Blog Music Education

Should We Judge An Album By Its Cover?

While CDs are definitely falling out of favor in our general listening habits, WKNC still receives a healthy amount of CDs, of which the album cover quality tends to…vary substantially. I was just informed I had a mailbox and have begun logging all of my submissions, and a piece of advice I received was that most of the time, you could look at an album cover and not bother listening to it. This was interesting to me, someone who got into music in the streaming era when the album cover is just something in the corner of the screen, but when new favorites were found in record store racks the album cover was basically the only window into what the experience would be.

In particular, the inspiration for this blog was the album “Meatcup Just Snack” by Noodle Muffin. Now, with all due respect to Noodle Muffin, this cover is genuinely hard to look at and, while it did certainly make me curious as to how the music would relate to the weirdly Photoshopped teacup full of meat (that’s a sentence), I would still definitely come in with some negative biases.

But why is that? I like to explore the weirder areas of music, what should an album cover have to do with why I would choose one album over another, or wouldn’t that be enticing for a cover to be as weird as possible. Well, to me there are different kinds of weird, and the kind I like the most is an artistically focused weird. A cover with someone’s severed head framed in stylistic lighting is weird but in a cool, evocative way, while a bad photoshop is, well, a bad photoshop. It’s like if there is a certain level of professionalism in the cover, that will be reflected in the quality of production. Noise pop can sound distorted and intentionally dense on a structural level, but when it’s good there’s a level of care and passion that can be felt through all of that.

I ended up looking into Noodle Muffin and found that the cover might have been more intentional than I initially thought. They’re a band that employs crass humor to craft their songs and are very heavily targeted towards the college radio crowd. Interestingly, despite the surreal nature of the album, I didn’t guess that, something about it told me it was a failure of intention rather than a deliberate aesthetic choice. And after actually listening to the album, it’s genuinely well produced, the band has been around for a decade and knows how to put a track together. I judged an album based on a cover and missed. I guess my punishment is opening more mail.