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06 December 2010

Pitchfork's Worst Album Covers of 2010 (one or two are NSFW) Some of these are hilarious.
Hilarious. Is it just me, or does the Hendrix cover seem fitting for the time?
posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 13:50
Many of those make me think, 'Wow, Soandso is still releasing albums?' But not the Ringo one--that makes me wonder if he's a sneaker collector.

That Hendrix album came out in March.
posted by box 06 December | 14:03
I think the ones for very old or dead artists that resemble the prevailing styles (as ugly as those styles were) when they were relevant and/or alive are totally appropriate, which would cut down the list by at least one-third.
posted by oneswellfoop 06 December | 14:03
That Hendrix album came out in March.
posted by box 06 December | 14:03

Heh, my bad. It would have been far out in it's time though. I'm sure it was a conscious choice to have album cover art that appeals to those who want to relive the past. That brings to mind an interesting question: what if the cover art for older albums was changed to an ultra modern style to appeal to younger generations. Would that attract new listeners to respect the classics?
posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 14:11
what if the cover art for older albums was changed to an ultra modern style to appeal to younger generations

they already somewhat-kinda do that with iTunes and Amazon "artist pages", actually, as well as compilation articles and various other electronic means of disseminating musical info. Because, y'know, most new listeners (outside a vocal minority of hardcore vinyl advocates) don't actually buy physical media anymore.

Most of the younger listeners I know of today listen to a free-ranging, vastly more eclectic and variable sampling of music from all over the map ANYWAY, so it's really not that they need the introduction. Owing to the information age, older music has become So. Much. More. Accessible. to every demographic than it used to be.

In fact, my entire collection of Louis Armstrong mp3s came from a 20 year old.
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 14:37
I think that's really harsh on the MGMT cover: nice colour choices, no text, well drawn cartoony characters without being too cartoony. Yeah it's cool.

Couldn't give a shit about the music though.
posted by dodgygeezer 06 December | 14:48
Good points all, lonefrontranger. Music is obviously much more accessible now, of course. I think I was just sort of imagining all kinds of interesting "modern" cover art for some of my favorite classic albums. You know, so incredibly modern and trendy that it would make the "Ugly cover art in the 2010's" list of MeFi in 30 years. I really like the idea that the music represented by the album cover art is timeless, but the art itself is atrocious. Why one and not the other?

I feel sheepish. I've never heard of Amazon's "artist pages." Can you point me in the right direction for, say, Hendrix?

posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 14:55
By the way, I love that Kings of Leon palm-tree cover. It looks like an album I'd enjoy, even though I'm pretty confident it's not.

Do you want a Hendrix starting point, cheminatrix, or a link to the Amazon page? The consensus starting point, I suspect, would be Are You Experienced?
posted by box 06 December | 15:05
This may be what lfr is referring to for Amazon.

I couldn't quite figure out what the Kings of Leon album was doing on the list. It didn't seem bad at all.
posted by youngergirl44 06 December | 15:19
A link to the Amazon page I think is what I'm after. I sort of interpreted the original statement to mean that there exists modern cover art for classic albums and the "artist pages" for any classic artist on Amazon would contain said art. Thanks box!

Youngergirl44, thanks for that link. I don't see any modern cover art there but some good albums nonetheless. Oh and WTF? Hendrix did a Christmas album? How come this never comes up on Grooveshark when I search for classic Christmas music?? All I gets is lutes.
posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 15:25
cheminatrix: check out the banner at the top of that amazon page that youngergirl44 linked. It's a present-day interpretation of the Hendrix theme. Yes it uses a lot of old actual photos, but the vintage-y treatment they use is actually kind of a hip theme with the in crowd these days.

Sorry I kind of rushed off that comment without good clarification.

I am not so much talking about "new album art" as I am the phenomenon of web sellers using updated design cues on their artist-marketing webpages to sell a classic artist. You're still thinking in analog. You gotta think outside the "box" of physical album covers here. It's all marketing via design, and thus for "album covers" try substituting "web page design".

iTunes does this type of design-cue webstore page to an even greater degree, and IMO with more artistic flair, but sadly I'm at work using a crappy machine that runs IE6 and it is teh suck.
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 15:36
I would also go so far as to say that the actual album art would, and honestly should, rarely-to-never receive any form of update(s). Once an album becomes popular, the cover art (whether it's physical or merely a box of pixels) becomes iconic (think Nirvana's swimming baby / the Decemberist's japanese woodcut / the Beatles Abbey Road crosswalk, you get my drift) thus the cover serves as an avatar that instantly evokes the content, and should not in any case be played with.

