These are 42 albums I don’t get tired of listening to over and over again. Not being one for High Fidelity-style top-five lists, I thought it would be hard to come up with my top 42 favorite albums, but it was surprisingly easy. I could have listed a hundred, although on reflection, that would defeat the purpose of a “best of” list. Some albums are full of great songs, but for some reason don’t really occur to me as great albums. Resist the New Way by Men’s Recovery Project is a great example of this. I really like every song, but for the most part, most of the songs don’t lose or gain anything by listening them on their own or listening to the whole album.
These 42 albums aren’t in any particular order of quality, chronology, or whatever. It’s pretty hard for me to pick out any of these albums as “the best”, because for me, they mostly scratch different “itches”. Cacophony is the best album for when I’m in the mood for Cacophony; Ptah the El Daoud is the best album for when I’m in the mood for Ptah the El Daoud, etc. Space & time (“physics”) will not permit me to explain myself for all of these albums, but I’ll discuss a few:
My parents introduced me to Neville Brothers’ Brother’s Keeper, sometime in the 90s, & I encountered the rest of these albums over the past 20 years or so. Brother’s Keeper has an eclectic enough sound that even 30 years on, it doesn’t sound dated, & it’s overall “end of days” mood is actually incredibly timely for this late-capitalist moment & 2020 in particular.
It was hard to decide which of Tampax’s two albums to include in this list; in the end I just felt like including Let it Shit more than Sorry not Tonight. I first learned about Tampax from Mick Mucus, who told me a band I was playing in sounded like them. I soon learned what a massive compliment he’d paid me. Tampax’s albums sound like Culturcide or Negativland, or maybe Culturcide & Negativland, played simultaneously. Sorry not Tonight has more residual punk influence, while Let it Shit is more committed to psychedelic faux-world-music sound collage.
Escuse-moi! seems to be some sort of francophone alpine climbing & exploration concept album. The record sleeve folds out into a game whose object is to reach the peak of the Matterhorn. Short noise & punk songs with screeching vocals are interspersed with whimsical movie soundtrack style short acoustic guitar & woodwinds tunes with squeaky vocals. I’m pretty sure that I first picked up this record at random from the KDVS library.
Some of my favorite albums are the mix tapes & mix CDs my wife made for me in the early 2000s. They’re not exactly albums, so they didn’t make this list. But these tapes did introduce me to some of my favorite bands to this day, such as Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Gorky’s went through a few phases, & Tatay is solidly in their unhinged psychedelic phase. Tatay kind of sounds like what happened when some Welsh-speaking fans of Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt, & Kevin Ayers were introduced to acid & the Butthole Surfers circa 1992. All of Amphetamine Reptile Records’s Dope-Guns-N-Fucking in the Streets compilations (including their Video series, Dope Guns & Fucking up Your Video Deck) are amazing. They were some of my early guides to 90s noise rock, & taught me how valuable compilation albums are for exploring genres. In many cases they capture the very best tracks of some incredible bands. The original series of 7” EPs were released between 1989-1994, & were also released as 3 LPs, & were re-released as a complete set when Amphetamine Reptile made a comeback a few years ago. I chose the Vols 8-11 LP for this list, but the Vols 1-3 & 4-7 LPs are about as good.