Featuring Muse, Animal Collective, Paramore, The Flaming Lips and many more...
50. Morrissey: 'Years of Refusal' (2009) - Taken by photographer Jake Walters, the image of Mozza holding a baby caused a stir when it was unveiled late last year. Like many Mozza album sleeves, it's a lasting image. Btw, the baby used is the son of Mozza's assistant tour manager Charlie Browne.
49. Of Montreal: 'Skeletal Lamping' (2008) - . Bands don't get camper than Of Montreal, who make Scissor Sisters look like Joy Division. So when it came to the cover for 2008's bonkers but brilliant 'Skeletal Lamping' something ordinary was never going to do. Instead we were gifted this explosion of colour, nudity and madness. The picture raises so many questions- what is the man on the right pointing at? Why do the flowers have teeth? And just what is the totem pole there for? Of Montreal might be deranged but we wouldn't have them any other way.
48. Atreyu: 'A Death Grip On Yesterday' (2006) - A suitably violent image, Atreyu chose to decorate their with this image of a man set on fire. How nice! Topless and submerged in a river of flames, which engulf his whole upper body, the man in question eerily seems unaffected by the carnage around him. Whatever you think of Atreyu's music, there's little doubting the power of this image.
47. Madvillain: 'Madvillainy' (2004) - Enigmatic British born rapper MF Doom likes to keep his work secretive and collaborative. When in 2004 he teamed up with Madlib for the album 'Madvillainy' a suitable powerful cover was in order. Donning his trademark mask, Doom (MF stands for Metal Face) posed for a picture that looks somewhere between medieval warrior and a Stargate character. Doom is rumoured to be working with Madlib again at the moment so keep you eyes peeled for more mask action in 2010.
46. Basement Jaxx: 'Rooty' (2001) – Nothing else screams Basement Jaxx like a gorilla chewing on leaves in outer space does it?! The animal in question is actually Snowflake, the world's only albino gorilla, who sadly died in 2003 at the tender age of 39. Bless his furry white socks.
45. MSTRKRFT: 'Fist of God' (2009) - While some dance acts like to be known as faces (Paul Oakenfold we're looking at you), others prefer the most mysterious route. The latter option was certainly the direction MSTRKRFT chose for their second album 'Fist Of God', released in 2009. The sleeve featured showed a giant fist and the pieced-together naked bodies and limbs of people who had spelled out the duo's name and the album title. It was a knock out.
44. Erykah Badu: 'New Amerykah Part One' (2008) - A picture says a thousand words, but Erykah Badu's afro says so much more. Her animated hairdo contains pictures of guns, babies, computers, cars, a toilet, aeroplanes, handcuffs, flowers and a gramophone amongst many many others. The collage surrounding the stars face is an insight into the her mind and the hair stops at the top spelling out her name. A cover you can look at for hours.
43. Dinosaur Jr: 'Farm' (2009) - Something a bit bizarre from J. Mascis and co here. Presumably representing the eponymous 'farms' two huge green figures stride above a city landscape carrying young children in their arms as they go. Almost like Ents from Lord of the Rings on acid, there's no denying that it's a fantastic album cover.
42. Paramore: 'Riot!' (2007) – An alternate cover of 'Riot!' was released featuring the band members on the sleeve, but this original is undoubtedly better. Rough, almost school kid like scribbles of 'Riot!' and 'Paramore' make up the entire artwork, a cover that, considering the band's teenage demographic, works perfectly.
41. Sonic Youth: 'Murray Street' (2002) - Putting kids on the cover of your album is always a good move, just ask Nirvana. American Noise rockers Sonic Youth got in on the game in 2002 with 'Murray Street' an album named after the street where they recorded it. The cover of the album features two young girls one of which is Sonic Youth's singer Thurston Moore and bassist Kim Gordon's child Coco under a luminous blue mesh. Strange, yet very effective.
40. Peaches: 'Fatherfucker' (2003) - Never one to shy away from being outrageous, Peaches strapped on a fake beard for the cover of her 2003 album. The shot, coupled with the album title, plays with gender roles in a provocative manner and helped establish Peaches as the premier punk shock rocker she is today.
40. Roots Manuva: 'Slime & Reason' (2008) - The average Roots Manuva album is always an interesting peek into Rodney Smith's mind, but 'Slime and Reason' went even further by showing us the actual contents of his head on the front cover. OK so technically speaking he probably doesn't have green goo in place of his brain but let's just pretend shall we?
39. T.I.: 'Paper Trail' (2008) - As it says on the tin, the cover for this 2008 album from T.I makes an image of his face from a collage of waste paper. Apparently T.I wrote and recorded over a hundred songs for the record so maybe all the paper is scrapped song lyrics?
