We're several weeks into the school year in my native West Virginia (whereas other schools are only just now starting or are in their second week), and it got me thinking about that most sacred of college traditions: listening to albums (and, maybe, occasionally vinyl records if you were especially hip) while you partake in... chemically enhancing substances. As a former RA in the dorms, I can't say I'd ever give kids a free pass for toking up in the dorms if they had the right soundtrack, but I would definitely want to. So, if you've got a chill RA (or maybe live on your own) and have the right tools, here are ten of the best records to tune in, turn on, but not drop out to pass your college weekends.
Ágætis byrjun - Sigur Rós
This is a record for the kids whose tastes lean more towards the psychedelic end of the spectrum, but the transcendent embrace of Icelandic post-rock icons Sigur Rós's second record is nearly a religious experience sober. But the ethereal and alien textures of the record can be beyond magical if you're in the right state of mind.
Person Pitch - Panda Bear
is an acquired taste. In fact, it might be such an acquired taste that you have to actually be on some type of illegal substance to appreciate it. But the second that tracks like "Bros" and "Comfy in Nautica" click for you, you're transported to the hazy and tranquil world that Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox has crafted for you, and it's a shame that he hasn't released a solo record (or to be honest, Animal Collective record either) that's this excellent in a while.
You Forgot It In People - Broken Social Scene
We're going to get more straightforwardly rock & roll for a second, but this 2002 classic from Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene is a reminder that not every record for Midnight Tokers has to be super chill and/or ambient. Overflowing with enough textural flourishes to light off all the right synapses in your brain in sonic delight, "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl" and "Cause = Time" never get old.
Lonerism - Tame Impala
Here's a newer record. Kevin Parker and crew made the best LSD-era Beatles album the Beatles never actually released, and the only reason it wasn't hands down the best record of 2012 was because channel ORANGE
and good kid, m.A.A.d. city
exist. These Aussie rockers channeled the spirit of psych-rock better than anyone since Syd Barrett and Roger Waters.
Kid A - Radiohead
This list would be criminally incomplete without a Radiohead album. And, you could pick any of their albums post-OK Computer
, and they'd work here, but Kid A
is probably the greatest album since Revolver
so it will do. Whether it's the glorious dissonance of the horn breakdown on "The National Anthem" or the hypnotic drum machines of "Idioteque," Kid A
will take your trip where it needs to go.
Since I Left You - The Avalanches
Good luck finding a legal copy of this album. It's streaming on Spotify at the moment, but it gets taken down every couple of months due to another legal entanglement. Since I Left You
is a disco/R&B/hip-hop/pop hybrid formed entirely of thousands of samples which these Australian producers didn't always obtain legally. That said, despite the disparate and schizophrenic nature of its structure, the album is all-encompassing in its sound, and once you tune in, it's hard to tune back out.
Visions - Grimes
This is for those of you who can handle a slightly darker trip. Beneath Claire Boucher's sugary sweet vocals and the Ken Kesey of the future beats, Grimes weaves dark and tragic and painfully intimate tales throughout her 2012 debut, but occasionally, you need to confront the darker sides of life, and the chemical enhancements we keep alluding to sometimes force an honest appraisal of your life. Also, there's the simple fact that if you don't catch the darker thematic elements of the record, it's just an undeniably beautiful album to begin with.
Low - David Bowie
wouldn't exist without this record. Ágætis byrjun
wouldn't exist without this record. David Bowie (with a healthy amount of help from Brian Eno) essentially codified experimental lyricless electronic rock & roll with this 1970s masterpiece that is arguably the finest record from one of rock's undeniable gods to begin with. Find this on vinyl, flip on Side A and let Bowie blow you away.
Fear Fun - Father John Misty
Looking back, 2012 was a hell of a year for records that pushed you to the edge of the doors of perception. Father John Misty's criminally under-appreciated Fear Fun
is as much about a life of hedonism and excess as it is a record that you listen to while having a life of hedonism and excess, but that self-awareness is one of the many things that made the record so special.
Moondance - Van Morrison
I thought we'd close things out with a more peaceful record. Set and setting as Timothy Leary would say. Van Morrison's Moondance
is one of the more beloved records of the 1970, and the folk/jazz hybrid of Morrison's instrumentation matched to his powerfully emotive voice always guarantees a supremely intense listening experience. And although the song "And It Stoned Me" is not about getting high (it's about a religious experience Morrison had fishing when he was young), there's still something mystical and enchanting about the whole record.