James Blake Overgrown (2013) Universal Republic Few artists are as conscious of their position in the music industry as James Blake. Seemingly spawned from the hype of music blogs and the irresistible "Limit To Your Love" cover which made him famous, Blake knows how volatile and fickle the wicked cycle of fame can be. But such awareness is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is what has driven him to be successful even when the situation was unfair. At the time of his debut album -- a record which he was pressured to piece together by his record label -- Blake felt cheated out of the ability to craft an album he could truly call his own. On Overgrown, however, Blake has crafted a world all his own. And it's as beautiful as anything he has ever created before. In setting the scene, it's important to note the kind of relationship(s) Blake has been in since his bedroom producer days. Much has already been made of his long term relationship with Warpaint guitarist Theresa Wayman, but it's an important development that even Blake has admitted to be an influence on Overgrown. In a recent Guardian interview, when asked about being in love and if it affected his process, Blake responded, "Yeah, it did. And the uncertainty also did. The uncertainty of the nature of the relationship. The uncertainty of touring. The uncertainty of the music industry, and the uncertainty of my position in it." It's an important shift in lifestyle that bears its weight on the whole of Overgrown, a record more grounded in soulful, downtempo electronica than the booming stretch of dubstep EPs he began his career making. Be it the sound itself or the record's lyrical content, Overgrown is the natural evolution of a brilliant artist in his early twenties.

 

In our 2012 Album Covers of the Year feature, we once again get our hands on everyone we can. Through interviews with designers, musicians, labels, and plenty of others, we take a close look at just how many hands are in the pot when it comes to the album artwork process. Inside this feature are 98 album covers spanning a wide array of sonic and visual styles, each selected for its own unique contribution to the world. They are not ranked; instead, they are broken down into sections based on conceptual underpinnings or artistic mediums, and then are displayed on spectrums. Get started by navigating into any of these six sections: Geometric & Pattern-Based Classically-Influenced Narrative & Symbolic Photography & Manipulations Painting & Illustration Collage, Sculpture & Mixed Media You can also see last year's at 2011 Year-End Respect For Album Cover Art
 

A lot of barbs were thrown at James Blake on the run-up to his debut LP. Music critic Simon Reynolds playfully referred to Blake and his fellow soulboy bass-heads (i.e. Mount Kimbie, Jamie Woon) as 'blubstep.' A poster on a music forum quipped, "There's a limit to your vocal...