In February, when indie synth-pop group Chvrches announced its latest album, Love Is Dead, I experienced a sensation I hadn’t felt in ages. For the first time since I could remember, I truly disliked an album cover.
The garish amalgam of smudged pastels and bad ’90s alt-rock typography sent my mind reeling. At the time, I observed that Love Is Dead looked like “Video Toaster threw up and died.” Today, I would suggest that Love Is Dead resembles a Hot Topic flyer that threw up and died. Either way, I think I’ve made my point: This cover is very, very bad.
My disgust made me nostalgic. When was the last time you really cared about an album cover? What is an album cover now, anyway? For many listeners, it’s a box on your phone measuring roughly two inches by two inches, displaying an image signifying a track that’s playing on a streaming app. An inconsequential bit of data that endures only until the playlist moves on to the next track.
It’s rare for any of those flashing pictures to get imprinted on the collective consciousness in the way that album covers once were. You either love or hate album covers like you love or hate tweets or Facebook posts — at best, the most memorable covers become memes, for good reasons (like Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo or Lorde’s Melodrama) and bad (Taylor Swift’s Reputation or LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream). But they don’t really stand as the defining images for particular eras in artists’ careers, like the covers for Dark Side Of The Moon, Thriller, Nevermind or The Blueprint do.