more sundancing
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issue no.
  january 29
c o n t e n t s
Back in Black: Denver Band Black Black Ocean Rocks Again
RED Reviews

Man Destroyed by This Issue of RED
Also for Your Consideration
(This section will be updated as soon we recover from narrowing down the list)

August and Everything After - Counting Crows

Put out within two years of the band’s other noteworthy album, Recovering the Satellites, at the height of the Counting Crows’ popularity—and probably songwriting prowess—August and Everything After, represent some of the best music to come out of the post-grunge ’90s. Included on this album are the radio hits “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here,” along with a wealth of other equally, if not more, impressive songs. What the Counting Crows music does best is pair lead singer Adam Duritz's personal, universal lyrics about relationships with pensive, layered, guitar-driven compositions—and while this formula might have lent itself to some, well, formulaic albums later in the Crows’ career, the first album stands as true testament to a great band.—Eryn Green

New American Language - Dan Bern

Through Being Cool - Saves the Day

It's difficult to assess the importance of an album that came out less than 10 years ago, but when the album's sound spawns so many imitators in such a relatively short amount of time—and when the album is ahead of its time any-way, as is that case for Save the Day's sophomore release, Through Being Cool — the job gets a little easier. The majority of so-called 'emo-rock' that has been accepted by main-stream audiences today is really just variations on a theme perfected by Saves the Day—teenage angst/ hope/ love/loss rock. Sound generic enough? It probably could be, but what helps makes Through Being Cool as important as it is is that this theme, though seemingly con-trived, never actually gets tired. —EG


100 Overlooked Albums
The Masterpieces Rolling Stone Doesn't Want You to Know About
by Various RED Staff Members

t’s impossible to have a best-albums list that pleases everyone, with the subjective opinion of what the best album ever actually is [Editor’s note: Pet Sounds]. This might be the reason that Rolling Stone didn’t even try with its recent list of the allegedly top 500 albums of all time.

Many important, fantastic and/or influential albums were overlooked to make room for Alanis Morissette and pretty much every Beatles album, even the ones people don’t really (like Let it Be). In the two months since Rolling Stone unleashed its list, RED has been compiling 100 of the best overlooked albums. We’ve likely still left off some of your favorites, but don’t blame us—blame Rolling Stone for leaving off so many to begin with.

The only rules were that the album wasn’t anywhere on Rolling Stone’s 500 and it couldn’t be a compilation—because putting compilations on the list is the stupidest thing that anyone has ever done. Ever. In the truest sense of the art form, compilations aren’t albums. If a bunch of Madonna’s and Simon & Garfunkel’s (to name only a couple artists) albums are on the list, why should a compilation of the best songs from those albums be there too? This makes us very, very angry.

Below each artist’s entry or entries, we’ve included if and what the artist did have mentioned on the Rolling Stone list. Some of the artists who weren’t represented may surprise you, so we advise that pregnant women and people with heart conditions not read the list.

Gentlemen - The Afghan Whigs
(Not represented)

The Animals - The Animals
Animalism - The Animals
(Not represented)

Competing record companies were just trying to find an answer to the Rolling Stones when they signed this ragtag bunch of blues enthusiasts. Nonetheless, the members of The Animals deserved some mention on a certain magazine’s list. “House of the Rising Sun,” “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” and “It's My Life” showed that Brits with passion for music and an American record collection could churn out an impressive body of work. Also, the band’s single release of soul standard “Bring it (On) Home to Me” remains one of the finest examples of blue-eyed soul to date.

