Digable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time And Space)
This is the one I know Open Bar at least has heard before. This is a groundbreaking rap album, in my opinion. It's an album I can listen to to this day over and over again. All the songs are good. It's rap music on top of jazz riffs, for the most part. It's the album that gave us this band's one hit that you know, "I'm cool like that, I'm cool like that, I'm cool like that, I'm cool like that." But that's not even the best song on the album. Fantasticosity abounding.
John Mayer - Room For Squares
Every single song on this album is great. Introspective singer/songwriter-ing at its best. The songs are about everything that's relevant to people around my age, including having a girlfriend in the city, discovering that "there's no such thing as a real world", having a "quarter life crisis", how life was better in 1983. The lyrics are great. And most of the songs are on the acoustic guitar, rather than the electric featured in his later albums. I listened once as Side Bar told me that John Mayer was wack, but he was wrong, and based on his argument he had clearly never listened to the album. This album is great. And when you listen to it, make sure you listen to the lyrics.
M.I.A. - Arular
I have talked about this album in the past. It is unlike anything you've ever heard before. I bought the album on the strength of one song, "Galang". While I was thinking about getting it I was reading the reviews and they said things like, "it will change the way you listen to music" and also like "it is definitely weird, but on the 5th time you listen to it, you will see the light." I thought, what the hell?, that one song is pretty good, I might as well try the album.
The first time I listened to it I just thought, "gee this is kinda weird". And then the second time you start to notice patterns and interesting phrasings in the basslines. On the third listen, my brain just about oozed out of my ears. Mind = blown. Please, do yourself a favor and get this album. And you have to listen to it at least 5 times before you give up on it.
Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman
Again, you gotta listen to the lyrics on this one. "Fast Car" is obviously great, but the whole album is really beautiful. Another great example of singer/songwriter-ing. Including one of the best love songs ever, "Baby Can I Hold You". It's slightly militant, but not overly so.
Amazingly, Tracy Chapman never really rocked the music world the way everyone thought she would when this album dropped (can an album of acoustic guitar songs by a lesbian singer/songwriter really "drop"?). Her and Fiona Apple should start a group called Potential Unrealized and go on tour. Alanis Morissette can open for them, but I don't know if she would meet the criteria for membership.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Around 1999, this was voted by some magazine who's name I forget but that was very well respected as the greatest rock album of all time. I don't think it is, but mainly because it's not really rock music. This album is fucking great. Brian Wilson is one of those tortured geniuses, and this album was completed essentially right before he snapped, which was clearly at the height of his genius. And for those Beatle fans out there, this album was one of the major influences on both Sgt. Peppers and The White Album.
Brian Wilson was essentially trying to get the sounds out of his head on onto tape, and he used anything that made noise in order to do it. Listen to the album and you'll hear harpsichords, that thing that makes those spooly ghost noises that I think is called a feremin, and even bike horns and things like that. And it goes without saying that "God Only Knows" is one of the greatest songs in the history of music, if not the best.
Claude Debussy - Debussy For Daydreaming
Claude Debussy was the first, and possibly only depending on who you talk to, impressionist composer (even though there's guys like Ravel who were disciples of his and use the odd chord combinations and things that he did, but weren't necessarily in the impressionist group). Think Monet writing a symphony. What he was trying to do was match his impressions of stuff in the world with his music. He's got a whole series of pieces like "Clouds" and "The Sea" and "Light of the Moon" that try to evoke the feeling of those particular things.
This particular album is of his more thoughtful, introspective, quiet type of works. If you need to get some work done, or if you just want to relax, throw this joint on and cool out. And "Claire de Lune", which you'll recognize from the end of Ocean's Eleven is one of the best pieces on there, but the others are great, too. I must admit I'm really a fan of Debussy and have a few albums of his music.