Album Cover Hall of Fame’s “Best (and Worst) Album Cover Art” listings for the year 2013, along with summary and analysis
by Mike Goldstein, Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
December 27th, 2013 – Portland, OR, USA
It’s that time of year again, folks! It’s when your Curator scours the globe to bring you a summary of what music and art critics present as their “best of” and “worst of” lists regarding the album covers and packaging that helps deliver – both online and in physical form – music from your favorite artists. As I noted in last year’s summary, “each year, music and art critics work to provide readers and viewers with their ‘Top 10′ lists in a variety of categories (by musical genre, by who most-effected pop culture, by who raised the bar, by who revealed the most of their inner souls or their outer skin, etc.). Many of these same publications and sites also attempt to arrive at – by their design standards and/or knowledge of the relationships between musicians, their record labels/distributors and the people they hire to create a new graphical representation of their latest music releases – which records came with the best (or worst) associated album covers.
Some lists were the opinions of a publication’s reporter or staff, while others reflect the votes of readers of those publications, but whether they approach these surveys from the angle of music fan, the art fan or simply from folks that appreciate the importance of good album art (to the promotion and sale of music and/or a musical act’s image), these lists do provide some interesting insights into the “art of criticism”, as do the comments submitted by those who agree or disagree with the final poll results.
And so, presented along with a little analysis of whose artwork seems to gather the most attention on one or both of the lists (and in no particular order), here are the “best of” and “worst of” lists from sources around the world for Best and/or Worst Album Covers for 2013. As always, please be sure to let us know which of these lists best-represented your feelings on the topic by leaving a comment for us, below – thanks, and best (not worst) wishes to you all for a very Happy New Year 2014!
Most mentions in Top 10 “Best” Lists – There were several albums that appeared multiple times in the various “best of” lists sourced for this article, including: Kanye West – Yeezus; Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze; Atoms for Peace – Amok; Drake – Nothing Was The Same; David Bowie – The Next Day and Janelle Monae – Electric Lady. Others that appeared often include The National – Trouble Will Find Me; Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus ; Disclosure – Settle; Sigur Ros – Kveikur; Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap and Arcade Fire – Reflektor. I hope to be able to interview some of the creatives who produced these popular images soon as I’m sure that there are some great stories behind many of them.
Most mentions in Top 10 “Worst” Lists – Two covers stood out in the number of times they were mentioned – Kanye West’s Yeezus and Mosquito by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, followed closely by Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz, MBV by My Bloody Valentine, Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time, Jason Derulo’s Tattoos and Action Bronson’s Saaab Stories which, based on the notes that accompanied the images, seemed to be the most universally despised for its rather tasteless depiction of the rapper in a bathroom with two strangely-posed, scantily-clad women (sigh!).
To add some credence to the notion that “art” to some is “garbage” to others, a few of the “best of” selections – Kanye’s simple picture of “what’s inside” on the cover of Yeezus, Chance The Rapper’s psychedelic (?) self portrait on Acid Rap and Sky Ferreira’s caught-naked-in-the-shower cover for Night Time, My Time, as examples – appear regularly on both lists.
“Best” lists – listed alphabetically, by name of publication, along with the name of the editor(s) responsible for the listings, followed by the link to the article and the “Top 3″ selections on their lists:
A Closer Listen – Nayt Keane - http://acloserlisten.com/2013/12/16/acl-2013-the-years-best-album-covers/ 1. Ricarda Cometa – Ricarda Cometa; 2. Tiago Sousa – Samsara; 3. Oiseaux Tempeta – Oiseaux Tempeta
Baeble Music – Staff Editors – http://www.baeblemusic.com/musicblog/12-13-2013/The-Best-and-Worst-Album-Art-of-2013.html 1. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus; 2. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze; 3. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath The Moon
The Boombox – Andrew Martin – http://theboombox.com/10-best-album-covers-of-2013/ 1. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris; 2. Pusha T – My Name is My Name; 3. Kanye West – Yeezus
Brightest Young Things (NYC edition) – John Foster – http://nyc.brightestyoungthings.com/articles/best-album-art-of-2013.htm – 1. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze; 2. Evol Ai’s – Dark Disco; 3. Leverage Model – Leverage Model
Chartattack.com – Dan Busheikin – http://www.chartattack.com/features/2013/12/16/10-best-album-covers-of-2013-with-desktopmobile-wallpaper-versions/ 1. Sigur Ros – Kveikur; 2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; 3. Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return
Complex.com – Gus Turner – http://www.complex.com/art-design/2013/12/best-album-covers-2013/ 1. 2 Chainz – B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time; 2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor; 3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The Daily Princetonian (Intersections section) various authors – http://dailyprincetonian.com/blogs/intersections/2013/12/best-of-2013-top-10-album-covers/ 1. Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; 2. Darwin Deez – Songs For Imaginative People; 3. Deafheaven – Sunbather
