JohnnyoftheWell
JohnnyoftheWell
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Last Active 04-21-21 1:07 pm
Joined 05-29-11

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04.21.21 3.9s ranked 03.30.21 Q1 //ofthe__Well
03.26.21 Black Midi ranked 03.14.21 Sputnik User Pokédex: OFFICIAL
02.28.21 [IMPORT2NT] Colton or CoQton? 02.11.21 END OF THE ROAD (well #2222)
01.25.21 [IMPORTANT] Colton unmasked 01.09.21 INDIE census (register now)
12.30.20 _well2020 TOP 100 (2/2) 12.29.20 _well2020 B-tier (1/2)
12.28.20 Rec me electro-industrial12.02.20 FINISHED_well top100: 2000r. / 30k disa
11.14.20 C o n f e s s i o n booth ft. SowingSea 10.12.20 road to 2000_wells
10.11.20 SPUT ROYALE: FINAL (RESULTS!)10.04.20 SPUT ROYALE: FINAL (CLOSED !)
09.29.20 SPUT ROYALE: Round 6 (Semi Final)09.27.20 SPUT ROYALE: Round 5 (Quarter Final)
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FINISHED_well top100: 2000r. / 30k disasterpost

Hello everybody! I have too many comments and (still) not enough ratings. Here is a list of my favourite 100 albums to confirm this. When I hit 1000 ratings almost two years ago, I made a list in the same format; to see how things have shifted with double that number, there’s a cute +/- to indicate how returning albums have changed in placement. There are long blurbs because I like long blurbs - so, uh, sorry in advance. Okay let's go.
100T. Rex
The Slider


1972
-46
I relate to The Slider. It's romantic, it's self-obssessed, it's sometimes impenetrably cryptic, and it mostly feels like it's constantly in denial of a profound sense of tragedy that underpins the transience of every carefree moment it seeks to celebrate. On Electric Warrior (also a great record) Marc Bolan seemed able to boogie the night away without sparing the faintest thought for the morning after. The Slider takes a wider, often more muddled view, and its most precious cuts (Ballrooms of Mars, The Slider, Main Man) all seem to hold up a spangled ideal of a transcendental daydream, displayed on a dazzling reflective surface but gripped so tightly that the whole thing constantly seems on the verge of shattering into nothingness. What do you do in that position? Dream on, dream on...
99Naked City
Naked City


1990
-43
Forget Mr. Bungle and all its various spinoffs, this is the one novelty freakrock album to end them all. John Zorn's crack squad of volatile jazzmen put on a display of irreverence for the ages, but rather than Patton-esque grossouts, most of album's lurch value comes from the contrast of its truly demented wipeouts with legitimately tasteful jazz renditions; it certainly plays to extremes, but it shows a refined ear for each style's finer aspects rather than using simply contrast as a means to an end. Most of the noise here is driven by John Zorn's sax, anchoring the album's abrasive side in a jazz foundation and saving it from the experimental metal cringe that pockmarks this era. There is also the infamous midway five minute grind intermission, but this is beyond the scope of history. This will always be one of the funnest albums ever made, and no-one will ever beat it at its own game.
98Circle Takes the Square
As the Roots Undo


2004
-9
Well, here we are again. This record is hilariously overblown and often eyerollingly pretentious, but every time I wonder if I’m ready to write it off, I can’t deny how hard I’m hit by the parts that need to hit hard. There’s a lot of real shit amongst the hogwash: the way Drew Speziale splits his voice into ultrasound midway through In The Nervous Light Of Sunday’s agonised bridge is real; that notorious thesis line in Kill the Switch is pretty real; the rawness with which it presents its most important melodies in their respective buildups on Interview at the Ruins and A Crater to Cough In is pretty real. I dunno. I don’t have the patience or fanaticism to make excuses for this album anymore, so I guess it still lands its blows for a reason. Still almost worth those hyperbolic claims, after all these years.
97Isis
Wavering Radiant


2009
-25
Is it the best Isis album? Goodness knows. Panopticon is an all-timer, but its rhythm section is a little rigid, and while Oceanic is also stunning, I couldn't tell you the last time I felt motivated to hear it in full. Wavering Radiant is lighter and more fleet-footed than its parent classics, and its progressions veer into territory that simply wouldn't have made sense on either of those records. Along with the lush production, this is a big part of what keeps the record fresh for me; Ghost Key and Threshold of Transformation in particular feel like a fitting final form of Isis' sound, twisting and turning with a devious mobility. Listening to these two feels like following a wild tiger from a potentially unsafe distance in an overgrown jungle; the wealth of texture contour Isis bring to the table here is a joyously tense affair to hack through.
96Have A Nice Life
Deathconsciousness


2008
-45
As everyone knows, Deathconsciousness’ highlights are phenomenal monoliths of post-sadboy music and are not to be taken lightly in any way shape or form. This is obvious to me whenever I revisit Bloodhail, Hunter, Holy Fucking Shit or any of the end trio, but there are two things that make me trip over my opinion on the album as a whole. First up, I’ve spent so much time with its standout songs individually that the full tracklist feels like a bit of an empty shell within which they best bits just happen to cohabit. This is quite fitting, but it does not help how comfortably I can forget that the entire middle section plus the Big Gloom exist. Secondly and more interestingly, the opener, despite containing nothing but a plain acoustic loop and whiny shoegaze noises, is somehow my favourite thing here by a small but notable margin along with Hunter. This album is still a mystery to me, but this too feels appropriate.
95Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree


2016
n/a
Back when Skeleton Tree was fresh out and I had barely finished my first few spins of Let Love In, the pure desolation of Nick Cave's vocal performance shook me the core and swept me away for years to come - so much so that I never gave this record full credit for everything else it has going on! This record's production choices are exquisitely bleak from start to finish: the uneasiness backdrop of Magneto's shifting ambience, the droning thunder of Jesus Alone's pulsing static, the beating heart of Girl In Amber's lush layerings. Phwoar. This record isn't just devastatingly moving, it's a formalist masterstroke; I Need You and the title track still choke me up, but finally recognising the full depth of Cave and Warren Ellis' vision for this sound has given it fresh life for me.
94Shinsei Kamattechan
Tsumanne


2010
n/a
Manic dysphoria GET IN! Tsumanne does most of what I love about bedroom pop and actively murders the living shit out of what I hate. If budgie ever heard this album, he would instantly revert to a prior Pokemon evolution. The atmospheres are big, the melodies are cute, the synths are dreamy …but the drums are manic, the walls of sound are ADHD central and those tuneless and/or pitch-shifted vocals are straight from the lowest depths of self-hating hell. What a delight. The Japanese is so brutally simple that you can understand 90% of it from that one bit in that one anime where the guy goes “YAMETE” and then declares he wants to die. How could I not love this?! Tsumanne gets some bonus points for sometimes cheering me up, and then more because “Kuroi Tamago” is probably the best nightmare pop track ever created and also a top-10 weirdest karaoke experience of all time. Lame.
93Everything But the Girl
Walking Wounded


1996
n/a
Vintage trip-hop for lonesome singletons oh yes absolutely, yes please. I can't think of a more startling well-realised example of a group abruptly volte-face'ing into electronic music than this album (sit down, Ulver); Everything But The Girl were talented songwriters from the get go, but the degree to which they straight-up nailed the contemporary vogue of mopey downtempo is something else. It's aged well, too; as a time-capsule of the late '90s UK scene, it's paired nicely with Tracey Thorn's bittersweet lyricism, like the nostalgic heartsickness she was gunning for to begin with has only matured with age. While she treads the line between candid and corny at points, I find her writing highly satisfying to follow; it's a real delight to see how smoothly the clear narratives of the duo's folk-pop days are carried over here. This album is a savoury delight through and through.
92Jeff Rosenstock
Worry.


2016
n/a
Did you know that every moment you spend thinking that you’ve grown out of Worry. actually brings you closer to its target audience? I bet you knew this. This is dumb pop punk for awkward jaded people and I’m self-aware enough not to run away from it. That beautiful lead balloon of an opener is a thesis statement for the ages and Mr. Rosenstock gets my eternal respect for churning out an entire A-grade rock opera in 13 minutes flash. No wasting time when you’ve spent half your life doing that already!
91Yeule
Serotonin II


2019
n/a
Part of me is amazed I'm still listening to Serotonin II. It was a welcome surprise around the tailend of 2019 (boy did that year need it), but I assumed it’d wind up as floorboard fodder more notable for marking ultranerd Aberf's return to (and immediate peak on) Sputnik rather than anything else. This was foolish. Catatonically spaced out, impeccably sequenced and full of engaging production subtleties, this one's a firm keeper and an outstanding mood piece. If I hear one song, I need to hear the whole thing, and that alone raises it above several of the patchier releases below even though no single song is going to change anyone’s life. It somehow ended up as the comatose dejected sister album to Macaroom's certified Johnnycore classic album Homephone TE - and on that basis alone, its inclusion was mandatory.
90Lydia
Illuminate


2008
-57
Sometimes I think that Illuminate is drippy sadboi music that my nostalgia reflexes are gatekeeping, and then I relisten to it and remember that I am in fact a drippy sadboi. The simplicity and sincerity of these tracks' breezy heartache holds up remarkably well, too comforting to be truly morose and full of a strangely uplifting sense of clarity that always makes it a joy to return to. My best memories of this album will probably always be from when I spun it on repeat for days on end in my final term at uni, keeping my finals anxiety on drip, but that's never a sad time to revisit. As downers go, Illuminate is as unimposing as they come - imagine being happy enough to be over this!
89Cult of Luna
Salvation


2004
-64
Salvation: wouldn’t that be nice. I love this album, but I don’t think it’s ever saved me from anything. This never mattered because its fusion of American post-metal explosions and Scandi bleaktime atmospheres was easily good enough to keep my save-threshold above the high-water mark, but now I’m wondering which of us really needs saving. Man, these songs can be linear. I fawned over their focused songwriting for a long while, but now we’re getting into steady returns territory. Steady returns are good, but they are not what I want from a favourite; Salvation is competent to a fault, but it doesn’t pack the same knockouts anymore. Having less interest in the general blueprint that most of these tracks follow means that I concentrate my listens around the highlight tracks (Vague Illusions and Adrift, baby!), but boy are those two everything I’d want from a post-metal experience. The rest are history, for better and worse.
88Amon Tobin
Out From Out Where


