Tame Impala – Innerspeaker: 2010

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Tame Impala’s album Innerspeaker was created by Australian artist Leif Podhajsky, an artist who has created many other great album covers over the years including Bonobo’s 2013 masterpiece North Borders and Kelis’ most recent album Food. The picture itself is of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, USA and he has altered the image with the Droste effect to make it seem as if the image is going in on itself. The effect is mind numbing and was named after the dutch cocoa brand Doste, which featured a maid carrying the identical packaging that she was featuring on on her tray.

The bright colours and the psychedelic effect match perfectly with the bands psychedelic sound, vision and image. I have seen them live, and album cover echoes the video that plays along to their set. Even the inside of the vinyl echoes a sound wave and is extremely easy on the eye.

Leif Podhajsky’s style is one I deeply admire and his impact on the psychedelic album covers of today has been huge. I hope to do a post about his work soon.

(this hand doesn’t belong to me)

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Queen – News of the World: 1977

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Queen are almost the biggest band in the history of music, creating one hit after another, the album News of the World contains two of their biggest hits – We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. The album went 4x platinum in the US and 2x platinum in the UK.

For such a big name the album cover had to be good, and they delivered. By taking the front cover from the October 1953 edition of Astounding Science Fiction and placing the members of the band into the robots hand, they have created an extremely eye-catching cover that really pops out on the shelf.

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The artist behind the original artwork is Frank Kelly Freas, an artist renowned for his illustration in the sci-fi business, who they contacted and asked to repaint the artwork to get the desired effect of the dead band members in the robots hand.

Other work by the artist includes many science fiction book covers, some shown below. He has won the revered Hugo Award ten times for his illustration so is the perfect choice for the award winning musicians.

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Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures: 1979

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One of the most famous album covers in the whole universe originates from PSR B1919+21, a “pulsar with a period of 1.3373 seconds,and a pulse width of 0.04 second.” Picked up by Peter Saville, one of the best graphic designers in England, he transformed something extremely scientific into a design so famous people can recognise it without having any idea what it is.

Technically the design was initially the bands idea because they had handed him a folder of astronomical images from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy and all Peter Saville had to do was pick the correct one and go with it. The choice was perfect – he picked the design because it demonstrates both technicality, sensuality, rhythm and a shape like that of a heartbeat.

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The pulsar originates from the constellation Vulpecula, shown above.

Peter Saville and the band also decided against putting the bands name on the front due to the post punk movement and the band not wanting to become “pop” stars at the time.

New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies: 1983

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Peter Saville is the brains behind this album cover, or rather his girlfriend is. Whilst looking for a machiavellian painting (to fit the title) at the National Gallery, Peter Saville wandered into the gift shop and picked up a postcard of the painting shown above. His girlfriend came up behind him and questioned whether he was going to use it as the cover and without a shadow of doubt he decided on it there and then.

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Peter Saville is the creative genius behind the infamous Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures and many other great album covers, but despite how iconic the Joy Division cover is, I still love the Power, Corruption & Lies design more. The way he has taken the colour palette from the image and collated it into a little key in the corner as if to say the artist has painted by numbers or cheated, pointing towards the title of the album.

With one of the best graphic designers in England, it’s hard to go wrong, and Peter Saville has proved his worth once again.

David Bowie – The Next Day: 2013/ Heroes: 1977

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The first album by Bowie in over 10 years and he recycles an old album cover – genius – Bowie wanted to represent “forgetting or obliterating the past” by obscuring the photograph from the 1977 album Heroes, photographed by Masayoshi Sukita. The album was kept as secret as possible, and then a huge campaign, designed by Johnathan Barnbrook exploded all over the walls,the internet, and the papers. The campaign was simple – stick a massive white square over any other musical commercial reading “The Next Day – 03.12.13.” 

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Some of the images, like those above, were constructed for the campaign a lot more, but the image below is literally forgetting the old and posting the white square over another band’s poster, in this case Foals.