The band disintegrated and the lead singer, Eric Burdon, apparently gave LSD a test drive. Burdon and the Animals let psychedelia seep into their R&B, as seen in the Frank Zappa-arranged Animalism opener “All Night Long” and a striking rendition of “The Other Side of This Life.”—Craig Froelich

The Richard D. James Album - Aphex Twin
(Not represented)

Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy - Louis Armstrong
(Not represented)

August and Everything After - Counting Crows (Not represented) Put out within two years of the band's other noteworthy album, Recovering the Satellites, at the height of the Counting Crows' popularity-and probably songwriting prowess-August and Everything After, represent some of the best music to come out of the post-grunge '90s. Included on this album are the radio hits "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here," along with a wealth of other equally, if not more, impressive songs. What the Counting Crows music does best is pair lead singer Adam Duritz's personal, universal lyrics about relationships with pensive, layered, guitar-driven compositions-and while this formula might have lent itself to some, well, formulaic albums later in the Crows' career, the first album stands as true testament to a great band.- Eryn Green

Ill Communication - The Beastie Boys
(156. Paul’s Boutique, 217. Licensed to Ill)

Ill Communication was the reason my favorite band was The Beastie Boys my sophomore year of high school. I don’t know how I did it, but I wore out my copy of Ill Communication down that year, even though it was a CD. Those beats and that drum and the flute loop were the entire soundtrack to my high school life. And yet I still find myself heading back, popping that green disc in my player, making some toast and jam and taking a short trip down amnesia lane. With Ill Communication, the members of The Beastie Boys took the brilliance of Check Your Head and gave it a mellow groove, making an album that is a joy to listen to anytime in your lifetime. —Jordan Scrivner

Mutations - Beck
(305. Odelay, 440. Sea Change)

Star – Belly
(Not represented)

In the early 1990s, women sang and wrote songs with surprisingly low occurrences of “baby” and jailbait innuendo. On Belly’s Star, Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses and The Breeders fame constructed an album with musical and lyrical merit that deserves a second look. At least four songs on the album will force you to listen to them a minimum of three times in a row.—CF

Dan Bern - Dan Bern
(Not represented)

The Singles - Bikini Kill
(not represented)

Note—although this album appears to be a greatest hits of sorts, it is actually a compilation of three RPM-only releases distributed by Kill Rock Stars during short time period.

Bikini Kill made it cool to be a feminist punk. Before vocalist Kathleen Hanna started wailing about rebel girls and anti-pleasure dissertations, women and raucous indie-rock were somewhat of an anomaly. Thanks to the band’s efforts, groups such as Sleater-Kinney had a framework on which to base their intelligent, fierce musicianship. The Singles is the most comprehensive, swift way to understanding why Bikini Kill should never be forgotten.—Jamie Gadette

Homogenic – Bjork
(373. Post)

Last Splash - The Breeders
(Not represented)

This sophomore effort marked the departure of founding member Tanya Donnelly—and the actualization of something fairly divine. The Breeders, as most side projects, was created as an outlet for excess vision. Apparently the Pixies didn’t offer enough room for innovation (or maybe Kim Deal was just sick of Black Francis). The resulting album is worth whatever grief helped inspire its evolution. Songs such as “Cannonball,” “Divine Hammer,” and “I Just Wanna Get Along,” ooze sticky sweet noise pollution. It’s the perfect treat after a nasty breakup—a refreshing day at the pool.—JG

Music Has the Right to Children - Boards of Canada
(Not represented)

One of the reasons that Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison’s music is left for the most part instrumental (no singing) is that no words could do their music justice. So I’m a bit hesitant to try. But I will say this: Whenever I listen to Boards of Canada, it makes me feel like I’m a kid again—playing on a swing set, taking in the majesty of the world, feeling overwhelmed but liking it, letting it all flow through me, seeing the world in slow motion, wondering how grasshoppers must feel, trying to reach the highest height that my swing will take me, trying to grab the sky.

