There was a time, way back before AOL, Windows, and Google, when record buying could be somewhat of a mystery. Unless you heard it on the radio, your stoned big brother put it in your ears, or MTV laid it on you at 2am, walking thru Musicland, Tower Records, or your local record store(for me it was Butterfly Records) looking for new tunes could be daunting. There were no preview streams, singles you could revisit ad nauseum online, or leaked copies you could rip from a subreddit user named thomdorke86. Before the internet, buying records was stepping into the great wilderness of noise and letting new and exciting sound run over you. You dropped your cash on something called Maggie’s Dream, Mudhoney, or Gene Loves Jezebel based on a single song you heard and hope for the best. Sometimes they were winners(Mudhoney), and sometimes they were not(Gene Loves Jezebel.)
Of course, a good portion of the selling point on records you’re not sure of is the album cover. I just missed the vinyl buying experience growing up, as cassettes were all the craze by the time I started buying music in 1984. There was still vinyl to be bought, but I didn’t have a turntable in my Midwestern bedroom. I had a GE single cassette deck boombox that sat atop an old wood toybox that probably still contained various toy guns, Go Bots, and assorted Hot Wheels. The cassette was where it was at for me. Plus, I could share my love of 80s metal and 70s prog rock with my parents in the cassette deck of the family Honda Accord.
What I was getting at was that I couldn’t appreciate those gorgeous album covers that donned vinyl sleeves and gatefolds like my older brother did. I was stuck with the tiny cassette art. I still appreciated the art, but not as much as I have in the last 10 years collecting vinyl. I have new appreciation for the album art and design. It’s like the jacket sleeve of a great book. Perfect artwork only enhances the experience.
There are certain record companies that have taken the album release to a whole new level. They not only appreciate the music itself, but how that music is presented to us, the listener. They take care in having true artists take the reigns and give us a visual aspect to the experience that is equal to the aural.
Below are some of my favorite album covers of 2018. We’re only in September, so I’m sure they’ll be more to add by December. But here’s a highlight clip of what’s been stunning so far. There are links to these artists’ websites where applicable. Peruse their work. Buy prints. Hire them for your next album cover. These folks are amazing.
Jake Schrock’s Tropical Depression, album art by Gabriel Chicoine
Futuropaco’s Futuropaco, album art by Jakob Skott
Xander Harris’ Villains of Romance, art work by Kid Ethic
Graham Reznick’s Robophasia, art work by Hauntlove
D.A.L.I. WHEN HARO MET SALLY, art work by Luke Insect
Thousand Foot Whale Claw’s Black Hole Party, art work by Kilian Eng
Landing’s Bells In New Towns, art work by Jakob Skott
Manhunter S/T by Various Artists/Waxwork Records, art work by Midnight Marauder
Deadly Avenger’s The Girl With The White Orchid, art work by Luke Insect
Oneohtrix Point Never’s Age Of, art work by Jim Shaw(design by David Rudnick)
And even though this came out last year, I’m including it because Eric Adrian Lee is absolutely amazing and this album cover is unbelievable.