Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and say this might have been the defining pop album of the 1990s.
It was the last decade before the rise of iTunes, file sharing, mp3s, etc., and therefore the end of an era in which the music to which one listened functioned as a prominent self-defining factor socially. Nowadays kids listen to all kinds of music, partly because it's all free anyway if you want it, and partly because you only have to buy individual tracks, and partly because you can hear whatever you want without having to buy it first. Before that you were an indie kid, you were a hiphop head, you were a jam-band hippie, or you just listened to whatever mainstream alt-rock was on MTV that week. MTV used to play music back then.
The Beasties, specifically with this album, transcended all that. Everybody liked the Beasties. This was the album that rescued them from the fate of eternal one-hit novelty status to which their massive breakthrough album and its poorly-selling follow-up had seemingly consigned them. All of a sudden they were at the forefront of popular culture, and not just musically. I don't think any other album from the era, not even Nevermind, galvanised as wide a swath of America's youth. It wasn't some important generational statement, everybody just dug it.
Also, it holds up really well. It's a little long (a byproduct of the CD era), but remains a delight from start to finish.
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Dandelion Gum
Dan Deacon – Bromst
The best album since the first Black Sabbath album on which all the songs basically sound the same.
Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
I continue to be amazed at how much I keep returning to this album. In the last couple years I've found myself pulling this one out even more often that the old SST ones when I feel like listening to J shred. Beats out the Read & Burn EPs as best reunion album ever, and they're pretty damn good.
Fennesz – Endless Summer
Just reissued by Warp in the UK and the first time I've been able to find it on vinyl. If you can find a copy of the original issue, believe me, you're a bit more resourceful than I. Also, this version's got all the bonus tracks from the 2006 reissue.
This album stands as a terrific example of how important separate sides can be in understanding an album. First off, I'm not arguing that sonically this album is "supposed to be heard on vinyl, man"; it's clearly a CD album. But it's a difficult album, and hearing it broken up like this really helped me wrap my head around it. I had it as mp3s and could never really get into it. It's too subtle, and I would get distracted and miss a lot of detail. But just the action of having to flip the record after every few songs forces me back into it, and I've come to appreciate it on a level I never could before. If you've heard of it but never listened to it, the answer is yes, it really is a masterpiece.
The Flaming Lips – Telepathic Surgery
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea
Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha
How come last year's reissues of all the early Etienne albums aren't coming out on vinyl? I've had a hell of a time trying to find a copy of Tiger Bay.
Frank Sinatra – The Sinatra Touch
You can probably guess what I'm in the middle of reading right now. Believe the hype, it's every bit as good as you've heard.
By the way, reading this over before posting I just caught a funny typo: I wrote this title as The Sinatra Tough. Frank himself would probably agree, but by most accounts that's bullshit: he was all bark and no bite, no matter what Lee Mortimer would have told you.
Squarepusher Presents Shobaleader/One – d'Demonstrator
Not sure how to categorise this one. Oh, who am I kidding, it's a Squarepusher record. But apparently he really has a "band" now. He plays bass, natch. Not sure how much creative input the other guys had on this one.
Look, God bless Jenkinson, I'll continue to buy everything he puts out for as long as he keeps releasing stuff, but it's reached a point now where every like fifth album or so is any good. Still, they're so good that I do't mind slogging through the other four or so. I've listened to this a bunch and really tried to get into it, but, to return to my old habit of drawing debatable career analogies, I think this might be his Tin Machine.
Swell Maps – A Trip To Marineville