Sonic Masterpiece Albums
September 28, 2013 12:56 PM   Subscribe

With Fall around the corner I am looking for some new music to drive to and take long walks with. I listen to a lot of music but find myself returning to many of the same records. Most are sonically complex and feature lots of layers. I like the fact that I feel like I hear something new after the 1000th listen of the Fragile. What albums sound as good to you after the 100th listen as they did when it was new?

Many of these are 90s albums. I feel like there was so much creativity and “realness” in music compared to today.

I will list some of my favorites to give you an idea and hopefully introduce someone else to some great stuff.

The cream of the crop

Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works II – The album that got me into Ambient – those soundscapes!!!

Bjork – Homogenic - electronic / drums / strings - feels warm and icy cold at the same time

Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals – Perhaps a guilty pleasure? MM is what he is, but this album is gorgeous!! I love the production down to the little segues/interludes between songs

A Perfect Circle – Mer De Noms / Thirteenth Step – great headphone music

NIN – TDS through Still – I have probably listened to these more than anything

Pj Harvey – To Bring You My Love – PJ is a force of nature. Great bass sounds.

Portishead – Dummy – love the “dusty” and soulful sound of this album. It sounds old and comtemporary at the same time

Radiohead – OKC through Amnesiac – anyone who wonders why Radiohead are treated like gods, proceed to this trilogy

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream through Adore – those guitars!!! Adore was every bit as brave a change in direction as Kid A

Sonic Youth – Dirty – wish fulfillment! Drunken butterfly!!

Tool – Aenima / Lateralus - Amazing

Tricky – Pre Millenium Tension / Maxinquaye - Maxinquaye is the sexiest album EVER. PMT is so claustrophic and paranoid sounding.

U2 – Achtung Baby / Zooropa – Flood has the magic touch

Unkle – Psyence Fiction – criminally underrated

Other amazing stuff:
Those piano pieces on Aphex Twins Drukqs
Bowie’s Low – ENO!!!
Dave Navarro – Trust no one – a hidden gem
Dredg – El Cielo – the most underrated band on the planet – amazing live performers as well Explosions in the sky – the earth is not a cold dead place
Godspeed you black emperor
Mark Lanegan – Bubblegum – he has a very strange discography – either good or not so
Nearly - Very similar to 12 rounds (same vocalist)
Queens of the Stone Age
Twilight Singers – Powder Burns – some great stuff on here – another hidden Gem
Kranky ambient – Stars of the lid – winged victory for the sullen

Tried , but can’t get into (and should maybe give another chance)
Flying Lotus
Grizzly Bear
The Knife
The Mars Volta
Arcade Fire

What am I missing? There has got to be some great stuff out there obscured by all the pitchfork hipster stuff….
posted by kbbbo to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Mike Oldfield : Amarok - 1 track and 1 hour of weird but very listenable after you've got used to it.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 1:04 PM on September 28, 2013

Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music for Airports
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:06 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel like Dan Deacon's most recent two albums (Bromst and America) would probably be right up your alley.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:08 PM on September 28, 2013

The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. is very different from most of the albums you list here as your favourite, but IMHO it's a sonic masterpiece of a different type that is always revealing new layers and things I'd never noticed before bubbling up through the murk (the original version; I haven't listened to the remaster(s)). More in keeping with the sorts of albums you list I'd also recommend:

The Wedding Present - Seamonsters
Primal Scream - Vanishing Point
Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Stereolab - Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2

And, while I'm not really a fan, My Bloody Valentine - Loveless.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:17 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eluvium's (Matthew Cooper) majestic, sweeping, symphonic soundscapes should fit the bill, I think. Especially the 2007 album Copia.
posted by procrastinator at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Failure - Fantastic Planet (SLYT entire album) Huge sound, really good texture. Ken Andrews (who was Failure's guitarist/vocalist) is a top notch engineer/producer in his own right. Also worth checking out is his project ON, which is a really interesting rock/synth/pop blend. The album Shifting Skin just plain sounds great from start to finish. Slingshot is a representative track.
posted by usonian at 1:28 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Burial - Untrue
posted by juv3nal at 1:29 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

A few others:

Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children
Edan - Beauty and The Beat
Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
The Temptations - Masterpiece
Depth Charge - Lust 1 and/or 2
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:31 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Since you mention Smashing Pumpkins, specifically for the layers of guitars, you'd probably want to look into My Bloody Valentine. I'm not as familiar with their other stuff, but Loveless is a classic for a reason, and one of the studio guys who worked on it, Alan Moulder, also engineered Siamese Dream. Billy Corgan cribbed a lot of stuff from them, including a track title on Mellon Collie (To Here Knows When --> To Here Knows Why). The mix is a bit odd and might take some getting used to (a review I've read said that their breakthrough was that they foregrounded the accompaniment), but there's tons of layered guitars, and I constantly find myself listening to the barest traces of little things going on in the background buried under the layers of fuzz. Sometimes is a decent example. There's also the weird crunchy things going on in the background for the last minute or so of What You Want.

Other stuff:
Spiritualized: Lazer Guided Melodies(note the reverse echo on some of the lyrics here) and Pure Phase
The Verve (no, really): A Storm in Heaven

The Card Cheat and I basically seem to be in agreement on most things. I'd also recommend XTRMNTR and Screamadelica by Primal Scream.
posted by LionIndex at 1:33 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pretty much all Boards Of Canada albums are layered and complex enough that, if you like them, they will keep revealing new things to you for as long as you're prepared to keep intently listening to them. They're of varying levels of incredibleness, but they are all incredible.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:53 PM on September 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Replicas by Tubeway Army (aka Gary Numan). I like a lot of what you have up there and this is what I've moved on to. Definitely try it. Best known for Are Friends Electric but the whole things just get better and better.