2002
n/a
Slow and steady wins the race! I think there’s only one (two max.) tracks on Out From Out Where that would make it into my Amon Tobin top 10, yet it somehow ended up as my favourite of his albums. I remember Wolfe commenting something similar in the thread a while ago (before I’d heard it!), and feeling a little confused at his “I guess this is my fave?”-isms. I get it now! The reason I get it has a lot to do with how consistent and engaging these awesome sampledelic grooves are, but also a lot to do with how deeply it resonated with me listening for the first time while reading Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance: a great album for a great book, and a combination of atmospheres made in heaven. That combo stuck with me; whenever I want to feel switched on and paranoid and excitedly lost in the multiverse, this is ma fix.
87BUCK-TICK
Darker Than Darkness (Style 93)


1993
n/a
A short while ago, I was listening to BUCK-TICK in the format God intended: through an iPod tenuously held in the elastic belt of my pyjama bums while I handwashed shirts in my bathtub. It was at this point that I realised that the perfect way for any human to die is to be choked to death by Atsushi Sakurai’s voice while sleeping. This has not yet happened to me, but sweet mother Izanami this band are pure sex. Darker Than Darkness is both sexier and harder rocking than your favourite album, and it is good enough that I can say this without a pinch of irony (which, trust me, is more painful for me than it is for you). Dress is the greatest song ever written and Yuuwaku (that’s “temptation” for y’all nerds) is the sexiest. The rest of the songs on this album are mostly awesome. Ugh.
86The Knife
Shaking the Habitual


2013
n/a
Oh hell, what to say about Shaking the Habitual? Let's talk about how difficult it is to make it through this record start-to-finish while operating on accepted bourgeois units of time. This is probably the most enormous entry on the list, and some parts are a desert marathon. The sawn-off version is over 75 minutes long and the true version contains a 19-minute silence emulation at the midway mark. Okay. I can deal with this. Unlike, say, Deathconsciousness, this album's vastness and ascetic penchant feels like an active challenge rather than circumstantial bloat. This still puts me off taking the full plunge more than I'd like, but it pans out as a minor drawback that pales against how bloody phenomenal most of this music is. The moments that count manipulate empty space, pulsing dissonance and alien melodies with electrifying precision; when this thing hits, there's nothing else like it.
85David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars


1972
-39
Aww, Ziggy. Name an album with a performance more simultaneously affecting and affected, I dare you. This album is a sensitive voyage of transformation. Is it still transformative? Sometimes I think so: Lady Stardust, Five Years and Rock 'N' Roll Suicide are so beautiful they hurt my soul, and they’re at the very least transportive. However, I sometimes find that its strongest pull is to a bittersweet set of flashbacks to a complicated mix of specific associations with various people that are messy to unpack. It’s a jumble. Four years with this album have given me a lot to chew on, but it feels like it’s been in my life for far longer. I’ve changed more times than it has actively changed me, but it somehow holds a fresh source of relation every time. That’s a mark of a good performer - let’s see how far it goes.
84Sigur Ros
Agætis byrjun


1999
-65
Oh no. Most of these albums are being treated with big smileyface writeups about why I'm still listening to them or why they hold up so well, but all the way down here, what Agaetis Byrjun needs most is an apology note for no longer being a top 10 staple. Sorry not sorry. Don't get me wrong, this album is nigh on magical at its best, but it takes too long to hit its groove and contains a suspicious quantity of what connoisseurs might call stale cheese. Sorry, "Starálfur" and "Olsen Olsen", you just ain't it. If you narrow things down to the cast-iron classic middle stretch of "Flugufrelsarinn" through "Viðrar vel til loftárása", this is still a clear peak for post-dream-rock-pop blisstimes, but while "Svefn-g-englar" and the title track hold up well enough, this album as a whole isn't quite the soul garnishing supreme comfort masterpiece I used to think it was. We are still friends on Facebook.
83mewithoutYou
Catch For Us the Foxes


2004
n/a
At a certain awful point in time, it became necessary for me to articulate a huge amount of despair, loneliness and faithlessness to my mother in succinct terms that she would understand without any further awkward context. I showed her the second verse of mewithoutYou's Carousels and pretended not to see her face when she almost immediately got it. This album is a lot for me. Half inclined towards faith and redemption, and half towards the bitterest self-rejection and ego death, it's messier and less consistent than, say, Brother, Sister's eureka-isms and Ten Stories' clever allegories, but its ugliness resonates that much more. Many of the hardest hitting tracks Aaron Weiss ever wrote are on here; Seven Stories, Carousels and January 1979 are all uncompromisingly raw and even the brighter cuts are caked in salt. This album is my angst, too deep-cutting to deny and too eloquent to grow out of.
82Thursday
No Devolucion


2011
-16
Well, damn. This was an album I expected to have fallen off big time, thanks to its production stylings (not the standard of execution!) and my general stance on post-hardcore released after c.2007. Big mistake. No Devolución feels like looking down from a descending airplane at a familiar set that I didn’t realise I missed. I never stopped listening to the highlights, but going back to tracks like A Gun In The First Act, Empty Glass and even Open Quotes has uncovered a wealth of good memories. I have such a clear recollection of spinning for this days in my parents’ garage back in 2016 that it somehow reminds me of home despite its palpable America-isms and the fact that my folks no longer live in that house. From a near write-off, it’s suddenly up with cheap baguette and absent friends as one of the only things that has made me homesick in Japan. I guess that’s special.
81Dire Straits
Making Movies


1980
-23
Of every album on this list, I’ve got the most history with this one by far: happy childhood memories galore. This album is cheesy stadium rock, but it’s the best of its kind and it gives me an excuse to talk to my parents, which I guess is always something to be grateful for. The first three tracks in particular are timeless classics; “Tunnel of Love” is such a perfect opener that I’m not even going to try to describe it; Mark Knopfler plays guitar. You could make a good case for a handful of other, less kitsch Dire Straits records being their best, but I’m cosy with Making Movies for the indefinite future.
80Ulver
Perdition City


2000
-53
This album was once a huge eureka moment for me, raising the bar for electronic music and ushering in Ulver as the most exciting band in the universe. Nowadays it's definitely not that, but still comfortably above water in most of the ways that count. As with all Ulver, it's kitsch as all hell, and this is more obvious at some points than others. However, as though to balance its newfound occasional eye-rolls, the more minimal sections do a lot more for me now (including that infamous third-quarter lacuna). As a nice reflection of this, Tomorrow Never Knows has crept over Nowhere and Hallways of Always and now sits in the runner-up slot, just below my favourite cuts.Those tracks (opening pair plus Future Sound of Music) continue to bring chills aplenty, and it's nice to be able to just kick back and enjoy this album without comparing it every other piece of music I've heard or wish I could write. Perdition City is just another town in a world of creepy, creepy towns
79The National
Boxer


2007
-50
It took me a long time to click with Boxer's most iconic lyric: not the soppy 29 years one, the good ol' fat-free classic "We're half awake in a fake empire." It's less of a "get woke" and more of an "oh my goodness, how can reality be this boring." Yes okay, I feel that. I feel a decent chunk of this album, especially the anxious tracks people don't talk about often (hey there, Start a War and Racing Like A Pro), but more than I resonate with its bored, bored themes, I just love the way it's put together. Those melody lines, those subtle chord shifts, that drumming, those arrangements; the best way to listen to Boxer isn't to let it wash over you and bask in that trademark National listlessness, but to pay as much attention as possible to everything that's going on, because pretty much all of it is impeccably refined. It's still the finest template of the National laying down how good songwriting works; it's not every band that can make competence sound this delicious.
78Bleach03
Kibakuzai


2000
n/a
A-grade honeybadgercore. Bleach are perhaps the nastiest sounding girl group ever to amp up; their brand of funkbass-meets-ferocious-hardcore blew me out the window when I first heard it on a Midori-inspired adrenaline trawl, and it still hits those highs. This album - sorry, EP(!!) - has gasoline for days and lays down slappers like there’s no tomorrow. The grooves are purty, the tones are filthy, the screams are bone-chilling and the fury is all there. A huge, huge fix and an endearingly early peak for the band.
77Midori
Aratame Hajime Mashite Midori Desu


2008
-22
What's your favourite meme? Mine is jazz-punk. Midori's novelty value is so high that I occasionally semi-dismiss them as a gimmick - but then I come back to this album and remember how hard it slaps. No nonsense bangers all round. It doesn't obsess over its own genre play, it just fecking goes for it. The band's balancing act is uncomplicated but fantastic - the jazz side holds things together, preventing frontwoman Mariko Goto's honeybadger antics from overstaying their welcome. These motifs and rhythms are rich, simple and so perfectly placed. The legendary switch from the cute opening feint Suki into the world-razing Yukiko-San puts a shiteating grin on my face every time, while Futari no Himitsu's pantomime histrionics and Howling Jigoku's gauntlet of abrupt twists are as delicious as ever. Midori were the real fuckin deal and this album is a masterclass of vicious fun.
76Jawbox
For Your Own Special Sweetheart


1994
n/a
As a big ol' fan of trve post-hardcore that doesn't sound like your rich older sister's stupid shiny microwave with all those stupid dials and settings and no Off Button, I've often struggled with how Fugazi spend so much time doing smart tasteful instrumental things that do not involve rocking the fuck out. This makes them awesome, but at the same time it is difficult to consistently imagine breaking things to their music, and so they are barred (for now) from the upper echelons of my favourites. Alas. Anyhow, For Your Own Special Sweetheart is a miracle answer to this issue; it's comparably (if not equally) forward-thinking, but with a fierce proclivity for danger and violence that gets my blood pumping at around the same rate as, say Kill-Taker-era 'gazi - that is, until the final five tracks swing in, at which point Jawbox hit an all-time genre peak and sweep up some unexpectedly huge emotional highs along the way. Kudos and joy. And broken microwaves.
75Stereolab
Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements


1993
n/a
Maybe it's a wanky reason to love something, but Transient... is hands-down one of the smartest albums I've heard in any style; at once a masterpiece of noisy guitar pop and a comprehensive meta-commentary on the style as a whole, every single decision made here is steeped in depth and charm alike. Stereolab drift between faithful verse/chorus guitar standards (Our Trinitone Blast), sparse deconstructions of the rock sound (Pause), explosive distillations of its core qualities (Crest), and carefree combinations of all three (Jenny Ondioline, Analog Rock), and they are never less than palpably inspired. Transient... is one of my favourite albums because the way it screws with rock DNA is thoroughly cogent with the way I believe it should be screwed with, and Stereolab's deadpan personability elevates it far above the reaches of self-contained formalism. I can see this sticking around for many years to come.
74Life Without Buildings
Any Other City


2001
-30
CONTACT YOU AND ME WASSUP CONTACT HE’S THE SHAKER CONTACT SHAKIN BABY DON’T GO VACANT ON ME fuck this album is such a goof. Midwestern emo nostalgia jams fronted by East of England nonEnglish parrot impersonations, and all born, bred and rehearsed in umm…Glasgow. What an unlikely fucking classic. Bonus random points for originally jumping at me out of a jukebox in Bologna and THEN jumping at me in relatively rare format at used CD pop-up stall also in Bologna. Why this shit not. Anyway. These instrumentals are an impeccably executed drytoned wistful lazehaze and the vocals epitomise quirky nonsense so hard that you might as well describe this as slacker Arscore with actual personality. It’s a deadpan batshit miracle and I adore it.
73Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


2004
n/a
I don’t easily go in for emotionally unsettling music, and while Blonde Redhead’s ghoulishly meticulous chamber pop arrangements on this album are hardly outright horrifying, the sheer weight of trauma behind it gives me a unique set of chills. Written after vocalist Kazu Makino was almost trampled to death by a horse and faced months of facial surgery and vocal therapy, there’s a deeply moving sense of pain and fragility that underpins everything here. It’s like hearing an anthropomorphic music box being wound tighter and tighter by an unforgiving invisible hand, reaching such a refined sense of delicate tension that it seems your headphones could shatter at any given moment. I dunno. It gets me. “Elephant Woman” terrifies me. “Melody” freezes every particle of oxygen in my room. “Anticipation” makes me disintegrate. Blonde Redhead have a reputation as appropriation artists, but this is pretty much unique within and without their discog. An uncomfortable treasure.
72Bloodthirsty Butchers
yamane


2001
n/a
One long traipse of a midtempo alt-rock scuzzfest, I think this album is a nice reflection of what I look for in alternative and why I’ve largely moved on from it; a few years ago, I’d probably have something like Siamese Dream or The Devil and God… in this spot, but now I struggle to take those albums’ airs and graces and egos seriously, while at the same time I can’t get over how subdued, melodically pared back and unapologetically homogenous this is. Maybe I’m too jaded for self-obsessed rockstar-core, or just better at dealing with depression, but listening to these glum slowburners drag their heels through steady dynamics, a scant handful of hooks, and borderline tuneless vocals is honestly more cathartic for me now than the most full-throated exorcising of Americanised demons over power chords could ever hope to be. Good thing those tones and production chops are fucking perfect, not to mention how much of an untouchable gold standard the ending trio of songs is.
71Cult of Luna
Somewhere Along the Highway


2006
n/a
Somewhere Along The Highway is a boringly obvious choice for a favourite post-metal album. I guess I’d justify this with the number of hiccups I’ve overcome to even call this my favourite Cult of Luna. The tracklist once seemed patchy and a little murky to me, but now I think the album (within and beyond individual tracks) has this beautiful organic feeling of mobility that their other work lacks. This goes a long way: I used to think And With Her Came The Birds was a snooze, but then I literally fell asleep to it and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. What do you know? In some ways this album’s draw is similar to Wavering Radiant (97)’s with its sprawling ebb and flow, but these tracks pack more weight (ha) than Isis and wind up with the 2nd most ballistically awesome closing pairing on any record ever, maybe. Post-metal is the only reliably good metal subgenre because it has minimal cringe and maximum atmosphere: that’s SATH through and through.
70Radiohead
In Rainbows


2007
n/a
Hey, it’s In Rainbows! Everyone loves In Rainbows, and so do I…except, last time around, I somehow forgot to include it (or any Radiohead)! This is ridiculous because I loved Radiohead back then, and I still like them a decent chunk now! So: In Rainbows is the best Radiohead. It is the best because they spend most of the album doing the things they are best at (innovative sadboi arrangements within fairly conventional songwriting), peripherally accenting it with a few things they’re pretty good at (indietronica) and generally avoiding the things they are not good at (the alternative butthead rock that tanked half of HTTT and The Bends). It’s a perfect compromise! I want to (and will!) complain that the odd-numbered tracks are miles better than the even-numbered ones, with the exception of magic #10 Videotape, but I guess that makes it an album full of highlights. Love.
69Advantage Lucy
Fanfare


1999
n/a
Nowadays I am less "wow it's amazing what this artist goes for"and much more "yes I can feel this atmosphere with my feelings". This works because I have the best feelings. Advantage Lucy also have the best feelings and, as an uncommonly enlightened RYM user pointed out on this album's page, the best songs. How about that. Their megalovely twee/jangle pop debut is a beautifully straightforward caper into feelgoodness and unpretence. There's the odd silly track or awkward use of English, but it's charming and faintly amateurish enough to take this in its stride. I mostly remember it as a perfect album to jam on my bike in Edinburgh, cycling out of town alongside a canal on sunny days. Good times and good memories, but it's still a regular fix today: Metro's slick blissout, the gorgeous dream pop diamond Mahiru, the sadgirl catharsis of So and the jauntiness of Goodbye and Smile Again are all precious moments and firm evidence that cute whimsy might just be the best emotion.
68Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children


1998
+29
Heck! Working out a cogent ranking for this list was difficult enough for most artists, but Boards of Canada really twisted my arm. I used to love this record, and while I never stopped loving it, I certainly stopped listening to it for a stupidly long while. But now I love it again...I think? Tl;dr I've grown further into all the things I love about BoC, but I drifted away from this record as I've explored other artists. I am a fool! Music Has the Right was a magical joy to come back to it; rediscovering the likes of Eagle In Your Mind, Rue the Whirl and Turquoise Hexagon Sun with a fresh-ish pair of ears is exactly the kind of affirming reorienteering goodness that making this kind of list should be about. Odds are it'll find itself further up the list next time around it, but for the time being I'm just grateful to be un-estranged from it. Now where to put it... hmm, let's dial up Radiohead and a few up.
67Spangle call Lilli line
PURPLE


2008
n/a
One of the things that struck me when I skimmed over my previous top 100 was how low its chill quotient was. If you subtracted Mazzy Star and Trespassers William from that lineup (ended up doing just that, whoops!), you’d wind up with a load of, uh, *not* chill! Disgraceful! Purple is a big part of my redemption arc. It is the deepest of chills. Dream pop without any of the stodge and a sophistipop-esque ear for melody, yes please. Speaking of melody, those vocals are phenomenal: Kana Otsubo sets her own standard for rich-toned daydream vox and the way she traces evasive outlines over otherwise fairly uncomplex arrangements is breathtaking. User bloodshy once said that her melodies were like an unfollowable “vocal jazz bass”, which I guess is a convenient reflection of how 1) he knows shit about jazz (love you!) 2) you cannot sync with this album unless you approach it from a preceding state of deep chillspace. Beyond that, it’s rich and beautiful and timeless and I adore it.
66Goldfrapp
Tales of Us


2013
-21
More of the deepest of chills (I lied in the Purple blurb - this one was definitely here last time)! This takes the crown among Goldfrapp albums for me, partially because those ultraminimal chamber pop arrangements are stunning, and partially because Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals are on peak ethereal form like never before. You can talk all you like about how awesome Felt Mountain is (please do - I love that album!), but almost two decades’ worth of steadily nurtured depth and tone give her a strength beyond anything she could boast in her early days. Just look at the way she coaxes those names into music: that fever-pitch ecstasy of “Thea”, that haunted pining of “Laurel”, that chilling final utterance of “Simone.” Ugh. Shivers. There’s little to add beyond that: these tracks are still timeless, they still sound like the inside of fogged windows in warm rooms on winter nights, Thea is still a phenomenal shadowbanger, and this album still thaws me out when I need it to.
65Thrice
The Illusion of Safety


2002
-56
By pure coincidence, I started my reevaluatory spin of The Illusion of Safety immediately after a revisiting Linkin Park’s Meteora for the first time in years. Many things immediately made sense; like Meteora, this record’s dated production, angst porcupine lyrics and ultraearnest manner are as bemusingly awkward as they are nostalgically endearing. Like Meteora, this was once the apex of everything I looked for in music. However, much more than Meteora, past me was onto something here: this songwriting is messy as hell, but always in a way that belies the visceral urgency of whatever Thrice were trying to say about trust and regret and whatever. It’s also a stunner of a guitar album, so much so that I struggle to concentrate on listening to it when my mind is trying to remember how to play those parts from start to finish. I dunno man. This record still hurts me; it’s clunky as fuck in places, but I love it and wouldn’t be the same without it.
64Cocteau Twins
Treasure


1984
n/a
This is an album by the band Cocteau Twins. It contains probably the greatest song ever released bar none ("Lorelei") and Liz Fraser sings notes that most humans will not sing. Some people will tell you that this is the best Cocteau Twins album and/or the best album ever made, and they are incorrect in the same way that people advocating for unilateral disarmament or free tertiary education are incorrect; you can argue with them if you really, really want to, but the world would hardly be a *bad* place if they had their way. Treasure is awesome.
63Glassjaw
Worship and Tribute


2002
-22
Worship and Tribute has a lot more going for it than 15~ish y/o me ever counted on. I've always loved this record because, y'know, shit slaps, but I had it so clearly pinned down as a catchy energy record that it took me a long while to work out how much else it has going on melodically, rhythmically or texturally (in that order). Damn. This songwriting is at once thoroughly streamlined and incredibly rich; Justin Beck's arsenal of guitar pedals is a powerhouse and so many of these songs have this ferocious mobility going on that blows me away even now in ways it never did before. Mu Empire is probably the best example of this: it was an early favourite because it has like a zillion hooks and the opening riff has chugs, but I don't think I ever let myself be blown away by just how dynamically this track reinvents itself again and again and again. Trailer Park Jesus too - fuck me, that chorus is ascendent. We're out of characters. This album has aged gloriously. Big fan.
62Modest Mouse
The Lonesome Crowded West