Lots of other bands have made me feel other different emotions, but no other band has ever made me feel like that.—Brent Sallay

Keep It Like A Secret - Built to Spill
(Not represented)

Doug Martsch doesn’t care about lists. The Built to Spill frontman is more concerned with channeling social commentary through the sort of indie rock suitable for both punks and jam-band fans alike. On Keep It Like A Secret, Martsch and Co. venture into pop territory, crafting catchy songs like “Carry the Zero” and “Sidewalk.” Yet for all its accessibility, the album still boasts thought-provoking lyrics and a burning desire to tell the truth.—JG


Tago Mago - Can
(Not represented)

The Cold Vein - Cannibal Ox
(Not represented)

Ferment - Catherine Wheel
(Not represented)

Ride the Fader – Chavez
(Not represented)

Songs of Love and Hate - Leonard Cohen
(Not represented)

While Leonard Cohen’s usually unexcited voice has led other singers to make money and a reputation from his original material, Songs of Love and Hate is one of many examples of his superb, emotional songwriting. His vocal tone creates a combination of resignation and melancholy on songs like “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Joan of Ark” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag.”—Jeremy Mathews

The Trinity Sessions - Cowboy Junkies
(Not represented)

Sexy, sultry and Southern…but enough about my grandmother. If heaven had a Honky Tonk, the Cowboy Junkies would play the dinner music. I think the band members remain on our side of the mortal coil, so heaven’s country crowd just gets treated to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash bickering with Marty Robbins over who gets to sing first.

The Junkies members lead country into a nightclub and then a poorly lit back alley. All the songs are good and chicks, justifiably, dig it. The end.—CF

Penis Envy - CRASS
(Not represented)

The only hardcore punk band I ever liked was called CRASS. These eight or nine anarchists, who all lived in the same house and were vegans, yet still managed to last seven years as a band, made an album called P Penis Envy. As the name implies, the record was a treatise on Anarcho-feminism, and the two females of the group, Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre, sang all the songs.

Although it sounds gimmicky on the surface, this album is chock full of brilliance and heart. The album’s brutality (the opening track, “Bata Motel,” which is about sexism and rape and contains the lines “slice my flesh and ride the scar/ put me into gear like your lady car” became one of the first songs to be prosecuted under Britain’s Obscene Publications Act. On the flipside of the coin, the album’s last track, “Our Wedding,” was the subject of a prank from CRASS, which successfully got the song published inside copies of Loving Magazine (Britain’s equivalent to Cosmopolitan). I love this album, even though it made me afraid of women for several, several years.—JS

Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure
(326. Disintegration 442. Boys Don’t Cry)

Live-Evil – Miles Davis
(12. Kind of Blue, 94. Bitches Brew, 356. Sketches of Spain)

The Delfonics - The Delfonics
(Not represented)

Dig Your Own Hole – The Chemical Brothers
(Not represented)

Endtroducing - DJ Shadow
(Not represented)

Emergency & I - The Dismemberment Plan
(Not represented)

Electroshock Blues - The Eels

This Nation's Saving Grace - The Fall
(Not represented)

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook - Ella Fitzgerald
(Not represented)

After an already brilliant career, the First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald broke into pop culture when she brought her unsurpassed phrasing and vocal stylings to an ambitious series of songbooks on Verve Records. She recorded a large number of songs by American composers such as Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and many others, resulting in a grand total of 245 songs.

The first of these releases was Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, in which Ella takes on one of the most clever lyricists and composers of all time with experienced grace. Tackling humorous and exhilarating Porter songs like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Let’s Do It,” “You’re the Top” and “Always True to You in My Fashion” as well as “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and an unexpectedly touching “Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable to Lunch Today),” Fitzgerald makes all 32 Porter songs her own.

On top of that, she sings most of Porter’s introductory verses, which are often skipped despite undeniable charm, such as “De-Lovely’s” decision to “skip the darn thing and sing the refrain.”—JM

Dare to be Surprised - The Folk Implosion
(Not represented)

On Fire - Galaxie 500
(Not represented)

Element of Light - Robyn Hitchcock
(Not represented)

Downward is Heavenward - Hum
(Not represented)

Zen Arcade – Hüsker Dü
(495. New Day Rising)

The Commodore Master Takes - Billie Holiday
(Not represented)

Hi, How Are You - Daniel Johnston
(Not represented)

Clouds Taste Metallic - The Flaming Lips
The Soft Bulletin – The Flaming Lips
(Not represented)

The Flaming Lips released six full-length albums during the 1990s, and all of them were spectacular.

