David Gilmour and Björk to Kendrick Lamar and Blur: Ten of the best vinyl album artworks

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 January 2016

Traditional fine art, photography, sculpture and computer graphics all played their part in Art Vinyl's 50 best covers of 2015. Here are ten of them

David Gilmour, Rattle That Rock

A photo of a woman in profile surrounded by lights
© Columbia. Cover Design: Dave Stansbie for Creative Corporation. Original landscape photography by Rupert Truman/Storm Studios
The concept and production for David Gilmour’s cover for Rattle the Lock, which won the tenth edition of the cover art award, was created by The Creative Corporation, directed by Dave Stansbie in collaboration with Aubrey Powell, from the legendary Hipgnosis design studio which produced covers for the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and T Rex during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

The front cover photo is by Rupert Truman of StormStudios. Gilmour is in for a busy year: an international tour includes four dates at the Royal Albert Hall among his UK appearances.

Drenge, Undertow

A photo of a car in a darkened wood
© Infectious. Photography: Donald Milne
Pleasingly gloomy rock brothers Drenge used their album art, which came in second, partly as a symbol of their departure from their small, verdant hometown of Castleton, where a 1969 Ford Mustang is pictured, its brake lights ominously lighting the deserted forest road.

"The car, the woods, the idea of feeling stuck are themes that keep cropping up in these songs,” singer-guitarist Eoin Loveless told Rough Trade. “It's a record about getting out of somewhere.”

Tame Impala, Currents

A photo of a silver ball within lines of grey
© Fiction. Cover concept: Kevin Parker. Artwork and Design: Robert Beatty
Robert Beatty, the Kentucky designer whose cover gave psychedelic wizards Tame Impala third place, came up with his idea – based around the way gas or liquid moves around – after speaking to bandleader Kevin Parker.

“The artwork recalls the airbrushed, graphic, almost-Magic Eyeaesthetic of old school record covers, corresponding perfectly with the album’s overall sound,” wrote Vice, whose interview with Beatty revealed that the artwork was partly inspired by Penguin sci-fi books.

Björk, Vulnicura

A photo of a woman in profile surrounded by lights
© One Little Indian. Character by Björk, headpiece and cape by Maiko Takeda, photography by Inez and Vinoodh
One of the world’s most formidable artists, Bjork, created an unsurprisingly brilliant album cover this year. The subject of a multimedia retrospective at New York’s MoMA last year, the Icelandic polymath imagined herself in molten form.

Released contemporaneously with the exhibition, the artwork was produced by M/M Paris and photographed by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

A photo of a mural showing a woman standing on top of a globe
© Rough Trade Records. Design, illustration and lettering: Carson Ellis. Photography: Autumn de Wilde. Design by Jeri Heiden and Glen Nakasako, Smog Design Inc
With a name like What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, US indie-folkers The Decemberists’ seventh album – never shy of grandeur in their musical flourishes – required suitably awe-infused artwork.

Oregon artist Carson Ellis, who often makes illustrations for best-selling books for kids, created this. Prior to the album’s release, frontman Colin Meloy busked in front of a mural of the work on a corner in Brooklyn’s trendy Williamsburg.

Squeeze, Cradle to the Grave

An image of a montage showing a moustachioed figure
© Virgin. Design and art direction: Stylorouge
Cradle to the Grave – named after Danny Baker’s telly series, which the songs were ordered for – was Squeeze’s first album of new material in 17 years. The new tunes sound as fresh as the arresting cover.

After changing their more straightforward initial plans, designers Stylorouge incorporated psychedelic hearses, board games, Victorian funeral parlour typography, crazy time capsules and shrines comprising the detritus of a typical life were left behind in its wake. Find out more.

Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

A black and white photo of people sitting bare-chested on a lawn
© Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE)/Aftermarth Entertainment/Distributed by Interscope Records. Art Direction: Kendrick Lamar, Dave Free, Vlad Sepetov
Compton rapper and man-of-the-moment Kendrick Lamar’s artwork for one of the most popular albums of 2015 portrayed the aftermath of a black revolution on the lawn of the White House. “To call its vivid imagery confrontational would be an understatement,” pointed out the Guardian.

“It’s me and my homeboys in front of the White House,” explained the Grammy-nominated chart-topper, pointing out a judge lying defeated beneath the throng. “It’s really taking people from around my neighbourhood and taking them around the world, letting them see things that I’ve experienced.”

Blur, The Magic Whip

A photo of an illustrative image of an ice-cream next to Chinese lettering
© Warner Design. Cover art, vinyl art direction and design: Tony Hung
As well as being a well-received return, Blur’s artwork for The Magic Whip was a nod to the side of the world the band started recording it on. Art Director Tony Hung came up with the design at 5am one morning after being shown snaps of Damon Albarn’s travels in Hong Kong.

“The image: A sweet, daytime, English, summer product found in pastel shades, evoking visions of blue skies and green parks…now transformed into a buzzing neon sign, rendered in hard lines and electric hues, found on any busy street in Mong Kok on a dark night,” Hung told Creative Review. “Melting ice cream provided a melancholic twist.”

Belle and Sebastian, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

A black and white photo of a woman sitting on a floor next to a pair of crutches
© Matador Design. Photography: Stuart Murdoch. Sleeve Design: Emma Howlett
Stuart Murdoch, of Scottish indie worriers Belle and Sebastian, took the photo on the front of Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, featuring actress Tamzin Merchant, of television series The Tudors, playing a bandaged-up doll.

Sections of the sparkling pop on their ninth studio album entered unchartered territory for the band – as did the cover art, which broke their run of monochromatic frontispieces.

Jamie xx, In Colour

A photo of a circular spectrum of blocks of colour
© Young Turks. Artwork: Jamie Smith and Phil Lee
Phil Lee, whose design credits include work for Adele, Gil Scott-Heron and Vampire Weekend, created the colourful spectrum accompanying the Mercury-nominated debut studio album In Colour.

Jamie xx first gave note of the LP by posting blocks of colour on Instagram, accompanied by some of the names of the minimalist rave tracks.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three galleries to find music and art in

Castlefield Gallery, Manchester
The current exhibition, Dancehall 11, features new and recent video work by Amelia Bywater & Rebecca Wilcox, Giuseppe Mistretta and Katherine MacBride, as well as a new sound installation by Tom White. Until October 10 2016.

Saatchi Gallery, London
Taking over the entire two floors with nine thematic galleries, Exhibitionism will combine more than 500 original Rolling Stones artefacts, with striking cinematic and interactive technologies offering the most comprehensive and immersive insight into the band's fascinating 50-year history.

Tate Britain, London
The current exhibition by Susan Philipsz, War Damaged Musical Instruments, features 14 recordings of British and German brass and wind instruments damaged in conflicts over the past 200 years. The notes recorded are based on the tones of the military bugle call The Last Post, but the tune is fragmented to such an extent that it is almost unrecognisable. Until April 3 2016.
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