1997
-20
This one is a scorched-earth anthology of the good things that people did with guitars in the '90s: some of it is loud, some of it is catchy, a couple of bits are unlistenable, the occasional track has probably changed a life somewhere down the line, and all of it is deeply fucking bitter. Its peaks are up with the best indie in the game - seriously, who would write three tracks as perfect as Doin' the Cockroach, Trailer Trash and Cowboy Dan and then sit them next to each other? Phwoar. There is so much CONTENT here that I struggle to process it all and find myself flawed by different detail every time, whether it's the vocal inflections in Convenient Parking or Polar Opposites, the jams in Lounge II, or any other lyric in the closing pair. No wonder Isaac Brock has spent the rest of his career clutching at theological statements and churning out heavy-keeled nautical metaphors; if you got an album like this out of your system, chances are you'd never look back either.
61Sonic Youth
Sister


1987
n/a
Sonic Youth were rarely succinct: their noise was unreliable to stuff into a stable timeframe: just look at The Sprawl, Expressway… or the Diamond Sea. Most of their classics stretch their legs, but then there’s Sister. This record is lightning in a bottle. Use this as background music and it’ll seem a stack of catchy noise-pop bangers, but then you clock how many songs disintegrate midway into nothing-jams, double-clock that the record somehow feels entirely fat free, and lose your shit at how these two things are compatible. I still don’t get how Pipeline and Tuff Gnarl feel so essential despite being 50% coda, but there you are. This has their most creative and fiery rockers: Stereo Sanctity, White Cross and Pacific Coast Highway are scorched fucking earth, while Catholic Block is one of the most colourful riff-fests you’ll hear anywhere. Schizophrenia and Kotton Krown pack a legitimately haunting emotional edge and round off a bona fide classic of artcore scuzz.
60The Flaming Lips
The Soft Bulletin


1999
n/a
As though by accident, The Flaming Lips are an uncomfortably profound band. Maybe this is weird to say given how they draw on a myriad shapes and sounds and colours while often saying next to nothing with any of them, but I can't think of a single artist who articulates the tragedy of the zany optimist quite so well as Wayne Coyne. It's all over the Soft Bulletin; it's in the warmth and humanity of its stranger-than-fiction quirk; in its eye-straining reservoir of creativity; in that unsettled, muddled quality that creeps in when you least expect it, as though the Lips are trying to scream some existential cry for help but are unable to articulate this outside the language of glossy psychedelia. This is such a deeply affecting album because its portrait of the universe is so vibrant in all its positivity and potential, but it never once breaks free of the bittersweet weight of pain and consequence that ultimately holds all things together. Goodness knows I feel it.
59Interpol
Turn on the Bright Lights


2002
+4
Is this the best awesome album with atrocious lyrics? I dunno, maybe! Every time I come back to Turn on the Bright Lights, I go in with the expectation that it's been sublimated into that hamfisted anxietyboy kitchen sink raincloud of '00s New York indie that people occasionally still talk about having once listened to - but no! This album has atmosphere for days, and while the guitars dish out chunky quavers in unquavering succession, the bass is nimble and groovy and assures me that this band do, in fact, really know what they are doing. Then I switch on autopilot and they manipulate my feelings for a while and everything is good. It's like being anesthetised by surgeons who are themselves already anesthetised and bizarrely intent on expressing all the weird reasons why they want to share their lack of feeling with you: sometimes confusing, always a little sad and absolutely more addictive than it should be.
58Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People


2002
n/a
Everybody’s favourite BSS record has a million ideas and moods and layers and contributors and is a perfect daydream of whatever an indie record in 2002 should have been. On a good day it’s a beautiful zany patchwork, but on the flipside it’s a blissfully inconsistent highlight record that requires you to buy heavily into its messy collaborative hipsterhaze to make sense as a whole. Do I buy? When I hear those highlights, absolutely. Almost Crimes is fecking riveting with the amount of intensely loud awesome shit going on - between those two unforgettable vocal performances, a warship’s worth of guitars, buzzing synths, forceful saxophone(?!) and a rhythmic on-and-off for the ages, it’s like the band took the blueprint of the contemporary NY scene and doodled over it beyond recognition (pah, this is just above Interpol). There’s a lot that makes me swoon over this record, and if it’s not as even a listen as I remember, then it’s still strong enough that I can cope.
57Built to Spill
Perfect from Now On


1997
-22
I've blurbed this album too many times already and have no fresh take on its central truth: this is a sweet-hearted, blurry-eyed daydream brought to life by perhaps the most melodically generous heroes of heyday guitar indie. It's honestly hard to think of an album as immediately and universally lovable as this; usually lo-fi affiliated '90s gems like this have an air of slacker indifference that certain people find obnoxious, but Perfect From Now On cheerily detoxifies this with frontman Doug Martsch's earnest strainings and an all-round instrumental workhouse. There is no reason not to love it; I sure as hell still love do. Randy Described Eternity is a flooring a scale mapping as any of the scope and stupidity of the universe; Out of Sight breaks my heart at a different point every time; Velvet Waltz's effortless listenability feels like a joke at the expense of its own mammoth runtime. Perfect starting now, indeed.
56Oceansize
Effloresce


2003
n/a
Revisiting Effloresce was a surprise. Once an encyclopaedically-sized encyclopaedia of everything I loved, now it’s…not quite that. This album splits into various intersecting camps: you get the acid-Mogwai post-rock spaceouts, you get the rainshower metal, and you get the alt-rock cryptics. The latter two are a little inconsistent and dated for me now, occasionally awesome (Massive Bereavement and Amputee!) but mostly in decline within my palette; the former is plain incredible. Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs alone guaranteed this album a place, and the way elements of that sound creep into virtually every song here to some degree is organic and magical. Interestingly, the other ‘pure’ showcase of it has gone up and up for me: Rinsed is top 5 material. Maybe this album is getting into Deathconsciousness territory where the fact of a minimalist interlude loop being a highlight raises eyebrows at many other tracks, but this band are just that good at that kind of atmosphere.
55maudlin of the Well
Part the Second


2009
n/a (Bath at #40 last time)
If there hadn’t been at least one maudlin of the Well album here, I’d have had to change my username to Jot3 or Dr.ebor or LushHippo or something similar - so hooray! Looking back at it now, this project’s original work was adorably immature; while I still love those albums, I get more out of their pseudocomeback late-game recording Part the Second now. These tracks are smooth as hell! Toby Driver might have left his death/doom influence for dead, but there’s a lot more going on melodically here than classic maudlin. With the rough side of that sound swept under the carpet, Part the Second gets to focus entirely on that naive sense of cosmic wonder that made the band so special in the first place. Staring into the void will never feel as blissful or as comforting as that GOAT-tier opener with the long, long title makes it, and the rest of the album is a gloriously meandering nostalgic trip into the future.
54Advantage Lucy
Station


2000
n/a
How do yoooooouuu feel//thanks for asking, I feel that Station is at once the best album ever and at the same time totally full of holes. The twee poppers are not my bag, and I still haven't figured out what the indie-doom nonstarter Usagi is doing on this tracklist. This is not important. It doesn't matter that I've already thrown records as classic as Agaetis Byrjun and Deathconsciousness down the stairs for inconsistency, because I am special and deserve double standards. What matters is that the best 5 songs on Station are beautiful and pure and perfect and among the best pop-rock ever written. In particular, How Do You Feel? and June Replay are straight-up masterpieces of wistfulness and perfect vocal melodies and jangly wistful perfection. I love them and I love Station.
53Ling Tosite Sigure
Inspiration is Dead


2007
n/a
Get out of here with your Swancore and Fall of Troy: this is the only extra af post-hardcore act you need. Inspiration is [cough] DEAD [cough] is At the Drive-In on crack: stupid levels of energy and a fireworks display of flashy riffage folded into convoluted but deceptively focused song structures. Unlike their patchy debut #4, the band fire on all cylinders here; unlike their later output, they largely avoid polish and fully embrace the benefits of a grittier sound. This works wonders for the rockers, but the atmospheric cuts gain the most from it; just take 1/f no Kanshoku, a one-stop alternative history of the riveting genre shoegaze might have been if the right hands had picked up the mantle! Oh well. I've heard this album enough times by now that it would have burnt out hard if it was ever going to burn out; it replaced the Illusion of Safety as my go-to guitar jam and has probably literally changed the shape of my fingers. Mark of an S-tier banger right there.
52Sweet Trip
Velocity : Design : Comfort


2003
n/a
It's strange that V:D:C has only been in my life for under a year; it feels like a roundabout at the centre of various strands of glitch, IDM and dream pop that I've been drifting towards for a while longer. I'm glad it took me so long to hear. Any earlier, and it would probably be ultrafocal to the way I hear those styles in the same way that Dummy and Mezzanine are for trip-hop, but I liked getting into them my own way and then following up with this bloody stunner. Heck! It does everything! It makes shoegaze exciting. What the fuck. Why isn't it higher? When I'm in the mood, I adore how saturated it is - but by the same token, its juggling of act of everything ft. the kitchen sink isn't the best fix for times when I times when I want to put my sink to good use and not do cosmic pretty space things with my brain. This relagates it to a runner-up role ahead of the more gentle glitch-pop power trio that will crop up later, but when this album hits there's nothing like it.
51Seiko Oomori
絶対少女


2013
n/a
Choosing a silver-medal Seiko Oomori album is not for the faint of heart. It came down to Kusokawa Party (the glam metal one), PINK (the paintstriper one) and Zettai Shoujo (the dumb faux-idol one). Zettai Shoujo won because it's the weirdest and stubbornest. It makes fuckall sense structurally or stylistically, kicking off with a full bellyflop from hypercatchy sugarpop to ascetic-ish folk. It's cracked. Every flawless gem like the dazzling Amai comes with a drab plonkfest like Are Sore; every sober musing like Aoi Heya matches a hysterical mess like Over the Party. It's virtually impenetrable unless you commit to getting on board with *all* of the personality behind it. That means lyrics! When Seiko sings about birds learning to fly by following their own natures, I feel it in my soul. Likewise when she drops "ur email address is weird so i don't like it" and all hell breaks loose. In real terms, this is probably one of her weaker efforts, but oh my shit, what a lady. Adore.
50REOL
Σ