Diffuser.fm – Emily Tan – http://diffuser.fm/best-album-covers-of-2013/ 1. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time; 2. David Bowie – The Next Day; 3. Janelle Monae – Electric Lady
Gigwise – Michael Baggs – http://www.gigwise.com/photos/87160/the-best-album-art-of-2013-judging-music-by-its-cover 1. Los Campesinos – No Blues; 2. Karinsky – Outrun; 3. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Hip Hop Site – Staff Editors – http://www.hiphopsite.com/2013/12/19/hhs-2013-year-in-review-best-cover-art/ 1. Ghostface Killah + Adrian Younge – 12 Reasons To Die; 2. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name: Deluxe Edition; 3. Q-Tip + Busta Rhymes – The Abstract & The Dragon
Hot New Hip Hop – Dhruva Balram – http://www.hotnewhiphop.com/hnhh-s-ten-best-album-covers-of-2013-news.8637.html 1. Willie The Kid – Aquamarine; 2. Mac Miller – Watching Movies With The Sound Off; 3. Killer Mike & El-P – Run The Jewels
iHipHop.com – Victoria Coker – http://www.ihiphop.com/blog/the-5-best-hip-hop-album-covers-of-2013-2/ 1. Drake – Nothing Was The Same; 2. A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP; 3. Wale – The Gifted
Juice Nothing blog – Editor – http://juicenothing.blogspot.com/2013/11/10-best-album-cover-artworks-of-2013.html 1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away; 2. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law; 3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Juno Plus – Editors – http://www.junodownload.com/plus/2013/12/10/best-of-2013-a-best-record-sleeve-review/ 1. William Burnett – Black Deer; 2. Powell – Fizz; 3. Funkineven – Chips & Sweets
The Monitors – Editors – http://www.the-monitors.com/2013/12/18/2013-the-year-in-album-covers/ 1. Holden – The Inheritors; 2. Braids – Flourish//Perish; 3. Atoms For Peace – Amok
MuchMusic.com – Melody – http://blog.muchmusic.com/the-10-best-album-covers-of-2013/ 1. Tegan & Sara – Heart Throb; 2. Disclosure – Settle; 3. Tyler The Creator – Wolf
Musiclipse.com – Alexandre G – a list, actually, derived from the Best Art Vinyl nominees – http://www.musiclipse.com/misc/best-cover-albums-of-2013 1. Babyshambles – Sequel To The Prequel; 2. Yo La Tengo – Fade; 3. Atoms For Peace – Judge, Jury & Executioner
Paste Magazine – Josh Jackson – http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2013/12/the-30-best-album-covers-of-2013.html 1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; 2. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze; 3. Deerhunter – Monomania
Pepsi’s “Pulse” site – Kyle Hodge – http://www.pepsi.com/en-us/d/content/15535603/Best-Album-Art-of-2013-So-Far 1. Disclosure – Settle; 2. Shout Out Loud – Optica; 3. Foals – Holy Fire
Pitchfork – Michael Renaud – http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/9275-the-top-25-album-covers-of-2013/ 1. Deafheaven – Sunbather; 2. Janelle Monae – Electric Lady; 3. Baths – Obisidian
Rock The Body Electric – E. Carle – http://www.rockthebodyelectric.com/2013/12/year-in-review-2013-best-album-art.html 1. Arctic Monkeys – A.M.; 2. Hanni El Khatib – Head In the Dirt; 3. A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP
Sputnik Music – Zenith Lazerstorm – http://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?memberid=733082&listid=135489 1. Inter Arma – Sky Burial; 2. Deafheaven – Sunbather; 3. Ice Age – You’re Nothing
The 405 – Stuart Fowkes – http://thefourohfive.com/news/article/best-artwork-of-2013 1. Jon Hopkins – Immunity; 2. The Simonsound – The Beam; 3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
“Worst” lists – listed alphabetically, by name of publication, along with the name of the editor(s) responsible for the listings, followed by the link to the article and the “Top 3″ (or, is that “Bottom 3″) selections on their lists:
Baeble Music – Staff Editors – http://www.baeblemusic.com/musicblog/12-13-2013/The-Best-and-Worst-Album-Art-of-2013.html 1. Eric Clapton – Old Sock; 2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito; 3. My Bloody Valentine – MBV
Brightest Young Things (Wash DC edition) – John Foster (designer, owner of design firm Bad People Good Things) – http://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/worst-album-art-2013.htm 1. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time; 2. Comanechi – You Owe Me Nothing But Love; 3. Mystical Weapons – Mystical Weapons
Gigwise – Michael Baggs – http://www.gigwise.com/photos/86864/the-50-ugliest-and-worst-album-covers-of-2013 and Gigwise, again – Michael, Andrew, Gaby, Ed and Hywel – http://www.gigwise.com/photos/85178/the-50-worst-album-covers-of-2013 Not listed in order of preference, but mentioned at the top were 1. Jason Derulo – Tattoos; 2. Puscifer – Donkey Punch The Night; 3. Bo Bruce – Before I Slepp
Hip Hop Site – Staff writers – http://www.hiphopsite.com/2013/12/17/hhs-2013-year-in-review-worst-cover-art/ 1. Kanye West – Yeezus; 2. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris; 3. Wale – The Gifted
Idolator – Carl Williott – http://www.idolator.com/7498696/worst-album-covers-2013 1. Mac Miller — Watching Movies With The Sound Off; 2. Miley Cyrus — Bangerz; 3. Drake — Nothing Was The Same
The Monitors – Editors – http://www.the-monitors.com/2013/12/18/2013-the-year-in-album-covers/ 1. White Hills – So You Are… So You’ll Be; 2. When Saints Go Machine – Infinity Pool; 3. The Field – Cupid’s Head
The 405 – Stuart Fowkes – http://thefourohfive.com/news/article/worst-artwork-of-2013 1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito; 2. Salvia Plath – The Bardo Story; 3. Lofty – Intimacy 3
Let’s hope that the music industry continues to impress – and horrify – us with their ongoing efforts to deliver memorable packaging for their new releases in 2014.
Happy New Year!