35 Most Influential Albums from the Past 35 Years
We asked our Board of Directors, current student and community DJs, and WRFL alumni what their favorite albums from the past 35 years are and put them to the test through multiple rounds of voting. This list showcases multiple generations of WRFL, from the albums that helped define WRFL’s sound and vision early on, to the newer albums that are currently adored by our community. This was no easy feat, and if you were to ask every member who contributed to write their own list you would end up with some vastly different collections of albums. But this project was not about any one individual, but rather about one community that has continued to grow through three and a half decades of fostering music discovery and camaraderie. It is my hope that a little piece of everyone made it onto this list in one way or another.
Before we get into the list, I would also like to discuss what we mean when we say “most influential albums.” In this case, we are not necessarily referring to most influential in the music industry or most influential for particular genres. Instead, these are albums that were most influential to the people here at the station, the DJs curating what goes into our playboxes and what goes out over the airwaves. We have publications like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NME, Consequence of Sound, etc. to cover the broader scope, but in celebrating our 35th anniversary, we really wanted to celebrate US.
You can listen to the full list on Spotify here.
#35 – Alex G ‘God Save the Animals’ (2022)
‘God Save the Animals’ is Alex G’s ninth studio album, and it is pleasantly calm and pensive. The songs read a bit like folk songs or what you would expect from a typical singer-songwriter, but the inclusion of autotune and pitch-shifting on vocals adds some complexity and intrigue. Annie O’Brien (current Local Music Director and DJ, Frannie Pack, Wednesdays 10 PM – midnight) said in their music review, “This album is no different from his previous work in terms of how good it is, and is perhaps one of his most true-to-self records dense with new musical ideas paired with a melodic instrumental sound spread across much of the record.”
#34 – 100 gecs ‘1000 gecs’ (2019)
‘1000 gecs’ is the debut album from duo 100 gecs. It is hyper-pop, which means it is truly the elements of pop music taken to the absolute maximum. That means plenty of distorted vocals, electronic elements, and heavy, pronounced beats. Michelle 100% Authentic Human DJ (former DJ, 1969 in the Sunshine) said in reviewing another 100 gecs album that “100 gecs straddles the line between genius & stupid… they’re the fence, and you as a listener have to decide what side of the fence you’re on.”
#33 – Soccer Mommy ‘Sometimes, Forever’ (2022)
Soccer Mommy had such an influence on us here at WRFL with ‘Sometimes, Forever’ that we just decided she should just go ahead and come celebrate our 35th birthday with us (happening March 11th at The Burl!). Produced by Oneohtrix Point Never, ‘Sometimes, Forever’ is Soccer Mommy’s third studio album and it is a tasteful nod to the influential female musicians of the 90s. It feels a bit like reading someone’s diary in the sense that it sounds vulnerable and confessional. On reviewing the single ‘Shotgun’ Johnna Warkentine (former Promotions Director & Music Director, former DJ) wrote, “her vocals weave in and out of the music itself, in a way that’s almost Slowdive-ish.” ‘Shotgun’ ended up being our most-played song of 2022, truly taking the airwaves by storm.
#32 – Iron Maiden ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ (1988)
‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ is, shockingly, Iron Maiden’s seventh studio album, and it is a brilliant one at that. It is a concept album about the myth of the seventh son of the seventh son which states that said son will be gifted with special powers, particularly clairvoyance. This is central in the lyrics and the album is full of guitar solos that truly feel like they are taking you along on a hero’s journey. This was also Iron Maiden’s first album to feature keyboards, and it is ranked number 11 on Loudwire’s list of ‘Top 25 Progressive Metal Albums of All Time.’ It is high energy, fast-paced, and has dramatic vocals, which is everything that folks know and love from Iron Maiden.
