In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Neutral Milk Hotel
1998, Merge

This is the kind of album that tries to lull me to sleep but instead has me staring at the ceiling in the dark all night, trying to dissect the lyrics. It’s pretty, strange, and filled with lush, surreal verses. I believe that songs find their way to you at the right time in your life, and this album proves that theory to me every time I listen. I was hanging out at a friend of a friend’s house when I first heard the title track, and it found me again a couple of years later, while I was lying in someone’s bed, in the form of a ukelele serenade. I sent the same song to a friend on Spotify just now with the message: “Been listening to this album for the past hour, trying to fully convey the emotional attachment I have for it. IMPOSSIBLE!” Much of the album is influenced by The Diary of Anne Frank, which you can totally feel on the song “Holland, 1945.” (Listen to it well, read the lyrics, then Google “Pepito Arriola” to fully witness Jeff Mangum’s lyrical genius.) Update: in the time I wrote this review and after sending that message, my friend ended up falling in love with and downloading the album. —Marie

The Music of John Williams: 40 Years of Film Music
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
2003, Silva America

I was terrified when I first left home and moved to a major city, and one of the only things that seemed to ease my nerves, for some reason, was listening to John Williams scores. I’d put on my headphones and walk around unfamiliar spaces with the theme from Hook or “Fawkes the Phoenix” from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets blaring in my ears, and suddenly things seemed less like daunting challenges and more like ridiculous adventures. I felt powerful and driven: everyone on the street became a character and every 7-Eleven turned into a place where I could potentially buy some Chocolate Frogs. Even the smell of urine and car exhaust seemed a little more special. OK, not really. But still. It’s nice to have a little magic on reserve for when you need it. —Pixie

Calling Out of Context
Arthur Russell
2004, Audika

This compilation may very well change your life. From the first instrumental song to the last, dance-y track where Arthur Russell sings, “Calling all kids: grown-ups are crazy,” the record is a trip through time and space via the brain of a totally brilliant person. Calling Out of Context is a collection Arthur recorded from the ’70s until his death in 1994. Maybe the songs were never meant to be together on a record, but now they tell a story, and I swear it will make you fall in love with him. Arthur’s voice is sweet and comforting, and the mix of electronic drums, cellos, and trombones on the backing tracks make for a perfect cacophony of awesome. His music will not fail to lift you up or comfort you when you are wallowing. It is just as perfect for listening to on those summer days where nothing can go wrong as it is for when it’s cold and wintry and you just want to stay in bed under a blanket. His lyrics talk about love and sex in a way that’s so pure that it’s almost heartbreaking. There’s also a song about how someone is trying to call him but he doesn’t even have a phone, which, yes, I know sounds a little mad. Trust me, it all makes sense in the world of Arthur Russell. —Laia

Be Your Own Pet
Be Your Own Pet
2006, Ecstatic Peace/XL

Want a raucous album for long car rides where every seat is occupied by a friend’s butt? This is definitely it. The teenagers in this band SLAY, especially lead vocalist Jemina Pearl. One of my favorite songs, “Adventure,” makes me want to build a huge sandcastle, kick it into the wind, then push someone into the ocean. The other best moment on the album comes during banger “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle,” in which Pearl sings a wild string of repeated becauses, her voice lilting up playfully on the last one. Be Your Own Pet is one of the goofiest, most fun albums EVER and will definitely inspire you to get going on many adventures of your own. —Amy Rose

Feel Good Lost
Broken Social Scene
2001, Noise Factory

Broken Social Scene is one of my favorite bands and this is one of my favorite albums. Before BSS was a gigantic ensemble that included every cool Canadian musician ever, it was just two dudes named Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning getting together to make beautiful instrumental music. Feel Good Lost, BSS’s first album, is my favorite accompaniment to long car rides and plane flights. I just zone out and put my headphones on and drift off to the dreamy and repetitive songs like “Guilty Cubicles” and “Cranley’s Gonna Make It.” Don’t expect any rock songs, or really any singing at all. It’s chill vocal-less music that’s a little psychedelic and kind of spacey, like a soundtrack that demands to be played in the background of your life. —Hazel

