Vinyl and streaming boom sparks album art renaissance


“There are now so many platforms for musicians to publish their work,” says Podhajsky. “In order for music to stand out among such a saturated crowd, it really has to have visuals to help the audience understand what music is before they even listen to it. And that has always been the point – to communicate what the music is about.

Design by Podhajsky for Kelis’ Food, 2014.Credit:Leif Podhajsky

Podhajsky’s work – including a striking ensemble for the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men’s Under the skin, which earned him a 2015 Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Packaging – is nearly unmatched in evocation of mood. Even a seemingly simple blanket like the one he designed Food, the 2014 album by R&B star Kelis, is remarkable in that only four color blocks – orange, brown, red, yellow – can evoke an entire era of neo-soul.

“Let me tell you, these colored blocks took a long time to settle,” he laughs. “I think we did about 200 slightly different color variations just to try and get what she was looking for, reminiscent of the old Blue Note albums but with a modern twist.”

Melbourne designer Peter Salmon-Lomas says the new accessibility of vinyl has led to increased demand for visuals.

“Everyone is capable of making vinyl now, even bands that don’t have a big budget can do vinyl, so it’s opened up again because you really need a visual now,” he says. .

Peter Salmon-Lomas' award-winning ARIA design for Paul Kelly's Life is Fine, 2017.

Peter Salmon-Lomas’ award-winning ARIA design for Paul Kelly’s Life is Fine, 2017.Credit:Peter Salmon-Lomas

Salmon-Lomas, who started graphic design at 26 after playing football in Perth and running a gardening business, won the ARIA Best Blanket Award in 2017 for Paul Kelly. Life is Beautiful, with a playful image of the singer-songwriter at sea taken by photographer Stevie Young (Salmon-Lomas is currently in his ninth collaboration with Kelly).

“We’ve looked at a million ideas for that one,” he says. “There was another photo where Paul wore a bee beard, another like Iggy Pop’s. Desire for life where Paul had a bleeding nose and broken teeth. The image we used was actually black and white when we first got it, so it was hand colored. Once we saw it in the backdrop of the cover, we knew it was the one.

The allure of the album art is the drama and mystique it can contain, says Salmon-Lomas, citing the favorite designs of cult British artist Barney Bubbles, who made the first covers of Hawkwind, and the Andy Warhol’s work on the Rolling Stones. Sticky fingers.

Sticky fingers That’s good because Warhol was given a budget that he blew up when he went ahead and put real zippers on the covers. But because it had a zipper on it, every time he walked into the shelves of a record store, he ruined the cover in front of him. I love stories like that; they sum up the spirit of a group.

Salmon-Lomas says that a recent trend he’s noticed is for musicians to make their own album covers (last year’s ARIAs saw Lime Cordiale’s Louis Leimbach nominated for best cover art for his design for their album 14 steps to improve yourself, while Megan Washington won a trophy for her album cover co-design Batflowers).

Podhajsky's Grammy nominated design for Of Monsters and Men's Beneath the Skin, 2015.

Podhajsky’s Grammy nominated design for Of Monsters and Men’s Beneath the Skin, 2015.Credit:Leif Podhajsky

Despite the intrusion into his creative space, he totally agrees. ” That does not bother me. And you could say they’re closer to the process in the first place, so that makes sense. I think it makes everyone in the art of music so much richer.

In any case, collaborating with artists is better than fighting the sudden whims of record label managers who often want to donate their own money.

“It happens sometimes. I guess the record companies are the ones who have to sell it, so if they don’t think it’s going to sell, they will usually have a say.

Podhajsky, who has worked with both indie groups and popstars, the latter usually being glued to the use of their image and characters to create covers, explains that modern media – including animation, virtual reality and the current trend of NFTs – allow for a different approach to the art of blanketing.

“I tell artists today that it is not necessary to be so much on the cover because there are already so many other materials that exist in the digital sphere: press photos, interviews, social media. Your face is already there to say that you can kind of keep the album as a separate and secret world that can draw people in that way. It’s super exciting to move forward because there are so many possibilities.

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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