1. Sister (1987): Let’s get something straight. There is no album in the entire corpus of indie rock — not Loveless, not Surfer Rosa, not Psychocandy — that reaches the heights of invention, joy, and magic of Sonic Youth’s sublime fifth album. If your night out has ever been made by a floppy-haired stoner disemboweling a guitar; if you’ve ever had an out-of-body experience while hearing a record of disembodied vocal catatonia and libidinous murmurs; if you’ve ever gotten a contact high from a deliciously ‘off’ noise-rock tumult — then you can thank this album. The haunted reveries of Sister remain with you for years, even if you only hear them once. This isn’t a rock album — it’s mortar fire. It is the point at which Sonic Youth discovered a new and truly radicalized “psychedelic” music that owed nothing to Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper’s, but to an amalgamation of record store arcana, suburban Gnosticism, and teenage kicks. Their peers may have been rocking, droning, and caterwauling, but Sister is the sonic manifestation of refracted light. It’s a record that changes you.
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