Jack's Favorite
Albums Of
All Time*

Hi! This website is about various albums I really like and think more people should hear. This year-agnostic list is about my "favorite albums of all time," which is sort of a fuzzy category but I thought would be fun to think about. Like every page on this website, these aren't really organized in any serious way, and make up more of a pile than a list.

*Excluding ones I've already reviewed for a specific year.

Eyeliner – Buy Now

Beer On The Rug / 2015

The tragic story of vaporwave has two major chapters: its genesis as an artistic commentary on the hyperconsumerism and comical discardability of post-digital culture, and its joint cooption by corporations and oblivious teenagers into a semiotically-muddled self-parody of Audacity paulstretch and WordArt streetwear. Buy Now somehow straddles these two worlds, capturing perfectly the upbeat earnesty of the early information age while also being a total blast to listen to. The smooth, funky and rivetingly weird MIDI instruments laid over rock-solid lowtempo grooves are constantly riding the very edge of irony, never revealing how they truly feel about the source material— but the way I feel about it is "it rocks," from the first grin-inducing arpeggios on Toy Dog to the soft ambience of Payphone (this album's track titles are also completely perfect).

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DESKPOP / 2015

This record is here because it started a lot of things. I'd argue that it's foundational to "digital fusion," a sort of video-game-influenced neo-jazz genre that also includes artists like Maxo, That Andy Guy, and a lot of my other favorites. It truly blew my mind all those years ago when I heard NEON SANDS on DJ Cutman's old podcast, and it honestly continues to do so every time I throw it back on. GAMEWAVE is a deeply complicated jazz-fusion record played through the filter of N64 soundfonts and post-vaporwave sensibilities. Maybe it was just laser-targeted at me, a kid who was listening to a lot of Kirby remixes and aspiring to listen to something a little more sonically varied. But either way, discovering FLOOR BABA— and DESKPOP and the amazing community of folks associated with it— was and is an incredibly rewarding journey both creatively and personally. I'm grateful not just for the hours of listening it's given me, but for the connections and discoveries. Man, I got sappy in this one. I love this album a lot.

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Jerry Paper – Like A Baby

Stone's Throw / 2018

I love all of Jerry Paper's work, and I especially love how wildly different each record is, from the frayed psych-rock edge of Abracadabra to the soft analog experiments on Fuzzy Logic. That makes it sort of hard to decide which one to include here, but I think 2018's Like a Baby exemplifies their musical genius the best. Lyrically, it's a record about the personal psychic toll of capitalism and the numbness of endless routine in a world where our agency has been bargained away. "Ain't your fault you bought the game they sold you," goes the chorus on Losing The Game. "At the time it was all that was offered." Sonically, it's a soothing and richly layered experience with a handful of surprising twists; blending soft-rock, synthpop and modern psychedelic cues. The overall message isn't pitching a solution to our human desires and resultant woes, but instead humbly offering sympathy and comfort, which makes it the kind of record you feel like hearing at the end of a long day.

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Fantasy Guys – On Poppy Island


Atlanta-based Fantasy Guys' first and only full-length album is one of the most underrated releases of 2016, which was a year loaded with great music already. That may be because it's kind of slippery to talk about, but here goes: On Poppy Island is an infectiously goofy vacation of a record where tropical bossa rhythms and mellow beach vibes collide with VGM instrumentation and complicated drum-machine work. It's sort of the intersection of "second-wave tropicalia" (think, like, early Haroumi Hosono), Soundcloud soft-pop, and the Plok soundtrack. But it's not really a VGM album, and it's not really a vaporwave album like Bandcamp seems to think. It definitely flew under my radar for months, which is partially because of this categorical slipperiness and partially my fault (I played the nelward remix of bae caught me vapin' like 30 times before thinking I should check out the original). But On Poppy Island thrives between genres. It's bouncy and bubbly and endlessly fun in a hypnotically soothing way. It does plenty of goofing around (the Microsoft Sam feature on the opening track is very funny) but never at the expense of keeping the groove totally rock-solid.

