|UserReviews 4Approval 94%Soundoffs 56Album Ratings 2290Objectivity 93%Last Active 12-22-20 7:50 pmJoined 09-24-05Forum Posts 23Review Comments 3,809
|01.20.21 ||tec's SONIC YOUTH, Ranked ♦||01.05.21 ||MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2020 ♦|
|11.23.20 ||2020 // 25 UNDER 25||10.27.20 ||Just got Nintendo SWITCH|
|10.07.20 ||tectac's Electric Wizard, Ranked||08.26.20 ||tec's Top 100 Albums of All Time ♦|
|08.21.20 ||FILM: tectac's Kelly Reichardt, Ranked||07.07.20 ||Top 25 of 2020: So Far! (Sept.)|
|05.27.20 ||FILM: tectac's Hayao Miyazaki, Ranked ♦||05.12.20 ||MUSIC: tectac's Swans, Ranked ♦|
|03.15.20 ||FILM: tectac's Tsai Ming-liang, Ranked||02.25.20 ||FILM: tectac's Robert Bresson, Ranked|
|01.21.20 ||MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2019 ♦||12.18.19 ||FILM: tec's Noah Baumbach, Ranked|
|12.09.19 ||MUSIC: tec's Top 100 Songs of 2019 ♦||11.25.19 ||FILM: tectac's Sergio Leone, Ranked|
|10.30.19 ||FILM: tectac's Darren Aronofsky, Ranked||10.24.19 ||FILM: tectac's Top 10(0) Films of the D|
|tec's SONIC YOUTH, Ranked|
Maybe the greatest rock band of all time? Certainly one of the most consistent, if nothing else. Not a single album (soundtracks, EPs, demos, and compilations excluded) rated below 3/5, which is something of a feat in and of itself, especially considering the quantity of entries (sixteen!).
Overall Score | 2.75 | 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑
🥇 Massage the History
🥈 Sacred Trickster
🥉 What We Know
Scrapes by enough to earn a three-out-of-five, just barely. And it’s not so much that anything here is “bad”, because it isn’t. But it’s Sonic Youth at their most complacent, lackadaisical, and restrained, which in many ways equates to uninteresting. I still consider this a notch above “average”, though, because there’s a crunchy posture you won’t find in radio-friendly rock bands of the week. It is, however, a somewhat unfortunate conclusion to what is one of music’s greatest discographies, even if only by direct comparison.
Overall Score | 3.00 | 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑
🥇 Do You Believe in Rapture?
🥈 Pink Steam
The top three songs are quality, and the rest fall somewhere between “decent but otherwise unremarkable” (e.g. “Reena” or “Sleepin Around”) and “manufactured muck” (e.g. “What a Waste”, “Jams Run Free”, or “Lights Out”). This is the poppiest Sonic Youth would ever get (if you want to call it that) and while those tendencies aren’t necessarily a death knell in and of themselves, they feel awkward tethered to a group that achieved nirvana by establishing the very antithesis of commercially consumable music. Shockingly, they do pull it off a couple times (“Incinerate” being the biggest example) but all it really does it whet my appetite for the earlier, infinitely more askew permutations of their sound.
Overall Score | 3.07 | 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑
🥇 Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
🥈 The Empty Page
🥉 Sympathy for Strawberry
Every time I tell myself “this will be the time I listen to MURRAY STREET and finally value it as the masterpiece so many others do,” all I’m really doing is setting myself up for yet another bummer. I want to love this album so badly, but it never sinks its teeth deep enough to break skin. I prefer this to the more pop-tinted orientation of their final and penultimate albums, but there’s a rhythmic pit here that feels distressingly more banal than mesmerizing. I’m convinced that one day it’ll hit me and I’ll “get” it, and there’s admittedly not a minute of this I dislike. But I’m still waiting for it to sweep me off my feet, ya dig?
Overall Score | 3.13 | 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑
🥇 Sugar Kane
🥈 Theresa’s Sound-World
🥉 Chapel Hill
Somewhat of a letdown on the heels of GOO, diluting the noise even further and approaching (gasp!) homogeneity for the first time. An early foreshadowing of where Sonic Youth would venture for their final two records, yet maintains a slight edge because it contains pockets of the rambunctious energy they harnessed in their early years (because these still *were* their early years, at least looking back on them now). The first Youth album that contains what I’d consider filler. But again, my complaints are relative to an impeccable body of work, and the good nevertheless outweighs the less-good by a respectable margin.
Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star
Overall Score | 3.32 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Bull in the Heather
🥈 Self-Obsessed and Sexxee
A tough one, because it *feels* like it should be a fantastic return to form after the somewhat disappointing departure of DIRTY, and at times it *does* exemplify those desires (see: the three songs mentioned above, or “Quest for the Cup,” “In the Mind of the Bourgeois Reader,” and “Sweet Shine”), but it fails to build momentum like the greatest Youth albums do. More than any of their other records, it sounds like a collection of songs and not a cohesive statement piece—as a result, it doesn’t “go” anywhere so much as it wanders around aimlessly. Granted, Sonic Youth aimlessly wandering is still better than most bands with an identifiable trajectory, so I my complaints only go so far.
A Thousand Leaves
Overall Score | 3.36 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Hits of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg)
🥉 Karen Koltrane
Flies by on the coattails of its strongest tracks: The three mentioned above, along with “Wildflower Soul”, “Hoarfrost,” and “Snare, Girl” could be cobbled together for an immaculate, razor-sharp six-song release. The rest of the tracks range from merely good (e.g. “The Ineffable Me” or “Heather Angel”) to downright middling (e.g. “Contre le sexisme” or “French Tickler”), making for a maddeningly uneven experience. But the great songs are *so* great that the album still places above several others. So it goes.
Overall Score | 3.40 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Unmade Bed
🥈 Paper Cup Exit
🥉 Dude Ranch Nurse
My favorite post-2000 release because it remains the most dynamic among those eligible, and dynamism was at one time a critical component to what separated The Youth from any old run-of-the-mill, noisy alt-rock band. The contrast between the opening two tracks alone - “Pattern Recognition” and “Unmade Bed” - represents a wider spread across the sonic spectrum than any entire album Sonic Youth put out after the turn of the millennium. Has some notable weak spots—e.g. “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” and the final two tracks, “I Love You Golden Blue” and “Peace Attack” stand out—but not enough to drag this down from being a mostly-great offering overall.
Confusion Is Sex
Overall Score | 3.56 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Protect Me You
🥈 (She’s in A) Bad Moon
🥉 Freezer Burn / I Wanna Be Your Dog
Take the first four tracks here, from “(She’s in A) Bad Mood” through “Shaking Hell”, and you’d have an eighteen-minute EP that would rank among Sonic Youth’s best releases, quite possibly in the top three. Just an amazing bombardment of noisy, experimental no wave that’s both caustic and enchanting, manic and mysterious, and all around disturbing in a way that only these guys (or maybe early 80s Swans) could achieve. From there on out, it takes a dip in quality from which it only briefly recovers during the fantastic “The World Looks Red.” Still, a great album, but one that’s a teensy bit lopsided in terms of quality.
NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Overall Score | 3.63 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Free City Rhymes
🥈 NYC Ghosts & Flowers
🥉 Renegade Princess
Continues to baffle me that this of all things remains the black sheep of Sonic Youth’s discography. What’s the deal? Had these people ever listened to Sonic Youth before? Was the Pitchfork hivemind this embarrassingly strong? And why is contemporary reappraisal yet to occur? This reminds me an awful lot of a rawer, more dissonant, and chilly harbinger for MURRAY STREET, an album that caused critics to almost ubiquitously cream their pantaloons. I’ll cede that it dawdles *a bit*, but this is miles and miles from “bottom o’ the pile” material.
Overall Score | 3.72 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑
🥇 Expressway to Yr. Skull
🥈 Death to Our Friends
🥉 Tom Violence
The last album to contain any of the Youth’s no wave roots. Even then, they’re sparse (the opener e.g. aims for the trademark structureless atonality, but still manages to somehow sound like a song-song), but contribute a gritty undercurrent that evokes the dread of their earliest albums while offering something immensely more palatable for the people who heard BAD MOON RISING or CONFUSION IS SEX and wanted to put their head in an oven. At one point this would’ve been a little further down on the list, but it continues to grow in my estimation. Ages well, apparently.
Overall Score | 3.77 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑
🥈 The Diamond Sea
🥉 No Queen Blues
Sonic Youth’s most earnest homage to WHITE LIGHT / WHITE HEAT. It’s more than just the uber-long, quasi-improvised, impending closer, too - it’s the dissonance, the fuzzy atmosphere, the hypnotism, the lackadaisical vocal delivery (both Moore and Gordon deliver some of their best work here). Could use some tightening up, to be sure, but sometimes you gotta kick back and be grateful for the sprawl. It’s not the fastest sixty-eight minutes ever, but maybe the most painless.
