Lush: Gala (1990)

Technically a collection of early EPs and singles, Gala was the first "album" available in the US, and has always had a special place in my heart.  It came out while I was in law school and going through a shoegaze and Britpop phase, and it's something I still closely associate with that time in my life.  At the time, it didn't seem like there was much decent music coming out of the US, aside from the latest releases from the bands I'd been listening to in college (R.E.M., the Feelies, Sonic Youth, etc.); but there was a lot of interesting music coming our way from the UK.  The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, Ride... and Lush, whose intertwined, ethereal female vocals set them apart from many of the other bands of the era.

They've been compared a fair amount to the Cocteau Twins (whose guitarist produced some of Lush's work), though the Cocteaus up until then had a darker, more gothic strain, while Lush was lighter and a lot more jangly.  Case in point -- opening number "Sweetness & Light," an aptly-titled gem and the one that totally sucked me in on first listen.  It's shimmery and sweet, without the harder edge that infused a lot of peer bands, yet with a hypnotic power that keeps me coming back nearly 30 years later.  Nearly as great is "Breeze," a more solid, hooky track, with a haunting melody that lingers with you well after it ends.  "De-Luxe" and "Thoughtforms" follow in a similar vein, catchy pop ditties rendered a little eerie by the fluttering vocals.  Elsewhere they display a tougher edge more in line with other shoegaze bands, like on "Downer," but for the most part this lingers up in the clouds, buoyed by the enchanting vox and the treble-crazy guitars.

Later albums saw them moving in a more pop-oriented direction, with more hooks and less reliance on the shimmery atmospherics, but retaining the same charm.  After a lengthy break-up they had a brief reunion a few years back; more recently, singer Miki Berenyi formed the band Piroshka, which released a surprisingly solid album earlier this year which retains similar sensibilities with an updated sound.

Here's the "Sweetness & Light" video:
 Here's a video for "Breeze":
...and the "De-Luxe" video (damn, I'm gonna be stuck watching these all day):