4. Washing Machine (1995): Full disclosure: Washing Machine is my favorite Sonic Youth album. Though it cannot be given the title of ‘best’ in any objective way, it’s the one I often reach for when I need a dose. This is Kim’s album, the one on which she shines brightest, and the one on which her boho beat persona is most convincing and inspired. The title track is a marvel, beginning with a Loaded-era Velvets choogle that eventually segues at about four minutes in to a magical, goosebump-worthy moment of guitar catharsis. Lee’s great “Skip Tracer” features lyrics that rival even Steely Dan’s observational cynicism, and “Little Trouble Girl,” abetted by a great vocal cameo by Kim Deal, is “Tunic” with a Shangri-Las makeover. This leaves the elegiac “The Diamond Sea,” which you could consider Sonic Youth’s “Dark Star” if the comparison wasn’t such a cliché at this point. An awe-inspiring masterpiece of improvisation, “The Diamond Sea” is a moiré of atonal scrambling and harmonic scree that feels far too short at 19 and a half minutes. Washing Machine provides a roomy antidote to the claustrophobia of Goo and Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star, and the most perfect balance yet of the band’s rockist and avant tendencies. Even the cover art rules: Meta and mysterious as ever, the band chose to spotlight the torsos of two teenage fans in Sonic Youth T-shirts, one of which is autographed — by members of the band Come.
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