Overall Score | 3.80 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑
🥇 I Dreamed a Dream
🥈 The Burning Spear
🥉 The Good and the Bad
Frankly the Sonic Youth fanbase should be ashamed for letting this album* slip through the cracks and seep down among the lowest rung of their oeuvre, ratings-wise. Sure, it sounds practically nothing like anything from EVOL (or even BAD MOON RISING) onward…but so what? This is some of the jammiest No Wave music that sprouted from the scene. Reminds me of what Slint might sound like had none of them passed Calculus. (Yes that is a “math” rock joke. I’ll be here all night.) Dark and foreboding, not to mention supremely minimalistic in the best way. Don’t skip this one, guys.
Overall Score | 3.85 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑
🥇 Kool Thing
🥈 Tunic (Song for Karen)
The first Sonic Youth album I fell in love with, many years ago. And while a few albums have surpassed it, it remains in the upper echelon of their catalog. It’s the most accessible they ever got without sacrificing an ounce of the rough edges upon which they were built. As such, were someone looking to get into Sonic Youth and ask me for a recommendation, this’d be it. (Yes, even over DAYDREAM NATION, whose girth might scare away newcomers.) Their best album cover, too, obviously.
Overall Score | 4.05 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑
🥈 Stereo Sanctity
🥉 White Cross
Truly feels like a precursor to DAYDREAM NATION - a little noisier, maybe, but the traditionalism they began to incorporate with EVOL ossifies a little more here. I’d peg this as the first Sonic Youth album, chronologically, that best represents the sound that would eventually define their entire career. It’s got a good bit of everything they’ve ever or would ever dabble in - a Sonic Youth pu pu platter, if you will. Quite tasty.
Overall Score | 4.25 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌗
🥇 ‘Cross the Breeze
🥈 Teen Age Riot
An undeniable classic, the perfect amalgam of noise and tonality. Sounds as fresh now as it probably did back in ’88, and while many since then have tried to mimic this exquisite blend of abrasion and harmony, none have been able to emulate it this effectively. There was once a time I thought this album was too long. I was young and naïve back then. Front to back, bangers across the board.
Bad Moon Rising
Overall Score | 4.31 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌗
🥇 I’m Insane
🥈 Death Valley ‘69
🥉 Society Is a Hole
Takes the best parts of CONFUSION IS SEX and stretches them to a full-length album, adding an atmosphere that’s a bit more coherent but every bit as harrowing and dismal. The way the tracks sort of all bleed together makes my slacks tight. Album cover is a perfect representation of what lies within; Americana at its bleakest, but perhaps its most honest. Society is a hole, indeed. For my money, the absolute best The Youth have to offer.
|Struggling to think of a "better" "rock" band and I'm having a difficult time. (I might personally prefer The National by a hair, but The Youth still have an arguably superior and far more "important" discography, not to mention substantially larger and more diverse one.) Let me know what you guys think!|
|Demon of the Fall|
|First impressions: I like the effort. I like the restraint in the ratings department. Okay what the hell is that at 1? Bold.|
|Heather Angel the most underrated SY song + any Experimental... ranking that doesn't have Sweet Shine at #1 is incorrect (props for Bone), but this is v cool and I will read it properly later. respect.|
|Ranking toes the line between|
Respect Bad Moon at 1 but 2 is 1 and 7 is 2
|Just looking at the 11 of these that I've heard, this would be pretty close to my ranking. BMR is definitely underrated and was my favorite at one point, but I think I'd put Daydream above it now. Nice ranking!|
|Demon: ❤️ Though I see you have BAD MOON a 3/5, which from you may as well be a 4 or 4.5 from anyone else, so not too bad, eh? 😀 |
Johnny: ty bb, please report back once you’ve delved and let me know where you strongly agree or disagree, I know you’re a big SY junkie, too.
porc: Prost 🍻 Can’t argue with DAYDREAM at one, and I can see EVOL jumping up a few spots over the years. It continues to grow on me.
