Abandonedstation’s top 120 albums – 2014
Not much more to say, the title says it all. Only a handful of artists with more than one entry, but only good ones.
A large part of me thinks the White Album should be higher, but meh.
Some of the comments are augmented pieces I wrote for my last top albums list, back in 2012.
120 | Willie Nelson | Red Headed Stranger
The first time I heard this I couldn’t believe how sparse and quiet it was. But it forces you to give Willie your full attention, and that means you hear everything. The personal connection is inevitable, and you are so much more committed to a story as old as time. Because Willie’s telling you this in an empty tavern at three in the morning with a band that’s half in the bag.
119 | The Stooges | Fun House
It’s in the second half of ‘1970’ that Iggy seems to morph into a shrieking demon wolf. And he’s got a hard as nails band behind him (it must be frustrating being an amazing rhythm section behind a manic front man, since so much of attention and praise goes to them). This music isn’t supposed to be too popular. The world might explode.
118 | The Soft Boys | Underwater Moonlight
Aw yeah. Wrong place, wrong time, right stuff. They barely made a dent in 1980, and that’s because it’s timeless. ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ is just an epic kick off to this straight shooter of new wave rock. It’s like Big Star but English and a bit later (REM loved both).
117 | Buddy Guy | I Was Walking Through The Woods
Little brother blues. Buddy Guy isn’t one of golden age bluesmen. He was a young whippersnapper when the others were getting more recognition in the sixties. But that doesn’t detract from his power. ‘I Got A Strange Feeling’ feels like a secret classic.
116 | Slint | Spiderland
When I come back to this album, it’s for the words. The weird monologues and screaming. A lot of post-rock bands have taken the music from this album and run with it (dare I say improved upon it?), but none of them have been able to replicate the lyrics, or the conversational and painful styles they take, which can draw you in deeper and darker than the rhythms.
115 | King Crimson | Red
It’s like getting hit by a really nice sports car. It pummels you, its cold steel ruins you, but you don’t mind because it’s not like any other car. It was built with pristine care, and the owner puts in great effort to keep it in mint conditions. And so you bleed out, but it’s okay, you’ll survive, the whole thing has made you stronger.
114 | Leonard Cohen | Songs of Love and Hate
So it’s the best seventies folk rock album, which isn’t enough to get on this list alone, but it also has ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, which is akin to a thousand punches to the gut all at the same time. Even though it’s not about you. It’s about him. And it hurts you because he’s willing to be so damn honest and naked about it. He signs his name at the end, for god’s sake.
113 | Swans | Soundtracks for the Blind
It’s really hard for me to listen to this all the way through. In my defense, it’s two hours plus, and there’s guys talking about going blind and watching other people masturbating. But then you play ‘The Sound’ and all that goes away. That’s what Swans does. It gathers and builds up energy, slowly, carefully, organically, and makes everything else go away. Except for the sound.
112 | El-P | Fantastic Damage
The best white rapper whose name starts with ‘E’. And the finest beats.
111 | Massive Attack | Mezzanine
The beetle on the cover intrigued me. And so I gave it a chance and the music was hypnotizing, majestic, but I felt the beetle was a ruse. A good one.
110 | Mastodon | Leviathan
The ocean is one bad motherfucker. A heavy metal album based on Moby Dick? It’s an epic novel about obsession and death. Yeah, that’s a good fit.
109 | Kanye West | Yeezus
Fuck it. West is one of the biggest and best artists of the last ten years, and he’s gonna be remembered and he’s gonna deserve to be remembered, and so even though this isn’t even a year old yet, I’m getting this one in early. His first three have some filler, MBDTF has too many friends. This is ice cold cool and hits the bulls eye a million times.
108 Big Star | Number One Record
It’s the Eagles for people who hate the Eagles, man. Reductionist, sure, but the difference is the sound of sincerity. And you can hear that on Big Star records. Even if they’re faking it. Because if you’re really good, no one will know if you are.
107 | John Lennon | Plastic Ono Band
I feel obligated to put this somewhere on my list because…well I want to say it’s a risk, but Two Virgins was more of an artistic suicide than this. It’s like Lennon tidied up his ‘fuck you, world’ attitude on this one, even if he’s still screaming his heart out and calling us all ‘fucking peasants’. He just wanted you to buy it. And we did. ‘My Mummy’s Dead’ is really one hellish minute, though.
