7 unique physical albums – SHINEE's KEY, Lorde, Foodman, (G)I-DLE's Soyeon, and more

7 unique physical albums – SHINEE's KEY, Lorde, Foodman, (G)I-DLE's Soyeon, and more

ESTIMATED 

When rounding up a list of albums, it's usually about the sound and musical style but this time, we're paying ode to an often overlooked aspect of physical records: the packaging. 

Beyond just the music and its impressive illustrated design, there's an intricate level of thought and care that usually goes into what actually holds the good tunes. Beautifully conceptualised, crafted, and executed, a record's package is another layer of the story an artist's trying to tell. 

Besides, there's nothing more exciting than sliding out that CD or vinyl we've been waiting days to get our hands on – what more if we had to slide it out of a school binder-inspired sleeve or even a toy box?

From sustainable "disc-less" music boxes to fast food containers, here are some unique album packinging concepts to check out!

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ECO-FRIENDLY MUSIC BOX

Reinventive and always out-of-the-box, Lorde's grand return was momentous in more ways than one. Beyond her sun-powered tunes, the singer-songwriter delivered an environmentally-friendly "disc-less" music box as she aims to reduce her and her music's carbon footprint. 

In an interview with Billboard, Lorde shared how the idea came about after the release of her critically acclaimed 2017 album, Melodrama. "I’m a pop star, and I drive this massive machine that takes resources and spits out emissions — I’m under no illusion about that," she said. 

In theme with the album's celebration of the natural worldSolar Power is made up of a plastic-free box made completely from recycled paper and cardboard components. Inside the record, fans get access to exclusive photo cards, posters, and handwritten notes, as well as a digital download copy of her album to substitute a physical CD. 

In conjunction with the eco-friendly music box, Lorde has also offered a sustainable line of apparel and merch. 

"I don't make any conclusions or answer any questions [about the environment] in this album. I'm a pop star, not a scientist after all," she says in an interview with Bandwagon

"I tried not to come at it from like, 'oh, here's my take on it' but what I did do was try and reevaluate things that I do in my job, whether it's making CDs or merch. There's not a strong message but I'm doing things that I can get behind."

Listen to Lorde's Solar Power here. 


TOYBOX 

For a kickass artist, you need kickass packaging and what better than an action-figure toy box. Reminiscent of old-school figurines and toy stores we used to visit as kids, KEY drops a tinge of nostalgia and fun with his first mini-album, BAD LOVE

Set in a retro-inspired dimension of outer space –  partly put together by renowned set designer Oh Ye Seul, the SHINee member takes on the role of an intergalactic superhero joined by an avant-garde band of aliens – which KEY describes as a "horror-themed fashion in space".

The 'Space Ray Gun' version of the physical album takes the concept to a whole other level, positioned as an action figure box that you have to rip open to get to the CD. 

BAD LOVE is said to be entirely conceptualised by KEY, the record is the physical manifestation of his love of superheroes and sci-fi action figures – an idea that was brewing in his head for over a decade. 

"I still miss that generation when I got new figures from Star Wars and Star Trek, or just got a figurine from a supermarket store. That was really cool. I wanted to recreate those elements that I kind of reminisce about," he says in an interview with NME.

While many fans are hesitant to rip into BAD LOVE, wanting to preserve its intricate art and design, that's the beauty of the album. 

Listen to KEY's BAD LOVE here. 


BENTO BOX

Nothing pairs better than good food and even better music, and that's the idea that Foodman is bringing to life is his newest album, Yasuragi Land. While you can't exactly chow down on the record, it looks absolutely delicious. 

Designed after a classic bento box, Yasuragi Land – which translates to "tranquillity" island – serves as a road trip to the peace and calm outside the hustle and bustle of the city. And, what's a long drive without some food.

In an interview with Japan Times, Foodman also shares that the album takes a lot of thematic inspiration from some of the mundane aspects of life he has come to adore since the pandemic, like having a meal at convenient service stops or relaxing at public bathhouses. 

"When the government first declared a state of emergency last year, I started going to nearby super sentō [public baths] and [highway rest areas] instead of concerts or going out drinking," he shares. 

Similar to its design inspiration – a compartmentalised meal made up of different flavours and textures, the actual album takes a similar approach. Full of bites of jazz-infused electronic beats and synths with a side of video game-like sounds, Yasuragi Land is a destination of whimsy and playful ingenuity. 

Listen to Foodman's Yasuragi Land here. 


POP-UP BOOK

Regardless of age, there's something so exciting about a pop-up book. And for music lovers, there is nothing but pure joy when opening a brand new album. Combining the two is Architects' special edition vinyl for Live At The Royal Albert Hall

The limited-edition record – which is now unfortunately sold-out – features a pop-up gatefold artwork of the November 2021 show's actual stage design so you can relive the legendary show in all its glory. 

Get a glimpse into Architects' Live At The Royal Albert Hall concert here. 


SCHOOL BINDER

Fitting in with the album's stories of teenage angst and high school despairs, Soccer Mommy takes us on a trip down memory lane with her school binder-esque album for the deluxe and demos edition of her sophomore record, color theory

Similar to the thick folders we used to bring to school, color theory is packed with more than just memories of adolescent battles and its accompanying diverse melodies, but everything you would need to get through an actual school day as well.

 

From erasers and pencils to handwritten notes (i.e lyrics) and early 2000s-inspired stickers, the limited edition album is what all the cool kids would have brought to class. 

The demos edition of colour theory also carries individual vinyl for each track that you can neatly organise in a yellow binder. 

colour theory is so good that it even got nominated at the 64th GRAMMY awards for Best Album Packaging

Listen to Soccer Mommy's color theory here. 


TALISMAN

The Muddy Basin Ramblers' Hold That Tiger is creative in every sense of the word. From its illustrated design down to the physical packaging, the 2018 record is the complete package. 

The Muddy Basin Ramblers are an experimental band from the US and the UK who have settled in Taiwan, and Hold That Tiger reflects that in all aspects. Sonically, the record sees a diverse soundscape of jazz, blues, and traditional Chinese temple parade music. While design-wise, the album threads between the East and West, testing and pushing the cultural divide. 

Designed by renowned Taiwanese design company, Onion Design Associates, Hold That Tiger – which was even nominated from the GRAMMYs' Best Record Packaging category – takes after a mystic Taoist paper Talisman, combining inspiration from Taiwan's folk culture and retro Western science fiction. 

The cover and CD sleeve is covered with Chinese folk art-inspired graphics and calligraphy that resembles abstract Chinese glyphs, embellished with iconography from classic American sci-fi films like UFOs and bulky space helmets.

Listen to The Muddy Basin Ramblers' Hold That Tiger here. 


FAST FOOD CONTAINER

Through the years, we've seen a myriad of jaw-dropping album packaging from the world of K-pop but Soyeon's Windy takes the cake – or should we say, burger?

Inspired by retro fast-food joints, the (G)I-DLE member modelled her first-ever solo mini-album after a burger takeaway box – and we're just talking about the actual box. From the burger itself to the iconography of classic American diners, Windy's vivid concept is seen right down to the nitty-gritty details. 

Like most K-pop records, Soyeon's mini-album includes photocards, a photobook (that looks like a diner menu), and posters; but unlike many, Windy also features a coaster, a diner card, and a miniature cut-out of the versatile idol herself. 

Not to mention, the CD looks like a burger bun!

Listen to Soyeon's Windy here.