design journal

The most bizarre cover art of 2018

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Let’s face it: 2018 was a rough year. 

Housing prices continued to rise in most major cities, Trump continued existing (somehow), climate change wreaked havoc on pretty much everywhere outside central Canada, journalists in all countries faced increased threats to their personal security, and we were all briefly forced to pay attention to Roseanne Barr’s existence that one time in February. It’s safe to say we could all use a drink—or seven—to get us through ‘til New Years. 

There is one alternative to liquid therapy that music journalists prefer this time of year (because it’s cheaper and we’re all broke, tbh): making lists. It’s ritualistic and it’s predictable, but it’s still the healthier option.

Before our team at A.Side drops our favourite songs of the year (and our inescapable AOTY list), here are the ten album covers that did the absolute most in 2018. 

Van Morrison – The Prophet Speaks

There are so many questions to be asked here. Why has Van Morrison abducted and dummyfied Penn from Penn and Teller? What dark secrets did he confess to puppet Penn? How does Morrison almost manage to pull off that purple fedora-blazer combo? Is manufacturing purple fedoras even a worthwhile business venture in 2018? And most of all: where was his A&R team when this cover happened?

Lil Xan - Total Xanarchy

Technically speaking, this one isn’t actually very left-field. It’s the same “shirtless-rapper-with-tats-mugging-the-camera” archetype that’s been around for years. Total Xanarchy’s cover is Get Rich Or Die Tryin’—just pastier and, far more lean. So it’s really only here because of Lil Xan himself. The man’s a full-body sensory experience; this is the only cover on the list that you can smell, and it smells like a AAA hockey locker room.

Neckbeard Deathcamp - White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers

There’s a lot to digest on the cover of the “fedora-crushing militant black metal” project’s debut, which serves as an visceral pastiche of black metal’s small-but-visible racist, waifu-worshipping, edgelord underbelly. There’s a “Pepe the Frog” where the swastika would normally go, the eagle head is … well, a different type of head, and they’ve even worked in an uber-edgy barbed wire outline. It’s brilliant. With art like this, it’s not hard to see them living up to their mission statement of “[EXTERMINATING] THE BEDROOM REICH.”  

Neko Case – Hell On

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the cover of singer-songwriter Neko Case’s seventh LP would be the “hisst” sound you make when you hear nails on chalkboard and inhale through your teeth. Just that, 1000 times over. Google tells me this noise is called an ingressive dental fricative. The album itself is deceptively gentle in tone, but the cover is anything but. 

Viagra Boys – Street Worms

This album cover is what it feels like to drink Tim Hortons coffee at 7:00 AM. On one hand, you feel and look like death, and the watery approximation of coffee they squeegee into your travel mug will make you want to curl up in the gutter and move towards the light. But there’s that tiny moment of zen when the caffeine hits, when yin meets yang and you can kind of start your day. This is not sponsored content.

Five Finger Death Punch – And Justice for None

Starting with the obvious: Las Vegas quintet Five Finger Death Punch’s latest LP sounds exactly how its cover looks: it’s loud, punishing emo-metal that is nominally about surviving the fire and flames of regular human emotions. That part is no surprise, but what’s actually interesting about this cover art is that it’s the only cover this year where the font layout appears to literally be inspired by last year’s mOcKiNg SpOnGeBoB meme.

Trippie Redd– Life's a Trip

Remember when the Teletubbies kid was the creepiest human face in the sky? Yeah, me neither. The cover for Trippie Redd’s debut is 100 unadulterated CCS of the uncanny valley, as pure as it’s ever been since The Polar Express came out back in 2004. Pay specific attention to the clock with hammers for hands, the unicorn with steak (or sashimi, or something) impaled on its horn, and Redd’s sleepy-looking third eye. 

Tyga– Kyoto

Tyga is so lucky the second half of 2018 worked out as well as it did for him, because “Taste” seems to have wiped this album cover from our collective memory. It’s just as well; Kyoto’s way-too-explicit cover art is blatant hentai worship. Sorry, not sorry.   

Slowthai – RUNT EP

This is a dog eating a leg. A deer or a kangaroo leg, based on almost four seconds of solid research and reflection. All things considered though, this EP is great.

Thirty Seconds to Mars – America

Guys, Jared Leto is cool. He knows at least six words for doing sex (but possibly more), he is still in a rock band and his latest album cover is e d g y and m i n i m a l. Nevermind the fact that this is an obvious rework of Kanye’s cover art for The Life of Pablo – did Leto use peer-reviewed sources for those sex positions? Can an online forum of anonymous men really be trusted in 2018? WebMD it next time, guy. 

(I wrote this before it became well-known that he was a predator—and not just a cringe lord. A hearty fuck off to Jared Leto.)