Yeah-Yeah-Yeahs-MasterYeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2001, Shifty

I discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in a church basement in Philadelphia. I had just moved there and made new friends and me and those new friends decided to go see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because one of us had heard that “Kim Gordon thinks they are cool.” I don’t think any of us had heard their music before. But we went to the church, and then these three kids got on stage and Karen O, the lead singer who had an extra-long jet-black bowl cut that covered her eyes, was E-X-P-L-O-S-I-V-E in all the right ways. I was immediately smitten with her energy. She jumped around, fit the entire microphone inside her mouth while growling like a monster, and poured beer all over herself. The music was angular-sounding and fun and it made me wanna thrash. It was beautiful. As soon as the show was over I rushed to the merch table and bought this EP. I ran home feeling like I had a treasure in my hands. In a matter of days, I knew all the lyrics. It’s only five songs and 13.8 minutes long (as iTunes just told me) but they will be the best 13.8 minutes of your life. “Art Star” was, and still is, pretty much everything: A two-minute send-up of the kids (they’re everywhere) who are always too cool for everything and doing things that are too cool for everyone. “Miles Away” is a JAM if there ever was one, with guitars that go one way then another and Karen O breathing rhythmically and sultrily into the mic. In the last song, “Our Time,” she sings “It’s our time, sweet baby, to break on through” and all of my friends and I believed it. I was discovering myself in a new place, and I had this band that felt like it was mine, and it was my time, you know? It’s your time, too. This record will definitely make it so. —Laia

Black_Sabbath_debut_albumBlack Sabbath
Black Sabbath
1970, Vertigo

When I need to feel CONSUMED BY DARKNESS, I put on this very first of Black Sabbath albums. It’s my go-to for lying prostrate on the floor, closing my eyes, and being like, “WHAT’S UP” to the devil when I’m in a bad mood and need to be overwhelmed by some beautifully conveyed but decidedly ominous-sounding shit. Like a lot of truly fantastic 1970s metal, this short-as-hell album also includes references to, like, wizards and villages. Think some sorta gnome sitting on a toadstool—like, Lord of the Rings metal. I feel like the kids on Freaks and Geeks would have listened to this genre of ELVIN EVIL a lot, and you should too, ’cause it’s rad. Oh, and just so you know, this record also includes the lyric, “my name is Lucifer, please take my hand,” so you know you’re getting your money’s worth, metal-album-wise. —Amy Rose

Carly Rae Jepsen
2012, Interscope

The sass on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Kiss is out of control. Every time I listen to it, I get the same sugar-rush I did when I heard “Call Me Maybe” for the first time. Looking at the record’s other radio hits and their titles (“Good Time” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”), you could assume that they’re just distilled versions every other pop song ever. But Jepsen’s lyrics are always smart and weird, and often intense and filled with idiosyncrasies that make them fresh. Her cleverness is most evident in “Turn Me Up,” a song about how she wants to break up with a boy who is sweet but boring, and she can’t because her phone connection is breaking up. In the chorus, she sings: “I’m breaking up with you/ You’re breaking up on me/ You kiss me through the phone/ and I don’t think it reaches,” and then, “Turn me uppppppp/ Turn me on / Why don’t you turn me on?” She’s stuck lamenting this fact, and it’s SO PAINFUL, but then she gets over it by partying. In Kiss, Jepsen is always partying. She’s also always going after boys who are taken, and sometimes while she’s dating someone else, but she DOES NOT CARE. I don’t hear her caring about anything like being “too forward” when she takes a boy’s guitar string and wraps it around her finger like a wedding ring in “Guitar String/Wedding Ring.” She does not care about her makeup or that she plays “teasing games” with a crush in “Drive.” And she doesn’t care that she dropped her phone in the pool in “Good Time” because she had so much fun that she fell asleep with all her clothes on. In this video interview, Jepsen talks about musicians who have influenced her songwriting, including Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. The clip’s headline implies that they are her “most unexpected musical influences.” To me, it isn’t unexpected or crazy at all to align her with those geniuses because I think she has their kind of talent. —Katherine

lifter_pullerFiestas and Fiascos
Lifter Puller
2000, Self-Starter

Fiestas and Fiascos is more than just a great rock record: It’s also a cautionary tale about a clueless scumbag named Nightclub Dwight. As told throughout the album’s 12 songs, Nightclub Dwight opens a club called the Nice Nice, but after doing a lot of drugs, screwing a lot of people, and screwing a lot of people over, he ultimately sees his demise when a guy in an eye-patch comes to burn the Nice Nice to the ground. Craig Finn, who also fronted the party-anthem band the Hold Steady, is at his best on Fiestas and Fiascos, with lines like “Love is like a battle of the bands / Crank up your amps, man.” The fact that this record hasn’t been turned into a movie is a goddamn shame. —Megan Seling

dead_kennedysFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Dead Kennedys
1980, Manifesto

One of the most essential American punk albums, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is a seething and sarcastic take on culture and politics that still rings frighteningly true more than three decades after its release. Whenever I read about working people losing their jobs or banks getting bailed out, Jello Biafra’s distinctive voice, singing “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor,” pops right into my head. Dead Kennedys tackle the flaws in our society with a twisted sense of humor, and that’s what I love about them. If you live in a crappy apartment, the bouncy “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” might cheer you up. My apolitical ex-boyfriend thought “Stealing People’s Mail” was a hilarious song that was also great for skating to—and it is. One of their most famous tracks, “Holiday in Cambodia,” is also one of their darkest, both lyrically (Jello makes razor-sharp digs at people who are oblivious to or in denial about their privilege and suggests they take a holiday in Cambodia, which at the time suffered under the dictator Pol Pot) and musically (it reminds me of faster songs by Bauhaus). It’s followed with a warbly, mocking cover of Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas,” which sums up the vibe of the album perfectly: The Dead Kennedys make feeling cynical fun. —Stephanie