From this batch, the three that stand out most are Clouds Taste Metallic, the album that perfected the acid-bubblegum sound toyed with on the band's prior three records; Zaireeka, the four-disc sound experiment that encouraged psychedelic fans everywhere to make friends with exactly three similarly inclined stereo owners quickly; and The Soft Bulletin, which finally garnered the band the respect it had been working 14 years to get. You know, you could make a strong case (or even a weak one) that the Flaming Lips is one of the top five best bands of the ’90s, and I wouldn't disagree with you.—BS

The Colour and the Shape - Foo Fighters
(not represented)

Dave Grohl should run for president. Seriously, is there anything he can’t do? After Nirvana, the talented drummer packed up his sticks and formed a band that actually escaped the shadow of its larger-than-life predecessor. Drawing on material he recorded during his stint with Kurt Cobain, Grohl released a debut full of sweet-and-sour rock. However, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape is a better example of why it pays to move on. Alternating soul-wrenching screams with soft, sensitive whispers, Grohl is the epitome of hopeless-romantic punk. “Walking After You,” and “Everlong,” display a sweetness, while “My Poor Brain,” and “Wind Up” are reminders that the Foo was excavated from grunge’s remains. This is what it means to start anew.—JG


Steady Diet of Nothing - Fugazi
(not represented)

Dust Bowl Ballads - Woody Guthrie
(Not represented)

Tropics and Meridians - June of 44
(Not represented)

If this album just contained the first track, “Anisette,” I would still consider it a great album.—JS

Can You Fly? - Freedy Johnston
(Not represented)

The Winding Sheet - Mark Lanegan
(Not represented)

Mark my words, you will eventually succumb to the sardonic side of Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan. He lets you believe that he’s just a self-absorbed Seattleite with an acoustic guitar and tons of talented friends willing to log some studio time. Listening to The Winding Sheet, you start to doubt yourself on an “Ugly Sunday” and want to start taking up guitar again by “Woe.” Lanegan's Beatnik Grunge with organ accompaniment, “Juarez,” will make want to start a band.

Oh, one of those talented friends went by the name Kurt Cobain. He provides back-up on a remake of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” Cobain later gave it his own treatment on an “MTV Unplugged.” Also consider Whiskey for the Holy Ghost.—CF

Peces - Lucybell
(Not represented)

Lucybell never really broke out in the states like, say, Shakira or La Ley, but maybe that's because the band’s members have a little thing called i-n-t-e-g-r-i-t-y—not to mention indispensability. Actually, with four or so releases since Peces, the band has never really come close to reaching the excellence of its debut, but with a debut this uniformly awesome, I’m not going to hold it against them.

This is one where the language barrier doesn’t factor in as much, because it’s primarily about rocking. Every single song is an invigorating assault on the senses for fans of Primal Scream, Catherine Wheel, My Bloody Valentine, The Beatles, Blondie, Gang of Four—just fans of music period.—BS

69 Love Songs - Magnetic Fields
(Not represented)

I’m With Stupid - Aimee Mann
(Not represented)

The Glow Pt. 2 - The Microphones
(not represented)

Someone told me this was the perfect album for me and I haven’t looked back since. The Microphones—lesser-known as Phil Elvrum—made the greatest “psych-pop” (whatever that means) ever created with the album The Glow Pt. 2. I recommend this album to anyone and everyone who likes music at all, even in passing. But you can’t listen to The Glow Pt. 2 if you are just passing by. This album is too near-perfect for that. Headphones are perfect for Microphones. And if you can find Elvrum’s last album, 2003’s Mt. Eerie, pick that up too. But, be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart.—JS

Flemish Altruism - A Minor Forest
(Not represented)

A Minor Forest’s Flemish Altruism is another album that came from the all-knowing, all-seeing eye of my older brother—one of many albums that I would sneak into his room when he was away specifically to listen to. I really don’t know how to put the band A Minor Forest into any kind of a category.

