1. The Black Parade- My Chemical Romance 2006
This is probably the most influential piece of art on my own work and writing. My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade represents the pinnacle feat of that era of music and packaging and for good reason. With illustrations by Taiwanese American artist James Jean and art direction by singer Gerard Way, Ellen Wakayama and Matt Taylor, this packaging is beautiful, sleek, and full of nostalgia. Opening it up, the album booklet unfolds to reveal the full parade of wolves, vultures and The Patient. On the other side of the fold are the lyrics with song titles printed as titles on what appears to be an obituary page. The photograph of the band and the parade in World War I period garb, taken by Chris Anthony, fits seamlessly into this sepia-toned masterpiece. I still have this album in mint condition on my shelf and it's quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I own. If you don't have it or DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, GET ON THAT. Like, go to eBay or Best Buy or some local music store and find this album and get it in your possession. The art work alone is worth the price let alone the amazing amazing music.
2. In Love and Death- The Used 2004
After I saw this cover, all I did was draw dead tree after dead tree. I'm pretty sure my art teacher was going to lose her mind if she saw another dead tree. The Used's sophomore release was more than just a collection of amazing, if melancholic, songs; it was a piece of art. Open up the booklet to find Tim Burton inspired drawings of weird heart-headed men and wilting flowers. Artist Alex Pardee created simplistic and whimsical images to match the whimsical, yet dark, nature of the album. The artwork later came to life in the Marc Webb directed "All That I've Got" video.
3. Freak Show- Silverchair 1997
Not only is this one of my favorite albums of all time, but the artwork itself is something that I will one day find a way to put on my walls. The cover image is actually a drawing of Gary Stiles, Jr. a sideshow performer who had a disease called ectrodactyly where one or more of the central fingers are missing from the hands, earning him the unfortunate moniker "The Lobster Boy". That particular image, courtesy of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, sets the mood for the album as a whole. The rest of the illustrations, done by Lydia Kullik, follow that same bleak and unsettling theme by placing illustrations of circus and side show performers on black backgrounds. Hint: if you want to see the whole image of poor Gary Stiles, Jr., lift the CD from the jewel case.
4. Insomniac- Green Day 1995
This is probably one of the most insane and raw Green Day album out there so it's only fitting that the artwork fit that mood. Pull out the booklet and unravel it to reveal a full poster of old-school Americana imagery all juxtaposed in unsettling ways. I mean, there's a 1950s house-wife holding an illustration of Billie-Joe Armstrong's famous guitar, Blue, while pointing a gun at her sleeping husband. The genius behind this cover is Winston Smith, who collaged his way into the hearts of Green Day fans everywhere. By the way, Smith also did work for the Dead Kennedys.
5. All Hallows EP- AFI 1999
Dreamed up and executed by the amazing Alan Forbes (see how you can support him during his time of need here), the All Hallows EP cover is one of my favorite Halloween images of all time. Done in the same vein as the Art of Drowning and Black Sails in the Sunset art (duh, because they're by the same guy), the artwork for the EP is simple, colorful but full of the dark whimsy that the music itself evokes. There's something very charming and almost folky about Forbes artwork with its sketchy lines and bold use of color. If you find this in stores ANYWHERE do NOT hesitate to buy it. It should be in every music lover's collection.
6. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge- My Chemical Romance 2004
The early millennium was an amazing time for music and art and My Chemical Romance's sophomore release was no exception. Honestly, fans shouldn't have expected anything less from Gerard Way, an art school graduate who used to work for Cartoon Network. Gerard drew both the cover, entitled "Demolition Lovers II" and the tray card, "Just the Way it Goes", for the album in the style of Mike Mignola, the artist behind the Hellboy comics. The other really cool thing about this album is that, when you look at the inside cover of the CD, it's done to look like a movie poster, a theme that was carried into the "I'm Not Okay" video, shot my Marc Webb. God, I miss those days. Honestly, people, this is another one that needs to be in your collection pronto.
Alright, darlings, check these albums out. Not only is their art amazing but the music is timeless; it never gets old. Oh, and maybe get hard copies of these albums because, you know, there's nothing like listening to the album while leafing through the album booklet. *sigh*