30 Offbeat Albums’ Artistic Covers and Transcendent Sounds
If you’re tired of seeing the same glitterati faces on the record store racks day after day, looking for a bit more art or something more interesting to listen to, this post is for you! Grab a mug of your favorite poison and check out these 30 offbeat albums and their transcendent music to get your right brain cranked up into high gear.
ACIDMAN – And World
Recommended Track: Kisetsu no Tou (????), “Light of the Seasons”
Japanese minimalism at work? Indeed. ACIDMAN’s simple yet eye-catching and almost kaleidoscopic cover (by frontman/guitarist Ohki Nobuo) is a window of sorts; take a peek at almost every first in your life through these sweetly—and at times painfully—evocative tracks.
Björk – Biophilia
Recommended Track: Cosmogony
A visual and musical chameleon, since when has Björk NOT had an interesting album cover? Biophilia’s tracks are at once ethereal and eerie. The cover (by M/M Paris and Inez Vinood, two well-known teams in the field of art direction and fashion photography respectively) portrays Björk in all her cosmic glory.
Blue Sky Black Death – NOIR
Recommended Track: If I Fall Short
Overexposure in just the right places and a one-word album title in a simple font – Blue Sky Black Death’s vintage LP-reminiscent cover, created by Tim Green from DestroyWerk.com, just kicked up hipster dust and turned it into dandelions in the wind. The tracks are quaint and dreamy – a little like a box of old Polaroid prints, an expired roll of negatives, or perhaps a vintage reel.
Recommended Track: Awakening of a Woman
Here’s an anthropomorphic personification of a movie camera, solid black on white with a touch of red here and there. The overall simplicity of the cover contrasts greatly with the dramatically flowing tracks contained in this soundtrack to the re-released silent film documentary Man with a Movie Camera (1929) by director Dziga Vertov.
Claude Bolling and Yo-yo Ma – Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio
Recommended Track: Galop
Bolling and Ma’s anthropomorphic selves turn the cover into a quirky portrayal of their musical creativity. The album’s six tracks are at once sweet and jaunty, jovial and serene, a walk in the park.
Electro Deluxe – Stardown
Recommended Track: Point G
White on black? A definite A+. The modest-looking cover is striking yet unpretentious, devoid of self-aggrandizement, telling you to simply listen to these funky, upbeat urban rhythms.
Julian Velard – Mr. Saturday Night
Recommended Track: Everybody Wants To Be Famous
A classy take on scrapbook cut-and-paste! From a Gil Elvgren pinup to a strongman to the Vaudeville Revue, the Mr. Saturday Night album cover’s motley selection of “clippings” is a real retro delight. Julian Velard’s groovy tracks are, true to the cover’s era inspiration, at once playboy feisty and introspective.
Metric – Fantasies
Recommended Track: Gimme Sympathy
An idea in the dark, the cover of Fantasies speaks for itself: it’s striking but does not impose, inviting the viewer to use their own imagination; to spark their own plugs, so to speak. Metric’s tracks are pensive yet danceable, a questioning post-punk revival. As the song goes, who would you rather be: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Nujabes – Modal Soul
Recommended Track: Light on the Land
An Oriental silk scarf comes to mind; a hand-painted sunrise. The Modal Soul cover is Japanese minimalism at work yet again. Get those creative juices flowing with Nujabes’ easy-on-the-ears tracks.
Nujabes – Modal Soul Classics
Recommended Track: Iyawo (Omar Sosa)
Another Nujabes album cover? Why yes, of course, thank you very much! Not so minimalistic this time around, but still incredibly dreamy. Flowers, Southeast Asian tie-dyes, birds and such flow across the cover, akin to Ophelia’s hair in the stream. It may not play up the understated elegance that the Japanese are generally known for, but like the music within the visuals, it takes hold and leaves nothing wanting. Everything is beautiful, emotional, transcendent.
Pretend – Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil
Recommended Track: Those Luminous Noises are God
We should all be like children, they say. This post/math-rock band’s album cover for Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil is reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s Roald Dahl illustrations—childlike yet eloquent. The tracks exude a raw, tender melancholy that calls to mind a return to one’s roots.
Parov Stelar – Coco
Recommended Track: Hurt
Cream and old rose bring an elegantly vintage sophistication to the cover of this nu-jazz album by Parov Stelar. Fusing breakbeat with 40’s jazz samples has never sounded this good. The track “Hurt,” in particular, hints at a noir film, or perhaps a black and white graphic novel featuring a private eye, a sinister mob boss, and a beautiful blonde bombshell with a pocketbook sporting the album cover’s delicate design.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Recommended Track: Any Colour You Like
Less is more, or so they say. Simple on the outside, genius on the inside: this Pink Floyd cover art, sporting a prism on a black background, is a rather apt way to describe the iconic band’s music itself.
