In Okkervil River’s lastest album, ‘The Silver Gymnasium’, the band released a map with physical copies of the album. This map displays the hometown of lead singer Will Sheff, and certain points on the map correspond to places name checked in the album’s songs. Are accompaniments to albums just a gimmick to help sales or a pretty cool incentive to buy a CD or vinyl? Well, possibly both. Here are some of the weirdest and most wonderful examples.
Winners of the 1997 NME Album of the Year award, Spiritualized packaged their third studio album to resemble prescription medicine. This came with a recommended dosage – ‘Play once, twice daily or as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist’ – as well as a foil blister pack which contained the CD. A fine album written after the break-up of frontman Jason Pierce and former keyboardist Kate Radley, it is said to have side effects of sadness, then anger, then reluctant acceptance with a hint of optimism.
If you think that rappers don’t care about encouraging lunch from home, think again. The first complete, limited edition version of MF Doom’s debut album, including alternative versions, b-sides and instrumentals, can be found smartly packaged within a lunchbox. The famously-masked hip-hop artist realises that with great music you need some good food, and for that we are grateful. Just be sure not to fill it with too many ‘Hoe Cakes’.
The controversial German band created a special box set of their album ‘Liebe Ist Für Alle Da’, which you wouldn’t want to open in front of your Grandparents at Christmas. This edition comes complete with sex toys based on each band member’s ‘member’, lubricant and handcuffs. Does this add to the listening experience? It’s certainly novel. We can be sure that it would make HMV a very different kind of shop.
This EP was released as part of a series of monthly music releases by The Flaming Lips in 2011, encasing a USB with four songs inside an edible gummy skull, at a very pricey $150 a pop. Other releases in this series include a 24 hour long song enclosed in a real human skull, for the reasonable price of $5000, and a gummy foetus containing another USB of songs, for $30. ‘Normality’ isn’t a word The Flaming Lips have ever listened to, but then neither is the phrase ‘that’s way too much’.
The British music legends returned in 2011 with the album ‘The King of Limbs’, with the release accompanied by Thom Yorke handing out a specially produced newspaper called ‘The Universal Sigh’. Don’t let the title put you off – you’ll find plenty of cat pictures and tales of how super great everything in the world is within. I may be exaggerating – it’s a rather serious affair, one that unfortunately contains no pictures of Thom Yorke busting his moves.
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The ‘Sixteen Saltines’ single is not only the first-ever playable etched record, but is also pressed on clear vinyl and filled with blue liquid. Is the single already good enough without all this faffing about? Yes. But now it’s hard to be impressed with another record which isn’t filled with liquid. Up your game, competitors.
Unless of course, it happens that the record is made entirely of water – frozen water! Ice, to you and me. The Swedish band Shout Out Louds wanted something distinctive to promote their single, and they certainly achieved it. Playable on regular turntables, the record is an incredibly impressive feat visually. I wouldn’t normally advise you to store your records in the freezer, but you’ll need to with this one – unless you want to see your investment drip away.
Early presses of the famous Rolling Stones album came with a working zip and a mock belt buckle as a part of the well-known artwork. What was revealed when the zipper was pulled down? More often than not it showed damaged vinyl, an unfortunate consequence of the creative packaging. That, and cotton pants, of course.
The sophomore album from American band MGMT came complete with a coin inside and a cover that could be scratched off, revealing a photo collage of the band underneath the original artwork. Unfortunately it wasn’t a scratch and sniff cover, though I imagine it would have smelt ever so slightly like a disappointing second album.
Root is a project by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, which consists of 25 one minute guitar pieces. These were then sent in hoover bags to artists who remixed the pieces, or created pieces of artwork for the album. Special CD editions of the album were released, contained within hoover bags. Rumours that Thurston Moore had a wild night in Costco, and had been left with more hoover bags than he can handle, are unsubstantiated (but must be the only explanation).