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06.12.17 plane 12.23.16 2016
12.28.15 201510.22.15 Of All Time, Circa 2015
12.02.13 2013 01.02.12 2011
05.02.11 Of All Time, Circa 2011 12.07.10 2010
06.20.10 2000s12.17.09 2009


To celebrate a rather sad ten year anniversary on Sputnik and a birthday, I've opted to skew the fever dream of objectivity that begets a favorites list, and instead highlight the albums I listen to most often. As in, solid 9 out of 10 times you're going to get beat over the head with any one of these albums for the duration of a car ride. As I'm a pretentious prick, the overlap here is great; but I'll cop that this list represents fewer "favorites" of my favorite bands, and instead the period in which I most resonated with a particular sound. Perhaps a better representation of who I am and my shitty taste. Cheers.
20Julia Holter
Have You In My Wilderness

The first artist of many on this list that could probably be represented by anything in her discography, but this stands, so many listens later, as Holter's crowning achievement thus far: ornate, sun-bleached strings and rhythms that vibrate with an intensity that creates cacophony even in stillness. Holter brings her impressionistic bedroom synth-pop to full-tilt symphony with a flair that would consume egos twice her size. The effect is an album that feels like landmark Americana if such a thing still existed, and certainly one of the most beautiful albums to evoke the same this side of the very-English 'Laughing Stock.'
Up In Flames

This is not an album without genre: it is practically all of them. This is the psychedelic collage a person can only make once, and Caribou made it twice. If you had to settle somewhere in the discography to hunker down, 'Up in Flames' is the standard *and* the outlier. An album so universal it can only say one thing, but it does so in multitudes.
18Fripp and Eno
Evening Star

Because it feels good filling up my brain. Morning ritual. See also: Gas - Pop, nightly ritual

This one's seasonal, but what a season it is. An album that will never crack, just a swath of digital soundscapes that bleed and churn and breathe and gasp and cum. Tell me I belong.
16Storm and Stress
Under Thunder and Fluorescent Light

Everyone will sleep on this eternal and no amount of art-cool posturing or name-affiliations will drag Storm and Stress into the 21st Century, but 'Under Thunder and Fluorescent Lights' remains a harrowing, incomparable, wholly *listenable* experience. A vast departure from their debut not unlike the indies stepping into a major label, the distinction for Storm and Stress is that they double down on atmospherics and write the free-jazz post-rock standard that no one (NO ONE) will ever match, or probably even listen to.
15The Knife
Tomorrow, In a Year

This one's kind of cheating because only the second disc gets the rotation, but only recently I happened to slip the first disc into my car's stereo and listened to the whole thing anyway, which is one more than I can say for most. That first disc is also really good, a slow build up without any tenable release of its own, just a scientific essay writ with a comical lack of subtlety but an inspiring amount of zeal. But that second disc! With the help of Planningtorock, Mount Sims, and the operatic vocal stylings of their Danish and Sweden collaborators, The Knife write the best songs of their careers, totaling something grand and explicit about the process of evolution and the capabilities of sound structure to define it. The whole is a glorious, pretentious something and, especially in its first half, almost flagrant in alienating; connective tissue between the primordial and us, at the height of it all: eating, fucking, gawking and, privy to our inexorable species, creating.
14The Avalanches
Since I Left You

This is the album without genre, forever being released tomorrow. You’ve already heard it.
Laulu Laakson Kukista

Spiritual, rousing, very weird world music splintered into shards and framed for best lighting. A master of design, and a sum that doesn’t seem possible by the components of its equation. Alas, a triumph of pop engineering: a collage of genres so dense it ends up folk.

Grouper is too pure for our hype cycles, so bless the stacked year that saw this ambient twofer slip between the cracks and into our sleepy subconsciouses. This one deserves a pillow and the aurora borealis of a closed eyelid.
10The Incredible String Band
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter

Deeply charming psychedelic folk with a strange knack for language and a beguiling sense of humor. This one I can only write about impersonally, but let it be said: under the thicket of metaphors and similes is a world unto its own that will reflect your own. A major influence on Animal Collective if that’s your bag.
Native Speaker

Native Speaker has been the salve applied to so many wounds since its release that it should repulse me; “better” albums have fallen to such associations, and feel forever linked to memories to make a stomach churn on impact. But Native Speaker is different: an album beyond its years with a glow untainted by time, Braids have written songs that speak to those formative experiences that illuminate the questions you should be asking in the wake of experiences defined by the answers you sought. It is, ah, an album of many wrinkles, lush, colorful and grand-scaled, but the blocks are simple and well-defined, built up and then dismantled in plain, evocative ways. It is an album I will understand differently as I grow, that rare album of post-adolescence that ages more gracefully than we do.
8Shabazz Palaces
Lese Majesty

Lewis: The album sounds like to me a watercolor painting. Like how it should look, where one must really concentrate to understand how the colors and shapes come together. It is a very satisfying experience sonically.

Ishmael: [laughs] Yeah. That's interesting about the watercolor though, because every time we make a record, we always call and say it was mixed in, like say, "power glow," or you know, "mixed elixir log," which is like the overlying, or overriding philosophical approach sonically. And so, this one, we call it "pluvial" because pluvial is like a word that means "water-soaked" or "rainy," which I started thinking about how a moist atmosphere, how that geologically plays into sound and sonics. It must add a gravity, you know what I'm saying? Like if you soaked something in water, it's a little bit heavier, it's a little bit deeper, a little bit warmer, you know what I mean? And how sound plays out when you're deep underwater, too. I like that, too.
7Jenny Hval

[review pending]
6Talk Talk
Spirit of Eden

A romantic experience. A religious experience.
5Brian Eno
Another Green World

The perfect prototype “prototype,” an album of full-bodied songs that still feel endless with possibility. Resilient, a champion of the mundane things, a lament of their loss, of twilight blindness and the intending parallel to one’s mortal coil, of the meaning behind a tied shoelace. The perfect pop album.
4My Bloody Valentine
EPs 1988-1991

MBV are the best band in the world, probably, and they released their best album some twenty years later after the album to end a genre, but this compilation right here is the definitive desert island companion. A heavier, sweeter, funnier, and sexier MBV. See also: all of their covers, they’re seriously so good?
3Air France
No Way Down

The greatest uplift, a companion for a trip of any kind. The most joyous, potent new millennium update of Balearic house as one might ever hear. An album found in reverie. Sort of like a dream, but no…
2Animal Collective
Centipede Hz

In our covered wagon times when dad he had his captain eyes

We’d get the steel horse moving on the straights and lines of 95

And mom she was our singer and we kept alive on greasy fries

I held onto my stash of jams that ran along in Michelin time

I believe in Teebs. This is majestic electronic music that aches with a human heart, bubbled melodies that whirr in precious, meaningful ways. It soothes my soul and has been, since its release in 2014, the clear winner of this list. I make no apologies, and shouldn’t: this shit is cocksure and gorgeous, resplendent with an ease that suggests small favors in lieu of easy pleasure-pushing. An album that comes to me as simply as breathing.
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