Whether you know it or not, you have likely stumbled across the work of British photographer Shaun Bloodworth before. Sometimes referred to as the photographer of dubstep, his long-lasting involvement in the music scene goes far beyond that. You might remember his L.A. Dope series we wrote about some years ago, in which he portrait then-rising producers from the city of angels. Among his work are collaborations with GiveUpArt‘s Stuart Hammersley, like The Green Series and North/South/East/West, and of course the many portraits shot for the Rinse mix series.
So today, three years after GiveUpArt took turn, we’re very happy that Shaun took the time to pick his favourite record sleeves from 2014.
Aphex Twin – Syro (Warp)
I like the idea of providing a recipe almost, that you can follow to make your own SYRO, and also the bonus track that can’t be played because its a cardboard record. The idea has equal importance to the visual, something that has always run through Ian’s work. Design & art direction the Designers Republic.
Simon Pyke – Universal Everything & You (Warp)
This was a tie in with Universal Everything exhibition at the Science Museum with a track by Matt Pyke’s brother Simon. There are 4 different covers based around the organic animated doodles you may have seen at the Museum. The inner vinyl is illustrated with black & white organic doodles.
Hudson Mohawke – Chimes (Warp)
LuckyMe have produced some amazing sleeves this year —Rustie, Clark, Cid Rim— but this is the best I think, although I wish the mock Photoshop version that was floating around with HudMo in the centre had been released. Design & art direction by LuckyMe, photography by Zhong Min.
Matthewdavid – In My World (Brainfeeder)
I love this sleeve so much, Matthew and his daughter Love as if they are posing for a 17th century old master. The photograph also reminds me of a Brothers Grimm etching by David Hockney — The Enchantress and the Baby Rapunzel. There was also a really amazing video that went with this on pitchfork as a teaser. Design by Seth Ferris and photography by Logan White.
Venetian Snares – My Love Is A Bulldozer (Planet Mu)
No idea who is responsible for this, but I wish I’d done it, great idea for a portrait. Traditional simple arresting cover, where photography is the key factor. Design by Arnold Steiner.
Nozinja & Tessela – Wa Chacha (Warp)
This started out as a press shoot in a pub near Islington, but it worked so well that the photograph was used for the cover. Nozinja turned up the the torrential rain wearing a white spandex tribal two piece, didn’t really have to do much, the picture made itself. I also shot them outside in the rain holding bright dayglo umbrellas. I was asked to design this sleeve, but thankfully I bottled it, and handed it to my friend and collaborator Stuart Hammersley at GiveUpArt who used his trademark bright colours and tight typography. Wish we’d done more this year together.
Various Artists – Bleep 10 (Bleep)
Bleep’s brand colours (green & blue) are used through everything including the NSEW and BLP/GRN series Stuart and I did with Raj Chaudhuri and Dan Minchom at Bleep. The custom logotype is based on a really basic 3×4 grid and carried onto some type details on the rest of the packaging, the chunky 10 is lovely.
ALSO – EP01 (R&S Records)
ALSO is Laurie Osborne (Appleblim) & Alec Storey (Second Storey). The glitchy type represents the choppy rhythms found in the tracks. The sleeve is printed simply in a metallic purple and pale minty blue, I think this is 1 of 3 with an album to follow in the same style. Very simple and beautiful. We’d planned to do something similar with the press photography but it didn’t come off unfortunately. Design and art direction GiveUpArt.
Bonobo – Northern Borders (Ninja Tune)
Saw this at the Novation/Walls gallery in all its glory at their ADE exhibition, really beautiful and unlike most covers I’ve seen over the past few years. Has a lovely hand made quality to it. The box set had lots of tie dye/Rorschach type ink illustrations by Leif Podhajsky.
Illum Sphere – Ghosts Of Then & Now (Ninja Tune)
I know Ryan (Illum Sphere) paid a lot attention to getting the correct photographer for this cover, I thought the whole set worked really well. I did some press shots which were in black & white too, it was nicely directed by Ninja Tune. Photography by Silvia Grav.
Shaun Bloodworth’s work can be found on his website and Vimeo. He shares good music and other wisdom on Twitter.
If you enjoyed this feature, please check out previous installments put together by Optigram, GiveUpArt, Colectivo Futuro, Sven Swift, Nitzan Edit and myself.
I’m not a great fan of this, not after those last couple of Mount Kimbie, beautiful and intimate videos directed by Tyrone Lebon. But I do love this song, which I missed writing about when posted on their SoundCloud. Mount Kimbie’s second album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is only about a month a way, it’s their first one on Warp Records, and easily one of my most anticipated releases (alongside the Thundercat LP) of 2013.
In the last couple of years, we asked friends and designers we admire to put together a selection of their favourite record sleeves. Previous editions were curated by Stuart Hammersley (Give Up Art), Nitzan Hermon (Edit, Fineart) or Colectivo Futuro, but this year we were a bit hesitant seeking out a curator. We are most honoured that Manuel Sepulveda (aka Optigram) was interested and availaible on such short notice. Known for his countless designs for Hyperdub and more recently Planet Mu and Bleep, Manuel build up an impressive body of work in the last couple of years, regularly ending up in many best-of selections himself. But let’s hear (and see) it from the man himself.