2016
n/a
I think Sputnik thinks that this album constitutes the entirety of the music I like. On the one hand, it's a bit of an outlier here, on the other hand...fair. Sigma is aggressively synthed-up J-pop, obnoxious as all hell but ludicrously catchy and full of so much energy and immediacy that it would send the bastard child of Aberf and neek's attention~spans straight to hell. Its megaflexing production and Reol's badass delivery are on point, and I love its spread of ideas. YoiYoi Kokon is the most bass drop-prone banger, but it's held together with a traditional folk motif; 404 Not Found (lol) combines a so-so sadgirl ballad with so-so brostep descents, somehow coming off as much more than the sum of its parts; Detarame Kidding is almost amazing enough to make me take trap seriously; Konoyo Loading resurrects and buries chiptune a hundred times in three minutes. Sigma slaps on all of the wavelengths, all of the time.
49Anathema
A Natural Disaster


2003
n/a
Eight years with A Natural Disaster and I’m pretty well adjusted to its relative unlikeliness within Anathema’s discog - I used to think this one’s palette was all over the place! It’s not that wild; it starts off as Kid A ft. distortion pedals, but levels out into more straightforward songwriting with lush tones; a nice compromise. While the distortion is far from this album’s biggest draw, it is conveniently a better album than Kid A; both are gloomy and atmospheric, but Anathema have always always been a cut above Radiohead when it comes to gloomy atmosphere. Don’t @me. Anyhow, this is not the best alterna-tronica crossover album in the game (sit tight for that one), but it does contain one of my all time favourite mope anthems in its title-track, as well as a beautiful deconstruction of post-rock cliches in the closer Violence. Other albums do not contain these songs; that counts for something.
48Coheed and Cambria
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3


2003
-34
In my years of worshipping Thrice, Coheed were an excellent 2nd-or-3rd favourite band. This is unsurprising because Coheed are an excellent band, but it's time to admit that their widely loved opus IKSSE:3 isn't an infallible classic. I'm at risk of grave(!) backlash(!) from the stans here, but the title-track ain't all that; you get the iconic intro-thru-first chorus, but the rest is a messy prelude of what they'd later accomplish on the career-highlight Willing Well suite. Also, any true fan knows that Blood Red Summer is like an empty binbag removed from the live experience. Plus, the production is not raw enough to be raw and it's not polished enough to be polished. Sorry, boys. Beyond these [IKSSE:]3 concessions, this album is still catchy as all hell and heavily deserving of *most* of all the love I can throw at it. How Three Evils, Cuts Marked... and A Favor House Atlantic haven't worn off after so long is beyond me, but heaven knows I'll take it.
47Hop Along
Get Disowned


2012
n/a
Everything sucks. Happiness is cheap. Everyone's childhood has ruined them. Everyone dies. Francis Quinlan's biting lyricism covers all this and more, but she takes ample time to vent exasperation back on herself for indulging these dissatisfactions to begin with. Discontent, it turns out, is even cheaper than happiness. There's a grim humour in that, and it goes a long way for me, but it's not all gloom: the album does sniff out a fleeting sense of peaces, but even this is ambivalent - "I obey an average law” etc.. For the most part, Get Disowned is restless, bitter and hopelessly ambivalent in a way that I am both more and less than happy to relate to, especially when it's packaged in such alternatingly catchy and abrasive indie songwriting. This album's salt quotient is just the best.
46Bark Psychosis
Hex


1994
+7
I wonder how much I would like this album if it was called something other than Hex. Probably a lot, but y'know, it's a really great title. This is music for when you wander around a cold town after midnight with too much caffeine in your bloodstream and no-one else is around so you feel a bit paranoid, but also you know deep down that the universe is still somehow in good shape. I personally haven't done this in quite a while, but these wispy dreamy protopost-rock creepers turn my okay-at-best memories of when this was a phase into an actively good daydream. Hooray. This blurb was shorter than expected. Fuck Explosions in the Sky.
45Massive Attack
Mezzanine


1998
-14
I don’t like typing long comments after listening to Mezzanine because the music always makes me feel like my hands are covered in things that should be washed off, but its black treacle reverie-of-creep atmosphere is still as viscous as they come. It makes me hungry and a little sick, but still gets my full attention because it’s a delicious self-sufficient blazehaze that I’ll probably never entirely escape. That’s the kind of baggage I’m okay with.
44Portishead
Dummy


1994
+23
Dummy is a two-speed album: on the one hand, you have an ultra-smooth masterpiece of melancholy trip-hop creepiness that somehow feels entirely emblematic of the the mid-‘90s UK v i b e while preserving its own self-contained space and time with eerie singularity (name another record that truly hits the same atmosphere!); on the other hand, it can also be a one-stop quickspeed spaceout by way of superhighlights It Could Be Sweet/Numb/Roads/Biscuits and whichever one of Mysterons, Wandering Star or Pedestal I feel in the mood for. Both fixes are impeccable; I can’t think of any other album where my personal sawn-off version is such a balanced complement to the full shebang. On top of that, there are few other albums that I’ve listened to so consistently for such a long time - Portishead never reached for cheap thrills and have delivered understated awesomeness at every turn, and their mileage is accordingly vast.
43The Gathering
Home


2006
n/a
My favourite song? Gun to my head, I'd go straight for Forgotten, the solemn piano ballad that sits in the middle of The Gathering's Home like divorced parents at their kid’s wedding. In many ways it’s so unrepresentative of what the Gathering are about. It has none of their warmth, none of their colour, and none of the laconic optimism I always heard in Anneke van Giersbergen's delivery and lyrics. It's a heartbreaking downer, too vague to be consoling and too simple to misunderstand. The rest of Home has more in common with the classic #gathering qualities, but there's a melancholy here that makes Forgotten's focal position very cogent. These tracks bear a shy emotional weight, only cursively evident at first but incredibly arresting in time, whether it's the drifting focus of the beautifully subtle Box, the urgency of Alone or A Noise Severe, the blissfulness of Waking Hour or the soft venom of opener Shortest Day. The Gathering are outstanding, and Home is deeply special.
42Pavement
Slanted and Enchanted


1992
-20
Of all the messy, messy labels associated with Pavement's happy disasterpiece of a debut, 'timeless' is not one I ever saw myself propagating...but it turns out that Slanted and Enchanted's anything-goes combination of apathy, carcrash production and aping the Fall is (maybe) exactly that. This album has always sounded awful and this will never change. but y'know what else is timeless? Stephen Malkmus' knack for killer vocal hooks. That "nananana na nanana NA NA" in Trigger Cut? Classic. That prechourus in In The Mouth a Desert where he does call-and-return but the return never shows up? Inspired. The entirety of Zurich Is Stained? A sha-la-la-la wet dream. Pavement never sounded as authentically half-arsed or as palpably inspired as they did here, and the result will continue to age better than any of us.
41Hum
Downward Is Heavenward


1997
-17
Last night I had a nightmare about being back at university. I miss those years more than I’d like, but the lows were all-timers. There were points where I had to face up to the flack (and guilt) from truly colossally stupid decisions, in conjunction with a mammoth workload I’d tried in vain to procrastinate into oblivion. Sometimes the weight of it made it feel like my clothes were drenched with some intangible sense of responsibility that I didn’t know how to engage with. It was heavy and horrible. Back then, I don’t think I resonated with any music more than this record. Itself heavily saturated in a borderline oppressive set of tones, there’s something about the way it balances crushing textures of distortion with a sense of distant contemplation and, fleetingly, peace. I needed this album, and while I don’t *need* it now, I never expected it revive the same feelings so vividly. What’s a true favourite if you can’t write about it without sounding like a soppy pillock?
40The Jesus Lizard
Goat


1991
+20
Writing about the Jesus Lizard sucks, especially Goat. This album has no need for civilised or even comprehensible language because, I dunno, if you can't feel the corrosive energy pouring out of those tones and grooves, I don't know what words in the English language are going to bring you round. Lets try to talk about the tones and grooves. The tones are good. They sound like the inside of an oildrum that some kid's neighbour burned roadkill in, but, like, in a good way. You'd take one look at that, sense that something probably died or was incinerated within it, and get a little shiver of adrenalised death is real/life is real excitement. It is raw. The grooves are also good. They have (!) groove (!) for days, but they also lurch like there's no tomorrow. They are volatile, and because they are rhythms, you can feel them in your body and they will make you feel volatile too. This is good. Goat is fantastic. I vibe with it. I hope you can feel why.
39Dead Can Dance
Within the Realm of a Dying Sun


1987
-21
Within the Realm Of A Dying Sun has perhaps the deepest and darkest set of chills on this whole list. It has limited competition: ’spooky’ music and gothic atmospheres in general are generally hit-or-miss to me, and so this album’s dark medievalisms are a bit of an outlier here However, skimming over the other entries of on the list, I think it’s got a lot. in common with the atmosphere I love; Dead Can Dance commit so hard to that sound that they never fail to get my suspension of disbelief going. Anywhere Out Of The World might as well be its own pocket of lightless limbo for me, and Lisa Gerrard’s devastating performances on Cantara and Summoning of the Muse hit me as though she genuinely were conjuring otherworldly forces. The album’s eerie spacelessness gets under its skin, while its traditional palette feels all out of time in just the right way. Magical.
38Shiina Ringo
Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana


2003
n/a
This record was life-altering for me. This was what initially hooked me on Japan and went on to shape a huge part of my experience with it from that point onward. There's already a steep consensus over the excellence of its visionary art pop, but how many records can you say kicked open the doors to an entire country, culture and language for you? 

But is it still a favourite? Absolutely, but I'd be lying if I said it holds the same mystique as before. The writing and arrangement are genius (those bookends!), but part of this album's appeal for me was originally its exoticness. This has diminished as I've spent time in Japan, and I know Shiina Ringo well now. I know how she writes and I can draw lines from her great songs to her terrible ones; I can catch slithers of meaning from her lyrics without paying close attention. I've never wanted to draw this album entirely within my plane of understanding, and so the longer I spend with it, the more I wish I could un-learn it.
37Fiona Apple
When the Pawn...


