Crackle And Pop: Judging Vinyl Records By The Cover


I sometimes find myself nostalgic about the process of buying music years ago. Before it became so easy to download music online, owning and acquiring new music was a whole different concept. It had a whole different feeling attached to it. What about you? Do you miss it too? Read on to know how I tried to get some of that feeling back!

You really can’t beat the feeling of buying a new CD/Vinyl Record, opening it up, carefully browsing through the booklet, and popping it into your stereo system to embark on a whole new musical experience to which you are giving your undeniable attention.

At the age of 14, it took me a few months to buy the complete discography of The Cure and it was the high point of my week whenever I added a new CD to my collection. I remember I would save up money and buy a CD every two weeks. Then, I’d spend the following two weeks listening to that album on repeat before buying a new one.

Nowadays, it’s more like you can download a CD every two minutes and although it makes it so much easier to get to know new bands. I miss reading or hearing about a band somewhere and going to the local record store to listen to parts of the album on the store’s stereo system with headphones on, so that I could see if I liked the band or not and if the album was worth buying.

Sadly, what happens now is this: a new album gets leaked onto the Internet 2 weeks prior to release. You download it, you upload it to your mp3 player or listen to it while you’re on the computer doing something else and then, if you really like the band or the album, you might buy the actual CD or Vinyl. You’ll be really happy while carefully flipping through the booklet, but you probably won’t listen to the actual physical CD/Vinyl next or ever. It’s not exactly a very special moment like it used to be. The absurd high pricing of CD’s and vinyl records don’t make things any easier.

But, one can try to emulate that long lost feeling of specialness and newness at a budget, even if you can’t have it back completely. That is why I set myself upon the task of buying six 7" vinyl records I had never heard before. 7" vinyl records is a good option because not only do their prices normally range from €1 to €3, but many of these vinyl records are also colored, which look lovely.

I decided I would buy these six vinyl records based solely on the cover. My aim was to look at album covers and buy the ones that made me think “this looks like something I’d like”. I am a graphic designer and my true passion is the area of graphic design related to music, so by doing this, not only would I have that great “listening to something (the analogue way!) completely new and unknown to me” feeling. I could also understand if the graphic design conveyed the music genre efficiently or not.

The result was this:

Clockwise: Boy Crisis – Dressed to Digress (on yellow vinyl), The Modern – Industry (on green vinyl), The Mighty Roars – Sellotape (on pink vinyl), Infadels – Free Things for Poor People (on black vinyl), Faux Hoax – Your Friends Will Carry You (on black vinyl), Cage the Elephant – Back Against the Wall (picture disc)

Boy Crisis – Dressed to Digress
I love this song, I’m so glad I decided to buy this one. I really like the cover art and how lovely it looks with the yellow vinyl and the illustrated labels on it. I think the cover, along with the actual vinyl really reflect the songs in it. All in all, a really great find!

The Modern – Industry
When saw the collage-based cover art for this single I wanted to buy it straight away. It is also pressed on green vinyl which looks great with the cover.

It was love at first listen. The song was recorded in 2006 but sounds like it was recorded in the 80s, until it hits the chorus which sounds like it was recorded in the 2000s. It’s a perfect mix of old and new music. I also love how the B-side is a cover of David Bowie’s Modern Love. I couldn’t find a music video for this song. I think it may have something to do with the fact that this single was disqualified from the charts due to sales irregularities: apparently hundreds of copies of the single had been bought, on different records stores, with the same credit card!

The Mighty Roars – Sellotape
This song is really energetic and it has a Riot Grrrl feel to it which I really like. I wouldn’t tell it was punk rock by the cover art, but that was a nice surprise so I was still happy about it.

Infadels – Free Things for Poor People
This song always makes me want to dance! I think the cover art is so so beautiful and I like how the name of the band and the song appear on a sticker instead of printed directly on the cover. I later saw the cover for the actual album and really liked the fact that it is visually related to the single (I think it’s great when the cover art for the singles is coherent with the albums they were taken from). Here is the cover art for the actual album:

And here is the cover art for the singles taken from this album:

Faux Hoax – Your Friends Will Carry You
There is no music video for this song, this is the only record by this band. The cover art is really pretty, but in regards to the music, I didn’t like it, not at all. I think maybe this happened because, looking at the cover art, I was expecting a completely different type of music. However, I’ll give it another try, I might like the music if I try to separate it from my pre-concieved notions of how I think the music should sound like when related to the cover.

