Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 – London Sinfonietta/Dawn Upshaw/David Zinman (1992)

Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 - London Sinfonietta/Dawn Upshaw/David Zinman (1992)

An incredible emotional experience and a great way to bridge the gap between Romanticism and the modern era. It embodies the best of both: the fascinating musical development of minimalism and the Romantic ideals of packing your music with as much emotion as humanly possible. The soprano solo in the slowly building, utterly sublime first movement is just the sound of sorrow pouring out at levels previously unknown to mankind. Sometimes words fail you, and that’s where Dawn Upshaw’s vocal solo takes over.

Choice Cut: The whole album

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“Heroes” – David Bowie (1977)

Heroes - David Bowie (1977)

The crown of the Bowie/Eno Berlin trilogy and the most accessible entry point to Bowie’s work from his arty experimental rock period. The ambient sound collage that defined the second half of Low is a lot stronger and more fully realized here. Then there’s the album’s title track, which is unquestionably David’s greatest song, where he does something he hasn’t done since Life on Mars? way back on Hunky Dory – he takes every single one of his Bowie masks off and proves that he does have a real human heart in there somewhere. Not to mention, this album has excellent playing from Robert Fripp all over it.

Choice Cut: Heroes

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Revolver – The Beatles (1966)

Revolver - The Beatles (1966)

One of the most important albums in history. It’s daring, diverse, melodic, and accessible despite the heavy experimentation – overshadowing everything the band had put out beforehand. It’s not only The Beatles at the heights of their songwriting ability, but them also at their most creative, containing a BUNCH of top-flight tunes, including acid-rockers (Tomorrow Never Knows, She Said She Said, I’m Only Sleeping… most of these are John’s), aching ballads (Eleanor Rigby, Here There and Everywhere… Paul’s, of course), and for the first time, songs by George that could compete with the best of Lennon/McCartney (Taxman, I Want to Tell You). It’s an amazing masterpiece of an album, and essential in understanding ’60s rock. You probably already have it, though, and if not you should get your fucking head checked.

Choice Cut: Here, There and Everywhere
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Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk (1977)

Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk (1977)

Although Autobahn was undoubtedly their most important work to the outside world, Trans-Europe Express was a massive album for Kraftwerk themselves. After the ill-received Radio-Activity, Kraftwerk must have known that their next album needed to be brilliant, lest the band become curious one-hit wonders.  So they went and made a brilliant album. Revisiting the transportation theme of Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express bridged the conceptualism of their earlier work with a new outlook – futuristic, robotic pop. With the delivery on every song so stiff and sharply angled and the only organic sounds being human voices with as little inflection as possible, it sounds like it was actually made by robots.

Choice Cut: Europe Endless
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Brandon’s Post Note: I’m partial to Hall of Mirrors.

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Hounds of Love – Kate Bush (1985)

Hounds of Love - Kate Bush (1985)

An art pop album that gives you the best of both worlds: the unique song structures, chord progressions, and arrangements of art rock paired with the catchiness of a great pop song. The first side is laced with brilliant gems like the classic Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God), Hounds of Love, and Cloudbusting, the greatest orchestral pop song ever written (and that includes the ones by those Beatle guys!). The second side is an ambitious suite titled The Ninth Wave that both soothes and terrifies, relaying the story of a woman seeing her life flash before her eyes as she drowns beneath icy waters. People say that this one of the greatest albums ever made by a woman. I say drop the “by a woman,” and you’ve got it right.

Choice Cut: Cloudbusting
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The Dreaming – Kate Bush (1982)

The Dreaming - Kate Bush (1982)

An amazing example of artistic growth in action. This was Kate’s first album that she produced entirely on her own, which gave her room to fully explore her own subconscious and create one of the most mesmerizing, complex-sounding albums I’ve ever heard. This is gripping, dramatic, experimental music, full of great narratives (There Goes a Tenner), bizarre arrangements (Sat in Your Lap), and the occasional bit of Irish folk (Night of the Swallow). While casual listeners may be deterred by this album, this is essential for the masses already under Kate’s spell.

Following this release, Bush built her own studios and would return to the charts three years later with her most acclaimed album…

Choice Cut: Night of the Swallow
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Mule Variations – Tom Waits (1999)

Mule Variations - Tom Waits (1999)

Tom Waits has maintained a huge cult following since the ’70s despite never having had a hit, simply because he’s written a gigantic pile of great songs over the past forty years. And if you’re not part of the Tom Waits thing yet, here’s as good of a place as any to get on board. Those who want to hear his insane side will find it on What’s He Building? and Filipino Box Spring Hog, and those who are more into Tom as the jazzy singer-songwriter putting out his cigarette in the ashtray on top of the piano and taking a deep swig of whiskey will love Picture in a Frame.

Choice Cut: Come on Up to the House
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