Tindersticks -- Tindersticks -- The first album remains their best. The instrumentation and composition on here takes it far outside the realms of "rock" or "pop" music. It's a long, lonely album of eccentric and off-kilter musings. It's not an album that ever sees heavy rotation, but it's essential and is there when it's needed. This exemplifies "headphone music" for me--music made for being alone.
Toad the Wet Sprocket -- Dulcinea -- I'm not really a Toad fan. Except for Dulcinea. Just about every song on here is a brilliantly nuanced little songwriting gem. Toad will be remembered for Dulcinea. In its lyrics, musicianship, sound quality, and variety, it's timeless.
Sloan -- One Chord to Another -- Though not every song on this record is as strong as the others, the extraordinary far outweighs the lackluster. OCtA will probably forever be, for me, the ultimate driving music. When they're good, they're fantastic, and the best songs here epitomize the marvelously catchy melodies and clever lyrics Sloan executes so well when they give themselves the chance.
The Loud Family -- Interbabe Concern -- Possibly Scott Miller's strongest work with any of his bands. Scott doesn't write music the way the rest of the world writes music. His chord structures always have an extra, elusive something. "Hyper-melodic" and "literate" describe his music accurately enough. The man is simply a genius, and he's not above sharing it with the rest of the world. Interbabe is amazing. It's really no secret why LF/Miller labored in obscurity: this is beyond the comprehension of alot of people. It's rock music for the 98th percentile.
The Flaming Lips -- The Soft Bulletin -- I heard Soft Bulletin described as "OK Computer but with all the humanity put back". It's not a "concept" album, but there's a thread of hope and optimism and reverence for love that runs through many of the songs. The lyrics might come off as quirky and drug-induced at first, until you realize they're totally earnest and hopeful and "down to earth". An album that positively glows.
The Autumns -- In the Russet Gold of this Vain Hour -- From the first time I heard "Boy With the Aluminum Stilts" on Adventure Club, I was in love with this album. These sounds are incredible! You know, looking back, this is what I always wanted The Cure's less poppy stuff to sound like, but it never came close. The Autumns soar.
The Sheila Divine -- New Parade -- Songs about growing up and realizing you've got to work to survive, and you'll be getting old, and true love probably isn't going to happen for you at this point. An amazing *shriek* of guitar and vocals. Memories that stay with you. A debut album that became a classic.
Suede -- Suede -- Dog Man Star is an excellent album, but the self-titled debut is the one I always come back to. Bernard's guitar playing mezmerizes me, Brett's vocals are gorgeous, and the best songs on here are fragile, shimmering beauties that for me defined a whole genre of music.
Dada -- American Highway Flower -- AHF is so far and away Dada's best work that you wonder what happened on the other releases. After Doug Martsch (Built to Spill) and Bernard Butler (Suede), Michael Gurley has done my third favorite guitar work. Dada are amazing musicians and singers, and this is their opus, thirteen gorgeous rock tunes.
Built to Spill -- Perfect From Now On -- It took me a while to "get into" this album. I bought it because I liked "In the Morning", a quirky, quick pop song by BtS from the early 90s. PFNO was nothing like "In the Morning". No, these songs are all six to eight minute long drawn-out but exquisitely-crafted jams with no outward hint of pop-friendliness. This just may be the best album I've ever heard; it's that good. It's dreamy, it's epic, it features some of the most head-spinning guitar-created melodies in existence. At one point, I think I listened to it forty or fifty times in a row over a period of a few weeks. PFNO changed the way I listen to music, and probably the way I approach alot of things: it went from a seemingly inaccessible and disappointing purchase to an hour of sound I'll always hold close to my heart, and all it took on my part was a thoughtful and open mind.