However, the WRAPPING around that album (the website/page) can be easily tinkered with / updated to attract modern sensibilities.

does that make sense?
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 15:41
That makes total sense, lft. I see the art you are describing now at the top of the link from youngergirl44. I suppose I should stick to science and stay the hell out of advertising.

Any thoughts on why the music continues to shine while the art becomes a joke?
posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 15:49
Any thoughts on why the music continues to shine while the art becomes a joke?

oh man, for that question you gotta ask someone who's really in the industry, like dabitch & peers. I am merely a dilettante with a designer for a parent.

um. I think visual media goes in very strongly circular trends, and what was hopelessly outdated ten years ago can and often will come back round again. Art is no different from fashion design in many ways - it has trends that repeat themselves. Think spare iconic stuff like Mondrian, through the industrial-design linear almost-cartoony stuff like Hockney and Nagel, to the current focus on realism (photography is HUGE right now) and vintage, almost rococo, floral nostalgia. My grandma still wore "cigarette" pants and stilettos in the '70s, which by that time were hopelessly outdated 50's anachronisms... until 1985 when jeans-as-leggings hit the mainstream... and went out again with a resounding thud in the early 90's...only to come round again as the skinny-jeans craze of 2010 :P The recent craze for Skunk Works era style enginerd glasses amongst the hipster set... car designs go back and forth from boxy to streamlined and then back to boxy again... fender flares go in and out of fashion, etc.

Only just think of how cliche, dated and tragically un-hip the design elements in a TV series like Mad Men would have looked had the series been done in say... 1988, not 2008. Now go watch an episode of Dynasty. See what I mean? But there's absolutely no reason why in another decade or two what we now see as hopelessly cheesy (mid-80s excess) won't come back 'round and be looked on as glamorous nostalgia.
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 17:03
...and before some actual art major comes in here and chides me about what MOMA's got currently hanging on their walls, I'm not talking about Art. I'm talking about what Mom and Pop Everyday Bourgoisie Hipster have got on the walls of their livingroom because that (design accessiblity) is what sells popular music. If you're a daring band willing to make a statement, you might commission a Banksy piece, and if not you do this.
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 17:14
Pretty insightful, lfr for a dilettante! I have no background in art, so there is a lot there to digest. I like the Mondrian style, which makes sense since the trend does repeat itself like you say. Thanks for such a richly detailed response. I still think its interesting though that art, clothes, style repeat in cycles but music keeps moving forward.
posted by cheminatrix 06 December | 17:49
style repeat in cycles but music keeps moving forward

weell... kinda, sorta, but even music runs in circles to a pretty comprehensive degree. The current singer/songwriter indie thing (which seems to be somewhat giving way to a dance/electro revival actually) owes a lot to prior 70's influences like Simon & Garfunkel and Joan Baez, and those guys similarly took their cues from Depression-era folk music, which owed its roots to Irish themes which date back to the 17th century. "Techno" music is really just an interpretation of the same sorts of African tribal themes that rap and John Philip Sousa take advantage of. Throughout the years the pendulum seems to have kind of swung from lyrical to martial and back with evolution along the way, but that's just skin; the skeleton's the same.

Indie/twee lushness is a rebellion against the whiny angst of grunge/industrial, which was a rebellion against the lush excess of New Wave, which was a rebellion against the screamy angst of punk, which was a rebellion against the overproduced glitzy mess that was disco, which was a rebellion against sappy 70's folksingers, which was a rebellion against the angry roots-rock of the Vietnam era, which was a rebellion against doo-wop, which was a rebellion against rock-n-roll, which was a rebellion against Big Band swing...

I mean even if you go back all the way to classical times, you'll find things like pastorales and folk-dance interpretations (Brahms) giving way to more militant stuff (Wagner) and then back again.

I'm painting (hah) with a VERY broad brush here, and you can find I'm sure zillions of specific examples where I'm overgeneralising or just flat-out wrong, but the pendulum swings. Interpretations evolve throughout the times, yes, but Lady GaGa is quite frankly just as disco as the Bee Gees ever were.
posted by lonefrontranger 06 December | 18:40
The Gin Blossoms are still making music? Wait...what?! I liked them.

...and after listening to some samples I'm thinking I'll continue to like 90s Gin Blossoms and pretend this doesn't exist. And yeah I know if New Miserable Experience came out today I'd probably hate it too. Shut up!
posted by weretable and the undead chairs 06 December | 22:57
I really like the MGMT cover a lot.
posted by BoringPostcards 07 December | 02:40
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