There have been iconic album covers throughout the history of Filipino music.
There’s the searing guitar on the cover of Maria Cafra’s one and only album. There’s the dark black-and-white photo from the Juan dela Cruz Band’s second album, Himig Natin. There are the twinkling neon lights of the bars and nightlife of Subic Bay in Gapo. Vol.1.
And there’s the sultry cover of Eva Eugenio’s Tukso that got plenty of hot men under the collar.
Sure there’s more but we’re sure you get the drift.
The resurgence of vinyl as a physical formatting medium for music over the past 10 years has once again underscored the importance of album art. Along with the warm, fuzzy feel of analog music, album art, liner notes, graphics and inserts complete the vinyl experience, especially for a new generation of fans.
Here are, in our opinion, 10 of the best album covers for new local releases over the past five years.
Soul of Victor MKII
(Demohauz Records 2019)
All releases from this Naga-based lo-fi beatmaker use manga-inspired art. They are an integral part of the confectionery of Victor MKII releases. We never see the face of the girl who adorns all the album covers. While all the other releases have that slice-of-life feel, Ame, on the other hand, portrays wonder. The faceless schoolgirl taking flight with an umbrella à la Mary Poppins. He suggests the listener to open their mind to the music and let it take flight.
“MY album cover usually starts with my thinking about the concept and theme which I pass on to Zom Kashwak who will perform it in his style without any restrictions,” Victor said. “We’ve been friends for years and have collaborated on all of my album covers.”
“The cover of Ame is a collaboration between juan9ann who is a Japanese visual artist, Zom and me.”
Waiting for the end to start with Itchyworms
(Backspacer 2022 Recordings)
An album recorded during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Aidon Panlaqui’s cover art depicts illustrated Filipinos in various states of worry and worry in a window-like grid.
The original layout was an image of people all staring outside as if waiting for a comet to hit Earth.
It was Jazz drummer Nicholas who suggested a change in layout, this time using windows or a grid. Something very much like Zoom that was prevalent during lockdown.
The intricate layout and desperate art make for a striking image that’s one of the best – aside from The Itchyworms’ music – for capturing the isolation and desolation of the pandemic.
The Golden Age of Olympia Mara
(Zippo Records 2020)
Not only is it Olympia Maru’s best album, but it also features some of the best album art in a while.
The cover shows a woman staring at the Black Church of Budir in Iceland and was photographed in 2019 by Olympia Maru multi-instrumentalist Derek “Siopao” Chua, who was vacationing in that country with his wife ( which is the subject of the cover shoot).
“I came across this picture by accident as I was waiting for all the other tourists to enter the church so that my wife was alone outside,” Chua said.
“At that moment, I remembered a Wes Anderson movie or the setting of a Quentin Tarantino-style Mexican showdown a la Kill Bill. Or even something from the Coen brothers’ “Fargo”.
“I just thought it was crazy to have this strikingly simple geometric black sculpture in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by arid but beautiful landscapes. It was a man-made juxtaposition against the purity of nature. J ‘ve converted the original color photo to black and white to match the blurry sound of the album’s shoegaze.
Locked up since 2002 by various artists
(Backspacer 2022 Recordings)
A compilation of Locked Down Entertainment’s roster of artists that range from hip-hop and electronic dance music to reggae and indie pop rock.
Raizel Go’s wraparound cover was his own renditions of the various songs on the album as well as various “locked items”. It’s rendered in the style of a comic book with panels and broken panels delving into horror. And no, it won’t scare you. In fact, you will surely reach it and when the stylus hits the grooves, you will discover that it contains monster tracks.
Super tight! by Insektlife Cycle
(Seafood Records 2021)
The neo-psychedelic band’s album cover has been a part of their music ever since their debut album, Vivid Dreams Parade. And if you ask me, it’s still their best album cover.
So why is Superstring! included?
Well, Vivid Dreams Parade was released on compact disc. When it was finally pressed on vinyl, it had fewer songs and had different art.
And that brings us to their second extended game release, Superstrung! The band’s main drummer and songwriter, Ronaldo Vivo Jr., is also responsible for the band’s art. The EP showcases some of his most intricate art and it’s trippy, weird, and damn powerful. Just like the band’s music.
Released on eight inch vinyl.
Will you catch me? by Cinema Lumiere
(Boring Productions 2020)
The secret art has no special meaning, other than the fact that indie pop band Cinema Lumiere wanted their first extended play single to have the feel and vibe of that late English label, Sarah Records.
The art, rendered by the band’s drummer, Manny Gallo, shows a female model with the art a bit faded, with a fake ring and looking mysterious.
The image that featured model Dylan Kudla was provided by former bandmate Xavier Emas.
Plagues of Taken by Cars
(Party Bear Records 2017)
This retro New Wave band’s third album got them so into shoegaze territory that they even changed the album cover from their usual group photos to something more…
The cover shows the son of the TBC singer Sarah Marco’s pre-teen son, Nikos, dressed in an oversized white Oxford polo shirt holding a neon “Plagues” sign on the sand.
According to Derek “Siopao” Chua, who is also a member of this group, “Conceptually, it was a reflection and recognition of our life and our perspective at this time, realizing that our children will inherit the world and be affected by its plagues. .or problems.
Chasing the Sun by Toyozumi, Countryman & Tan
(Champ Chap Records 2019)
The first jazz record released in the Philippines since the late 1980s had an international feel with Japanese legend Sabu Toyozumi on drums, American expat Rick Countryman on alto saxophone and our own, Simon Tan on double bass. Additionally, it was recorded at Tago Jazz Bar in Cubao.
The cover of Chasing the Sun finds a blurry bluish photo of Toyozumi playing the erhu. Taken by photographer Dansk Santos who filmed the show live with intentional graininess. Sabu didn’t agree with the huge Japanese characters because that’s normally reserved for pop artists.
Still, as flawed as the photo is, it’s striking and has that under-the-radar feel because new jazz releases in the country are so few and far between.
The Bones We Used to Share by Brickcity
(Desperate Infant Records 2021)
The flowers are normally kept in a vase or in the hands. But a bunch of moments? In the mouth? This is the shocking image on the cover of post-hardcore band Brickcity’s The Bones We Used to Share.
When Brickcity singer Jacques Concepcion was young, he thought his father’s album covers were fascinating. Some of them didn’t even have titles that gave an air of mystery.
“It made me want to listen to the records,” he said. “When I’m in a store looking at records and cds, I want the discovery to translate into the visuals to translate into the music that will make you want to listen to the album.”
As for the cover of The Bones We Used to Share, the flowers represent nature and something organic. And yet, they end up being destroyed, withering away or even misused. Maybe unintentional at first, but they eventually wither in human hands. Or woman. The female model is only the representation of any man or woman.
Bloodied Existence by Barred
(Encore Ill Records 2020)
“Bloodstained Existence is a message and an eye opener for everyone,” said vocalist Regin Tenorio of this San Pablo City hardcore band. “We want everyone to feel life on the other side. There are visible and invisible terrors and there is injustice, grief, starvation, disease, death, abuse, pain and suffering.
Although Barred’s sharp, pointed social commentary continues throughout the album, the band leaves room for hope: “It’s never too late. We must fight together (against social injustices). It is a guiding force.
The album cover draws inspiration from 19th-century French painters Gustave Dore, Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Géricault and the contrapposto style used by Baroque and Mannerist artists, and depicts War in Paradise. The powerful imagery was also used by many of the band’s mid-1990s metalcore influences such as Arkangel, Congress, Liar, Sentence, Integrity and All Out War.
Watch part 2.