106 | Frank Zappa | Chunga’s Revenge
A good Zappa smorgasbord. Guitar solos, rock riffs, weird live stuff, drunk jazz, 50s doo wop, satire, mock blues, etc.
105 | Death from Above 1979 | You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
The White Stripes go Hawaiian. No, wait, not Hawaiian. Thrash punk. Yeah. Thrash punk.
104 | Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto | Getz/Gilberto
Sleepy summer day latin jazz.
103 | Sigur Ros | Agaetis Byrjun
It sounds like Iceland. Glaciers, midnight suns, friendly people, relaxation, hot springs, etc. What’s not to like?
102 | Spoon | Kill the Moonlight
No one has been able to explain to me why Spoon isn’t more popular. Man, this album is fine. ‘You Gotta Feel It’ is ninety seconds, and it’s the perfect length. How often is a song perfect at ninety seconds?
101 | Creedence Clearwater Revival | Cosmo’s Factory
Everyone forgets they love Creedence. Maybe it’s because their hit singles have been played exhaustively on the radio and compilation albums far outsell their actual records. It’s a damn shame, because then people miss out on stuff like ‘Ramble Tamble’, which is a riff monster. Because you listen to this one, and it’s like all the best is right here. Except for ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Fortunate Son’…sorry, I’ll shut up.
100 | Spiritualized | Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
I love ‘Home of the Brave’, the two and half minute confession smack-dab in the middle of this epic. Starts off small and grows and grows. It’s a drug tune, but it’s one of the finest, and Pierce sounds so exhausted that he can’t even cry (and I love the line ‘I don’t even miss you, but that’s ‘cause I’m fucked up’). And if you like the big explosion at the end, the seventeen minutes of ‘Cop Kill Cop’ is there.
99 | The Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
Everything and the kitchen sink on this one. Paul’s Boutique gets all the credit, but this one has fatter beats, punchier punk, and tripper instrumentals. And hits (Sure Shot, Root Down, Sabotage).
98 | Burial | Untrue
Driving at night in the city in the rain. That’s what this is. That’s where this music takes you, and then you take the steering wheel and follow whatever the hell you want. But the music is there, and it doesn’t let go ‘til daybreak.
97 | Ween | Chocolate & Cheese
Why they wanna see my spine, daddy? (repeat) And what’s amazing is that ‘Spinal Meningitis’ sits right beside the R&B smoothness of ‘Freedom of ‘76’. Whenever we say a band plays with a lot of different musical styles, we mean it as the band sounding more or less the same, but then you hear a Ween album, and you realize these dudes fucking mean it. A Ween album plays like some bizarre mix tape, and you’d never think all the material is by the same band. Further research: 1997’s The Mollusk.
96 | Aphex Twin | Xylem Tube
Richard James hits hard. Sometimes an EP is all you need, especially when it opens with the best space song of all time, ‘Polynomial-C’. And how about that tampon song (Tamphex)? No really, are you one of those girls who for whom time stand still, once a month?
95 | Air | 10,000 Hz Legend
They’re the other French electronica duo. The ones with the more consistent discography who don’t mind their faces being seen. Beck likes ‘em enough to show up on two tracks here, although the towering achievements are ‘Radio #1’ (stereogum!), ‘Sex Born Poison’ (it’s like a movie where things go from great to terrifying in six and a half minutes), and ‘Caramel Prisoner’, which ends with sand and waves, or the idea of sand and waves, which is even cooler.
94 | Guided by Voices | Bee Thousand
It’s so weird that ‘tractor rape chain’ is a catchy chorus on this album (where we can all get wet). It’s so weird that I can picture Dylan making this album instead of his mid-sixties stuff after meeting the Beatles. It’s like the Bizarro-version of beatles pop molesting beat poetry. And because that sounds so good, of course it is.
93 | Toots and the Maytals | Funky Kingston
It’s a rawer, higher energy reggae than Marley. Toots is always about to bust a gut. It’s like James Brown does Jamaica.
92| Jorge Ben | Forca Bruta
Okay, so for no real reason I thought the song ‘Pulo, Pulo’ could be translated to ‘Chicken, Chicken’, which I thought was hilarious. But that was because ‘chicken’ in Spanish is ‘pollo’, which is irrelevant, because they speak Portuguese in Brazil. This is not a good anecdote, which is a shame because a good album like this deserves better. Not knowing what the words mean makes the latin rhythms all the sexier.