I’m glad I was asked to make this list as it made me do a bit of extra research into what had been produced this year – I found about half a dozen great sleeves that I’d never seen before. Once I’d finished putting this list together it was nice to see that good covers were coming from a variety of different media still, be it photography (straight, manipulated and collage), illustration (traditional media and computer-assisted), 3D computer renders (realistic and surrealistic), or just straight-up graphics.
I’ve seen a few “best sleeves of the year” lists recently on some music sites and they seem to be focused around albums that have gotten good reviews; there seems to have been an inability to separate good music from the sleeve it comes in, with some terrible sleeves being lauded just because the album was great, and conversely some great sleeves getting overlooked because the album got a poor review. With the exception of seven of the albums I actually have no idea what the music even sounds like from the following list, and of those seven I only like four of them. These are simply covers that I thought were interesting and well executed.
One other thing, I’m not particularly interested in packaging, so even though there were some albums which had great packaging design (like Cave Painting’s Votive Life) they haven’t made this list. I believe that a strong image is by far the most important thing. Clever printing and fancy folding bits of paper just don’t move me.
Sakanaction – Yoru no Odoriko (Victor Music)
Anyone interested in cover design should remember to look beyond European and American releases. It’s obviously much harder to come across great design from Japan or Brazil or wherever if the albums aren’t getting reviewed by the English-speaking press, but it can be worth it.
Madegg – Tempera (flau)
The triangle, which was all pervasive as a motif in the previous couple of years, seemed to have pretty much disappeared in 2012. You can still count on the circle though. Artwork by Hiroshi Sato.
Ital – Hive Mind (Planet Mu)
Artwork by Sam Chirnside
CFCF – Exercises (Paper Bag)
Photography by Ken Schwarz
The XX – Coexist (Young Turks)
It says someting about the strength of The XX brand that a cover with just a solitary X can be recognised as a release by them. Artwork by Phil Lee.
Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (Blue Note)
The headshot is a common staple of the album cover, but they can be really uninteresting, so I think it’s important (if possible) to try and do something unusual with it. Artwork by Giuliyani.
Young Magic – Melt (Carpark Records)
Artwork by Leif Podhajsky
Lorn – Ask the Dust (Ninja Tune)
Artwork by Jesse Auersalo
DVA – Pretty Ugly (Hyperdub)
I did a few album sleeves this year, and even though I’m pleased with most of them, particularly the albums by LV and Traxman, and Lion by Harmonic 313, I think the best cover I did was probably released at the start of the year. Artwork by Optigram.
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Aftermath Entertainment)
Sometimes an uncrafted image just works perfectly.
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
If I didn’t know any better I’d have said this was a cover for an indie band from the 80s, like The Smiths. Photography by Otto Bettmann.
Django Django – Django Django (Because Music)
Artwork possibly by Dave Maclean
Horseback – Half Blood (Relapse Records)
I find it hard to specifically make out what this is a drawing of, and maybe that’s why it appeals to me so much – the mystery of the macabre. Artwork by Denis Forkas Kostromitin.
Lone – Galaxy Garden (R&S)
Artwork by Konx-Om-Pax
Jam City – Classical Curves (Night Slugs)
If I had to select the best cover of the year it would probably be this one for Jam City by Sina Taherkhani. It matched the music perfectly.
The Darkness – Hot Cakes (Wind-Up)
I know it’s cheesy and a bit sexist but that’s obviously the point, and the painter did it well. It’s also worth pointing out how serious most cover design is (and has been for several years) so it’s good to occasionally see humour in album design. It’s just a shame that humour seems to only be seen on rock albums these days – I can’t remember the last electronic/dance cover that made me laugh. Painting by Diego Gravinese.
Laurel Halo – Quarantine (Hyperdub)
What am I saying, this one was funny too. I’m not being immodest and putting a second sleeve of mine in this list – although I put this together, it was a painting by Makoto Aida that Laurel herself chose. I was just the hired help.
Spoek Mathambo – Father Creeper (Sub Pop)
I love that this evokes some of those classic paintings that adorned the covers of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis albums in the early 70s. Artwork by Daniel Anum Jasper.
Robot Koch – Cosmic Waves (Project: Mooncircle)
Artwork by Fefe Talavera
The Rolling Stones – GRRR! (ABKCO)
What I liked most about this was the idea that after more than 40 years the owner of those famous lips (designed by John Pasche in 1970) was finally revealed. Painting by Walton Ford.
If you want to find out a bit more about Optigram, make sure to visit the website or browse the discography. Manuel’s personal work recently got its own website, Werk (Not Work), and a Twitter account.
Unlike last year, I kept some of my favourite artworks of last year in a special folder. I will present my selection in a post coming next week.