Then, also, the last two albums by Gary Numan (Dead Son Rising and, most betterer, Jagged).

Then, if you can get it, the Late Night Tales mix by Gary Nunam (it's on there somewhere, do a search for "gary"). Most played track on my iTunes for the last five years.

Then move on to Bauhaus. The last album is great because they're clearly having so much fun playing their depressing songs, but the earlier ones are also really dense and interesting and worthy of delving into.
posted by shelleycat at 2:02 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Imperial Bedroom. The production is incredible and unequaled in his career imho. Each track holds new "ah-ha!" moments, especially if you try listening to just one instrument for the entire song. Sonically complex, with lots of layers - it's just what you want.

It's a masterpiece.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:03 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Massive Attack. Start from their most recent and work back.
posted by rhizome at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

London Calling, The Clash

The Great Destroyer, Low

Summerteeth, Wilco
posted by COBRA! at 2:26 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, duh:

The Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips
posted by COBRA! at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah to Soft Bulletin (and Yoshimi).

Also Sigur Ros, especially Agaetis, Takk, ().
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you want to go more into the industrial side, then Whiplash Boychild by Chris Connelly is an album I've been listening to pretty regularly for over 15 years at this point (e.g.). It's been mixed in with most of your 'cream' list up there over the years so, in my ears at least, it fits.

I do like some of his other work too and have some random later albums/tracks, but this early album is really the one that has my love and repeat listens.

(if this works for you, then check out Murder Inc)
posted by shelleycat at 3:04 PM on September 28, 2013

The Queen is Dead by The Smiths.
posted by 4ster at 3:36 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is City of Echoes, no vocals to get in the way, great ride, some people call it "post rock."
posted by Max Power at 4:02 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Amarok by the way - on the hundredth listen you will (I guarantee) find something new in the mix.

I'be tempted to try out 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' by Iron Maiden, probably the most 'proggy' that the 'end of the second generation' Iron Maiden managed.
posted by ewan at 4:18 PM on September 28, 2013

There has got to be some great stuff out there obscured by all the pitchfork hipster stuff...

As a general suggestion, your favorites seem to tiptoe around metal, while ignoring all the really excellent stuff coming out of Europe. I'm resisting the urge to go off on a tangent in case that's completely off base, so just check out Time I by Wintersun. There's enough music in those 40 minutes to occupy a person for years.
posted by gueneverey at 4:31 PM on September 28, 2013

The Cure - Disintegration (also Bloodflowers and Wish)
Harold Budd & Brian Eno - Ambient 2 Plateaux of Mirror
Galaxie 500 - On Fire
posted by K.P. at 4:35 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some suggestions from the nineties:
Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT
Jim O'Rourke - Eureka
The Sea and Cake - The Fawn
Don Caballero - What Burns Never Returns
Stereolab - pretty much anything. Here's Dots & Loops.

Some that are not:
Joanna Newsom - Ys
(Smog) - Supper
St. Vincent - Marry Me
Arthur Russell - Calling out of Context
posted by hydrophonic at 5:00 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like a lot of what is on your list, and I love Sigur Ros. Try older tracks like Festival or newer stuff like Brennisteinn.
posted by Requiax at 5:13 PM on September 28, 2013

Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets; Another Green World; Before and After Science; and, especially, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.
posted by OmieWise at 5:47 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

will withstand infinite listenings
posted by j_curiouser at 8:41 PM on September 28, 2013

I'm gonna say:

Perfect Teeth by Unrest

Sargasso Sea by Pram

Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell (YouTube Full Album)

For more Stereolab:

Random Transient Noise Bursts With Announcements
(YouTube Full Album)

Magnetic Fields, The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees ('When You Were My Baby' still slays me 20 years later!)

And BTW, this comment thread contains a lot of other items in my collection that I absolutely love.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:10 PM on September 28, 2013

The Avalanches - Since I Left You - the entire album is fantastically dense.
posted by benzenedream at 9:54 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Blonde Redhead - Misery is a butterfly
posted by mani at 1:21 AM on September 29, 2013

Sigur Ros.
posted by barnone at 3:09 PM on September 29, 2013

Fever Ray is a solo project by The Knife's Karen Dreijer Anderson. It's kind of similar to The Knife, but maybe a little more accessible. The production and songwriting are amazing and it's high (no pun intended) on my list of albums to smoke pot and take a walk while listening to because I almost always notice some small detail that I'd missed before.

Check out "The Wolf," which is a song she did for some horrible Little Red Riding Hood movie but is a pretty amazing song that's not on the album.
posted by Fister Roboto at 4:54 PM on September 29, 2013

Opeth - The Drapery Falls, A Fair Judgement
Liquid Tension Experiment - Paradigm Shift
Blind Guardian - And then there was silence
posted by prufrock at 1:54 AM on September 30, 2013

I really enjoy a lot of what is listed here. I would like to add Moby's album entitled "Ambient".

And a couple of The Orb's earlier albums, "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld" and "Orbus Terrarum" fit the bill.

I have listened to each of these albums hundreds (not exaggerating) of times.
posted by zyxwvut at 8:16 AM on October 4, 2013

The Beach Boys - Smile, Pet Sounds
posted by hydrophonic at 6:47 PM on October 4, 2013

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