With the flawless time changes and calculated riffs. Some people might call this “math rock,” and that’s fine, because it at least gives you some idea of how ingenious this album really is. But don’t think for a second that Flemish Altruism is without heart/soul/the force/whatever you call that thing buried deep inside music that makes you shed a single tear of joy. It’s a crime against humanity that A Minor Forest released only two albums (this and 1998’s Inindependence). They were too beautiful for this world.—JS

This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About - Modest Mouse
(Not represented)

Quite possibly the greatest road trip album of all time.—JS

Cure for Pain - Morphine
(Not represented)

Isn't Anything - My Bloody Valentine
(219. Loveless)

For starters, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is Top 20 of all time, easy (none of this 219 crap). And though Isn’t Anything didn’t have quite the influence of the band’s frequently celebrated swan song, for my money, it’s a better album. Maybe it’s just because it was my first introduction to the band. Or maybe it’s because from the first time you listen to it, Isn’t Anything enters your soul, courses through your veins and changes your blood flow. You simply cannot be the same person after hearing it. You will spend the rest of your life trying to create just one more thing that’s disastrously beautiful enough to stand next to it. That, or die trying. Then again, I can’t think of a more worthy thing to die for. Best band EVER (according to me).—BS

For Richer, For Poorer – My Dad is Dead
(Not represented)

In the Aeroplane over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
(Not represented)

Certain albums are just important. Whether they set the bar for a genre or simply encapsulate the feeling of an era, these albums deserve a place next to the most powerful art of the time. When the twin towers were hit on Sept. 11 and people came falling from the highest floors just like Jeff Mangum had sung a scant three years earlier, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea became such an album. However, it wasn’t the fact that it predicted this tragic event that launched it into greatness so much as the fact that it put the whole ordeal in perspective—and for a great many of us, it softened the blow considerably.—BS

Neon Golden - The Notwist
(Not represented)

Only a Lad – Oingo Boingo
(Not represented)

Strange Cargo 3 - William Orbit
(Not represented)

Atliens - Outkast
(Not represented)

This Atlanta-based duo may be better known for its such recent hits as “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh and So Clean,” andthe impossible-to-ignore “Hey Ya!” However, it is their older material that deserves a spot on an ultimate retrospective.In 1996, Big Boi and Dre releasedATliens, a sophomore effort more daringthan any other rap album recorded that year. ATliens is a nod to George Clinton and Funkadelic—beats and rhymes linked by an allegiance to intergalactic wisdom.—JG

Wowee Zowie - Pavement
(134. Slanted and Enchanted, 240. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain)

The greatest band of the ’90s made their greatest album with Wowee Zowie. Sure, Slanted and Enchanted was groundbreaking as hell, and deserves to get every accolade it can muster, but there is something about this record in particular that just breaks the hell out of my heart. Maybe it was the fact that I heard it for the first time when I was just beginning to comprehend what music was and what it can be capable of doing, when I was just learning how to be a teenager, when I was trying to make bands that sounded like this record, but only ending up with something that sounded like Sum 41 led by four sophomore Johnny Rottens. I hated this album for being so damn good.—JS

Meddle - Pink Floyd
(43. Dark Side of the Moon, 87. The Wall, 209. Wish You Were Here, 347. Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Well, Pink Floyd (or “The Floyd,” as the annoying guy from Rolling Stone likes to call them) is already well-represented on the list (although I would make a strong case for Dark Side of the Moon being Numero Uno), but Meddle has always been a close second favorite for me. The highlight is obviously the second side, the brilliant, evolving 23-and-a-half-minute “Echoes,” but let's not forget the first side—the intimidating, delay-heavy “One of These Days,” the soft, flighty “Pillow of Winds,” and the howlin’ blues of “Seamus.” It’s such an odd mix, diametrically opposed to the thematic and musical consistency of Dark Side, that somehow manages to work quite nearly as well.—BS

