The Muffs, Blonder and Blonder (Reprise, 1995)-
This band was pretty much peerless in combining a classicist mid-60s sense of pop song structure (think The Who/The Kinks/The Beach Boys) with the finest dynamic heaviness of 90s alterna-punk. . . This is their hardest, fastest, and best. . . Try 2, 10, 13.
MGMT, Oracular Spectacular [Columbia, 2007]
Steeped in technicolor synths and sputtering drum machines, samples bits of Pink Floyd, starry eyed 70s soul, 80s pinging textures and beats, and a healthy dose of Flaming Lips-style quirkiness courtesy of producer Dave Fridmann. . . sometimes dragged down by horrid lyrical platitudes. . . and while this could be way worse, it could also be way better. Try 1, 2, 4, 5.
Teengenerate, Get Action! (Crypt, 1995)—
Their usual greatness, treble-blaring garage-punk with an emphasis on the “punk”; barely-controlled guitar blasts powered by barreling drums and a singer who sounds like he’s just had major dental surgery and the anaesthetic is wearing off. Try 1, 2, 3, 7, 17.
Creatures, A Bestiary of (Polydor, 1997; original release 1981, 1983)—
So, whaddya get when the regal mistress of the moody, mind-bending end of Brit post punk goes Hawaiian? The answer essentially is, a Siouxsie record with no guitar and more/wilder/weirder percussion. . . The Hawaiianisms (it was recorded there) are played for atmosphere rather than festive fun (surprise), so this is recommended for Banshees fans (if not for devotees of Don Ho) . . . Try 2, 3, 6, 10.
Antena, Camino del Sol (Numero, 2004; original release: Les Disques du Crepuscule, 1982)—
French combo that blended synthesizer post-punk with 60s tropical sophisto-pop à la Astrud Gilberto. . . The result is somehow lush and minimal, off-kilter and hypnotically fluid, all at the same time, utterly bewitching in its sun-dazed, elliptical elegance. . . Try 1, 2.
Archers of Loaf, Vee Vee (Merge, 2012)—
These guys quite likely the worst name ever for an otherwise first-rate group, which is maybe why they didn’t quite get their due when this originally came out in 1995. . . So here it is again, and it still sounds mighty fine to me—dueling angular guitars drill forward in a sound like (their contemporaries) Pavement with extra muscle, songs that echo prime Replacements in their humor, desperation and warmth, plus a nifty regional aftertaste, like stumbling out of the bar into a summer full of crickets. . . Try 1, 2, 4, 9.
Sonny and the Sunsets, Longtime Companion (Polyvinyl, 2012)—
I remember earlier stuff from them being more in a Beat Happening-esque primitive-strum-pop vein, but this has a more steady, reserved sound as it moves squarely into country territory, to excellent effect. . . It has an austere, almost timeless quality, illuminated by a feeling of mountain brightness… Try 1, 4.