My Type of Music: Tori Amos, Superheavy, Roots Manuva, Plaid, Mastodon

As I have a couple of things coming up I won’t unnecessarily waste any time with clever introductions. Here’s another selection of notable recent album covers.

I don’t mind classic pared-down album cover art, but then you at least have to get your micro-typography absolutely perfect. Unfortunately that is not the case with the 70s design for Mockingbird Time, the first album to reunite the entire original line-up of The Jayhawks since their 1985 release Tomorrow the Green Grass. The spacing and kerning of Goudy Oldstyle is flawed: there’s an unsightly gap between the “AY” pair and to a lesser extent between the “WK”, and the second “A” was shoved incomprehensibly far under the “W”. Also the size and positioning of the album title under the band name seems arbitrary. It’s a shame this sleeve is marred by such glaring beginners’ mistakes.

A vintage experimental FontFont resurfaces on the album cover for Night of Hunters, which sees singer-songwriter Tori Amos take inspiration from classical music to create a “21st century song cycle”, released on the world-renowned German classical label Deutsche Grammophon. FF Disturbance was Jeremy Tankard’s exploration in unicase typography, partly inspired by Bradbury Thompson’s and Jan Tschichold’s experiments in the early to mid-20th century.

Another kind of minimal approach was used for Megafaun, the self-titled fourth album for the North Carolina rock trio who at one time were in a band with Justin Vernon named DeYarmond Edison. The bold graphic – a stylised capital “M” – in primary colours and a heavy black outline is reflected in the clear geometric shapes of Kabel Black – check the perky triangular ear on the “g”.

Superheavy is a rock super group made up of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger; English soul singer-songwriter and actress Joss Stone; English musician, record producer and half of legendary 80s band Eurythmics Dave Stewart; Jamaican reggae artist and youngest son of reggae icon Bob Marley Damian “Junior Gong” Marley; and Indian composer, singer-songwriter, record producer, musician, and philanthropist A.R. Rahman, showcasing a wide range of musical genres and perspectives.

The striking artwork that graces the self-titled debut album is also available as a poster incorporating stylised portraits of the five band members. Both are the work of superstar street artist / graphic designer Shepard Fairey, the artist responsible for the iconic “Hope” poster used in Barack Obama’s successful election campaign. The sans serif is a customised Neutraface, while the peculiar slab serif looks one-of-a-kind.

Back to minimalist geometry with Chickenfoot III, the second album of hard rock by another super group: Chickenfoot, composed of Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith. A peace sign drawn in the style of squarish sans Bank Gothic – seen underneath the graphic – is overlaid on the Roman numeral three, causing the transparent white and red on cyan to create new shapes.


In case you were wondering, the cover image of 4everevolution – British rapper Rodney Smith a.k.a. Roots Manuva’s latest studio album featuring guest appearances by Toddla T, DJ MK, Daddy Kope, Ricky Ranking, and Rokhsan – is genuine stone carving. The reverse even goes one step further and illustrates the creation process. Instead of showing the finished article, we see the sketching – the marked out lettering – in chalk, with only two thirds of the text chiselled in the stone. On the inner sleeve we discover the stone from the front cover shown in the studio of stone carver Jim Kirby. An approximation of carved lettering can be achieved using digital type from our FontList of Embossed Three-Dimensional typefaces.

:  U P D  A T E D : :

Modern Art is the first album released under the Missing Piece Group label by Matthew Sweet, who at one time worked with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe in a band called Community Trolls in 1983. FontFeed reader Chris Bowden revealed in the comments that the gorgeous artwork was created by Alex Viau, an aspiring graphic designer videographer currently based in Vancouver BC, who recently graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. On his website Alex explains he is at once consumed by the exploration of traditional and emerging digital media techniques. This approach resulted in a layered image that is a striking combination of printing and collage techniques, line illustration and grayscale photography, warm colours and textured backgrounds. The freeform typographic composition set in Alternate Gothic is bold yet thoughtful and inventive.

