Let’s Get Physical: The Most Unique Album Packaging

Recently, I did an opinion piece on why CDs are so special. One thing I touched on was the packaging – and while even a standard album with full art and lyrics has plenty to enjoy, some bands have gone above and beyond. From biodegradable art to NES cartridges to full-on books, let’s dive in to some of the most unique ways bands have chosen to release albums in the physical world.

The Flaming Lips – Gummy Song Skull

It’s not surprising that a band currently playing in bubbles with have a few quirks. Enter the gummy song skull, a snack you can listen to… that also tastes like marijuana, allegedly. The skull weighs in at seven pounds so it’s actually a sizable treat to share, and once you reach the core, you’ll find a USB containing an EP that has yet to be released in any other format. Giant gummies have become a craze of sorts, and the band has taken the concept to new heights of utilitarianism here. Unfortunately, only a handful of these behemoths ever existed and they were sold at a hefty $150.

Anathallo – Floating World

This folklore-themed album was released with intricate die-cut artwork rumored to consist of biodegradable material. Some listeners have even rumored the album came with a seed to plant, though the internet hasn’t been able to confirm this. Either way, it’s the sort of delicate and thoughtful album that is augmented by appropriate packaging.

Nathan Phillips – Postcard

I’ve spoken before about the certain beauty of Postcard, an album that really doesn’t even exist as far as many people are concerned. But it’s simultaneously one of my favorite albums, even despite its scarcity. For those who managed to snag a physical LP, each copy was adorned with a unique postcard. Nathan Phillips may not have an arena full of fans, but he’s proven even smaller artists can get innovative.

Book On Tape Worm – All The World’s A Stage

This eclectic chamber pop band has undeniably released one of the most fun physical CDs I’ve come across. The album references literature and film, broken accordingly into four acts with a cinematic backbone. It’s only fitting that the physical release is a pop-up book to play on the stage theme. The album sits at 17 tracks which makes for a good lengthy listen.

Kanye West – Donda 2

The most recent addition to the list comes from Ye himself. Arguably, this is a bit of a stretch – but using his stem player as the exclusive place to here his newest record is certainly one way to promote the device.

Wu-Tang Clan – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin

This single-copy album has been a source of tension, legal battles, and even inspiration for a movie. The ornate case might have you believe its content were sacred. It’s certainly to be argued it’s a powerful culture artifact of sorts. No official track list has ever been released, leaving this release shrouded in rumors and mystery.

A Hope for Home – In Abstraction

While this release may not be as crazy on the surface as others on the lists, a second disc which featured an accompanying film (a bit of a documentary/behind-the-scenes) was also included. The album was pivotal for the band but was sadly followed by a hiatus. They have resurfaced once again, so time will tell if there will be any extras with the next release as well.

Adjy – The Idyll Opus (I-VI)

The enigmatic troubadours of Adjy released a literal epic of an album with no physical version, to much disdain. Thankful, the band are working to fix this – though you’ll have to catch them at a show to see just how they’ve decided to release it into the world for yourself. Frontman Christopher Noyes has crafted an accompanying book which is rumored to expand on the themes of the lyrics and takes inspiration from the album’s website and annotations.

Beck – Song Reader

This 20-track record was unveiled to the world in the form of “some assembly required”. Sheet music was the only format the “album” had at the time, encouraging fans to perform and record their own versions of the tracks. Eventually, a CD was issued as well – but few albums have so readily integrated audience participation

Which of these ideas do you think is the most interesting? Are there any releases we missed? We’d love to hear from you.

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