|Smash: Cheers! 🍻 thanks for reading. Anyone who loves BMR is a friend of mine. Which ones haven’t you heard yet?|
|never fully clicked w this band even though i love a lot of their contemporaries, theyre solid imo|
listening to 1 right now for the first time and i like it, definitely need a few listens to have it settle in though
|oooo this was a lovely read, I love death valley 69|
Your Confusion Is Sex top choices are so different from mine
|I’ve never bothered to listen to anywhere near all of their material but I remember liking Murray Street quite a lot. Been years and years tho.|
But I gotta say I subscribe to the boring answer and I totally think Daydream Nation is by far #1
|Second glance (ugh workday) and this is v much an "I love Sonic Youth I like no wave" ranking in a p cool way. Daydream not at #1 is one of many things I like about it. Can't wait to chomp those blurbs |
"(She’s in A) Bad Moon" is one of the funnier typos I've seen in a while hehe
|@tec I've yet to hear anything post NYC Ghosts or their self-titled album/EP/whatever you wanna call it. Gotta get on those at some point. I also haven't listened to Dirty and NYC Ghosts enough for them to really stick (they're my two least favorites as things stand now)|
|Dig the intuitive moon rating scale.|
But no 5.0s? I'm disappointed.
|tunic is the best sonic youth song hell yeah agreed|
|Washing Machine, Goo, Sister and BMR rank highly for me too. I find DN a bit overrated and RR a but under. |
|@Ryus: Nice! BMR seems to be either a love it or hate it kinda thing—glad you’re at least tending toward the “love it” side!|
@Mars: cheers mate! I agree, lovely tune.
@Ars: really?! what’s your top three?
@Banana: no shame in DN #1. It’s bloody brilliant.
@Johnny: fucc, I made that typo twice then because I vividly remember fixing it once lmao. You’ve got me pegged, tho—I do love SY and I do like No Wave so I’d say this list is nothing if not astonishingly on brand!
@Smash: if you like earlier SY, definitely don’t pass up the debit.
@Bubble: Thanks! And sorry senpai 😢 Though in all likelihood, BMR (and possibly DN???) will eventually be a 5/5. Takes me too long to upgrade because i’m afraid of the commitment lest I regret it shortly thereafter. I think all of my 5s were probably 4.5s (or lower) at some point. I’d heard most of these albums previously but this was my first go at track rating them (in one massive binge no less), so there will inevitably be subsequent increases in the future, I’m sure.
@Pheromone: preach 🙏🏼
@hel: Good stuff. I do think WM gets overlooked sometimes. Right up there with the best of ‘em imo.
|Cool list, and I like how you formatted it too|
|List is yet another reminder for me to listen to Bad Moon Rising|
|Goo > Daydream Nation > EVOL > Washing Machine > Experimental Jet Set > Dirty > Bad Moon Rising > Sister > Sonic Youth > Confusion Is Sex|
|"Experimental Jet Set > Dirty > Bad Moon Rising > Sister"|
delete this immediately
|@babies: Thanks! And yes - BMR immediately!!!|
@Colton: i can jive with your top four but Dirty above BMR and Sister has got me legitimately twisted.
|2-4 are better than 1 for sure. |
>The Eternal is their only LP I haven't jammed and lol this did not excite me.
>Glad to see a dunk on RR, v little to say for that one outside of Pink Steam (!!!) and the opening 3. The dude who got me into SY originally suggested starting here for reasons I kinda get, but thank fuck I went with Goo lol. Similarly glad you dunked Dirty, though you missed the two best tracks (JC, Purr)
>Mainly agreed on Murray St, that one's rhythm is a slog and the jams aren't *that* interesting. Sympathy for Strawberry kinda saves the day
>"My favorite post-2000 release because it remains the most dynamic among those eligible" 100% yes, love for Sonic Nurse, great jams, nice dynamics, beaut album. Hooray also for Confusion is Sex, good shi
>Am almost confused at how little I can get into NYC..., though your top two are both solid tracks. Can't hear much in that album beyond insipid Spiderland vibes with mediocre beat poetry
>Washing Machine is Kim's mic album boi! Thurston carries his tracks (conveniently including two highlights) but flops hard on the rockers, whereas those Becuz and t/t performances are pure glory and in a different league
>Top 4 is solid shit, need to rejam 5 but I remember it being good
> "adding an atmosphere that’s a bit more coherent but every bit as harrowing and dismal. The way the tracks sort of all bleed together makes my slacks tight. Album cover is a perfect representation of what lies within; Americana at its bleakest, but perhaps its most honest" lol alright there, Sowing ;]
tl;dr 9/10, would recommend
|Just gonna skip out on A Thousand Leaves like that eh Johnny|
|Haha I don't have much to say on the ATL take here other than that Heather Angel is underrated af and one of their best closers. The alb's defs miles bloated, but it's got them zany psych vibes going strong so I don't mind that much|
|Top 10 Sonic Youth and then when Mary Jane comes to visit top 3 agreed|
|dirty wayyyyy too low imo|
|"@Ars: really?! what’s your top three?"|
I don't really think it picks up until side 2.
