Depeche Mode – Music For the Masses
Reputed to be a lesser effort, but I rather like this one. Peters out a bit towards the end, but the first half is excellent. "Never Let Me Down" really needs a guitar-heavy cover. Smashing Pumpkins did a version years ago for a Mode tribute album that reinvents it as quiet and menacing, but I think you can play this pretty literally, with booming drums and power chords for the main synth riff and it would really rock.
Fishbone – The Reality of My Surroundings
Definitely their masterpiece, and a flawed one at that. Fishbone never made a great album, but this one came closest. I just realised I keep writing two-clause sentences with "but" in the middle. The muted power chords, crisp production and super-pro rhythm section sound very dated and very L.A., but the energy and manic ideas shine through.
Buddy Holly – The Crickets 20 Golden Greats
Did I say last week that this one really needs an apostrophe in the title?
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
I love that there's a song on side two with the exact same intro as "Just Like Honey". They found a riff that worked, so why not use it twice? These guys did not give a fuck. Shameless and brilliant.
Janelle Monáe – Suites II and III: The Archandroid
All the hits are frontloaded, but it doesn't flag a bit in the second half. Solid.
OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Now that Chico Dusty has met with universal praise, can we all just come out and say what we've been thinking all along but were afraid to say for fear of seeming like we just don't get it? Speakerboxxx slays Love Below.
R.E.M. – Up, IX
IX is a lot better than I expected, with a few real standout tracks. The title's still the best part, though. Get it?
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves
Buckets of hits on here, plus a terrific back cover photo. I don't know who did their wardrobe, but s/he deserves some kind of special citation.
Swirlies – They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days In the Glittering World Of the Salon/Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music
Is it cheating to reissue two old albums as a double-LP in order to claim the prize for longest album title? If not, then I think they passed Marnie Stern, but I'm pretty sure Fiona Apple still has them beat.
Wild Youthful Days, by the way, might be the great forgotten indie rock album of the 90s. That or August Revital. Doesn't even have their best song on it, but it's astounding start to finish. Still in print, too!
Times New Viking – Dig Yourself
I wonder if Bob Dylan's heard this record. He's on the cover, presumably without permission. I bet he'd like it.
Stevie Wonder – Looking Back
A triple album of early hits from before he even peaked, and it's still unstoppable.
Neil Young – Le Noise
I feel like this one got kinda overlooked last year, and it's his best in a long time.