They say “never judge a book by its cover”, but admit it – when it comes to albums, that’s exactly what we do. We’ve already heard some outstanding music this year, much of it wrapped in even more fascinating album artwork that stands among the best album covers of 2022. Here are the 29 greatest sleeves of the year so far…
29: Pale Waves: ‘Unwanted’
A perfectly polished record that could easily have been released in the early 2000s, Pale Waves’ third album, Unwanted, nods to the likes of Paramore, Avril Lavigne and My Chemical Romance, and this adolescent angst courses through the album artwork. Spotlit in monochrome, Pale Waves look like the archetypal pop-punk artists longing for their teenage heyday.
28: Lizzo: ‘Special’
Wearing her heart on her sleeve more than ever, Lizzo is joyfully uncontrollable on Special. Unapologetically herself, she radiates comedic energy throughout a record that holds the cure for anyone in need of the instant feel-good factor. And, in true Lizzo style, she proves that she’s still “100 per cent that bitch”, appearing on one of the best album covers of 2022 in an ultra-glam headshot in which she wears a sequin-encrusted balaclava.
27: Lykke Li: ‘EYEYE’
To some extent continuing the flow of Lykke Li’s musical career, the experimentation on EYEYE strips the Swedish singer’s sound back to create something cinematically moody. Loosening her grip on captivating pop hooks, Li explores concepts of emotional maturity, showcasing a deeply personal sound which comes to you as intimately as if you had your ear to the door, listening to her makes the music in real time. Showcasing the all-encompassing approach Li takes to her art, EYEYE’s album cover is a painfully accurate representation of the dark beauty that echoes within the album.
26: King Princess: ‘Hold On Baby’
A sticky amalgamation of pop deliciousness which bears resemblances to folklore-era Taylor Swift and Christine And The Queens, King Princess’ second album, Hold On Baby, is a journey with pleasant surprises round each corner. Entering a fresh phase in which she searches for a new form of heartbreak, King Princess poses on her latest album cover holding a barn owl – a reference to a love of animals she shared with her grandfather.
Photographer: Collier Schoor
25: Amber Mark: ‘Three Dimensions Deep’
After four years of dabbling in EPs and singles, Amber Mark stamped her name onto 2022 with her debut album, Three Dimensions Deep, through which she delivered her creative flow across a concept record divided into three delicate parts. Dedicating the album to her late mother, Mark’s soulful melodies and poignant lyricism make the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, while triumphant horn sections and head-nodding basslines ensure the whole becomes the ultimate crowd-pleaser. One of the best album covers of 2022, Three Dimensions Deep’s artwork pictures Mark on the creative and spiritual plane where she began to find herself again, and is a stunning visualisation of the process that took place in order for her to create the record.
Photographer: Wendy Ngala
24: Charli XCX: ‘CRASH’
Charli XCX has been on quite the journey ever since bursting onto the music scene with her feature on Icona Pop’s iconic cut I Love It, in 2013. Seven studio albums later, and she is back with the long-awaited CRASH, which is packed with anthems that veer just to the left of conventional pop. If an album artwork ever replicated the ethos of the record itself, it’s this one. Glamorously stretched across a car windscreen in just a bikini, with blood trickling down Charli’s face, it’s like a GTA loading screen that’s all gone a bit wrong. But that’s what we all love about Charli XCX: always expect the unexpected.
Photographer: Terrence O’Connor
23: Metronomy: ‘Small World’
In deep contrast to their last album, Metronomy Forever, which was vibrant in both sound and colour, Small World stands back from chaotic energy and takes a small step towards acoustic and melodic serenity. Though the group’s wonky sound has arguably made them one of the 2000s’ longest-lasting indie bands, it’s sometimes caused their songwriting to be overlooked. Small World, however, places frontman Joe Mount’s lyrics centre stage as he explores personal themes and existential questions. This shines through on the album cover: a photograph taken by Mount’s mother, in the singer’s home county of Devon, it reflects the band’s ever-changing life cycle.
Photographer: Kate Mount
22: Paolo Nutini: ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’
Paolo Nutini’s resurgence, after an eight-year hiatus, was a welcome reminder of just how much he’d been missed. Boasting one of the best album covers of 2022, Last Night In The Bittersweet is a fierce return from the Scottish singer-songwriter, who is pictured on the sleeve surrounding by the tools of his trade – a comforting homecoming and a fine indication of his musical versatility.
