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rolling marijuana seeds on a album cover

Following the death of her husband — iconic saxophonist John Coltrane — Alice Coltrane founded an ashram in rural California called Sai Anantam. There, she recorded with ashram members, combining Hindu devotionals with droning synthesizers and layered vocals. The cover of this album, a compilation of that music, captures members of the ashram bathed in a soft glow, magnifying the sublime and mystical nature of Coltrane’s art.

The third album from the legendary art-rock group, the cover of ‘Fear of Music’ is embossed (at least on vinyl) with a grid pattern that gives it the feel of metal flooring. It’s a weird texture, unlike that of any other album cover, and it adds a sense of menace and otherworldliness to dystopian tracks — like the insanely catchy “Life During Wartime” and the ironic folk song “Heaven.”

You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but sometimes an album cover adds to understanding the music within.

3. Talking Heads – ‘Fear of Music’

A bizarre take on the name “Melissa,” the ‘M3LL155X’ EP bears a cover as perplexing as its name. Featuring a portrait photograph of twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, the album cover reveals her hand melding into her face. It’s a subtle trick, much like the tracks “Figure 8” and “I’m Your Doll,” which counter heavy grooves with shadowy synthesizers and Barnett’s modulated voice. Like all of her work, ‘M3ll155X’ stays just weird enough to avoid veering into full-fledged pop territory.

A marble in a sea of zebra stripes? An eyeball in the midst of the ether? It’s hard to say, but any way you cut it, the cover for the Australian psych-rock group’s most recent effort is just as disorienting and hypnotizing as its sprawling tracks. Be sure to check out the glitch-y “Let It Happen” and the hook-filled “The Moment.”

Here are a handful of beautiful (and “out-there”) covers that — especially with the aid of a little ganja — might make you think twice about the tunes themselves.

Getting lost in cover art can contribute to your enjoyment of music.

You know what joke got real old back in the ’80s? The one about how you can’t roll a joint on a CD cover. That doesn’t mean that people didn’t have a point, though. There’s a meaningful connection between rolling joints and listening to music–and the guys who used to work in used record stores always knew which old albums were likely to have some vital seeds ‘n stems hidden away in the packaging.
And now we celebrate Vinyl Record Day on August 12th with plenty of old and new albums available in the classic format. We’re also celebrating Vinyl Record Day for the first time where a lot of people can legally roll a joint on their favorite LP covers. But which ones offer the most meaningful connection? Check out our picks for the top 10 LP covers on which to roll your way to happiness…

Thick-bearded Seattle squad Fleet Foxes blew into the cannaboid consciousness on the dreamy winds of their spry combo of American country twang and harmonious British folk. The Fleet Foxes’ sounds will please the hydroponically enhanced ear, while the cover image of their long-playing Sub Pop debut supplies a mind-popping puzzle to ponder once you’ve used it to render your reefer. Comprised of an image from a 1559 painting by Pieter Bruegel, the cover depicts a busy medieval village scene loaded with weirdness on the order of donkey wrestling, a walking egg, and men crapping coins into a river.

The Beatles — The Beatles (1968)

Hailed among the smokeratti as the Beasties’ most Mary Jane-inflamed masterwork, the fold-out cover of Paul’s Boutique depicts a panoramic shot of Ludlow Street on New York City’s Lower East Side in the scary, scummy, creatively glorious late ’80s. Scatter your goods atop this window into the birthplace of hip-hop, punk, and the other stoner movements from which the Beasties emerged, and smoke up knowing that they must have scored entire bales of weed on those very sidewalks.

Atlanta’s sludge-prog metal beasts Mastodon essentially build bong-fumes into their every riff, drum-slam, solo shred, and roaring vocal, beginning with the ferocious Remission in 2002 and culminating most recently with the trippy, intricate, experimental Once More ‘Round the Sun. The bracing, brain-popping cover image of a multicolored space monster that resembles a Chinese dragon crossed with a Starship Troopers bug and a Hindu destroyer god will get your fingers whipping up a fatty fast, as that thing looks like it might actually be able to start chomping and devour your supply.

“The White Album”, as this two-record landmark is popularly known, provides a luminously blank doobie-crafting surface perfect for sussing out seeds and stems, and then making sure every morsel of that good stuff makes it inside your paper. The music itself is a psychedelic bouillabasse of free-wheeling highs (“Back in the U.S.S.R.”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), cannabis-scented cartoonishness (“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”), heavy trips (“Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) and soul-frying freak-outs (“Helter Skelter”, “Revolution 9”). Listen to The Beatles end to end and you’ll feel like you’ve smoked the universe.