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Self-Help – If I Left The Country...


I'm embarrassed to have shared a town with Self-Help for so long and never noticed. It took my girlfriend spotting this sweet cover (by Margaret Berry) at the local record store and impulse-buying it for me to hear them. A few weeks and many listens later, we drove almost seven hours to see them play at my favorite bar. Self-Help makes what they call "fifth-wave emo," infectiously fun and heartfelt tunes for the weirdo college-town loner in all of us. If I Left The Country... is my favorite kind of record: one where you can tell everyone was having a great time. Bouncy solos sandwich loopy verses of lyrics both lighthearted and hard-hitting; opener Whippits decries the experience of being percieved via the story of someone just seeking a place to charge their laptop (and being institutionalized for inhalant abuse). The jumpy bassline on followup Infection! is hardly a mood match for its topic—wrestling with both mental and bodily health—but these contrasts aren't meant to be comedic juxtapositions. They are, as tracks on "an album for your eternal health," about seeing everyday drags in new and better ways.

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

Flightless Records / 2016

I think Gizz will go down as one of the most creative and innovative bands of our time. On the surface they might look like a goofy band posing as the heralds of a 70s prog revival, but across 19 albums (the 20th is about to be announced as I type this) they've made it clear that they are absolutely the real deal. The level of innovation and cross-pollination between psych-rock, surf, metal, and off-the-rails jamming is staggering. Nonagon is both the first Gizz record I fell in love with and a beautiful proof of the above. The idea of a seamlessly loopable and shuffleable album is fun; loads of people would have let that be the hook and mailed in the rest. Instead it's an incredible journey of fuzzy molten rock that'll leave your neck and face aching from headbanging with a huge smile for 40 minutes. This is the optimal King Gizzard starter album.

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Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone


The first three times I listened to this record I thought it was some theater-kid, Tumblr-poweruser, Homestuck-halloween-costume trash that I'd never lower myself to enjoying. And then the fourth time I listened to it I realized it's a masterpiece. Wherever that tiny crumb of maturity came from, I'm thankful for it. Spirit Phone is an album that would completely fall apart if it stopped committing wholeheartedly to its own goofy ideas for a single beat— so it simply doesn't. If you pitched me some song ideas that included a musical adaptation of the insane 2008 Pepsi rebrand pitch, or the story of a spectral mongoose who haunted a British family home, I would say, "Those sound like funny ideas you could maybe juice a forgettable track out of, unless they were backed up by the catchiest hook of the decade." Knowing this, Neil sat down and wrote a whole LP around the catchiest hooks of the decade. Spirit Phone is a work of mad genius, and I find myself falling for it not just in late October but in occasional earworm episodes year-round.

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Todd Terje – It's Album Time

Olsen Records / 2014

Music gets put on this list for a lot of reasons. Some of these records are sentimentally important to me, and I write about them to process those emotions without looking directly at them. Some of them are just really cool and fun. It's Album Time is incredibly cool and fun. 60s lounge vibes, chewy disco basslines, tiki-bar ambiance and Brutonesque rhythms collide, creating a heap of incredibly engaging and completely goofy tunes that demand to know why you'd choose to feel sad (except for Svensk Sås, which demands to know, "what if the music from Quiplash went insanely hard?"). It's tough to listen to Inspector Norse without at least starting to agree with its top Youtube comment, which reads "deleting emails to this song." It's Album Time is a little capsule of the kitschy antidote to our modern worries. Put a little umbrella in whatever you're drinking and go dance like a doofus.


glass beach – the first glass beach album

Run For Cover Records / 2019

glass beach is a very special band. I showed up late to this album, but when I found it I listened to it nonstop for like a week, and when I started planning this list it was the first thing I wrote down. the first glass beach album is the kind of genre-blurring record that sticks with you forever and also makes itself hard to write about. There's emo and punk influence to the writing and the presentation, but there's also jazzy and synthy monents that step away from the gritty edge to explore softer, more pensive themes. There are cathartic top-of-your-lungs peaks (cold weather is possibly a perfect track) and beautifully melancholy valleys (orchids is the hardest I've ever cried at a concert), and every song brings something totally new and unique. This is a beautiful and important record.

