Different calendar years =/= a year apart. November and April = 6 months.
Making a semantic point like this doesn't help you without explaining why it means they should be considered the same release. 6 months, or one year, it's still widely separate times and distinctly separate releases.
Covers making sense has nothing to do with whether albums are separate releases or not. But the album cover does make sense without the first just by connecting it with the title. And no, you could not argue that there's a story because of the album art. That's as absurd as trying to say the story in kill Bill is the cover art. No, it's the movie content, and similarly, for albums it's the musical content. Of which here, there is no story connecting the albums. Really grasping at straws dude.
And Kill Bill is a perfect analogy. Just like TGOS was supposed to be a single series, but plans changed, Kill Bill was supposed to be a single movie, but plans changed. Both plans changed before the planned final project was completed.
I will agree this is trivial, but your reasoning defies common sense. Two albums released on two different dates with different musical content, literally titled in sequence, 1 and 2, that the artist identifies as separate is in every sense of the word two different albums. Any thought otherwise is irrational bias or misunderstanding the concept. You might as well say the 13 Madlib Medicine Show albums are actually just one release just because they're in a box set series even though each was released separately and didn't have a continuing story arc. That's not what it means to be the same album. Lord of the Rings? All three books/ movies are just one. Same with the Matrix and every other series. The reality is the discrete work being on its own and released as such means its its own work whether part of a series or not. It's really weird that you're so eager to pigeonhole your own unintuitive standard over the artist's and basically everyone else lol.
Really would have preferred rankings instead of this absurdity.