From Matthew Sweet the singer-songwriter to Matthew Sweet the producer of Sweetheart of the Sun by The Bangles, the second album since the pop group re-formed in 2000 and its first without Michael Steel who left in 2005. The nostalgic appearance of the three young women’s legs in colourful dress is emphasised by the use of the typographic national treasure that is Cooper Black.

Zig Zaj is the first solo credited album in six years by producer and Neon Neon co-founder Boom Bip, featuring appearances from Cate Le Bon, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, Red Hot Chili PeppersJosh Klinghoffer, Money Mark, Mike Noyce, Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele, and Warpaint. The sleeve is designed by mysterious UK design collective EH? who have a history of innovative album covers. Unfortunately they also have a history of being notoriously internet unfriendly, as their website has remained unchanged in years and a decent online portfolio is difficult to track down. Which is a shame, because this hand drawn cover is stunning.

Repetitive, almost obsessive pencil lines create intricate, seemingly random patterns within a module based on triangular and hexagonal shapes. At the centre of the sleeve they form mysterious red shapes which reveal an eye peering through the artwork. In the upper left corner a golden triangular area knocks out the artist’s name. The shapes defining the latter are incredibly inventive while remaining surprisingly legible. The resulting artwork is fascinating.

Equally fascinating is the blocky artwork for Scintilli, the sixth album for Plaid, the IDM duo of Ed Handley and Andy Turner. The intricate isometric almost-ambigram designed by Chap Idler II spells out the album title on the front cover. Just like in one of those signature drawings by M.C. Escher your eye keeps travelling along the mesmerising geometric object, deciphering the letters concealed in its structure and reading the word over and over again. Another similar isometric object on the reverse side reveals the band name. This is very clever stuff, totally appropriate for the IDM genre, and I simply love it.

The Hunter is Mastodon’s first album that is not a concept release. Last December Brent Hind’s brother died in a fatal hunting accident. The singer-guitarist of Mastodon wrote the song The Sparrow about the accident, and the Atlanta metal band dedicated the album title and title track The Hunter to Brad Hinds. This time the artwork was not done by Paul Romano, an artist whose work has been a huge part of Mastodon from the early days.

The album cover is based on a sculpture by AJ Fosik, a wood carver who is also responsible for the backdrop used for Matodon’s live shows. The video above documents the creation process from pencil sketches to finished piece. There’s a primal, almost abstract nature to this magical head with its multiple mouths that is visceral, violent yet strangely poetic, with a nod to Native American totems. It’s fantastic to see that work like this is still being created with wood, nails and paint in a world where CGI illustration has virtually become the norm.

Some more magical imagery on Only in Dreams, the second full-length album for the pop band Dum Dum Girls, which includes songs written after the death of the mother of singer Dee Dee. The dreamlike photograph by Shawn Brackbill looks like a capture of an out-of-the-body experience.

The beautifully intricate Spencerian script is Poem Script by Alejandro Paul. Other feature-rich OpenType faces that mimic this outstanding style of penmanship are Burgues Script, Compendium, and Paul Hunt’s Zaner Script. The three-dimensional shadow font used for the album title is the classic Gill Sans Shadow Light.

We end with a rather mainstream yet well executed sleeve for Lady & Gentlemen, the second album by LeAnn Rimes with country cover songs produced with Vince Gill and Darrell Brown. Distressed transparent Clarendon with a fat face ampersand and assorted wood type ornaments conjure up the right atmosphere for this country album.

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5 Comments:

  1. Great read as always. Interesting that the Megafaun cover is very similar to the new Kathmandu identity. http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/infinite_mountain.php

    Posted by Jonty on Nov. 30, 2011
  2. Quick question: What is the difference between unicase and bi-form?

    Posted by Hannes Famira on Nov. 30, 2011
  3. I think they are synonyms. Both designate typefaces that mix upper and lower case characters of the same size.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Dec. 1, 2011
  4. Alex Viau is listed as the designer for Matthew Sweet’s Modern Art

    Posted by Chris Bowden on Dec. 14, 2011
  5. Thanks for finding this! I updated that section.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Dec. 15, 2011

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