Top Ten Album Covers of 2021

How has it been a year already? Somehow the last twelve months have just flown by! But before we get thrust forward into the brave new world that is 2022, we have just enough time left to look back on some of the dazzling artistic highlights of this past year. That’s right, list season is upon us! And as ever we’ll be kicking off our week of celebration and reflection by delighting in some of the most visually arresting album artwork of 2021.

10. All The Luck In The World – How The Ash Felt

While not as stunning as their last record, I still find myself taken in by the fantastical doodle art style here. There’s a childlike innocence and wonder at work, and the patchwork of abstract ideas definitely piques my curiosity.

9. Spirit Of The Beehive – Entertainment, Death

What makes a great album cover often boils down to how well it can grab your attention from a record store shelf. What better to do that than a giant terrifying vampire head? It reminds me deeply of King Crimson’s debut, and I swear its eyes can follow you around the room.

8. Frost* – Day And Age

From the framing, to the colour grading, to the general underlying concept – everything about this cover reminds me of the work of Storm Thorgerson, the undisputed master of iconic artwork, which is about the highest praise I can bestow upon it.

7. Vistas – What Were You Hoping To Find?

Not satisfied with one concept, this cover works brilliantly on two different levels. From afar it plays tricks on your eyes like an optical illusion, and up close you get to pick over all the details of the gravity-defying staircases plucked straight out of Escher’s Relativity.

6. The Ophelias – Crocus

Right out of the gate the idea of flowers blooming from outstretched fingertips makes for a beautiful concept. To then take that idea and depict it through the unique medium of embroidery just serves to add an extra layer of charm.

5. Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks Of God

The silhouettes of people suspended weightlessly in the pastel fog of the central orb, a solitary grounded figure looking on, and a claustrophobic void of blackness surrounding it all. Combined it makes this cover eerie and unnerving in all the right ways.

4. Hilang Child – Every Mover

The shadowed face of a hooded figure staring out at you is the perfect recipe for crafting an intriguing air of mystique. Combined with the intimacy of the picture, it almost beckons you closer to whisper a close held secret.

3. There’s A Light – For What May I Hope? For What Must We Hope?

A very late contender, proving why year end lists should go at the actual end of the year. I love the layering from shore to sky, how the mist clings to the cliffside, and the way the lighthouse cuts through the gloom.

2. Last Hyena – How Soon Is Mars?

I mean, it does exactly what it says on the tin doesn’t it? You want hyenas and trips to Mars, then here’s a cover that combines the two in a stunning and memorable way. Beyond that, I also love the contrasting colours and the way the thrusters illuminate the landscape.

1. Daniel Donato – Cosmic Country & Western Songs

Just… wow! With the level of detail in this wonderfully imaginative alien landscape, it almost feels like you could step right through to explore the otherworldly desert canyon. Easily the most inventive, intricate and arresting artwork I’ve seen this year.