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leon chang – bird world


I don't think Leon has ever made something I didn't love. A concept album posing as the soundtrack to a forgotten video game is a fun idea, and it's been done a few times—but Bird World is, to me, the definitive take on the concept. As you might expect, there are plenty of cues here from video-game soundtracks (Yoshi's Island, Klonoa, maybe a dash of Kirby's Dream Land), but the strength and memorability of Bird World stems from shedding the limits of imitating a specific console or era of games. Instead, Leon builds a lovely little world and pulls thematic inspiration from its various locales, using the narrative as a springboard into endlessly fascinating production. With the premise of Bird World The Game maintaining cohesion, Bird World The Album is free to explore and meander through a huge range of moods and textures. There are fun moments you could only really do with this premise (the "underwater" low-passed part of lychee beach is great), but overall Bird World is strong enough on its own that the video-game thing is just icing on the cake.

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Her's – Invitation to Her's


Invitation to Her's is emotionally raw, totally devoid of filler, and unflinchingly unique, from the twisting path of Mannie's Smile (which is either about an estranged lover or a missing pet) to the timeless tale of longing that is She Needs Him (the first time I heard the line "Why can't she be alone for good / so I can dream and never dare?" felt like catching a baseball in the gut). Above all else, this is an album about being yourself even to a fault; a bouquet of sometimes-weird and sometimes-corny but always-earnest ballads decry the pitfalls of having feelings but reject the struggle of pretending not to. "I'm not cut out to be cruel", belts Low Beam. "Cuddled in corduroy / usually actin' the fool." These lyrics rest on loopy, syrupy tunes full of pitchbends and slow-dance progressions that sometimes come off a little silly but absolutely never flinch or dial it back. Invitation is a beautiful, profound, and important album. It is deeply tragic that Her's will never give us another one.

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George Clanton – Slide

100% Electronica / 2018

In 2020 George Clanton and Negative Gemini were guests on a great episode of the SuperMega podcast. George is just as chill and goofy as you'd expect for a guy who runs a vaporwave label, and he reveals at one point that the majority of the vocals on Slide are improvised live. In some ways, I could already tell, but in a lot of other ways that raw emotional exposure is this record's greatest asset. Clanton starts with vapor, ambient, punk and pop influences and ends up with something totally novel and undeniably dripping with character. This might be a pretty literal take, but something about the cloudy fuzz and echoey vocals really make Slide feel like it embodies the struggle to express loneliness and longing through the outward mask of stability. There's so much to unpack on this album, both sonically and conceptually—even if the conceptual unpacking is just me projecting—that I think I'll still be pulling out the "Trix Yogurt"-edition vinyl pretty often for a long time.

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Songs For Moms – I Used to Believe in the West

Thrillhouse / 2009

I've talked about SFM before, and my first point is always a disclaimer that I feel like an outlier in their audience—an East Coast straight boy grafting my own emotions onto punk songs about womanhood, parental trauma and abandonment. My lifestyle probably makes it baffling how closely I'm attached to All The Girls Here, a song I think is about moving away from your favorite lesbian bar. My second and more important point is that Songs For Moms is very, very good. I Used to Believe in the West, backed up by their also-excellent 2008 The Worse It Gets the Better, have been on pretty consistent rotation since I discovered them, through all my other phases and fixations. IUTBITW is sonically pared down to a sharp point; folky punk-rock forming a spearhead that's lodged itself in my heart. Airtight drumming, crunchy guitar and wandering vocal harmonies I've quietly joined on many a nighttime walk become something wildly beyond the sum of its parts, both musically and sentimentally.

