Aug 28

Lacking inspiration? Then check out your cd collection.

There are times when you are stuck for new project ideas. Thankfully this rarely happens to me – more the opposite – my head is full of ideas, I just haven’t got the time to work on them all.

I love listening to music. A lot of the time I listen to BBC6 Music, which does not only play cool music, but has some fab DJs  – like Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Jarvis Cocker, Ceris Matthews, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamaq – not to mention the many famous guests on the shows. The downside of listening to the radio is that I tend to neglect my own vast music collection. I still have got my vinyl – though since moving here I haven’t listened to one single record. Call it laziness. Maybe I should try it again, as I have no idea how our cat would react to the record player!

I am pretty much old school – I mainly listen to my CDs and don’t buy downloads. Why? First of all I don’t need instant gratification. And second of all – I like to have the physical product. I like looking at the art work and am always happy when I find some extras – like lyric sheets, a poster or an extra disc. You don’t get the art work with downloads. On vinyl it’s even better, because it’s bigger. As this post is about inspiration – and I mean the cover art – I had a look at my CDs and chose a few which have interesting covers – and by this I mean cover art that uses collage, lots of colour – not just a photo of the artist. And some of the artists chosen are relatively new bands, which proves that cover art is still very important for musicians when they market their wares.

So with no further ado and in no particular order – here is my selection of interesting cd covers.

cd cover art: Talk Talk, Friendly FIres and a-ha - copyright of photo Helen White

cd cover art: Talk Talk, Friendly FIres and a-ha – copyright of photo Helen White

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden (1988) – 80s band Talk Talk started out with synth pop and got famous with hits such as “Such A Shame” and “It’s My life” (badly covered by Gwen Stefani). By 1988 they changed their radio friendly poppy style to a more experimental, avant-garde style resulting in the beautiful “Spirit of Eden” and follow up “Laughing Stock” – unfortunately they split up after the latter. However both records are now regarded as classics. Especially “Spirit of Eden” – it’s impossible to single out a particular song as you really have to listen to the whole album. Talk Talk certainly has left their mark – and influenced bands such as Elbow and Radiohead. All their pretty cover art was created by illustrator James Marsh. I love this one in particular as it has a surreal feel to it.

Friendly Fires – Pala (2011) – Friendly Fires is a young band from St. Albans and their music is great to dance to. Check out “Live Those Days Tonight” and “Hawaiian Air”. I don’t think I have to say much about the cover – it speaks for itself.

A-ha – Foot of the mountain (2009) – Norwegian band A-ha really doesn’t need an introduction. Everyone knows their early hits, but I found that with each cd their music got more interesting and had more depth. And then there is singer Morten Harket, who has a beautiful voice and one of the best falsettos in the business and is gorgeous to boot. Unfortunately the band called it a day after this album was released. I should re-listen to it. I quite like the cover of this one.

CD cover art: Muse, Richard Hawley, Alt-J - copyright of photos Helen White

CD cover art: Muse, Richard Hawley, Alt-J – copyright of photos Helen White

Muse –  The Resistance (2009) – Muse are heavily influenced by Queen and they certainly love drama. They are an amazing live band and a bit like Marmite. I love this album. The cover art tries to encapsulate what this opus is all about. When you look closer at it you can see a very small earth in the centre, which is then surrounded by the universe.

Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge (2012) – Sheffield guitarist and singer Richard Hawley used to be in the Longpigs and in Pulp and went solo in 2000. He has a beautiful smooth voice and was twice nominated for a Mercury prize – for his first solo album “Coles Corner”, which I also have and this cracking album last year – unfortunately the competition last year was very stiff and it went to Alt-J. I listen to this album a lot and keep joking, that I want “Leave Your Body Behind You” played at my funeral. I also like this unusual cover – trees photographed from below.

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (2012) – Alt-J is a quartet from Leeds and won the Mercury last year for this debut album. They have a pretty unique sound and you either love them or you don’t get them at all. I listen to this album a lot. Highlights are “Something Good”, “Matilda”, “Taro”, “Tesselate” and “Fitzpleasure”. And I really like this cover, it looks like a painting, but it is in fact a photo from the ESA (European Space Agency) – and open to interpretation.

CD cover art: Keane, PJ Harvey, Django Django - copyright of photos Helen White

CD cover art: Keane, PJ Harvey, Django Django – copyright of photos Helen White

Keane – Under The Iron Sea (2006) – Keane shot to fame in 2004 with their debut “Hopes and Fears” – which also has an interesting cover. The album spawned a lot of singles such as “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Everybody’s Changing” and they won several awards for it among them the coveted Ivor Novello. The follow up was “Under The Iron Sea” – and often the second album is also regarded as the difficult album for any band to follow up a mega seller, but this one is a great second album. Again Keane is a bit like Marmite – you either love or hate them. I like singer Tom Chaplin’s voice and their piano-led sound. The cover shows some stylised horses jumping out of the sea.

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (2010) – I love PJ Harvey – she’s an amazing singer/songwriter who can play lots of instruments and has a lot to say and what I would call a “National Treasure”. She’s a true artist who doesn’t compromise. I can’t believe “Let England Shake” is already three years old. It’s an amazing anti-war album – if you still don’t know it – check out “The Words That Maketh Murder”. PJ won her second Mercury prize for this one – and rightly so. The cover was designed by Michelle Henning and shows lots of birds flying outwards from what seems like a massive black hole. Intriguing.

Django Django – Django Django (2012) – This was another Mercury nominated album of last year and has been played a lot in our house. When I heard their first single “Default” it reminded me of the Beta Band. And on checking their background I found out that one of the band members, drummer and producer David Maclean, is the brother of former Beta Band member John Maclean. The band formed in Edinburgh, but is based in London. It’s pretty tricky to label their music, which surely is a good thing. They have a unique sound and are also a terrific live band (based on the live performances I have seen on TV). I love the cover of this album – no idea what it supposed to depict or who is responsible for the art work – you can see desert in the background and a weird colourful “thing” in the middle. Hard to describe really – I simply like the colour combination.

That’s it – I am sure I can find even more interesting cover art in my cd collection. Why don’t you check out your own CDs for some inspiration?

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Helen White

I am a bilingual journalist, jewellery designer, tutor, and translator – and I am passionate about cats.

Helen White – who has written posts on Helen's Paws for Thought.

About the author

Helen White

I am a bilingual journalist, jewellery designer, tutor, and translator - and I am passionate about cats.


1 ping

  1. Claire Thomas

    This is such a great idea! Sometimes I swear I forget that art can be found in everyday places!

    1. helen

      Thanks for your comment:)

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    […] But sometimes I look at my bead stash and when the mood strikes me I combine beads I like and think would work well together. I also find CD covers inspirational, books and magazines. […]

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