14. Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting (I.R.S., 1990)

Some albums take you back to a particular time and place. This one inevitably conjures up memories of college, of taking the Badger Bus back and forth between Milwaukee and Madison and strolling through the student ghettos of each city. I first heard this in 1994, and it only took a few spins for me to realize how solid it was--you know, one of those rare records where messing with the sequence would seem sacrilegious because it's perfect as is. Johnette Napolitano remains one of the world's most underrated female rock vocalists. She makes up for her lack of technique tenfold with how well her beguiling wail simply fills up a space, be it your bedroom or a concert hall. Although the title track forever established this band as a favorite in Goth circles, the album’s bulk is less theatrical and brooding. Supposedly, Napolitano wrote these songs in a rush after deciding not to break up their band, and their urgency comes through in undulating details: Peter Buck's shimmering mandolin in "Darkening of the Light"; the "Be My Baby" drumbeat that kicks off the band's lone hit "Joey"; the hushed, nearly eerie calm permeating the defiant "I Don't Need A Hero".