Best Album Covers, Part 1

Best Album Covers, Part 1

Nov 1, 2020 (1 year ago)

Best Album Covers, Part 1

Nov 1, 2020 (1 year ago)
Best Album Covers, Part 1

Before there was art in my life there was vinyl and CD covers, inlets, inserts and booklets. Some packages even offered artifacts and concealed information that in some cases was only discovered months or years after... this is the beauty of physical packaging. This is in part also the reason for vinyl being high on demand. A quick look into some of your favorite releases on bandcamp will more often than not show vinyl offerings sold out, before cds or cassettes. It's fair to say that I have bought many albums in the 90's and beginning of the 00's based solely on their cover art, the band logo, the title of the album or songs. This was before we could preview songs on HMV and before the internet and streaming. Some album covers were so amazing or just so damn intiguing that it imediately spoke to your psych and imagination, in such a way you felt the urge to buy it.
It's also fair to say that I will never let go of some of my vinyl records and cds because of the way the were packaged and their art throughout but also because of what they meant to me when I got them, for ever tied to that particular moment or event, so they will always have a special place in my heart.

Here are then some of my favorites of all time. These are album covers for music I own, not another extensively researched piece like many others on the web. Work in progress.

A Silver Mt. Zion

Album: He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms by A Silver Mt. Zion, 2000.
Art by: John Arthur Tinholt.
Little is know about Tinholt, other than that he is from Montreal and is also responsible for the artwork for GY!BE's 1997 album F♯ A♯ ∞ (a locomotive etching that is included with the LP) and the 2000 album Lift your skinny fists like Antennas to Heaven, this last being an illustration based on a William Schraff's piece.

Godspeed you! Black Emperor

Album: F# A# ∞ (vinyl) by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 2000.
Art by: Efrim Menuck and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, John Arthur Tinholt, Leila.
F# A# ∞ is the debut studio album by Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It was first released on August 14, 1997 by Constellation Records on vinyl and on June 8, 1998 by Kranky on CD. Recorded at the Hotel2Tango in the Mile End of Montreal, the album is devoid of traditional lyrics and mostly instrumental, featuring lengthy songs segmented into movements and wide dynamics. It was initially released in very limited quantities, and distributed through live performances and advertised by word of mouth.
The original five-hundred records' jackets were handmade by the band, their record label, and local Montreal artists. One of three original photographs—depicting a water tower, train, or road sign—was glued onto the cover. My copy has the water tower on it.
The sleeve and jacket made no mention of the track titles. They were instead scratched into the run-off groove of the record, accompanied by the catalog number and side indication.
Inside of the jacket was an envelope filled with inserts. The contents included an old handbill, the album's credit sheet, a picture drawn by guitarist Efrim Menuck, and a Canadian penny crushed by a train. A silk-screened image dedicated to the blues musician Reverend Gary Davis was also included in the jacket. Mine being a more recent pressing (purchased in 2010) includes a United States penny rather than a Canadian one, as Canadian pennies are no longer minted.
One of the most beautiful vinyl records I own, no doubt.

Joy Division

Album: Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, 1979.
Art by: Peter Saville
The centre sleeve of the LP depicts the now famous illustration for "100 consecutive pulses from the pulsar CP 1919" .
It was in fact Bernard Sumner that found the pulsar images in 'The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy' (page 111, 1977 edition) and gave them to Peter Saville. They are a reproduction of a visualization created by Harold D. Craft, Jr., for his dissertation “Radio Observations of the Pulse Profiles and Dispersion Measures of Twelve Pulsars” (September 1970).

Einsturzende Neubauten

Album: Haus der Lüge by Einsturzende Neubauten, 1989.
Art by: Cover illustration based on a woodcut by German Renaissance artist Hans Baldung Grien. Concept by Blixa Bargeld.
This striking cover artwork is based on Hans Baldung's woodcut of wild horses in the woods and mountains of Alsace. The original print is one of a series of three 'wild horses' woodcuts Baldung produced in 1534, titled "Group of Six Horses".
There's actually half a dozen horses in the main frame of the original, they are all pretty excited. A mare is kicking awkwardly the stallion behind her with an erection, he is ejaculating. This stallion is singled out from the print and given this amazing red tint which is pretty fitting with the nature of the band and the environment, both in time and space.


Album: Nattens Madrigal by Ulver, 1997.
Art by: Tania Stene
Another striking album cover in the style that graced many second wave of Black Metal bands originating from Norway during the 90's.
Not easy to find links to Tania's work, but she was well known during the surge in popularity of the infamous Black Metal circles of that long gone era, having been married to Fenriz from Darkthrone and also being half of the duo known as Aghast.
She really had the midas touch when it came to capture the grim and melancholic atmosphere of the Norse landscapes.

Have a Nice Life

Album: Deathconsciousness by Have a Nice Life, 2008.
Art by: A version of the Jacques-Louis David painting "The Death of Marat" (a darkened version of the painting).
When I saw this album from Have a Nice Life, I was in familiar territory having been a fan of David's work for quite some time. The 1793 painting of the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution . David was the leading French painter, as well as a Montagnard and a member of the revolutionary Committee of General Security. The painting shows the radical journalist lying dead in his bath on 13 July 1793, after his murder by Charlotte Corday. Painted in the months after Marat's murder, it has been described by T. J. Clark as the first modernist painting, for "the way it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it".


Album: The Seer by Swans, 2012.
Art by: Simon Henwood.

A Note from Michael Gira:
“The Seer took 30 years to make. It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined. But it’s unfinished, like the songs themselves. It’s one frame in a reel. The frames blur, blend and will eventually fade.
The songs began on an acoustic guitar, then were fleshed out with (invaluable) help from my friends, then were further tortured and seduced in rehearsals, live and in the studio, and now they await further cannibalism and force-feeding as we prepare to perform some of them live, at which point they’ll mutate further, endlessly, or perhaps be discarded for a while. Despite what you might have heard or presumed, my quest is to spread light and joy through the world. My friends in Swans are all stellar men. Without them I’m a kitten, an infant. Our goal is the same: ecstasy!"
Young God recs.


Album: Meantime (vinyl) by Helmet, 1992
Art by: taken from a photograph by David Plowden.
The album cover features an image of a man in a white protective suit shoveling some substance on the ground. It is taken from a photograph by David Plowden , "Puddler In Blast Furnace Cast House, Steel Mill, East Chicago, Indiana (1979)".
The album is available with one of two reversely-coloured covers: one has a blue background with a white-on-red Helmet logo, and the other has a red background with a white-on-blue Helmet logo (pictured above).
My CD version is the one with the red background color scheme, with the artist logo on a field of blue. Issued in a clear, frosted inlay tray with a ribbed spine and packaged inside a cardboard longbox.

Sunn o)))

Album: White 2 (vinyl) by Sunn O))), 2004.
Art by: Its a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called "The Beekeeper and the Birdnester" c. 1568.
In this enigmatic disquieting scene, three hooded men wearing long sleeved, full-length smocks made from a heavy duty canvas-like material tied round the waist are collecting hives in the field. The cuffs of the sleeves are open and the hands are unprotected. They wear stockings on their legs and simple tie-up shoes. The face masks are made from basket-weave bottoms. The men’s stances suggest tension or an illicit activity.
This is one of Bruegel's simplest drawings but also one of its most haunting and mysterious. read more

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