Jack Mancuso

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Last Active 05-12-21 4:19 pm
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05.13.21 YoYo's Excellent Every Time I Die Ranki05.01.21 YoYo's Spicy Sonic Youth Ranking
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YoYo's Spicy Sonic Youth Ranking

Will y'all agree? Probably not. That's why it's so spicy. Also this list won't include their self-titled, as every source I checked besides Sputnik considers it an EP (including Kim Gordon's book Girl In A Band).
15Sonic Youth
A Thousand Leaves

2.5/5. Where Washing Machine flourishes, A Thousand Leaves fizzles. Opening with the aimless “Contre Le Sexism” is one of the more ill-advised choices of the band’s career, but luckily “Sunday” immediately succeeds it and gives me false hope for the hour to come. Almost every song on A Thousand Leaves has one or two great moments, but nearly everything feels like it overstays its welcome, and listening to this 73-minute album has always felt like a much longer investment of time in my experience. Of the lengthier tracks, only the beautiful “Wildflower Soul” fully justifies its runtime, with other tracks like “Hits of Sunshine” devolving into endless jam segments that pale in comparison to similar sections featured on Washing Machine. The euphoric explosion at the end of “Heather Angel” is too little, too late. This tendency to drag makes A Thousand Leaves a record that I respect, but rarely wish to return to. Best track: Wildflower Soul
14Sonic Youth
Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star

2.7/5. This is a strange one for sure. Starting in the mid-90s, SY would pivot away from their brief time in the mainstream to produce some of their most experimental music and establish their even more experimental SYR label. This record was released smack dab in the middle of this transitional period, and has no idea what it wants to be as a result. Even the most intriguing ideas on display here can’t hide the fact that Experimental Jet Set feels borderline unfinished in places, with many songs feeling half-baked or empty. Despite this, there’s a strong highlight or two, and the album earns some brownie points for Butch Vig’s fantastic production. Best track: Sweet Shine
13Sonic Youth
Confusion Is Sex

2.7/5. Raw and rough around the edges, Sonic Youth’s debut features their trademark noise freakouts accompanied by a heaping helping of early ‘80s No Wave. There’s plenty of potential here, but it’s marred by poor production and a lack of direction buried within the noise. Compare the more amorphous sections of this record with a track like “Tuff Gnarl” or “Total Trash” where the collapse of the song structure feels much more purposeful. Here, it almost feels like the band just can’t think of what else to do. Best track: Confusion Is Next
12Sonic Youth
NYC Ghosts & Flowers

3/5. I wonder how much of the negative perception surrounding this album is because of that horrendous Pitchfork review. NYC Ghosts & Flowers definitely isn’t a record I would count among SY’s best, but the idea that it’s unlistenable or even the worst thing they’ve ever released seems out of left field to me. There are whisperings among this tracklist of the upcoming Jim O’Rourke era, and approaching the music from a minimalist standpoint after a sizable chunk of the band’s gear was stolen makes all the sense in the world. NYC combines the improvisational aesthetic of A Thousand Leaves, the prepared guitars of the band’s ‘80s output, and maybe a bit too much beat poetry to create an idiosyncratic and attention-grabbing piece of art. Does it always succeed? No, but it interests me (both musically and conceptually) more than everything ranked below it on this list, and that earns it my approval. Best track: Free City Rhymes
11Sonic Youth
Rather Ripped

3.5/5. Rather Ripped can most easily be compared to 1992’s Dirty due to its straightforward and no-frills nature. There’s tons of highlights here, as well as one of their most infectious openers in “Reena”, but the group doesn’t quite make the most of its 50 minute run time. A handful of songs after the record’s stellar opening one-two punch blend into one another and fail to claim their own identities, but it manages to finish strong and be a home to some of the band’s strongest deep cuts. Best track: Pink Steam
10Sonic Youth
Bad Moon Rising

3.7/5. This album is named after a song that is certifiably ass, with cover art inspired by a movie that is certifiably badass. Bad Moon Rising wears its horror influence proudly on its sleeve, and is most successful when it leans into its campy shock value. There are some meandering cuts like the underwhelming “Justice Is Might”, but some of SY’s most memorable tracks can be found here, like “Brave Men Run (In My Family)” or the bone-chilling “Death Valley ’69”. The beginning of their ascension. Best track: Death Valley ’69
9Sonic Youth
The Eternal

4/5. Here it is, ladies and germs - the most underrated SY album. Their first record released independently since 1988, Mark Ibold’s sole outing with the Sonic Youth gang retains the crisp production of Rather Ripped and a number of its songwriting sensibilities. The Eternal manages to embody the SY aesthetic while also being borderline poppy in places (just peep those vocal harmonies on “Anti-Orgasm” and “Walkin Blue”), an admirable feat to achieve. One of Rather Ripped’s biggest weaknesses is that in its more traditional moments, it doesn’t truly feel like a Sonic Youth record, and that’s not a problem with this one. A fascinating final album, especially since it likely wasn’t intended to be, and it hinted at exciting possibilities for a future that never was. Best track: Walkin Blue
8Sonic Youth

4/5. Dirty knows itself well and sticks to its guns, which is incredibly admirable. For almost an hour, Sonic Youth deliver fantastic rock song after fantastic rock song, doing it the way only they can with their signature guitar tones and nightmare tunings. “Sugar Kane”, “Youth Against Fascism”, “Chapel Hill”, and “Purr” stand proudly with Sonic Youth’s best tracks, while misfires like “Orange Rolls, Angel’s Spit” or uninspired closer “Creme Brûlée” keep it from moving any higher. It’s a bit long and somewhat homogenous, but Dirty’s baseline is still strong enough to result in a wonderful listening experience. Best track: Chapel Hill
7Sonic Youth

