Best And Worst Album Cover Art Lists – 2014 – Summary And Analysis

Album Cover Hall of Fame’s “Best (and Worst) Album Cover Art” listings for the year 2014, along with summary and analysis

by Mike Goldstein, Curator/Editor,

December 26th, 2014 – Portland, OR, USA (updated December 31, 2014)

At the end of every year, the writers working for art/music/design publications of every size put themselves in a position that your Curator (hey, that’s me!) will most-certainly never put himself in – i.e., having to name the “best” and “worst” album cover designs of the previous 12 months and then, somehow, justifying those choices to readers who, inevitably, will accept some of those decisions with great gusto and then mercilessly berate the choices that disagree with (or those that, Heaven forbid, have been left off these lists altogether!). Now that it is that time of year again, yours truly has completed his research and is ready to offer you his summary of what these esteemed music and art critics have presented as their “best of” and “worst of” selections regarding the album covers and packaging that helps deliver – both online and in physical form – music from your favorite artists.

As I have noted in my previous summaries, “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.” This year, I found a number of new publications and sites who were eager to proffer their opinions on the “state of the art” in album cover design, so there was a lot of new data to take into account.

The people making these selections for their respective publications bring varying degrees of education, expertise and personal opinion to the lists they produce, while others reflect the votes of readers of those publications, but whether they approach these surveys from the angle of industry expert, educated fan or simply the findings of people 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 both the “art of criticism” and the passions of the fans that provide their commentary on the final poll results. One thing that I can assure you of is that works from all over the musical map have been included in these lists – I’m constantly amazed at the number of acts I’ve never heard of who have invested significantly into the effort of creating compelling and memorable album graphics.

In conclusion, our summary is presented to you today along with a little analysis of whose artwork seems to have garnered the most attention (in the form of mentions) on one or both of the lists. The sources tapped to provide us with the raw data for our 2014 “Best Of” and “Worst Of” findings are listed below our summary info in alphabetical order.

Most mentions in “Best Of 2014” Lists – There were several albums that appeared multiple times – 3X or more – in the various “best of” lists sourced for this article, including:

Aphex Twin – Syro (5 Top Ten Mentions)

Chet Faker – Built On Glass (3 mentions)

FKA twigs – LP1 (15 mentions)

Amy Kohn – PlexiLusso (3 mentions)

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (3 mentions)

The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (3 mentions)

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (4 mentions)

Rustie – Green Language (5 mentions)

St. Vincent – St. Vincent (4 mentions)

Swans – To Be Kind (4 mentions)

Taylor Swift – 1989 (3 mentions)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (3 mentions)

FKA twigs, LP1, Young Turks, Jesse Banda, album cover, Grammy, nomination, record sleeve, record cover, album cover art

FKA twigs LP1 Album Cover – Copyright 2014 – Young Turks/Jesse Kanda








Two covers – those for Swans and St. Vincent – each received 4 positive nods, while two more – the covers for Aphex Twin and Rustie – were mentioned five times, but the clear favorite this year, getting an astounding 15 different mentions, was the controversial work for the debut record by U.K. recording artist FKA twigs (titled LP1), which has also been nominated for a “Best Recording Package” award at the 2015 Grammy Awards next February.

Regarding our methodology, here’s a bit more information – As some of the lists include more than a “Top 10”, while others had fewer, I chose to include 10 from each list unless the lists either a) were not listing in any particular order, as stated by their authors, or b) contained just a few more entries (it seemed petty to exclude #s 11 and 12 in a list that contained 12 “Best Of” entries. Not scientific, but a bit more inclusionary, don’t you think?). 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. One artist to note – Jesse Kanda – is credited for creating two of the most-mentioned covers – FKA twigs’ LP1 and Arca’s Xen,  so we’d like to extend our congratulations (and an invitation to a future interview) to this talented artist for “hitting the jackpot” in 2014.

Most mentions in “Worst Of 2014” Lists –

Mariah Carey – Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse (2 mentions)

Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems (3 mentions)

Joey Essex – Essex Anthems (2 mentions)

Aretha Franklin – Sings The Great Diva Classics (2 mentions)

Jennifer Hudson – JHUD (2 mentions)

Kasabian – 48:13 (2 mentions)

Moodymann – Moodymann (2 mentions)

The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell (3 mentions)

Riff Raff – Neon Icon (2 mentions)

Steel Panther – All You Can Eat (3 mentions)

Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack (2 mentions)

Unlike other years, 2014 did not feature any true stand-out in the “Worst” category. Based on the notes that accompanied the images, even though only three covers received 3 mentions, these were seemingly the most universally despised for either their rather tasteless depictions of a) the Last Supper with strippers (Steel Panther) or a backside portrait of a naked woman with signage pointing the way down her buttocks (and we’re supposed to find…what?), as featured on the Going To Hell image. In the case of both Leonard Cohen’s cover and the one on Kasabian’s 48:13, the art directors behind those projects were mostly chastised for their apparent laziness (sigh!).

Bad, Good or Simply Controversial?  To add some credence to the notion that “art” to some is “garbage” to others, a few of the “best of” selections –

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek To Cheek (Some liked the cross-generational approach, while others proposed that it was a bridge too far)

Jason Derulo – Talk Dirty (It reminded some of those memorable 80s R&B covers, while it reminded others of those “exploitative” 80s R&B covers)

Moodymann – Moodymann (Some found it brave and funny; others found it in offensive in so many ways)

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (To some, it was an updated version of The Beatles’ “Butcher Cover;, to others, it was just gross)

Swans – To Be Kind (Some praised it for its stark minimalism; others asked “where’s the rest of the cover?”)

Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End (Some loved the typical, comical/low-brow cartoon-style artwork, while others considered it childish)

Pharrell Williams – GIRL (Pharrell in a bathrobe surrounded by pretty girls – you either like it or you don’t – if you don’t, “c’mon get happy!)

– also appeared regularly the “worst of” lists.

Interesting New Trend(s) In Album Cover Design – Whether it produces works of quality or not has yet to be determined, but it certainly delivers works that are the bases of heated discussions about their merit and why in the blazes successful musical acts are happy to turn over an important aspect of their public visibility – i.e., the covers of their latest musical releases – to their fan bases. What I’m talking about, of course, are the cases where the designers behind the covers featured on the latest records by several top acts are the winners of “Design My Album Cover” competitions. Examples of this in 2014 include the covers of records by Counting Crows (Somewhere Under Wonderland), The Game (Blood Moon: Year Of The Wolf), Rayna James (The Parts I Remember), Lifehouse (Seven), Maroon 5 (V), Matisyahu (Akeda) and Joss Stone (Water For Your Soul), among others. Winners were awarded with a variety of valuables – album credits, cash, autographed merchandise, concert tickets, meet and greets, etc. – but can anyone tell me whether a) they’re getting any royalties or b) their careers as album cover designers were launched by their wins in these competitions?

These collaborative efforts between musical acts and their fans look as though they’ll continue to grow in 2015. Visitors to the site will find an ever-expanding lists of “fan-sourced” art projects for acts in many genres…I hope to find out more about these efforts and report back to you regarding their details in upcoming posts.

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 only “Best Of” Wishes to you all for a very Happy New Year 2015!

 Research References:

“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″ selections on their lists:

A Closer Listen – Nate Keane AKA “Nayt2012” –

36 – Dream Tempest; Ian William Craig – A Turn of Breath; Fennesz – Becs; A Giant Fern – September Crop Tape Series; Plinth – Wintersongs; Obo – Innhverfi; Richard Pinhas & Yoshida Tatsuya – Welcome In The Void; Traquility Tapes Label Focus; BBS – Coltre Manto; Rumour Cubes – Appearances Of Collections

Billboard Magazine – Billboard Staff –

Betty Who – Take Me When You Go; Cher Lloyd – Sorry I’m Late; Hozier – Hozier; Iggy Azalea – The New Classic; Jack White – Lazaretto; Jason Derulo – Talk Dirty; Jenny Lewis – The Voyager; K. Michelle – Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart; Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek To Cheek; FKA Twigs – LP1

The Boombox – Emily Tan –

FKA Twigs – LP1; The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin; PRhyme – PRhyme; The Game – Blood Moon: Year Of The Wolf; Jhene Aiko – Souled Out; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2; Ab-Soul – These Days; Luke James – Luke James; YG – My Krazy Life; W-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow

