Don’t Judge an Album By Its Cover

I often wonder if “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” applies to albums. From band portraits to concept illustrations, I decided to dig up some bottom-dwellers in the CD clearance section to test my cover-examining skills.

Story by Henry Youtt

On the journey to see just how accurately I can guess an album’s sound by the cover art, I visited Antone’s Records on Guadalupe Street to select some CDs. Forgoing a cover with poorly drawn instrument designs and quite a few with Microsoft Paint-level illustrations, I eventually selected four albums that would be a good fit and might even sound nice.

 

Painting It Red by The Beautiful South

Photo courtesy of The Beautiful South.

Photo courtesy of The Beautiful South.

Before Listening

When I saw this one in the record shop, I immediately knew it was a keeper. Of course, I had no idea what the songs sounded like, who the band was or if “Painting It Red” was the name of the band or the album. However, the charm of the simple geometric assortment of faded colors sold me. Based on the appearance of the cover, I anticipated understated folk jams or dreamy alternative pop.

 

After Listening

Painting It Red turned out to be a medley of everything in between folk and pop, providing more dynamic sound than I expected. The album includes sorrowful acoustics in “Masculine Eclipse” and animated funk in  “Closer Than Most.” It branches out to to solid pop-rock in “Just Checkin’” and encapsulates a sound as varied as the cover suggests.

 

Loose Fur by Loose Fur

Photo courtesy of Loose Fur.

Photo courtesy of Loose Fur.

Before Listening

This album cover is a little more, unorthodox. Is the smoke emitting from the primal-looking man’s mouth the exhale of the giant redhead smoker’s cigarette? I had no clue, but I did know  that Mr. Monkey Man holds a guitar and that means rock.  By the looks of the cover’s unconventional acrylic painting, I imagined some kind of alternative rock. Perhaps Mr. Monkey Man was a jazz kind of guy.

 

After Listening

I got one thing right– Loose Fur is unorthodox. The album was not as rock ‘n’ roll as I confidently predicted. In reality, the sound is much more relaxed.  Of the record’s six tracks, only three include vocals. These vocals are faint and hazy. The remaining three tracks are simple instrumental arrangements that share the gloomy sentiment of the rest of the album. Despite my prognosis, the record follows an acoustic folk route. Mr. Monkey Man didn’t turn out to be a jazz kind of guy.

 

Daisies of the Galaxy by Eels

Photo courtesy of the Eels.

Photo courtesy of the Eels.

Before Listening

It may just be the juxtaposition of the darling children and the parental advisory warning, but this album cover just gave me the creeps. Nothing is scarier than rosy cheeks. Plus, there is no good reason for the young girl to be pointing that stick at those poor, small, alien-looking dogs, even if they do look like the work of a low-rate taxidermist. Daisies of the Galaxy, with such a cute name, can be nothing less than hard punk rock– mad guitar riffs, screaming, angst, and more.

 

After Listening

Although I prepared for full-throttle music, I received  muted, mellow and almost restrained sounds with no screaming, no guitar riffs and only minimal angst. I guess a peek at the track list would’ve helped, noting songs like “Packing Blankets” and “I Like Birds,” which are more revealing of the album’s understated tone. Even track “It’s a Motherf-cker” is soft-spoken with a sweet piano accompaniment. Daisies of the Galaxy is a nice and easy listen and certainly an addition to my scenic road trip collection.

 

Run River North by Run River North

Photo courtesy of Run River North.

Photo courtesy of Run River North.

Before Listening

For this album, there weren’t any total genre giveaways. However, the tranquil watercolor on the cover gave off Sleeping At Last meets Iron & Wine vibes, which signaled soft-spoken indie pop with a couple orchestral laments mixed in. With a name like “Run River North,” I expected easy listening and nothing too wild. The cover does not scream super heavy death metal.

 

After Listening

Score one, Henry! This self-titled album is full of simple yet charming alternative tracks. Think Of Monsters and Men with a more prominent guitar and a little less breathy vocals. Songs like “Monsters Calling Home” and “Foxbeard” sound like acoustic, introspective love children of The Lumineers while tracks like “Excuses” could pass for Young the Giant B-sides. Still, I am left wishing that I would’ve put on my headphones to be blasted with some wicked metal anthems. Perhaps in that case, watercolor landscapes wouldn’t have been their first choice.