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I don’t know how happy some of the other bands were, but the hilarious advertising helped the album jump to the number one album spot for the ninth time. The designer Johnathan Barnbrook had the chance to create his third work for Bowie and decided to show off a new font.

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The font, Doctrine, is a sans-serif font that is clean cut and reads well on both a large and small scale. The font started from the North Korean National Airline livery on the side of the plane and evolved from there. On the packaging it looks extremely professional and not too industrial.

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The photography of the original Heroes cannot be ignored however, and the photographer Masayoshi Sukita went through multiple shots with Bowie before the perfect one was chosen.

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Many of the shots look fairly messy and not fit for an album cover, whereas the final shot makes Bowie look extremely on point and is probably one of the most famous pictures of all time. The picture below is my favourite that wasn’t chosen for the album, it is however slightly too similar to the cover of his album Low.

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The idea of the white square works on all platforms and the vinyl design is as simple as it gets, the white square spinning around on the record player leaving a blurred circle in its wake. The simplicity of the design and the comedic value it carries with it make it a brilliant album cover and the perfect marketing scheme due to its minimalistic thought provoking qualities.

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∆ Alt-J – An Awesome Wave: 2012 ∆

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The album cover for Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave looks like a network of psychedelic veins coursing over the front of the cover. The image in fact is called “Gange’s dazzling delta” and was taken by the European Space Agency.

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The image above shows the image just as it is on google earth – the image used for the album cover is a superimposition of three photographs taken by an Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar on the dates 20/01/09, 24/02/09 and 31/03/09. The colours in the image are created by the differences in each image as there is no colour in a standard radar image.

Another image similar to the one used by Alt-J is the one shown below, which highlights the flooding in Bangladesh, an equally striking image that contains the area that is used on the album cover.

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As you can see in the highlighted area, the album cover is contained within this separate image that was taken two years earlier on 12/04/07 and 26/07/07. The city of Bangladesh can also be seen at the left corner of the box like a white stain on the image.

The imaged used for the album itself matches perfectly with the music inside with each track flowing through the listeners head as – quite morbidly – the floods did through Bangladesh.

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The colour combined with the soft faded grey tones of the songlist on the back creates a contrast between the two and separates you from the visual and the practical side of the music, which together won them the Mercury Prize in 2012.

The strange leaf shapes on the songlist at the back seem like separators on the album, but are in fact named tracks, the first being Ripe and Ruin, the second Guitar and the third Piano. The not so secret tracks confuse the listener but are also a pleasant surprise, adding perfect segues into the structure of the album.

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The indie rock band have continued in this vein and have used bright strokes of colour in the promotion of their new album This Is All Yours that lands in September 2014.

Cabaret Voltaire – Micro-Phonies: Neville Brody 1984

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The album Micro-Phonies by Cabaret Voltaire was art directed by graphic design heavyweight Neville Brody in 1984. Brody’s infamous typography features on the front and a bandaged figure spouting liquid from the mouth stares blankly at the viewer. Being heavily influenced by the punk movement, his design seems to fit the Dada-inspired and punk-thriving band’s sound and vision.

It wasn’t the first time Brody had worked for the band however, their 1982 album 2×45 had Brody’s design on the cover of the 12″ vinyl release.

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The rugged industrial style of his design matched the industrial sound the band brought to the world several years earlier.

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Shown above is a much more colourful cover that Brody designed for the single “James Brown,” that leans slightly more towards the punk movement at the time. His style gels completely with the band because the colours scream out at you in such a way that it isn’t garish but communicative of the way the band want to represent themselves. I couldn’t imagine the album cover looking any other way.

One of the videos from the album, “Sensoria” (shown below), was voted best album by the Los Angeles times in 1985, and the quick-cut crazily trippy video later found its way into the hands of the New York Museum of Modern Art because of it.

Cabaret Voltaire – “Sensoria” from the album Micro-Phonies.

The poster for the album can be seen in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (shown below) an odd choice by the set dressers in such a mainstream film, as the majority of the audience won’t be familiar with the Sheffield band’s music or name, which doesn’t feature in the film other than on this poster in his bedroom.

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