Half String, Maps for Sleep [Captured Tracks]
Don't worry if "shoegaze" isn't the first thing you think of when someone says "Tempe/Phoenix rock in the '90s."
Most of the national spotlight might have been directed toward the jangling alternative rock coming off Mill Avenue, but make no mistake: There was a thriving underground scene too, exemplified by bands like Half String. Comprising Brandon Capps, Tim Patterson, Matt Kruse, and Kimber Lanning (known for indie record store Stinkweeds and small business coalition Local First Arizona), Half String's complete recordings were reissued this year by Brooklyn-based Captured Tracks, and the 18 selections are stunning, shadowy compositions inspired by 4AD-style indie rock, the emerging Britpop movement, and featuring a unique desert rock quality.
Laurie Spiegel, The Expanding Universe [Unseen Worlds]
You know you're on to something when no less an authority than astronomer, cosmologist, author, and science poet Carl Sagan deems your work worthy of inclusion on the Voyager Golden Record as representative of the human race.
Electronic pioneer Laurie Spiegel's version of Kepler's "Harmony of the Worlds" did receive such an honor, and it's not even the most compelling work on Spiegel's 1980 album, The Expanding Universe. Crossing the wires between Steve Reich's ever-repeating glitches, Terry Riley's pulsing minimalism, the American Primitivism of John Fahey, and threads of wordly folk music, Spiegel's record is gorgeous, enveloping, and wholly meditative.