Users of the Art Vinyl site have voted for the 50 most beautiful album sleeves of the past year. And at Number 50, it’s Piano Magic’s, ‘Ovations’. The chilling artwork for the band’s tenth album is a neat fit with their ambient pop/indietronica sound.
49. Sonic Youth, ‘The Eternal’. This alluring cover art for the Sonic’s fifteenth studio album was created by famous American guitarist John Fahey. The US rockers were fans of the musician, who died in 2001.
48. U2, ‘No Line On The Horizon’. During the writing and recording of the band’s twelfth studio album, Bono claims he’d grown tired of writing in the first-person, so he invented a number of characters including a traffic cop, a drug-addict and a soldier.
47. Peter Doherty, ‘Grace/Wastelands’. French artist Alize Meurisse says she was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s play ‘Salome’ – a tragedy about a woman who is obsessed with preserving her virginity and takes pleasure in destroying male sexuality.
46. The Maccabees’ ‘Wall Of Arms’. With its bold primary colours, this album cover is an affectionate tribute to Pulp’s pop art-esque artwork for ‘His’n’Hers’.
45. Basement Jaxx, ‘Scars’. For their fifth studio album the dance act went for a ‘mechanical owl’ theme. Don’t stare into his eyes too long, you’ll get freaked out.
44. Clark, Growls Garden. This EP release from Warp Records electro bloke Clark came with an eye-catching design by Matt Burden.
43. The Nextmen, ‘Join The Dots’. This eye-catching artwork features on the Cambridge duo’s fourth album. The hip-hop maestros have worked with artists including Public Enemy, Plan B and Corinne Bailey Rae.
42. Bill Callahan, ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle’. The second album from the Smog man under his own name, which came illustrated with this pastoral scene.
41. Atlas Sound, ‘Logos’. Bradford Cox’s second ‘solo’ outing was described as “richly rewarding” in our 8/10 album review.
40. The Rakes, ‘Klang’. The London-based post-punks picked up good reviews for this third album, but it wasn’t enough – they split in October 2009.
39. The Prodigy, ‘Invaders Must Die’. Working with Luke Insect (who designed this sleeve), the British electro group have just released a limited edition book documenting their 2008/09 tour. Each book has been individually numbered and signed by the band.
38. Duke Garwood, ‘The Sand That Falls’. Duke Garwood is a blues-tinged singer-songwriter. Listen to him here.
37. Headless Heroes, ‘Headless Heroes’. Headless Heroes are a collection of musicians helmed by Eddie Bezalel, a New York A&R guru who has worked with Mark Ronson.
36. Volcano Choir, ‘Unmap’. The ‘other’ band of Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon.
35. Art Brut, ‘Art Brut VS Satan’. Their third album, produced by Pixies frontman Frank Black.
34. Dirty Projectors, ‘Bitte Orca’. An ‘orca’ is another name for a killer whale, while ‘bitte’ means please in German. What that has to do with this cover artwork is anyone’s guess.
33. Jay-Z, ‘The Blueprint 3’. This is the first of Jay-Z’s albums not to feature a photo of himself. Jay claims the use of live instruments on the cover represent “the forgotten pieces in hip-hop”.
32. Skunk Anansie, ‘Smashes Trashes’. The rock band released their greatest hits in 2009, accompanied by this not-particularly inspired sleeve. Still, someone must have voted for it.
31. The Horrors, ‘Primary Colours’. Their second full-length was NME’s Album Of 2009.
30. Wild Beasts, ‘Two Dancers’. Described by NME as “a treasure that deserves plundering.”
29. The Mars Volta, ‘Octahedron’. Described by vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala as a “pop record”, although most people who’ve heard it would disagree.
28. Grizzly Bear, ‘Veckatimest’. The Pitchfork favourites made many critics’ end of year lists with their third studio album.
27. Loko, ‘In Love’. A slightly obscure choice – ‘In Love’ was an EP by young emerging Argentinian producer Gonzalo Gonzalez.
26. Mastodon, ‘Crack The Skye’. The prog-tinged epic metallers came up with a typically understated effort for their fourth album.
25. Flaming Lips, ‘Embryonic’ – Wayne Coyne and co’s first ever double album.
24. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘It’s Blitz!’
The US indie rockers’ third album featured art work as cracking as their sound. The release went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album.
23. Wallpaper, ‘Doodoo Face’. This colourful image perfectly captures Wallpaper’s infectious (and often comical) vocoder-laced pop. The band – which originally started as a novelty side-project – released its debut album in September last year.
22. F**k Buttons, ‘Tarot Sport’. The Bristol band’s second album sported a dizzying mid-air shot from above the clouds. The electronic duo enlisted the help of DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, who has worked with bands including Primal Scream, New Order and Björk.