If I Should Fall from Grace with God – The Pogues
(445. Rum, Sodomy and the Lash)

Portishead - Portishead
(Not represented)

Different Class - Pulp
(Not represented)

Duck Stab – The Residents
(Not represented)

In the ’70s, the four anonymous, eyeball-in-top-hat-headed musicians known as The Residents created a series of avant-garde experiments with synthesizers and electronic music, and it all erupted and melted in with pop music in 1978’s Duck Stab.

While the album was also released as two EPs, with side two known as Buster & Glen, the work is a cohesive album that doesn’t seem to be out of any time period.

The pioneers create a haunting collection of sounds that remains innovative today, with the jangly, building riff of wired sounds in “Sinister Exaggerator,” the rhythmic squeaks of “Bach is Dead,” the combination of cute and jarring in “Birthday Boy” and “The Electrocutioner’s” combination of chaotic noise and lamenting ballad.

Modulated and pitch-shifted vocals add further texture to the album, putting a second dimension on the monologues of “Lizard Lady” and the beautiful “Blue Rosebuds,” which embodies the album’s disconcerting but delectable lyrics: “An ether eating Eskimo would gag upon your sight / Convulsed into oblivion from laughter or from fright.” Duck Stab might amuse you, but it also might scare you.—JM


III - Sebadoh
(Not represented)

The Natural Bridge - The Silver Jews
(Not represented)

“Moments can be monuments to you.” Lyric-wise, The Silver Jews is my favorite band of all time. It would only make sense that the band’s dynamic front-man, David Berman, is a published poet (pick up his first collection of poems, Actual Air, wherever poetry collections are sold) who prefers the silence of a poetry reading to the noise of playing live in a rock concert. Berman has been quoted in a number of interviews that he doesn’t like playing live (The Silver Jews haven’t had a show in years) and only makes albums when he “needs the money.”

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately since it means he will make more records, The Natural Bridge didn’t exactly go platinum. But, damnit people, this album is pure gold!—JS

New Forms - Roni Size & Reprazent
(Not represented)

Redlight – The Slackers
(Not represented)

Spiderland – Slint
(Not represented)

Slint’s Spiderland is another one of those albums that is just plain important, not so much for what it has to say, although its delicate sing-speak style and dynamic contrasts certainly contribute to its greatness, but more for its influence on the musical movement that has been (somewhat nonexplicatively) dubbed “post-rock.” Slint was short-lived, but David Pajo went on to contribute to some excellent releases by Tortoise, the For Carnation, Papa M, and, um…Zwan. But even out of this context, Spiderland is still just an unbelievably great album.—BS

Either/Or - Elliott Smith
(Not represented)

I don't know. You’d think Rolling Stone would think to honor an important modern artist like Elliott Smith what with all the publicity surrounding his DEATH just a few months prior to the publication of their article. I mean, Warren Zevon made its top 50 list for the year. Whatever. Elliott wouldn't want us to remain bitter. He’d want us to get even…er, I mean, remember him through his music. Yeah. And even though it’s less flashy than XO or Figure 8, Either/Or (which shares many songs with the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack) is the one that, for better or worse, put Elliott in the spotlight.—BS

Julius Caesar - Smog
(Not represented)

Before he realized he could make his voice sound damn sexy by lowering it several octaves, Billy Callahan, better known as Smog, released Julius Caesar. Callahan has been recording songs with basement-like quality for years, but when he made Julius Caesar in 1993, he showed what lo-fi recording could be capable of. With amazingly creative and heartbreaking (with songs like “Your Wedding” and “One Less Star,” and at the same time silly fun (with songs like “37 Push-ups” and “I am Star Wars!”), Callahan proved, in what was just the start of a brilliant career, that you don’t need a $50,000 studio to make an album that will be cherished forever and ever.—JS

Social Distortion - Social Distortion
(Not represented)

Mike Ness managed to overcome his drugs, drink and heartache and push his band Social Distortion into another decade. The band’s self-titled album has blue-collar lyrics from a guy who put enough money into tattoos to instead fix his motorcycle and stop whining about it. This man may not be best guest at a highbrow gathering of people who finished high school, but he sure plays a mean guitar.