38. Coldplay: 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' (2002) - As Coldplay took a more complex route on second album 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head', so did their album artwork. Designed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø, the disjointed 3D image was actually taken in the late 1990s as part of a commission for Dazed & Confused magazine, but was adopted for Coldplay's album when singer Chris Martin approached Sundsbø asking for permission to use it. The photographer went on to shoot the covers for the album's singles.
37. Arcade Fire: 'Neon Bible' (2007) - When Arcade Fire had to follow up their incredible début album 'Funeral' the pressure was on. The band came out fighting musically and returned with a confident return and this vibrant cover. Taking the album's title quite literally the artwork shows an open book lit by fluorescent lights whilst surrounded by a plain white border. It may not be the most action packed piece of work nor as full on as the band's music, but it's simple and iconic.
36. Porcupine Tree: 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' (2007) - This cover by British rockers Porcupine Tree shows a child's face is lit by an eerie blue light as he stares directly at you with his piercing, almost haunting eyes. There's something unsettling about this cover, almost as if it's leaping off the page, yet it's all the better for it. For all you fact-finders out there, the title of the album is a direct reference to Public Enemy and their 1990 album 'Fear Of A Black Planet.
35. Air: 'Pocket Symphony' (2007) - Air's Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel continued to remain a rather ambiguous pair on the cover to 2007's album 'Pocket Symphony'. The album sleeve showed the French duo immortalised as illuminated miniature crystal figurines – a particularly thought provoking image for a record that boasted collaborations with Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon.
34. Marilyn Manson: ‘Holy Wood’ (2000) - The third instalment of Marilyn Manson’s concept album trilogy featured a rotting Christ-like figure from the torso-up. The corpse’s mutilated face showed Manson with his teeth bared in a typical display of gothic headline-grabbing. Along with the androgynous 'Mechanical Animals' two years earlier, Manson created yet another defining album cover that's highly memorable.
33. Manic Street Preachers: 'Journal For Plague Lovers' (2009) - A haunting painting from Jenny Saville adorned the Manics' ninth studio album, 15 years after she supplied the seminal sleeve for 'The Holy Bible' . Sadly four major UK supermarkets censored the cover after they deemed it too offensive for shoppers, claiming the red on the girl's face looks like blood when it is in fact a birthmark. A brilliant image.
31. Neko Case: 'Middle Cyclone' (2009) – The photo of a barefooted, hunter-like Neko Case, poised on a Mercury Cougar car bonnet with a sword in hand, could quite easily become one of the defining music images of the year. Poised and ready for whatever is going to be thrown at her, Case perfectly embodies the sentiment of the album itself which deals with tornadoes and other forces of nature.
30. Grails: 'Doomsdayer's Holiday' (2008) – Weird as fuck, the shocking image of a semi-naked female with a gargoyle's head riding a pig-like creature is like something out of a drug-induced nightmare. The fact that the Oregon instrumental rockers decided to use it as their album sleeve can only be commended highly.
29. The Killers: 'Day & Age' (2008) – A classic case of turgid album, amazing album artwork. The Las Vegas rockers drafted in artist Paul Normansell – known for his portraits of David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe - to create this image of a desert in his trademark dotted paint daubs. While the record cover is undoubtedly lovely, the accompanying portraits of the band themselves are frightening.
28. The Flaming Lips: 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' (2002) – The Oklahoma band's second masterpiece is, as the title suggests, a partly a concept album about a young girl launching a crusade against giant robots. The painting that adorns the cover perfectly surmises this, but like The Flaming Lips' music, despite the dark subject matter it's also warm and fuzzy. The Japanese text along the front poignantly reads: "Happiness can make you cry" - a line taken from the album track 'Do You Realize??'.
27. Jimmy Eat World: 'Futures' (2004) – There's something truly captivating about the stark black & white image Jimmy Eat World used to front their fifth studio album. A solitary figure, actually US actor Ryan Alosio, stares ominously into a grimy-looking phone box. Maybe he's summoning up the courage to phone a porn line or do a prank call? Who knows, what it is for certain is it's a stunning cover.
26. Wilco: 'Wilco (The Album)' (2009) - No one can accuse Wilco of failing to generate interest by using the picture of a camel standing on a sun-drenched rooftop patio as the cover for the 2009 self-titled album. Complete with its own party hat, the rather sad looking animal appears to have been invited to a birthday party with no other guests. Thankfully, however, all is rectified on the reverse side of the album sleeve, which shows Wilco's members sitting around the table with the camel in the background. A good job because otherwise he might have taken the hump.
