Record sleeves of the month

Our regular round-up of music packaging includes a very special release from UNKLE plus Kate Nash, Tracey Thorn and, get this, a cassette tape from Goldfrapp. Remember those?

Here’s the latest batch of music release packaging that’s caught our eye of late. Top of the pile is the special edition of  the new UNKLE album, Where Did The Night Fall – released May 10 on label Surrender-All.

The package (art directed by James Lavelle, Ben Drury and Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones), includes a booklet of song lyrics and sleeve notes, a gatefold pack housing two CDs and a book of imagery on heavy card. All elements of the package, bar the lyric booklet, is printed on silver stock – giving the release, and the imagery that adorns it (created by Du Preez and Thornton Jones) a unique and lavish quality.

The slipcase contains three items – the black lyric booklet, a silver gatefold wallet containing the packages two discs (the album plus a bonus instrumental version of the album), and a thick card book of imagery created by Du Preez and Thornton Jones

This is the open gatefold CD wallet

Inside the left hand side of the gatefold wallet is another sleeve which contains the album disc (above) and in the left hand side of the gatefold wallet you’ll find the bonus disc containing the instrumental versions of each track on the album:

Mat Maitland has art directed the album campaign for Kate Nash‘s latest album, My Best Friend Is You, working in collaboration with Big Active artist Kate Gibb – who produced all of the silkscreen imagery. Reflecting the personal sentiment in the album’s title the printed imagery takes the form of collages all incorporate keepsakes belonging to Kate Nash. This  imagery is integrated across all aspects of the promotional campaign.

There’s also a deluxe version of the album which is packaged in a book format, shown above

Peepers is the latest album from Jazz percussionist Sebastian Rochford’s musical combo, Polar Bear. The artwork, perhaps surprisingly, was created by a photographer – Johanna Ruebel – with final layout and hand written text by Tony Morley at The Leaf Label.

DJ Paul Woolford’s first commercial mix project, subtitled Surgery, was released last month as part of Renaissance’s Platform series of releases. The two disc package was designed by Engine Creative and features an isometric illustration of a human heart on the front cover. The theme is carried through to an ominous looking operation theatre on the interior gatefold panels…

This is a new repackaged, deluxe issue of Passion Pit‘s Manners album which contains stunning new artwork by Robert Seidel and exclusive bonus tracks not included on the original release. Here’s how the opened gatefold pack looks, outside and in:

Art direction: Anita Marisa Boriboon. CD design: Frank Napolski. Label: Columbia / French Kiss / Sony

Yes, it’s a tape cassette version of Goldfrapp’s latest album, Head First – released by label Mute as a limited edition special release to tie in with Independent Record Store Day on April 17. This and two other releases from the label were available from various UK indie record stores only on that day. The artwork for the album was created by Big Active in collaboration with photographer Serge Leblon and set designer Shona Heath.

This was another of Mute’s limited edition exclusive Record Store Day releases. It’s a 12″ white vinyl release of The Mercy Seat with a gold foil blocked (detail below) sleeve.

Bad Seeds fans will know that The Mercy Seat was originally released in 1988. On this disc is the original version (remastered), an acoustic version and two live versions, one recorded at the Royal Albert Hall and the other, exclusive to this release, was recorded at the Tate Britain in 2003. Design: Tom Hingston Studio.

And last, but by no means least, some new sleeves from IWANT for former Everything But The Girl singer Tracey Thorn‘s latest musical offerings: new album, Love And Its Opposite which will be released on Strange Feeling Records here in the UK and on Merge in the US – and the first supporting single, Oh The Divorces!

“I decided to use archival portraits, posed but quite candid, that although very ordinary have an underlying tension,” says IWANT’s John Gilsenan. “They display a window into a happier time before it all went wrong. I created bespoke typeface for the Tracey Thorn logo that is intended to reflect the images, a fairly normal simple face that appears to be dressed up for the occasion. The artwork is a reflection of the dark humour that permeates the record.”

The first single from the album was a limited edition clear vinyl 7″ (cover shown below) that featured the track Oh The Divorces! on the A-side and a non-album cover version of Vampire Weekend’s Taxi Cab on the B-side. This was released specifically on Record Store Day. A 12″ release of remixes is planned to follow the release of the album. The album (sleeve shown above) is gloss laminated to feel like a glossy photograph and will be released as a limited edition gatefold vinyl.

  • Sherbert Lemon UK

    LOVE IT!!! Record sleeves, CD covers are how I became fascinated by design and the very reason I became a designer. It’s painful to think that the all album artwork is just going to be a tiny square on our itunes from now on. But as long as some artists are passionate about the way they present themselves then we should still see some cool packaging in the future! (gospel rant over)

    I like the ladybird book style approach to the ‘Kate Nash’ album and bravo to Goldfrapp, I adore the fact they have done this! Perhaps other industries will follow suit and there could be a ‘Avatar’ collectors edition on VHS??

  • Mat

    The Unkle one looks cool, they do nice stuff.

  • Michael

    Wow that is a great post! Unkle is definately on the right track with that. I was just thinking something like that would make me purchase music again. Only I would collect them like I do books! Really nice thanks for posting this!