Ness grew up on the Stones, Cash and The Clash. He tells his fans how to dress on “Sick Boys.” He introduced “Ring of Fire” to us punks, and we eventually sought the Johnny Cash original and the fine songs that accompanied it. For this, reason I picked this album from the band’s altogether fine catalog.—CF

Underwater Moonlight - The Soft Boys
(Not represented)

In their willingness to draw on the past, the members of The Soft Boys managed to create something years ahead of their time in 1980. Like The Velvet Underground’s albums, the band wasn’t appreciated in its own time and is only recently beginning to receive the appreciation it deserves.

Robyn Hitchcock’s wonderfully surreal songwriting, Kimberly Rew’s guitar work and the band’s nouveau-psychedelic sound influenced the likes of R.E.M. If that didn’t cement its importance, infectious songs like the jumpy “Queen of Eyes,” the epic “Insanely Jealous” and the perfect “Kingdom of Love” ought to do the trick.—JM

EVOL – Sonic Youth
Sister - Sonic Youth
(329. Daydream Nation)

In 1986, 1987, and 1988, Sonic Youth released three albums that did two things of great importance: (1) They created a whole new genre of music and (2) they changed my life. The albums were EVOL, Sister, and Daydream Nation respectively. The third of this trilogy is cherished as one of the greatest albums of all time (it appears on the list that inspired this article as Greatest Album of All Time #329…HA!). But EVOL and Sister deserve some love too.

The songs on the albums are about murder, death, drug abuse, running away, falling in love, killing yourself, getting rich and famous, committing acts of violence, Catholicism, sexism, schizophrenia, music and the novels of Philip K. Dick. Somehow, the Youth members are able to tie this all together and create a sonic (hence the name) wave of crunching guitar, abstract lyrics, and intense, intense sound. If you want to get to know the real me, listen to these albums.—JS

The Specials – The Specials
(Not represented)

Suede - Suede
(Not represented)

While you were in high school and listening to Blur and Oasis, I was listening to Suede. I’m not saying I was better than you. Maybe just a little bit more glam, is all. And yeah, Blur and Pulp were probably better bands in the end, if only because of the dwindling output of Suede’s progressive releases. But as far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t get any better than Suede’s eponymous debut—or the double disc Sci-Fi Lullabies, which, as far as B-side compilations go, is really the best of its kind.—BS

Vida - Sui Generis
(Not Represented)

All right, who am I kidding? You haven’t heard of Sui Generis. I know it. This isn’t me being elitist. This is me pleading with you to give something new and foreign a try. While I would put all three of Sui Generis’ albums on a top all-time list, Vida was the band’s first, and quite possibly its best. Beginning with “Canción Para mi Muerte” (“Song for my Death”) and ending with “Cuando Comenzamos a Nacer” (“When We Begin to Come to Life”), Vida manages to address practically every issue that one could possibly experience in between. Sure, it helps if you understand Spanish, because the lyrics are truly revelatory, but even if you don’t, the music itself should appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in Simon and Garfunkel, Yes, or Pink Floyd.—BS

Colour of Spring - Talk Talk
(Not represented)

Fear of Music – Talking Heads
(126. Remain in Light, 290. Talking Heads ’77, 345. Stop Making Sense, 382. More Songs About Buildings and Food)

Dusk – The The
(Not represented)

Everything’s Different Now - ’Til Tuesday
(Not represented)

Lincoln - They Might Be Giants
Flood - They Might Be Giants
(Not represented)

In a decade known for its overblown production, John Linnell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants released two albums that favored complex music and arrangement, but avoided gratuitous effects in favor of earned musical moments. 1986’s They Might Be Giants (Also known as “the pink album”) and 1988’s Lincoln, both produced by Bill Kraus, changed pop music with multitrack recordings, MIDI, drum machine and sampling technology that allowed two men to sound like a musical powerhouse.