For fun, I searched for some photos from other community members that I think would have worked lovely as cover art for this vinyl record if paired with appropriate typography:

Credits: boredbone, nicolas_noir & ck_berlin

Cage the Elephant – Back Against the Wall
I love the image printed on the picture disc, I’ve seen other picture discs by the same band and they are all beautiful. Still, it’s not my type of music. The song is catchy and it grows on you but it’s not a record I will be listening to much, or ever again. I really like looking at it though and it’s great to hang on the wall as decoration. Visually, the band does deliver some striking mixed media covers and picture discs that make you want to listen to their albums and singles, it’s really worth a look:

In conclusion, it really was a fun project and I think everyone should try it. I definitely want to do it again.

What about you? Do you have a passion for vinyl records? Do you still buy them? Do you miss that true analogue way of listening to music? What are your favorite vinyl records and vinyl record covers and why? If you could choose one of your own analogue photos to be used as the cover for your favorite album which photo would it be? I want to listen to your stories and I want to feature them also! Drop me a line on the comments or send me a message and I will choose a user to interview on one of my upcoming articles.

Crackle And Pop is a weekly series written by Carlota, a Portuguese graphic designer and vinyl record lover and collector. It is aimed at everyone who can’t get enough of vinyl records and that wonderful crackling and popping sound old vinyl records make!

written by carlota_nonnumquam on 2012-03-16 #lifestyle #analogue #lomography #vinyl-records #graphic-design #analogue-lifestyle #regular-contributors #album-covers #crackle-and-pop #regular-series


  1. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    a stunning article! I'm surrounded by vinyl , I was a dj for two decades and I collected a lot of records. I still remember when I bought the first album of the Simple Minds (life in a day) just for the cover picture without previously listen it , and once at home I liked the music too, or I remember the first album of The Cure the one with the frigo the lamp and the vacuum cleaner, I had seen the band at the Reading Festival 79, just two months before and this record was so fascinating and mysterious, with images instead of song titles so far from what they are I only buy records at live gigs directly from the musicians but for me there's nothing that feels like it will last so long as some of the music of the past.

  2. stratski
    stratski ·

    Souds like a fun project. My nr. 1 guy and I have loads of vinyl as well. About 50/50 second hand and new. When it comes to cover art, I love it when the band (well, the cover designer) really makes use of the possibilities of a large record cover. For instance, we have this great flip over folding type of cover of a Elvis Costello album (I think it's Armed Forces, can't check right now...) with half a dozen folding flaps to it.

  3. frau_inga
    frau_inga ·

    Yes! I have a record collection and occasionally I still buy vinyl, both new and second hand. Recently, my dad decided to part from his record collection and he asked me and my brother and sister to take out the records we wanted to have. Some actually had to be "auctioned" because we all wanted them. Most of the stuff I have is punk, rockabilly and garage rock. I still love going to record stores and just browse. And there are many records I'd buy just for the cover artwork... ;-)

  4. carlota_nonnumquam
    carlota_nonnumquam ·

    @superlighter The Cure is my favorite band! :) It's the band I have the most vinyl records from, I actually have 4 different versions of Three Imaginary Boys (the one with the frigo the lamp and the vacuum cleaner). A picture disc, one in pink vinyl, one in blue vinyl, and one in yellow vinyl. It's crazy I know, but I love that album cover!

    @stratski I have never sen that Elvis Costello LP but I searched on google, is this the one you mean? ( Absolutely stunning! Thanks for letting me know about it :)

    @frau_inga My dad recently let me choose whatever I wanted to take from his vinyl record collection also. Luckily I only have one sister who doesn't like vinyl records so I didn't have to share, hehehe. I love rockabilly, and punk :)

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