Brightest Young Things – John Foster –

Ian William Craig – A Turn Of Breath; Taylor Swift – 1989; Oneohtrix Point Never – Commissions 1; Homeshake – In The Shower; Matt Kivel – Days Of Being Wild; Liars – Mess; The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers; Bonobo – Flashlight; FKA Twigs – LP1; Clipping – CLPPNG

Complex – Complex Magazine Staff –

Nicki Minaj – The Pink Print; David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed; FKA Twigs – LP1; Aphex Twin – Syro; The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin; Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!; ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron; YG – My Krazy Life; Rome Fortune – Small VVorld;  Blu – Good To Be Home

FACT Magazine – Editors –

FKA Twigs – LP1; Rome Fortune – Small World; SD Laika – That’s Harakiri; Slug Christ – Genocide; PC Music – Disown Radio Mix; Gazelle Twin – Unflesh; Lawrence English – Wilderness Of Mirrors; Beatking – Pole Sex EP; Scott Walker & Sun O))) – Soused; Moodyman – Moodyman; Untold – Black Light Spiral

Fubiz sites – Donnia – (also available in French at  )

SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land; FKA Twigs – LP1; SOHN – Tremors; Caribou – Our Love; TVOTR – Seeds; Chet Faker – Built On Glass; S. Carey – Range Of Light; Rustie – Green Language; Sarh – Sarh; Future Islands – Singles

FUSE TV –  Fuse Staff  –

Michelle – K. Michelle; Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways; Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Tastes; The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends; Taylor Swift – 1989; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2; Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!; Rustie – Green Language; Royal Blood – Royal Blood; FKA Twigs LP1

HotNewHipHop – Angus Walker –

GoldLink – The God Complex; Logic Under Pressure; Rick Ross – Mastermind; Nehruvian DOOM – Nehruvian DOOM; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2; Travi$ Scott – Days Before Rodeo; Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron; Nicki Minaj – The Pink Print; Rome Fortune – Beautiful Pimp II & Small World; Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata

It’s Nice That – James Cartwright  –

Husbandmen – Anti-Glacial; Babe – Volery Flighty; The XX – Coexist; Amy Kohn – PlexiLusso; Strange Hands – Dead Flowers; Kelis – Food

Juice Nothing – Jared Woods –

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden; SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land; Liars – Mess; Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End; Anubis Gate – Horizons; Wrestlerish – Greater Goods and Lesser Evils; Paloma Faith – A Perfect Contradiction; J Mascis – Tied to a Star; Benighted – Carnivore Sublime; Steel Panther – All You Can Eat

Last FM – Paulo Ewerton  –

(Listed alphabetically – not sure of ranking. Did not include covers for singles) – Aphex Twin – Syro; Arca – Xen; Ariana Grande – My Everything; FKA Twigs – LP1; How to Dress Well – “What Is This Heart?”; Jenny Hval & Susanna – Meshes of Voice; Kindness – Otherness; Lykke Li – I Never Learn; Perfume Genius – Too Bright; Pharmakon – Bestial Burden; Ramona Lisa – Arcadia; Rustie – Green Language; St. Vincent – St. Vincent; Vessel – Punish, Honey; Youth Code – A Place To Stand

Music Times – Joey DeGroot –

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun; J. Mascis – Tied To A Star; FKA twigs – LP1; Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End; Swans – To Be Kind; Meatbodies – Meatbodies; Aphex Twin – Syro; The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin; Grouper – Ruins; St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Paste Magazine – Liz Shinn and Alisan LeMay –

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold; Aphex Twin – Syro; Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant; Broken Bells – After The Disco; Shattered – Reigning Sound; Real Estate – Atlas; Pharrell Williams – Girl; Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita; Lake Street Drive – Bad Self Portraits; Total Control – Typical System; The Growlers – Chinese Fountain

PhotogMusic – Ming –   (Canadian and Non-Canadian sections)

Canadian – Always – Always; Silkken Laumann – Not Forever Enough; Ryan Hemsworth – Alone For The First Time; Rich Aucoin – Ephemeral; Caribou – Our Love; Non-Canadian – Lykke Li – I Never Learn; The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream; FKA Twigs – LP1; First Aid Kit – Stay Gold; Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

