The Cure: Disintegration (1989)

I've always viewed the Cure as two separate bands.  You've got the dark, gothic, moody purveyors of albums like the mellow Seventeen Seconds and Faith and the Joy Division-esque Pornography; and the more poppy, radio-friendly band found on albums like The Head On The Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.  But my favorite album has long been Disintegration, which most successfully bridges the band's distinct styles.  It has a good number of stellar, stand-alone pop tracks while retaining the more reflective atmospherics of Robert Smith's darker work.  And more than anything, from a production standpoint, the album just sounds great, big and dense and technicolor, the sort of thing that fills the room but without sounding overly slick.

So it opens with the epic "Plainsong," with a long, slow instrumental lead in, awash in dense synths, sounding like something you'd find on the soundtrack of some classic noir film, suggesting we've got another one of Smith's darker works about to unfold.  Instead, we're treated to unusually melodic tunes like "Pictures of You" and "Lovesong" and "Lullaby" and "Fascination Street," a veritable mini-greatest hits; and if none are as in-your-face catchy as "In Between Days" or "Just Like Heaven," they manage to blend great hooks with the album's overall more somber vibe.  

Elsewhere there are plenty of the more atmospheric tunes suggested by the lead-in track, like the similarly synth-soaked "Closedown" and the extended "The Same Deep Water As You," as well as dark, portentous throwbacks to the band's earlier goth days like "Last Dance."  On the whole, the album celebrates the Smith's downbeat inclinations, ideal for slipping on the headphones late at night, with plenty of songs that invite you to hum along without completely burning away the haze.

Here's the "Fascination Street" video:
... and "Lovesong":
...and "Lullaby":
...and "Pictures of You" (damn, they made a lot of videos for this album, didn't they?):