First some ground rules:
Album cover art only. Insides and overall packaging will not be considered. While noble and creative efforts have been made by bands and designers to redefine album artwork (see Of Montreal and Snow Patrol), this list is for cover design only.
Genre cliches have been excluded in the worst category. For example the typical country, metal, and hip-hop covers have been counted out, because while yes, they are bad, they are all just copies of each other and not worth further scrutiny than a roll of the eye.
So without further ado here are the best, and worst, album covers of 2008.
The 10 Best:
10. Black Keys // Attack & Release
Straight out of Akron, Ohio, the Black Keys new album art features stylized portraits of the two members.
09. Cadence Weapon // Afterparty Babies
We've all had to sit for a photo like this one. Well, maybe not quite like this one.
08. Gnarls Barkley // The Odd Couple
Gnarls Barkley have a knack for creating great images alongside of their great music and this album is no exception.
07. Death Cab For Cutie // Narrow Stairs
A colorful and pleasant collage, very much reflective of Death Cab's sound.
06. Fleet Foxes // Fleet Foxes
The medieval style painting on the cover is a refreshing change of pace for an album cover.
05. David Byrne & Brian Eno // Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Rock Star designer Stephan Sagmeister designed the cover for this long awaited release.
04. Radiohead // In Rainbows
While the album was released digitally in 2007 it wasn't until 2008 that a proper album cover was released when the album reached the brick & mortar stores. For the first several months fans were creating their own jpgs to carry with them on their iPods. The official cover is designed by Stanley Donwood who has designed all of Radiohead's artwork since 1994.
03. Kanye West // 808s & Heartbreak
The original artwork shown here is both striking and reflects the unusually sentimental West record. The artwork is being redesigned and released on 12.16 by KAWS.
02. Nine Inch Nails // The Slip
Offered as a free download the album cover shows that Nine Inch Nails is still an industry leader after all these years. Design by Rob Sheridan.
01. T.I. // Papertrail
Papertrail's outstanding imagery was created by Ian Wright. It may look like a Photoshop mash-up but this image was made the old fashioned way by cutting up thousands of pieces of paper and arranging them into a collage.
The 10 Worst:
10. Scarlett Johansson // Anywhere I Lay My Head
At least it's representative of how bad the album actually is.
09. MIA // Kala
Looks like when my Nintendo would freeze back in the 80s.
08. Amazonka // Pycaaha
07. Erykah Badu // New Amerykah
It really takes something awful to make a beautiful woman look ugly.
06. Dresden Dolls // No Virginia
There's nothing more badass then dashing a child's hopes and dreams. It's good to see they had the courage to stand up and finally say something.
05. Brad Paisley // Play
This is creepy on many levels.
04. Madonna // Hard Candy
Please. We've seen enough. Put it away now.
03. Tech N9ne // Killer
Am I supposed to be scared or turned on? Tech N9ne says "both."
02. Sebastien Tellier // Sexuality
Um, okay, sure, why not.
01. Gwen Stacy // The Life I Know
Buried alive! She can yell, scream, and croon all she wants. No one will hear it. ...so true.
What album covers did you love or hate this year?
*UPDATE: Thanks to Chelsea for pointing out the Sia album, which I somehow overlooked, for the worst album covers of 2008.