91| Godspeed You! Black Emperor | Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Epic? Symphonic? Indulgent? Loud? By being so overtly political are they politically tone deaf? These are questions for the music philosophers, who – in the coming years – will kill and smoke the bones of contemporary music critics. But the music of Godspeed will live on because the angry margins will always want to rock between protests, and they don’t want no corporate-approved, Top 40 bullshit.
90 | Black Sabbath | Paranoid
If I was cooler I would probably put Master of Reality here, but when you consider ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’, and ‘Hand of Doom’, how the hell can you choose another Sabbath album?
89 | Emily Haines and Soft Skeleton | Knives Don’t Have Your Back
Just a young woman and her piano. She fronts the band Metric, but there’s not much emotion there. Not the waterfalls of it you get here, anyway. If you’re reading this, go listen to ‘Nothing and Nowhere’ right now. I’ll wait. (makes sandwich in three and a half minutes) Eh? Right? Yeah, I know.
88 | Pulp | Different Class
These guys won Britpop with one album. Jarvis Cocker cut through the bullshit with Morrissey-like sharpness. I bought it for ‘Common People’ when I was in high school, but was taken by the slight dirtiness of ‘Pencil Skirt’ (all those ‘oh-ohhs’, or ‘uh-unhs’). And ‘E’s and Wizz’! I love that it was all spacey and catchy, but lyrically honest: Feeling like shit eventually.
87 | David Bowie | Station to Station
Bowie forgets making this unforgettable album. Cold pop detachment that heralded much of the clichéd music of the eighties. The Thin White Duke just did it first and better. Like the vocals on ‘Wild is the Wind’. Or the title track turning into a party.
86 | The Smiths | The Queen is Dead
What kind of person doesn’t love The Smiths? Do they have a heart, a brain, complicated issues with the frequency of being social? And how do you choose the best Smiths album? With what part of your soul? You go with the hits, I suppose. There’s always one or two clunkers on a Smiths album. But this one has ‘There is a Light…’. So case closed.
85 | Fela Kuti | Zombie
If you’re gonna get all political, no reason to mince words, rhythm or energy. Kuti brings all of this to the fight. And there’s all the stories behind the song – like a lot of great songs – and you like to hold on to that as you listen, because it makes the act of listening all the more meaningful. But at the same time, it’s not like your mother was tossed out of a window because you wrote this tune…
84 | Grateful Dead | Live Dead
‘They aren’t the best at what they do. They are the only ones that do what they do’ – Bill Graham
‘Dark Star’ is sensibly the big kahuna on this one, but that just means when you get to ‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy’ you’re all the more impressed that these hippies can do blues pretty well.
83 | Microphones | The Glow, Part 2
I love how Elverum sometimes just let’s a burst of shit crazy noise on here, like a loud punk fart in the middle of this cold winter folk masterpiece. You’re like, ‘There better be a basement in your cabin in the woods where we can break shit’. Then it ends with ‘My Warm Blood’, and you feel achingly guilty and start to clean it up immediately.
82 | King Sunny Ade | Juju Music
What a title. Yeah, that’s exactly what this. There’s magic here. The whole band’s on point and the rhythms cross back and forth from familiar to fresh. I love the tropical guitar solo on ‘Ma Jaiye Oni’. This album’s always a sunny day choice, and when I listen to it I remind myself to listen to it more often.
81 | Sonic Youth | Daydream Nation
I’d heard ‘Teenage Riot’ before finally hearing this song, but what sold the album on me was the second song (so it didn’t take long), ‘Silver Rocket’. All muscle, with that excellent beat drop halfway through, and then it revs back up. For some reason this has become the classic example of that musical archetype for me, even though I know it’s existed for decades previous. It’s just… so good. So’s ‘Total Trash’, and ‘Trilogy’. Yeah, all three songs on ‘Trilogy’ compliment each other beautifully.
80 | Otis Redding | Otis Blue
You’re here for the voice. That towering plea of emotions. The songs themselves are standards done countless times, and even with a cracking good backing band, Redding soars above it all (though admittedly, the horns are pretty sweet). Whether he’s in ecstasy or agony, he’s giving a thousand percent.
