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Best Album Covers Of 2023: 30 Great Artworks Of The Year

Best Album Covers Of 2023: 30 Great Artworks Of The Year

Whether encapsulating the music or raising more questions than answers, the best album covers of 2023 offer plenty of visual thrills.


No matter how much we love music, there’s an argument to say that it wouldn’t sell as well without the entire package – think The Dark Side Of The Moon’s game-changing artwork, or the thrill that comes with tracing Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie, as he evolves across the group’s genre-defining album covers. With new creative tools offering an ever-expanding creative palette for musicians and visual artists to draw from, the best album covers of 2023 prove that music still has the power to provide a visually stimulating experience.

Listen to our Chart playlist here, and check out the best album covers of 2023, below.

30: Doja Cat: ‘Scarlet’

Doja Cat made quite the stir with the artwork to her fourth studio album. After first revealing a purple watercolour of spider that drew instant comparisons to a release by German metal band Chaver, the rapper then switched out the cover for a painting of two interlocking pearlescent spiders by the same artist, Dusty Ray. Speaking on the change, she claimed on X (formerly Twitter) that none of her covers before Scarlet held any meaning, declaring: “I don’t care anymore about satisfying you.” The striking image is a clear departure from Doja’s previous works, and the conversation surrounding it secures its place among the best album covers of 2023.

Illustrator: Dusty Ray

Scarlet Album Art, Two spiders with pearls

29: Anne-Marie: ‘Unhealthy’

Anne-Marie is as playful and unfiltered as ever on her third studio album, Unhealthy – something that’s instantly clear from the artwork. She fronts her diary-like album with her face pressed up against the glass (see also Paramore’s contribution to the best album covers of 2023), nose squished to its surface. Anne-Marie’s “This is me” attitude lurks in all the cracks and crevices of the record, and is most blatantly on display in Unhealthy’s artwork.

Photographer: Unknown

Unhealthy Artwork

28: Taylor Swift: ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’

Taylor Swift’s ongoing Taylor’s Version re-recordings project has set ablaze a nostalgic fire that’s not burning out anytime soon, and with every new release there comes a wave of anticipation for how she will reimagine her existing artworks. For 1989 she chose a portrait with a sky-blue background and a cream border in keeping with the Polaroid design of the original. Swift’s fourth re-recording, the new album expertly captures the seaside aesthetic and synth-pop atmosphere of its first incarnation.

Photographer: Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift

27: Avenged Sevenfold: ‘Life Is But A Dream…’

Born out of what lead singer M Shadows has described as a “deep, months-long existential crisis”, the eighth album by progressive metal band Avenged Sevenfold, Life Is But A Dream…, delves into philosophical themes inspired by the writings of Albert Camus. Known for his Americana-inspired works, outsider artist Wes Lang was commissioned to design the sleeve, coming up with a dark and menacing Rorschach-like illustration featuring a depiction of the Grim Reaper brandishing a scythe. Shadows himself ranks it among the best album covers of 2023, crediting Lang’s art for inspiring bolder musical ideas from the group.

Artist: Wes Lang

Avenged Sevenfold: ‘Life Is But A Dream…’

26: Baby Queen: ‘Quarter Life Crisis’

If Baby Queen set out to encapsulate the juxtapositions of Quarter Life Crisis with just one image, then she can consider this a job well done. A familiar scene conjures a Where’s Wally for chaotic bedrooms: clothes are strewn across the floor; childhood drawings plaster the walls; a stickered guitar, a bottle of wine and teenage detritus surrounds the artist. With one foot in an adult world and another in a childhood haze, Baby Queen perfectly introduces her debut album as a tug-of-war between feeling too young and becoming more mature. She explained her inner crisis to The Line Of Best Fit: “I felt like I had so much responsibility, but I still felt like a child.”