Here is what one of our former DJs had to say: “A sonic masterpiece from start to finish.” – David Schatz (Dave’s Hellride [late 80s to early 90s] and Big Hair Armageddon [mid-90s])
#31 – Tame Impala ‘Currents’ (2015)
On Tame Impala’s third studio album, Kevin Parker traded guitars for synths and marked a new period in his music-making. Thematically the album is also about transitions and transformations, and Pitchfork compared it to My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ and Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ regarding the significance of those musicians redefining their relationships to rock music and writing albums. ‘Currents’ was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys and has achieved massive success. One of the reasons we love it so much here at WRFL, though, is that the album artwork is by former RFLian, Lexington’s own Robert Beatty. There is nothing we love more than the talented artists and musicians in our community getting the recognition they deserve.
#30 – Japanese Breakfast ‘Jubilee’ (2021)
Japanese Breakfast’s third studio album, ‘Jubilee,’ is exactly that: it is a celebration and a sense of joy, in contrast with the grief that consumed Michelle Zauner’s previous writings. And it really is quite joyful – it feels like new growth in springtime, or the calm after a storm as the sun starts to peek through the clouds again. Filled with catchy bass lines, jangly guitars, and tasteful sax thrown in when necessary, ‘Jubilee’ was also nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys. Rae Bandy (former Local Music Director and former DJ, Lipstick is Optional) wrote in their review of the album, “As an avid Japanese Breakfast fan, it is difficult for me to find a song that I do not like on this album, especially with so much compositional and thematic diversity.”
#29 – Sufjan Stevens ‘Carrie & Lowell’ (2015)
‘Carrie & Lowell’ is the seventh studio album from Sufjan Stevens, and it is a concept album about his mother who died a couple of years prior to the album being written. As is evidenced by the lyrical content, Stevens’ mother had struggled with mental health problems and substance abuse, and had abandoned her children more than once. The album encapsulates grief and has a sense of closure (or at least acceptance) to it, made most apparent in ‘Fourth of July’ with the repeating final lines, “we’re all gonna die.” It is an emotionally vulnerable performance and reads like an exploration of pain and trauma, creating a feeling that the listener is also being haunted by the ghosts of both the bitter and sweet memories being referenced. As Ben Southworth (former Local Music Director & General Manager of WRFL) said in his music review when this album was first placed in the playbox, “For the most part this album is simply voice, guitar, and piano, but sonically, it’s a very rich thing to listen to… [it] takes a very personal look at loss as experienced by Sufjan, but in a way that can be universally related to.” It also recently made it onto the Consequence of Sound ’20 Albums for When the Crushing Melancholy of Life Drags you Under’ list, so, there’s that.
#28 – Big Thief ‘U.F.O.F.’ (2019)
‘U.F.O.F.’ is the third studio album from Big Thief, and just like the title suggests, there is an ethereal nature to these songs that makes you feel as if a UFO really could pick you up in the middle of a dense forest, a la X-Files style. ‘U.F.O.F.’ was recorded at Bear Creek Studio in Washington State which, in contrast to some of the spacey vibes, appears to have lent a certain inspiration that makes the songs feel deeply rooted in nature as well. Christopher Browning (current volunteer at WRFL) wrote, “All the members of Big Thief are classically trained and that thread runs through the back of all the songs… The instrumentation is perfectly arranged, Adrianne Lenker’s vocals shift to match the tempo of the song, and the lyrics range from the descriptive to the merely suggestive.” Probably no surprise that the album got nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys then.
#27 – Blonde Redhead ‘Misery is a Butterfly’ (2004)
I remember the way I first felt when I heard the titular track from Blonde Redhead’s sixth studio album. I believe I was already feeling a bit down that day, and the lyrics “Remember when we found misery / We watched her, watched her spread her wings / And slowly, slowly fly around the room” somehow made the emotions I was already experiencing feel both beautiful and overwhelming at the same time. If any of you reading know me personally, you know I advocate for engaging with depressing media as a form of catharsis, and that is ‘Misery is a Butterfly’ for me and I think lots of others. It has a cinematic sound with string arrangements and plenty of layers, and creates space for you to fall right into sadness. I think it could also be considered a bit romantic in the space of being inside a dark fairytale, but no matter how you describe it, it does seem to me to be magical.
