Album Cover Hall of Fame’s Year-End Summary of “Best (and Worst) Album Cover Art” listings for the year 2016
by Mike Goldstein, Curator/Editor, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
December 30, 2016 – Chicago, IL, USA
With “The Media” taking a beating this year (some deserved, but mostly a diversion), I thought that it’d be important for this journalist to demonstrate that not ALL reporting is misleading or factless, and what better way than to share a summary of all of the articles I could find on the topic of “Best” and “Worst” album cover art featured on records released during the past year. As I’ve said in previous summaries on the topic, the focus of the ACHOF site remains on the people who create these works (rather than on the works themselves), so it is important for me to be able to share this editorial content with you as a way to illustrate that there is still a lot of work – both good and bad – being done in this aspect of the recorded music business.
At the end of every year, the writers working for art/music/design publications of every size put themselves in a position that I 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 my readers. This year, it’s become quite clear that expressing opinions on what’s “best” or “worst” in any pursuit can prove to be a dangerous enterprise, with some of those decisions accepted with great gusto while others mercilessly berating the choices that they might disagree with. Now that it is that time of year again, I have completed this basic research and am simply ready to offer you his summary of what these (some of them) 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 10/20/50′ 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.” The past several years, I found smaller and smaller numbers (but no-less-passionate) of publications and sites who were eager to proffer their opinions on the “state of the art” in album cover design, so while there was less data to take into account (particularly in the “Worst” category), it is no less interesting to read what critics have to say on the subject.
By now, I’m sure that you realize that the people making these selections for their respective publications bring varying degrees of education, expertise and personal opinion to the lists they produce (with others relying more on the votes and comments received from readers of their publications), but whether they approach these surveys from the angle of industry expert, educated fan or simply the musings 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, today’s summary is presented simply, with links to the sites that have presented their own takes on “what’s good/bad” in album cover design these days. As for myself, I was impressed with several examples of close collaborations between the designers and musical acts that invested in projects that pushed the boundaries of how “album art” is defined. Taking into account the prevalence of both digital deliver platforms and hybrid physical/digital products at retail (i.e., those that have add-ons that are experienced via a computer/smartphone), I can say with a high degree of certainty that next year’s lists will continue to put highly-imaginative works on display for us all to take in, appreciate and discuss at great length. As always, please be sure to share your takes on which of these lists perhaps best-or-least-represented your feelings on the topic by leaving a comment for us, below – thanks, and here’s wishing all of you the “Best Of” Peace, Level-headedness and Prosperity during the New Year 2017!
“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:
A Closer Listen (Richard Allen & Ryan Keane) – https://acloserlisten.com/2016/12/15/acl-2016-the-years-best-album-covers/
AudioEclectica (Brian Lacy) – https://audioeclectica.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/end-of-the-year-2016-best-album-cover/ (poll with results to be noted at month’s end)
Brightest Young Things (John Foster) – https://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/best-album-art-of-2016
BK/Brooklyn Magazine (Mike Gaworecki) – http://www.bkmag.com/2016/12/22/best-album-covers-2016/
Creative Bloq (Sammy Maine) – http://www.creativebloq.com/features/the-20-best-album-covers-of-2016
Creative Review (Rachael Steven) – https://www.creativereview.co.uk/the-best-record-sleeves-of-2016-1-david-bowie-blackstar/
Fact Magazine (April Clare Welsh) – http://www.factmag.com/2016/12/02/best-album-covers-2016/
Fubiz (by Lea, in French, but nicely illustrated) – http://www.fubiz.net/2016/12/16/10-best-album-covers-of-2016/
Happy Australia, part of the VICE network (Freya McGahey) – http://hhhhappy.com/whether-youre-into-music-art-or-both-youll-eat-up-the-10-best-album-covers-of-2016/
Hot New Hip-Hop/HNHH (Patrick Lyons) – http://www.hotnewhiphop.com/hottest-album-covers-of-2016-news.26248.html
Indie 88 (Danielle Subject) – http://indie88.com/the-best-album-art-of-2016/
Juice Nothing (Jared Woods) – http://juicenothing.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-10-best-album-cover-artworks-of-2016.html
Loudwire (Joe DiVita) – http://loudwire.com/best-rock-metal-album-covers-2016/
The Obelisk (JJ Koczan) – http://theobelisk.net/obelisk/2016/12/12/2016-album-covers-list/
Paste Magazine (Emily Ray) – https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/12/the-25-best-album-covers-of-2016.html
Radar Radio U.K. (Jake Mier) – http://www.radarradio.com/blog/2016-best-album-covers-artwork
Rock The Body Electric (E. Carle) – http://www.rockthebodyelectric.com/2016/12/year-in-review-2016-best-album-art.html
Stereogum (Collin Robinson) – http://www.stereogum.com/1915359/the-album-art-well-remember-past-2016/franchises/2016-in-review/
Superhype Blog (David Deal) – http://superhypeblog.com/design/memorable-album-covers-of-2016
The Vinyl Factory (James Hammond, Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder, Amar Ediriwira and Anton Spice) – http://thevinylfactory.com/features/the-20-best-record-sleeves-of-2016/
XXL (Sidney Madden) – http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2016/12/best-album-covers-2016/
“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:
Brightest Young Things (John Foster) – https://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/worse-album-art-of-2016
Exclaim! (Josiah Hughes) – http://exclaim.ca/music/article/here_are_the_17_worst_album_covers_of_the_year-2016_in_lists
Juice Nothing (Jared Woods) – http://juicenothing.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/the-10-worst-album-cover-artworks-of.html
The Culture Trip (Ryan Kristoback) – https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/the-worst-album-covers-of-2016
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 next year.
Happy New Year 2017!
All text Copyright 2016 Mike Goldstein and AlbumCoverHallofFame.com – All Rights Reserved. All of trade names mentioned in these summaries are the properties of their respective owners and are used for reference only.