PJ Harvey, "My Beautiful Leah"
Is This Desire? is the album that really completed PJ Harvey's transition from kickass rock artist to just plain ol' kickass artist. Yeah, broadly, this is still a rock record, but she started doing so much more. The arrangements incorporate so much more beyond just stardard rock instrumentation, the songs range much wider, and the whole thing is so much more sophisticated. That's not to say that the first couple records aren't brilliant, they are, but this is just a different beast.
The Grifters, "Spaced Out"
This is a pro-Grifters blog, as anybody who has seen previous entries has read. The Grifters fundamentally understood that lo-fi wasn't an aesthetic that had a point in and of itself, but instead was useful for what it represented: lower barriers between the raw creativity of a band and the final product. By stripping away the artifice, you could reveal a more direct and honest expression. Lo-fi, then, was a method and not an end. A proof of that is that when given the opportunity to take their stuff into a real studio, as they did on their final record (Full Blown Possession), they produced an album every bit as good as their earlier, ramshackle stuff. Because this record is a lot better produced, it's probably easier to get into than their earlier stuff, and I heartily recommend it so you can get some tunes from one of the best bands of the 90s underground.
Little Brother, "Beautiful Morning"
Little Brother is notable primarily for launching the career of production genius 9th Wonder, but the first two albums especially shouldn't be forgotten as just an early career artifact from him. Phonte and Big Pooh sound great swapping verses here, and 9th Wonder's soulful production is fantastic.
The Gaslight Anthem, "High Lonesome"
As you can see from my paean to the Grifters up there, I'm a big fan of back-to-basics stuff in rock. Give me a garage punk act tearing shit up, or some wierdos making noise into a four-track in a basement with mold on the shitty paneling, and I'm a happy boy. So why don't I like the Gaslight Anthem more than I do, given how much their sound explicitly is a throwback? I don't know! The heart wants what it wants!
Negativland, "There Is No Faith..."
Negativland released a record called It's All In Your Head FM, a live album that chronicles the travails of a radio station that was going out of business, so they choose to begin denying the existence of God in order to regain listeners. As with much of Negativland's later work, it's pretty abstract and often disorienting. I actually saw this tour, and it was a really surreal experience. This track will give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for. They later re-did this whole idea with a studio record that condensed the material into a tighter set, called It's All In Your Head.