Sunday A.M. Radio: Tortoise and the art of cover art

I really do believe that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Definitely when the phrase is applied to people.

When the phrase is taken literally though, that’s another thing. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. If the book’s cover features an image of a shirtless dude holding a swooning lady on a terrace overlooking an ocean, it’s pretty safe to assume that that book is a cheap romance novel. Or if the book is called Babes with Guns on Motorcycles and the cover is a bikini-clad blonde holding a M-16 and straddling a Harley and you’re not into any of that stuff, then you can probably avoid that book and not miss anything.

I will buy an album solely because of the cover art, though. I don’t know why this works, but it almost never fails. Nearly every album that I’ve purchased based solely on the cover art has turned into one of my favorites. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that if the artist cares a lot about making interesting music then they’ll probably also really care about creating interesting cover art.

I bought Devendra Banhart’s Niño Rojo before I’d ever heard a note of his music. The pencil drawing on the cover reminded me of drawings I was making at the time. I put the CD in the player and immediately loved his minimalist weirdo folk songs.

Years ago when I picked up Tortoise’s 2004 album It’s All Around You, I had never heard their music either, but the cover looked so peaceful and interesting that I just bought it.

This morning, let’s slowly – perhaps as slow as a tortoise walking on the beach – wake up from our dreams and into the dreamy landscape of Tortoise’s music. And make sure to check out the cover art featured in both of the videos.

On the Chin

It’s All Around You

What are some of your favorite album covers? Any requests? Send them to


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Posted in Sunday A.M. Radio

Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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