1999
n/a
This is a tough one. I've been able to at least kind-of make virtually every other album here my own thing, either because my experience with whichever record is sufficiently distinctive, or because I "get it" well enough to paraphrase the music within my own language. That doesn't work for When the Pawn.... You don't paraphrase Fiona Apple's voice. There's no talking around the point with these songs; these sour accounts of unjust gender politics and romantic fallout speak perfectly well for themselves and need no further unpacking. They're intimidatingly proficient, uncompromisingly frank and thoroughly moving. Let's just cite the best bits: On the Bound's ferocious opening knockout is legendary, but the real highlight for me is the final run. Apple's acerbic jazz/R&B writing reaches a peak on The Way Things Are and the flooring Get Gone, while I Know makes for an appropriately devastating closing statement. No hot takes here: this album is just very fucking good.
36Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko
28


2005
n/a
Glitch-pop trilogy entrant #1! This is a perfect example of everything I look for in that niche, in all its blissed-out arthouse crackle. Evasive, mischievous, beautiful, occasionally jarring (the meltdown of Doki Doki Last Night paha), capable of pop glory (Alien), and capable of hitting highs even at its most abstract (“Nolicom”), I can safely say that this is the greatest album ever to devote an entire track to roleplay as a Japanese elevator operator. It’s an ideal collab that opened new possibilities for both artists: Aoki Takamasa’s IDM ain’t bad, but it fares far better as a backdrop for Tujiko Noriko’s zany warblings. She, on the other hand, has an excellent solo canon and almost made the list, but she’s never managed to sustain this level of contour and colour over a whole album. 28 isn’t for everyone - its humour is locked behind a language barrier and its pacing hits daydream levels of indirectness - but it’s an underrated peak for this sound.
35The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis


2010
+3
On the one hand, the extent to which I crave ultra-aggressive math-metal is probably at an all time low since I first got into the style. On the other hand, Option Paralysis blows my damn socks off every time I put it to see if how much of a square I’ve become. Gotta be honest here, making it through the whole album feels like an act of extremity nowadays, but this is mainly because each song is such a succinct knockout. No need to overload on those thrills! Good Neighbor alone gives me more energy in two and a half minutes than an entire week’s worth of coffee. This shit is tenacious, and I’m still here for it.
34Bjork
Post


1995
-4
Hey, it's my ersatz favourite Bjork album! What's up! What's new! I relistened to it to find out! The disparity between these songs stood out to me even more than before; Post is still an incredibly colourful record, but it's also a little less consistent than I remembered. This is not a good thing, but I can deal. Other new finds...hmm: The Modern Things is this album's All Neon Like (soothing, criminally underrated), Army Of Me is filthier than I remembered, Hyperballad's cliffsplatt imagery is more wholesome than I thought, and I Miss You might be filler after all. Some things are the same: Headphones is still genius, Enjoy still bops like an oil slick, and Possibly Maybe is still pure heartache. To be honest, most things are the same: Post might have slipped down my ranking, but the reasons I vibe with it hold up and, if anything, I now feel much more down to revisit it regularly. It's awesome, and still stronger than Homogenic. Queen.
33Carissa's Wierd
Songs About Leaving


2002
+16
While the mentality I originally approached Carissa’s Wierd with was as skewed towards 'just a phase'-ing as can be imagined, they’ve generally aged pretty well for me. Their sound is gloriously unsubtle and its appeal boils down to a simple yes/no over whether or not megaindulgent sadness is the mood of the hour. Turns out, it sometimes is! The enormity of Songs About Leaving's sadboi value hardly bears stating, but beyond that, these songs' unwavering simplicity has a pretty enduring value. Unlike You Should Be At Home Here, which drools all over the floor in Very Emotive string sequences, these arrangements are mostly lean and focused, accenting the album only where appropriate and otherwise leaving ample space for that merciless endorphin detergent of a vocal pairing to sweep the floor with my vestigial motivation. I can't really imagine what a healthy relationship [with this album] looks like, but I have a hunch I won't find out any time soon.
32Arcade Fire
Funeral


2004
-8
Arcade Fire had a rough run with me when I discovered Broken Social Scene and The National, but their global role of My First Indie Band is well earned. Name a better contender. This is a weird way to open the book on Funeral, because it's their only album that transcends that label, merits more adoration than admiration, and warrants the theatrics of Win Butler's delivery. Its sense of life, love and death is just that palpable; these songs are underpinned by this awful yearning and desperation that occasionally takes centrestage ("Then we think of our parents...") and but mainly adds a heavy dose of vitality to what in other bands' hands would have been drab indie whateverness (Une Annee..., Rebellion). Funeral is painful and real in ways that the band's later affectations of capitalist/suburban/mythological discourse never had a hope of matching up to; it's been resilient through the waxing and waning of my nostalgia in ways as only a true classic could be.
31Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream


1992
-12
Anyone rummaging for a favourite Bad Seeds album is spoilt for choice, but Henry's Dream is a comfortable choice for me. As far as Nick Cave's rock wing goes, you'll struggle to do better than this; the gritty cuts are bolstered by a gloriously percussive acoustic guitar jangle that he evidently brought back from his time in Brazil with a palpable ferocity. His penmanship is also something else, often visiting terrain as dramatic and morbid as anything on Murder Ballads, without leaning too far into kitsch and landing with far greater consistency thanks to a gorgeously varied cluster of ballads. For all the Into My Arms gang still keep pristine Tumblr pages, Loom of the Land is my pick for the definitive Cave heartmelter, while Christina the Astonishing's gothic warble makes for a haunting midway respite. '90s Nick Cave was in his own sphere of excellence, and Henry's Dream was the fiercest rush of the lot.
30Ichiko Aoba
0 (Zero)


2013
n/a
What the universe do to deserve Ichiko Aoba? Why is this album so pure? This album really is its own private universe. Armed with only her guitar and a few shapeless field recordings, Aoba fleshes it out with a minimal but highly creative palette, sometimes a little opaque but never truly distant. 0’s world contains happiness, loneliness, nostalgia, suspense and uncertainty in a similar way that ours does, but these all develop an unfamiliarity and newfound cogency under her performance. This seems to gain new depth every time I hear it; my new discovery for now is how far 0’s gorgeous sense of otherness extends to the language, with the likes of Shigatsu no Shitaku and iam POD (0%) gently laying out a simplistic patchwork of memories and associations in a way that perfectly matches the album’s aching sparseness. Pure magic, and deliciously out of step with this site’s bargain bin folk pop whatever-classics.
29Coheed and Cambria
The Second Stage Turbine Blade


2002
n/a
Pahaha some people probably thought there would only be one Coheed album on the list but [Grimes screm:] they don't know me! The Second Stage Turbine Blade is the best Coheed album because it was the first one and probably has the best overall story arc and definitely has the most endearingly awful production and it has their best riffs (sorry Good Apollo I). Coheed only make sense as a band if you actively don't apologise for Claudio Sanchez' squeak factor, and this album has the most to not apologise for in that dept, therefore it is awesome. What else? The entire first half of this is a gold-standard knockout of nostalgia bangers, and listening to this album in general kind of combines the wonder and fascination of playing Star Wars fanfic with a Lego set as a kid with an adolescent fixation on sex and death and, like, super uh bittersweet feels I guess, ~dude. Fuck me do I get how people could hate this. When it's the thing, it's the best thing.
28Unwound
New Plastic Ideas


1994
n/a
New Plastic Ideas makes me think of pollution and concrete and unhappiness and generally fuckin hating everything. It’s aged very well. Of similar appeal to Goat (40) in some ways, but less performative and much more open to Slintian slow jams (chef’s kiss), these horrible jagged rusty powerhouses are uncomfortably far under my skin by now. This is a good thing, because the album has some of the best flow and sequencing and flow I have ever heard, the tempo and energy gradually unravelling from song to song until the final three inflict all manner of claustrophobic hell for the ages. I love that the guitar is brittle and cracked out enough for the bass to be the main source of melody here. Listening to this album is like feeling pure nothingness and vestigial electric- or heat-originated pain at the same time, and Unwound are as good as it gives for that particular brand of sadism.
27Oceansize
Frames


2007
-11
Checking back in with Frames feels more like reading my own vital signs than trying to uncover anything new to say about the music. Like, hello, yes I love this album for the reasons that I have always loved it, yes it is still perfect, yes if you haven't heard it 20 times or more by now you should still fix this, yes prog still sucks. No major revelations, that familiar satisfaction is still there alongside a couple of minor surprises; a couple of my old favourites have slid down the pecking order (sorry, Savant and Unfamiliar) while a some weaker tracks aren't as relatively weak as I remembered (nice one, Sleeping Dogs and Commemorative T-Shirt). Trail of Fire, Only Twin and An Old Friend... are still the bee's knees. Checkup complete! All is as should be! You take care now!
26Talking Heads
Remain in Light


1980
-5
Does anyone else find it really weird listening to David Byrne's soundbytes inside the 2020 meme matrix? Maybe I've just developed a better ear for #paranoia and #anxiety, but the dude is like some sadistic Youtuber turning a news broadcast into a torture act, and it shakes me up. What did this actually sound like to people back in 1980? Was it sound more anxious because people weren't accustomed to the same level of information overload, or less because they didn't have as strong a frame of reference? That is my recent thought on this album which I still love. Relistening, I was a little less drawn into its broad tone and groove than I used to be, and more focused on the weave of intricate layers pushing and pulling away from each other at every juncture; the result was no less impressive, but I felt more like an observer to its many superb qualities rather than someone entirely under their sway. I preferred the latter state, but it's still a bloody marvel.
25Thrice
The Artist in the Ambulance


2003
n/a
Putting a Thrice album this high immediately entails an apology for badly the band has aged. I’m sorry! I love how dated this one is though! It avoids the Illusion of Safety’s empty-coke-can production value and pick ’n’ mix writing style and has actual songs that sound beefy as hell. Dustin Kenrue’s cleans do not sound beefy as hell, but that’s all part of the charm with vintage ’03 post-hardcore. I dunno, man - this album has a couple of straight duds and is full of flaws (and highlights!!), but those chugs and those slickass electric angstscratch riff-leads can still get me going the way they always have. If you can spend 10 years with a beefcake proto-scene record and still have it kick the shit out of your adrenaline and nostalgia alike, that’s gotta be something special, right? Here’s to 10 more…
24Ling Tosite Sigure
Just a Moment


