Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral: Trent Reznor has been a musical genius way before he was recognized as one by mainstream culture (mostly for his work scoring the films of David Fincher), and The Downward Spiral is probably the best indicator of his brilliance. This is, perhaps, an unnecessarily semi-controversial statement -- at least to people of the generation older than me, who insist that Pretty Hate Machineis hands-down the best NIN release -- but these people are wrong. Both albums are solid, but The Downward Spiral contains not only the club-ish danceable tunes of the first album but also the darker, contemplative, existential statements that illustrate Trent's true maturity and artistry. The album as a whole is fucking perfect, but even if you aren't fond of the entire album, there's no way that you don't like the songs "Closer" and "Hurt." Shit, even Johnny Cash liked the latter song (and covered it), and the former was in Magic Mike XXL (the best film of 2015 thus far). Seriously, this album is perfect, and it is probably almost entirely why Nine Inch Nails were nominated to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. This is nineties alt rock (I know, it is industrial, but it is also alt rock) at its best. Ashley
RIYL: Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Big Black
Recommended Tracks: ALL but especially 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14
Dirty Ghosts - Let It Pretend: Dirty Ghosts frontwoman Allyson Baker steals the spotlight, and my heart, on the band’s second studio album, Let It Pretend. Although Dirty Ghosts’ debut album was released only in 2012, Baker has certainly been around the block when it comes to making music. She got started in the Toronto punk scene in the late 90s, as the songwriter of her punk/hardcore band Teen Crud Combo (which you should also definitely check out!). After ditching Teen Crud Combo for San Francisco, Baker founded the psych and blues inspired Parchman Farm. While Parchman Farm was a short-lived project, it laid the groundwork and set the tone for Dirty Ghosts to be a thing, and thank god it did. Let It Pretend is this really smooth mashup of new wave and psych rock that I fux with extremely heavily. As Baker herself said, “Any time a punk band starts experimenting, that's the era of the band that I love.” She also cites Duran Duran as an influence for the album, which is totally apparent. I feel like if you enjoy good rock music and authentic female vocals you can’t go wrong with Dirty Ghosts and Let It Pretend. CHRISTIAN
RIYL: New Order, Pond, Two Door Cinema Club
Recommended Tracks: Some Kids (1), Cataract (6), So Shallow (8)
Autre Ne Veut - Age of Transparency: Autre Ne Veut is distinctive not only for his brand of alternative R&B, which has become meaningless genre tag, but because his blues influenced delivery takes center stage on all his tracks. Age of Transparency is all about Arthur Ashin’s voice as it is covered by increasingly anxious beats, often experimenting with blends of jazz, electronic, and pop. Opening track “On And On (Reprise)” Ashin sings on a frequently shifting beat until he sighs out the last words. It is a really disorienting moment, which makes the transition into the closest to a Top 40 bid “Panic Room” even more confusing. Ashin feels like he is trying to figure our what direction to move the Autre Ne Veut project as each song feels like a sonic experiment. Even though there were unsavory transitions due to the album’s unevenness, the only unlistenable track is “Switch Hitter”. Listening to this album can be a challenging experience, but there are so many great tracks it is worth it. KEN
RIYL: How To Dress Well, Passion Pit, The Range, Twin Shadow
Recommended Tracks: “On And On (Reprise)” (1), “Panic Room” (2), “Age of Transparency” (4) “World War (Part 2)” (7)
FKA TWIGS - M3LL155X: Hey, remember Summer? Like a couple months ago when everything was hotter and days of eating ice cream and lounging by pools all blended together and school was just a faint glimmer in the distance? Well, back in the good old days, FKA Twigs released an EP, M3LL155X, and now as we all descend further into spo0ky October, MoM has decided to throw it back give i this little diddy a highly coveted spot on the wall. M3LL155X (prounounced "Melissa," obviously...) is Twigs' third EP. The name is taken from that of the artist's own "personal female energy" which the EP explores in depth. All 5 tracks feels simultaneously sensual and introspective, and with her whispery vocals over minimalist pop beats, Twigs explores femininity. Dark and thoughtful, M3LL155X is accompanied by a music video/film that further explores the ideas already laid out on the EP. It's a triumphant work and a more than worth while listen/watch. CAROLINE
