Is album cover art still relevant?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by qwerty, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. angelo73

    angelo73 ⬚⿻⬚⿻⬚⿻⬚

    Michigan, USA
    Some marvellous album covers of the 20th century made you feel like you were taking home your very own work of art. As much a part of the identity of a record as the sound, billions of music fans have derived the pleasure of aesthetic from album covers.

    Since collecting CDs has (for me and many others) replaced vinyl LPs, and subsequently digital-downloading replacing physical media collections for others, many with an eye and appreciation for the coupling of audio and visual aesthetic have taken it upon themselves to incorporate visual art and music utilizing imaging software, digital files, laser printers, and their imaginations! With smartphones proverbially velcroed to the palms of our hands and access to so much visual media (as well as the means to create our own), I'd argue that the tandem of music and artwork is more relevant today than it ever was. What has changed is that the concept has become more DIY than in the past.
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  2. Saint Johnny

    Saint Johnny Forum Resident

    Asbury Park
    I'd venture to say, speaking for myself, that I lost quite a bit of my ritual devotion, admiration, love, blah blah, for music itself, once 12" album art became almost superfluous.
    I really, really miss 12" album art! And I don't believe anyone at the time realized what was actually being lost, when it was needlessly phased out.
  3. Saint Johnny

    Saint Johnny Forum Resident

    Asbury Park
    Didn't Storm (sp?) just pass away?
    RIP April 2013.:faint:
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  4. andrewskyDE

    andrewskyDE Island Owner

    Zack Island
    For me just a front cover is not enough to present the music behind it, but sadly most of the downloadable audio content (iTunes etc.) only contains one picture and that was it.
    I still love the art around physical copies. Booklets, inner sleeves, labels, gatefolds,... and I prefer buying music in that way. An album's package design is big part of the whole concept IMO.
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  5. Kristofa

    Kristofa I dream of wires

    Eugene, Oregon
    Its absolutely relevant. There are many modern artists that have pretty intricate cover art (Fleet Foxes, Santigold, Alt-J, Joanna Newsom, to name a few on my shelf).

    Album art has always been good and bad. Some artists really take time and other do not. This has always been the case. There is no “golden age” of album art. That is just looking through glasses made of nostalgia.

    As for size... I can find a hi-Rez of any modern album cover and make it my desktop background, which is a LOT larger than 12”x12”.
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  6. PaperbackBroadstreet

    PaperbackBroadstreet Forum Resident

    That’s why I put the members stil around. :cry:

    Definitely sad.
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  7. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Golden Gate
    Cover art is still plenty relevant, just not in the way the OP wants it to be.

    Whenever I see a post that starts with
    it tells me I'll be conversing with someone for whom Things Were Better Back In The Good Old Days, and not just LP-size album covers that you could gaze at, and roll joints on. I enjoyed all that stuff too. But 1974 went away a long time ago. Today music itself is just another diversion trying to attract your attention; decades ago, with much less competition, it was part of the prevailing view.

    I'm a career graphic designer, and a geezer. More than a few developments in the business have passed me by, and that's just the way it is. What I can tell you is that package design in general remains one of the most robust areas of the industry. Appearances count a lot. And there is considerable effort made to catch the eye when it comes to music.

    It just doesn't happen in the same way that it used to. Neither in the design process, nor the user experience. I guess you can either invest in a decent monitor to view .PDFs, or go through your life savings and retain a serious LP collection.

    But the actual art created for music these days is often incredible.

    John Zorn's catalog alone is loaded with art marvels.

    Then again, you'd have to enjoy Zorn's music, and that's a separate thread. :laugh:





  8. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    True. There were some pretty bad 60's album covers too!
  9. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    my favourite album sleeves were from the late 50's into or up to about 1970.
    after that, artwork started to get cheap. can't remember the last time I saw a great new
    album cover that spoke to me.
  10. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    these were the days:
  11. fenderesq

    fenderesq In Brooklyn It's The Blues / Heavy Bass 7-7

    Brooklyn - NY
    Absolutely! Haven't you heard Absolutely Sweet Marie by Jason and the Scorchers or The Common Ground LP by Dave and Phil Alvin? Now those are some artful covers.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  12. Incompletist

    Today I rarely see anything that I would be tempted to buy for the cover. There's nothing that comes close to the iconic covers like Troutmask, We're Only In It For The Money, The Velvet Underground and Nico, White Light White Heat.

    There are nice covers and I still like a good cover. I like hand-crafted typography, visual wit and irreverence. Boldness. Professionalism is not of any special importance. A good cover just needs to counteract the music in some intriguing way that tells me it's going to be interesting to hear. Play with expectations. Of course it's too personal to say what is good or not.
    If I Can Dream_23 and qwerty like this.
  13. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH Forums. Thread Starter

    Yes, I have accumulated a few years. I do appreciate some things in the past which I think were better than today, but mainly I think things have got better. For example, as a former graphic designer, I was very happy to let go of the milliners solution and progress to digital compositing. And anyone who knew how I valued my records knew that they were not to be used to roll joints on (they used other things for that!).

