the recent trend of using old snapshots as album art. I guess buying disgarded vintage photo albums from thrift stores is going to be an activity that graphic designers should get used to from now on.

Using these kinds of images work well for certain projects. Albums with sentimental ballads would be my choice. However, I fear the trend is going to result in a lot of very boring album covers. In the 1980s, The Smiths started the trend of using old photos of movie stars. They were interesting, but they don’t really stand the test of time as iconic album covers.

astone-hollyw_02.jpgOne of my favorite album covers in recent years is that of Angus and Julia Stone’s Hollywood EP (right). The cover features and delightful painting of two children (assumed to be Angus and Julia) sitting in front of a television. The caligraphy is perfect and one can’t help but admire the work that the artist put into it.

The new album features a sepia-tone vintage photograph of a young man standing on a beach. It doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the album’s title. To me “Down the Way” suggests a street or a country lane. Meh.

Posted by: zeefritz

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Goldfrapp reveals cover for Alive single via Twitter

goldfr-headfi_03.jpgBritish electronic music duo Goldfrapp revealed the cover for the second single from their new album Head First via Twitter today. Alive is schedule to be released on May 24, 2010.

The cover art for Alive is similar to that of the album, featuring a photograph of Alison Goldfrapp and a surreal violet and pink sky. Rocket, the first single from the album, was released in January. Goldfrapp was shown on the cover in a pink jumpsuit and shooting a beam of light from her finger. The music video for Rocket was released on March 5.

I’m not wild about the costume Goldfrapp is wearing for this cover. The jacket isn’t tailored very well, which makes her look like she has slumped shoulders. It certainly isn’t as dramatic as the cover for Rocket

Posted by: zeefritz

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Déjà Vu: Dum Dum Girls vs. Vampire Weekend

Attention graphic designers! Please stop searching through old photo albums for snapshots of sisters, cousins, and college girlfriends to use as album covers for indie bands. It has been done. All you can hope for is giving people a déjà vu experience and you’ll force female relatives to snag all of those embarrassing Polaroids out of the family album.

Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (2010)

Posted by: zeefritz

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Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)

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Designer Spotlight: Mick Haggerty

One of my favorite graphic designers is Mick Haggerty. Over the last 40 years, he has designed countless album covers for artists such as David Bowie, ELO, The Go-Go’s, PIL, The Police, Simple Minds, and The Rolling Stones. His portfolio is vast and there is no better way to experience it than to visit Haggerty’s mulitmedia website Mixworks.

http://www.mickhaggerty.com

mick_haggerty.jpgglassj-worshi_03.jpgHaggerty has won numerous awards for his album cover designs. Probably the most notable is the 1980 Grammy Award-winning design for Supertramp’s Breakfast in America (below). Haggerty won the award for Best Package Design with Mike Doud and he has been nominated for at least three other designs, Vacation by The Go-Go’s, Steppin’ by The Pointer Sisters, and most recently Worship and Tribute by Glassjaw (right).

What I like most about Haggerty’s work is that in retrospect it has always been a perfect reflection of current pop culture. Yet, not much of it can be called dated. The slideshow at Mixworks is great because it appears to be presented on a random timeline. You can compare and contrast images produced during different eras.

Posted by: Scott

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Album Art Flashback: Dexys Midnight Runners

dexysm-comeon_03.jpgOn April 23, 1983, the single Come On Eilleen (right) by British pop group Dexys Midnight Runners gained the distinction of preventing Michael Jackson from have two consecutive number one hits on the Billboard chart. The quirky song is forever sandwiched between Jackson’s Billie Jean and Beat It.

The song was a number one hit in the United Kingdom and won the award for Best British Single at the 1983 BRIT Awards. It was also chosen number one on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s.

The song is the tenth and final track on album Too-Rye-Ay, which was the group’s second and most successful album. Too-Rye-Ay was released in August 1982 and has been categorized in the New Wave genre.

The cover for the album and the single were created by graphic designer Peter Barrett. The album art features an illustration of founder and front man Kevin Rowland. The single features Rowland and musician Helen O’Hara. The 1996 reissue of the album features a green border around the original album art.

Posted by: zeefritz

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New and Notable: Glee

If you’re wondering what the cover of next month’s chart topping album is going to look like, here it is. The forthcoming soundtrack for the Glee Madonna tribute episode is certain to be one of the most downloaded ever.

I really like the artwork for this album. The lace glove and bracelets on the “loser” hand is a perfect concept. I can’t imagine anything better.

Posted by: zeefritz

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Christina Aguilera reveals creepy Bionic album cover

I don’t know what would possess an art director to take a beautiful face like that of Christina Aguilera and mutilate it. Yet, the cover of the forthcoming Christina Aguilera album Bionic does just that.

The cover has other problems that push it toward the creepy category. The blood streams from the typography are simply a cliche. They don’t seem to have anything to do with the “bionic” concept and contribute a cheap horror movie look to the cover.

missionary_man.jpgThe first thing that I thought of when I saw the cover was how a similar concept was handled for Eurythmics 1986 music video for Missionary Man. Annie Lennox appeared with similar platinum blonde hair and bright red lipstick (right) and she was manipulated by pistons and gears. It was a cool effect that left the beautiful artist looking great, while conveying the idea that she was perhaps mechanical.

The last time we saw Aguilera on an album cover, she was wearing a ridiculous space helmet. As bad as that concept was, at least her face hadn’t been grotesquely mutilated. The left side of Aquilera’s face looks as if it has been carved away. The blood streaming from the typography behind her looks like something from a slasher film.

I think what it often comes down to is the taste level of the artist. Bad taste is why we have album covers with Millie Jackson sitting on a toilet and Christina Aguilera looking like the victim in a bad horror movie. There are probably a hundred ways to execute this “bionic” concept and make the artist look beautiful. Compare this to the Star Trek character Seven of Nine. It is possible to be beautiful and bionic.

Posted by: zeefritz

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