Growing up, most parents always said: “Never judge a book by its cover.” It’s a very adult-y metaphor for not being shallow, not judging based off looks, looking for depth, etc. You get the gist.

Well, my mom’s an artist, and my dad’s an architect, so that wasn’t a phrase we used often. Visuals mattered in our household.

Back when people bought the physical copy of an album, cover art was everything. It made you stop to pick up the piece, it made you think.

With the rise and dominance of streaming, cover art has become an afterthought for far too many listeners.

Album covers are an extension of an artist’s music. It’d be silly to wrap up all of the hard work that goes into creating an album in a terrible package. So why do artists do it?

Poor taste?

Bad management?


Who knows. All I know is, in this brand new series By The Cover, we’re bringing you the standout album covers of the week.

Think of this as a little reminder that there’s a reason the album covers jump off the shelf at you. They pull you in, and are a physical representation of the music. It’s not a lost art – and here are the artists who are doing it right.

Arca – Arca


This album cover is creepy dirty with a sheen that makes you want more – kind of like one of those old diner booths that have a little bit of sparkle. The album cover is slightly nasty, glorifying ugliness, but is simultaneously hauntingly beautiful. The same could be said about the music. It matches the album’s contents flawlessly.

Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

This is the only album on this list I personally don’t feel is a great representation of Father John Misty, but with him, you kind of know what you’re getting. This album artwork is as if Tim Burton and Where’s Waldo had a weird indie child that was mildly dark. It’s eclectic, it’s cluttered, and you could study it for at least an hour and still not really understand it.


Minimalist. Futuristic. Reflective. Potentially German? Can you basically hear the album without even listening to it? Us too.

Sepalot –  Hide&

Sepalot’s cover was compared to “an ad for a luxury cologne in Vanity Fair, but in an interesting (and good) way” by our designer. Luxury is embodied on the album, with its entrancing beats overlayed occasionally by slow, drawling, underground-rap style vocals. The artwork does another surreal job of embodying the truly unique, surprising sound and invites you to linger for a while.

White Reaper – The World’s Best American Band

White Reaper did a pretty spot-on iteration of their sound in this classic, rock album trope. The overexposure to block out the face drew me in, the classic rock black-and-white-and-red aesthetic rammed their sound home.

Pharmakon – Contact

This is one of the best album covers I’ve seen in a long time. It’s extremely difficult to create something that makes you want to simultaneously look away and explore deeper. Pharmakon accosts listeners with the rawness of this image, the skin to skin contact. It’s basic, it’s human, it’s graphic. The album is elemental, raw, has experimental screaming, and exposes you to something you’re not sure you like on first listen. You’ll learn to love it. Or you won’t.

Joey Bada$$ – All Amerikkan Bada$$

My favorite cover (and album) this week. The photo does a great job communicating a lot of things at once, and all on brand for Joey Bada$$. The color saturation transports you back to dated photos from the 60s, and the off-brand American flag made of bandanas could be a case study in and of itself. It’s powerful and iterative without being alienating. In this second LP, Joey utilizes lyrical clarity to address social issues in current America, and that’s exactly what this artwork communicates.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

It’s quietly grotesque. It’s weird. It’s Spoon.


Did we miss an album cover you think crushed it? Let us know on Twitter.

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