Top album covers 2017, best album artwork, album art, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) top albums fi

Album artwork represents a wondrous collision of personal branding, artistic integrity, and money-grabbing merchandising. For branding fanatics, they are ripe for artsy analysis and practical assessment. Check out our top 17 album covers of 2017 (so far).

Many of these albums haven’t been released yet, but in the interest of marketing, their covers are posted on Amazon and other online music retailers. Megan viewed more than 7,000 covers and pulled the ones that stood out. Then, Josh channeled his art student days to assess the strengths of the top contenders. To keep our evaluation focused, we asked ourselves three questions:

1. Does the album artwork tell a compelling design story?

2. Which elements of design are best exemplified in the album cover?

3. Is the design memorable?

Disclaimer: Kettle Fire Creative does not take credit for any of the following album artwork nor do we endorse any of the albums or artists mentioned. We haven’t heard most of the music or bands mentioned. We just liked the album covers.

I See You 

The XX, released January 13, 2017

The XX I See You album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) THe XX I See You
The album cover uses superimposed paper and scratch texture as well as light and shadow to push the surrealism of the semi-ambiguous scene of figures that are further distorted by the postmodernist X. It’s memorable by nature of its elegant simplicity through the limited palette and symmetry of the symbol. There’s no mention of the title or the band’s full name on the front cover.

stuff i used to do.

Deadmau5, released February 24, 2017

Deadmau5 stuff i used to do album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Deadmau5 stuff i used to do
First, the bright color of the uniquely illustrated mouse captures attention. The album’s title is supported by the weathered surface it overlays as well as the infantile bowtie worn by the mouse character. This combination suggests the album content might be a throwback. The overall look of the album art is pleasantly reminiscent of notorious street artist Banksy.

Culture

Migos, released January 27, 2017

Migos Culture album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Migos Culture
Though I’m generally not a fan of the disorder of collages, this is well executed. A less common approach to album cover design, the collage incorporates symbols from architecture, pop culture, nature, and media. With the aid of the text, we can begin to speculate about the interaction of hip hop and modern cultures.

The Pianist

Fabrizio Rat, to be released June 30, 2017

Fabrizio Rat The Pianist album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Fabrizio Rat The Pianist
There is an immediate left-brain reaction to the mathematical approach of this album cover. Combined with the use of a single color, a strong grid, and obvious rhythm through the incremental relationship of the illustrated piano keys, it creates a surprisingly unique impression. It did take some effort on our part to realize those are the track titles written under the graphics, however.

Minimal Infrastructure, Vol. 2

Various Artists, to be released June 30, 2017

Minimal Infrastructure Vol. 2 album cover artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Various Minimal Infrastructure Vol
The whimsical elements of this album cover clearly correlate with its title. Simple coordinated colors, a top view, and graphic rendering of sparse toy bricks express the intended minimalism of the artwork. Though the cover story seems simplistic, perhaps it represents some refreshing quality of the music.

Hot Sauce

Eric Kauffmann and JK West, to be released July 7, 2017

Eric Kauffmann JK West Hot Sauce album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Eric Kauffmann Hot Sauce
What’s not to love about a wild, sriracha-throwing bear? Bold colors, playful illustration, and the appropriate pairing of a handwritten font, Permanent Marker, imprint this incredibly fun, not-taking-itself-too-seriously album cover in your brain. Possibly our favorite of the whole list.

Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration

J.J. Wright, to be released August 4, 2017

JJ Wright Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) JJ Wright Vespers
Though we may have a hard time reading a deep story into this cover, the intellectual title brings humanity to this beautiful abstract album artwork. Delicate colors, forms, and texture in stunning combination elevate this cover to a level of sophistication and imagination that burn into your brain.

Twisted Pine

Twisted Pine, to be released July 14

Twisted Pine album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Twisted Pine
The deep background tones of this album art create almost a cinematic mood with the contrasting neon-sign-esque typography and its imperfect curves. We imagined a small-town pub and inn where secret things take place, maybe the setting of daytime melodrama. The possible connotations alone are strong enough to create a lasting impression.

Straight Lines

Anthony Snape, to be released July 28, 2017

Anthony Snape Straight Lines album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Anthony Snape Straight Lines
It’s hard to forget the aggressive contrast of color on this album cover. With a sort of heat map photo effect, a distorted subway image, strong vertical lines integrated with type, and even a graphic skyline, there’s a lot to process. Though the message could go in several directions, we think its audacity is worth the mention.

FUSION East Meets West

オムニバス, released June 7, 2017

オムニバス FUSION East Meets West album artwork, Omnibus, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Japanese FUSION East Meets West
Demonstrating a light-hearted embodiment of “fusion,” we see skillful cultural appropriation in this album artwork, brought to life through an expressive, illustrated character, effortlessly paired with the vertically oriented type. (Note the blue eyes and blonde hair.) Pattern and stroke, as well as harmonious colors, develop the authenticity of the artwork that classifies this album cover as a win.