#26 – St. Vincent ‘St. Vincent’ (2014)
St. Vincent’s self-titled album is her fourth studio album, and it is simply excellent noisy art-pop/art-rock. The album won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, so St. Vincent was following in Sinead O’Connor’s footsteps there. I have always thought Annie Clark exudes such a casual coolness, and that shines through in her songs as well. Both Guardian and NME ranked ‘St. Vincent’ the best album of 2014.
#25 – Grimes ‘Visions’ (2012)
‘Visions’ is the third studio album from Grimes, and it exudes what Pitchfork called “electro cotton-candy” vibes. It is ethereal dream-pop with lots of texture, and Pitchfork also named ‘Oblivion’ the second-best song of the decade. Annie O’Brien (current Local Music Director and co-host of Frannie Pack, Wednesdays 10 PM – midnight) elaborated: “Visions helped to popularize weirdness in electronic pop music to an entire generation of young and over-eager internet users. In a musical time period full of over-produced (but incredibly catchy) pop music, Grimes was a revolutionary experimental artist in the electronic scene and paved the way for many indie/electronic artists to create ‘weird’ music with confidence that people might receive that music with love and positivity. People like to hate on Grimes because she’s a ‘poser’ or whatever, but whether or not people are made about it, she still wrote and produced one of the best electro-pop albums of the 2010s. Controversial, but incredibly true.”
Here is what one of our current DJs had to say: “I regret to inform you that Visions remains a big slay – huge.” – Angel (Just Like Heaven, Thursdays 7-9 AM, and current Advisory Board member)
#24 – Deerhunter ‘Halcyon Digest’ (2010)
Much like the title suggests, Deerhunter’s fifth studio album is laden with a golden, youthful nostalgia. The songs each feel like a separate vignette, bringing the listener in to a piece of someone’s life, straying away from the main storyline in an effort to gain a deeper understanding. Sonically this album offers a bit of everything under the indie scope: elements of garage rock, dream pop, psychedelic, and noise, all rolled up into a mostly-polished-but-still-rough-around-the-edges package.
#23 – Arca ‘KICK ii’ (2021)
‘KICK ii’ is the fifth studio album from Arca and is the second installment in the artist’s “Kick” series (2/5). It was nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and from the music review written by AJ Miller (current DJ, Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM) “if you are looking for weird yet awesome Latin bangers, this album is def for you!” Lucas Lima (current Design Director and DJ, 00 – The Fool, Thursdays 2-4 PM) elaborates on the impact of this album: “KICK ii mixes the energy of ‘blasting Reggaeton at 8 AM going to class/work’ and ‘I have never been so scared before in my life.’ Many consider this the most powerful out of the Kick albums, and I have to agree. It clearly illustrates why Arca’s production work has been so appraised in recent musical spheres. KICK ii gives you a taste of the more general-public appealing tracks (I particularly am very fond of the transition from Prada into Rakata), while also maintaining the artist’s characteristic unsettling atmosphere. I am confident to say that Arca influences music in general in the past decade, even collaborating with artists like Björk and SOPHIE.”
#22 – Mitski ‘Bury Me at Makeout Creek’ (2014)
The title of Mitski’s third studio album is a reference from The Simpsons in the episode ‘Faith Off’ where Bart becomes a faith healer. The lyrics are rather dark and depressing, and Mitski’s artful writing style and descriptiveness easily creates vivid imagery to go along with the songs. Add in some distortion and heavy riffs to the mix and you come out with an album that feels sad, thoughtful, and frustrated all at the same time. Sydney Malatesta (current Community Engagement Director and DJ, WRFL Film Club the Show, Mondays 12-1 PM) elaborates: “Mitski paved the way in 2014 for sad girls everywhere with ‘Bury Me at Makeout Creek.’ Her lyrics passionately and angrily explore themes of love, loss, and all the emotions in between. Her voice, unique in its operatic and delicate timbre, compliments her new indie/punk-rock sound, straying away from her previous albums’ genre. From tracks where she quietly whispers to ones where she screams in agony, the album offers a rollercoaster of emotions for any listener in just 30 minutes.”
