Photo Credit: Saylor Cuzzort
Top 10: Vinyls
Pink Floyd – The Wall
This record serves as many people’s favorite album – not only in terms of the discography of Pink Floyd – but also of all time. That rating is certainly deserved, as it is an all-time classic of an album – potentially the most influential concept album, inspiring a plethora of artists including My Chemical Romance. The album serves as a critical turning point in the history of the band, as the concept of the album is the band venting many of their problems with the music industry, trauma and repression. The album follows Pink, a depressed rock star, who blocks many of his emotions by the titular “wall” – a symbol of his trauma and the way he represses it.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
This album is another absolute classic, inspiring countless other bands and albums. This is certainly not the most eclectic Beatles record, it is definitely up there, sporting the psychedelic “Within You Without You” and the orchestrated “A Day in the Life,” among more traditional songs for the band’s discography – such as “Good Morning Good Morning” and “Fixing a Hole.” All this is to say that this record is a very extensive delve into the style of the Beatles – the traditional and the unusual equally.
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
Another classic record – In the Court of the Crimson King is not as well-known as some other albums, as classic as it is. It is an exploration of some of the best progressive rock in the genre. Being one of the pioneers of the progressive rock genre, King Crimson certainly has a lot of competition – as the genre has evolved considerably since its inception – even having other genres incorporate some of its elements, and incorporating other genres into its sound. Despite this, the album still stands up incredibly well today, as the music on this record is some of the best in its genre. The album has different types of progressive rock for any fan of the genre, whether you like the more fast-paced songs, such as “21st Century Schizoid Man,” or the slower music, such as “Moonchild.”
Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine
A departure from the classic rock tones of the previous records – The Man-Machine is certainly not the first album from German electronic act Kraftwerk – though it certainly could be called the most influential. This record serves as one of the major building blocks in the electronic genre, inspiring everything from Daft Punk to Skrillex. It is much more electronic than most modern-day listeners would like, however – as the album often uses their synth instrumentals to carry the tracks, not having vocals most of the time throughout the music.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe
While this record is another concept album, it certainly is an unconventional one. Instead of following simply one story, as many concept albums do, this follows three different stories. While they may be disconnected, the stories told through this album hold similar themes of death, rebirth and hopelessness. As they share similar themes, these stories also carry the same widely pessimistic tone. The stories told throughout the record are certainly out there, and definitely not for everyone. If there’s one way this album differentiates itself from the rest of the band’s discography it is through its tone – not only in the stories it tells but also through the music on the record. The sound on this record is very larger-than-life, having plenty of wide-reaching motifs played on the synthesizer, with plenty of distortion applied to the guitars as well. They incorporate all of these elements along with a puzzling one – that being the addition of spoken word passages to the album. Throughout much of the record, the band incorporates spoken word elements, mainly to reflect the story throughout the album, but also to set the mood of the various tracks. At first, these are spoken by Leah Senior, a member who has only served for these word passages on this album. But the later spoken word bits are done by an AI voice, reflecting the change in mood and storyline. The record is even colored, coming in a fitting “vomit green”
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Atrocity Exhibition may just be Danny Brown’s best release. The outsider rap artist from Detroit has often received praise from critics and fans for his unconventional beats and aggressive flows, and this has certainly been deserved. The aspects that make him great are their most potent on this record – where he uses samples from classic and psychedelic rock. This record is one of his most eccentric releases, while also being the most undiluted his sound has ever been.
American Football – American Football
A staple in midwestern emo and math rock, the self-titled 1999 album from band American Football serves as an incredibly mellow and melancholy album. This record is to many a highlight in 90s music, with its unconventional time signatures and complicated guitar riffs, this album serves not only as a testament to how complex music can be while still appealing to the layman. It – along with several other albums throughout the late 90s and early 2000s pioneered the genre of midwestern emo, a genre that incorporates many unconventional elements, whether they be vocal stylings or guitar riffs, and embraces indie and math rock into its sound. This album also pioneered the genre of math rock, which embraces many of the more complicated aspects of music-making, such as unconventional time signatures and complex melodies. Overall, this record serves as an incredible landmark in the late 90s music scene.
Primus – The Desaturating Seven
This album has an exciting mix of progressive and hard rock rhythms – as much of Primus’s other discography goes in a harder direction, though this record goes in a more progressive rock direction. That’s just the music, however, as this record is one of my favorite-looking vinyl – sporting a clear disc with red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet. This not only looks amazing, but it also ties into the theme of the album, as it’s a concept album about goblins who eat rainbows.
Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone
A must-have for any fan of pop, new-wave or outsider music in general – Lemon Demon’s Spirit Phone is an absolute masterclass in underground pop music. While it certainly is not indie or obscure – becoming quite well known in many online communities – Lemon Demon is one out there artist, especially on their most popular record, Spirit Phone. The songs on the album range wildly, from the real-life story of a supposed talking ghost ferret on “Eighth Wonder,” to trickle-down economics on “Reaganomics,” this album certainly covers its bases in terms of subject material. While many of the songs have rather questionable lyrics, they are all done in the simple, catchy style of other Lemon Demon releases – new-wave inspired, David Bowie-esque, with synthesizers carrying much of the sound on this album. The vinyl itself comes in various different colors – red and brown, pink and white, white and black and even glow-in-the-dark.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland (ATO pressing)
Untamed in their eclecticism, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard made another smash hit of an album with their 2017 release of Polygondwanaland. The album is once again, a different type of sound and genre never heard before, even in the band’s humongous discography. Combining various elements of progressive and psychedelic rock with unconventional structures and instrumentation, the record expertly uses the band’s experience in different genres to create its own unique sound. One departure from previous records that the band had put out is the use of synthesizers on this album. On tracks such as “Horology,” “Searching…” and the nearly 11 minute epic of “Crumbling Castle,” the band delves into territory that they never would have explored before, and it is truly some of their best work. The album had a rather unusual release, as instead of releasing the record as normal, the band decided to give back to the music community and released the master tapes for free online. This meant that anyone could legally stream and/or create their own physical release of the album for free. With so many different variants of the album on vinyl out there, it is surprising that any one pressing specifically stands out. However, the pressing by the record label ATO certainly differentiates itself, as it sports a quad-color disc. The vinyl itself looks absolutely amazing, the combination of red, yellow and blue is certainly an appealing one.