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Aokigahara Online – Mori

Lost Angles / 2016

I guess I'm kind of a vaporwave guy? Or, at least, it's what I listened to instead of pop-punk during the years that should have been my emo phase. Mori is a record I have a strong emotional attachment for that reason, and also because it's really understated and poignant in a way most self-proclaimed vapor isn't. My Bandcamp review, dated circa 2017, compares Mori to "walking through the rainforest enclosure at the aquarium right after getting dumped." Years later I don't know if I can describe it any better than that. Mori is lush and immersive, but there are moments when the artificiality still shines through, reminding you—like a glimpse of snowy Baltimore through the greenhouse glass—that it's all synthetic, a designed experience. The minimal arrangements flow and fluctuate, sometimes throbbing with primal determination and other times disappearing into a bed of bird calls and rain, leaving you to process the feelings you've just been handed on your own. I would recommend giving this one a listen even if you've never experienced a field-trip breakup.

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Kero Kero Bonito – Time 'n' Place

Polyvinyl / 2018

KKB has forged a wide path across online culture, including a couple of huge hits and plenty of lovable kitsch-pop tracks. Which isn't to say I dislike their early work at all—I came really, really close to including Bonito Generation on this list, and might still if I ever feel like writing about it. Rest assured I will forget to update this paragraph. Anyway, part of what makes Time 'n' place so enduring and memorable—bordering on haunting—is the brutal contrast with their earlier work; the angry post-rock and harsh noise vibes, the themes of lost innocence. "For KKB the urgency of Time ‘n’ Place was imperative—they needed to process their pain and confusion in frantic, kinetic movements, and bashing away on drums and guitars felt more fitting than assembling songs on a laptop," reads the Bandcamp release. Where chaos was a bubbly and fun companion on Intro Bonito, here it plays the antagonist; a threat of unraveling and decay that lends Time 'n' Place an edge of bracing maturity until it inevitably catches up in the abrupt, messy, unsatisfying sort of "non-ending" the real world is full of. I wish I hadn't built a length limit in to this website.

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Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe

Unseen Worlds / 2012

In the summer of 2019, I worked at the print shop in my college's art department, the chair of which charitably let us make our own schedule. Alternating weekdays with the only other employee, I would get up around 10, head to the empty shop, never encounter another person, and close up around 5. I was basically getting paid to doodle, goof around online, and listen to this entire album nearly every day. Spiegel's compisitions are enchanting; warm and inviting but without hiding an ounce of electronic crispness. The buzzing tones and ever-building harmonies will bring to life any room they're played in, and a room full of precision graphics hardware was especially brightened. In a word, this record is beautiful. Minimal but not sparse, incredibly engaging but not taxing. A small set of parts becomes a rich, symphonic, rhythmically complex and incredibly varied journey.

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The Noisy Freaks – Straight Life

Tasty / 2014

There was a time when I'd be sort of embarrassed to admit this, but reader, I miss "nu disco." There was something incredibly fun about this briefly flourishing genre of goofy cyberfunk—even if the seed was an ironic twenty-teens pastiche of the misremembered 80s, I was too young to know or care. As a kid who never got fully into mainstream, big-name EDM but still loved electronic music, nu disco gave me something right in my butter zone to become chronically obsessed with. I was in it for the funk, baby, and Straight Life delivers. The scrambled vocoder over melted-cheese wah guitar on Love Robot still sometimes plays in my brain when I haven't heard it for months, and French Club might still be my number-one longest-running answer to "What's your favorite song right now?". It's at the top of my high-school throwback playlist for a reason: Straight Life holds up, and despite the tone of this review is worth more than just nostalgia.

