By EVO 40 Comments
1. Innaway - InnawayIt was 2005. I was in the CD store, browsing for something new before coming across Innaway. The cover art instantly grabbed my attention and I picked it up. On the cover was a sticker pointing out that Tortoise's John McEntire mixed the album and numerous reviews quotes like Guitar World Mag's
Innaway's debut is a banquet for your iPod
Five years later, after countless listens and still as listenable as the day I bought it, what was an impulse buy turned out to be my favourite album ever. That's saying a lot considering Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin IV are my next favourite albums, which is perhaps why I love it so much; it's a combination of so many bands I like. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Tortoise, Air, Radiohead... they're influences read like my CD library. Yet while they sound like so many bands, their sound is one entirely of their own. Innaway shifts effortlessly from blues rock to psychedelia to electronica to heavy metal to tribal to glitch (!) before closing on the beautiful "George Walker on Water". On paper, this may sound disjointed but to go back to Dark Side of the Moon and IV, not since these albums has a track listing felt so natural. Like some people are waiting for the next Sgt. Pepper's or Pet Sounds, I'm still waiting for the next Innaway. And after hearing their sophomore release, Album of the Ear, not even Innaway themselves could top this masterpiece. You can stream the album here.
2. Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning LightBrightblack Morning Light is the closest thing to being high without actually being high. The combination of hypnotic rhythms and reverb drenched, dreamlike vocals give it a hazy sound comparable only to that of weed smoke. You could say it is like a doobie for your ears--minus the red eyes and munchies--although it can make you sleepy. Speaking of which this album has helped me sleep many times, which is not to say this album is passive music, but rather it is perhaps best listened to in the background while you're doing other things. Cleaning your room or whatever, subconsciously living at snail pace. Hence the weed comparisons.
Everybody Daylight, All We Have Broken Shines
3. Cymande - CymandeReleased in 1972, Cymande is easily the oldest album on this list. But don't let that fool you, this still sounds as fresh as the day it released. Well, I can only assume so. Hailing from London, Cymande were years of their time but it wasn't until decades later that they recieved any widespread recognition, in the form of hip hop artists such as De La Soul and Grandmaster Flash sampling the record. So even if the name is unfamiliar, it's possible you've still heard Cyamnde. In particular, the funk classics "Dove", "Bra" and "The Message". But the highlight of the album is arguably "Listen", the most uplifting and downright smoothest song you'll ever hear.
Listen, Dove, Bra, The Message
4. DJ Shadow - Live! In Tune and On TimeOf all the artists on this list, DJ Shadow is probably the most renowned. I'm sure some of you have heard the classic Endtroducing, but I doubt anyone has heard Live! In Tune and On Time. An accompaniment to the live DVD of his amazing show at Brixton Academy, London, this is not only my favourite DJ Shadow album but one of my favourite of all time. Despite the mind boggling omission of "Six Days", In Tune and On Time covers a lot of ground from DJ Shadow's solo work to his many collaborations with artists such as UNKLE and Cut Chemist. On the opening track "Fixed Outcome", we are told we are going on a musical trip, and by the end of the album you genuinely feel as though you've done so. I've seen DJ Shadow perform live twice, and as great as he was, both shows paled in comparison to this set.
You can watch the full set on YouTube.
5. My Morning Jacket - ZThe fact that I kinda dislike two of the tracks on this album, "Gideon" and "What A Wonderful Man", speaks volumes on the remaining 8 songs. Although it's feet are firmly planted in alt-country, it would be an insult to pigeon hole Z in any genre. From rock to reggae to psychedelia to the batshit crazy, carnival freakout "Into The Woods", it's this unique blend of genres that initially drew me to Z and has kept me coming back for more all these years. Z's highly ambitious sound is matched only by that of Jim James' soaring vocals, best heard on the opening 1-2 punch, "Wordless Chorus" and "It Beats 4 U", and the haunting epic closer, "Dondante".
Wordless Chorus, It Beats 4 U, Into The Woods, Dondante