Here is what one of our current DJs had to say: “The world will never be able to fully appreciate the impact of the lyric ‘I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony.’” – Angel (Just Like Heaven, Thursdays 7-9 AM, and current Advisory Board member)
#21 – Animal Collective ‘Sung Tongs’ (2004)
‘Sung Tongs’ is the fifth studio album from Animal Collective, but this one was comprised solely by the Avey Tare and Panda Bear duo for a more stripped-down effect but with lovely layers of percussion and rhythm. ‘Sung Tongs’ has a sense of airiness and innocence to it, incorporating a bit of whimsy and evoking a certain curiosity as well. The album invites exploration and puts the listener into the perspective of looking at the world through a childlike wonder. The genre is defined as “freak folk” so there is a healthy dose of psychedelic elements incorporated throughout as well.
#20 – Public Enemy ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ (1988)
‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ was released about three months after WRFL first started broadcasting, and therefore it certainly was one of the first albums to really make a splash at the station. It is Public Enemy’s second studio album, and musically it contains artistically woven elements of free jazz, rock, and funk. Loaded with plenty of social commentary in the lyrics, this album is very in-your-face but in the best kind of way. After all, in ‘Prophets of Rage’ they did claim “I got a right to be hostile, man.” Fun fact: Chuck D worked in student radio!
Here is what one of our former DJs had to say: “Hard core story tellers that pulled no punches about the oppression and day-to-day living in their community.” – David Schatz (Dave’s Hellride [late 80s to early 90s] and Big Hair Armageddon [mid-90s])
#19 – Slint ‘Spiderland’ (1991)
Slint was a band that was close to home for WRFL – literally – as they are from right here in Louisville, Kentucky. The band unfortunately broke up before the release of their second album, ‘Spiderland,’ so it had a very slow, creeping influence, but an influence it has had indeed as it served as a foundation for the post-rock and math-rock bands to come. The album overall evokes a sense of uneasiness or a sad anxiety, and it seems a little like an auditory equivalent of a creature that only lives in the shadows. The majority of the vocals are whispered and spoken word, but that is juxtaposed with the occasional yelling to keep the suspense up, of course.
#18 – Phoebe Bridgers ‘Punisher’ (2020)
Phoebe Bridgers released her second studio album, ‘Punisher,’ just three months after the world went into a prolonged period of isolation for Covid-19, and I think it is quite important to mention that timing. ‘Punisher’ is such a somber and introspective album, and it somehow incapsulates the feeling of retreating inward. Combine that with the lyrical content that focuses on mental health, relationships, and more, and it is no wonder why folks fell in love with it, especially at a time when the days are long but yet there is nothing to go do. With all that said, it is also just a beautiful album, and ‘DVD Menu’ is a haunting instrumental opener that sounds like it could be straight off the Dexter soundtrack.
#17 – Beastie Boys ‘Paul’s Boutique’ (1989)
‘Paul’s Boutique’ is the sophomore album from The Beastie Boys, and it was released in the summer of 1989. Featuring stellar beats, witty lyrics, and more samples than one can count, it just overall makes for an enjoyable listening experience. ‘Paul’s Boutique’ was considered a bit of a commercial disappointment at the time, but that is okay because it was and still is loved by folks here at WRFL (and undoubtedly is not considered a disappointment in retrospect).
