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Memorable Album Covers of 2017

  1. Memorable Album Covers of 2017 David J. Deal December 2017
  2. Robert Plant, Carry Fire
  3. Big K.R.I.T., 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time
  4. Angaleena Presley, Wrangled
  5. Benjamin Clementine, I Tell a Fly
  6. Bjork, Homogenic
  7. Chuck Berry, Chuck
  8. Cobalt Chapel, Cobalt Chapel
  9. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  10. Thundercat, Drunk
  11. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy
  12. Pure Comedy Alternative Covers
  13. Freddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice
  14. Full of Hell, Trumpeting Ecstasy
  15. White Ward, Futility Report
  16. Goldfrapp, Silver Eye
  17. Emily Haines, Choir of the Mind
  18. Mew, Visuals
  19. The Mountain Goats, Goths
  20. The National, Sleep Well Beast
  21. Nothing But Thieves, Broken Machine
  22. SZA, Ctrl
  23. The Menzingers, After the Party
  24. The Orwells, Terrible Human Beings
  25. Joey Bada$$, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
  26. Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy
  27. Valerie June, The Order of Time
  28. Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child
  29. Portugal. The Man, Woodstock
  30. Lorde, Melodrama
  31. Thank You David Deal

Editor's Notes

  1. Don’t let anyone tell you album covers are dead. Album artwork continues to express the personal visions of artists and the musical content of the albums themselves as powerfully as covers did in the era of album oriented rock. My round-up of memorable album covers of the year reflects diversity and passion. I have curated album covers that reflect both the political vibe of the times and the personal statements of artists such as Lorde and Robert Plant. Whether expressing protest or channeling an inner vision, album covers in 2017 did what album cover art has always done:   Capture your attention.   Express the essence of the artist.   Say something about the musical content of the album itself.   For more examples of memorable album covers of 2017, check out the examples I have curated here. What are your favorite album covers of 2017, and why?
  2. At age 69, Robert Plant looks like a weathered, majestic lion. The cover for Carry Fire amplifies his looks with a spare design that puts the background in soft focus. He looks like he is seeking a new musical horizon, gazing into the distance, and decidedly not at you. By avoiding the gaze of the listener, he hints at the private world of his own making inside the album cover. Here is an honest portrait of a man whose face wears the mark of a life full of adventure, triumph, and sadness.
  3. Big K.R.I.T., like Robert Plant, is not interested in a direct invitation. His gaze is even somewhat apprehensive. The album cover design works because of his intriguing expression and the artistic treatment. The neo-psychedelic style of his shirt evokes a retro feel.
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  5. What is Benjamin Clementine holding in that case? What is he gazing at? Here is a cover that contains a mystery. The design suggests a cerebral vibe full of intrigue.
  6. Bjork is known for her elaborate album cover designs complete with masks, costumes, and brilliant color. She does not disappoint in the kabuki-like artwork for Homogenic. The album cover is either a magnet or a warning: eccentric music inside. Bjork wouldn't have it any other way.
  7. Chuck Berry's last album sounds classically Chuck, and the album cover captures him in one of his iconic stances. The simplicity of the design and dramatic black/white color scheme are striking. At first the cover looks like a photo, but when you examine it closely, you realize it's an artistic rendering of a great artist.
  8. A barefoot, pregnant woman stands in the woods, looking defiant and somehow natural in her green dress, as if she's been living among the tress like this her entire life. Her expression says it all: here I am. What are you looking at?
  9. The cover for DAMN became a popular meme because Kendrick Lamar looks so freaking pissed off. His expression captures a mood that dominates one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year as well as a certain, undeniable cultural zeitgeist. The design of the album forces your eyes to focus on Kendrick and that galvanizing, compelling gaze that confronts and inspires.
  10. Thundercat appears to be channeling Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now as his head emerges from the water. As with so many memorable album covers, he gazes not at you but at something else that has captured his intense interest. Is he afraid to come out of the water? Angry? And does it look to you (as it does to me) like the water is red in front of him, suggesting blood?
