The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sarah Hughes’ best album artwork of 2017

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St. Vincent’s Masseduction

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Sarah Hughes reflects on the year’s most eye-catching album covers.

Album art seems to be slowly creeping into the background of the music industry, especially with the digital realm taking over; it’s easy to dismiss an artist’s album cover when it is merely displayed in a small profile icon on an internet page. However, artists still jump at the chance to carry home their musical thoughts with engaging visuals and 2017 definitely did not disappoint. Filled with lush colors, vibrant concepts and eye-popping aesthetics, this year produced some of the finest work yet. After combing through the best of 2017, I’ve selected 5 of my favorite album covers this year.

Bjork’s Utopia

Bjork – Utopia

With the help of artists Jesse Kanda and Hungry, Bjork’s latest album, Utopia, puts forth a magnificent portrait of the Icelandic songstress as its cover. Doused in delicate pastels and gemstones, Bjork features details that may take a second glance to interpret or even fully understand. A plucked birdling of sorts sits at her collar, her neck displayed features marine-type nostrils, and perhaps the most eye-catching of all is her bold imagery of what appears to depict the female anatomy upon her forehead. Grasping her flute with one hand, she presents herself in typical iconic Bjork fashion, making this bold choice an instant favorite of 2017.

Fun Fact: While people see Bjork as a serious, strong-minded artist, she admitted to poking fun at herself in this album, explaining that some folks were missing some of her self-deprecating jokes throughout.

Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy

Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Tyler, the Creator’s latest album, Flower Boy, featured amazing imagery by the great Eric White. While White may be recognized for some of his previous works (Korn, Frank Zappa), he has been out of commission for the past 12 years, but jumped at the chance to work with Tyler. The album presents a saturated image of a blazing sky, enlarged bumblebees (a notorious symbol of power), and the obscured face of the rapper himself. A discreet rainbow slips into the frame and while the scene may present quite a delicate thought for someone like Tyler, you can take a closer peek into the background to see a posh McLaren with vertical doors open wide and rest assured that Tyler’s swag is still very much intact. It’s these sort of details that made this album cover one to remember.

Fun Fact: Tyler, The Creator never saw the finalized painting in person before he went public with the album.

St. Vincent’s Masseduction

St. Vincent – Masseducation

St. Vincent’s Masseducation challenges society head-on and only pursues the idea further with it’s cover art. The image is all too appropriate, since the album’s themes include sex, drugs and pop culture. Emphasizing a backside in a leopard print leotard with red stilettos and bright pink tights, the concept of cultural objectification is pertinent and the cover’s intent stands out as far as the tush itself. On the opposite side of the cover (which you can see at the top of the page), we see the image continued, as if St. Vincent herself has lurched through her own album cover: her disembodied head and arm clutching a remote control, intent on tuning into a television out of sight. The image and out-of-the-box concept earned this album art a spot on my list of 2017 favorites.

Fun Fact: The cover of this album doesn’t actually feature Annie Clark’s rump but that of the model Carlotta Kohl.

Feist’s Pleasure

Feist – Pleasure

Feist’s thoughtful latest album, Pleasure, is presented with a bright, simple image: a woman skipping through the entrance of a flourishing garden. Lush, bright pinks and reds fill the frame, with the album title (and seemingly the name of the place she enters itself) displayed above in plain black and white. The hints at the simple pursuit of pleasure in life (bare-footed and youthful) carry a lot of resonance and do a great job of alluding to the main theme of the album itself- that life is all about savoring the ride.

Fun Fact: Pleasure is Feist’s first release in 6 years.

Open Mike Eagle’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Open Mike Eagle puts out a cathartic, personal album in Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, and powerful corresponding imagery to go along with it, brought to us by notorious music illustrator McKay Felt (Little Simz, Flying Lotus). With the music revolving around the gentrification and displacement of black families in America, this album art is particularly powerful with it’s personification of the actual buildings as African American individuals. It’s a statement; it’s easy to feel indifferent to a set of buildings that are torn down, but by transforming these buildings into actual people, we can see how personal homes and neighborhoods truly are. This concept and it’s strong execution made this album cover a standout for me this year.

Fun Fact: This album is actually an ode to the Robert Taylor Homes projects in Chicago that have since been destroyed. This personally affected Mike Eagle and his family and displaced countless African American families.

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