Flin Flon
1999, Teen-Beat

This album is an opened-up nerve. It makes me want to explore the entirety of the world, be incredibly surprised by what I find, and then romanticize the fuck out of my life. It also makes me feel like it’s possible to do that in the span of one night out partying in my same-as-ever neighborhood. My favorite song on it, “Floods,” is ostensibly a song about settling for hooking up with someone you feel middling about—“feeling you up and feeling disappointed,” goes one line of the chorus—but even that seems more fun than whatever plans you had before listening to it. —Amy Rose

Gang-Gang-Dance-Eye-ContactEye Contact
Gang Gang Dance
2010, 4AD

“I can hear everything / It’s everything time,” are the first lyrics you hear when you play this record, and it’s the perfect indication of what is to come. Eye Contact is Gang Gang Dance’s last album (they may or may not be on hiatus), and it’s so grandiose in the sonic spaces it occupies. The tracks mix what most people would call “world music” (LOL) with electronic beats that wouldn’t have been out of place in the coolest ’80s and ’90s clubs. In between weirdo-awesome instrumental jams, there are gems like “Adult Goth” (first of all, YES on that title), which has stabbing keyboards that sound like a warning that if you mess with singer Lizzi Bougatsos, you will be in trouble. The absolute STANDOUT on this record is “Mindkilla,” which—I don’t know what it’s about. I often don’t know what Gang Gang Dance’s songs are about (it’s hard to understand what Bougatsos’s singing!) but that doesn’t really bother me because I can make it about whatever I want. I think this song is some kind of love/battle-cry that will make you get off your feet and invoke the universe for all its energy. Eye Contact is a maximalist explosion of everything that is good and holy, and like every other thing Gang Gang Dance ever put out, it’s hard to listen to it just once. —Laia

neurosisThrough Silver in Blood
1996, Relapse

I absolutely hate taking showers, like, to an untenable degree, so I have to find some little way of making it fun for myself. One of these is bringing a book in with me (don’t lend me books, guys), but if I can’t do that, I get down with what I like to call a Metal Shower. This is when you put on Neurosis (preferably this greatest of all sludge-metal albums), get in the water, close your eyes dramatically and dutifully, and pretend the stream of hot water raining down on you is blood. Heed Satan’s calling! Just try not to ruin the effect when you reach for your tangerine-and-vanilla body gel, as I so often do, because fussy fragrances aren’t really all that demonic. Even when you’re not using this album to make basic hygiene rituals bearable, it fucking rules. It taught me that metal could be as delicate, melodic, and methodical as classical music. I bet you’ll love it. —Amy Rose

cibo_mattoViva! La Woman
Cibo Matto
1996, Warner Bros.

Cibo Matto means “crazy food” in Italian, which could not be more appropriate for this record because all of the songs sound crazy and are about food (the exception being the bonus track, “Jive,” which is 19 seconds of someone slapping their leg with their hands). Even if you’ve never heard it before, “Sugar Water” will likely be familiar because it’s been played on TV at least a million times and because hearing it is bliss, and you’ve felt that before. In “Birthday Cake,” the organs and berserk-o way Yuka Honda sings about the ingredients of the cake (“Extra sugar! Extra salt! Extra oil and MSGeeeeeeeee!”) communicate the same kind of out-of-your-mind hyperactivity you experience when you eat sweets as a kid. Listening to it today, I still feel like running around and punching the air and, like, flipping the lights on and off. It makes me THAT happy. The whole album does. —Lena

Propagandhi_-_Less_Talk__More_RockLess Talk, More Rock
1996, Fat Wreck Chords

I discovered this album at a punk record store that existed for about a year in my town. Conveniently, it was my junior year—the year I was angriest at the world and most disgusted by discrimination, general human ugliness, capitalism, and the way governments seemed to do nothing to fix anything all. When I saw the cover of Less Talk, More Rock, which is ringed by the words “Animal-Friendly, Anti-Fascist, Gay-Positive, Pro-Feminist” it was like a revelation. Someone out there wanted the same things as me! I was even more excited when I listened to it. The first two songs advocated veganism, “The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist” called out “sexist, racist, homophobes,” and “We Thought Nation-States Were a Bad Idea” was the most slam-danceable song about class war I’d ever heard. The best thing about the record is the way it acknowledges privilege. “Resisting Tyrannical Government” says the privileged should feel obliged to fight until everyone has everything they need; “The State Lottery” opens with a sample from Noam Chomsky’s Prospects for Democracy in which Chomsky talks about what rich societies have to do before true democracies can exist; and in my favorite, “Refusing to be a Man,” singer Chris Hannah actually calls himself a “heterosexist tragedy.” (Chris talks about what the song means to him in the intro of this video.) I’m not nearly as angry as I used to be, but Less Talk, More Rock continues to be my go-to album when I am feeling riled up, or when I just want to bounce around to pop-punk while I’m waiting for the bus. —Stephanie ♦