Album Cover Reviews

Warpaint – The Fool

At first glance, the cover of the first full-length Warpaint album, The Fool, looks like something you’d see on a bad acid trip. But just one glance seems to be impossible, because, like the music itself, the cover is alluring and almost addictive. After staring at the mysterious picture, you realize the genius of it: it’s one of those album rarities, when the picture is paired perfectly with the music, and together they create a completely unique experience for the audience.

Describing the album cover is as difficult as describing the band responsible for it. Almost like a warped Warhol, it depicts a negative picture of a skull, brought to life with both watery and warm colors – cool blues and violets dot the edges of the skull, and a smooth, dark red pervades the center. Though, despite the vibrancy of the picture, the general shape is hard to make out, adding to the mystery. It looks like a facial X-ray crumbled up and held underwater, then lit up with sharp colors. Lining the top of the picture, the name of the band stands out in stark, gold letters.

Hailing from L.A., this eerie, experimental band is completely unlike any other modern artists. Exemplifying this creative otherworldliness, the cover of their anticipated album begs listening to, preferably alone in a dark room. The members of the group are each self-described artists and daily-creators; and after the release of their first album, it’s unlikely that anyone will object to this claim. The whole package – the bold music and ominous artwork – is, unquestionably, a modern work of musical art.

Warpaint – Undertow

Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

In an industry dominated now by mp3’s and iTunes rather than by CD’s and LP’s, album covers have become something of a dying art. However, one artist, Sufjan Stevens, has worked throughout his prolific career to break this trend. Through seven strikingly ambitious albums, he has created not only some of the most beautiful music of the twentieth century, but some of the most memorable album covers as well; and his lauded new album, The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds), out October 12th, is no exception.

The record cover depicts some sort of ominous figure that seems to resemble mythological icons from Mesoamerica. The figure looks as if it is wearing a large, black mask, and has two, dark red circles for eyes. The colors of the picture are attention-grabbing: set against a dull salmon color, the black and brick-red character stands out powerfully, beguiling listeners to explore the music. The phrase “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is etched to the right of the figure in creepy italic writing. Other, almost illegible writing is scribbled in various places on the album’s front, adding again to the mystery. Steven’s name lines the left and right of the picture, and “The Age of Adz” vibrantly covers the top and bottom of the image. In the end, the uniqueness of the album cover renders it virtually indescribable; however, that’s what makes this tantalizing cover so special – it has to be seen to be understood. Like Sufjan Steven’s larger body of work, the cover is, at the very least, intriguing.

The album’s title is a reference to the bizarre artwork of the American artist Royal Robertson, and the cover itself is a Robertson piece. Robertson was a schizophrenic and self-described prophet. His fantastical homemade creations often depicted subjects such as love, death, loss, God and sex; and appropriately, many of these same universal topics are explored throughout The Age of Ads too. Thematically, Steven’s message seems to fit with Robertson’s work. Though, the music seems to stand in contrast to this mold. The juxtaposition of Steven’s polished, modern electronica music to the stark plainness of the album cover is, in a way, a symbol of the stylistic unpredictability that has become a trademark of the musician’s career.

Sufjan Stevens – “I Walked”

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