Pitchfork Magazine – Michael Renaud –

FKA twigs – LP1; Amy Kohn – PlexiLusso; Actress – Ghettoville; clipping. – CLPPNG; Elisa Ambrogio – The Immoralist; Rustie – Green Language; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There; Feadz – Instant Alpha; Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation!; St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Print Magazine – Douglas Wolk –  (since this is a subscription-only service, I could only find mention of the top 2 covers in this list, courtesy of the folks at  –

Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business; Swans – To Be Kind

Rate Your Music – Ramon R Duarte –

Burial Hex – The Hierophant; Boyfrndz – Breeder; The Heartbreaks – We May Yet Stand A Chance; Anonymous 4 – Love Fail; Makulatura – Prologue; Kimbra – The Golden Echo; NKVD – Hakmarrja; Torn Hawk – Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time; Kant Freud Kafka – No Tengas Miedo; PsiloCybian – Brain Dissolver

Rock The Body Electric – E. Carle –

The Black Keys – Turn Blue; Gina Chavez – up.rooted; S. Carey – Range Of Light; Warpaint – Warpaint

Stereotonic – Christopher Tobias –

(Presented in no particular order) All Delighted People – Fears Drowning, Hopes Rising; Flagship Romance -Fee Fie Foe Fum; Ben Shive -The Cymbal Crashing Clouds; Propaganda -Crimson Cord; Act So Big Forest Family – Holiday Compilation Vol. 7; Lauren Mann & The Fairly Odd Folk – Over Land and Sea; The Simple Parade – Confetti; Run the Willow – The Wilderness Below EP; Nathan Roberts and the New Birds – Nathan Roberts and the New Birds; Amos Lee – Chill In The Air; August York – Swimming Upstream

Take 40 – Staff –

FKA Twigs – LP1; Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint; Troye Sivan – TRXYE; Chet Faker – Built On Glass; Kimbra – The Golden Echo; Kate Miller Heidke – O Vertigo!; The Black Keys – Turn Blue; Taylor Swift – 1989; OKGo – Hungry Ghosts; Angus & Julia Stone – Angus & Julia Stone

The 405 – Stuart Fowkes –

Woman’s Hour – Conversations; Thurston Moore – The Best Day; Warpaint – Warpaint; Trash Talk – No Peace; Grouper – Ruins; The Advisory Circle – From Out Here; Paddox – Aphrodisiaque; Tinariwen – Emmaar; Disappears – Era; Liars – Mess

Turntable Kitchen – Bastien Rayno –

FKA twigs – LP1; Glass Animals – Zaba; Future Islands – Singles; Sohn – Tremors; Chet Faker – Built On Glass; Fear Of Men – Loom; Real Estate – Atlas; Brett – Brett; Woman’s Hour – Conversations; Caribou – Our Love

Under The Radar Magazine – Christian Koons –

FKA Twigs – LP1; Future Islands – Singles; Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love; Pharmakon – Bestial Burden; Eagulls – Eagulls; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There; Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE; Ema – The Future’s Void; Quilt – Held In Splendor; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2; Swans – To Be Kind

The Vinyl Factory – Staff –

Ian Humberstone & David Chatton Barker -Theo Brown And The Folklore Of Dartmoor; Actress – Ghettoville/Hazyville Box; Aphex Twin – Syro; Holly Herndon – Body Sound; Alloy Orchestra – 10/12/13 Man With The Movie Camera; Russell Haswell – 37 Minute Workout; Modern Art – Circuit Lights; Denaji – Unthank 0006; Sculpture – Plastic Infinite; Richard Moss & Ben Frost – The Enclave

You The Designer – Gian Bautista –

FKA twigs – LP1; Amy Kohn – PlexiLusso; Rustie – Green Language; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There; Feadz – Instant Alpha; St. Vincent – St. Vincent; Swans – To Be Kind; Strange Hands – Realm Of Dawn; Glass Animals – Zaba; SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land; Ice Age – Plowing Into The Field Of Love; Arca – Xen


“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″ selections on their lists:

