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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Immunity – Jon Hopkins (2013)

Immunity - Jon Hopkins (2013)

There’s a certain beauty in listening to ambient music.  While I love my bangers, sometimes it is just nice to relax. Immunity does a perfect job at being that music to relax to. It’s soothing, and calming, and all the technical mastery is there to go along with it. There’s a feeling that Jon Hopkins could produce some killer songs to party to, but he chooses not to. Jon Hopkins has produced this beautiful electronic ambient album instead, and there isn’t a reason to complain about his choice to do so.

Choice Cut: Breathe This Air

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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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The Unnatural World – Have A Nice Life (2014)

The Unnatural World - Have A Nice Life (2014)

Vocal styling of a shoegaze group, instrumentals of an industrial band, and repetition of a drone act, The Unnatural World has it all in terms of underground rock genres. There’s also a nice post-punk flavor to the guitars too in case you needed some more crossing of genres. I guess the easiest way to describe this is if Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, and whatever post-punk band you like all got together to make an album. That might not sound appealing to some, but The Unnatural World manages to sound really appealing despite my weak attempts to describe it.

Choice Cut: Guggenheim Wax Museum
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Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts – M83 (2003)

Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts - M83 (2003)

Do you like it when genres become blurred together and you cannot figure out if you are listening to rock, electronic, ambient, or something else altogether? If so, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is an album that you want to pick up and give a couple of spins. This album will have you questioning what genre you are listening to throughout the entire album.  The synthesisers and drums give it a very electronic vibe, but the chord progressions sound very rockish. These two factors mix very well together.

Choice Cut: Unrecorded
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Entroducing… – DJ Shadow (1996)

Entroducing… – DJ Shadow (1996)

You can make an entirely new work of art by snipping from magazines and arranging them into a collage. DJ Shadow applies this logic to music, where the snippets are samples. Entroducing… is nothing but samples. It was a long, drawn-out labor of love assembled over years, resulting in a peculiar record which Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called “a hazy, half-familiar dream.” Like St. Elsewhere, Paul’s Boutique, and Maxinquaye, this is a mosaic listening experience: sprawling through speakers, revealing new snippets with each rerun, never losing its ability to surprise, amaze, or confuse.

Choice Cut: What Does Your Soul Look Like, Pt. 4
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Screamadelica – Primal Scream (1991)

 Screamadelica – Primal Scream (1991)

Screamadelica is the child of rave culture, rock, and even a touch of gospel. Even as the generation of college students who tripped to this music reach their 40s, this album continues to age surprisingly well. This is remarkable because drug albums tend to age like drug stories (which almost invariably end with “you had to be there”). But perhaps I’m overestimating the impact of psychoactive compounds on this album. The themes are classic to art as a whole: exploration, openness to experience, and fascination with everything. The diversity of this record explains its influence and agelessness.

Choice CutLoaded
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