The winning design, chosen by public vote, took first place tonight at a special presentation ceremony at Hari in Belgravia, London. Fending off stiff competition from a field of 50 nominations, including the latest releases from Duran Duran, Weezer and Mogwai, Paul’s stunning design work is the 17th round to win the coveted design accolade. And in doing so, the artist of Real spilled milk designs joins a pantheon of iconic album covers.
In his winning cover for Fever Dreams, a character is seen floating in a pool while a doe sleeps peacefully next to them. Starlight glistens in the water, and a sleeping giant bear appears to grow from surrounding trees to survey the scene.
Playing with the idea of scale, the design captures the sense of menace and serenity conveyed by the lyrics of singer/songwriter Conor O’Brien of Villagers. As for the other three sleeves that make up the set, they include images of an elk, an eagle and a snake, which are also represented by constellations.
Explaining the concepts behind his work, Paul says, “I got the idea out of my love of playing with scale, I love themes of seduction and being overwhelmed as I struggled through the years with my own mental health and topics of anxiety and being overwhelmed are commonplace in my work.
“I felt a sleeping giant bear was perfect for this concept. I added the man and the doe to hammer the bear ladder, then the yellow dots are the dreams themselves. I liked the idea of all three sleeping like the picture is a dream in itself I liked the playful nature of this idea and felt it was a complete work as it connects with the themes of the album in many ways.
These themes of peace and creeping dread also seemed to resonate with listeners. And perhaps that’s no surprise, given that in 2021 most of us were still reeling from the pandemic while beginning to rebuild a sense of normalcy in a post-vaccine world.
It’s an artistic angle that can also be found in other albums by the shortlist. Miles Johnston’s cover art for James Blake’s Friends That Break Your Heart sees a human figure lying on a forest floor with huge chunks of his body removed like puzzle pieces. Kimberly Oberhammer’s cover for Indigo De Souza’s Any Shape You Take sees bloated but decaying figures roaming the shelves of a store overtaken by nature. Even Greg Gorman’s cover photo for Elton John’s The Lockdown Sessions shows the singer wearing a glamorous mask. These are music designs created in a year where normalcy was redefined, and we’re all still trying to figure out how to fit in.
Best Art Vinyl Founder Andrew Heeps comments, “We see that vinyl records and vinyl culture continue to evolve to deliver a full artistic statement with art and music. This year’s winning cover is built around a self-contained frame border that allows the owner to swap and enjoy all four versions of the cover, with each artwork produced in the same style and theme.
“The originality of offering the owner of the LP both quality and quantity of artistry in a tidy package, just demonstrates how the humble vinyl record contains few barriers as to where this format Eternal music can take artists’ creativity with musical and visual artists working in a common passion for their art.”
Fever Dreams beat out Future, Past, Duran Duran’s 15th studio album, which took second place. Featuring original black and white imagery by Japanese photographer Daisuke Yokota, the design mixes and illuminates shots to reflect the forward-looking philosophy of keyboardist Nick Rhodes.
As for third place, it went to photographer Jason Joyce and his fully intact final capture of the Singing Ringing Tree sculpture in Burnley for English hard rock band Thunder’s thirteenth studio album, All The Right Noises – the result of a 24 hour freezing shoot. , this album cover depicts a dramatic photo taken at dawn.
Organized from London since 2005, the Best Art Vinyl Award compiles the opinions of listeners from all over the world. The first release to win the award was Hard-Fi’s Stars of CCTV, which stood out with its bold, colorful imagery inspired by black and yellow safety signage. Not bad at all, considering the band created it themselves.
Winning the award in this inaugural year was no small feat. Especially considering it was up against Jamie Hewlett’s artwork for the album Gorillaz Demon Days and Matthew Cooper’s Soviet Union-inspired design for Franz Ferdinand’s second studio album You Could Have It So Much Better. .
Meanwhile, more recent winners include Russell Oliver’s cover design for Ultra Mono by Idles, which features a man being hit in the face by a huge bubblegum pink ball. As far as visual representations of their visceral, direct yet heartfelt sound go, this is the perfect visual encapsulation.
2019 saw top spot go to Klone for his album Le Grand Voyage, which features striking atmospheric imagery by photographer Francesco Dell’Orto. And as with 2018, the publisher’s resident visual collaborator, Rahi Rezvari, helped the band land the award with his imagery of three intertwined bodies for their record Violence.
The 50 records nominated Best Art Vinyl 2021 can be viewed on artistic vinyl and will also be featured in exhibitions in the UK and across Europe. All designs will also be displayed in the unique Art Vinyl Flip Frame, which allows instant access to music and additional inner sleeve designs.