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Ehiorobo – limeade

DESKPOP / 2016

I think the first time I heard this record was in April of 2016, and I listened to it in full at least once a day for like two weeks. Ehiorobo's talent for joyfully explorative briccolage—pouring soul, hip-hop, digital fusion, bo en-esque found sounds and wonky jazz beats into a sort of post-online avant-pop—really do make everything he works on sound like it's from the future. And that's only half the album, which is packed with genius lyrical twists both on and off beat ("...And then we make some really weird eye movements" on heir to the sugar honey queen comes to mind). limeade is beautifully cohesive by virtue of constantly throwing in new thoughts and ideas. Ehiorobo's lyrics frequently invoke themes of vulnerability and uncertainty; hopping islands of comfort separated by stretches of confusion about who to be and who to trust ("I'm incredibly self-conscious and that's a very destructive quality"), but the arrangements off which they bounce exude a more positive and creative flavor of chaos, sending the ultimate (and much-needed) message that you just gotta take the bad with the good.

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Skull Tape – The Invisible Hand and the Descent of Man

LA's Fine / 2011

I found this record a few years after it was new when I started following composer Brad Breeck on Soundcloud (he did the score for Gravity Falls, which I'm a longtime fan of). Breeck handled the synthesizers, drum machine, and a few bit parts on Skull Tape's one and only album, but he's just a small part of why I love it. T.I.H.A.T.D.O.M. is a forcefully indie, punk-stained power-pop record that squares against the concepts of social Darwinism and commodification, advocating for things like being good to your friends & sticking to your guns against the cheapening of the world. Only the power of hanging out and appreciating each other, Skull Tape asserts very twenty-elevenedly, can save us from the futility of selling out—not chasing clout or achievements. "You can climb every mountain," they sing, "and someday then you die." That said, I don't think the point of this project was any sort of radical culture-jamming; it was to make a fun album. Content and form are therefore pretty well-balanced—you don't even have to listen to the lyrics to have a good time, I just recommend it.


SURFING – Emotion

100% ELectronica / 2019

I honestly had a tough time getting into Surfing's earlier stuff. There were plenty of nice moments, but the pacing on a record like INCUBO felt sort of jumpy, like it wasn't quite meshing. In 2019, they came out with Emotion, a new record made in a new way: "without employing any samples," the Bandcamp page reads. "Same Surfing, same vibe, new sound." It works amazingly well. This album feels like fully submerging yourself in a hot tub. Warm and crackling with energy but wrapped in a hazy, daydreamy fuzz, Emotion is the perfect summertime laying-around listen—and just a great relaxer year-round. I think most people would agree that Visions is the hit off this record, but the whole front-to-back experience is beautifully smooth and seamless. Even the backside George Clanton collab, kind of a departure from the hazy vibe I described, is a nice change of pace that shows up right on time.

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They Might Be Giants – Factory Showroom

Elektra / 1996

Well, here it is, folks: My favorite TMBG record. Longtime readers will know that, as a dorky white man, I love their whole near-half-century of music. But when a They Might Be Giants song is stuck in my head upon waking up, odds are it's on Factory Showroom, a home-run machine that hosts probably five of their ten best tracks. I mean, Till My Head Falls Off and New York City AND Spiraling Shape? C'mon. Factory Showroom is a big ball of different moods, some straightforward alt-rock and some zanier excursions (I'm thinking of the synthesizer work on Metal Detector that sounds like Mario 64). And every point on that spectrum has been turned into a truly great track, with a diverse range of sonic hooks (vibraphone, Akai-1000 sampler, Edison wax cylinders) all tied down tight by the broader, indie-slanted TMBG sound. One of very, very few albums I'll readily sing along to front-to-back.

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Chipocrite – Wordplay


I have kind of a cyclical love of chiptune. It was all I wanted once, and now I usually indulge in a few weeks of it whenever I happen to hear a really great track pop up on shuffle. Most of those times, it's a song off Wordplay. I love musicians (Slime Girls, Anamanaguchi, Cheap Dinosaurs) who incorporate chip sounds into more varied work; who treat it like an instrument rather than a medium. Chipocrite exemplifies this category, putting up an energetic and wildly fun fusion of Game Boy sounds with rock-and-roll bass, guitar and real drums. There's a great balance of chaos and order on Wordplay; buzzy chip tones and scrambled digital noise are applied with careful precision, never fully overtaking the groove but always throwing in some unpredictability. Back in the era when this album came out, I used to say everything I liked was "really fun" when asked to elaborate. I know more words to describe music now, but I still don't think there's a better pitch on Wordplay than that. It's fun as hell!

