I've written countless different versions of this list over the years, all variable, dependent upon mood, priorities, time of the day, flush or poor, in or out of love. It's such a difficult question to ask - when's the last time you discussed this in live conversation with a friend or a stranger? - yet such a difficult answer to give, reliably.
1. Slowdive, "Souvlaki" - This is one constant. To be more hip/outre/pretentious I might substitute "Pygmalion" but that has nowhere near the nostalgic or sonic impact that "Souvlaki" does. "Loveless" broke ground, but "Souvlaki" hits all the right buttons for me.
2. The Fall, "This Nation's Saving Grace" - Perfectly crafted album that was played in full at the bar I was just at. Biased. Powerful sound and broken pop hooks through and through.
3. Deepchord presents Echospace: The Coldest Season - dub techno redefined, expanded, and mastered. Drop the genre and this is just beautiful sound. Published in the summer of 2007, it defines all seasons.
4. Tangerine Dream, "Exit" - Published the same year (1981) as their aggressive, prescient soundtrack for Michael Mann's THIEF, "Exit" applies similar stremf to more contemplative themes. Frequenty sampled but not often held up as the classic that it is, I honestly feel this is one of the more underrated albums in existence and it makes my - current - Top 5 because I want nothing more than to listen to it like right now.
5. Camp Lo, "Uptown Saturday Night" - Sure seems like a token diversity pick tacked on at the end, here, but I assure you it's not. If you're one of those "EVERYTHING BUT RAP N' COUNTRY" types, I must ask you to give this an honest listen. Two of my favorite voices in rap both for their tone and content are owned by the hilariously named Geechi Suede and Sonny Chiba, and on their debut they're backed by seriously tight, hooky beats by Ski, who produced Jay Z's first album as well. A great confluence. Overlooked with one minor hit - "Luccini" - this is such a great album independent of genre and one of my favorite pieces of bridge-building rap history.