25. Black Mountain: 'In The Future' (2008) – The Canadian psychedelic rockers struck gold with this sleeve. The artwork was actually created by the band's keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt who said in an interview that he was influenced by legendary album cover designer Storm Thorgerson. We reckon Storm himself would be proud of this effort.
24. Sebastien Tellier: 'Sexuality' (2008) – As humorous as it is controversial, there's something inspired about this album cover depicting a miniature Sebastien riding a horse over a naked female body. Pubic hair, erect nipples and all. A pertinent and memorable sleeve for an album that oozes sexiness from every conceivable orifice. We love it.
23. Metallica: 'Death Magnetic' (2008) – A self-explanatory sleeve reminding us that we are all drawn towards death eventually. Cheers Metallica. The beauty of it, however, is the layers that peel away when you turn each page of the booklet, taking you gradually towards the bottom of the grave. Macabre but nice.
22. Yourcodenameis:Milo: 'Ignoto' (2005) - A classic case of an album cover that's infinitely better than the music itself. In an inspired move, the North East post-hardcore band drafted in Storm Thorgerson to create the sleeve and it paid off. In the cryptic image an anxious man sits under a solitary light bulb surrounded by walls of light switches, while a female figure lies on the floor next door. Eerie stuff, in the best possible sense.
21. Wilco: 'Sky Blue Sky' (2007) – The photograph is an image called 'Sky Chase' by Manuel Pesti who went on to win 2005 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. An extremely far cry from Wilco's hilarious 2009 cover to 'Wilco (The Album', featuring a camel at a tea party, but even more effective.
20. Menomena: 'Friend and Foe' (2007) – The Portland indie rockers' third long player has an inspired, if slightly weird, sleeve. A dizzying array of cute monsters and squiggles, it was proclaimed as the “most brilliantly executed album cover of the decade” by one excitable critic. Not quite, but it's up there nonetheless.
19. Wiley: 'Playtime Is Over' (2007) - Nobody would want to go near this playground. A normal looking playground with a water pistol, tricycle and slide is decked out in a scary black cloak rendering the innocence menacing. Wiley stands in the front of the bare trees wearing a tracksuit which gives him a passing resemblance to the Grim Reaper. Playtime is indeed over.
18. Santogold: 'Santogold' (2008) The singer took her name quite literally with this one. She's so gold she even pukes the stuff apparently. The splash of glitter on this artwork gives the cover a special look that couldn't be replicated by any normal colours. A first class cover.
17. Dream Theater: 'Octavarium' (2005) - The prog-rock veterans have consistently released stunning album covers through their 25 year career, but 2005's 'Octavarium' is quite possibly the best even by their own lofty standards. A giant Newton's Cradle emblazoned with their logo sits in a green pastured landscape with birds ominously flying through the air. Hugh Syme's artwork is extremely Storm Thorgerson-esque and all the better for it.
16. Bjork: 'Volta' (2007) - A typically bonkers idea from the eccentric Icelandic star, quite frankly we'd expect little else. Dressed up in what looks like a cross between a child's cartoon character and a Christmas tree bauble, this cover is all about vibrancy and fun. As one of the decade's most inspiring and exciting performers, Bjork has always matched the music with the aesthetic and artwork like this shows why Bjork is held in such high regard.
15. Soulwax: 'Any Minute Now' (2004) – Close up, this Trevor Jackson design simply looks like white dots on a black mesh. Draw away from it, however, and it cleverly reveals the album title and band name. Genius. Jackson was later drafted in to design cover to the Belgian outfit's remixes album 'Nite Versions', replacing the black mesh with diagonal pink lines.
14. Thom Yorke: 'The Eraser' (2006) - One of the most interesting and articulate albums of the decade also has a brilliant piece of artwork to accompany it. The picture depicts a lone man in a trench coat and a thickly brimmed hat surrounded by a descent of waves and thunderclouds. The man has an outstretched arm as if trying to stop the powerful attack approaching him but you suspect this is a largely pointless move. The artwork here expertly taps into the paranoia and helplessness felt on 'The Eraser' itself and once again shows Thom Yorke to be the genius that he is.
13. Paris Hilton: 'Paris' (2006) – Wtf? Paris Hilton?! If you're currently seething that the airhead socialite has made our list then calm yourselves a second. This is actually an album by Banksy and Danger Mouse which butchers Hilton's record sleeve depicting the heiress with her tits out and with the sticker 'Paris Hilton, Debut Album. Featuring "Why Am I Famous?", "What Have I Done?", and "What Am I For?' emblazoned on the front. Amazing. On the inner sleeve Hilton's head is replaced by a dog's to boot. Only 500 copies of the record, basically a 40 minute instrumental CD containing various Paris Hilton comments, were ever made.