2009
-7
Just A Moment is a masterclass of technical post-indiecore power trio histrionic polyoctave intensity, but mostly it just has a really great atmosphere going on. I know almost every track on this record inside out and, similar to Inspiration is Dead, have played a decent chunk of these riffs to oblivion, but there’s something introspective and deeply mysterious about it that still reaches out to me through the frankly startling quantity of flashy shit it pulls off, like I’m discovering something utterly compelling for the first time again. Tremolo+A and a 7days wonder both feel exactly like walking through the kind of downpour Sigure named themselves after, the closing pairing are in a special league of climactic rock brooders, and JPOP Xfile just flat-out slaps. I don’t think anything will ever touch this for the same fix for me, but it’s engrossing enough that nothing else needs to.
23Blonde Redhead
23


2007
n/a
23 is my Loveless. It's better written, more versatile, darker, catchier, and infinitely more memorable than that particular sacred cow, and I love that Blonde Redhead could just abruptly *make a shoegaze album* this perfectly, with no history in the style. It might also be the only album in the entirety of dream pop with actively good drumming. Respect; the cowbell in Dr. Strangeluv and the disco beats in Silently are tasty as hell. Beyond that, I'm amazed at how multipurpose 23 is; I don't know whether it transcends my moods or just soaks them up, but it caters to every headspace I've approached it with. Some of these tracks are electrically vibrant, some are monumental downers (My Impure Hair, holy fuck), but there's a subtle anxiety at play throughout, as though it has one foot out the door at all times. This might seem cold and evasive, but Blonde Redhead are masters at those qualities, and it gives them a spellbindingly coherent sense of character.
22Slowdive
Souvlaki


1993
-7
Say what you like about Slowdive's fancy car commerial comeback record and how Pygmalion is admittedly probably superior to 99% of all other music in existence, but Slowdive are a bedroom band through and through and Souvlaki is exactly how I like my bedroom: sad, sweet, single, mesmerically textured, and only partially constructed by Brian Eno. At this point I've listened to it enough times in enough bedrooms in enough countries for it to have grown into an inescapable part of my own personal wallpaper. I'm glad it's inescapable, because I don't want to escape it, and even if I do end up convincing myself I've grown out of it, I'm sure its undertone of maudlin perniciousness will find a way to track down my emotions and make them suffer for it. "I didn't really lose you/I just lost it for a while" and all that. This is peak Slowdive and coincidentally peak shoegaze.
21The Weakerthans
Reconstruction Site


2003
n/a
I fell in love with this one right away. Perfect bittersweet indie warmth without an ounce of fat on it, memorable moments for days, perfect pacing and sequencing, and oh my goodness, those lyrics. A New Name For Everything. Benediction. Time’s Arrow The title-track. Hospital fuckin Vespers. Reconstruction Site is commiserate and uplifting in turn, all in terms that simply aren’t in the vocabulary of other bands, verbally or otherwise; it’s such a flurry of thoughts and feelings and memories so eloquently and succinctly expressed that I feel inadequately equipped to write on it; it breaks me like a bad joke every time.
20Kayo Dot
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue


2006
n/a
Before I got into Kayo Dot or motW, I heard ~Bath in a dream. I’d never heard any of Toby Driver’s music outside of Heaven and Weak, but somehow my imagination went to town on that album (it was a deliriously varied listen that probably had more in common with Sweet Trip than motW). What does this have to do with Dowsing Anemone, other than that I had a vivid recollection of this dream for the first time in years while revisiting On Limpid Form? Well, astral projection be damned, this is the most dreamlike thing Driver ever put together: its empty space, eerie guitar clangs and omnipresent violin hauntings are steeped in evasive greyscale, terse and often reticent to stick to a firm of melody, yet all the more engaging for it. This is Driver’s Spiderland. Its sparseness and expanse have aged better than Choirs of the Eye’s peaks and valleys, and it has somehow taken the weight of years of excellent memories in its stride without losing any of its intrigue for me.
19Melt-Banana
Cell-Scape


2003
+46
Melt-Banana are the guardian angels music never asked for, two of the coolest, most down-to-earth people on the planet. Their sound is an irreplicably distorted rapture that stands out like a white-hot wire of searing voltage in a grey, grey world inhabited by anthropomorphic painkillers and disappointing mood lighting. It is there when you need it. When you're looking for a heavy fix to get you wired without making you hate yourself, it is there. When you question the range of possibilities of the English language midway through that latest glorified track-by-track for that latest testimonial folk singer on putnikmuze.com, it is there. When you think you know better, it is there, but in a cool way. I'm not saying this band saved music, but it's doubtful that any other act will ever make it worth saving quite as much as they have. Cell-Scape bangs like a flightless bird of death. Ignore this list and my other opinions; this is the best album.
18The Flaming Lips
Clouds Taste Metallic


1995
-5
For a year or so, Clouds Taste Metallic was my point-blank favourite album. This is because it's zany and superficially happy but actually quite depressing and a little confused in tone, but simply and coherently put together musically, and overall pretty magic. Y'know, it's still got it. There's a directness to these songs that gives them an edge over The Soft Bulletin and other symphonic-era Lips, while the calibre of songwriting here is a jump from the likes of the Transmissions and Ambulance records. I'm not going to pick out highlights because there are so many, but hell, the back half of this is just stacked. I don't come back to this album as much nowadays because I don't identify quite as much with its state of perennial imminent hangover, but perhaps that's just a me-problem. Thoroughly classic happy headache times.
17Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene


2005
-9
What a gorgeous hungover blur of a record. These tracks have pedestrian skeletons but the band never utilised their strength as a collective better, often reluctant to emphasise any one of the many, many layers at work over another. The result is cluttered but so richly textured and colourful in a way that other '00s guitar indie could only dream of: “Ibi Dreams” places the drums in direct competition with a virtual wall of guitars, “Bandwitch” and “Hotel” are delirious jamouts, and “Superconnected” is a heartrending everything-and-nothing anthem with vocals drenched to the point of ineffability. Those who look to this band for songwriting are probably right to signpost You Forgot It In People, but their s/t’s disoriented daydream speaks much more to me. These aren't just songs, they're a busful of musicians camping on top of each other, some zany ideal of a commune suspended for a beautifully confused moment in time. Why are you always fucking ghosts, indeed; what a moment.
16Bjork
Vespertine


2005
n/a
Record #2 in my sacred glitch-pop power trio is the one that fits that term most loosely, so let's leave the likes of Hidden Place/Undo/Cocoon to speak for themselves and talk about how Vespertine is bloody spotless. The only thing close to a mediocre pick here is Sun In My Mouth, and even that is inoffensive at worst. I love that even if I'm not feeling this album, I can still kick back and marvel at its textures. The strings are pretty yes yes, but the fabric of those beats and constant backdrop of distant white noise are so exquisitely subtle that it took Bjork 3 years to build them from the ground up. Her attention to detail is endlessly stunning. I also love how this album has no highlights; it has surely one of the most even runs of any 12-song album, and I can count the number of songs I don't actively love with fingers on one hand. Nothing scratches quite the same itch as Vespertine, but nothing else needs to: it's singularly perfect in a way the defies replication.
15Sonic Youth
EVOL


1986
-3
An anonymous idiot recently slammed EVOL for lack of energy. I rolled my eyes at this, but it made me think: why could it be seen as such, where does it belong in SY's canon, and why would few people agree that it's their peak? With Bad Moon Rising, I guess it is one of their least outgoing pre-1998 records: it has one catchy riff (In the Kingdom) and one catchy verse (Expressway...). What else does it offer? That opening trio is a kind of grime-under-fingernails rendering of noise-pop into unrecognisable greyscale, while the latter half is antimatter that asks you to view it as a horror installation or else doze off. EVOL is broken aircon churning ankle-height fog into a filthy apartment; it's insidious, and its creeping negation, dead space and polluted aesthetic are far enough under my skin that my blood practically runs cold listening to it. Whatever you call that fix, it's aged well for me and it has no need for adrenaline. A dirty masterpiece.
14Supercar
Highvision


2002
n/a
Move the fuck over, Kid A. Highvision is hands down the best electronic crossover work from any alternative band, along with one of my favourite sentimental jams. Supercar do it all here, nailing it at every turn: they play it straight and deliver shoegazey alt-rock perfection in Otogi Nation and Starline; they nod at IDM in the achingly dissociative I; they go full-tilt into synthpop danceability on Strobolights and Yumegiwa Lost Boy; they offer rich soundscapes on the menacing Niijiro Darkness and the daydreaming Warning Bell; they fully erode style and space and let the whole package slip into nothingness on Silent Yaritori. Few albums represent an emotion in its entirety to me, but Highvision *is* nostalgia; when I first heard it, I felt as though every single song had been in my life for years and that I was rediscovering a significant memory. A lot of Japanese music goes in for similar mono-no-aware warm-sadness, but this is its definitive moment for me.
13Soutaisei Riron
Hi-Fi Anatomia


2009
n/a
Scroll back up, skim through my Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana blurb, and then jump back. Cool? Right, so Hi-Fi Anatomia is a spiritual opposite to that album insofar as it 1) has more in common with a Western-familiar animefied version of plastic Japan that I have limited interest in exploring much further and 2) gets more and more infectious as I pay more attention to it. Its winding guitar leads together with Etsuko Yakushimaru's mischievous nonsense-lyrics are just something else; this is what happens when you pair a dreamy science nerd with an ultra-smooth guitar genius and hand them a key to God's secret store of magical atmospheres. I've heard a million records that sound vaguely like it, but none of them have the same charm, the same evasiveness or the same melodic inspiration. I don't know how songs so surgically fat-free can evoke so much atmosphere, but Hi-Fi Anatomia is a soft eureka moment that plays a cheap game by its own rules without so much a flutter of its eyelids.
12Shiina Ringo
Shouso Strip


