The 10 best album covers of summer 2017. The albums are ranked by the artistry of the covers, but they are all so good! Each listing has a summary of the album artwork and music, followed by a linked track for a first listen.
10. “OKNOTOK” by Radiohead
Radiohead rereleased the album, “Ok Computer” with previously unreleased tracks from the original recording session. This refreshed compilation “OKNOTOK” revisits the love and fear of technology, and reminds the listener to maintain a healthy skepticism. The album cover for “OKNOTOK” is the 20 years vintage cover of “Ok Computer.” This album is ranked #10 because the artwork is iconic but… recycled.
First listen: Man of War
9. “Process” by Sampha
It is fitting that, as many of us are introduced to Sampha on his debut solo album, the cover features his face. It is like we are meeting him for the first time. Seemingly in deep thought or repose, Sampha’s image emobdies his album’s message of overcoming grief, his “Process.” Whether or not you know his name, you have likely heard Sampha’s voice singing with Solange, Frank Ocean, Drake, or Kanye. His tracks are heart-wrenching, especially in the context of his story, and his approach to the music is tender and sweet.
First listen: No One Knows Me Like the Piano
8. “What Now” by Sylvan Esso
Cynical lyrics are masked in lyrical melodies and pulsing electronic rhythms in “What Now.” The duo took their time in completing this album, in order to meet the high standards held by fans after the success of the first album. Tracks like “Radio,” capture the wishes of a generation of young hopefuls with appropriate bitterness and vulgarity. Sylvan Esso’s album cover, with an impassioned kiss and brightly colored parrot, is playful and personal, just like the featured tracks.
First Listen: Die Young
7. “More Life” by Drake
Featuring Drake’s father, Papa Graham, on the album front, “More Life” is a personal and reflective compilation. Weaving words with his characteristic flow, Drake shares poetic, intimate stories and lets the rhythmic accompaniment give shape to his words.
First listen: Two Birds, One Stone
6. “The Order of Time” by Valerie June
Valerie June’s sound is a surprising blend of old Appalachia and contemporary city. Before you hear her speak, you see her wide-curled dreadlocks and feminine attire and you expect her to sound youthful. Her untamed voice, though, carries old stories from the hills of Tennessee through the bold, unique warbles of a seasoned Memphis-raised musician. June’s distinct voice is sweetly balanced by her gentle picking on the guitar or banjo. This album infuses a haunting roots sound with rockabilly electric guitar and a tambourine straight out of church.
First Listen: Shakedown
5. “Melodrama” by Lorde
Telling the story of a party from start to end, Lorde takes a step back from what is popular and a step toward what is true. In a delicate painting by artist Sam McKinniss, the singer-songwriter is featured tucked into bed and cast in the blue light of the evening. The track “Sober,” inspired by the anticipation of a cab ride to a party, is lively and upbeat, describing the desires that inspire a party. The reprise of the track, “Sober II (Melodrama),” taunts of the melodrama that transpired, describing the calm clean-up after the party: “Oh how fast the evening passes/ cleaning up the champagne glasses.”
First Listen: Sober II (Melodrama)
4. “Not Living in Fear” by Hear In Now
A perfect trio of violin, cello, and bass, Hear in Now is jazz, but more. Occasionally, a voice winds through astral strings with purposeful vocal melodies. “Not Living in Fear” features a cover that embodies their sound. The three musicians embrace, set in a field of bright waves and pastel clouds. Each track is titled in such a way that it focuses the listener’s intentions like a meditation.
First Listen: Not Living in Fear
3. “Folklife” by Jayme Stone
Jayme Stone is a prominent ethnomusicologist of our time, not documenting but living the music traditions. It is only fitting that a collection of reinvented folk music features images of contemporary people represented by folk art. Stone’s tracks are as distinct and captivating as the images on his album cover. His music draws sounds from uniquely American landscapes,such as the deep south, which is distinctly represented in the visual cover art with cotton and watermelon plants.
First Listen: Wait on the Risin’ Sun
2. “Good For You” by Aminé
This bold cover art is referenced in the music video of the track “Red Mercedes.” In this narrative, the toilet is the only brief reprieve from the arduous 9 to 5 grind. (Reminds me of the app Poop Salary… sorry!). The track “Yellow” gives us a little insight into the bright backdrop for this comedic image. In other news… millennial pink is dead.
First Listen: Yellow
1. “Planetarium” by Bryce Dessner, James McAlister, Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens
This album art extends beyond the imagery of the cover. There is a dedicated website in the same extension of galactic beauty. The songs are named after many elements of our planetary system and the album is arranged as a collective of art. Space is found in the multimedia of “Planetarium,” from the sounds of electronic waves to the visual feathered flames of the sun.
First Listen: Saturn