Come Over

Naos Bacchus, to be released July 28, 2017

Naos Bacchus Come Over album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Naos Bacchus Come Over
Evocative photography and classic design elements create a brave declaration of intention. Intense and contrasting color, hot pink and red, creates a deep, burning mood. The composition decision to obscure the subject’s face and the text US strengthens the impact of the moment being experienced. We kind of want to take a step into this album cover and look around.

This Life, Vol. 1

Coasts, to be released August 18, 2017

Coasts This Life Vol. 1 album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Coasts This Life
The high texture, classic color scheme, and content of this album cover contribute to a sentimental mood. The ample whitespace leaves a minimalist impression but not a small one. A strong, geometric typeface with integrated dots and the intense accent color mark the memory.

Ti Amo

Phoenix, released June 9, 2017

Phoenix Ti Amo album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Phoenix Ti Amo
Drawing upon intense texture, a subtle color scheme, and handwritten type, this artwork appears effortless. Additionally, the imperfections of the writing and being slightly off center contribute to its success. Don’t be deceived by the easy look; someone put a lot of thought into this album art.

The Punishment of Luxury

OMD, to be released September 1, 2017

OMD The Punishment of Luxury album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Color contrast and strong linear form are the first elements to strike you in this album cover. Movement through the interrupted patterns upsets the predictable human forms, yet overall there’s a brilliant visual balance to this album artwork. For these reasons, we give this album art our seal of approval, even though we can’t speak to the connection to the music.

M A N I A

Fall Out Boy, to be released September 15, 2017

Fall Out Boy Mania album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Fall Out Boy M A N I A
Purple! In more words, the limited color palette of this album cover is striking for its vibrance as well as its contrast with darker shades and white. This contrast added to the reflection generates the intensity suggested by the title. As we experience the forced focal point, we feel a sense of hyperactivity and insufficient context.

So You Wannabe an Outlaw

Steve Earle & The Dukes, released June 16, 2017

Steve Earle & The Dukes So you wannabe an outlaw album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Steve Earle So You Wannabe an Outlaw
This bedazzled album cover may be busy, but that just means there’s a lot to talk about. The retro album artwork features repeated shapes, a grid for order, western-themed illustrations, original type, and one of the most deluxe borders we’ve ever seen. (Is that decoupage?) There’s an interesting juxtaposition of fierceness within the circle and charm outside it. The overall complexity of this album cover will stick with us. Plus, the title is just great.

Hippopotamus

Sparks, to be released September 8,2017

Sparks Hippopotamus album artwork, top album covers 2017, Kettle Fire Creative album cover Top 17 Album Covers of 2017 (so far) Sparks Hippopotamus
What kind of music will you find beneath this album art? We don’t know either. But the glaring hippo, partially submerged in a domestic pool should engage you pretty quickly. Purely photographic, this album cover uses photo manipulation or composite form, segmented color, simple composition, and the element of surprise.

Next, check out our favorite movie poster designs from 2016!

Did we miss any of your favorite designs? What album covers have caught your attention this year? Let us know in the comments.

 

7 Comments

  • Jane Robertson says:

    All interesting and memorable. Anthony Snape – Straight Lines is fabulous! I see two skylines – Sydney (bottom) and Nashville (top). Love the guitar string lines too. The colour draws you in but the detail keeps you looking. Good choice!

    • Megan Schaulis says:

      Jane,
      We agree that Straight Lines uses color in a really engaging way. After we told him about making our list, Anthony shared the following about the concept:
      “Thanks for blogging about the Straight Lines album cover. I have no formal design training but I am the music artist for the album and I knew what kind of an impression I wanted to imprint. It is a bold design, incorporating the acoustic guitar strings hidden in plain sight. Basically I wanted to include the 6 guitar strings indicating the acoustic album placing the tunnel where the sound hole would be.(you can also see half of my face in negative in the upper left of the image). The circular part of the tunnel also represents the globe with two cityscapes on opposite sides. The who cities are the skylines of the places I have lived and produced music, Sydney Australia and Nashville TN.”

  • Jane Robertson says:

    WOW! Just when I think I’ve seen it all, there’s more! It’s so engaging and interesting. I can’t stop looking at it. This is why I love hard-copy CDs, over digital downloads, there’s so much to explore. Thank You for sharing the artist’s concept. I purchased the CD and BIG WOW – the music is even better than the cover. I love this artist!

  • Julie Jenkins says:

    Great cover Anthony! I find it clever how the “tunnel” draws you deep into the design and really love the representations, of both of the cities, that mean so much to you, in the skyline silhouettes . Can’t wait to hear straight lines when it’s released 🙂

  • cliff pantone says:

    Any artwork of argentinian graphic designer Hugo Buehh should be here! His work specializes in album covers and art direction, his portfolio here http://buehh.tumblr.com

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