With the resurgence of vinyl as a medium for music, the need for some tasty, trippy or technicolored artwork to slap on your album has never been more important. Art has always been a creative means of expression comfortably seated next to music, but the value of the album cover as an art form goes up exponentially when it’s stretched to the proper 12 inches.
With the year in it’s dying days, we take a look back at how 2016 has treated us in this respect. It’s been an amazing year for Australian music, and a stellar year for the art world too. What better way to celebrate it than by gazing upon their greatest union?
Amongst the countless end of year lists hitting the net right now, we take a more visual approach by ranking the 10 best album covers of the year.
The Laurels – Sonicology
Put together by the artistic power couple We Buy Your Kids, The Laurels’ latest was as sonically pleasing as it was visually. A meditative cover that evokes the same pyschonautic feelings as this cleansing catalogue of tunes, it was an instant favourite.
GL – Touch
Packed with minimal, abstract tastiness, the block colours and ambiguous designs of Touch are a modern take on the colorised geometrics popular in the 80s. As squeaky clean as the GL sound, it’s a standout artwork on any vinyl rack.
Flume – Skin
Nothing is more beautiful than a flower, and Flume’s 2016 record Skin is an unfurling crisp delight. Swathed in violet light and capturing the effervescence of this Australian producer so beautifully, Skin is a visual poem; romantic and exciting.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
King Gizzard are the Aussie montage of musical mystery and wonder and their most recent album Nonagon Infinity is a cosmic and complex nod to this vision. The Gizz has continuously delivered great art, in no small part due to a continued relationship with Jason Galea, who animates most of the music videos too.
Montaigne – Glorious Heights
A breakout artist of 2016, Montaigne has wowed everyone with her enigmatic stage performance and unearthly vocals. Montaigne is a complete vision and so we would not expect anything less from her debut album’s art, filled with colour and fantasy visions. Montaigne’s charisma shines through this almost angelic collage of narrative.
The Bennies – Wisdom Machine
Hail 1960s psychedelic! Who doesn’t love a huge splash of colour and a side dose of trip? The Bennies pumped out a smash hit of a record this year and the hard-to-ignore explosion of vintage inspired text and art. Wisdom Machine is a cool customer for 2016, on trend but still an ode to the greats.
Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
This Blue Mountains country tinged folk artist has taken 2016 and made it her own. Don’t Let The Kids Win’s visual is norm-core fun at it’s best, with dusty pink undertones and a sporty edge. Julia Jacklin’s simple take on kitsch pop runs perfectly in line with her music; accessible without being contrived, this album cover speaks volumes to her aesthetic as an artist, the perfect debut entry.
Big Scary – Animal
We needed a dark entry for this list, and Big Scary presented a killer addition with Animal. Abstract and violent, the screaming man is a pretty accurate take on their sound for this record – animalistic and explosive. The fast brush strokes and thick swabs of colour are almost tangible, the image bringing forth intrigue enough to having you aching for more.
Shining Bird – Black Opal
Shining Bird’s 2016 offering Black Opal was a near-perfect collection of swelling Australiana that you can’t listen to without getting teary eyed with thoughts of golden beaches and wedge-tailed eales in flight.
The album cover echoes an evocation of our sunburnt country, utilising a palette of desert red, ghost gum white and the bruised blackness of the night sky in the outback.
Bootleg Rascal – Asleep In The machine
The funky psych Sydney crew has finally squeezed this bad boy out and we could not be more stoked. Asleep in The Machine is provocative and sexual with space age dimensions and an almost Kahloesque female protagonist. Mechanical and mysterious, Asleep at the Machine is a dark and challenging compendium, a perfect 2016 contribution by Bootleg Rascal.
While you’re here, check out our piece on Aussie musicians who are also artists.