When I get an idea for a list I want to make, I usually start by googling to see if the list has already been made. This one has. Somebody else at rateyourmusic already put more time and effort into this than what I had planned myself. They even made a follow-up list. The rationale for my list is that I have different picks.
I'm not going to try to explain Elephant 6 in any more than one sentence. It was a loose collective of bands with a lot of overlapping members and a similar approach to instrumentation and production values, starting in the 90s, and very influential on the indie pop of the 2000s. If you want a longer explanation, the one on Wikipedia it totally adequate.
#5 The Minders - Hooray For Tuesday (1998)
A lot of Elephant 6 bands wear their adoration of the Beach Boys on their sleeves. The Minders remind me much more of early Kinks.
#4 Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage (1999)
This is a sprawling psychedelic sound collage (foliage?) to rival late 60s Pink Floyd, but often tuneful and clearly identifiable as 90s indie pop/rock. Making this list has made me aware of how much the Elephant 6 bands fall in the middle between indie pop and indie rock. They're just a bit too noisy to be comfortably categorized as indie pop, and just a bit too ethereal to be considered proper indie rock.
#3 Apples in Stereo - Fun Trick Noisemaker (1995)
This first record, from the band I consider to be the center of Elephant 6, was more firmly rooted in mid-90s indie rock is full of catchy songs that didn't let whimsy get in the way of rocking. As they matured, they rocked less. This record is on the second, but not first, of the rateyourmusic lists. Apples in Stereo have stayed interesting and have become more sophisticated, but they're on a long list of bands that I believe hit their peak on their first record.
#2 Beulah - The Coast is Never Clear (2001)
Although Beulah was definitely an Elephant 6 band with the Elephant 6 logo displayed clearly on their early recordings, it's not clear to me if they remained an Elephant 6 band. The logo isn't on the later records, which had stronger power pop production. Nonetheless, I've included this record here partly because it isn't on the rateyourmusic list and partly because I think Beulah is far and away the most underrated of the Elephant 6 bands.
#1 Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over the Seas (1998)
I favor songs over full albums, but this is the kind of complete record that reminds me why anybody ever listened to albums from start to finish. It's a contender for best indie record of the 90s and best record of the 90s period.
If you're on Spotify, click here to listen to songs from these records.