It wasn’t easy but we did it: here’s NME’s 21 greatest album covers of the decade so far.
21. Battles – ‘Gloss Drop’ (2011). Artwork by: Dave Konopka (Battles bassist)
“Essentially it’s a big pink blob of nothing,” said Battles’ bassist Dave Konokpa. “I wanted to represent a solid document that would be the album, that is a controlled atmosphere and have something that is completely organic that you can’t even control the way things are going to happen.”
20. Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’
The album’s artwork features an image of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice. It was in keeping with one of the themes of the album: Greek mythology.
19. FKA Twigs – ‘LP1’ Artwork: Jesse Kanda
FKA Twigs has been one of the most visually fascinating new artists of the decade with hypnotic, powerful music videos and live shows featuring the best Voguing in town. Her cover for first album ‘LP1’ was true to form.
18. Radiohead – ‘The King Of Limbs’ (2011). Artwork by: Stanley Donwood
Stanley Donwood was originally going to paint each member of the band for ‘The King Of Limbs’, but his early oil paintings were, in his own words, a “disaster”. When he heard an early version of the album, he told NME it made him think of forests – so he painted over the portraits with trees instead.
17. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Before Today’
The cover art of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s 2010 album suggested you might be in for some cosmopolitan Ramones-esque rock ‘n’ roll. As ever with Ariel, it was a bit more experimental than that. The woman bathed in pink light will haunt our dreams forever.
16. Nick Cave – ‘Push The Sky Away’ (2013). Artwork by: Dominique Issermann
For the dark, subtle and sublime ‘Push The Sky Away’, Nick Cave struck upon one of his most iconic cover images ever: it’s a photo, taken by Dominique Issermann, of Cave yanking open a window shutter in his Brighton bedroom and bathing the naked body of his wife, Susie Bick, in sunlight.
15. Merchandise, ‘After The End’
A mounted cube that could be made of moss or foam or anything a little bit creepy stands ominously against a striking emerald. Merchandise’s first album for new label home 4AD was poppier – though it’s album cover could have fooled you into thinking it was another indie lo-fi offering.
14. Aphex Twin – ‘Syro’ Artwork: The Designers Republic
The cover art for Aphex Twin’s surprise 2014 album shows the receipts for the the production and promotional costs of Syro, “from courier charges to photoshoot expenses, expressed per disc and tailored for both vinyl and CD versions.”
13. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’
The album cover features Kendrick Lamar, two of his uncles, and his grandfather, with everyone’s eyes censored apart from Kendrick. The uncle who is holding Lamar also is displaying the Crips gang sign with his hand, which also fits the story of the album and the poster above the head of Kendrick features him and his father.
12. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’
As minimalist as the artwork for ‘Suck It And See’, the wiggly AM cover may have been simple but it was effective and communicated some of the electricity of the album’s music.
11. Run The Jewels – ‘Run The Jewels 2’
You can spot the Run The Jewels aesthetic immediately. So brash it makes your eyes hurt, so unique there’s no mistaking it for an other artist and so stylish you want to buy the t-shirt. Bit like their second album then.
10. The Horrors – ‘Skying’ Artwork: Neil Krug
One of the most beautiful album covers of the decade, it’s Neil Krug’s 70s, woozy, sun-kissed ocean scene. You can almost imagine yourself right there.
9. Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘…Like Clockwork’ Artwork: Boneface
The cover art for the album was made by the British artist Boneface. It is based on a publicity still for the 1931 film Dracula and was suitably dramatic for Josh Homme and co’s sixth album.
8. Royal Blood – ‘Royal Blood’ (2014). Artwork: Dan Hillier
Hillier’s surreal, scary painting ‘Falls’ was chosen by Brighton duo Royal Blood for the cover of their self-titled album. Inspired by Victorian etchings, it’s one of the past year’s strangest – and strongest – pieces of cover art.
7. Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2010). Artwork: George Condo
George Condo’s artwork for ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is a head-turner alright: an image of a naked West straddled by a female with no arms but wings instead. Condo also painted a fancy Hermes Birkin handbag that West later gave as a present to Kim Kardashian.
6. Flying Lotus – ‘You’re Dead!’ Artwork: Shintaro Kago
Suitably trippy for an album inspired by Flying Lotus’ DMT trips, the cover art for his fifth album was designed by legendary manga artist Shintaro Kago.
5. Future Islands – ‘Singles
Singles is the fourth studio album released by the American band Future Islands. The cover was a surreal, oceanic design that mimicked the groups swelling, epic rock.
4. Laura Marling – ‘Once I Was An Eagle’
The cover for Marling’s fourth album was just as stark and arresting as her forensic album ‘Once I Was An Eagle’. It seemed to mirror lyrics from ‘Where Can I Go?’: “like a woman with her clothes on / You take them off and she’s a bird”.
3. PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’ (2011). Artwork by: Michelle Henning
Henning’s dark, twisted design for ‘Let England Shake’ was a perfect reflection of its conflicted, war-torn brilliance: a striking black-and-white design with nightmarish birds and that dark, dark splash in the centre.
2. David Bowie – ‘The Next Day’ (2013). Artwork by: Jonathan Barnbrook
Jonathan Barnbrook wanted to tinker with one of Bowie’s classic covers for his comeback album ‘The Next Day’ – a way of both remembering and dismantling the past – and said: “It had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way and we thought ‘’Heroes’’ worked best on all counts.”
1. Metronomy – ‘The English Riviera’ (2011). Artwork by: John Gorham
If Metronomy’s third album was a love-letter to Joe Mount’s hometown of Devon, then the album’s artwork was similarly indebted to coastal memories, too: it’s a riff on the work of the late John Gorham, the visual artist who used the iconic palm tree image for an ad campaign that celebrated the South Devon coastline.