RIYL: Grimes, Purity Ring, Jessie Ware
Recommended Tracks: 3, 5, 2
Deafhaven - New Bermuda: It should come to no surprise to any of you that back in high school I would sometimes search for new music just to scare my parents: Slipknot, iwrestledabearonce, Cattle Decapitation were all bands that I discovered in pursuit of this goal. Unfortunately, none of them necessarily worked; though I am not sure that my mom appreciated any of it (and certainly did not approve of me and my sister's dream to start a gurgling death metal band called The Kitten Rapists), she also was down with metal and raised me on Metallica, so even the strangest or heaviest metal I could find would not scare her... Mostly because Deafheaven did not put out any music during this phase of my life. Easily one of the most unique bands ever, Deafheaven somehow blends the ethereal, dreamy sounds of shoegaze with the aggression and screeching of black metal. Think Venom meets My Bloody Valentine, which honestly should not work. Ever. But it does, as the near-perfection of New Bermuda proves. I will reiterate - this album is nearly perfect, intwining melodies with thrashing, delicacy with aggression and sustaining this balance for at least eight minutes in each song (that's right, the songs are hella long). Doesn't sound like your thing? Give it a try anyway! You might surprise yourself. ASHLEY
RIYL: Converge, Whirr, Liturgy
Recommended Tracks: “Brought to the Water" (1), "Baby Blue" (3), "Gifts for the Earth" (5)
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds: It’s year 1964, a time in which the entire idea of pop music was beginning to shift. The Beatles had just released Rubber Soul, one of the first concept albums that did not look to sell danceable singles, but pieces of art that were made solely for listening purposes and had a consistent theme. Brian Wilson, enamored with this album, quit touring and devoted himself to refining Phil Spector’s production technique, which emphasized complicated layering techniques that turned songs into symphonic pieces of art.
Wilson is notoriously known for replacing all his bandmates on the recordings with the revered musicians of “The Wrecking Crew” to record Pet Sounds simply because his band mates were just not good enough to match his new vision for the band’s work. They say Pet Sounds is a pioneering album in psychedelic rock because of its experimental arrangements and far more down tempo songs. It used a variety of instruments from flutes, harpsichords, basses layered three times to bicycle bells, beverage bottles opening, and dogs barking - Brian Wilson’s "Pet Sounds."
Pet Sounds is one of my favorite albums of the 60s, and it is heralded as one of the best rock albums of all time. The central theme of Pet Sounds is about the struggles of becoming a young adult and the ensuing realizations that youthful idealizations of love, adventure, and freedom are coming to the end. Brian Wilson makes dynamic, lush, heart breaking soundscapes with tempo changes, strange inversion of chords, and beautiful melodies. Much of the difference in Pet Sounds compared to other pop bands was its sincerity and willingness to show Wilson’s vulnerability.
The love songs on this album are bitterly sweet; they demonstrate passion, but with the struggles to accept the realities of life. The opening track “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” a weird but catchy pop song, detailing a couple lamenting not being old enough to get married.“Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” is about the couple, although sad and about to break up, trying to express the power of their love through unspoken language.
And “God Only Knows,” Paul McCartney’s favorite song of all time, is a somber tune, with all the realities that come with heartbreak, comes to one real conclusion that he is grateful to ever have been with that girl. There's just something so gut-wrenching about how the chorus sounds coupled with the uncertainty of the verse.
“That’s Not Me,” “You Still Believe in Me” speak of the difficulty of believing in yourself while you push yourself out in the world, and“Let’s Go Away for Awhile” is a stunning instrumental piece that demonstrates Wilson’s genius for composition.
I would really give this album a full listen sometime. It’s incredible. The sheer emotion and production quality set high standards for decades to come and completely altered the path of popular music and rock. The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s was created trying to matchPet Sounds. And Pet Sounds is a favorite of many talented musicians throughout the world -- from David Bowie to Sonic Youth to Thom Yorke. DYLAN
RIYL: Psychedelic Beatles, Person Pitch Panda Bear
Recommended Tracks: Give the entire album a listen, but if not, start off with the songs I mentioned!