Over the years as a DJ at KEXP I’ve heard thousands of records. This list is of the (very few) releases that I actually listen to at home, with friends or in the car. There are many more artists to love, but this collection is about full-lengths that are good all the way through.
If in reading this you think of a record that should be on here, please e-mail me — firstname.lastname@example.org. Always love to talk music with you. Best, Michele
Chemical Brothers – Singles 93-03 – The brothers gonna work it out. Dance. Now.
Girl Talk –All Day – This mashup master takes small clips of the best classic and underground dance songs. As the tracks on this 2010 release play, waves of nostalgia wash over the dance floor. Familiar and new at the same time and guaranteed to fill almost any dancefloor. Download for free at mediafire.net!
Goldfrapp – Supernature 2006 dance-dream creation and by far the best record from this Bath band. Luxurious, energizing and soooo glam.
Hercules and Love Affair –Hercules and Love Affair – Dance music with smart, sensitive lyrics. Brilliant.
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening- This final album from James Murphy and the DFA crew brings dance music into the pop realm with a vengeance. Delete the track “Drunk Girls” for max enjoyment. Article on LCD from Soulful Alternative.
Massive Attack -Mezzanine- This record with the macroscopic bug on the cover could be the missing link between electronic and rock music. A comfortable entry point for those who love psychedelic rock and think they might like electronica but have yet to try.
Saint Germain -Tourist – Excellent disc with soul samples. Samples Miles Davis playing live with Johnny Lee Hooker on one track. Will always remind me of sitting in an Amsterdam coffee shop and thinking “Hey this just came out and I already played it on KEXP”.
Thievery Corporation – “The Richest Man In Babylon” – Lush, rhythmically diverse, sexy. The best in downtempo from this band who maximize the use of live instruments with their beats.
(Compilation) – “Recline” – Chillant grooves mixed with soul and jazz elements. Obscure. Satisfying.
(Compilation) -Verve Remixed, Vol.1 – Vintage Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and their like remixed with beats by today’s top DJs and producers. This whole series is really good, the best being Volume 1 and descending in quality from there. Article and vids of the best Ella Remixes on Soulful Alternative.
Arrested Development – 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life of… -I love every preachy syllable, every wacky effect. This album has the overwhelming power to lighten me up and show me perspective no matter what else is happening.
Danger Doom – The Mouse and The Mask – If a cartoon were a hip-hop release, it would sound like this…
Handsome Boy Modeling School – White People – This really funny record has weird skits (where they spoof famous rap icons and whitebread pop culture) and the best songs I’ve heard from Jack Johnson and Cat Power.
High Decibels – High Decibels – Two poets from Oakland rap over acoustic guitar loops played live, sampling soul, funk, blues and pop styles.
Lyrics Born – Later That Day …Bay Area DJ with a solid stand on the word and memorable melodies. This first album of his has a gritty, down-to-earth story feel that he lost in his later releases.
M.C. Solaar – MC Solaar …French hip hop. His best overall collection.
Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club – Gorgeous Cuban traditional style originals. A dreamy film documentary as well.
Cheb I Sabbah – Shri Durga – East Indian stories played on the sitar, mixed with nature sounds, DJ hits and warm, fuzzy beats.
Evora, Cesaria – Miss Perfumado – Torch song singer from Cape Verde. Heard this in a bed-n-breakfast in Friesland and was struck by the warmth coming from the stereo.
Gilberto, Joao – Joao Voz E Violao – The perfect romantic album from the Bossa Nova legend. Will warm you up on a rainy day.
Gonzalez, Reuben -Introducing Reuben Gonzalez – Cuban piano player from the Buena Vista Social Club. Grand, dramatic and gorgeous.
Gotan Project, The – La Revancha Del Tango – Mixing tango and electronica – the group is from France and Argentina, based in Paris. The deluxe edition has an excellent remix disc.
Coltrane, John – Impressions – A rainy day album…all instrumental with lots of story.
Holiday, Billie – The Legacy – 1953-1958 (Disc 3 of the Legacy Series) – Nothing like Billie’s voice on a lazy Sunday afternoon. This is the best compilation I’ve found of hers. Am always looking for another that works as an album. Artist documentary from our series “Sirens of Jazz”.
Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out – Step into this pulsing rock elevator with real-life vampire philosopher Peter Murphy and the masters of psychedelic poetry. Stunning. Right. Band documentary here.
Beatles -Abbey Road- When I was 9 I remember hearing “Here Comes the Sun” in a driveway in Pennsylvania. It was played on a small plastic record player. The song stunned me. It was the first time I had ever really been stopped cold by a song. I tried to get the other kids to check it out. “Listen to it!” I called, starting the song over. The instruments kicked in one by one, echoing the sunshine, the day, our life in the driveway. They looked at me like I was nuts. I gave up on the kids and sat down with my ears next to the speakers. I tell the whole story in this 2009 television documentary by award-winning producer Howard Shack for CW.
Beatles – Let It Be – Funny, reflective, revolutionary. Band documentary here.
Beatles – The White Album – Bang Bang. Shoot Shoot. Band documentary here.
Black Keys, The –Brothers– This primal blues-rock band gets all sensitive-like on the 2010 release produced by Danger Mouse. To listen to all my favorite songs from this band check out their article on Soulful Alternative.
Bowie, David -The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust… – Sophisticated, dramatic, primal, personal. A tribute to androgyny and the intense style achieved when one disregards the norm. Artist documentary here from our series “Pop Goes Electronic”.
Cat Stevens – Greatest Hits – I discovered Cat’s voice when I saw the movie “Harold and Maude” while working as an usher in a repertory theater. This record was a turning point in my life and inspired me to take chances. Big chances.
Clash, The – London Calling – The most talented of punk bands, the Clash can play rock, punk, pop, reggae and even tried electronica. If anyone ever says that punk artists can’t play their instruments, point them to this band documentary from our series “Punk Evolution”.
Cure, The – Galore – Not usually a fan of best of collections but this one is golden. Band Documentary.
Dylan, Bob – Highway 61 Revisited - Dylan at his most humorous. Warm, smart, poetic. Whole radio documentary series on Dylan here – my first series ever produced.
Echo and The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain – Orchestral, majestic, deep and dark. Documentary from our series “Portraits of Post-Punk” here.
Fugazi – 13 Songs- This group refuses to do interviews in media that have alcohol or cigarette ads in them. Even “Rolling Stone” was turned down. I love that. This is what I consider a “car album”. It’s perfect for blasting out of windows and into traffic.
Gorillaz – Demon Days – Damon Albarn’s supergroup takes you from dub to hip-hop to indie rock with flow and finesse and a seriously dark sense of humor.
Kills, The – Blood Pressures – The first fully great release from this male-female duo. Smoky, dark, driving.
Love and Rockets – Earth, Sun, Moon – Lyrics: “You cannot go against nature, because when you do, go against nature it’s part of nature too.” Futuristic, edgy, warm.
Love and Rockets – Express – the feedback-drenched counterpart to “Earth Sun Moon.”
Morphine – Cure for Pain – I think it actually does what the title says it does. Deep, fine saxophone, no guitars (two-string slide bass!) and the dark, sexy vocals of Mark Sandman. Documentary on lead singer Marc Sandman.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon – Still the best album for driving a road trip! The first disc I ever listened to through earphones – when I was 17! Brilliant. Metaphysical. Documentary and blog.
Pixies, The - Surfer Rosa …Sexy, jagged, smart, funny. Decadent and circulatory.
Pixies, The - Doolittle – one of the great underground rock classics of all time.
Ramones, The – The Ramones – This album changed the world. Check out the outstanding film documentary “End of The Century”. The Ramones short, rough, low-rent songs influenced all the indie music you hear today. I love Joey Ramone. As a kid he used to make recordings of thunderstorms. They said because he was obsessive-compulsive and shy that he would never make anything of himself. They were wrong. Listen to the band documentary here or read up and find their best songs in this Soulful Alternative article.
Replacements, The – Pleased to Meet Me – Years ago during a horrific temp job in the Bay Area, this album and the book “Thus Spake Zarathustra” were my forcefield against the mundane. A strong lifeline to art and hope. Documentary on guitarist Bob Stinson.
R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant – Dizzy, poetic and beautiful. The best R.E.M. album.
Rolling Stones, The – Hot Rocks. I bought this best of collection when I was 14 and am still listening close.
Sex Pistols, The – Never Mind The Bullocks – Their only album. God save the queen. Band documentary from our series “Punk Evolution” here.
Throwing Muses – House Tornado – Raw, dynamic, feminine, strong.
Velvet Underground, The – The Velvet Underground – Their finest album, a pioneering psychedelic pop release that shows the reflective side of Lou Reed. Era documentary that shows VU as part of the Birth of Punk in The Bowery documentary here. Documentary on Nico here. Band documentary from our series “Psychedelics”.
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes – They never did better than this debut – it’s punky, sexy, electric and acoustic. Day after day.
Waits, Tom - Heart of Saturday Night, The – Jazzy Tom Waits. Great entry record for those who don’t know his work. His most pop-friendly album.
Waits, Tom – Nighthawks At The Diner – This long album from 1975 is Tom at his most raw and poetic. Artist documentary.
Waits, Tom – Swordfishtrombones – My first Tom Waits. It was on the other side of Howlin’ Wolf on the cassette my friend made me at UC Berkeley in 1987. Not for the fainthearted.
White, Jack – Blunderbuss – When the White Stripes broke up, I knew I’d miss Meg’s vocals and drums. And I did at first but these gritty, honest songs won me over and now I’m completely satisfied. Best rock record to come out in years. Read more at Soulful Alternative.
Linton Kwesi Johnson – Dread Beat and Blood – This revolutionary dub poet has a commanding voice that channels sincerity and depth. Artist documentary here from our series “Music Revolutionaries”.
Hawkins, Ted -The Next Hundred Years – There’s something so unvarnished about Ted, and this is a great collection, very well-produced. A talent who played for change and was popular after he died. Miss you Ted.
Howlin’ Wolf – Moanin’ At Midnight – Gravelly-voiced man who influenced Tom Waits, The Black Keys and others. Documentary from our series “Blues for Hard Times”.
King, B.B. – Live At The Regal – Arguably one of the best live blues albums of all time. BB plays to his hometown audience and his voice is at it’s peak: velvety, glamorous and real.
Majal, Taj – Natch’l Blues …Sexy, swanky blues album. Much of it was used as the soundtrack to the movie 9 1/2 Weeks.
Brown, James – 20 All Time Greatest Hits - On the DVD for the movie “Elizabethtown”, there is a special feature where a bartender who’s seen soul come and go gets asked “What makes a great artist like James Brown?”. The bartender answers “Hunger.” Artist documentary from series “Civil Rights Songs”. Artist documentary from “The Heart of Soul”.
Brown, James - James Brown’s Funky People, Vol 1 – Perhaps the greatest party album EVER. Artist documentary from series “Civil Rights Songs”. Artist documentary from “The Heart of Soul”.
Costa, Nikka – Everybody Got Their Something – The best album from this funk/soul/rock diva. She put on the bestshow I’ve ever seen live.
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain – Philisophical, silly, sensual. Eddie Hazel’s guitar is otherworldly and stops me in my tracks. It gets a bit loopy at the end but is still worth it.
Funkadelic – Cosmic Slop – For broken-hearted funksters. Brilliance.
Jackson, Michael – Off The Wall – Undeniably some of the best dance trax ever recorded.
Lavette, Bettye – Scene of The Crime – This veteran soul-singer stuck it out as a recording artist from age 16 and all through her life until she got noticed, finally, in her late 50’s. This album is a triumph. Documentary where she schools me on air is here.
Redding, Otis - The Ultimate Live Otis Redding Show – (Volume 4 of the box set: Otis! The Ultimate Live Otis Redding Show.) Otis lived every moment with all his might, and these songs are evidence of that. If you haven’t seen the film documentary “Otis Redding, Dreams to Remember” it’s unmissable. Artist documentary from “The Heart of Soul” series here.
Stone, Allen – Allen Stone – Seattle’s own soul singer with a self-titled first record that satisfies. Best New Soul Artist – Allen Stone article from Soulful Alternative.
Winehouse, Amy - Back to Black - This young UK artist is one of the most honest and talented songwriters around. Say what you will about her, her voice is remarkable and this record is brilliant. Artist documentary.
Withers, Bill – Just As I Am – When I made a KEXP Documentary on Bill, I was struck by the contrast between his soft, sensitive songs and the way he talks in conversation. He’s a pistol, and the doc is still my favorite one we’ve ever made. Article on Bill Withers from Soulful Alternative.
Amores Perros – Circulatory soundtrack to one of the best movies ever. This modern Latin disc occupied my friends and I for a whole summer.
Ocean’s Eleven – Very enjoyable, distracting, funny, cheerful.
The Virgin Suicides – by the French Band “Air”…lush, emotional, gorgeous.