Photographer: Shamil Tanna | Concept: Paolo Nutini
21: Florence + The Machine: ‘Dance Fever’
Nearly 15 years into a career in which she has seemingly morphed from a human into something closer to a mythical creature, Florence Welch’s fourth album, Dance Fever, is her most spiritually minded work yet. Reading into the medieval European “dancing plague” just before the pandemic, Welch discovered the perfect jumping-off for this spine-tingling record, which finds the singer at her most vulnerable. One of the best album covers of 2022, Dance Fever’s artwork would fit a vintage collection of fairy tales, and is everything you’d imagine from the voice behind this particular story: a delicate portrait of the ethereal redhead, it could easily be mistaken for a renaissance painting.
Photographer: Autumn De Wilde
20: Goo Goo Dolls: ‘Chaos In Bloom’
Three decades into their career, Goo Goo Dolls show no sign of slowing down. With a roaring opening cut that sets the pace for momentum to build across the whole album, Chaos In Bloom sees the band stake their claim to being some of the best 90s musicians while also proving that they have remained relevant well into the 21st century. And the album cover is something even the most casual fan can admire: with rich purple inky hues drizzling into a pencil-drawn bouquet of flowers, it’s dreamily intriguing.
Illustrator: Chuck Tingley
19: The Black Keys: ‘Dropout Boogie’
In terms of musicality, The Black Keys never stray too far from their mighty blues-rock base – not that that’s a bad thing. Their 2022 offering, Dropout Boogie, continues to refine their familiar sound while injecting a fierce exhilaration into new riffs and beats. Heavy with outrageously catchy hooks, the album’s lead single, Wild Child, ultimately became the face of the entire record through both sound and visuals – it came with a 21 Jump Street-style music video which showcased the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney taking on the roles of high-school janitor and cook in an attempt to reconnect with their roots, “for the album”. Almost like a movie poster, Dropout Boogie’s album cover captures the fun and easy energy of the record.
Art director: Perry Shall
18: Bastille: ‘Give Me The Future’
In a world where reality increasingly seems too close to an episode of Black Mirror, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmingly anxious about the near future. And it’s this concept that Bastille delve into on their 2022 album, Give Me The Future. Through a record that explores everything from online dating to navigating life in a virtual world, and the uncertainty of what the future holds, Bastille have maintained their talent for creating pop earworms. While we still come to understand what an NFT actually is, Give Me The Future’s album cover seems to encapsulate the feeling of being caught in the rush of modern technology – but with a way out that assures us it’s not all that terrifying after all.
Design: Dan Smith, Ryan Vautier, Dunishu Perea
17: Kasabian: ‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’
Though Kasabian are well versed in experimentation, their seventh album, The Alchemist’s Euphoria, is a challenge like no other. With guitarist Serge Pizzorno taking on the role of frontman after the departure of Tom Meighan in 2020, the band continue to balance roaring crowd-pleasers with the more pronounced influence of Pizzorno’s beloved art-rock. Their new singer’s creative control seems to have seeped into to the cover art, too: designed by David Bowie collaborator Tom Hingston, a petrol-stained helmet/shield/mask (of sorts), complete with all sorts of miscellaneous items, is a strange concept, but, once glimpsed, it almost becomes a hypnotic force that draws you in further and further.
Designer: Tom Hingston
16: Palace: ‘Shoals’
One of London’s most serene indie groups, Palace dive to a deeper place on their third album, Shoals – one where reflections effortlessly appear. With purity taking centre-stage, frontman Leo Wyndham’s vocals float with falsetto charm while reverb-heavy chord progressions swim alongside, generating a sound that can take you to sun-kissed beaches on even the drizzliest of days. As ever, Palace’s long-standing artist, Wilm Danby, does what he does best with the album cover, painting the dreamiest scene possible to go with, arguably, the dreamiest album yet from this beloved four-piece.
Illustrator: Wilm Danby
15: Sigrid: ‘How To Let Go’
2022 saw Norway’s own queen of pop, Sigrid, back and better than ever with her long-awaited second album, How To Let Go. Complete with new indie soundwaves, psychedelic glimmers and even a collaboration from Bring Me The Horizon, the record proves that Sigrid has become comfortably versatile. All the while, she demonstrates how her empathetic and poignant songwriting can act as an intimate self-help class on letting the past go. Underscoring the dawning of a new creative era, How To Let Go’s artwork is like a long-shot take on her Sucker Punch sleeve, with Sigrid striking an almost identical pose, but this time dressed in red and standing victoriously on top of a car. It’s as if she knew this record would find her at the top of her game.
