Dirty Projectors, Dolly Parton, Benny Sings and more
You should absolutely judge a book by its cover. People who design book covers get paid a lot of money to make something that will get people to buy those books. That’s why if you’re at the airport, there’s about 30 different books ripping off the Sally Rooney aesthetic because they know it will push some product. People need that perfect summer beach-read and other people know how to get it to them. Albums are no different.A good cover makes all the difference.
On my debut album Porsche,I chose to have my face cover the entire square in the hopes that if any product was indeed pushed, I could say that it was because of my face. Designing your own cover is a great crash course in Product Packaging 101 and you pick up a few do’s and don’ts pretty quickly. DO deliver a 3000 x 3000 jpeg and DO consider you’ll need extra wiggle room if you do a vinyl run. DON’T assume 3GB of remaining hard drive space will be enough. Give yourself the room you need to throw that digital paint at the digital wall. But now that we got all the commerce and money stuff out of the way, let’s talk about art.
These are some of the album covers I love and admire. I often get trapped in the creative-director-Instagram hole, stalking anyone who interned at Saatchi three summers ago and is now setting up their own shop, desperately hoping some of it will rub off because there’s just only so much I can do with Helvetica and an em dash before I’m publicly shamed in the town square. But I need inspiration, and to be honest, if you repeat yourself enough, people just say “you have a style.”
LCD Soundsystem (2005)
The video for “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” got a lot of airplay on MTV2, which was always on when I was in high school. I got to hand James Murphy a demo at a tiny 200 person show they were playing on a small French island in the Mediterranean many years ago. I was 17 and the demo was terrible. Truly unlistenable stuff. But I like to think he still has in somewhere at the DFA offices and they crack it open every time someone needs a pick me up.This album made us all like disco again. The simplicity of this cover is something I strive for on a daily basis. I’m not going to turn this into Noah’s version of Meet Me In The Bathroom, but anyone monologging over drums and a bass synth owe Murphy a check—myself very much included.
There’s a whole Instagram post that they put up recently about how this picture came to be and it’s totally worth the read. It’s one of those covers I’m genuinely jealous of. I love this album and have devoured every subsequent release with increasing enthusiasm.
Young Hearts (2023)
Benny Sings has been putting out heaters for a while and this album is no different. But really I want to use this time to talk about Bráulio Amado, who actually designed the cover, and make this an official appreciation post.Every year he puts out a book compiling all of his work for the previous year (I have yet to buy the collection, if anyone’s wondering what to buy me for my birthday <——— the complete works) and for my money I’d say it’s the most inspiring art currently out there. It’s a hard thing to have a style and let it evolve and grow but Amado makes it look effortless.
From his Good Room posters to his animation work and directing, dude’s got impeccable taste and humor. He’s turned boring lyric videos into living works of art, designed all kinds of cool merch and still keeps supporting small alternative weirdo musicians whenever he can (what’s up, let’s hang. I love you). He seems to be working with every great artist out there, making album art that reaches far and wide. There is only one of him and he must be protected at all cost.
The Cat Dresses
In lieu of any actual ABBA album covers—of which there were too many great ones to choose from—I submit this excellent picture of the four Swedes in high-heels and cat dresses. Though never actually released as an official album cover, this tells you everything you need to know about the benefits of Swedish socialized health care. Only a truly happy and confident someone with perfect body and mind would be willing to pose for such a picture. I can’t wait for those perfect holographic smiles to come rushing at me as the ABBA arena erupts with ecstasy. Anybody got a good white-boot-guy? Coz I’m gonna need one.
I thought I’d try and include as many Japanese imports as possible, but tthey’re not always super easy to track down. I’ve never been to Japan nor can I say more than a handful of words, but the language looks great and aesthetics are everything. Like most of the album covers on this list, this one is also the product of a multi-hyphenate. So-Me is an incredible designer and director and a world class aesthete, having served as in-house graphics dude during Ed Banger’s heyday. Justice were our Daft Punk. We bought into the lore so easily and did everything we could to imitate them and their style. We still do.
I left my sister’s for LAX and made a pitstop to go see Jake Longstreth’s latest show at the Nino Mier gallery in L.A. on a sunny Friday afternoon. I almost missed my flight because rush hour is very alive and I was having difficulty peeling myself away. I was having too good of a time. Truly one of my favorite exhibitions I’ve been to in a long time, and it being the middle of a work day, myself and the two gallerists were the only people in the building. I hope I get to own one or two of his paintings one day. So dry, so funny, so detailed. What a beautiful collection. It’s really satisfying seeing the artwork for each EP laid out side by side and I urge you to check out everything both artists have ever done. Mama and Papa Longstreth did something right. They made two amazing artists and it’s great to see the brothers working together here.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul
Topical Dancer (2022)
It’s hard to find a Dee Wee release I don’t love. They know how to do it. Along with the brothers Soulwax, Adigéry and Pupul make me proud to be Belgian. It’s a perfect record. It’s funny when it wants to be, it’s made to dance to and the modular synth stuff is just a whole lotta ear-candy. Ill Studio’s art direction on the singles, videos and album is something else. Blissfully simple and playfully weird.
Maybe it’sbecause we’ve spent the week painting our built-in wardrobes yellow, but I wanted to close out this list with Dolly Parton’s thirteenth solo studio album. Featuring a photograph by Hope Powell, this is a cover I’ve been threatening to re-create for years and years but have been too afraid I’ll mess it up somehow. I think I might try to bring back the hardcoded featuring the hit single thing on my next record, but only mention the most albumest of album tracks instead of any focus track. I’m going to wrap this up now because we’re shooting the video for “Game Over” tomorrow morning and right now it’s Sunday night and it’s going to have to be the quickest turnaround, but please go look up the many artists and designers and creative directors mentioned here and buy stuff from their websites and keep their lights on because they have the keys to my art heart and having them in this world means there’s a chance me and them could work together and that’s all I ever want. You’re actually doing me a favor. Thanks.
This article first appeared in musebycl.io
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