The Art of the Album

Posted: Friday 13th September 2019

Rising star Tom Tripp talks us through his five most cherished albums and how the graphic design of their covers has influenced him as much as the music that lies within

While our experience of music has evolved— from a tangible product to be sought out and owned to something we pluck digitally from the ether — visual impact remains as important as ever. We may have replaced the luxurious 12” canvas of the LP in favour of the thumbnail and the video, yet the power of a strong cover image remains a vital tool for every artist. The music industry too has necessarily morphed and changed, including its epicentre shifting from traditional west London stomping grounds to King’s Cross. With the Tileyard Studios community of over 250 artists, labels and management well established, and Sony Music on the way, Universal Music Group has already moved its operation of over 1,000 staff to occupy the striking rusted steel landmark building of 4 Pancras Square.

Universal Polydor artist — and born-and-bred Caledonian Road local — Tom Tripp is of the generation that emerged during this digital evolution. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist who started making tracks in his bedroom at the age of 12, he draws on early influences of grime and his parents’ Nigerian record collection and blends those with emotive R&B melodies and lush electronica for a distinctive sound that’s picking up a global groundswell of interest. His latest single, Glow, is out now on all platforms — complete with stylish cover art, of course. Here are his top five album artworks, and why he picked them.

Tame Impala, Currents, Tom Tripp, King's Cross, London

1. Tame Impala — Currents

When this came out it was a genre-defying moment.
I’d never heard anything so sonically beautiful, or experienced music in this way before.

Why the artwork?
It’s quite open for interpretation, which is an approach to cover art that I really like. It represents the mesmerising soundwaves of the project and the way the songs phase in and out of each other, the silver ball placed directly in the middle opening up a pink colour palette of euphoria — or that’s how I feel about it, at least. I have the vinyl cover up on my studio wall, framed.

Why the music?
It taught me that there are no rules when it comes to art. Music need not have boundaries, so you can be free and
open with what you make. You can talk about hardships while still having the song sound so freeing and uplifting. The Less I know the Better is a track that really resonates with me as I’m someone who can’t help holding emotions for past relationships. I’ve seen my ex getting close with a new person and my soul shattered. So the track Let It Happen is also a mantra I wish I could live by every day; to realise that we can’t control everything.

Kayne West, Yeezus, Tom Tripp, King's Cross, London

2. Kanye West — Yeezus

An electrifying album release back in 2013. I remember jumping on the tube from Cally Road and rushing to Covent Garden so I could watch the projection of his New Slaves video up on the side of the Royal Opera House. It lasted for about 10 minutes and the whole thing was crazy. He did the same thing on buildings in cities across the world in the coming days.

Why the artwork?
Because it goes against all traditional conventions of album cover art. A blank CD with a simple red sticker is minimal yet powerful. No name or credits, it makes you go into the record with an open mind. Artwork can often easily put me off before I even get to the music.

Why the music?
Yeezus showed me how collaboration between artists of different genres and backgrounds can create a masterpiece. Kanye sampled Daft Punk back in 2007 for his single Stronger, and six years later he ended up working with them on four tracks for this LP. He had Chicago drill artists rapping on electronic and industrial sounds which went against the norm and did the unexpected. He finds the most obscure samples and uses them to create music that will be around for years to come. It makes me want to step outside the box and experiment in areas people wouldn’t expect.

Gorillaz, Plastic Beach, Tom Tripp, King's Cross, London

3. Gorillaz — Plastic Beach

When this LP came out in 2010, I was 14 and performing with the National Youth Theatre. It was an important time in my life, where I was opening my ears to different kinds of music instead of just grime and rap.

Why the artwork?
Although it looks like computer graphic design, they actually built a 8ft x 8ft model of the island and its plastic beach, which just blew my mind. Damon Albarn has been very vocal about his worries on how humans are ruing the planet. He focuses a lot on social realism, and the cover shows the beach that from afar looks beautiful, but up close it’s  made of human junk. The artwork for my first single Aurelia released in 2017 is directly influenced by the Gorillaz character 2D. I blacked out my eyes just like his.

Why the music?
Damon incorporates sounds from all over the world, collaborating with anyone or anything that inspires him.It sounds both worldly and crazy at the same time. The LP is a project I hold close, and have this cover framed too, on my bedroom wall.

Michael Jackson, Thriller, Tom Tripp, King's Cross, London

4. Michael Jackson — Thriller

It’s simply iconic. Artistically and visually, this LP shows the real Michael, who looks almost like an angel on this cover. It was a time before all the madness.

Why the artwork?
What really appeals to me is how cleanly it’s presented — it’s not distracting. The white suit, Michael backlit and the gold signature writing. It’s sheer class, just like the music inside.

Why the music?
It set the bar for what pop music should be. The guitar solos, those high falsetto vocals — it’s legendary. There will never be anyone as good as Michael. His music pushes me to not be afraid to go there and to try to hit those high notes. To really feel the music when I’m recording and to leave in the raw parts when I’m cutting the vocals. You hear all his breaths, like you can see him in the studio putting all his effort into his art. Sometimes I don’t want to sound too vulnerable, but he wasn’t afraid to put his emotions on record.

Outkast, Speakerbox and The Love Below, Tom Tripp, King's Cross

5. Outkast — Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

This was the first CD my mum ever bought me and my big brother, and the first time I’d listened to a full album. I
was nine years old and had just got my first Walkman.

Why the artwork?
I was struck by the split representing each half as a solo album. It showed me how two artists (Big Boi and Andre
3000) chose to present their art alongside each other. Both projects are super – different, yet as a whole it really
worked.

Why the music?
I really began studying these lyrics, the production and the videos. The storytelling was so clear and the production was quality. I tried to digest it all at nine, and it inspired me to start producing by the time I was 12. Roses is one of my favourite songs ever. The story of a girl thinking she was too good for the world but soon her bubble would burst and she’d return to earth. Ha! The Love Below album taught me that you can sing about love and it can sound awesome.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2019 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.

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