You can’t judge an album by its cover, but there’s something about when certain albums seem to match their covers, often in some odd unexplained way. For me, it’s not something obvious like “yea, it’s a picture of the band playing the music,” but something much subtler. So this isn’t necessarily my 10 Most Favorite Albums of 2011 so far (though many of them might make that list if it existed), these are just 10 Favorite Covers That Happen To Match Their Music Well. Or something like that.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
The kind of album that’s hard to describe: it’s lush and dreamy but it still has an organic sound and chugging pace that seems in conflict with itself. Same for how many tracks sorta hum along on what seems like just one chord and yet you don’t feel bored. It’s an interesting drone, if that’s even possible. Like Bob Dylan meets Velvet Underground. Slave Ambient sounds how that cover looks. It’s this very strange intersection of electronica and Americana, though it doesn’t overtly sound like either.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Stark and fluttering, subtly explosive, beautiful yet blunt. PJ Harvey delivered one of the finest albums of the year so far and this black and white cover is just sharp enough for the occasion.
Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Is that not the perfect cover for Jay Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne? Just pure gold. Delicate wrapping, and you could say at times some paper-thin rapping as well. The cover doesn’t tell you the title or the artist (of course, you already know that you are in the presence of royalty), it simply conveys luxury. Insisting that it is the best of the best because, well, it’s the most expensive. But what’s inside? Like the cover, the album is more flash than substance. The only promise that’s really delivered here is that of more luxury. Expensive samples, top notch production, and signature styles (for better and worse) of the two co-star’s verses about, well, luxury. More gold rapping. The only album cover that might have been more appropriate would be a scanned image of their bank statements and tax returns.
Tame Impala – Inner Speaker
My colleague Jaded Bitterman already covered this album in his review here, but this is a great example of something that makes you want to hear it (or at least just draws you in visually) and then it’s embedded in your consciousness and reverberates the same way the songs do.
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Great mix of analog and digital, old school and new school, bright colors and stark contrasts. Perfect match for an album that is the same: a fresh and vital current document that’s also a return to form in all the best ways.
The Head and The Heart – The Head and The Heart
Look at that picture. What the fuck? I’m not sure why I keep looking at it. I don’t particularly like it, and yet I do. Since seeing it for the first time, I now love the music so it’s made this an enjoyable/positive image in my brain. I don’t know anything about it; not sure if either of those people are band members, or what it’s supposed to represent. And for some reason it fascinates me.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
So maybe I once referred to the Fleet Foxes as a soundtrack for doing yard work at a renaissance festival, I meant it in the best possible way. I love this album, and this textured cover fits like a glove. Rustic, trippy, delicate, layered, interesting, worth continued examination…
Stephen Marley – Revelation part 1: The Root of Life
This one is visually pretty simple, but it appears to be chiseled from rock and looks like both an emblem and an artifact, much like the music it represents, to not just be discovered and cherished but also preserved and passed on.
Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
Not the first or last to use of the empty theater or stage view, but this one is solid. Same for the record: live-sounding in its immediacy and full sounds among the open spaces.
Jason Isbell – Here We Rest
In keeping with the other choices of albums we’ve already reviewed elsewhere on this site, this one is just a stunning beauty. Something about these deep rich colors just works with the depth of Isbell’s storytelling.