The Best of 2011:
Album Cover Art

Inspired by Cleveland author Matthew Chojnacki’s Put the Needle on the Record, we’ve got our selections for the  Best in Album Cover Art for 2011. Chojnacki joined us, selecting the first five covers on this list. 

Battles – Gloss Drop
Simple and bizarre, Glass Drop is a pile…of something.  Whether it’s fifty tubes of emptied toothpaste or a mound of congealed silly string, it’s a cover that just grabs. I also liked the consistency of the related singles, including “Ice Cream” (featuring piles of just that, in three different “flavors”) and “Battles” (a heap of trash).

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
I would love to know the story behind this piece—simultaneously disturbing and fascinating. Is there hidden meaning here, or is it rather just a random gaffe shot?  Either way, I would frame this in a second. There’s also a cool timeless element to TH&TH. It’s like Debbie Harry meets Donnie Darko.

Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Japanese artist Tsunehisa Kimura (who passed away in 2008) used photo montage in his work, juxtaposing man-made structures with natural destruction. The image perfectly fits the frantic energy of Zonoscope, one of the most exciting LPs (and live bands – I caught them twice) of ’11.

White Lies – Ritual
The Shining: 2011.  A gazing pair of twins never disappoints, with Ritual creating the same eery effect that it did in the underrated 1980 Stanley Kubrick pic.  But it all started with Diane Arbus’ classic ’67 photo “Identical Twins” (check it out).  Well done.

Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
Perhaps my favorite sleeve of the year. Yet another stunning jacket from powerhouse indie label 4AD, which has been making waves visually since 1980.  Eye Contact is a fascinating close-up of an insect by Polish photographer Miroslaw Swietek, who lenses sleeping arthropods when they are covered with morning dew. Just beautiful.

—Matthew Chojnacki

Yuck – Yuck
I love this album cover. It’s equal parts childish and disturbing. It reminiscent of The The’s Infected cover, but definitely less controversial. I remember seeing this plastered all over the outside of Cleveland’s Grog Shop. Made me laugh because I could imagine the judgment people would hand it. Definitely an unforgettable cover.

All Dinosaurs – Paranoid Indigenous
This cover is a fantastic juxtaposition of a battle between the indians in the foreground (which honestly, make me think of those little plastic toy soldiers because of their coloring) and haunting black and white pictures at the cover’s top. It’s chaotic and powerful, much like the band’s output.

The Strokes – Angles
Talk about a throwback piece! This album cover recalls the bright color choices and odd geometric patterns that are stereotypically ’80s. The central construction also harkens toward M.C. Escher’s work.

mr. Gnome – Madness in Miniature
mr. Gnome’s artwork is just as full of whimsy as their music. It’s surreal and dark, even with all its use of oranges and yellows. It’d be interesting to know how exactly they think this stuff up.

Washed Out – Within and Without
At first glance, it’s simplistic. A photograph of lovers. Yet, I think the moment captured on film is a play on the album’s title, Within and Without.  There’s something about this woman’s eye, the way her arms are folded, that just makes me feel a disconnect—even if that disconnect is simply from the world—as she shares the most intimate of moments with a lover.

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