    Thanks for sharing John Zorn's album designs, it is great examples of some lovely artwork.
    gd0 likes this.
  14. Brian Lux

    Brian Lux One in the Crowd

    Placerville, CA
    Still Relevant? Absolutely. Here's one of my favorite contemporary LP covers:

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  15. Khaki F

    Khaki F Forum Resident

    Kenosha, WI. USA
    Art, wherever you may find it, is always relevant. Sometimes a cover is just a cover though.
    Hadean75 likes this.
  16. y531ly5

    y531ly5 Forum Resident

    I remember the first time I saw this...


    A true experience to see the artwork during the play.
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  17. ramdom

    ramdom Hoarder Hearing

    Perth ON, Canada
    This is Baizley's art (from the band, Baroness). I could look at this all day: the composition, the craftsmanship, the archetypical imagery, the allusion to past styles & epochs, the hidden images buried in the repetitive motifs. On and on. His work in colour is even more stunning. I have 2 of the band's albums on vinyl and even though they sadly have far less than stellar SQ, I've kept them for the package artwork and can't part w/ them.

    The 'image' will always matter to music – if not for a associative marketing tool, then for the images it conjures and evokes while it plays.
  18. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    Well put. amazing art indeed.
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  19. mwheelerk

    mwheelerk If you fly a flag of hate you ain't no kin to me

    Even though it has been 30+ years since I collected vinyl and that my listening today is primarily either from my digital library or streaming I still very much enjoy quality artwork. Of course with this type of listening for the most part I'm losing half the experience in regards to seeing the artwork because of lack of the back covers or inside gatefolds etc but still I love good cover art. I try my best to have high quality artwork for the near 2400 albums in my digital library. With streaming you have no control over the artwork you see so you lose even more of the experience. Its important to me but I am unsure or rather I simply don't know about about this current generation and how artwork might be perceived by them and other younger generations.
  20. OptimisticGoat

    OptimisticGoat Taking the Great Leap Forward

    In the 80s a few of the many bands I liked were branded “faceless” by the critics. I guess that meant you could walk past them on the street. Whatever... but the album art gave these bands their image. The album was a body of work. You listened to the single if you did not care for them (as little as possible) and the album if you did. Yes there were the icons and MTV was huge but you could not avoid the album art.
    I think the opportunity to use album art/a graphic image to brand the band/album is no different today in the download/streaming era. I see it as just as important even if it is not as physically “there” as it used to be. I also think that there is a returning appreciation of the album as a body of work and with it - old art work and new. I am not sure that it wall ever go back to what it was but a smart band in the current market attaches image(s) to their product as well as the music.
  21. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Good points. That's the very thing. I don't discount potential for great cover art. Like great music, a great cover can always arise. But, as you stated, there are actually covers from pop music's heyday in which the cover alone could (and has) led to a purchase. Now that's making an impression! :)

    Then again, things were more impressionable / mysterious / larger than life in those days I think.

    I can think of a handful that could have fit that bill back in time: St. Vincent's latest glowing red "rear view" cover, A Very She & Him Christmas, etc, but rarely do I see cover art that makes me want to buy it without even knowing the music.

    Then again, I'm well aware that this likely says more about me than cover art. Art evolves and changes. What passes today as "trendy art" may very well go over my head. Whereas, many at large find it striking. Which I can respect. To each their own.
    OptimisticGoat likes this.
  22. Incompletist

    I think the key word is 'trendy'. Those old covers were not trendy. They had to earn their place. What today passes as trendy is actually for me a bit boring and predictable. I think the ar*e in St.Vincent is a good example of trendy artwork and I think we've seen this kind of thing before. Guy Bourdin's photography for example. In fact, to be honest, it looks like a complete copy if his style and subject. This Charles Jourdan advert from 1979:

    Did St. Vincent copy this?

    I prefer those covers that work with an 'out of time' artist, or a non-artist. They seem to take a risk by using something this is not obviously cool. Sonic Youth knew how to do that by choosing people such a Raymond Pettibone, Mike Kelley, Gerhard Richter. Best covers are where designers are not involved in making or sourcing the image, imo.

    My fave cover of recent years might be this The Red Krayola singles compilation (by Glenn Brown). But that band have nearly always had interesting covers:

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
  23. The Acid Mouse

    The Acid Mouse Well-Known Member

    The new Breeders album has artwork by the wonderful Chris Bigg - even if I didn't like the record I'd buy it for the artwork - to me that's totally relevant.
  24. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Golden Gate
    Bill Nelson's album art is compelling, to say the least...





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  25. Kingsley Fats

    Kingsley Fats Forum Resident

    Back in the day, when CD's started to be released the need to adapt covers to suite a smaller format arose.
    Many of the gimmicky elements that worked on a 12" format were not going to work stuck inside a jewell case.
    Once the graphics & visual artists fully grasped the new constraints excellent ideas started to arise. Some (many) simple, some more complex.
    The CD label itself also became part of the canvas.
    The Bill Nelson covers in the previous post are excellent examples of cover art that works in the small format.

    For me there will always be a connection between the cover art & the music.

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