The heyday of record sleeve design - when pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Howorth staged the elaborate cover for the Beatles' seminal album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - seems far behind us. But even in this age of digital music, where you're most likely to see album artwork as a thumnail image on your MP3 player, vinyl records, and the often beautiful, artistic sleeves they come in, still occupy a special place in contemporary culture - as the winners of the Best Art Vinyl 2013 competition (announced early this year) show.
The winner of this year's award is the sleeve for White Lies' album Big TV, which features an oil painting of an astronaut by artist Michael Kagan. Second place went to Repent Replenish Repeat by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip with artwork by Paul Jackson; Bonobo's 'North Borders' designed by Leif Podhajsky came third.
Andrew Heeps, who founded the annual competition, says: 'In an era with a heavy focus on the digital music format, it is interesting to see that the public prefers such a traditional artistic technique as oil on canvas to associate with music.
'With the music industry reporting increases in vinyl record sales for the ninth consecutive year, this traditional music format is seriously having a renaissance. Over a quarter of vinyl records are now sold as wall art, adding visual appeal to the high quality listening experience. It is therefore clearly apparent that the Best Art Vinyl Award has highlighted the amazing affordable art available to us all through over 60 years of record cover art and design, and continues to do so.'
Out of a shortlist of 50 record covers, the top three and the winner were chosen by public vote.
While the winner was an exiting work, the artwork for the two runners-up was created specially for the albums.
Photograph: Louise Blomquist
The nominations and winners are on display through exhibitions in Malmaison hotels in Birmingham, London and Oxford until 31 January 2014.
Past winners include Zack Nipper's cover for Bright Eyes' album The People's Key (above), and the cover of Fleet Foxes' debut, which features a detail of the 1559 painting Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (below).
For more on record sleeve design, check out our interview with Peter Saville, the designer responsible for classic sleeves for Joy Division, New Order and Suede.