The assignment was to talk about “Albums That Will Change Your Life,” so I dug through my virtual crates to come up with things you may not have heard, or are worth revisiting.
Lucifer’s Friend — Mind Exploding
I could’ve gone with any Lucifer’s Friend record, honestly, but this one is getting the most spins lately. LF comprised a bunch of German studio cats plus John Lawton on vocals, who would later go on to front Uriah Heep. Over the five Lawton-era albums they go from ultra-high-concept prog-fusion to straight-up-stupid Grand Funk-style boogie rock. If you like Deep Purple, Queen, Heep, and other pretentious Brit-rock of that era, Mind Exploding is right up your alley. Standout tracks: “Broken Toy,” “Free Hooker.”
Cave In — Jupiter
You’ve heard Jupiter. You love Jupiter. You should go and put on Jupiter right now because it will make your day better.
I’ve always assumed that Brodsky and co. locked themselves in a room, smoked a ton of weed and listened to King Crimson’s Red for an entire summer. How else do you explain the progression from UYHS to Jupiter? Even if that’s not what happened, it’s a brave and incredible record that still sounds fresh a dozen years and 100’s of imitators later. Standout tracks: “Jupiter,” “New Moon.”
Swell Maps — Jane From Occupied Europe
The second and final record from this criminally overlooked British band. Driven by the sonic experiments of the Godfrey brothers, Swell Maps added tape loops, sound effects, and toy instruments to their guileless, surf-damaged compositions. Far more interesting to me than most other post-punk stuff, and that includes Joy Division. RIYL: The Stooges, The Shaggs, Stockhausen, chorused bass. Standout tracks: “Cake Shop Girl,” “Let’s Build Car” (bonus track on the Mute Records reissue).
Mos Def — Black on Both Sides
I couldn’t not have a hip-hop record on here, and I didn’t want to pick something too obvious, so I went with Mos Def’s 1999 solo debut. Incredible flow, insightful and incisive lyrics, bangin’ ‘90s production: BOBS has it all. I don’t care where you are: when this album is playing, you’re in Bed-Stuy on a sultry summer night. Standout tracks: “Mathematics,” “Got.”
Spiritualized — Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
My single favorite album of all time. The 12 songs on L&GWAFIS are simple — most are no more than four chords — but their power comes from the elaborate arrangements and J. Spaceman’s spare, honest voice. RIYL: Phil Spector, Farfisas, heroin. Standout tracks: “I Think I’m in Love,” “Cop Shoot Cop.”