1. Making the Nature Scene
2. Confusion is Next
3. The World Looks Red
|ars, that's a decent top 3, but i think freezer burn / dog deserves a #1 spot instead of nature scene|
|i oscillate wildly between thinking Confusion is Sex or Daydream Nation is their best!! really dislike Goo and Dirty tho :O :O :O|
here is a photo of me representing my love of this dang band https://imgur.com/a/6Ng0cCQ
|I also don't understand the hate for NYC Ghosts and Flowers|
|OH I like this list, and I don't even really know Sonic Youth! But the list looks so goooood.|
|NYC Ghosts is fantastic yea|
|Also yes, great use of emojis|
|@Johnny: Thanks for the comments, dude. And yes, please rejam s/t at your earliest convenience, + glad to know i'm not on an island re MURRAY STREET. Apparently we suffer from the same ailment but there is comfort in solidarity. "lol alright there, Sowing ;]" -- mod promotion when ????|
@Ars: agreed "The World Looks Red" is amazing; wish I loved the other two a little more, though.
@Wines: Nice picks, but the GOO bad-mouthing will not be tolerated !!! We can go ahead and talk shit about DIRTY, though.
@dedex: ty bb
|'NYC Ghosts is fantastic yea'|
Still don't understand the hate!
|that Murray Street ranking is heinous|
|appreciate the BMR love. evol and confusion would be a lot higher for me tho|
|Demon of the Fall|
|Probably gonna revisit their discog (and actually get further than Goo this time). It seemed too much like an insurmountable undertaking the first time around.|
|I recently did it. Had heard all of their albums previously except for the debut, and their final two (RATHER RIPPED and THE ETERNAL). Full discog runs do admittedly get tiresome, but SY is at least a band that was constantly evolving, and each and every album kind of has its own "personality", not to mention there's a notable trajectory from their no wave beginnings to their more accessible alt-rock conclusion. And luckily several of the albums I already knew I loved and simply hadn't heard in years, so revisiting them was a treat. But it's definitely easy to get burnt out on discography runs over, like, six or seven albums long haha.|
If you do decide to do it (which you should!), pace yourself and try to enjoy it. Don't look at it as a duty, otherwise it'll start seeming like a chore.
|Demon of the Fall|
|Oh yeah that’s how I approach discog runs anyway, you can’t try and do everything all at once. If it’s an artist I’m already enjoying, then I won’t forget to return. Patience pays off sometimes.|
|Bless you 🙏🏼 |
|self-obsessed and sexxee is one of their more under-rated cuts and describes me to a T|
|So I was gonna comment "I really want to meet the 9 people that 5.0'd The Eternal", but apparently, half of those are mass-5.0'ing alt accounts, so nevermind.|
Five most underrated SY songs (LPs only, Mr. ultradeepcut Sandwichboi), shoot!
|I'll resist the temptation to just say the entirety of NYC Ghosts and Flowers. (And anything pre-Goo)|
1. Small Flowers Crack Concrete
2. The Ineffable Me
3. New Hampshire
4. Karen Revisited
5. The Neutral
|"Experimental Jet Set > Dirty > Bad Moon Rising > Sister"|
delete this immediately 
|Can we talk about Hits of Sunshine??? Literally one of their best post-GOO tracks.|
|(that or 'Unmade Bed' anyway...)|
|5 most underrated is tuff bc i feel like in a band with such a vast catalog + rabid fanbase a lot of the songs have been discussed in such a way that every single song has a large group of fans|
|@tectactoe Not a fan of Hits of Sunshine, but unmade bed is a great one. |
|One out of two ain't bad.|
If we're talking pre-GOO (instead of just post-), surely 'I Dreamed a Dream' is the most underrated track, from what is surely their most underrated album. Or EP? It's listed as a full-length album on RYM despite being only twenty-four minutes and five tracks. I'll be honest I'm no longer sure what the criteria are for EP v. LP, or if it is simply at the discretion of the band. E.g. a GY!BE EP will be longer than a Joyce Manor LP. But who makes these decisions?