2016’s Best Cover Art

Here’s a round-up of what tickled our corneas the most in 2016. Click any image to enlarge it.

Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love!

So, this one probably takes the cake. It’s got to be an homage to Maggot Brain, right?

Broken English Club: “Suburban Hunting”

Oliver Ho has a couple excellent releases as Broken English Club on Cititrax, which is a label that’s become a paragon of style in the genres of industrial, EBM and minimal synth. This cover work is about as menacing as the music released with it. Check out their art direction, all quite good.

Eery: “Her”

It’s nondescript but it complements the 2-track single it was released with perfectly, and you can hear it here.

House of Dad: House of Dad

I am glad to see dadaism (I swear, no pun intended) alive and well in 2016.

Mark Barrott: Sketches from an Island 2

Reminds us of album art made in Hawaii during the 70s like Seawind’s Light to Light. Every album in this series paints a different microcosm of island life you want to live in.

Young Thug: JEFFERY

Thugger’s debut features couture by Yves Saint Laurent. Looking at it, you want this one to be bigger.

Kadhja Bonet: The Visitor

Kaytranda: 99.9%

These were a couple of Aisha’s favorites this year. Hand-drawn portraiture can capture more than the camera can, sometimes.

Steve Hauschildt: Strands

Your eyes will shift up and down the cover involuntarily until you feel nauseous in a pleasant way. Like spinning in circles till you fall.

Motion Graphics: s/t

This is a hi-res upgrade from the cover art template that the vaporwave scene had set in 2k16. Also, this record was way too slept on and more people should check it out.


Beyoncé: Lemonade

Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead v. Beyoncé was a thing this year, so I wanted to digress for a minute and talked about what happened. These two records generated lots of absurd debate about the relevancy of Radiohead in 2016.

Both records came out as surprise releases at around the same time, which caused them to be linked in the minds of hipsters everywhere despite having basically nothing else in common. Still, people made displays of abandoning their once-beloved Radiohead in a rush to praise Bey, and the exodus of Radiohead fandom appeared more complicated than just Bey having made a better record. It seemed instead to be more about the context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and awareness of the underrepresentation of people of color in the pop mainstream, set against Radiohead’s status as the reigning kings of mopey white English indie bands, but also about Bey’s continuing grip on the feminist zeitgeist and the decline of indie, which grew less cool by the minute through most of the year.

This wave of late indie fans needed a hip new banner, and running to Camp Bey they had their hearts in the right place, but they made it embarrassing in true hipster fashion by posturing too hard around their newly professed tastes in pop culture. Discovering Bey in 2016 seemed kind of late, and telling everyone online how you’re so over Radiohead (which is a band you loved for 15 of the last 20 years) looked pretty tryhard.

The irony of it all was that Bey had a PR disaster very soon after the album dropped, concerning her fashion label’s exploitation of other marginalized people—the ones in Asia who were making the clothing—which caused many to question her feminist image.

These are thorny issues, probably of American Studies master’s thesis scope. Anyway, even if Lemonade beats Pool hands down for best visuals (it was a visual album, so Pool can’t really compete there), both of these records were great in their own right, and both had excellent cover art.

Nicolas Jaar: Sirens

The work shown here, one of Jaar’s father’s works of art, is what you see under the lottery ticket-like scratch-off coating of the album cover as sold.

Huerco S.: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

This earned the Judge’s Synaesthesia Award for cover art that looks most like the record sounds.

Roly Porter: Third Law

Sci-fi cover art to complement the music. It won’t be for everyone, but more people should hear this record.

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