All Songs Considered
12:52 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

What Are Your Top Five Album Covers?

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 8:24 pm

This past week we lost one of the greatest album cover art designers of all time. Britain's Storm Thorgerson, who died last Thursday, was just 69 years old. He'd spent more than 40 years designing and orchestrating some of the most iconic album covers of all time. Even if you don't know the name Storm Thorgerson, you know his work. That prism on the cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon? That was his.

Led Zeppelin's creepy Houses Of The Holy cover was another one of his.

The list of Thorgerson's work is massive and amazing: Peter Gabriel's self-titled 1978 album, Styx's Cyclorama, The Alan Parson's Project's Pyramid, and Phish's Slip Stich And Pass are just some. More recently Thorgerson was behind iconic art for Muse's Black Holes And Revelations, The Mars Volta's Francis The Mute, and Biffy Clyro's Puzzle.

One thing you never saw on Thorgerson covers: the band members. Nothing turns me off faster than a posed photo of the artist or group behind a given album (unless you're The Beatles). Big yawn. I'm looking for images that spark my curiosity, that invite long, thoughtful looks and tell stories, even if I'm not sure what the story is.

Storm Thorgerson's passing got us thinking about our own top five album covers. Tell us yours in the comments section. Here are mine.

1. Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here

Storm Thorgerson did a whole bunch of Pink Floyd covers and this one is my favorite. It's probably not hanging in as many college dorm rooms as Dark Side's cover, but it's so compelling, I still think about it nearly 40 years after it came out. What on earth is happening, and why? Somebody is having a truly bonkers day.


2. Shearwater's Rook

The work of designers Richard Selesnick and Nicholas Kahn reminds me quite a bit of Storm Thorgerson's. They've done all the cover art for the band Shearwater and this one is my favorite. The group's name is also a type of seabird, and frontman Jonathan Meiberg is seriously into ornithology, all of which is captured in this magical, mysterious image. It might be my favorite cover of any from the past decade or more.


3. Panda Bear's Person Pitch

Agnes Montgomery is an amazing designer. Her cover for Panda Bear's 2007 album Person Pitch is both playful and strange. It's a little overwhelming and claustrophobic, but at the same time you still want to step inside this little world and join everyone. All of Montgomery's collages are handmade using a plain old pair of scissors and found images she cuts and lays together. Just brilliant.


4. Girl Talk's Feed The Animals

It's a pretty simple image, but so subversive. Though he certainly wasn't the first to do it, Girl Talk's Gregg Gillis made a name for himself by dismantling and mangling together songs by other artists, forcing (or maybe just inviting) us to hear familiar sounds in thrilling new ways. It was sort of a sonic finger to the establishment. The cover for Girl Talk's 2008 album Feed The Animals, by artist Andrew Strasser, implies bucolic suburbia with a cookie-cutter home that's been tagged and firebombed with the band's letters, perfectly capturing the album's entire vibe.


5. Pink Floyd's Animals

Speaking of animals, I was trying to avoid having more than one Pink Floyd cover on this list, but I can't help it. The cover for the band's 1977 album Animals, designed by bassist Roger Waters (with help from Storm Thorgerson) has fascinated me for decades. It's just a giant, inflatable pig hovering over an old power station in England, but it's impossible to truly decipher its multiple levels of meaning and mystery. It speaks obliquely to the album's social, cultural and political themes. Or maybe it's just a big balloon. Either way, I love it.

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