Love at the Bottom of the Sea
The Magnetic Fields
2012, Merge

Full disclosure: I work for the Magnetic Fields as a merch girl, and have done so for about a third of my life. Even if I’d never met them, though, I would still want everyone to listen to their new record. Why is it called Love at the Bottom of the Sea? I have no idea, except maybe because it’s very, very dark and mysterious down there, and love can be equally difficult to navigate. One of my favorite songs on the album, “Quick,” goes like this: “You better think of something quick / Before I don’t love you no more.” Burn! One of my other favorites, “Andrew in Drag,” about a straight guy who watches his friend dress in drag on a dare, goes like this: “The moment he walked on the stage / My tail began to wag / Wag like a little wiener dog.” The record is hilarious and heartbreaking simultaneously, like all of the band’s previous releases, and I’d love it to pieces even if I didn’t sell it from the merch booth every night of their tour. —Emma

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The Flaming Lips
2002, Warner Bros.

I was lucky enough to see the Flaming Lips play a music fest a few summers ago, and it was like nothing else—there was confetti and balloons and lasers, and lead singer Wayne Coyne came out in a giant bubble and rolled around the crowd. It was intense! If you can’t make it to one of their shows, playing this album super loud in your room is a pretty decent alternative. The opening track is basically a psychedelic version of a Cat Stevens song, and it just gets better from there. If you turn off the lights and lie on your bed while you listen it feels like you’re floating in space (especially during that one song when the lyrics actually go “We’re floating in space”). “Do You Realize” is my fourth-favorite song of all time. Anyway, The Soft Bulletin is also a great album, while I’ve got your attention. —Anna

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
1997, Dedicated

How do I describe this record? It sounds as though the sadness of Earth was being beamed down from an opera hall on Saturn. Both the music and lyrics are gorgeous and plaintive, with the spacey sounds providing a fuzzy, dreamy backdrop to an album that touches on love and loss in a way that doesn’t feel forced or predictable. Highly recommended for late-night drives, break-up talks, and those nights when all you want to do is turn the lights off, stare at the ceiling, and disappear into the music. —Pixie

Cripple Crow
Devendra Banhart
2005, XL

Listening to this album makes me feel like I should be wandering through wide-open fields and exploring thick forests. Mixing elements of samba and folk music, Cripple Crow sounds like it was made in the mountains of South America instead of a boring New York recording studio. Even the album cover looks like a picture ripped straight from the photo album of some bohemian, wood-dwelling family. It’s music to dance barefoot to in the wilderness, that’s for sure. —Hazel

The Milk-Eyed Mender
Joanna Newsom
2004, Drag City

This album was my most treasured throughout high school. It sustained me through four years of trudging through drab, locker-studded hallways by filling my head with images of wildflowers, animals of the forest, and creatures of the ocean. Newsom’s voice is just as plucky and sharp as her harp strings, yelping and cooing and soaring. In order to be properly convinced, you might want to start with the song that closes this album, “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie”—its bouncing tune and naturalistic imagery will carry you up to the clouds and out to the open sea. —Amy Rose

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions in the Sky
2011, Temporary Residence

I am a lover of lyrics, and I have scrawled my share on notebooks and rubber soles and bathroom walls, but sometimes you need an instrumental album to escape to another place. I’ve been turning to this beautiful and haunting album a lot lately. It’s the kind of record that makes you feel as if you’re living inside of a story, and because there aren’t any words to guide you—just the feelings that the music brings up—you get to build that story in your own mind. It is a soundtrack to the pictures in your head, to the feelings you maybe can’t find the words to express anyway, and it is creepy and lovely all at once. —Pixie

2011, Nonesuch

According to my research (Wikipedia), biophilia is a term that refers to the bond between humans and other living systems. The songs have titles like “Thunderbolt,” “Virus,” and “Solstice,” and each one feels like a sparkly exploration of the world around us. The best song, “Cristalline,” sounds like the score for the creation of the universe. A lot of the music is electronic (she uses a Tesla coil as an instrument on one track!), which doesn’t usually appeal to me, but it all feels so natural coming from Björk. Have you ever seen a picture of the Northern Lights and tried to wrap your head around the fact that something so beautiful and ethereal could exist in nature? That’s what this album is like. —Anna