Mock Orange – Mind is not Brain
Recommended Track: Hawks Can Go
Adorable doodles on paper and cardboard as well as tiny bits of wood: this odd eye-catching assortment—analogous with the tracks themselves—lends the scrapbook-ish pop-art cover a curious air.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Recommended Track: Holocene
The wonderfully detailed cover on Bon Iver’s self-titled album calls to mind a watercolour postcard, a small precious oil painting hidden behind a thrift store’s usual junk. The tracks evoke a certain kind of nostalgia, triggering the same kind of wanderlust that this cover so delicately implies.
Final Fantasy X – Piano Collections
Recommended Track: Guadosalam
If you’re a gamer (and most graphic designers are), then I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the Final Fantasy X Piano Collections. Selected songs from the game composed by Squaresoft’s premiere music composer, Nobuo Uematsu, are rearranged into piano pieces with theme alterations and embellishments woven into the music. The tracks are sweet and at times melancholic. Echoing the album’s motif, the cover shows a piano being carved out of plaster, conjuring a vision of what was intended and what else could still be.
The Bird and the Bee – The Bird and the Bee
Recommended Track: I’m a Broken Heart
This cover’s idiosyncratic painterly look is the perfect partner to The Bird and The Bee duo’s pleasantly and sweetly quirky sound. In stark contrast to the generic pop star-splattered album covers on every rack in record stores, you’ll end up listening out of curiosity alone at what this package might be hiding. Strategic? Quite.
Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch
Recommended Track: Us
Matryoshka doll cutouts and a pretty, vodka-swigging Russian pianist in a tank top? The almost-tacky scrapbook approach gives the cover an interesting, almost playful aura, echoing Regina Spektor’s tongue-in-cheek tracks.
The Foreign Exchange – Leave it All Behind
Recommended Track: Sweeter Than You
A wedding, or a funeral? The cover’s use of ambiguity is certainly thought-provoking. Either way, you leave something behind—give the tracks a listen and decide for yourself.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
Recommended Track: Daphne Descends
The Smashing Pumpkins’ iconic sound is preceded by a beautiful woman in shadowy makeup on a black and white cover. While this isn’t the first time that this formula has been used, it proves quite suitable for this particular album that features darkly brooding tracks like “Daphne Descends” and the album’s namesake itself, “Ava Adore.”
Quantic – The 5th Exotic
Recommended Track: Life in the Rain
Undeniably crisp. From the clean lines to the colour scheme, Quantic’s album cover is as fresh as their samples.
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
Recommended Track: Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs of the Sky)
The album’s title being a satirical take on the Presidential theme, “Hail to the Chief,” the somewhat rebellious poster-like album art centers on current events and the state of the nation. Radiohead’s cover art attempts to create a depth of national consciousness in tandem with the angrily pensive, sometimes flowing tracks.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Recommended Track: Morning Mr. Magpie
The eerie otherworldly figures dripping down the cover of this iconic band’s new album lends it a dark, slightly unnerving air; in contrast, the trance-like tracks are strangely soothing: unafraid, provoking a certain level of introspection.
School Food Punishment – School Food is Good Food
Recommended Track: Snap
The clean vector work combined with childlike doodles on this School Food Punishment cover brings a signature Japanese quiddity to life. Just like the cover, the tracks are playful, danceable and easy on the ears without sacrificing that jazz-rock edge.
Sigur Ros – Takk
Recommended Track: Sæglópur
The ink-on-tea look, while not new, is perfect for the nostalgia-driven content of the album. Just like the Icelandic post-rock group’s music, Takk’s album cover is unassumingly poignant; hauntingly beautiful and at once sweeping and delicate.
Stars – Sad Robots EP
Recommended Track: Undertow
The somber yet heartwarming feel to the cover echoes the EP’s predominant bittersweet tracks; the steampunk element (coupled with that grainy period look) is aesthetically appealing in an anachronistic manner. Why a sad robot? Setting pop-culture appeal aside, give the EP a listen and maybe you can come up with an answer yourself.
The Album Leaf – One Day I’ll Be On Time
Recommended Track: Story Board
The Album Leaf’s tracks are meditative, almost therapeutic in their simplicity. In the same manner, the geometric shapes provide an interesting edge to the otherwise incomplete paint strokes on this album’s cover.
Tokyo Jihen – Kyoiku
Recommended Track: Yume no Ato
The patriotic combination of red and white, along with the origami crane, is signature Tokyo Jihen. Lauded in their own country as well as internationally, the powerhouse band’s sassy tracks with their intricate jazz arrangements provide a playful contrast to the simple yet striking album cover.
Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Recommended Track: Ampersand
The Who Killed Amanda Palmer? cover resonates the tracks it houses, calling to mind a post-mortem life review. Gently contemplative and uproariously satirical, punk cabaret-inspired Amanda Palmer started this solo career thing right.
The Bad Plus – These are the Vistas
Recommended Track: Heart of Glass
The Bad Plus’ album cover, consisting of a white robot on a sky blue background, contrasts greatly with the mad tracks housed within. The frisky jazz renditions of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit?” manage to be eccentric without veering too far from memorable form.
And there you have it—30 offbeat albums’ artistic covers and transcendent sounds for your listening as well as viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoyed going through this selection as much as I enjoyed compiling it for you. For any recommendations of your own, feel free to comment below!
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