By Aaron Viland
There are plenty of great albums that are included on every top ten list, and which have a name that seems to carry more weight than the music itself, but what about the great albums that don’t get as much recognition? Here’s a list of ten great albums you might not have heard.
- The Cure – Faith
You may have heard The Cure’s more popular albums such as 1987’s upbeat Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, or 1989’s melancholy Disintegration, but an album which often escapes people’s attention amidst their impressive discography is their 1981 masterpiece, Faith. Its predecessor, Seventeen Seconds, began the sonic experimentation with dark atmosphere, long sustain on quite mechanically played drums, modulated guitars, and Robert Smith’s dramatic vocals, but often lacks in terms of songwriting. With Faith, The Cure went deeper into sonic experimentation, while this time producing a tracklist without blemish, and with the band finally grabbing hold of the gloomy sound which they are now known for. While the instrumentation, production, and songwriting are more polished than they had been before, the album still retains a very natural feeling that makes the album feel like a real environment which the listener is able to step into.
- The Microphones – the Glow Pt 2
The Microphones was the experimental folk project of Phil Elverum, now known as Mount Eerie. In 2001, he released what is considered by many to be one of the greatest ‘indie’ albums of all time, the Glow Pt 2. On this album, imperfection is more than welcome. It’s full of out-of-tune acoustic guitars, fuzzed out bass lines, off-time drums, and wavering vocals, constantly keeping the listener aware of its human aspects. Apart from the interesting experimental arrangements, the album is also full of great folk songs, with lyrics about love and death that pull at the heart-strings quite effectively.
- Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People – EP
This EP, running at close to an hour in length, was originally intended to be included as part of Sufjan’s full length album, The Age of Adz, but was excluded and instead released without prior announcement the month before, as promotion for the album. The circumstances of its release, as well as mixed critical reception, caused attention to be drawn from it, and towards the album which followed shortly after. Though it does require a bit of patience with its ambitious track lengths, it certainly contains more than enough aural rewards. The enthusiastic horn and string arrangements overwhelm the listener, along with Sufjan’s emotive lyrics, effervescent piano playing, backwoods banjo picking, and sparkling synth embellishments all which create an overall amusingly dramatic experience, delivering more and more upon each listen.
- Spacemen 3 – Playing With Fire
With Playing With Fire, Spacemen 3 not only set the stage for their future projects following their breakup, but the album has also been a great influence on the Shoegaze genre, such as bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, as well modern indie bands such as MGMT, Animal Collective, and The Flaming Lips. The album’s continuous contrast between minimalism and maximalism creates a dynamic which makes the smallest arrangements seem greatly infinitesimal and the biggest seem enormously energetic.
- Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets
Pink Floyd’s second album is a very odd one. Following their debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a critically acclaimed collection of psychedelic pop songs, lead singer, and primary songwriter Syd Barrett suffered a drug-induced mental breakdown. This forced the band to reinvent their sound. Unable to reproduce the catchy, imaginative pop songwriting of Barrett, the band entered the unknown to find what would eventually become their classic sound, which would be displayed on their smash hit albums Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
- Julian Cope – Jehovakill
An A&R man of Island Records described a song from Jehovakill as “the worst song he’d heard by anybody in his life,” and the album ended up resulting in Cope being dropped from the label due to poor sales. In spite of this, it received very positive critical reception and praise from other musicians as time has progressed. The album moves from disjointed rock tunes, to hypnotic electronic beats, and everywhere else in between, leaving the listener in a rather satisfying state of confusion.
- Brian Eno – Discreet Music
One may know Brian Eno from the many popular artists he’s produced, such as U2, Talking Heads, Coldplay, David Bowie, John Cale, John Cage, Devo, and everyone else, but he’s also a pioneer of ‘ambient’ music. His first ambient album was Discreet Music. After a car accident, Eno was bed-ridden in a hospital. He built up the strength to put his record of 18th century harp music on the record player, and lie back down, but then realized he hadn’t turned the volume very high, and could not get up again. This caused him to view music in a new way, which was as part of an environment. This led to the creation of Discreet Music, an album which started a whole new way of perceiving music for many great artists.
- of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
In 2007, of Montreal released a ground-breaking, critically-acclaimed synth-pop album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, which was one of the most influential indie albums of the 2000’s. Rather than banking on its successful sound, he continued experimenting with different genres, eventually resulting in 2012’s Paralytic Stalks, his most ambitious and experimental album to date. It’s a sonic overload of Penderecki style horror movie string arrangements mixed with Prince-influenced falsettos and beats, contrasted with pseudo-country slide-guitars, and Kevin Barnes psychotic lead vocals. If you’re looking to be spooked, this is the album for you.
- The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
After releasing White Light/White Heat, a collection of loud, gritty distorted jams, the Velvet Underground followed up with the exact opposite. Their self-titled album is full of quiet, folk rock songs that breath themselves into your subconscious, while still remaining a bit jarring, like their past releases. With its sweet innocence, emphasized by Mo Tucker’s voice on the last track, contrasted with Lou Reed’s sordid lyrical themes, The Velvet Underground proves to be an extremely pleasant listen.
- Stereolab – Dots and Loops
No one can make ⅝ time sound as funky as Stereolab can. Featuring electronic producers Mouse on Mars, as well as regular collaborator, John McEntire, Dots and Loops contains mind-boggling mixtures of complicated jazz, 60s psychedelic pop, bossa nova, and IDM. In spite of all of its complexities, it still manages to groove along quite smoothly, inviting the listener to kick off their shoes, sit back in their chair, and get lost in the funk.