21. Jamie T, ‘Chaka Demus’ (12” single). Aside from knocking out this for Jamie T, Art Director Andrew Murabito has worked with artists including The Rolling Stones, Bat For Lashes, Massive Attack, The Kooks, Pete Doherty and Britney Spears.
20. The Hours, ‘See The Light’. As well as being their chief financier, prominent artist Damien Hirst provided the artwork for The Hours’ latest release. In 2007, Hirst gained the auction record for the most expensive work of art by a living artist ($19.2 million dollars).
19. Jarvis Cocker, ‘Further Complications’. Cocker has a history of writing songs for films, including the recent ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’. He also featured on the ‘Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire’ soundtrack and even appeared in the movie as a member of the fictional rock band, The Weird Sisters.
18. Kelpe, ‘Microscope Contents’. Besides this hypnotic album cover, art design group La Boca have produced material for music, movies, and fashion and are behind much of the artwork for Welsh rockers ‘Bullet For My Valentine’.
17. Yo La Tengo, ‘Popular Songs’. Taking a break from destroying cassette tapes, the New Jersey trio have written the score to director Greg Mottola’s (‘Superbad’) new comedy, ‘Adventureland’.
16. Florence & The Machine, ‘Lungs’. According to the songstress, her unusual band name grew out of a private joke between her and a friend. The group is scheduled to start recording their second album later this month.
15. Thee Vicars, ‘Back On The Streets’. The colourful Suffolk band embark on a busy schedule this year, touring the UK, Finland France, US and Mexico.
14. Weezer, ‘Raditude’. The American rockers found the artwork for their seventh studio album in a copy of the National Geographic. Jason Neely of Connecticut sent in a picture of his dog Sidney as part of a reader-submitted photo contest. According to Neely, “Sidney is a big Weezer fan”.
13. The xx, ‘xx’. The London trio recently collaborated with video director artist Saam Farahmand to produce a 3D audio-visual interpretation of their debut album. ‘xx: A Sculpture of the Album’ was on display at The Vinyl Factory during 8th and 12th January.
12. Bat For Lashes, ‘Two Suns’. Natasha Khan is the niece of former squash World Open winner Jahangir Khan, and was inspired by watching his matches. The songstress claims, “The roar of the crowd is intense… I feel like the banner got passed to me but I carried it on in a creative way”.
11. Animal Collective, ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. This optical illusion, which appears to move before your eyes, was inspired by the work of Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka.
10. Depeche Mode, ‘Sounds Of The Universe’. The band’s twelfth studio album was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music, but lost out to Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’.
9. La Roux, ‘La Roux’. Elly Jackson insists that her distinctive red quiff was the result of an accident and not a premeditated ‘image’. “I started cutting it but it went a bit wrong and I quite liked it.” she explains.
8. Editors, ‘In This Light And On This Evening’. For their third studio album, the Birmingham band enlisted the help of producer Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis, famous for working with bands including U2, The Killers and Depeche Mode.
7. White Lies, ‘To Lose My Life’. This stark, minimalist design – vaguely reminiscent of Storm Thorgerson’s abstract work for Pink Floyd – is a good match for the band’s jet-black aesthetic.
6. Pet Shop Boys, ‘Yes’. For this album, the London duo wanted something clear and minimalist. They had been inspired by the Gerhard Richter 4900 exhibitions at London’s Serpentine gallery, which featured panels of brightly coloured squares.
5. Green Day, ‘21st Century Breakdown’. This Banksy-esque artwork for Green Day’s eighth studio album was directed by R.E.M’s staff designer Chris Bilheimer, the man behind such album sleeves as ‘Monster’, ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’ and ‘Up’.
4. Massive Attack, ‘Splitting The Atom’. Robert Del Naja, aka ‘3D’ of Massive Attack, designed the artwork for this four track EP . He has also produced cover art for Unkle, including ‘War Stories’ and ‘End Titles… Stories For Film’.
3. Fever Ray, ‘Fever Ray’. Martin Ander, who designed and illustrated the Fever Ray artwork, explains it in his own words: “A paranormally gifted woman stands in front of a barren, twisted and wintry landscape, her face expressionless and her intentions unclear.”
2. Manic Street Preachers, ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’. The artwork for ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’, designed by Jenny Saville (also responsible for the band’s third album’ The Holy Bible’) was deemed offensive by some UK supermarkets, who instead chose to display it in a plain case.
And the most beautiful album sleeve of 2009 is… Muse’s, ‘The Resistance’. This space-themed image, designed by La Boca, shows a figure standing alone, staring into the distance towards planet earth, surrounded by a multicoloured mosaic.