Photographer: Unknown

aby Queen: ‘Quarter Life Crisis’

25: Orbital: ‘Optical Delusion’

In a genre which is somewhat overcrowded with vocal distortions, electronic titans Orbital stick to their guns on their tenth record, Optical Delusion. Brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll remain a powerhouse duo, providing squelchy bass, synthy goodness and nostalgic old-school drum’n’bass. The album’s inexplicably wacky artwork does a pretty good job of visualising the energy and the madness that fuels the duo’s vital music.

Artist: Unknown

Orbital: ‘Optical Delusion’

24: Mitski: ‘The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We’

Mitski explores love in all its forms – and its varying degrees of euphoria and pain – with The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We, and she does so against an organic yet cinematic backdrop of folk music. For an album on which she sings of falling in and out of love, Mitski appears to float mid-air, suspended between the two in Ophelia-like fashion, in an image shot by Ebru Yildiz. Mitski rolls out her very own hard-to-decipher font for her seventh studio album, making the overall design an all the more captivating entry among the best album covers of 2023.

Photographer: Ebru Yildiz

Mitski: ‘The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We’

23: Caroline Polachek: ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’

The multi-talented Caroline Polachek returned in early 2023, releasing her impressive sophomore album, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. As a solo artist, Polachek cherry-picks influences to create a multiverse of alternative pop, drawing vocal mannerisms from Christine And The Queens, fashioning punchy soundscapes indebted to Charli XCX and seeking to capture the moody yet hypnotic essence of British trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack. One of the best album covers of 2023, the Desire, I Want to Turn Into You sleeve comes across like a Y2K editorial fashion shoot hitched to a collection of carefully constructed music – a bold and striking move that raises more questions than it answers.

Photographer: Aidan Zamiri

Caroline Polachek: ‘Desire, I Want to Turn Into You’

22: Joesef: ‘Permanent Damage’

The long-awaited debut album from Scottish singer-songwriter Joesef finally emerged at the start of 2023, and though it was heavy with themes of heartbreak it certainly helped bring soulful warmth to a cold winter. Unlike Joesef’s initial run of EPs and singles, which sat comfortably with low-slung guitar hooks and head-nodding production, Permanent Damage takes a brave step into the unknown, its creator using orchestral arrangements to cinematic effect. Motown influences and pop soundbites are tied together with Joesef’s angelic soprano vocals, the overall atmosphere spilling into the album cover, which offers an all-round dose of loveliness courtesy of a 35mm shot of Joesef filtered with peachy hues.

Photographer: @peeohvee

Joesef: ‘Permanent Damage’

21: Janelle Monáe: ‘The Age Of Pleasure’

Showcasing its trailblazing creator’s fusion of progressive R&B, Afrobeat and reggae, Janelle Monáe’s fourth album, The Age Of Pleasure, celebrates Black culture and embraces a sex-positive perspective. The album cover, a captivating photograph captured by Vianney Le Caer, features Monáe submerged underwater, swimming naked through the legs of three individuals. Embodying the album’s exploration of liberation and intimacy, the image invites listeners into a world where boundaries are fluid and pleasure knows no limits.

Photographer: Vianney Le Caer


20: Inhaler: ‘Cuts & Bruises’

Inhaler continue to ride the crest of their nostalgic yet refreshing indie-rock-revival wave with their second album, Cuts & Bruises, which bears resemblance to work by such predecessors as The Killers, Stereophonics and, of course, U2 (frontman Elijah Hewson is Bono’s son). Moodily monochromatic, with shadows, highlights and distorted blurs, the band portrait on the sleeve is at once striking and familiar, sitting among the best album covers of 2023 for the way it reignites the flame of 2000s indie-rock.

Photographer: Unknown

Inhaler: ‘Cuts & Bruises’

19: Ava Max: ‘Diamonds & Dancefloors’

Across a vibrant assortment of dance-pop anthems such as Maybe You’re The Problem and Million Dollar Baby, the sound of Ava Max’s second album, Diamonds & Dancefloors, is almost as dazzling as its artwork, which brings some glamour to the best album covers of 2023. The cover portrait, taken by US photographer Marilyn Hue, was shot following the filming of the visualiser for the album’s fourth single, Dancing’s Done. It pictures Max reclining on a bed of blue gems, with silver diamonds shimmering near her head, making for a perfect visual companion to the album’s energetic musical offerings.

Photographer: Marilyn Hue

Ava Max: ‘Diamonds & Dancefloors’

18: Offset: ‘Set It Off’

Two years in the making, Set It Off was Offset’s first solo studio album since the success that was 2019’s Father Of Four, and the US rapper marked the occasion by delivering one of the best album covers of 2023. Pictured falling (or being blasted) from a burning city while dressed in tribute to Michael Jackson – his black suit is made complete with white socks and a singular glove – the onetime member of Migos leaves no uncertainty over the explosive contents within.

Photographer: Unknown

Offset: ‘Set It Off’

17: Miley Cyrus: ‘Endless Summer Vacation’

Disney’s producers certainly got it right when casting Miley Cyrus as their iconic teen pop star, Hannah Montana, back in 2006. Almost two decades later, Cyrus cements herself as Gen Z’s queen of pop with the release of Endless Summer Vacation. Shaded with heartbreak and hints of sexual prowess, this tribute to sticky summer nights and dreamy days is brought further to life through its album cover: radiating energy and all-encompassing power, Cyrus poses triumphantly against a rich blue backdrop while hanging on to a trapeze.

Photographer: Unknown

Miley Cyrus: ‘Endless Summer Vacation’

16: Royal Blood: ‘Back To The Water Below’

Royal Blood explore the deepest depths on their fourth record, returning to a classic rock sound with a healthy helping of grit. Back To The Water Below’s artwork is dreamy, striking and draws inspiration directly from the album’s name. The cover photo of a jellyfish emanating an orange glow could be a still taken straight from a documentary on deep-sea exploration, or a creature discovered in outer space. Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr have brought many a buried thought to the surface with this introspective album.

Artist: Unknown

Royal Blood: ‘Back To The Water Below’

15: Måneskin: ‘Rush!’

The modern-day rock’n’roll band that has piqued the interest of younger audiences around the world, Italian four-piece Måneskin continue their global triumph with the release of their third album, Rush! With roaring vocals and elegant guitar solos, Måneskin’s old-school-style rock ballads pay tribute to their influences, and are matched for impact by a provocative entry among the best album covers of 2023. Capturing the emotional range of the music, the image showcases each of the band members’ thoughts as they try to decipher whether the leaping model is trying to overtake them, bewitch them or crush them.

Photographer: Unknown

Måneskin: ‘Rush!’

14: Skrillex: ‘Quest For Fire’

The pioneering dubstep artist Skrillex made a triumphant return in 2023, issuing his first album in nine years, Quest For Fire. Its artwork reportedly draws inspiration from a Native American sculpture, resulting in a dark and sinister illustration reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch’s artistry. Depicting a regal-looking figure travelling across a post-apocalyptic landscape on the back of a horse-like creature with a skeletal head, this haunting imagery perfectly captures the intense and otherworldly sonic journey that awaits those who approach this boundary-pushing masterpiece of incendiary EDM.

Artist: Unknown

Skrillex: ‘Quest For Fire’

13: Ed Sheeran: ‘Autumn Variations’

With the seasonal exploration that is Autumn Variations, Ed Sheeran seemingly calls back to the EPs he released in the early 2010s – and with the autumnal theme comes the return of his preference for illustrated artworks. Sheeran has “captured the feeling of autumn” alongside The National’s Aaron Dessner, who served as producer on the follow-up to . Everything from the small changes in the seasons to the big alterations in life has been drawn in black and white on the sleeve, which serves as not only one of the best album covers of 2023, but also as the listener’s roadmap to Sheeran’s seventh album.

Illustrator: Unknown

Ed Sheeran: ‘Autumn Variations’

12: Lil Yachty: ‘Let’s Start Here’

Boldly diverging from trap on his fifth album, Let’s Start Here, Lil Yachty surprised fans by embarking on a detour into psych-rock freakouts. The album cover, reportedly generated by AI, features a monstrously deformed group of business executives smiling demonically with contorted faces, as if their features have been warped by a bad acid trip. This surreal visual perfectly captures the radical departure from Yachty’s previous sound, hinting at the unconventional and boundary-pushing sonic U-turn the rapper has undertaken.

Artist: AI

Lil Yachty: ‘Let’s Start Here’

11: Kelela: ‘Raven’

Returning after a six-year absence, Kelela delivered a blissful mix of electro-R&B on her second album, Raven, which dives into themes of sexuality, belonging and conformity. Evoking what the singer has called “the feeling of the isolation and alienation I’ve always had as a Black femme in dance music”, the album cover, by photographer Hendrick Schneider, is a visually poetic work of greyscale genius, featuring a black face emerging from a body of dark water – a visual metaphor for blending into one’s natural environment.

Photographer: Hendrik Schneider

Kelela: ‘Raven’

10: Metallica: ‘72 Seasons’

Not only is Metallica’s 11th album, 72 Seasons, a return to blistering thrash-metal form, but it is also a concept album about the journey of a problem child transitioning into adulthood. The album cover, designed by Jamie McCathie, is a visual representation of this theme, setting a shattered black crib resembling prison bars against a vibrant yellow backdrop, while a broken guitar lies on the floor. Evoking the idea of being a prisoner of childhood, the artwork for 72 Seasons elaborates on James Hetfield’s lyrical ideas of how our formative years shape our adult selves. It makes for an arresting entry among the best album covers of 2023.

Artist: Jamie McCathie

Metallica: ‘72 Seasons’

9: Blur: ‘The Ballad Of Darren’

Trailered by one of the best songs of 2023, Blur’s highly-anticipated ninth album, The Ballad Of Darren, marks their first release in eight years and features a renowned photograph by Martin Parr as its album cover. Set against the backdrop of storm clouds looming over the Malin Sea, a solitary swimmer cuts through the water at Gourock Outdoor Pool as a lifeguard’s chair sits empty, capturing the essence of a Scottish summer with the juxtaposition of the lido’s vibrant blue and the familiar grey sky. By reintroducing Blur’s iconic Britpop-era logo to fans, the final artwork also helps The Ballad Of Darren settle nicely alongside the best Blur albums.

Photographer: Martin Parr

Blur: ‘The Ballad Of Darren’

8: Kali Uchis: ‘Red Moon In Venus’

Shimmering with twilight odes to infatuation, Kali Uchis’ third album, Red Moon In Venus, encapsulates everything we love about the genre-defying Colombian American princess. On its cover she appears as the human embodiment of the album’s themes – divine femininity and cosmic devotion – her face seductively radiant against a terracotta background, butterfly hairpieces offering a surreal extension of the dreamlike music within.

Photographer: Cho Gi-Seok

Kali Uchis: ‘Red Moon In Venus’

7: Sufjan Stevens: ‘Javelin’

Sufjan Stevens is no stranger to high-concept artwork, and he doesn’t deviate from this pattern with his tenth record. Designed by Stevens himself, Javelin is a meticulously mosaiced collage of photographs we could all see a piece of ourselves in. Complete with creased paper, layered tape and wet paint, the finished image is a masterclass in mixed-medium art. The album is also accompanied by a 48-page book of art and essays, extending the boundaries of Stevens’ nostalgic world even further.