Here is what one of our former DJs had to say: “An all-around great album. Layered and nuanced… and funny.” – David Schatz (Dave’s Hellride [late 80s to early 90s] and Big Hair Armageddon [mid-90s])
#16 – Björk ‘Post’ (1995)
Inserting personal opinion here: ‘Army of Me’ has to be one of the best album openers ever. It is a powerful, sassy, strong entrance into a very solid record (and quite a few metal bands have since covered it if that tells you anything!). Björk’s second studio album is primarily considered art pop overall, but also contains intelligently woven elements of trip hop, industrial, and more. ‘Post’ helped Björk not to redefine herself but rather to push or extend the definition of herself, as she has only continued to do throughout her career.
Here is what some of our current DJs had to say:
“Changed pop music and electronic and Björk is just my personal icon.” – AJ Miller (Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM)
“Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.” – Angel (Just Like Heaven, Thursdays 7-9 AM, and current Advisory Board member)
#15 – The Strokes ‘Room on Fire’ (2003)
‘Room on Fire’ is the second studio album from the quintessential New York indie band The Strokes, and though it may be indie in terms of genre, it did make it to number four on the US Billboard Top 200. Some folks at the time had complaints that it sounded too much like their debut album, ‘Is This It,’ but others were appreciative of that fact. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There is no denying that The Strokes write incredibly catchy music while also sounding refreshingly unpolished. Julian Casablancas especially never seemed to want fame per say and has remained incredibly modest throughout his career. As a bit of a side note, if you have not watched the recently released documentary ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ yet, you should.
#14 – SOPHIE ‘Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides’ (2018)
‘Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides’ is the only studio album from SOPHIE, a fact that is a bit wild when you consider how much influence SOPHIE has had. It was rightfully nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the Grammys, and it helped push pop music into a new era. WRFL DJ Trevor Whatevr (former DJ, The Heavyset) reviewed the album when it first arrived at WRFL and said that the “Scottish-born producer who has historically specialized in quirky, intentionally saccharine electropop… can quite literally create whatever the hell she wants when it comes to sound.”
Here is what some of our current DJs had to say:
“I just think this is the most influential album of the last 10 years and it just blows me away every time I listen. I miss her and her gift so much.” – AJ Miller (Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM)
“Do you remember where you were when you first heard ‘It’s Okay to Cry?’ I do (honestly).” – Angel (Just Like Heaven, Thursdays 7-9 AM, and current Advisory Board member)
#13 – Slowdive ‘Souvlaki’ (1993)
Slowdive’s ‘Souvlaki’ recently made it on to Consequence of Sound’s ‘Top 20 Albums to Stare Into the Abyss While Mending Your Broken Heart’ list, and honestly, that pretty much sums it up. It is indeed appropriate for wallowing on a rainy day. ‘Souvlaki’ is Slowdive’s second studio album and Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead had broken up prior to the album being written. Though it did not make much of a widespread splash at the time, it has received critical acclaim retrospectively and very much is a case of the right album being released at the wrong time.
#12 – Soundgarden ‘Louder Than Love’ (1989)
‘Louder Than Love’ is the second studio album from Soundgarden, but it was their first album released on a major label. On the surface it is angry, angsty, and full of frustration, but it is also full of complexity. ‘Louder Than Love’ is indeed grunge but with weird time signatures, and it tows the line of metal with plenty of drop D tuning and heavy riffs incorporated throughout. Of course, Chris Cornell’s vocals are stellar – as with all his projects there is just so much passion and power behind them. For people who only know Soundgarden for ‘Black Hole Sun,’ this is quite different and absolutely worth checking out.
Here is what one of our former DJs had to say: “One of my all-time favorite bands and albums. Totally captured the angst and rebellion I felt in my early 20s.” – David Schatz (Dave’s Hellride [late 80s to early 90s] and Big Hair Armageddon [mid-90s])
#11 – Crystal Castles ‘Crystal Castles’ (2008)
Crystal Castles’ self-titled album is their debut album, but it is really a collection of singles that they had compiled. It has been likened to noise music without the guitars and could be/is defined as electro-punk. Crystal Castles uses samples of Atari sounds and Alice Glass really shines with her range in vocal expression and tone. Indeed, Glass almost sounds just like another collection of pixelated sounds herself.