79 | Olivia Tremor Control | Dusk at Cubist Castle
The common thread between the pop sensibilities and soundscapes on this album is the level of playfulness that pervades from start to finish. Arty but accessible. Ten tracks called ‘Green Typewriters’ are only disconcerting on the surface. All seventy three minutes of this album are positive and sunny like a warm summer’s day. With a bit of drugs, maybe.
78 | Radiohead | Hail to the Thief
Scratchy bulletins from the bunker. The album for when things go very wrong, with fingers pointed everywhere. Marching orders, accusations, vampirism, violent animals, dreams that aren’t actually dreams, all of it done with intentionally (?) glitchy and scattershot production values. ‘A Wolf at the Door’ is my favourite song…ever.
77 | Nilsson | Nilsson Schmilsson
Oh, Harry. You really nailed it here. Probably the best mature pop album not written by a bunch of guys from Liverpool. His vocal range is exquisite and mindblowing. That bit on ‘Early in the Morning’ from 1:18 to 1:29? Whoo! Oh, and ‘Jump Into the Fire’ is just a blueprint rock song. Here kids, use this. Pass it around and try to eat the vinyl, CD, or bytes to absorb its power.
76 | Warren Zevon | Excitable Boy
Play ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ at my funeral. It is wholly unrepresentative of my life, so maybe I’m living (or really, being dead) vicariously through it. And the title track is so catchy you forget to listen to the lyrics. Listen to them next time. Holy shit, right?
75 | U2 | Joshua Tree
It’s good. Heart music for the masses. Twenty five million U2 fans can be wrong, but they weren’t here. For a band this big, it’s always a good sign when the best song on the album isn’t one of the singles (in this case, it’s ‘Running to Stand Still’).
74 | Talking Heads | Fear of Music
I like the anecdote how Byrne and Eno started dressing the same when they started hanging out and working together. This album kind of plays like a greatest hits, but it’s almost too perfect in that respect. It’s perfection means there’s no room to breath. Even the throwaway song (‘Animals’) is the best throwaway song. I would go to a bar called ‘Heaven’.
73 | Yellow Swans | Psychic Secession
Something for the kids. A lot of off rhythm drums and steel squeals. Like, really a lot. Something like 200% if my calculations are correct. It’s music beyond emotion. So what the point, you ask. That’s the point, I respond. You’re not making any sense, you reply. Exactly.
72 | Wyrd Visions | Half-Eaten Guitar
Listening to this one I conjure up the images from Frost’s ‘Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening’. And it’s not even a ‘winter’ album. It just has that reflective, isolation feeling down pat. There’s not much to this one. Very hypnotic acoustic guitars and quiet mantra repetitions.
71 | Bob Marley | Uprising
Bob’s sign off, and he left on a high note. ‘Coming in from the Cold’ is the best song about heaven, ever (because he doesn’t bludgeon you over the head with it). ‘Pimper’s Paradise’ is just a heartbreaker, like ‘Redemption Song’ but on a much more personal scale. Marley’s voice is aces through the whole thing. It’s like because he’s become such a symbol for peace and pot, that we’ve forgotten he’d hellishly powerful chops.
70 | Kyuss | Welcome to Sky Valley
The three song suite proves this album is album is all about commitment. You gotta have patience to get to tunes you want to hear. Of course, the songs that you have to ‘sit through’ are just as awesome so it’s win-win. Even with a band pic, I have a hard time picturing people make this music, it sounds like it can just appear out of a desert haze and an abandoned copy of ‘Master of Reality’.
69 | Captain Beefheart | Trout Mask Replica
The requisite weirdo album for the young rock snob. What every lyrically ambiguous, wildly experimental record would sound like if it were made in a garage on the cheap. Beefheart sounds particularly honest yelping old blues lines like, ‘gimme dat ol’ time religion…’
68 | Wilco | A Ghost is Born
It pulls Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in two. The softer, more commercial stuff is even more so, and the weird, heavier material goes the other way as well. There’s no real middle so, of course it divided fans and critics as well. But play ‘Handshake Drugs’, which starts as country rock then ends it a warm smear of guitar feedback. Wheeee…
67 | Aretha Franklin | Young, Gifted and Black
Best soul album of all time, and I’ll fight you over it. Aretha, James Brown, and Otis and can duke it out over their sixties singles, but as far as one cohesive record goes, this one has no peers. Lord, that voice. How it doesn’t break on ‘Daydreaming’, and how it doesn’t overwhelm ‘Rocksteady’. And of course the title track is done as gospel song, complete with a ‘thank you Jesus!’.