12. The Soundtrack of Our Lives: 'Behind The Music' (2001) - It's fair to say Soundtrack Of Our Lives are hardly the best looking band in the world – we're pretty sure they'd agree themselves. Perhaps that is why they (or a clever photographer) chose to mask their faces in plaster for this excellent album cover. It all worked out for the best, however, as the end artwork is actually damn stunning.
11. David Byrne & Brian Eno: 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today' (2008) – The striking artwork was designed by Stefan Sagmeister, who had previously worked with Byrne on his 1997 solo effort 'Feelings'. Sagmeister came up with the Sims-like design of a house by a roadside after hearing the album song 'Home'. The liner notes included close-up images of the property, while a deluxe edition of the album featured a micro chip which played the sound of someone walking through the house - something which, we imagine, was right up Byrne's street.
10. Animal Collective: 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' (2009) – A total and utter head-fuck. The Baltimore four-piece took direct inspiration from an optical illusion by Japanese Psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka with this mind-bending leaf covered design. A perfect accompaniment to their slightly warped, psych-tinged music.
9. Death From Above 1979: 'You're A Woman, I'm A Machine' (2004) - Probably the most underrated album of the decade comes with an equally brilliant piece of artwork. Simple but effective, the two members of DFA 1979 (Jesse Keeler, Sebastien Grainger) stand back to back with elephant trunk faces. It says nothing of their spectacular garage rock, but it's a still brilliant image.
8. Spiritualized: 'Let It Come Down' (2001) The normal CD version is nice enough, but it's the limited-edition box set that wins a place on our countdown. What looks like a 3D image is actually a concave carving, but thanks to a startling optical illusion, the woman's face (actually the artist's wife) jumps out at you and moves. Better seen in the flesh, it's a truly phenomenal design.
7. The Mars Volta: 'De-Loused In The Comatorium' (2003) - The only person who could create something just as weird as The Mars Volta's sprawling music is legendary album artist Storm Thorgerson. An astoundingly brilliant cover of a decapitated golden head resting on an operating table with a beam of light shining out of its mouth (naturally), their subsequent album sleeves have been good but they've never topped this 2003 debut.
6. Muse: 'Absolution' (2003) - There's always been something apocalyptic about Muse and the cover to 'Absolution' is possibly the apex of the Devonshire trio's infatuation with the end of the world. With outstretched arms the shadows of a host of bodies appear to be hovering or floating above the central character who is looking up in bewilderment. The epic Storm Thorgerson image looks like it could be a still from a movie and shows that Muse don't do things by halves.
5. Lil' Wayne: 'Tha Carter III' (2008) - This striking image portrays Lil' Wayne, complete with his distinctive facial tattoos, as a child. The representation of the rapper shows an interesting juxtaposition as the child-like innocence in the face clashes with the business like suit and expensive looking diamond ring. Totally unique, just like Lil' Wayne himself.
4. Nas: 'Untitled' (2008) - 'Attention-grabbing' is an understatement. In a shocking and thought-provoking image, Nas' back is adorned with huge scars depicting the letter 'N' conjuring images of slavery and violence. The rapper, of course, originally wanted to call the record 'Nigga' or 'Nigger', but this was perhaps understandably withdrawn at the label's request.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 'It's Blitz!' (2009) Simple but effective. This image is merely Yeah Yeah Yeah's lead singer Karen O cracking an egg in her hand but like the Velvet Underground's banana it's an instantly iconic image. Taken from the New York trio's third album the cover, like the band, is cool and off kilter. We don't recommend trying to recreate the image at home though - it could get messy.
2. The Strokes: 'Is This It' (2000) - Ranked as one of the greatest album covers of all time by many, and rightfully so. Iconic, sexy and totally unforgettable, the only unfortunate thing about this image of a leather-clad hand pressed into a woman's behind was that it was banned in the US and replaced by a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber. Boo indeed.
1. James: 'Hey Ma' (2008) – On a year when panic about gun and knife crime was rife in the UK, James unleashed this poignant, hard-hitting and unforgettable record cover. Designed by Darren Hughes it's a devastatingly effective comment on violence and suitably adorns a record packed full of political muscle. Album cover of the decade by a mile.
A collection of awesome record sleeves that have defined the pasty decade. From the sexy to the controversial to the bewildering, many of these covers will be eulogised in decades to come. See who makes number one below: