The vinyl resurgence is leading to a revival of record-pressing plants, changing the way record companies do business and bolstering electronics brands like Crosley (which sold 1 million record players in 2015). It's even given rise to record-of-the-month clubs like Vinyl Me, Please.
And it's helped revive the art of the album cover, which had been diminished by the CD and, even more so, by the invention of the iPod and streaming-music applications. With the comeback of vinyl, designers and artists now have the room to "visualize the music in an intriguing and delightful way," said Stefan Sagmeister, vinyl afficianado and co-founder of design shop Sagmeister & Walsh. With that in mind, we asked five music industry experts to pick their favorite album covers. See their top 22 choices below:
Gary Kelly, head of revenue, Interscope Records
Built to Spill's "There's Nothing Wrong With Love"
"This album art feels like it could live inside of MoMA. A very simple cover, but fits so well into the overall greatness that is this album."
Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city"
"One of the best hip-hop debuts of all time. I remember seeing the album art and just being blown away by the stories that could be told from just seeing the photos of Kendrick’s relatives."
Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
"Just a brilliant minimalist cover for a brilliant album."
Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska"
"I think this one strikes me most because of the chance he took commercially by putting this album out with this album cover. The honesty and despair that is captured on the album cover and music is like nothing else."
Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die"
"Lana sets the tone for the album with the cover. You cannot help to want to know more about the music when you see her."
Matt Fiedler, co-founder, Vinyl Me, Please
Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
"Wilco holds a special place in my heart. Being from Chicago, the YHF album cover reminds me of a city I know and love. Those towers are sort of an unofficial Chicago landmark now. … You'll see lots of tourists try to recreate the image."
The Damnwells' "Bastards of the Beat"
"The Damnwells was one of the first albums I fell in love with. My dad bought the CD, listened to it and eventually gave it to me. I don't think he liked it very much. I put it on and combed through the jewel book until I had every lyric memorized. I remember being totally confused about the album artwork, but that made me enjoy it that much more."
Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain"
"Nirvana and Maggot Brain [above] are classics that are so easily identifiable even after so many years."
Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly”
"This is a modern classic because of what it says. It's such an important album socially, and the album artwork speaks to that."
Jason Menard, director of marketing, Crosley
Brand New's "Deja Entendu"
"This is one of my top 20 favorite albums, and the astronaut takes me back to my high school and college years."
Cat Power's "The Greatest" (foil cover)
"You don’t see full foil album covers too often. The shiny purple and gold definitely stands out in my collection."
The Weeknd's "Trilogy"
"I love when musicians release albums with covers that match. Pedro the Lion did this for a few albums as well."
Mark Rainey, COO, and Steve Lanning, CFO, Cascade Record Pressing
The Flying Burrito Brothers' "The Gilded Palace of Sin"
"This record was one of my gateways into country music," said Lanning.
"Long before I ever heard [the four albums below], I would spend what seemed like hours in the local Harmony Hut staring obsessively at these covers," Rainey said. "The artwork on these record jackets were totally engrossing to my young mind. They were mysterious, shocking and inviting. I wondered who these other worldly monsters were and what they could be singing about."
Iron Maiden's "Killers"
Kiss' "Love Gun"
AC/DC's "If You Want Blood"
Black Sabbath's "Mob Rules"
Ma dela Cerna, project manager, Erika Records
The Mars Volta's "Frances the Mute"
"Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, formerly of The Mars Volta [now of Antemasque], is an amazing musician and composer. I can't think of another contemporary artist whose music is more perfect for vinyl. The music doesn't have any real breaks, or no emphatic beginning or ending to all the tracks. Everything flows, ebbs and flows again. It's an album meant to be played continuously. I believe the album artwork was done by Storm Thorgerson. All the imagery is really striking, curious and terrifying."
Explosions in the Sky's "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care"
"If my life were a film, I would pick this album for my backing music and soundtrack. The music is simultaneously light and heart wrenching. The [album] jacket is a gnarly 10 panels with another O-sleeve to keep it all together."
Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
"One word: Classic!"
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star's "Black Star"
"This one was a re-release on a picture record—one of my favorite albums ... what a picture record with star images and center label."