If people ask what my job is, I tell them that I visualize music for a living. The design, typography, imagery, feel—anything and everything can play an integral part in my work creating lyric videos.
Given a chunk of our portfolio comprises catalog artists, classic album covers are often used as the jumping-off point for our designs. We've actually been able to bring the Stones' sleeves to life ... it's hard to say no when you're given the chance to literally drop the needle on Let It Bleed!
Being a motion design studio surrounded by all this iconic artwork, we instinctively jump to, "How would this look if it were animated?" Because it's not just for YouTube—massive DSPs like Apple Music are encouraging artists and labels to upload animated versions of their sleeves, in a bid to keep users engaged for longer.
Here are 13 sleeves I'd chew my arm off to animate.
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 (1972)
My partner Tom—who co-founded Yes Please with me—and I are massive psych fans, and this legendary compilation from 1972 is a must-have for any fan of the genre. As well as being an indispensable collection of '60s heaviness, the album art is completely insane. An intensely detailed, acid-washed spectacle full of pattern, color and trippy vibes that perfectly encapsulates the far-out '60s. That's before you even get to the '70s typography used for the title—it's practically alive with movement as it is, without even thinking of animating it. I can imagine many a head zoning out to an infinitely looping animation of this artwork whilst listening to the album, absolutely tripping off their tits.
Here's another example of an album cover you can see moving before it's even been animated. You can picture exactly how those fluid lines would move, from smooth flow to disrupted, liquid turbulence, and a gently bobbing chrome orb. The artist, Robert Beatty, is a particular favourite of ours. His artwork pays homage to '70s airbrushed illustrations, bringing to mind prog-rock records, obscure electronics adverts and wonky sci-fi book covers.
Trans! A mad record with a mad cover. This is an underrated Neil Young album that freaked out his fans on release, on account of it being that mad. This is Neil breaking away from his folky troubadour roots, embracing the new electronic sounds of the '80s and seemingly having a great time doing so. I imagine a lot of the joy apparent in the record comes from the fact that (the notoriously grumpy) Neil knew how much it would piss some of his fans off. And just look at that cover! An absolute thing of beauty—'80s sci-fi futurism perfectly encapsulated in one gorgeous image. I'd love to see those cars whizzing up and down the road past the hitchhikers, the plane flying overhead, and that futuristic grid in the sky moving in some otherworldly, dystopian way.
Stars Are the Light (2019)
Tom and I love Moon Duo. They're a fantastic, contemporary psych rock band that put on an amazing live show, and I really wanted to shout them out here—good job that Stars Are the Light's artwork is amazing, then. It's a beautifully colorful piece by Kendra Ahimsa that brings to mind the art of Peter Max, and in my head I can see the weird alien figures dancing, the reflection in the pool beneath them rippling, strange foliage swaying, and the trippy patterns animating and evolving.
Never for Ever (1980)
A skilled animator could really go to town when bringing this Boschian artwork to life. An absolute original in everything she does, Kate's third album features a pencil illustration by Nick Price, with an array of fantastical creatures swooping from under Bush's billowing skirt. She described the cover as "an intricate journey of our emotions: inside gets outside, as we flood people and things with our desires and problems. These black and white thoughts, these bats and doves, freeze-framed in flight, swoop into the album and out of your hi-fis. Then it's for you to bring them to life." Well, how perfect would it be if this cover were actually brought to life?
Unknown Pleasures (1979)
A fairly obvious choice ... but come on! Peter Saville's iconic design for this classic album has been reproduced thousands of times on T-shirts, posters, mugs, probably fidget-spinners—but you can certainly see how it could "move," given the cover is based on an image of radio waves from a pulsar star.
Pink Floyd have created more than their fair share of iconic album covers, many of which would be fantastic to animate. Eschewing the arguably more obvious Dark Side of the Moon, which I'm sure has already been animated many times, I've chosen the weirdly atmospheric and surreal image from the cover of Animals. I can imagine the smoke billowing from the chimneys of the iconic Battersea power station, and the solitary floating pig bobbing up and down.
Disraeli Gears (1967)
Another '60s psych cover, this time from Cream. It was designed by Martin Sharp, who said he was attempting to "capture the sound of the music in the cover," which he described as a "warm fluorescent sound." Well, the sleeve is certainly a full-on riot of oversaturated color and design. Rich and dense with detail, an animated version of this cover would be actual sensory overload!
Pink Moon (1972)
Tom has been a huge Nick Drake fan ever since hearing Bryter Layter as a teenager. The cover of Pink Moon is by far the trippiest of his three albums. I have absolutely no idea what's going on there, but the surreal landscape has always been fascinating to me, and I'd love to see it move—the water rippling, the teacup floating gently, the weird clown face thing doing something ... creepy. A genuinely atmospheric visual by the artist, Michael Trevithick.
All Things Being Equal (2020)
Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember, founding member of Spacemen 3) has released three solo albums in his career, and all have amazing covers that would be perfect for animating. I've chosen his second, All Things Being Equal. Here, we can imagine the intensely saturated gradient forms stretching, expanding and contracting as they bob around in space. With subtle camera moves and shifting colors, this glorious sleeve design by Marco Papiro could look even more impressive if it were in motion.
Dimensions & Extensions (1986)
We had to include at least one Blue Note record in this list. Reid Miles, the designer who gave Blue Note its distinctive aesthetic, designed over 500 covers for the label. His designs have been a huge influence on us, and we often look to Blue Note covers for inspiration. There are hundreds to choose from, but I've chosen this incredible cover for Sam Rivers' Dimensions & Extensions for this list. This cover looks how jazz sounds—just imagine the forms bulging and contracting. Trying to visualize the music is something we often try to do with our work, and Reid Miles totally nailed it with his designs over and over again.
Music For Pleasure (1977)
This was designed by legendary graphic artist Barney Bubbles. It looks like such an '80s style of design now, but it was so ahead of its time it came out in 1977. The forms here are inspired by the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky and lend themselves perfectly to be constantly evolving and animating as they float in 3-D space. The imagery has so much energy, it already looks as though it's moving. The artwork is also a great contrast to the music—with its modernist design and colorful palette, it looks like it should be synth-driven pop music, but is sadly just mediocre punk.
Mothership Connection (1975)
A characteristically mad cover by the Gribbitt! design studio. With the cover star, George Clinton, emerging spread-legged from the hatch of a spaceship, I'd love to take this shuttle on a journey spinning through the galaxies, looping to infinity. An excursion into uncharted territory, much like the music itself. Space is not just a place, but a state of mind!
Art of the Album is a regular feature looking at the craft of album-cover design. If you'd like to write for the series, or learn more about our Clio Music program, please get in touch.