By Scott Thill

Now that my Pixies retrospective has concluded, I've decided to implement a new feature into this monthly mixtape of what doesn't suck in music that highlights various discs that, for one reason or another, you simply must go out and buy before you've finished the column. OK, maybe not that fast, but you get the idea. Whether they're called desert-island discs or instant classics, these are the releases that your library has to have to avoid calumny, ridicule and/or destruction by fire. Let's start with a colossus from the early '90s, followed by two recent releases that are sure to make the critics' Top Ten lists come December:

My Blood Valentine, Loveless

The sonic perfectionist Kevin Shields and his merry band of shoegazers had already firmly embedded themselves in modern rock history with the 1989 release of Isn't Anything, but it is My Bloody Valentine's peerless Loveless that has made the history books and influenced every band in the world that is experimenting with noise today. Shields almost bankrupted Creation records trying to get the ethereal walls of noise, reverb, distortion and feedback found at length on Loveless into sync, but the high price tag was worth it. Songs like "Only Shallow," "When

You Sleep," and "I Only Said" churn like unruly sonic surf to angelic vocals, until the whole tidal mess comes crashing down upon your eardrums like Armageddon. It's a curious hybrid, this refreshing intersection between sheer noise and melodic perfection that gave Sonic Youth a serious run for their money, and it has gone on since to cause bands like Mogwai, Southpacific, Slowdive, Ride and countless others to form their own similar walls of sound. But nothing can replace this original document of a musical genre in the midst of its brilliant twilight. Get it now.

Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse

Speaking of MBV, they were of course as influenced by the world-beating Sonic Youth as any other alternative band looking to carve itself a niche in a stale musical landscape. But Sonic Youth, always the lifer, has been able to keep its momentum, even through inaccessible releases like NYC Ghosts & Flowers and A Thousand Leaves. Their latest release is a return of sorts to their standard avant-punk crunch, a healthy respite from their more meandering recent effort, Murray Street. Another nod to cyberpunk author William Gibson, "Pattern Recognition" is a delicious slice of culture jamming, while the band's sense of humor is as potent as ever on tunes like "Dude Ranch Nurse" and "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream." All in all, Sonic Nurse is another refreshing brick in Sonic Youth's wall -- of noise.

Wilco, A Ghost is Born

OK, OK, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was an Exile on Main Street-type classic that redefined Wilco as a band and most likely will never be topped by them. But does that mean that every Wilco CD that comes after it must suffer the lack of exposure and respect that has been afforded A Ghost is Born? Like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless before it, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot raised unbelievable expectations that its authors may not be able to meet in the future. But A Ghost is Born is still a hell of an album, better than most of the krap on the radio -- any radio -- today. Songs like "Hell is Chrome" betray a blues-soaked gravitas while catchy tunes like "Less Than You Think" and "The Late Greats" are pop delights. Yes, I said pop. See, Wilco can do it all, something the unfair music world shouldn't forget while it anxiously awaits Yankee Hot Foxtrot II. If it ever comes at all.


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