66 | Nirvana | In Utero
The first and last lines of this album are seared in the minds of millions of gen x-er’s, but I prefer to remember the guitar solos on ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’. ‘Very Ape’ is also very underrated. Twenty years on, it’s still pretty crazy and caustic as a follow up to one of the biggest breakthrough and bestselling albums that brought grunge to the forefront. It really conjures the images of downed power lines beside a big puddle.
65 | Funkadelic | Maggot Brain
This album actually gets better once the title track wraps up. Don’t get me wrong, I like ten minute, emotional guitar solos, but ‘Can You Get to That’ and ‘Back in Our Minds’ is druggy soul done right. Travesty: my favourite tune on here is the CD bonus track, ‘Whole Lot of BS’, which was originally a b-side. Catchy, short, intense.
64 | Comets on Fire | Avatar
The heirs to Led Zeppelin. Heavy, melodic, mysterious, more energy than they know what to do with (and the kind of exploded apart and broke up after this one). This is probably their most cohesive album, although Blue Cathedral is more intense. I don’t know what it is about stoner rock bands from the Pacific Northwest. They seem particularly aggressive. Like they spent all morning hunting bigfoot.
63 | The Streets | Original Pirate Material
I like how Skinner repeatedly announces his name and the album title in the first single. That’s good marketing, baby! His original flow is both easily embraced and off-putting at the same time. It allows him to get away with topics that could easily become cliché or awkward in hip hop. See ‘Weak Become Heroes’, ‘Stay Positive’, which dig deep into the psyche.
62 | Dr Octagon | Dr Octagonecologyst
“Oh shit! There’s a horse in the hospital!”
I almost don’t want to say anything else than that quote. Never has hip hop been so weird and fun, but still tight. And ‘Halfsharkalligatorhalfman’ is just as good as the title sounds (for the record, the title sounds great).
61 | Super Furry Animals | Love Kraft
I’m trying to remember if this is named after a sex store or sex toy. I bought it in a CD store in the concourse of the Zurich train station. My expectations were not high (I just needed to get rid of my swiss francs), so ‘Zoom!’, ‘Walk You Home’, ‘Cabin Fever’, etc. blew them out of the water. I like that I keep forgetting how good this album is so I can be blown away each time.
60 | Tom Waits | Frank’s Wild Years
The secret one, because it’s between Rain Dogs and Bone Machine. But it’s easily just as tight. Waits finally feels comfortable but not too comfortable because that the sure sign of artistic collapse. Walking on egg shells from time to time is essential. And picturing the hangdog platform in ‘Train Song’ is also essential.
59 | Lou Reed | Berlin
It’s probably the best concept album because it doesn’t have to try very hard. An already kind of broken relationship finally falls the fuck apart. ‘The Kids’ – with producer Ezrin’s own wailing children – gets ‘oh so sad’ attention, but that whole second side’s a heartwrencher. And somehow Reed is able to make ‘beat her black and blue’ a fun chorus in ‘How Do You Think it Feels’.
58 | Pavement | Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Because Wowee Zowee never did it for me, and everyone insists that Slanted & Enchanted does it for them. But this album’s got all the (semi) energy that Pavement could muster. The (not but should be) hits just tumbled out. I mean I was about to type them out, but that’s just the tracklisting. It seems so familiar, that nineties alt rock sound, but here it’s just done better than anyone else could do.
57 | Beck | Odelay
See? We had fun in the nineties! It sounded so alien – for a platinum selling, multi hit single album – when it first came out, and still kind of does now. Sure a lot of indie artists took cues, but they still seemed to scale back on the weirdness. At one point, the rhythm to ‘Novacane’ is dialing numbers on a phone, and how ‘bout that ‘New Pollution’ intro?
56 | Sunn O))) | Black One
The fucking bell, man. The fucking bell on ‘Bathory Erzebet’. It just floors me. And it’s just a bell, don’t let me overhype it. But for all that came before, when it starts on the final track on this album, I feel frozen. And then the, ahem, music kicks in. Hyping an album as ‘terrifying’ is almost guaranteed for the listener to not find it terrifying, but man, the places Black One can seemingly take you…
55 | Bob Dylan & The Band | The Basement Tapes
Can you make a big deal out of being the most relaxed album recording of all time? It wasn’t much more than Dylan and the band just jamming in his basement (plus records from The Band years later, which kind of drops the whole thing down a peg) with a tired dog at their feet. Everything is like a warm cup of tea or old jacket that always fits. Except the brilliant closer ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’, which casts a knowing, thick shadow on the proceedings.