Photographer: James Perolls
14: alt-J: ‘The Dream’
Self-critique weighed heavily on alt-J’s previous album, Relaxer. At just eight songs long, it seemed more like a last-minute EP in contrast to their previous records, which both contained almost twice the number of songs. It seems 2022 is the year in which alt-J land back on their feet, with the heartfelt stories and modern-day dilemmas that make up The Dream. Enveloping a multitude of genres, from blues to folk and indie, in a quintessentially British chorus line, alt-J continue to prove they will not be pigeonholed. Delivering one of the best album covers of 2022, artist Joel Wyllie’s pencil drawing perfectly evokes the weird and wonderful sound of the music.
Illustrator: Joel Wyllie
13: The Weeknd: ‘Dawn FM’
A force to be reckoned with in the world of R&B, The Weeknd attracts new fans daily, whether that be through older records brimming with trap drizzles, or with a more recent sound that dips into a new wave of 80s nostalgia. Back with a vengeance in 2022, he released Dawn FM, an incredible concept album that sticks you in the driving seat in the early hours of the morning, with 103.5 Dawn FM as the only radio station available. Complete with frequency tweaks and a host DJ, the album is impressively diverse and arguably Abel Tesfaye’s best yet. Reflecting those red-eye journeys that make you feel like you’ve aged significantly, Dawn FM’s album cover flashes forward to a stage of The Weeknd’s life that should be a long way off yet…
Photographer: Matilda Finn
12: Beabadoobee: ‘Beatopia’
While her first album fell just shy of being one of the essential indie records of the 2010s, Beabadoobee’s follow-up, Beatopia, is a beautifully striking genre unto itself: folky-fairy-rock. Rooted in a mystical haven envisioned by the young Beabadoobee, the record is scatted with strings, fluttering brass and delicate acoustic flickers, all tied together with Beabadoobee’s soprano vocals. As if Beatopia couldn’t get any more visionary, it also comes with one of the best album covers of 2022, its daydream-like illustrations capturing the sweetness and innocence within.
11: Blossoms: ‘Ribbon Around The Bomb’
Wiping the slate clean, Blossoms stepped away from their all-encompassing indie-pop jangles and headed into new territory in every sense on their 2022 album, Ribbon Around The Bomb. A complex amalgamation of influences including wedding cheese, Simon And Garfunkel-style acoustics and a lot of theatrics, the record runs with creativity and ensures that each track is a personality-filled nugget of its own. Blossoms threw a curveball into the mix with this one, and that decision very much extended to the artwork. Where their previous three albums featured the band on the cover, Ribbon Around The Bomb’s sleeve fits a different brief, emerging as a visually striking classic among the best album covers of 2022. After the band’s creative director, Edwin Burdis, heard the album, he told the group he imagined its artwork would feature wood engravings – and so it does. Created by Hilary Paynter, the sleeve couldn’t be a more visually perfect representation of the music within.
Illustrator: Hilary Paynter
10: Calvin Harris: ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.2’
A whopping five years on from his career-defining step into the world of laidback nu-disco, Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1, summer 2022 was the perfect time for Calving Harris to issue a follow-up. With outstanding creativity – and, in the shape of Potion, one of the best Dua Lipa songs of the 2020s – Harris’ production work evokes a beachy paradise. And the album cover couldn’t be any more fitting, picturing as it does a secluded island littered with palm trees and surrounded by blue sky and sea. All that’s missing is a sunbed and a piña colada.
9: Foals: ‘Life Is Yours’
Three years after the release of their awe-inspiring two-part album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Foals returned in the summer of 2022 with Life Is Yours. Delicately formulated to be equal parts pre- and post-2000s Foals, it takes on mirror-ball reflections tinged with raucous guitar slams. Ready-made for large crowds at summer festivals, the album’s positive energy makes it feel as though you’re experiencing everything in full contrast – and it has an album cover to match. Taken on a 35mm camera, the photo is vibrant, with striking pink roses set against a bright white car bonnet. It doesn’t hold much meaning but it looks lovely placed alongside other contenders among the best album covers of 2022.
8: Liam Gallagher: ‘C’mon You Know’
When former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher announced he was returning to music in 2017, three years after the split of Beady Eye, it was like a grenade went off in the music industry – and the fire still rages. Half a decade down the line, 2022 saw the release of his eagerly anticipated third album, C’mon You Know, whose release coincided with the historical announcement of a headline Knebworth show, demand for which forced a second night to be added. With Gallagher’s voice sounding stronger than ever at the age of 49, C’mon You Know is packed with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, stadium-ready anthems and even a stab at a cinematic number. While he spent the 90s cultivating his cocky image, the singer very much remains a man of the people. Placing him among superfans, the album cover perfectly reflects the love Gallagher has inspired in younger generations.