The first album’s “Rhythm Section Want-Ad” describes the independence this creative process allows with a combination of polka, Rush-esque guitar riffs and lyrics that reference everything from presidential quotes to obscure hard-core bands and Menudo. The album’s biggest hit, “Don’t Let’s Start,” might sound peppy as it begins, but contrasts this sound with stark lyrics. This combination of emotion is also apparent in Lincoln’s “They’ll Need a Crane,” a lament on the disintegration of a marriage.

Avoiding the notorious sophomore slump, the Johns’ lyrical and musical abilities came into even more form on Lincoln, with its opener “Ana Ng,” a desperate plea from a man who wants to meet the true love he’s never found, “Shoehorn with Teeth,” a dance with insanity, “Cage and Aquarium,” a bouncy, smooth study in sold-out ’60s values and many, many more hooks and charm in its 18 songs.—JM

TNT - Tortoise
(Not represented)

The Violent Femmes – The Violent Femmes
(Not represented)

I don’t know too much about The Violent Femmes, or the particulars of this album. All I know is that it was made in 1983 and somehow, I still remember when my brother used to lip-synch the words to “Add It Up” in the living room, how I would still hear songs from the album on all the “new music first” radio stations as late as 1998 and how drunk people at parties will still try to belt out all the classics from this album. If this record doesn’t deserve to be on some list somewhere, we have failed as a culture.—JS

Rhymes Beats and Life - A Tribe Called Quest
(154. The Low End Theory)

Bone Machine - Tom Waits
(339. The Heart of Saturday Night, 397. Rain Dogs, 416. Mule Variations)

Chocolate and Cheese - Ween
(Not represented)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
(Not represented)

An Evening with Wild Man Fischer – Wild Man Fischer
(Not represented)

English Settlement – XTC
Skylarking – XTC
(Not represented)

One of life’s great mysteries is why XTC never became the biggest pop bands of the ’80s, since the band is responsible for at lease two masterpieces, Skylarking and English Settlement.

Emerging with the New Wave bands of 1977, the band members had developed a high level of innovation, songwriting and performance by their third album, Drum and Wires (1979), which marked guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist/ arranger Dave Gregory addition to the lineup with frontman singer/ songwriter guitarist Andy Partridge, singer/ songwriter bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers. (Chambers left the band in the mid-’80s because the band stopped touring due to Partridge’s stage fright. They filled the spot with a series of session drummers, Prarie Prince being the excellent performer on Skylarking.)

English Settlement is somehow minimalist and elaborate, with songs that at once seem spaced-out and filled with musical goodness, like “Senses Working Overtime” and “Jason and the Argonauts.” The musicianship and songwriting add even more quality, with the beautiful Spanish guitar of “Yacht Dance” combining with Partridge’s lyrical romance of the Seine River.

Todd Rundgren’s production on Skylarking realized the direction XTC moved in during the years after English Settlement, climaxing with a cohesive portrait of a day of thoughts and memories in a small English town. “Ballet for a Rainy Day” takes you on a wonderful silent-film dreamscape, only to have its strings seamlessly and violently plunge into the angry break-up song “1,000 Umbrellas.” I’d mention more highlight like “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul,” “Season Cycle” and “Sacrificial Bonfire,’ but I’d just have to describe the whole damn album.—JM

The Laughing Man - Yazbek
(Not represented)

Fragile – Yes
(Not represented)

Electric Bird Digest – The Young Fresh Fellows
(Not represented)

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One – Yo La Tengo
(Not represented)

Joe's Garage - Frank Zappa

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