  • kieran gee-finch

    great post, thank you :)

  • Steve

    I love record / cd / cassette artwork and I really miss it now I download mp3s. The small digital cover just doesn’t do the work justice..

    Putting your headphones in and having the first listen of a new album while reading the booklet and admiring the sleeve artwork. Priceless

  • John Instruct

    UNKLE have always delivered for their own ‘fanboys’ and we all lap it up, it’s great to see artists and labels investing in good print/packaging as there will always be a market for collectable pieces like that.

  • Gavin Lucas

    FYI – Had my first proper listen through the UNKLE album. It’s difficult to describe just how spine-tinglingly great it is. I do believe you can download two tracks from the album absolutely free from – to see if it floats your boat musically…

  • Ed

    These are gorgeous.

    Bit fed up of people moaning about how the ‘experience’ is lost with digital downloads – Clearly the experience is still there for those who want it (and not everybody does). So stop bloody moaning, get off iTunes and get down your friendly neighbourhood record store.

  • Marlon Maine

    Generally great! Some of them too conceptual, but that’s UK no?

  • Dave – Web Design Essex

    Love the Unkle photography, the silver box is awesome. Not a massive fan of the typography used though, it actually looks quite amature and ruins what is essentially a very well crafted product. The goldfrapp cassette is genius and ideal for its cause. Passion Pit, they always delivers with their cd covers. Kate Nash’s is quite understated, really nice work, and beautifully packaged.

  • John Gilsenan

    Thanks for including

    as an addition to the feature I thought it might be worth sharing a snippet of good news for music sales as Rough Trade see sales surge (try saying that quickly) – yes yes HMV are in trouble but lets face it they do not cater to people who actually care. Good quality music sold by knowledgeable staff offering exclusives and extras is obviously the way to keep alive an aspect of an industry that ‘experts’ keep telling us is dead.

    “Independent music retailer Rough Trade has revealed a sales surge of 17.5% in the 52 weeks to March 31 as it lays out plans for more stores.”

    Rough Trade director Stephen Godfroy said: “These are undeniably impressive results, testament to the expertise and dedication of our staff, and the resulting edited offer and trusted recommendations we provide our customers.”

    Nice, Hurrah for Rough Trade.

    As for the work above I think there are some lovely things – but I’m most impressed by the UNKLE font in how white on black I don’t like it at all but reversed on the spine I really love it ? strange. The overall package does however look amazing – oh for a decent music packaging budget…

  • creamofgold

    That UNKLE package is an absolute banger, especially the silver gatefold section…but I agree with John’s comment above about the lyric book’s font use not being as cohesive as everything else.

    Still, premium packages executed well are always welcome. Long live tactile media!

  • ETATmodern

    Excellent packaging – nice to look at and matches the type of music by this great band.


  • creamofgold

    That UNKLE package is an absolute banger, especially the silver gatefold section…but I agree with John’s comment above about the lyric book’s font use not being as cohesive as everything else.

    Still, premium packages executed well are always welcome. Long live tactile media!

  • Graphic Design Manchester

    Love the Unkle sleeve. :). Hope it sounds as good.

  • doug montgomery

    Tracey Thorn sleeve with the playful/aggressive coloured-in faces does it for me. Wonder if the ‘family’ consented to it being used?

  • Emma Louise Layla

    Great collection of fantastic sleeves… It’s nice to see people still make a lot of effort on packaging in the ever-increasing digital age. Nothing beats marvelling over shiny new tangible cover artwork.

  • Artur Casaca

    James Lavelle is a genius. Everything he touchs from is past label Mo’Wax, toys, clothing, dj set, … to this new package of Unkle is phenomenal. I’m a big fan and I will for sure buy the deluxe package. Ps: I think he could be a good art director!

  • G Hillier

    I reckon the best album cover of the month is Ikonika’s “contact, love, want, have” on Hyperdub, designed by Optigram. Very effective

  • London_DJ80s

    UNKLE album was shot using a Leaf digital back.

  • Sarah

    In response to Doug’s comment about the Tracey Thorn pic – it’s from the Image Source royalty free stock collection called ‘Uncommon Portraits’ and all model released so there’s definitely no shady goings on!

  • john Amy

    Shame the music doesn’t live up to the packaging.

  • David Stone

    My favorite is “My Best Friend Is You” by Kate Nash. Awesome cover

  • Rory

    Love Kate Nash’s childrens book style packaging, nice work.
    Like UNKLE’s artwork too, however I miss the old Psyence Fiction artwork…I know I know I’m so 1998.

  • Lidor Wyssocky

    You are invited to see my Re:Cover project with alternative design to music singles:

  • Crackles

    love the unkle photography. Not so keen on the font though…

  • Carol Fawcett

    it’s great that you are reviewing music packaging – but …the spend on these special editions must have been enormous. Gold foil blocks! Special paper! Heavy card! And how my heart sank at the sight of photos (however arty) of naked women.

    What would be more interesting would be a critical appraisal of the art and design of music that doesn’t rely on these extremely expensive special editions – the mainstream packaging you get on everyday cds. The company I work for hasn’t got those sort of budgets, but we attempt to give the purchaser well-designed packages fully illustrated with emphemera, photos etc that relate to the artists and music. Special paper/colours etc not part of our brief. Beautifully mastered music however…