  11. The Pure Comedy album cover rewards close examination. The cartoon figurines created by Edward Steed form a collage depicting the many themes in Father John Misty's rich meditation on the human existence: anger, greed, lust, and many other biblical notions. Sub Pop records published four versions of the cover in different colors, as if to suggest the moody terrain of the music inside. The album covers taken together suggest a journey through many moods. The album is connected to a line of merchandise based on the characters, including an indulgent, fascinating Tarot deck. More about the design here:
  12. The life of Freddie Gibbs has been tumultuous of late, and his album cover suggests he's going to be just fine, thank you. An artist needs a certain sense of humor and chutzpah to depict themselves as Jesus floating above women in bikinis and disciples taking photos with their cameras. The details, though suggest that not all is well -- check out the three police in full arrest mode -- and the snake in Gibbs's hand. Here is a scene rich with humor and darkness.
  13. Sometimes album covers become memorable by disturbing and provoking, which is true of Full of Hell's Trumpeting Ecstasy. Like Bjork, Full of Hell hit you square in the face, challenging you to either explore their music or walk away. You know what you're in for with this album.
  14. This cover is incredibly creepy yet attractive. Paganlike figures approach you in a dark wood. We don't know how many of them are coming or what their intentions are. We are alone in the dark with horned, cloaked figures. Powerful, mysterious, and memorable.
  15. Alison Goldfrapp is one of the more visually stunning artists recording and touring. Her Instagram and Facebook are consistently intriguing and immersive. She has always evoked an air of mystery, which is evident in the cover for Silver Eye. Her new-look red hair blends into the arid landscape behind her, and her clothing looks like something out of the book of Job. Why is she hiding her face? Because Alison Goldfrapp.
  16. The album cover for Choir of the Mind is hilarious. Here is Emily Haines, possessing a sweet, appealing voice, looking like she’s going to kick butt with a baseball bat. The vibrant color of her dress and the orange gloves create a clash of mood that is strange and appealing. Of the music, reviewer Tim Sendra of AllMusic wrote, “Listening to the record from beginning to end is like sharing a cozy couch with Haines for an hour, with the blankets pulled up and a warm beverage nearby, occasionally gazing out the window at the world, but mostly with an inward focused gaze that's more comforting than penetrating.” You’d never guess from the album cover what’s inside, though.
  17. And then there are album covers that are just so cool you have to love them for making you notice. Such is the case with Mew’s Visuals. I have no idea what’s going on here. But I like it. I feel like I’m watching a Lite-Brite taken to a new level on someone’s head. It works for the aesthetic appeal alone.
  18. Goths is about the pain of growing up and growing older – of thinking you have found a tribe of like-minded people but discovering that you’re still an outsider. Of discovering a passion, living it, and holding on to it even when others who once believed the way you did have given up. The album cover designed by Leela Corman captures the indifferent world swirling around you as you try to navigate life. You are on your own with only your passions to carry you through the journey. As John Darnielle, the driving force behind the Mountain Goats, wrote, in the song “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds,” “There's indifference on the wind/But a faint gust of hope.”
  19. The album cover for Sleep Well Beast is inspired by the bucolic studio in upstate New York where the National recorded the album. The designer, Luke Hayman of Pentagram, said, “"The cover is a photograph of the rural New York State recording studio built on the property of one of the band members and shot by [photographer] Graham MacIndoe. "It became part of the mythology of the identity: it's the headquarters for the 'corporation' or organisation that produces the music-propaganda. . . . The barn is broken down into two squares and two triangles that disassemble into a 'code' and – more practically – become a useful graphic across many of the applications.” OK. Got it. But I see a calm, comforting image of home in the night. More about the design here:
  20. The album artwork for Broken Machine evokes Kintsugi, the Japanese art form in which broken pottery is repaired with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, thus making the broken object as beautiful as the whole one. Nothing But Thieves appears to be embracing the beauty of the imperfect. The depiction of a woman as cracked porcelain feels both sad and appealing – a conversation piece in and of itself. This is the kind of album cover that invites analysis and exploration.
