Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)

Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes (1983)

This is one of those quirky, dry, self-conscious alternative rock albums that give me a reason to appreciate that the 1980s happened. It’s weird and, to some, unpalatable – but it’s also catchy at the same time. That’s a hard thing to pull off unless you’re the Pixies or maybe early 70s Brian Eno. My choice cut here does a great job explaining the feel of the album as a whole.

Now a non-sequitur: imagine my surprise when I found out Gone Daddy Gone from the first album we ever reviewed was a cover from this album.

Choice Cut: Blister in the Sun

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Agaetis Byrjun – Sigur Ros (1999)

Agaetis Byrjun - Sigur Ros (1999)

Translated from its native Icelandic tongue, “agaetis byrjun” becomes “a good beginning.” Appropriate! Want to talk stark, unfettered beauty? Want to talk rich instrumentation and incredible (if unintelligible to my English ears) vocals? This album is your conversation piece. The album art shows a picture of a fetus in the womb, and I have to wonder if that’s what they had in mind when making this album. I know I’m really grasping here, but I think if you got some decent headphones, sunk into a really big beanbag chair, and listened to this, you might just feel like the album art. Leave yourself an airhole if you try that, though.

Choice Cut: Svefn-g-englar

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Since I Left You – The Avalanches (2000)

Since I Left You - The Avalanches (2000)

An impressive album – the best I discovered in 2014. I want to gush. I’m really tempted to gush. Made from around 3500 samples from vinyl records, this is a veritable epic of a record. Since I Left You boasts an extremely diverse palette of sounds that somehow fraternize into a single, cohesive unit. I’d argue it’s magic. A common, and somewhat warranted, criticism of electronic music is that it doesn’t sound “alive” or that it sounds “sterile.” This album is my rebuttal. It feels not just alive, but young and healthy. It’s genuine and familiar, and yet simultaneously exotic.

Choice Cut: Live at Dominoes

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Slanted & Enchanted – Pavement (1992)

Slanted & Enchanted - Pavement (1992)

I hated this album when I first heard it. With a few years and added musical maturity, I’ve recently listened to it again. The jagged, uneven hooks and desperate vocals (“I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’…”) push away casual listeners. Summer Babe is a perfectly amicable radio hit, but by the time you get to No Life Singed Her, you know what you’re in for. If you can handle that, you’re in for ugly beauty. To anyone who’s intimidated by this album, I suggest listening to it three times. I think it takes three listens to truly start appreciating a complex album.

Choice Cut: Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era

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Mellow Gold – Beck (1994)

Mellow Gold - Beck (1994)

Mellow Gold is the embodiment of redneck and junk culture in the shape of late grunge-era rock. This album is gross, low-class, and repulsive…in a good way! I routinely make long drives through the US Southeast, and while the majority of the area is not what the stereotypes say, there are pockets where the stereotypes don’t go far enough. You can find these pockets all over the globe, not just my tiny hundred mile radius. In Mellow Gold, Beck unapologetically steals from the culture of these pockets and and bakes an excellent album from the sour ingredients.

Choice Cut: Soul Suckin’ Jerk

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Broken Bells – Broken Bells (2010)

Broken Bells - Broken Bells (2010)

I could spend the better part of this review talking about the lead singer for the Shins and Danger Mouse…but that’s too easy and does this great album injustice. The artistic chemistry is clear. The falsetto vocals and lush electronic instrumentation are a wonderful blend, and I think this album was underappreciated upon its release. Broken Bells is laid-back, calm music, very easy to listen to, very accessible. We tend to recommend divisive albums on this site, but this a crowd pleaser that everyone can enjoy.

Choice Cut: The High Road

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13 Songs – Fugazi (1989)

13 Songs - Fugazi (1989)

Another album from 1989? Groovy! Famous for five-dollar concerts and punkish, Pixies-esque hooks, Fugazi tears into to social BS with great fury than they do their guitar strings. Fugazi doesn’t mind one bit telling you what they think of sexism or acting tough when you’re not. Also, the bass is pretty great, as well. How often can you really praise a bassist? (You’re not allowed to say Red Hot Chili Peppers or Primus…that’s cheating.) The bass intro on Waiting Room, combined with the sudden stop shortly into the song really sets the tone for this album.

Choice Cut: Waiting Room
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