Ten Favorite Album Covers of 2008

It’s the end of the year, so it’s time for yet another end-of-the-year list. These are not necessarily the “best” ten but my favorite ten, in alphabetical order.

And now for another installment of “Ten Favorite Album Covers”:

Such Fun
(Canvasback Music/Terpsikhore)


Credit: Bob Ross (paintings)

Notes: Yes, it’s that Bob Ross, who just happens to be my favorite painter of all time. This was an easy choice for the Ten Favorites, and an early contender when I broached the subject on MusicSnobbery.com. A big ol’ mountain right in there, and some happy little trees.

The Duke Spirit
(You Are Here/Shangri-La Music)


Credits: George Fok (cover photo), Josie Willey (design, illustrations)

Notes: This was one of my three early contenders for Ten Favorites, as I wrote on MusicSnobbery.com. Not over-illustrated like many of 2008’s album covers, I liked the execution of this “show-and-tell” concept. Vocalist Liela Moss explains it all to Chris in his Duke Spirit interview earlier this year.

Julie Ocean
Long Gone and Nearly There
(Transit in Venus)


Credit: Peter Hoey (design, sleeve art)

Notes: This album cover is a detail of a larger 2003 illustration of John Mayer that was used in Rolling Stone. (John Mayer? How did John Mayer get onto this blog? I’m calling security.)  This album cover was a much better use of the original illustration, but hey, I’m just one opinion.  I was instantly drawn to its Adrian Tomine-like quality. And the album itself was clearly one of my ten favorites of the year.

Lil Wayne
Tha Carter III
(Cash Money/Universal Motown)


Credits: Sandy Brummels (creative director); Jonathan Mannion (photography)

Notes: This album cover wins the 2008 dyn-o-wright Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Absurdity Award. Leave it to Weezy to do it crazy. The cover art says it all.

Matthew Herbert Big Band
There’s Me and There’s You
(Accidental Records)


Credit: Uncredited

Notes: It’s an album cover and a declaration in one: “We the undersigned, believe that music can still be a political force of note and not just the soundtrack to over-consumption.” The front is signed by 18 of the album’s performers as a petition, it half-reminded me of a library book due date slip, which would have been a good concept too.

Death Magnetic
(Warner Brothers)


Credit: Turner Duckworth

Notes: Big Deal brand consulting firm Turner Duckworth got a 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package for Metallica’s latest. I put it in my list because the cover is a mini-science demonstration: surely you remember from high school physics how iron filings near a magnet align themselves along the magnetic field lines.  (And somehow there is more science on this album cover than TV on the Radio’s Dear Science album cover. Who would have thought?)

(Def Jam)


Credits: TaVon Sampson (art Direction, design, cover illustration), Eric Altenburger (design, cover illustration), Meeno Peluce (cover photo)

Notes: As thought-provoking and courageous as the album itself, this cover effort by  veteran album illustrator/designer Eric Altenburger and illustrator/designer TaVon Simpson rates an A-plus for its powerful symbol of the original racial epithet title of the album.

Roots Manuva
Slime & Reason
(Big Dada)


Credits: Oscar Bauer, Ewan Robertson (design, direction); Pelle Crepin (photography)

Notes: The Oscar & Ewan design team 3D scanned Roots Manuva and had a sculptor create the cast. (The secret ingredient? Hand soap.) I think the image is striking, not just of the slime but also the expression on Roots Manuva’s face.

Paper Trail
(Grand Hustle/Atlantic)


Credit: Ian Wright (cover art and photo)

Notes: This album cover was another one of my early contenders for Ten Favorites. Still one of my favorites, it’s a fresh idea without a lot of the blingy trappings of many other rap and hip-hop album covers. You can see the album art in progress on Ian Wright’s website.

Young Knives
Superabundance (Transgressive)


Credit: Unknown

I couldn’t find a lot of information on this album cover (aside from a poorly-written Wiki article on the album), but I do like the photograph (of stuntman Brandon Baily). It’s rarin’ to go, like Young Knives’ music itself.

Honorable mentions:

Raphael Saadiq
The Way I See It

raphael-saadiq Credits: Michelle Holme (art direction); Ralph Koch (cover photo)

Notes: It’s modern with a retro vibe, a sort of update of the classic Blue Note Records aesthetic. I like how the text and photo work together: the white-on-black “Raphael Saadiq” text is simple yet bold, and the photo is very passionate.

The Automatic, This Is A Fix
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Part One: 4th World War

Dishonorable mentions:

The Dodos


Credit: Uncredited

Notes: All the energy put into the album probably left no energy for a decent cover. This was my least favorite of the year. I shouldn’t even ask what it’s supposed to be. A dodo egg? A golden potato?

Santogold, Santogold
Vanilla Ice, Vanilla Ice Is Back! Hip Hop Classics

Final Thought:

This year’s nominees for Best Recording Package Grammy…ehh, they’re okay. Metallica (and Turner Duckworth) received a nomination for Death Magnetic. Otherwise, nothing bowled me over in terms of album cover.


4 Responses to “Ten Favorite Album Covers of 2008”

  1. 1 Marion January 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    I love the Annuals cover. My dad used to watch Bob Ross every Saturday on WHYY. The happy little clouds, the fro… those were some good times.

  2. 2 Sam January 5, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Album covers are a dying medium. It’s an afterthought for most consumers (those who still buy CDs at all). The imagery of iconic album covers from Revolver to Nevermind will soon be long forgotten.

    Go here for an album cover quiz: http://www.sporcle.com/games/albumcovers.php

  3. 3 dynowright January 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    20 for 20, with 0:04 to spare (Stupid Diamond Dogs!)

    Album covers may be dying, but I’m not ready to write them off just yet…especially if digital downloads (individual tracks or actual whole albums) continue to be tagged with artwork. Probably in a few years, this Ten Favorites list will be reformulated into “Ten Favorite Digital Download JPGs”!

    As far as albums go, it’s true, most consumers actually buying physical CDs don’t care about the art on the outside. But the bigger problem is many consumers don’t care enough about the music on the inside. And I suspect that some artists and record companies also don’t care enough. Is it any wonder album sales are reported way down?

    At least for now, we have something good to look at on our device of choice. Like a Bob Ross painting.

  4. 4 Sam January 20, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Good point.

    In that case, my favorite was the Metallica album. I think it’s very clever.


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