Real quick, I’m playing Gilman Street in Berkeley, CA tomorrow (exciting!), our new song was in the Uproxx Indie Mixtape, and I was a part of a podcast examining London Calling. Cool things this week.
While everyone is listing their favorite records and top things of the decade, I wanted to take time to admire record covers and the people who make them. I think for a lot of people, buying records is not only about how they sound but about how they look and feel in your hands. I think having a 12” x 12” piece of cardboard that’s also beautiful is about 50% of what makes me buy an LP.
Here’s a few of my favorite album covers from 2019!
Cover Photo by Ebru Yildiz
Layout Design by Tom Bayne
I’m a nerd for intention and consistency and Charly Bliss’ commitment to record cover as pulp novel is just impressive. Their singles follow the same formula and they’re just beautiful. Even if you’re not familiar with their music, this cover definitely signals a fuller, and more mature pop sound. While the cover plays with vintage aesthetics, I love the more contemporary color scheme and how one of them is wearing adidas sandals with socks in the background (huh?) despite everything else looking like the photo has been taken no later than 1985. I’d like all of these photos framed together, please. Or actually printed on a paperback. Truly an object to hold.
The photographer, Ebru Yildiz, has worked with folks like Marissa Nadler and Jessica Lea Mayfield, and even took that gorgeous photo of Margaret Glaspy from her last record Emotions and Math that I also loved. This seems like a much more complex setup than a lot of their work, so it’s even more impressive on the whole. (note that I can’t find a website for Tom Bayne, who did the layout, but as someone who’s not really a typography expert, I think those choices are spot on, and make this one a classic)
This one didn’t even come out yet technically, but she released the song Rare Thing so I’m going to say that it counts as an album cover of 2019. I’m going to take a pretty good guess and say that Frances drew the cover for this. She also painted the covers of albums for her other project Hop Along - Painted Shut, and Bark Your Head Off, Dog. It’s something I don’t see people mention about Frances as much as I think they should, but as someone who also makes their own record covers, I have a lot of respect for that kind of creative control and intent. You can also see her visual vocabulary evolve across the albums and I love that.
I think the mix of portraiture, expressionist use of watercolor, and collage make this cover a perfect fit with her first solo effort. The video for Rare Thing features Frances large-scale painting in a studio, and I’m genuinely excited to see that element of her practice being featured so strongly.
Talk about a triumph of a record cover. Not only does this record sound like you’re floating in a teen bedroom while listening to Neil Young, but the record cover literally looks like that. This isn’t a painting, it’s not photoshopped, THEY BUILT THIS SET AND PHOTOGRAPHED IT UNDERWATER. They even made a video about it, so you can see what it looked like to construct and photograph. The photographer, Brett Stanley, is an underwater fashion and advertising photographer, so maybe he can file this one under “no big deal”, but I think for an artist to go this far for the sake of their record cover should win them some kind of award. Not only does the bedroom look like the 90s but the bed frame is even rusted and to me it looks like the photos on the wall are even consistent with the vibe of that decade. Love it.
I always wonder where The Menzingers get their photos from, and it turns out this one was taken by Pamela Littky, also known for covers like Tegan and Sara’s Love You To Death, Paramore’s self-titled, and a lot of work for Fall Out Boy. The Menzingers’ covers always walk that line between vintage found photograph and contemporary snapshot, without getting boring. I think that’s honestly a good way to sum up their music in general.
I definitely want to ask where the idea for the lawn deer came from, but maybe I don’t even need to know? As an evolution of their previous covers, Hello Exile’s cover definitely aesthetically matches their lyric interest in growing older, in my opinion. It’s beautiful and reminds me of the East Coast in December. It looked great on a billboard in my neighborhood, I’ll tell you that much. Now I want to know who took the photos for the covers of all their recent 7”s.
These are by no means the most in-depth looks at these covers, but I wanted to at least give them and the artists who made them some praise. Anyone else have a favorite record cover from this year?
Menzingers billboard near my house.