2015: Favorite Cover Art

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


Cover art, in general, is a secret language, a ritualized glimpse behind the sonic veil. The prevalence of YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp as distribution and hosting platforms — not to mention the centralizing presence of social media on the frontlines of both public relations and everyday life — ensures that cover artists working today must negotiate a boxgrid environment of tiles, slideshows, and profile pics, achieving physical form in limited runs. From our selection of 20 of the year’s best covers, 14 were available on 12-inch vinyl (EP, LP, gatefold double pack, double pack with poster, transparent vinyl bootleg, glow in the dark “non-audiophile” pressing w/ free limited edition flexi); six were available on CD (jewel case, digipack, cardboard sleeve); four were available on cassette (three panel J-card); one was available as a USB necklace; another was available as a 7-inch single. Only one of these releases was digital-only, but all 20 were made available to stream online, if not download.

At this stage, the superior longevity of digital compared to plastic will be perceived by many as a fait accompli. Outside the web, a record’s plastic expression is fleeting, limited, ephemeral. A physical release is now also a moment of release. In which case, it might be worth following the work of trailblazing thinkers like Sherry Turkle — albeit each in our own nerdy, musically obsessive way — by taking time to think about the role these objects play in our lives. Doing so directly ties the question of cover art to the question of the value of music in lives that already bear the imprint of divided attention. Wider aesthetic questions then come into play. Is information stifling design? Is design stifling art? And the biggest question: How does the production and consumption of music alter the world? Considered against this backdrop, cover art’s function as an avatar for both producer and product, in an intensely crowded visual marketplace, reaches a heightened level of significance. The gap between coding and suggestion has never been smaller. The immaterial identities of a JPG, an MP3, and global icons like Kendrick and Rihanna have never seemed more relevant.

Accordingly, the best cover art of the year was frequently a matter of black and white. Any prevailing CCTV logic of HD authenticity was momentarily suspended, allowing xerographic, hand-stamped, and painterly aesthetics to bleed into the anamorphic zone where acoustic psychology and visual perspective overlaps. The experience of the sublime became insidious, tactile, customizable, and self-aware under networked conditions of overload and excess.


20

Rezzett - Goodness

Artist: Will Bankhead

[The Trilogy Tapes]



19

Larry Wish - Born Outside My Window

Artist: Keith Rankin

[Orange Milk]


18

Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden Of Delete

Artist: Daniel Lopatin

[Warp]


17

Event Cloak - Life Strategies

Artist: Keith Rankin

[Orange Milk]


16

Photonz - Gnosis Of Wolfers

Artist: Mehdi Rouchiche

[Crème Organization]


15

Eartheater - RIP Chrysalis

Artist: Eartheater

[Hausu Mountain]


14

Alex G - Beach Music

Artist: Rachel Giannascoli

[Domino]


13

IVVVO - Mark Leckey Made Me Hardcore

Artist: Mehdi Rouchiche

[Crème Organization]


12

Slack DJs - Glasshouse Mountains

Artist: Will Bankhead

[The Trilogy Tapes]


11

Call Super - Migrant

Artist: Call Super

[Houndtooth]

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


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