We believe that the delicate art of finding the perfect album cover to accompany an artist’s music is criminally underappreciated when assessing the overall impact that album has on its listeners. Sure, an album cover is just a square, static image, but we have found that such visuals go a long way toward setting the tone for the entire project before the consumer even presses play.
So, while everyone is busy curating their year-end lists of songs and albums, we decided to celebrate the often-overlooked impact of album art. Here are our picks for the top 10 album covers of 2020:
10. Aesop Rock — Spirit World Field Guide
The striking album art for Aesop Rock’s Spirit World Field Guide is a great visualization of the organized chaos that is ever-present in the prolific rapper’s musical output.
We are suckers for minimalism, so we would be remiss if we neglected to include at least one example of how effective simple linework and two colors can be.
While ordinary artist portraits serving as album art rarely blow us away, the portrait gracing the cover of Sawayama, thankfully, is anything but ordinary. It is a perfect introduction to the odd electropop that the artist has built her name upon.
7. 100 gecs — 1000 gecs & The Tree of Clues
What better representation of 100 gecs’ musical mayhem could there be?
The melancholic themes that run through almost all of Phoebe Bridgers’ music are also present on the dark and foreboding cover of her breakout album.
5. Yves Tumor — Heaven to a Tortured Mind
The soundscapes crafted in Yves Tumor’s music are dreamy, experimental and sometimes unsettling — the ethereal album art of his critically acclaimed Heaven to a Tortured Mind checks all of those boxes, too.
Grimes’ fifth studio album is darker in style than her previous work, centered around an “anthropomorphic goddess of climate change.” This concept, coupled with the album’s industrial music inspirations and the artist’s hyper-digital persona, is on full display here.
Ka’s dark exploration of the Biblical story of Cain and his offspring is filled with insights into what it means to be damned and the sins we are endowed with at birth. The beautiful art gracing the cover of Descendants of Cain sets the tone for an album that, at its core, intends to make its listeners think deeply about the darker side of the human condition.
Progressive rock outfit Elder’s latest LP paints a picture of “a society that’s already looking at its own ruins,” offering five haunting tracks that blur together over the span of a 56-minute runtime. The crumbling abstraction of a marble statue depicted on the album’s cover is similarly haunting.
The bright melodies and lush synths present on 070 Shake’s debut album are perfectly complimented by the futuristic android depicted in its cover art — a downright gorgeous portrait.