Billboard Magazine – Billboard Staff –

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Franklin Sings The Best Diva Classics; Ace Frehley – Space Invader; Chevelle – La Gargola; Finch – Back To Oblivion; Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes; Jamie Lynn Spears – The Journey; Jennifer Hudson – JHUD; Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems; Seether – Isolate And Medicate; Sinead O’Connor – I’m Not Bossy I’m The Boss

Brightest Young Things – John Foster –

James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical; Pharmakon – Bestial Burden; Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music; Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack; The Coast – Midnight Sun; Swans – To Be Kind; Black To Comm – Black To Comm; Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband; Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems; Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business; Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love; White Lung – Deep Fantasy

Exclaim – Gregory Adams  –

Moodymann – Moodymann; Les Sins – Michael; Lustfinger – Zündstoff; Steel Panther – All You Can Eat; Chief Keef – Back From The Dead; Matthewdavid – In My World; Young Thug – 1017 Thug 2; Melvins – Hold It In; Mariah Carey – Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse; David Crosby – Croz

Gigwise – Michael Braggs, Alex Pollard and Ed Keeble –

The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell; Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour; Sam Bailey – The Power Of Love; Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes; Elbow – The Take-Off And Landing Of Everything; Enrique Inglesias – Sex And Love; Joey Essex – Essex Anthems; Paloma Faith – A Perfect Contradiction; Nicholas McDonald – In The Arms Of An Angel; Steel Panther – All You Can Eat

Juice Nothing – Jared Woods –

The Shrine – Bless Off; Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems; Kasabian – 48:13; How To Dress Well – “What Is This Heart?”; Joey Essex – Essex Anthems; Suzanne Vega – Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of The Pentacles; Bohren & der Club of Gore – Piano Nights; Motorpsycho – Behind The Sun; Prince – Art Official Age; Diplo – Random White Dude Be Everywhere

LA Weekly Magazine – Jason Roche –

Riot – Unleash The Fire; Hombre Malo – Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath; Funereus – Return Of The Old Goat; Allen/Lande – The Great Divide; American Heritage – Prolapse; The Prophecy 23 – Untrue Like A Boss; Helldorados – Lessons In Decay; Krokodil – Nachash; A Breach Of Silence – The Darkest Road; Foreseen – Helsinki Savagery

MTV (UK) – Staff –

Riff Raff – Neon Icon; Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland; Robbie Williams – Under The Radar Vol. 1; The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell; Tiesto – A Town Called Paradise; Kasabian – 48:13; Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste; You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth; Ed Sheeran – X

PhotogMusic – Ming – 

U2 – Songs Of Innocence; Wye Oak – Shriek; Tobacco – Ultima Il Massage; Lily Allen – Sheezus; Pharrell Williams – GIRL; Coldplay – Ghost Stories; Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine; The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers; Kevin Drew – Darlings; New Swears – Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever

Take 40 – Staff –

Riff Raff – Neon Icon; Jennifer Hudson – JHUD; Aretha Franklin – Sings The Great Diva Classics; Prince – Art Official Age; Jason Derulo – Talk Dirty; Mariah Carey – Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse; Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End; The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell; Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek To Cheek; Sia – 100 Forms Of Fear

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 2015!

2013 listings update – while researching for a recent article on the subject of “gatefold” sleeves, I found a list that should have been included in last year’s “Best Of” summary –

3 responses to “Best And Worst Album Cover Art Lists – 2014 – Summary And Analysis

  1. Pingback: Album Cover News Recap – December, 2014 | Album Cover Hall of

  2. Bruce – thanks so much for your kind comment. I’m a research glutton, so articles like this one are what I enjoy doing the most! I’m also in total agreement with your assessment of the quality of news (and opinions) found on art/music sites. All that you and I can do is keep doing what we’re doing with the hopes that readers will “come back to quality” once they’ve seen the rest. Cheers. MG

  3. What an exhaustive and mind-bogglingly thorough review, Mike. Commendations to you and your elves.

    Appreciated your comment about reviewers having great variety in their education, expertise (usually the result of education and experience) and personal taste. The ubiquity of social media falsely implies that all opinions are equal. Cleary they are not – to give any credence to the review you have to know the reviewer. And to earn the right to an opinion of any value, you have to learn about the material. I admire that you quietly take a stand for learning and acquired knowledge in a ‘sound bite’ world. Keep up the good work.