Album artwork — it’s the first impression of the music that lies beneath it. It flirts with our perception of the sound and influences the way we listen to the songs. On rare occasions, an album’s artwork is equally as influential as the songs under the cover.

Remember years ago, when we picked our albums differently? There was no Pandora, Last FM, iTunes, torrents — you know, all that stuff that makes music today almost overwhelming accessible. It used to be that only a few things influenced our gravitation towards an album. There was the radio, a friend’s suggestion or a stroll through a record store, listening to the albums that caught our eyes.

Anyway, I’ll cut out the sentimental “before this damn technology” stuff and get on with it – my favorite album covers.

Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
The influence that The Velvet Underground & Nico has had on music is incalculable. Its influence is as powerful today as it was forty years ago. Do we even have to mention that the artist behind the album cover is none other than Mr. Andy Warhol?

The Velvet Underground’s first album is my pick for the greatest album cover ever. It’s simple, suggestive, intriguing and timeless.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
The cover of Unknown Pleasures is unbelievably similar to the music within. It’s dark, sentimental and simple, yet far from shallow. The album cover is certainly one of the most iconic ever, held closely to the chests of Joy Division fans everywhere. Even if you’re not a fan of Joy Division, you have to admit – when most of the people wearing Unknown Pleasures T-shirts have never listened to the album itself, you have yourself some intriguing artwork.

Nirvana – Nevermind
Huge album, huge influence, small baby penis . . . enough said.

The Beatles – Abbey Road
It’s hard to say which Beatles album cover is the greatest. In truth, they’re all great. However, I think Abbey Road communicates more than it set out to. John leads the way in a white suit. None of the members are interacting. They’re crossing a road and leaving the picture. They seem distant and finished. As it is, Abbey Road was The Beatles’ last studio album.

The Clash – London Calling
When The Clash hit the scene in the ’70s, the band was an untamable monstrosity. Rock became harder, faster and less bothered by the burden of acceptance. London Calling’s album cover was the essence of rock ‘n’ roll’s new progeny. Honestly, how many people had this poster in their room? I know I did.

John Coltrane – Blue Train
Blue Train is living proof that the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is an understatement. Books and books could be written about the album, its content, its power and symbolism. Coltrane’s face is powerful, confident, beautiful and weathered by experience. I love this cover.

Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
The cover of the Violent Femmes’ debut album is eerily effective. Its portrait of a little girl peeking into a window is perfectly evocative without being pretentious.

Bob Dylan – Bringin’ it All Back Home
Bringin’ it All Back Home . . . Bobby looks right in the camera and says, “C’mon, taste my change and divide.”

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
Robert Crumb is an amazing cartoonist and cultural satirist. Put on Cheap Thrills and become submerged in the artwork.

Joanna Newsom – YS
The portrait on the cover is the perfect explanation of the album. It’s beautiful, subtle, complex and fragile. I have to be careful when I look at this picture. She has a way of catching my eyes and not letting go.

Read more about: