Just last week Pitchfork, in conjunction with Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger fame, put together a list of the greatest Pacific Northwest albums(excluding grunge). I think the list is pretty decent, of course when one looks at a list the numbers seem all wrong but that's just because we all have different opinions of where things should be placed. This response is not a criticism of Pitchfork's list but instead just a kind of 2nd opinion or reinforcement in some cases. If I'm not a fan of a particular album I'm just gonna skip it. Don't want to waste any negative words on it, just know it's just not my cup of tea. Also I will let you know if I haven't heard a single note or havent fully absorbed something on this list as well. As always I would love to hear what you reading this thinks of these albums! Discourse is always appreciated!! Anyways, without further ado here is my response!
#50 Gaze-Mitsumeru(1998 K Records)
Haven't heard a single note of this.
#49 Excuse 17-Such Friends Are Dangerous(1995 Kill Rock Stars)
This is Carrie Brownstein's first band before Sleater-Kinney. Not a bad first start to a musical career. Similar to Sleater-Kinney's embryonic stages. If you like Riot Grrl at all you need to have this in your collection.
#48 Damien Jurado-Maraqopa(2012 Secretly Canadian)
Pretty cool little song cycle with some excellent production.
#47 Youth Lagoon-The Year Of Hibernation(2011 Fat Possum)
This was before Youth Lagoon embraced their weirdness. I feel he wouldn't really hit his stride until Wondrous Bughouse, his second album, but this is a solid debut.
#46 The Spinanes-Arches and Aisles(1998 Sub Pop)
This was one of the first "indie rock" albums I ever bought, I remember liking it ok. I also remember moving onto other bands and embracing other albums more that year in high school. I really need to give this one another listen since I probably haven't heard this since 1998-99.
#45 The Posies-Frosting On the Beater(1993 Geffen)
So this is another one I remember existing during high school yet I can't remember a single note. My best friend in high school loved this album but I wasn't convinced, I have no idea why it didn't grab me. People say this sounds like Big Star and since I discovered and loved Big Star in college I should probably give this one another listen.
#44 Quasi-Featuring "Birds"(1998 Up Records)
One of my favorite albums of all time. Perfect in my opinion. 10/10. This band is comprised of Sam Coomes(member of Heatmiser and sometimes Elliott Smith bassist) and Janet Weiss(drummer of Sleater-Kinney). The lyrics are extremely dark and negative but its all set against a peppy/poppy musical background of mostly rocksichord and drums. Must listen!
#43 White Lung-Sorry(2012 Deranged Records)
Not my cup of tea
#42 Tiny Vipers-Life On Earth(2009 Sub Pop)
Haven't heard a note of this.
#41 Lync-These Are Not Fall Colors(1994 K Records)
Haven't heard a note of this.
#40 Pretty Girls Make Graves-The New Romance(2003 Matador)
Not really my thing.
#39 Milk Music-Cruise Your Illusion(2013 Fat Possum)
Loved these guys when I saw them live at Vacation Records. Reminded me of an 80s SST band. I remember liking this but I don't remember enough to give an educated opinion. Looking forward to revisiting this one.
#38 The Softies-It's Love(1995 K Records)
I remember a lot of people recommending this to me in high school and college and I want to say at the time I didn't understand the love for this album. I don't remember it at all aside from it being folky. I will look forward to revisiting this one as well.
#37 Gun Outfit-Possession Sound(2010 Post Present Medium)
Haven't heard a note of this album. I am familiar with their later work, very moody stuff. Haven't really connected with this band's sound but it is respectable.
#36 Pedro The Lion-Control(2002 Jade Tree)
I saw this guy once in high school. Not really my thing. I havent heard this album but I will check it out.
#35 Mirah-You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This(2000 K Records)
This is great! Excellent Phil Elvrum production, folky yet not lo-fi. Very interesting instrument choices and fantastic lyrics. Highly Recommended.
#34 The Decemberists-Picaresque(2005 Kill Rock Stars)
By this time I was not interested in this band so I haven't heard it. Not my cup of tea but I'll give it a listen
#33 Band Of Horses-Everything All the Time(2006 Sub Pop)
Not my cup of tea.
#32 The Halo Benders-The Rebels Not In(1998 K Records)
This is a solid album. It's a band with Steve Fisk, Calvin Johnson, Ralf Youtz and Doug Martsch. So it is in a sense a Pacific Northwest supergroup. Now I did say this album is solid and definitely worth picking up I always to like these guys more than I did. It should be a 10/10 but it's more like an 8 which is still damn impressive.
#31 The Microphones-It Was Hot, We Stayed In the Water(2000 K Records)
This album is great! This is like indie folk deconstructed, ripped apart and then glued together with cheap tape samples and bursts of noise. Highly recommended. This was the start of Phil Elvrum's career as a force to be reckoned with. 9/10
#30 Heatmiser-Mic City Sons(1996 Caroline)
Just like with the case of the Halo Benders I have always wanted to like this band more than I do. It's another psuedo supergroup except this time around this was major label pre-larger indie rock fame. This was Sam Coomes and Elliott Smith's band from before both of their careers took off on smaller labels. It's solid indie rock and predates a lot of what would become popular but I never really connected to it on a personal level.
#29 Beck-One Foot In the Grave(1994 K Records)
Beck snuck this little gem out right as he was blowing up from "Loser". He went up to the Pacific Northwest and recorded this album with Calvin Johnson and members of Built To Spill, Lync and Presidents of the United States of America. This is a great understated detour into pure folk for Beck, very calming, pretty funny in parts. This is light years away from his sampledelic art pop he would perfect a couple years later. Highly Recommended.
#28 Bratmobile-Pottymouth(1992 Kill Rock Stars)
While I don't really enjoy the music contained on this album I can't deny how important this album and this band were to the scene in question. Alison Wolfe coined the term "Riot Grrl" with her zine of the same name. This was the epicenter of that entire movement. The music was rudimentary and annoying in the best possible ways. Must have if you are a Riot Grrl fan.
#27 Death Cab For Cutie-We Have the Facts and We Are Voting Yes(2000 Barsuk)
This is my second favorite Death Cab album behind "Transatlanticism". This was the nerdy little brother version of that record. Great songs and a solid third album.
#26 The Shins-Chutes Too Narrow(2003 Sub Pop)
Liked the first Shins album. This one is really not my cup of tea. This album is in the category of indie rock albums that were the start of a great change in indie rock. That doesnt mean it's horrible, but this was one of the turning points in a giant turning point year(2003) where indie rock looked beyond the basement and came out the other side as something entirely different.
#25 The Thermals-The Body, The Blood, The Machine(2006 Sub Pop)
Not my cup of tea.
#24 The Exploding Hearts-Guitar Romantic(2002 Dirtnap)
Fantastic debut! Very much Buzzcocks worship but in a great way. It's a shame that 3/4ths of this band died in a band van accident on their way back from San Francisco up to their hometown of Portland. We will unfortunately never get to hear where these guys would go from here.
#23 Neko Case-Furnace Room Lullaby(2000 Mint)
Not what I would have picked(I would have picked "Blacklisted") but this is a solid album from a couple years prior. Recommended for sure.
#22 Dead Moon-In the Graveyard(1988 Tombstone)
A stone cold classic. Period. Great dark garage rock. You can feel the gray clouds of the Pacific Northwest lingering in the sky. You can feel the dampness all over your clothes with this music. This is dirty, dingy stuff. 10/10
#21 UnWound-Leaves Turn Inside You(2001 Kill Rock Stars)
This double album is so dense I think I am still digesting it since I bought it in 2001. So many layers, so many sounds. I think I love this. I definitely respect the hell out of it. Damn now I gotta go listen to it again!
#20 Wipers-Youth Of America(1981 Restless)
Another dead on classic. Perfect punk. His melodic vocals keep all of this together. This is a beast of a punk rock record. I personally prefer "Is It Real?" but this is not to be missed. In fact when checking out the Wipers I only recommend the 3 disc box set of "Is This Real?", "Youth Of America" and "Over the Edge". All classic albums and I believe the cd set is pretty affordable, if it's still in print. 10/10
#19 The Postal Service-Give Up(2003 Sub Pop)
What can I say? Solid debut and only album from the team of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello(Dntel) along with vocalists Jenny Lewis(!!!!!) and Jen Wood. This was another one of those landscape changing indie rock records for better or worse. 8/10
#18 The New Pornographers-Twin Cinema(2005 Matador)
Probably my second favorite Pornographers album after "Electric Version". This is another one of those cases of indie rock supergroup that I wanted to love more. We've got Carl Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar. Enjoyable and definitely worth a listen and a great example of indie rock in it's purest form.
#17 Sleater Kinney-All Hands On the Bad One(2000 Kill Rock Stars)
I would say the most fun out of all the Sleater Kinney albums. Not the best one but damn good(the best would be "The Woods") but this is essential listening if you like their style.
#16 Japandroids-Celebration Rock(2012 Polyvinyl)
Not my cup of tea.
#15 Destroyer-Streethawk: A Seduction(2001 Misra)
Not my cup of tea.
#14 Fleet Foxes-Self Titled(2008 Sub Pop)
Pretty, Nice and thank you for shining the light on Joshua Tillman.
#13 Built To Spill-Keep It Like A Secret(1998 Warner Brothers)
A Masterpiece. Perfect guitars. Perfect vocals. Perfect drums. Perfect Bass. Perfect Sam Coomes cameo. Everything about this album is what I feel indie rock is all about. And would you look at that?!?! It was put out by a major label!!!! For shame! 10/10
#12 The Shins-Oh, Inverted World(2001 Sub Pop)
Oh it was a more innocent time. The Shins were lovely! They made an excellent Kinks style album. This is by far, in my opinion, the best Shins album. The flow of the album is excellent. The melodies were simple and breezed right by. Recommended.
#11 Beat Happening-Jamboree(1988 K Records)
This is Calvin Johnson's masterpiece. Such beauty in simplicity. The vocals are crushing. This album feels like home. It is a masterpiece of indie rock perfection. 10/10
#10 Bikini Kill-Pussy Whipped(1992 Kill Rock Stars)
The best form of Bikini Kill in my opinion. They were so hard and nasty on this album they almost come across as metal in some parts. They were not messing around at all and you could feel it. If you were to get into Bikini Kill start anywhere but here because if you hear this first, you will undoubtedly be disappointed by everything else just like I was.
#09 Death Cab For Cutie-Transatlanticism(2003 Barsuk)
Earlier I said this was my favorite Death Cab album. It is. To me, it is most certainly not deserving of the top 10 Pacific Northwest Indie Rock albums list though. It is solid but this is not a masterpiece. It's really good but not that amazing to me.
#08 Modest Mouse-The Moon and Antarctica(2000 Epic)
This is my favorite Modest Mouse album. It's creepy, it's funky, it's weird. The production and mixing from Brian Deck is the best they have ever had. They made the jump to a major label with one of the most complex, interesting albums of their or anyone else's career. This is their masterpiece. 10/10
#07 Elliott Smith-XO(1998 Dreamworks)
Who knew a label owned by Steven Spielberg would release one of the greatest indie rock albums of all time. The Jon Brion arrangements are insanely good. Every instrument sounds warm and perfect and his songwriting matched the inventive arragements. There were strings and all manner of weird instruments on here to augment his wonderful acoustic delivery and his music shined because of it. Masterpiece 10/10
#06 Sunny Day Real Estate-Diary(1994 Sub Pop)
Not my cup of tea.
#05 Built To Spill-There's Nothing Wrong With Love(1994 Up Records)
Um there's nothing wrong with this album. Masterpiece 10/10
#04 Modest Mouse-The Lonesome Crowded West(1997 Up Records)
I would have switched this with Moon and Antarctica but I 100% get it. I would say on some days this is the best Modest Mouse album. Everything falls perfectly into place and this is also a masterpiece.
#03 The Microphones-The Glow Pt. 2(2001 K Records)
This is a fantastic album. I do love it. I don't love it as much as a lot of people do. I never really developed much of an emotional attachment to it, but on a musical level it can't be denied that this is an album to be reckoned with. To me it sounds like an experimental cousin to Neutral Milk Hotel's "Aeroplane Over the Sea". Highly Recommended
#02 Sleater Kinney-Dig Me Out(1997 Kill Rock Stars)
There I was. 15 years old. I had just got a subscription to Spin magazine from my mom as an early christmas present. It was Novemeber and they had just put out their "end of the year" issue. In it was the list of the top 20 best albums of 1997. The list had a lot of insanely influential artists and albums that would inform my entire view on music for the rest of my life. At number 18 you had Belle and Sebastian. At 17 you had Geraldine Fibbers with Butch. At number 10 you had Pavement with Brighten the Corners. At number 8 you had Yo La Tengo with I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. Then right there at #3 you had this album. This was the one that intrigued me the most. Who the hell were they? Why were they so high up on the list if I had never heard of them before? Then I bought it. This was a new kind of punk. This was a smarter kind of punk. This was new. I felt like it was my secret. This was my music and I never looked back.
#01 Elliott Smith-Either/Or(1997 Kill Rock Stars)
Very important album. Not my favorite of his but still very important.