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Neon Indian – VEGA Intl. Night School

Mom n' Pop Records / 2015

Reader, if we're friends—and I'd think that if you're 22 paragraphs down this page, we at least like each other—you may have wondered which Neon Indian album was going to pop up. It's true that Psychic Chasms is sentimental to me, but Night School is so much more of a complete package. It's both joyfully playing around and absolutely not playing around; every beat hits with infallible energy while rubbery wah-pedal shredding and occasional goofy asides ("Hey, that's the name of the record!" remains very funny to me to this day) keep you strapped in for the ride. I truly think Annie is a top-five song of the entire 2010s. Night School feels like a sweet glimpse at what mainstream pop could've been if 1988 happened in 2015 and everyone had a sense of humor about it. It's a syrupy-smooth window into a weird other timeline that I wish was ours. I also have to mention the absolute banger of a gatefold (third pic) by Rob Beatty, which I want to Blue's Clues-style dive into every time I pull it off the shelf.

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river water analysis group – 5.29.16 mycosocial

Question Records / 2017

5.29.16 mycosocial is a concept album about a team of ecologists accidentally dosing DMT and later remixing the tape of it, which is exactly bizarre enough of a premise to put something on my radar big-time. There is indeed a "found-footage" undertone to a lot of this album; ambience stutters and tumbles, environmental noises are distorted and rhythmized, and snippets of dialogue surface for a few incoherent words before dissolving into shimmering noise. Random sonic moments (a door closing, footsteps) that would pass unnoticed in any other context are sliced up and unfolded like paper snowflakes into mesmerizing soundscapes. The variety of pacing and energy on this album is as engaging and fascinating as its weird hook: there are aNTOJE-y grooves where everything holds together and even sometimes goes hard (Grabbed Another Beer is a great track even aside from all this other weird stuff) separated by freeform stretches where things fall apart again, rearranging and melding freely. I wish to note here that I have never personally tried DMT, but I might throw this on if I ever did.

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Post Animal – When I Think Of You In a Castle

Polyvinyl / 2018

When I got into Post Animal I think I understood what it felt like for dads to get into Led Zepplin. This album is packed with songs that absolutely shred on their own, but stacked in order it's absolutely above and beyond. Fuzzy, crunchy, big and bold, this one perches on the edge between post-rock and regular rock—weird and unique enough to stick with you, but normal enough that I'd throw it on at a party without sweatily going for the skip button at any point. Ralphie is a total home run (of several), and the jammier stuff (Dirtpicker is so sick, dude) never strays from the pocket. Every beat of WITOYIAC just radiates the punchy, mega-fun energy of dudes rocking. I want to punch a hole in this album with my keys and shotgun it. It does also merit a less dirtbag analysis, which I'll now attempt.

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Maxo – Level Music Purchase


Level Music Purchase is a senior project by Max Coburn (aka Maxo) that attempts to build a video-game-like soundtrack for different locations on the campus of SUNY Purchase. I've never been there, so I can't speak to its success in that mission, but I do love everything about it. There should be no doubt that Maxo is one of the most gifted composers of our time, and he's been hitting nonstop dingers since 2013. But something really special is embedded in these 47 tracks. The reiteration of melodies and themes builds a system of familiarity that mirrors the way we inhabit routine spaces. The SNES sound palette creates an overall sense of warmth and wornness, while the construction of the individual songs is full of twists and variance. If this record was played by several guys with horns instead of EarthBound samples I think it would be a stellar jazz album, but instead it's a special gem of an even more interesting kind.

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