7: Years & Years: ‘Night Call’
The past year has been an absolute showstopper for Olly Alexander, aka Years & Years. After parting ways with his former bandmates, Alexander’s creative fluidity runs rampant on Night Call, a concept album which portrays a genderless utopia set thousands of years in the future. While Years & Years’ breakout singles were heavy with feel-good dance tracks, Night Call is an outrageously free showcase of Alexander’s musical maturity. A statement pop record that couldn’t be anymore relevant today, it comes replete with a perfectly fitting album cover that will continue to spark conversation in years and years to come.
6: The Wombats: ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’
Unbelievably, it’s been 15 years since one of the UK’s biggest names in indie music, The Wombats, released their breakthrough album, The Wombats Proudly Present… A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation. After all this time, the group seem to be at the peak of their career, with their 2022 album, Fix Yourself, Not The World, earning them their first UK No.1. In that time, most of the group’s contemporaries have either changed their sound completely or stayed strictly in their lane; The Wombats have done a bit of both, creating indie anthems while building up their repertoire – encompassing a bit of pop here, a bit of dance there. And hasn’t it paid off? A packed visual counterpart to a sound that incorporates everything, Fix Yourself, Not The World’s artwork earns its spot among the best album covers of 2022 while also recalling the 2000s game Habbo Hotel.
5: Harry Styles: ‘Harry’s House’
When One Direction went on indefinite hiatus in 2016, no one put money on any of its members enjoying a solo career as successful as the band’s. Oh how Harry Styles proved everyone wrong. Perhaps the most sought-after man on the planet right now, he once again sent the world into a frenzy with the release of his third album, Harry’s House. Rich with 80s hues and glorious lyrics that can cause even the sturdiest listener to go weak at the knees, the record sees Styles take up residency in new, exploratory territory, its artwork reflecting how the singer has turned his sound on its head.
Photographer: Hanna Moon
4: Everything Everything: ‘Raw Data Feel’
Everything Everything have always been up there as one of indie-rock’s most alternative bands, and their 2022 album, Raw Data Feel, is without a doubt their least conventional yet. In a world that’s becoming frighteningly advanced, an album recorded with the assistance of AI technology should feel like a normal progression… but somehow it just doesn’t. Complete with meme references, vocal manipulation and more synthesisers than ever, Raw Data Feel is very much of the moment, but the band’s creative exploration is nothing to be sniffed at. As baffling as any tech jargon, the sculpture pictured on the sleeve can’t really be explained, but as one of the best album covers of 2022, it could easily find a spot in London’s Tate Modern, to be stared at for hours on end in search for a consensus on what it actually is.
3: Two Door Cinema Club: ‘Keep On Smiling’
With two go-to indie albums to their name, and three synth-pop records on top of that, it’s time everyone accepted that Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History/Beacon days are well and truly behind them. Their fifth album, Keep On Smiling, is the third of that dancefloor-friendly trio, and its artwork is as eye-catching as the music is infectious. Outrageously vibrant in a pop-art style, you get two for the price of one here: great music and a piece of art that more than deserves its place among the best album covers of 2022.
Illustrator: Alan Fears
2: Muse: ‘Will Of The People’
Described by the band as “a greatest hits album – of new songs”, Muse’s ninth studio album, Will Of The People, roars with political brilliance and monumental stadium anthems, and finds frontman Matt Bellamy at his peak of his powers. A typically genre-defying record which pinches from glam-rock, industrial electro-rock and EDM, Will Of The People is a captivating response to the increasing instability of the world. Its artwork depicts a dystopian future which doesn’t feel too hard to imagine, with oversized busts of the three Muse bandmates seemingly being discovered by a future civilisation.
Illustrator: Tiago Marinho
1: Kojey Radical: ‘Reason To Smile’
There aren’t many rappers who use their bass-heavy vocals in conjunction with music that’s an equal mix of soul and grime – think the theoretical love child of Loyle Carner and Kendrick Lamar. Step forward East Londoner Kojey Radical, whose debut album, Reason To Smile, is a unique offering the world needs to lend its ears to. Featuring the sultry vocals of Masego and old-school rapper Wretch 32, the record bursts with a creativity and musical versatility which is ridiculously refreshing. Topping our list of the best album covers of 2022 so far, Reason To Smile’s artwork comes across like a modern-day Salvador Dalí, and is as revolutionary as Radical’s music.
Photographer: Nwaka Okparaeke
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