4.2/5. This one will probably take some of you by surprise, but don’t worry; I still love this album, and this is where we start getting to the REALLY good stuff. EVOL is a patient record, and for most of its runtime it’s as slow and sludgy as the infamous Boston Molasses Disaster. What makes it special is its understanding of dynamics. The opening three-hit combo of “Tom Violence”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, and “Starpower” lull the listener into a wary and anxious hypnosis before the frenetic “In The Kingdom #19” scrapes across their mind like road rash. The closer is the most impressive track here, but the pointless “Secret Girl” and underwhelming “Marilyn Moore” keep this one from moving any higher. Best track: Expressway To Yr. Skull
6Sonic Youth
Washing Machine

4.2/5. On paper, Washing Machine shouldn’t work at all. Kim Gordon elects to become the group’s third guitarist on most tracks here, resulting in a noticeable lack of low end. This makes the dense, crushing, and noisy atmosphere of an album like Sister or Daydream Nation almost impossible to replicate. So instead, SY decide to reinvent themselves once again and stick their heads in the clouds for one of the dreamiest releases of their career. This gargantuan effort is home to some of the most unique and euphoric tracks in the SY catalog; 19-minute closer “The Diamond Sea” is the one everybody remembers, but it’s impossible not to fall under the spell of the title track or the gorgeous “Unwind”. Also, be on the lookout for a wonderful Kim Deal guest appearance on “Little Trouble Girl”. Best track: Washing Machine
5Sonic Youth

4.5/5. Sonic Youth’s MAJOR label debut has one MAJOR thing going for it; it kicks MAJOR ass. Goo is easily the most accessible record the band released up to this point, but there’s still plenty of experimental and challenging tracks like “Mote” or the vastly underappreciated “Mildred Pierce” for longtime fans to enjoy. While the record is less ambitious and simpler in nature, that doesn’t stop “Dirty Boots”, “Mary Christ”, or massive closer “Titanium Expose” from being absolute bangers. Kim also turns in one of her best songs here with “Tunic (Song For Karen)”. The first chapter of the engrossing story that was ‘90s SY, and it also has maybe a top 5 album cover ever. Best track: Titanium Expose
4Sonic Youth
Murray Street

4.5/5. The short-lived Jim O’Rourke era of the band gets plenty of love, but I honestly think it deserves even more. Murray Street is the full realization of what albums like Washing Machine or A Thousand Leaves could have been, pairing sprawling song structures and lengthy jams with heavenly guitar tones and hopeful energy. “Disconnection Notice” is an answered prayer for any fans who wanted SY to make the world’s greatest dad rock song, and any album where the placid springtime fantasy of “Rain on Tin” can coexist with the primal “Plastic Sun” is a success in my book. Best track: Rain on Tin
3Sonic Youth

4.7/5. Sister is the most consistently impressive record up to this point in the Sonic Youth timeline because it’s a distillation of everything that makes their early work great. In album highlight “Schizophrenia” alone we’re gifted the haunted harmonics of “Shadow of a Doubt”, the paranoid lyrical themes of “Society Is a Hole”, and the twisted ambience of “I Love Her All the Time”. Despite opening with its most worthwhile track, Sister never lets up and juxtaposes abrasion and beauty in fascinating ways; observe the way that “Pipeline/Kill Time” and “Tuff Gnarl” dissolve into harrowing fuzz, while “Pacific Coast Highway” somehow manages to embark on the same journey in reverse. Best track: Schizophrenia
2Sonic Youth
Sonic Nurse

4.7/5. Sonic Nurse is an album I’ve always just been irresistibly drawn to. From start to finish, this thing never slows down and keeps one-upping itself like clockwork. This feels like the fullest realization of the group’s jam/improvisational tendencies that emerged starting with Washing Machine, while also incorporating a healthy amount of dissonance and earlier SY themes. The band seems dead set on proving they’ve still got it here; just listen to the relentlessness of opener “Pattern Recognition” or the stunning ”I Love You Golden Blue”. It doesn’t stop there; from the titanic “Stones” and “Dripping Dream” to the gorgeous “Unmade Bed” and “Peace Attack”, Sonic Nurse is a remarkably consistent effort that has emerged for me as the clear highlight of the second half of the band’s career. Best track: Dripping Dream
1Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation

5/5. I mean, what did you expect? Daydream Nation was the ushering in of a new era for the band, as well as a peak that they would never top. An ambitious double album that blends every existing Sonic Youth influence with the fast approaching open-ended ambient aspects of their ‘90s work, Daydream Nation features every member of the group in top form, performing with incredible synergy and earning every second of their own personal time in the spotlight. Steve Shelley’s past as a punk drummer serves him well on the breakneck “Silver Rocket” and “Cross the Breeze”. Kim and Lee’s best songs can be found here (“Cross the Breeze” and “Hey Joni”, respectively), while Thurston’s “Teen Age Riot” has become Sonic Youth’s signature song for a reason; it’s the best damn song to ever be released under the Sonic Youth name. Every extended jam that followed on subsequent albums owes its existence to “Trilogy”, the unbelievable victory lap of a closer that showcases a band at at their absolute apex,
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