Designer: Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens: ‘Javelin’

6: Shame: ‘Food For Worms’

The third offering from British post-punks Shame, Food For Worms is as provocative as ever, so it’s no surprise that lead vocalist Charlie Steen got in touch with acclaimed artist Marcel Dzama to create the album cover. Drawing on the illustrator’s talent for evoking dark fairy tales, the resulting artwork is a captivatingly weird illustration featuring a synchronised quintet of swimmers clad in blue Lycra adorned with yellow polka dots, with a crescent moon and stars hanging above to further enhance the scene’s mysterious quality.

Artist: Marcel Dzama

Shame: ‘Food For Worms’

5: Paramore: ‘This Is Why’

Five years after the release of their pop-inspired fifth album, After Laughter, Paramore erupted back on the scene with This Is Why, which plucked influences from 2000s Britrock, leaned back into the group’s own infectious guitar hooks and traded in the delicate lyricism frontwoman Hayley Williams has displayed across her solo projects. Written on the back of a global pandemic, the album is awash with paranoia, impatience and fear. Picturing Williams and her Paramore bandmates, Taylor York and Zac Farro, slammed against a condensed shower screen, This Is Why’s artwork earns its place among the best album covers of 2023 for encapsulating the chaotic pressure everyone has been under in the years leading up to the album’s release.

Photographer: Zachary Gray

Paramore: ‘This Is Why’

4: Ashnikko: ‘Weedkiller’

The follow-up to their electric 2021 mixtape, DEMIDEVIL, Ashnikko’s debut album, Weedkiller, charts a journey to selfhood, introducing audiences to every shade of the songwriter’s inner turmoil, but with a healthy helping of fun and whimsy. One of the best album covers of 2023, the portrait image echoes the vulnerability and mythology that the US artist has woven into the album’s subject matter, as Ashnikko cradles themself while entombed in an extraterrestrial egg surrounded by earth and burning skies. It suggests an inhospitable alien world resides within, but Weedkiller embraces listeners from the very first listen.

Photographer: Vasso Vu | CGI: @razorade

Ashnikko: ‘Weedkiller’

3: Melanie Martinez: ‘Portals’

Melanie Martinez’s third studio album, Portals, showcases the US singer’s unique and unconventional art-pop style as she sings of swamp-dwelling faeries and alien-like embryos. One of the best album covers of 2023, its sleeve boasts a striking image of dream-like surrealism, for which Martinez was photographed wearing pink prosthetics that give her a feline appearance. Remarkably, the album’s title is crafted from real-life hair, adding an eerie touch that’s both alluring and unsettling.

Photographer: Jimmy Fontaine

3: Melanie Martinez: ‘Portals’

2: Young Fathers: ‘Heavy Heavy’

Straddling the line between hip-hop and rock, Young Fathers have never paid attention to typical genre boundaries, and Heavy Heavy is, as its title suggests, pretty heavy-heavy. Reverberating with thundering drums and gospel choruses, the album aims to leave listeners with wild thoughts and outrageous questions the likes of which its artwork does little to address. A truly arresting entry among the best album covers of 2023, the sleeve pictures an obscured figure pierced with sharp objects; it is based on the Nikisi figures found in many West and Central African cultures, which are believed to have spiritual capabilities that can banish evil.

Designer: Tom Hingston

Young Fathers: ‘Heavy Heavy’

1: Gorillaz: ‘Cracker Island’

Returning after a three-year gap, Gorillaz remain in ultimately wacky form on Cracker Island, adding a raft of new collaborators to their roster, among them Tame Impala, Thundercat and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. Continuing to develop the group’s image, Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett has worked up one of the best album covers of 2023, drawing on themes in Damon Albarn’s lyrics as he reframes the group as members of a cult somewhere on the edge of the world.

Illustrator: Jamie Hewlett

Gorillaz: ‘Cracker Island’

Check out the best songs of 2023.

Original article: 24 April 2023

Updated: 17 July 2023. Extra words: Luke Edwards | 12 October 2023. Extra words: Savannah Roberts

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