Here is what one of our current DJs had to say: “This album was my teenage years so I have a lot of fond memories of this album. I would say maybe this is my fav album of all time, but Ethan Kath is an absolute crap human being so…” – AJ Miller (Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM)
#10 – Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ (1990)
Cocteau Twins wrote and recorded ‘Heaven or Las Vegas,’ their sixth studio album, during a time of interpersonal/domestic issues between vocalist Fraser and guitarist Guthrie. Fraser was pregnant with their first child, and Guthrie was struggling with drug use. Also during the recording process, bassist/keyboardist Raymonde’s father died, impacting his emotional state during the album as well. Despite what all was going on with the band members, the album is simply dreamy and feels like it is from another, more ethereal world. It is an album about both birth and death, and it was released on the first birthday of Fraser and Guthrie’s child.
Here is what one of our current DJs had to say: “Linguists need to study this album… I don’t know what she is saying but I know it’s genius.” – Angel Passarelli (Just Like Heaven, Thursdays 7-9 AM, and current Advisory Board member)
#9 – Pixies ‘Doolittle’ (1989)
‘Doolittle’ is the second studio album from the Pixies, and it feels completely deranged and maniacal at times. Despite the dark subject matter and nods to surrealism, the album is very accessible musically and I think it is not surprising that it is considered a college radio classic. The RFLians of 1989 even named gave it the #1 spot in “The Top 88 of 89 on 88.1 FM” article that was published in the Spring 1990 edition of the RiFLe (which can be found at wrfl.fm/rifle if you are interested). It is safe to say that Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ would not have existed without the influence of ‘Doolittle’ and The Pixies in general.
#8 – Aphex Twin ‘Selected Ambient Works 85-92’ (1992)
‘Selected Ambient Works 85-92’ is the debut album from Aphex Twin, and it is a collection of recordings that he made over those years, starting when he was only 14 years old! It is prototypical ambient techno and is very beat-forward with a clear, deep respect for acid house as well. Aphex Twin incorporates lots of cool samples in his songs, including my personal favorite sample on this album which is Gene Wilder saying, “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.”
Here is what some of our current DJs had to say:
“It is impossible to listen to electronic music today without hearing the influence of Mr. Aphex Twin.” – Spencer Lamb (Jewelry Garden, Sundays 2-4 AM)
“I am biased cause I love electronic music but also electronic music would not be the same without this record. Also it just still holds up as like cutting edge electronic music, even in 2023.” – AJ Miller (Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM)
#7 – Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ (1991)
I hardly even feel like I need to write something about this one because it speaks for itself. ‘Nevermind’ marked Nirvana’s departure from Sub Pop (due to the label’s financial problems), and it was their first release on a major label. It is angst, angst, and more angst, and served as a defining grunge album, setting the stage for rock music in the 90s and had massive commercial success. The album is laden with compelling dynamic changes – loud at all the right times, and soft at all the right times – and had a certain sensitivity to it, straying completely away from some of the macho or hypermasculine rock music in the 80s. ‘Nevermind’ was added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in 2004 and is still just as loved to this day.
#6 – Nine Inch Nails ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ (1989)
‘Pretty Hate Machine’ is the debut album from Nine Inch Nails (or really just Trent Reznor, since he didn’t form a band until it was time to tour). It is usually classified as an industrial rock album but very well could be argued as a synth-pop album as well. All of those industrial elements are there, but Reznor did an excellent job crafting catchy pop/rock choruses. It is angsty and angry with a touch of lovesickness, and it is absolutely filled to the brim with synths. Upon the 2010 reissue of the album, Rolling Stone called it “the first industrial singer-songwriter album.” It demonstrates a human element that was lacking in other industrial music – Reznor’s performance on it is honest and a little broken. It was also certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) which is impressive for an independent release.
