Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack to David Lynch’s groundbreaking television drama is every bit as mysterious and alluring as the show itself; arriving alongside the first wave of “dream pop,” it would prove to be a critical influence on three decades of music to follow.
Animal Collective’s sixth record found the Baltimore-based group striking a perfect equilibrium between their feral early work and the pop instincts of 2009’s masterful Merriweather Post Pavilion; it stands as a remarkable document of one of the most fascinating bands of their time.
The soundtrack to Marcel Camus’ surprise hit film would introduce the world to the vibrant new sounds emerging from Brazil in the late-fifties; it stands as one of the most successful “cultural crossovers” of all-time.
Truly “shared” cultural experiences can be tough to come by in an era of media fragmentation; however, the world-building of Minecraft, and its attendant soundtrack, have provided one such touchstone for those of “Generation Z.”
“Freedom of expression” remains a nebulous concept for those who have never actually lacked it – much to the frustration of those who have. Caetano Veloso’s self-titled 1971 album – a.k.a. “A Little More Blue” – is the work of a man who understood both the challenges and consequences of dissent. It was a rare showing of vulnerability from an artist who had made his name on provocation.
Recorded while under house arrest in his home state of Bahia, Caetano Veloso’s third album may have lacked the shock value of his previous landmark LP, but it further secured his reputation as one of Brazil’s finest songwriters; its mere existence links it to the defiant spirit of the Tropicália movement that Veloso and Gilberto Gil had spearheaded.
Though not a ‘debut’ in the technical sense, Caetano Veloso’s 1968 self-titled album represented the arrival of a formidable talent – one who stood at the center of a brilliant collective of like-minded cultural agitators. Few albums of the sixties would have as seismic of an impact.
Caetano Veloso’s fourth solo album is arguably the most celebrated release in his discography. Rather than documenting a single facet of his artistry, it’s a holistic portrait of a singular talent at the peak of his craft.
Curtis Mayfield’s first album after his departure from The Impressions is an assured, confident statement of artistic intent. A mix of expert musicianship, bold production, and poignant, socially-conscious songwriting, it ranks among the finest soul records of all-time.
Duke Ellington’s first foray into composing for film yielded a memorable score to Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder; while it may not surpass the heights of his best work, the soundtrack displays the deft touch of a master discovering a new outlet for his craft.
Though it wasn’t released in its entirety until decades after his death, Joe Meek’s lone solo record is a classic example of space-age pop; experimental yet tuneful, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the brilliant-but-troubled mind of one of pop music’s true visionaries.
Julie London’s 1955 debut is a stark and intimate recording. Though fitting comfortably within the lounge stylings of the mid-fifties, it stands as one of the great “late-night” pop albums of its – or any – era.
With her arresting fifth album, Kate Bush sought to dramatically expand the boundaries of her already-formidable craft. It would not only represent a turning point in her career, but for modern pop music as well.
The York, Pennsylvania quartet, Līve, achieved a rarified level of stardom with their 1994 album, ‘Throwing Copper.’ Its highly-anticipated follow-up found the band struggling with the burden of its own success on a set of tracks that are both undercooked and overproduced.
Marcos Valle eluded Brazil’s cultural censors, and created his definitive artistic statement with 1973’s captivating ‘Previsão do tempo’; a “lost classic” of the música popular brasileira scene, the album doesn’t so much beg for rediscovery, but it certainly rewards it.
Martin Denny’s fifth LP synthesizes the novel stylistic elements of his 1957 landmark debut with a fully-realized sense of arrangement and purpose; the resulting album represents the high-water mark in the genre for which Denny had given a name.
Marty Robbins personified – and perfected – the “singing cowboy” trope on his classic 1959 record, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. Full of vivid storytelling and stellar vocal performances, it stands as one of the finest albums of its time, or type.
Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges’ 1972 collaborative album, Clube da Esquina, is a towering achievement of alluring melodies and gorgeous arrangements; an unqualified masterpiece, it may very well be the finest album ever produced in Brazil, and deserves to be considered among the greatest albums of the seventies.
Os Mutantes’ debut album is a psychedelic masterstroke – a record undoubtedly influenced by contemporary recordings from the likes of The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Jimi Hendrix, but one that charts its own utterly indefinable course. Few records in the pop canon are more melodious or charming in their brazen defiance of convention.
OutKast’s masterful third record expanded upon the stylistic and thematic growth displayed on 1996’s ATLiens. It would represent a new high-water mark for the Atlanta duo, and go on to become one of the most revered albums in hip-hop history.
Nearly as essential as any record in their catalog, Pavement’s 1997 album, Brighten the Corners, presented the sometimes-shambolic band in stunning clarity. It remains an arresting listen, twenty-five years after its release.
Pavement’s second LP is an unqualified masterpiece. Built on jagged hooks and sharp lyrics – with charisma to spare – it would provide the group its closest brush with mainstream success, and stands as one of the most beloved of all American indie rock records.
Touted as a masterpiece upon its 1992 release, Pavement’s debut album would become an indie rock archetype. It has lost none of its power, and still sounds just as refreshing today as it did thirty years ago.
Pavement’s final record may be the least immediately-appealing entry in their catalog; and yet, on the eve of its long-awaited deluxe reissue treatment, Terror Twilight now feels like another classic album from the best American band of their time.
Widely dismissed upon its arrival, Pavement’s third album has since become a cult favorite. A boundless well of creativity, Wowee Zowee found the group at their most dexterous, surreal, and freewheeling.
Faced with the near-impossible task of breathing new life into some of David Bowie’s most beloved songs, Seu Jorge takes a minimalist approach; the result is a frequently-charming collection that complements Bowie’s sizable legacy.
Widely considered to be the “holy grail” amongst garage rock collectors, the 1967 album from The Rising Storm is far more than just a valuable curio; it both synthesizes a wildly diverse regional scene, and finds a remarkable young band displaying something much greater than mere ‘potential.’
The Ronettes’ first, and only, album is frequently hailed as the greatest of all “girl group” records, but needless qualifiers aside, it’s nothing short of a pop masterpiece – one with dark undercurrents lurking just beneath its instantly-lovable melodies and arrangements.
Forged in the spirit of the great garage rock compilations, the Numero Group excavated a treasure trove of virtually-unknown tracks with 2014’s Local Customs: Cavern Sound. Unlike those other collections however, Numero literally went underground to find them.
Fashioned as the Brazilian response to The Beatles’ masterpiece, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ‘Tropicália ou panis et circencis’ was a collaborative effort from the leading figures of the Tropicalismo movement; a thoroughly cohesive group statement of shared artistic intent, it remains a stunning listening experience.
Willie Nelson’s career-defining masterpiece symbolizes the transition from the glossy Nashville Sound of the then-recent past to the more introspective songwriting of a new generation of country songwriters; it’s an indisputable classic that harkens back to the rich storytelling tradition of country and western music.
Everything that made Woody Guthrie an icon – his talent, his empathy, his humor, and his rage – is on full display throughout the scintillating 1940 collection, Dust Bowl Ballads. Over eight decades after its initial arrival, it remains among the most powerful pieces of American music ever recorded.