Best Album Covers: Under the Skin
This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
“A long way from Micachu and The Shapes, Levi makes her soundtrack debut on Jonathan Glazer’s tight-lipped horror Under The Skin, employing a 15-piece orchestra to create a series of truly unsettling soundscapes that crawl, yearn and chafe on a fevered knife edge. At times implying the kind of formless anxiety reserved for the most haunting scores, at others simply creating rank discomfort (think saws and polystyrene) Under The Skin is a triumph for a genre rediscovering its creative vim amid a flood of reverential reissues. The forthcoming performance at James Lavelle’s Meltdown festival this year should cement this firmly as a modern classic.“
Outside of The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night, this is only the second soundtrack album I’ve spotlit in this series. Wonder if that says something? Hmm… No matter, this cover art earns its distinction. A simple variation of the eye arresting graphic released for Glazer’s unique sci-fi horror film. While a face superimposed across a star-field is not new, in this case its works in a startling manner. Granted, Scarlett Johansson does that regularly to folk. I don’t think she’s a beauty in the classic sense. However, she has one of the most singularly alluring faces ever to the grace a movie screen.
The producers surely recognized that, and placed Scarlett front and center in whatever ads and promotions offered for the film. Or in this case, its score. Certainly, much like the film, the abstract music offered by Mica Levi provided some of the most creepy, unsettling, yet oddly mesmerizing original tracks this side of Forbidden Planet or The Andromeda Strain. Any snippet from the soundtrack makes that abundantly clear. What you realize in watching the film, like the cover art, the score’s perplexing harmony haunts the viewer as much as its striking visuals1.
Why I think it one of the best albums covers is that simple. It works whether you’ve seen the film or not. Pure visual enticement. A graphically tempting lure, which is what Scarlett’s movie character’s role is (she’s never referred to by a name). The image straightforward, yet oddly dazzling through an amalgam of color and points of light against that dark deep space background. The figure’s unearthly face not quite fully formed, yet captivating to the eye. Like the movie poster, the title runs along the bottom of the frame. Then you see it — none of the typefaces are fully visible.
The designers having placed the bottom of each character just below the edge — laying just Under the Skin, in other words.
Artist: Mica Levi
Title: Under the Skin
Label: Milan Records
Track Listing (like others recent releases, the label issued a CD, downloads, and yes, even a vinyl record ):
- “Lipstick To Void“
- “Andrew Void”
- “Meat To Maths“
- “Lonely Void”
- “Alien Loop”
The entire series can be found here.
- I can say without a doubt, the film and its imagery still haunt me to this day. ↩
2 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Under the Skin”
Haven’t seen the film yet Michael but that album cover certainly is striking. It’s eerie, mysterious but beautiful too, a potent combination.
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It’s a unique film and soundtrack, but that visual of Scarlett, in character, really makes the cover something special. Many thanks, Ruth 🙂