  21. SZA embraces her humanity and vulnerability on Ctrl, which is perhaps why the album has resonated. And to think she nearly quit music. When I first saw the cover, I wondered if she was making a statement about feeling cast aside with junk computer equipment. But as Vibe noted, the discarded computers say something else: “In some of her earlier interviews, the singer-songwriter explained the vision behind her artwork as a breakaway from our society’s dependence on technology—constantly hiding behind phone screens and social apps in order to express their thoughts and feelings.” Memorable album covers give their audience something to interpret as their own, as is the case with Ctrl. Here is the Vibe story: 
  22. “Where we gonna go now that our 20s are over?” asks the opening track on The Menzinger’s After the Party. The album cover captures the dread and angst of the album’s sentiment about growing older. The amusement park is empty. The fun times are over. And you’re left looking old, feeling old, and lamenting what you’ve lost. But you still have to laugh at a cover like this. The band maintains its sense of humor with this witty snapshot of dorky middle age.
  23. The intimacy of the shot – a nude woman with her back to us, smoking a cigarette in a retro-looking room – makes the audience the voyeur – perhaps one of the Terrible Human Beings suggested by the title? It’s so often the case that by revealing little, an album cover suggests a lot, and Terrible Human Beings is an outstanding example. Incidentally, if you look closely at this album cover, you’ll find subtle clues referencing the songs on the album. For more on the creation of this cover, check out the following article:
  24. The cover for All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is a Trojan horse. The album was marketed with a bandana-like depiction of the American flag. When you opened what you thought was the cover, the real cover was revealed: Joey Bada$$, giving you two middle fingers with the American flag flapping behind him. Here we have an homage to the American flag cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On – and the music is as incendiary in 2017 as Sly’s statement was in his time. Memorable album covers sometimes make statements. This one certainly does. As he said recently, “I personally feel like I was put here on this Earth not only to inspire, but to wake people up.”
  25. What I like about this album cover is that the sweetness and light is so diametrically opposed to what Tyler, the Creator stands for. And he gets bonus points for apparently not minding that artist Eric White obscured his face with a colorful bee. The album is one of Tyler, the Creators’ least vulgar efforts. Perhaps he’s making a joke about the content. For more insight into the creation of the cover, check out this interview with Eric White:
  26. When you have hair like Valerie June’s you do what comes natural: flaunt it. The image evokes Medusa, the ancient Greek Gorgon who had snakes for hair. June lets her hair suggest the album’s energy, and you see just enough of her face to realize she is in a powerful musical zone of her own making.
  27. Willie Nelson’s best album covers capitalize on his photogenic face, typically looking somber and thoughtful, as if contemplating mortality and loss. The red tint in God’s Problem Child is an inspired touch that bathes Nelson in a glow of energy as he records music into his mid-80s. May he never stop.
  28. For their latest album, Portugal. The Man sought to capture the rebellious spirit and social consciousness of the Woodstock era. The album and its title are based on an incident in which one of the band member’s father showed him an actual ticket stub from the 1969 Woodstock festival. The album cover of a burning Rolls-Royce was not staged. As told in Billboard magazine, “The artwork for Woodstock features a photograph of an old Rolls-Royce in flames -- a real photograph taken by a friend of the band while driving with his family from Los Angeles to Anaheim. ‘[The photo] hit us hard,’ [Zach] Carothers says. ‘Sometimes you look at something and it connects. That f---ing photo, when I saw it was like, ‘Oh shit.’ [Eric] Howk says two aspects struck him most about the image: “I don’t think it would be as powerful if it was a new car, it’s a Reagan-era, old-money car. It’s also not the engine or any of the mechanics that are on fire, it’s the interior, which makes it seem like someone threw some gas in there, lit a match then walked away like, ‘F--- it.’” While the vintage aesthetic ties in well with the album’s overall theme of revisiting the past, the flames are what resonate most with the album’s underlying message that the current political climate is “a f---ing mess,” as Gourley says.”  Here is the article:
  29. For her sophomore album, Lorde asked artist Sam McKinniss to “create a kind of colorful teenage restlessness and excitement and energy and potential—to put that into color and put it in my hands,” according to a W magazine article. The portrait has a timeless feel, perhaps because it’s not a photograph. Although Lorde is in bed, the image is more reflective than sensual, probably because of the expression on her face and the blue tones. The cover rewards repeated examination, revealing texture and flourishes, such as the rose tint on Lorde’s left cheekbone. This image is, literally, a work of art, and a welcome one. Here is the article:
  30. What are your favorite album covers of the year, and why? Drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you.