The 30 Best Album Covers of 2021

Posted inGraphic Design

To say that 2021 was a banner year for music is an understatement. From a murderer’s row of excellent jazz releases and guitar soli explorations to polished R&B and the psychedelic, it was further proof that your pal who says there’s no good new music is full of shit. Hell, we even got a ten-minute Taylor Swift song, and I’m not going to say anything negative about that because I don’t need that kind of heat in this lifetime.

But that’s not our beat. Go here if you want that, because you’re bound to discover something new.

What I can tell you, however, is that not only was it a great year for music, but also some pretty nifty album covers.

Now, the way most people interact with record covers or album art is through their phones. You’ve got streaming and a tiny little square, and for most folks, that’s OK by them; not to sound like the guy yelling at you to get off his lawn, but that’s a shame.

Look, If you need to keep your listening space minimal and austere, I get it, and how you consume your media is your prerogative—I certainly don’t want to be the kind of person telling someone that they’re doing it all wrong. Also, I imagine that you don’t have the same problems with clutter or crammed IKEA Kallax shelves that I do, and let’s not even get into vinyl delays or their environmental impact. But there’s something to be said for holding a record cover in your hands and poring over the liner notes, studying the front for hidden meanings and details, or comparing Steely Dan session players. Pulling something up on Spotify or Tidal or Apple Music and hitting play will never be the same as holding the real McCoy in your hands.

What can I say; I’m a romantic and a hoarder. Also, get off my lawn?

Anywho, feast your eyes on PRINT’s Top 30 Album Covers for 2021.

(And don’t just stream your music. Buy CDs, tapes, and records, and support musicians by purchasing their albums at places like Bandcamp. Rant over.)

Hayden Pedigo – Letting Go

Cover by: Jonathan Phillips

Makaya McCraven – Deciphering the Message

Cover by: Todd Gallopo and Tory Davis

Madlib – Sound Ancestors

Art Direction: Errol F. Richardson

Photo of Chladini plate: Richard Foster

Body/Dilloway/Head – Body/Dilloway/Head

Artwork: Bill Nace

Jerry David DeCicca – The Unlikely Optimist and His Domestic Adventures

Artwork: Jeb Loy Nichols

Arca – KICK ii / KicK iii / kick iiii / kiCK iiiii

Artwork: Arca and Frederik Heyman

Claire Rousay – A Softer Focus

Artwork: Dani Toral

Ryley Walker and Kikagaku Moyo- Deep Fried Grandeur

Artwork: Lily McNeil

Chris Crack – Might Delete Later

Cover Photo: Elizabeth De La Piedra

Lil Nas X – Montero

Cover: Charlotte Rutherford

Luke Stewart and Jarvis Earnshaw Quartet – s/t  

Cover: Robert Beatty

Sávila – Mayahuel

Cover painting: Maria Joan Dixon

Gold Dust – s/t 

Cover: Darryl Norsen

Nala Sinephro – Space 1.8

Cover: Maziyar Pahlevan

Andy Stott – Never the Right Time

Cover: Kurt Hutton

Claire George – The Land Beyond the Light

Cover: Linda Westin

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Cover: Nwaka Okparaeke

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage

Design: Hingston Studio

VanJess – Homegrown

Art Direction: Amaya Segura

Cover: Dana Trippe

Floating Points & Pharoah Saunders – Promises

Design: Paul Diddy

Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air

Cover Art: Curtis Talwst Santiago

Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World

Cover: Ram Han

Scott Hirsch – Windless Day

Cover: (Darryl Norsen)

Bastian Void – Topia

Cover: Joe Bastardo

Topaz Jones – Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Mama

Cover: Jason Fillmore Sondock


Artwork: Nana Frimpong Oduro and Ryan Hamilton:

Xenia Rubinos – Una Rosa

Cover: Camilo Medina

Marisa Anderson & William Tyler- Lost Futures

Cover: Sam Smith

Cedric Noel – Hang Time

Cover Photography and Creative Direction: Kriss Munsya

Bicep – Isles

Cover: Studio Degrau