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Album Covers That Will Be Iconic (Part I!)

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

While idily browsing music review sites hoping to discover some new indie bands to get hooked on, I noticed some sites have been making lists of their favorite albums from the past decade (I guess they’re starting early).  While I enjoyed trying to understand the music review lingo in these lists (please, what are alt-stab-synths?), I found myself being more drawn to the images of the album covers.  Some covers are standard–most are just bizarre–and some really stand out.  And I thought: there are quite a few album covers that everyone agrees are iconic, like the Abbey Road cover and that darn prism on Dark Side of the Moon.  So what recent album covers–released in the past 15 years or so–could become iconic? 

Now, I’m not too bad at predictions.  When the hype for Glee first began, I remember watching the first commercial and thinking, “That’ll be a cult hit.”  Pardon me as I take my  bows.

So here is my list of one-day-to-be-iconic album covers, in no particular order.  These are covers whose images are destined to be blown up, put in square poster frames and hung on the walls of used record stores in the distant future.  Covers that will adorn the retro bookbags of our children’s children.  Covers that just might stick around.  I’ve tried to make my choices based not just on personal taste but on how much the covers “stand out.”  

1. “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” Neutral Milk Hotel

To be fair, this album cover is already well on its way to becoming iconic.  But I really couldn’t make a list of great covers without it.  I’m a sucker for vintage images, and this is a great one–beautiful colors, charmingly rendered turn-of-the-century bathers, original stains from wear, and the surrealistic addition of what appears to be either a slice of potato or a drum in place of the lady’s head (yes, pretty sure it’s a drum).  The latter is incorporated into the picture so well that at first glance I thought it was a painting done by a Magritte fan.  A fantastic complement to the quirky, carnival-edged rock of Neutral Milk Hotel. 

2. “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” Phoenix

In all honesty, I don’t think this album is the greatest.  “Lisztomania” is a great track, as is “1901,” but the rest of the songs kind of blend into each other, and the two instrumental tracks don’t do much for me at all.  But just look at that cover.  Three colored silhouettes of falling bombs against a patch of innocent pink.  The title in white on the topmost bomb.  Simple, slightly retro-style graphics.  Is it stunning?  Maybe not, but it’s the kind of striking-yet-subtle image that could one day show up as a poster on our kids’ dorm room walls.

3. “Fleet Foxes,’ Fleet Foxes 

What could be more awesome than using a 1500s-era painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder as your cover?  And what could be more fitting for this folksy baroque band?  Its charmingly busy image beats studio poses and carefully timed artsy shots by a mile, in my opinion.  It was on the strength of this cover alone that I knew I had to give the Foxes a listen.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

4. “Contra,” Vampire Weekend

Speaking of carefully times artsy shots…well, this isn’t one.  And it’s a good thing.   Clear, candid, and slightly bizarre, the image gives little clue as to what we’re supposed to take away from it.  Is the young model surprised?  Scared?  Joyous?  Philosophically pessimistic?  It’s the viewer’s decision.  And for those reasons I will call the “Contra” cover a stand out. 

It also doesn’t hurt that the image is right now embroiled in controversy.  (Which spawned quite a few headlines playing with the words “contra” and “controversy.”  Har har, newsies.  Har har.)  After all, what could make a picture stick in the public’s consciousness more than a Contra-vers–wait, no, forget it.  I won’t lower myself. 

5. “Funeral,” Arcade Fire

Ah, Arcade Fire.  My beautiful Arcade Fire.  How I love thee for thy divine indie-rock, so obviously above most indie-rock and yet so alluringly distant from most of today’s vapid Top 40 pop.  I would count the ways that I love thee, but for now I will settle by listing your cover art for “Funeral” as being Soon To Be Iconic.  How could it not be, really?   The carefully hand-drawn hand and baroque-esque flourishes, the demure band title in a scrapbookish format, the neutral tones…it adds up to a quirkily beautiful piece.  Soon to be a little more legendary than it already is, dearest Arcade Fire.  Call me.

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And that is the first half of my list.  What do you guys think?  Do you agree with is so far?  Disagree?  Have any suggestions?  Let me know!~

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