I was a CD kid. The love for collecting started when I bought my first two albums—Highway To Hell and All Eyez on Me. They couldn't have been further apart in themes, production, genre, duration. What connected them at the time was that the album covers looked cool to a 12-year-old.
Throughout the following decade the purchases were more "scrutinized," but among what is now a 2,000+ CD collection, there are a few "that's a cool cover" random buys. You go home, you open it up, read the liner notes and learn a few things... and sometimes realize you made a $10 mistake. What a time to be alive!
The collecting part stopped, but when I'm back in my home country, I still grab a few discs off the shelves and smack 'em in my car's CD player. When it skips on a bumpy Croatian road... magic.
The below covers were the first that came to mind when I was asked to pick ten. No rhyme or reason here. I'll probably think of better ones later.
Arguably the best hip hop group currently active in Croatia, Djecači released Istina (The Truth) in 2011. It's a conscious album (at times humorously so), enveloping numerous aspects of a young Croatian living at the time. Like its authors, 95 percent of the music I consumed at the time stemmed from the U.S. or U.K., so it was refreshing to hear something like this becoming popular in my home country.
The album cover is a real photo taken during the 2011 protests in Zagreb, where I lived at the time. It features Hudini (a friend of the band and a bass player) unflinchingly saluting the establishment... minutes before the riots began.
Ravendeath, 1972 (2011)
Apparently at MIT, there is a tradition of dropping pianos from building roofs. It dates back to 1972 when a few students sought to dispose of a broken piano from their dorm. The student handbook prevented anything from being thrown out the windows, so the guys went to the roof to do the deed. I guess I'd do the same. This cover features a photo of the very first piano drop. Tim Hecker licensed the photo from the MIT museum, printed it, took some photos of it, developed it and smacked it on the album. Voila!
One In A Million (1996)
To me, this was what COOL looked like when I was a teen. Aaliyah, 1996, NYC. She was also a massive childhood crush.
Hoodies All Summer (2019)
Around my fourth year of living in London, I was introduced to Kane Robinson. Since then he's been on regular rotation. His latest album also features a cover that deserves a spot on this list. Kano worked with photographer Olivia Rose to capture the duality of what I believe to be an East London estate. The innocent friendship of children crossing hands, but the absence of color suggests a darker side of increased violence and knife crime, especially present at the time of making the album.
Aquarius and Gemini. Andre and Big Boi pictured as The Poet and The Player. The two women on the right represent the Gemini twins and the woman on the left spilling water represents Aquarius. Andre's crossed arms and side eye and Egyptian pyramids and hieroglyphics (Andre's interest in Sun Ra) are what takes it to another level. The 70's blaxploitation films and Soul Train influences are hard to miss (reinforced further by the notion that they had George Clinton on the album.) I think Greg Hawkings drew the most influential album cover to come out of Atlanta.
Real Back In Style (2023)
Rapping for over 10 years (six of that in jail), Jamel has had a hard life. This album is deeply personal, dark and contains moments of brutal storytelling across 15 songs. He was recalled back to jail at the time of release of the record. I remember reading him saying how happy he was about the music he's making, the album coming out and life.The cover hits hard.
Enfant Terrible (1997)
The King of Croatian Funk. Dino was like the Dennis Rodman of the Croatian music scene when I was growing up. If you're out dancing in a club in Croatia and one of his tunes comes on in the early hours, the crowd will know it. I loved him, and I think of this cover whenever anyone mentions his name.
Trouble Will Find Me (2013)
I don't know why but it reminds me of Alex Garland's Ex Machina, even though the film was released a year or so after the album. The album cover was taken from artist Bohyun Hoon's installation called Fragmentation. Pretty graphic stuff. If you stare too much in the mirror, it can become a guillotine. At least that's how I took it.
Excitable Boy 1978 Vinyl Press Sleeve (1978)
I don't know if this really qualifies as an official "cover" but that was what the vinyl came in when I bought it, so I'm going with it (The actual cover depicts a profile pic of a 30-year old Warren). One of the wittiest albums ever written by one of my favorite artists. Humorously macabre like the majority of its lyrics, the cover on this is a goodie. A traditional microwave dinner featuring a gun as the main protein.
The Heart of Saturday Night (1974)
The last one was a toss up between this and Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home. Tom's cover tops it for me. It's everything about it - the yellow shirt, the grimy street, the neon sign and the woman in a cocktail dress. It has a film noir quality and Tom is the perfect antihero.