#5 – De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ (1989)
De La Soul came out with their debut album, ‘3 Feet High and Rising,’ almost exactly one year after WRFL started broadcasting. It is a positive and pleasant album to listen to which was notably contrasted with other rap music that was being released around that time. It is a little jazzy, a little psychedelic, and has plenty of good grooves. ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ has since been added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress (as of 2010) and – in case you missed the recent news – De La Soul’s first six albums will finally be on streaming services soon!
#4 – Radiohead ‘Kid A’ (2000)
‘Kid A’ is Radiohead’s fourth studio album, and it is a complete departure from their earlier rock sound and marked the beginning of them becoming more electronic/experimental. Luke Stone (current Music Director and DJ, Luke’s Listening Log, Thursdays 8-10 PM) expands: “Thom Yorke’s lyrical themes, as well as the general aesthetic of the record, paint a picture of an apocalyptic landscape filled with horrors that the band forces you to stare into. Compared to their earlier material, this was their most depressive work yet.” Though this was rather divisive among music critics and fans at the time, in retrospect it seems fair to say that this was a defining moment in their discography. It also was their first number one album on the US Billboard 200.
#3 – The Cure ‘Disintegration’ (1989)
‘Disintegration’ is The Cure’s highest selling record to date. It is their eighth studio album, and it is said that while writing this album Robert Smith was quite depressed about being close to turning 30. As someone who is currently in my late 20s I feel rather inadequate that I am not also writing a quintessential goth album, something that is so dismal yet so lush and does indeed sound like sonic representation of depression (but in a good way!). Throw this into any vampire drama and you are set.
Here is what one of our former DJs had to say: “Oof. Prayers for Rain, gut wrenching.” – David Schatz (Dave’s Hellride [late 80s to early 90s] and Big Hair Armageddon [mid-90s])
#2 – My Bloody Valentine ‘Loveless’ (1993)
My Bloody Valentine’s second studio album, ‘Loveless,’ is a standard in shoegaze. At the core of it is Kevin Shield’s signature “glide guitar” technique, and Pitchfork has named it the best shoegaze album of all time. WRFL DJ Bill Widener (current co-host of Phantom Power Double Hour, Fridays 6-8 PM) reviewed the album when it first came in to WRFL, and said it is “like licking a huge battery dipped in chocolate.”
Here is what one of our current DJs had to say: “Everyone wants to do what MBV did here and they *can’t*, speaks to the album’s crazy irreplaceable sound!” – Brady Saylor (Go Home, Tuesdays 2-5 AM)
#1 – Sonic Youth ‘Daydream Nation’ (1988)
Released just seven months after WRFL first started broadcasting, ‘Daydream Nation’ is Sonic Youth’s fifth studio album and it is noisy, avant-garde rock at its finest. Not only did it leave a lasting impact on the station (to the point where WRFL bringing Kim Gordon in with Body/Head back at the 2013 Boomslang was a literal dream come true for lots of RFLians and Lexingtonians alike), but it also left a lasting impact on college radio culture throughout the whole country and has been preserved in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. It’s high energy, aggressive, and just the right amount of dark – what’s not to love??
Here is what some of our current and former DJs had to say:
“Although it is not my personal fav Sonic Youth record, I believe that modern indie would not be the same without this album.” – AJ Miller (Russian Radio, Thursdays 4-6 PM & The Wired, Thursdays 6-8 PM) “My older brother started at WRFL in 1988/9 and the Daydream Nation album cover was ingrained into my then 12yo brain (I think he even created a digital version of it on our Mac II). He ended up taking me to my first show at Bogarts in Cincy a few years later: Sonic Youth was on their Dirty tour. It was an amazing experience and memory!” – Lindsay Hoffman (This Woman’s Work, and served as News Director & General Manager [1995-1999])