2000
-6
Good Lord, I’ve overplayed this album. I did a calculation, and it pans out as roughly once every two weeks if spaced evenly over a two-year period. That’s an ordeal for one album. What happened to it? Well, Shiina Ringo, once my revolutionary force for intercultural perspective broadening, kind of ended up being absorbed into the wine mum part of my psyche. Seriously, at this point I can’t put this on without craving consecutive glasses of red. On the one hand, Shouso Strip is still one of the most blistering pop sensations ever recorded. Scorched earth amplified glory meets some of the strongest hooks and most confident songwriting in the game. It’s not quite as consistent as I once thought, but this album’s highs are deservingly legendary. Gibs is the best cheesy power-ballad; Yokushitsu is on par with Highvision for exquisite alternative-electronic crossovers; Izon-shou is a perfect closer; Honnou single-handedly peaked J-pop. Shouso Strip can peak me any day.
11Cocteau Twins
Heaven Or Las Vegas


1990
-6
What the hell, Liz Fraser?  How do you make music like this? Where do those inflections come from? If someone asked me to make a dream pop album, I would probably put a bowl of porridge in the microwave and turn the reverb up . When I listen to Heaven Or Las Vegas, it's like my ears are the porridge and the Cocteau Twins are pouring syrup over them. That is gross and I apologise. So, why is this so magical? Well, Treasure and Victorialand had already perfected the band's overworldly qualities, but there's an edge and focus to these tracks that speaks even more to me, like the album has one foot in the material realm and the other way off in dreamland. When this album hits - like, really hits - me, as happens most often in Wolf In The Breast, or that staggeringly great closer, it's like time stops still and whatever moment I'm in becomes at once stunningly vivid and oddly abstract. It changes things; it's more than dreamlike and much more than just another dream pop album.
10Kayo Dot
Choirs of the Eye


2003
-9
Alright, bring the champagne and spill the thunder: Kayo Dot's Choirs of the Eye, aka the best album ever made, is no longer my Absolute Greatest Favourite. What a scene. What happened!? Well, it was a mix of realising that Dowsing Anemone does many of the same things just as well without roping in as much crass metal clamour, together with overplaying it to oblivion. Choirs used to make me feel like there was this dark mass of possibilities lurking beneath the surface of what I understood as approachable music, and while it still catches some of that, it has too many familiar climaxes and predictable dynamics to draw me in the same way. Sorry, The Manifold Curiosity: you're a culprit here, as is Wayfarer. I still adore this album: Marathon and A Pitcher of Summer are every shade of beautiful lurch, and I die for how well the Antique builds up steam only to blow itself out of stability. Choirs of the Eye is still perfect; I'm just less into its most perfectly telegraphed bits.
9Unwound
Leaves Turn Inside You


2001
+2
Leaves Turn Inside You suggests an incredibly specific space and time to me, yet it's amazing what a diversity of scenes and spaces it's covered for me over the last four or so years. All motion is temporary; fixed patterns of motion are the only things more stagnant than unmoving objects. It is always autumn, yet you can never shake off that premonitory sense of winter chill. This album is grey skies and cold rooms. It has been in my cold rooms. One Lick Less is that formless early morning dream wanting to drift deeper into a warmer place far from those cold rooms. October All Over is one foot following the next, none of them seeming to exist in real space. Treachery and December are the firm, frozen ground, and Demons Sing Love Songs is a nourishing breath someone else once held in their lungs. This album is real and unreal. We Invent You is that feeling that your walls are about to turn to smoke whenever you look away. I can't believe they're still there.
8The Veils
Nux Vomica


2006
+2
Speaking of things that aged like milk: dark, radio-viable millennial indie with screams (that's Sowingcore type-AB, woke kids). There's always an exception. Criminally overlooked, though highly regarded by those in the know, The Veils are cult heroes and Nux Vomica is a raw masterpiece. It sounds raw because the production isn't toothpaste and Finn Andrews can scream and the band uses blues throwdowns instead of moldy-flannel minor thirds, but also because they know when [not] to foul it up: one moment will be slinky indie plinkyplonk piano and smooth backing vox, and then the next will be a throat-tearing exorcism. The Veils are classy as hell; no surprise the arthouse film bois (Lynch and Sorrentino) dabbled with them so happily. Every track on this record has its own calling card; the record floors me at every turn, but for a totally different reason each time. Its tumultuous climaxes are intense, but its sentimental side stretches its claws even further. Forever a stunner.
7Macaroom
Homephone TE


2014
n/a
Glitch-pop trilogy Gold Medal, hooray! Similar to 28, Homephone TE uses the genre hybrid as a means to set up an evasive mood. Beneath the smooth tones and innocuous vocal delivery, there’s a deep intrigue here, and to be honest, I’m still mining it: I flat-out do not understand the “phonelyrics” concept of this record, and of the two tracks that I’ve scrutinised lyrically, one is a nonsense rhythm and the other is a dense dystopian heart-stopper. The layering and textures are superb, as are its oscillation between cryptic and saccharine overtones, and that cutesy, whimsical mood that feels like it’s searching for something it can’t remember the exact shape of. It’s like hearing a distant memory, the kind where is everything is blurred but you have fleeting recollections of temperature or scent. Pop's sensory toolkit is so direct and immediate that it often lacks the vocabulary for anything approaching Homephone TE's level of subtle, and yet here we are. A cult masterpiece.
6Anathema
Judgement


1999
+1
You don't grow out of some things. Judgement was an important shift of gears for me back in 2012, but it wasn't an angst jam, a mere stepping stone, or, let it be known, a phase. It has occasional thrills and more prevalent elements of doomy kitsch, but these are both virtually negligible in the face of its absurdly rich atmosphere. Every overly forthright lyric or momentarily clunky throwback to the band's gothic days barely registers against that dense layer of twilight moroseness. It's still magical. There are few albums on this list with more memory lane mileage than Judgement, but there's nothing nostalgic about the way the likes of Emotional Winter, Pitiless, Parisienne Moonlight and that blinding title-track floor me today. Honestly, I relistened to at least the majority of almost every album on this list while adjusting the ranking, but I don't think any other record made me want to kick the project and just spin it on repeat as much as Judgement. This album did me good
5The Gathering
Souvenirs


2003
-2
I love the Gathering. For a while they were my favourite band, and I'm 70% sure this is still the case (cue confirmatory discog binge). A huge part of this is down to the huge breadth of colour and creativity that runs across their work, and I can't think of better proof than that my favourite of theirs, and apparent 5th favourite album overall, sounds largely distinct against everything that preceded it. These greyscale "trip-rock" songs are as beautifully atmospheric and richly textured as anything the band touched, but there's a darkness and introspection here that gives them a critical edge for me. A little Portishead goes a long way. Maybe it's a little overproduced, but I love pretty much everything about this record and it's been one of the most regular and reliable staples out of the returning favourites in the top 10. I love its balancing of a side-A full of instant highlights with a side-B full of deep cuts; it holds up throughout and makes for a real old friend.
4Seiko Oomori
洗脳


2013
n/a
Seiko Oomori is my favourite artist. She’s chaotic, inspirationally bold, unapologetically contradictory and constantly challenging in a way I’ve always felt through she screws with pop songwriting, but the more I dug into her background, platform and lyrics, and the more I learned about Japan and its customary narrowness of platform for a woman publicly speaking a woman’s experience in her own language, the more the conviction of her voice has resonated with me. It’s a lot: she’s speaking a fiendish language with the voices of an idol, singer-songwriter, rebel, daydreamer, punk, cryptofeminist, romantic, girl, and adult. Behind all these is one cogent spirit. Seiko Oomori is the real deal, brave enough to live her truth in a myriad of ways, and talented enough that it’ll sound vital every time. Her work is an acquired taste for obvious reasons, but Sennou is a visionary masterpiece that holds all her various voices together with audacity and pure fucking brilliance.
3Slint
Spiderland


1991
+1
Spiderland is its own reality. The spaces suggested by these tracks seem to exist in otherwise unseeable gaps in between familiar ones; the album's tone lies on a nexus of overlapping uncertainties and nagging misgivings. Pinning that nexus down was strange and at times difficult at first, but I couldn't name another album that has shaped my sense of mood or atmosphere as precisely as this one. It's not just a feeling, though; the craft behind these dynamics is endlessly astounding. The way Washer and For Dinner manipulate subtle shifts of intensity and creeping unease is untouchable (even by the likes of Leaves and EVOL), and the ever-hailed Good Morning, Captain is still one of the most explosive assurances of greatness laid to tape. Few writers have done justice to Spiderland and I want to shut up now. If you can't feel this album's merciless engagement all the way through to the most shadowy fibre of the backroom of your senses, you'll have to find your own way there.
2Boris
Boris At Last -Feedbacker-


2003
n/a
Feedbacker is bigger than many things and better than almost all of them. That so much hugeness can be squeezed into 43 minutes is beyond me, but that's Boris. I do not have any cute personal stories about it because it reduces the weight of personal experience to rubble and trivia (that said, I played it in a mate's car during a thunderstorm on a mountain highway and the experience was, uh, huge). Listening to it is like a sacred occasion for me and, honestly, I do this infrequently; the hypnotic back-and-forth of Part II, the gravity-altering climax of Part III and the searing noise of Part IV are too precious to waste on inferior moments. I do not care how pretentious this is. Feedbacker is bigger than hyperbole. Almost every other album here feels like it's been gradually drawn into my personal orbit, to various degrees of closeness, but Feedbacker is its own separate solar system that I can't so much as visit without the balance of mine being radically shaken.
1mewithoutYou
Pale Horses


2015
+1
It could only be Pale Horses. Cryptic, greyscale and claustrophobic, you can take one look at the placements of Slint and Unwound and tell why this is my favourite mwY record. But my favourite? Well. I got into it Sept. 2015, so it's parallel with my path from late teens into adulthood, and I resonate more every year with Aaron Weiss’ account of losing his chief male role model, having his world ambivalently upended by romantic union, and finding himself in an alien modern world that he struggles more than ever to understand. He has surrounded himself with strong beliefs and community, and yet is more at odds with himself than ever. There is no album I identify with more strongly than this one. It is absurd and lonesome, but too eloquent and thoughtful to sink as such: its expression is almost redemptive. Almost. Back in 2016, I met Weiss behind a London concert hall and spieled him over how uncannily the album soaked up everything I weathered with it. Little did I know...
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