A plethora of visual treats - who will make number one?...
GIGWISE
17:15 21st December 2009

From the bizarre to the poignant, our countdown of the best album covers of 2009 has it all. See who makes number one below:

  • 20. Mastodon: 'Crack the Skye' Created by long-term Mastodon collaborator Paul Romano, the mythical images are all connected to themes on the album. A lasting image, the limited-edition 3D version is even better.

  • 19. Dinosaur Jr: 'Farm' - 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.

  • 18. The Mars Volta: 'Octahedron' – You can always rely on The Mars Volta releasing an impressive album cover, and they've done it again with Octahedron. Vastly different from their previous efforts, this time Cedric and Omar plumped for a surrealist painting complete with naked woman and giant garlic clove.

  • 17. RX Bandits: 'Mandala' – The Seal Beach foursome's sixth studio album is adorned with a cover of exotic birds, dollar bills, dynamite and even neck rings. Designed by visual artist Sonny Kay, we're sure there's some deeper meaning to the image, but for now we've included it purely for its aesthetics.

  • 16. Yo La Tengo: 'Popular Songs' - Sometimes the simplest things are best, even a rusting old cassette tape. The Hoboken band have a history of great album covers – check 2000's 'And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out' – and 'Popular Songs' is no exception.

  • 15. Weezer: 'Raditude' - Just like most of their album sleeves, you either love 'Raditude' or you hate it. We opt for the former. In keeping with the comedic nature of the record, the sight of a canine hurtling through the air as if fired out of a cannon is hilarious.

  • 14. Wilco: 'Wilco (The Album)' - The cover couldn't be more different from 2007's 'Sky Blue Sky'. Yep, they've switched from an award-winning image of a hawk swooping on a flock of birds for a gregarious, ridiculous photo of a Bactrian camel crashing a tea party. Amazing.

  • 13. Atlas Sound: 'Logos' - Mysterious and eerie and all the better for it. The painfully skinny man with the convex chest and obscured face in question is actually Atlas Sound himself, Bradford Cox. Beats countless album covers of pretentious band members sulking into the camera, hands down.

  • 12. Morrissey: 'Years of Refusal' - 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.

  • 11. Dan Deacon: 'Bromst' – For such an eccentric, colourful character, it's surprising that Dan Deacon selected such a serious image for his latest effort. Lit by a piecing light, the tent at the centrepiece could almost be a crime scene tent were it not for its floral patterns. A beautiful image.

  • 10. The Big Pink: 'A Brief History Of Love' – Not exactly the kind of artwork you'd expect from a band who released the pop euphoria of 'Dominos', yet coupled with the darker musical forays of the record, the cover works perfectly. Blatant nudity but with eeriness to boot.

  • 9. Molina and Johnson: 'Molina and Johnson' – Incredibly eerie, the luminous red sphere draws you into the bleak industrial landscape where the solitary character stands. Desolate and vibrant at the same time, it's an incredibly lasting cover and well worthy of inclusion on our countdown.

  • 8. The Flaming Lips: 'Embyronic' – Like something out of a science fiction movie, the image of a young girl (presumably) emerging from some kind of embryonic state is both attention grabbing and intriguing. The band themselves have described the sleeve as “hairy hippie exorcism”. Nice.

  • 7. Fuck Buttons: 'Tarot Sport' – Critically lauded by every discerning music publication on the planet, the Bristol duo's second album also has killer artwork. The mesh of hands and patterns above a skyscape makes for one of the most aesthetically pleasing record sleeves on this list.

  • 6. Neko Case: 'Middle Cyclone' - 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.

  • 5. Fanfarlo: 'Reservoir' – If The Flaming Lips' 'Embryonic' is like something out a science fiction movie, Fanfarlo's sleeve is straight out of a Wickerman-esque horror flick. The grainy, age-ravaged quality of the image only adds to its air of mystery.

  • 4. Animal Collective: 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' - 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.

  • 3. Biffy Clyro: 'Only Revolutions' - Once again Biffy drafted in legendary designer Storm Thorgerson to craft the sleeve to their fifth studio album and once again it paid off. As baffling as it is intriguing, 'Only Revolutions' has the kind of record cover you get truly lost in.

  • 2. Manic Street Preachers: 'Journal For Plague Lovers'- Jenny Saville, the artist who painted the iconic cover for The Holy Bible, makes a welcome return on the Manics' ninth studio album. The band have used her poignant 2005 painting 'Stare' – an image of a young girl with a birthmark across one side of her face.

  • 1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 'It's Blitz!' - 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.