54 | Can | Ege Bamyasi
Am I bad person for liking this more than Tago Mago mainly because it’s condensed to a single record? Perhaps, but then, nothing on that album comes close to ‘Spoon’. Forty great minutes of Can, full of crazy rhythms and even crazier yelpings from Suzuki. I frequently forget how the term ‘Krautrock’ is kind of insulting, there’s such great music under that banner.
53 | Department of Eagles | In Ear Park
God, I love the opening title track. The airy, helpless vocals, the waltz percussion, the frantic but reassuring guitar picking, it all comes together so well. And the rest of it’s sweet as refined and illegal honey, especially ‘Floating on the Leigh’. It’s hazy, flares of the old-timey way of things but I kind of always say that about banjos, fun as a spring morning, folk music.
52 | John Coltrane | A Love Supreme
Remember the lyrics on this one? Coltrane kind of sing/says the title a couple times, and it still fits. The whole album doesn’t live up to its reputation on first listen (while still being a totally passable as a decent jazz album), but it’s like a shoe. Gotta break it in to find the charms.
51 | Avalanches | Since I Left You
I picture a big house party with this one, but much stranger than the typical frat thing. Lots of bizarre rooms and busy hallways and very specific lighting arrangements. And all this really seems to say about the album is that it’s like a weird house party jam, which is pretty much on the money.
50 | Outkast | Stankonia
It’s definitely the duo’s best album, with the hits not completely outshining the other great songs, and made at time when Big Boi and Andre still wanted to work together. I remember when this came out, and I loved ‘B.O.B.’, but it didn’t burn up the charts so I didn’t hear it much on the bus ride to school (tuned into the Top 40 station). Then ‘Ms. Jackson’ came out and since it was a hit I got bored of it right quick. But you know what works insanely well for what it is? ‘Toilet Tisha’, a heartbreaking story about youth pregnancy and suicide. And the franticness, hyper electro-punk of ‘?’ is always forgotten until you play it. There’s weird stuff on here, and that makes it all the better.
49 | Boredoms | Vision Creation Newsun
It’s the sound of the nostalgia of childhood. (long pause) What? How could possibly want any more of a description than that? Like, imagine being a kid without all the parents and school rules, and being nervous about being liked or hated or generally confused about how the world is only kind of working. Those flashes of summer days on a bike, either doing exploring in a forest or something slightly vandalism-related. I’m not saying this is the music for that, that if you ever have a ten year old they’d love this music, but that this music is for your adult memories of the good ol’ days. Bright, bubbling, and loud.
48 | Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti
Sometimes you have to just get serious about making the best hard rock album of all time. And you can’t really call it ‘hard rock’ since that doesn’t mean much. Zepp’s rarely been about labels, which is why they’re so transcendent and timeless. In a recent interview Michael Gira intentionally called Jimmy Page the greatest rock ‘singer’, because of the sounds he could get from his guitar. The only problem with Graffiti is that the remembered brilliance is front loaded, which means when you put on disc two you can always be surprised with how good ‘In the Light’, ‘Ten Years Gone’ and ‘Sick Again’ are. But ‘Kashmir’. I was so hooked on this song in high school that I would make up lyrics that kind of sound like Plant’s whenever he wasn’t singing. Just describing this (non)mythical place…
47 | Herbie Hancock | Crossings
It feels ethereal, liminal, and other snooty academic words. But the title gives it all away. In the middle of moving from one state to another. Much more natural than Bitches Brew. There’s a piano flourish that makes a few appearances in ‘Water Torture’ than still set my hairs on end. And I love how these late sixties, early seventies jazz albums fucked around with funk so effortlessly, just tossing some familiar bass lines or wah-wah pedal effects. Like, ‘see? That’s how it’s done, let’s move on now, please…’
46 | The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Electric Ladyland
It’s a damn shame the three radio hits from Are You Experienced? is most of Jimi’s legacy. It really feels like this album are his dreams and visions distilled, indulging in everything from blues jamming, proto-electronic fuzz (‘Burning of the Midnight Lamp’ sounds so otherworldly to me), prog rock epics, and protest songs the way of half-successful allegory. And there’s that ‘All Along the Watchtower’ thingy. Not a lot of psych rock albums have aged well – especially double albums – and maybe Ladyland is the exception that proves the rule.
45 | Electric Wizard | Dopethrone
If there’s anything heavier, I haven’t heard it. And that’s not me trying to sound all-knowing. That’s me trying to say that Dopethrone changes the chemistry of the brain, adding a few more neurons after each listening, turning you into some sort of creature these guys sing about on ‘Barbarian’ (BUT YOU’LL NEVER…UNDERSTAAAAAND). There’s a point in the closing track, ‘Mind Transferral’, where the band falls into a particularly, thunderous death grind that conjures up the images of a runaway subway train bearing down on you.
44 | Neutral Milk Hotel | On Avery Island
Fuck Aeroplane Over the Sea. There, I said. A quarter of it is ‘Two Headed Boy’, and Mangum already nailed the acoustic tune on there with ‘Oh Comely’. But I come to praise its predecessor. More band here, and that’s great. Don’t get me wrong, Mangum’s bizarre and closed-world tunes and incredible howl are still front and centre, but it’s great how much a rhythm section fleshes out his ideas here. ‘Song Against Sex’ is all Pavement-like fun, and ‘Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone’ is that bubbling volcano, that explodes into a whole different song and it feels like you own all the mountain ranges in the world when it does.
43 | The Beatles | The Beatles
The original title for this album was A Doll’s House, and I think that’s pretty perfect. There is a lifetime of songs here. You could build people’s lives and the life stages and appropriate emotions for them out of the 30 tracks here. Joy, anger, love, resentment, birth, death, fake revolution, real revolution. John, Paul. George and even Ringo now weren’t trying to do this, obviously, but at this point in the band’s existence, their relationship to their massive fanbase was such that people would absorb these songs and make them mean everything to themselves. So you may as well make the tunes good.
42 | Quasimoto | The Unseen
It’s held together by psilocybin. No, really. Madlib recorded and produced while on a week long mushroom binge (I think by now it’s one of those music trivia bits where anyone who knows this album knows that fact). Compared to this, Madvillainy is loaded with radio hits. The Unseen just flows like a lazy river that’s full of crazy fish, rocks, and money hungry bitches. It’s a radio station dream at four in the morning. A jazz club that closed but no one left. It’s a rap album where rapping feels so relaxed, as if it’s optional.
41 | Pink Floyd | Animals
Prog rock in the year of punk. It’s bookended by a little two part love song (the most heartfelt tune Waters ever penned), but most of it is Orwellian politics with meaty riffs. Gilmour brings his A-game to ‘Dogs’ and the outro of ‘Sheep’. 1975’s Wish You Were Here was the album I remember cranking in the car when my friends and I got high in the summer, but Animals is the one that dug in its heels. I have to set aside ten (or seventeen) minutes for its songs, but I do it without thinking.
40 | Nas | Illmatic
It doesn’t just hold up, it crushes the competition. We’re twenty years on and there’s still widespread acclamation for it being the best hip hop album of all time. And there’s no curve. You don’t have to listen to it five or six times for you to get it. Everything comes together so easily. This is an album you sleep with on the first date. A non-hip hop fan asked me recently what’s the one song he should listen to if he wanted to understand hip hop, and I said ‘Life’s a Bitch’, immediately, and didn’t regret it.
39 | The Deadly Snakes | Ode to Joy
The Band goes punk. It sounds old-timey. Let’s sing about funerals, problems in the valley, sins of the father. Little towns and the animals on the side of the road on the outskirts. Let’s add some horns. But then let’s crank it up to eleven and make it sound like we’re about to break everything in the little town.
38 | Big Black | Songs About Fucking
“The best was side one of 'Songs About Fucking'. I was real pleased with the way we did that. We just hopped into the studio, banged all the songs out and hopped out. Didn't take long, didn't cost much, just real smooth.” – Steve Albini
Huurrrrrgh. Unnnngghhhhhh. Fuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh. Shzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzz. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh. Grrrrrrrrrr.
37 | Darkstar | North
Oh, man. Slow like honey, honey made from robot bees. If Daft Punk somehow merged with Phil Elverum, you’d get Darkstar. So forget about the crossbreeding and just listen to this album. ‘Gold’ is one of the sexiest, slow burning songs ever written, but most of the tunes here are quiet laments with machines churning quietly in the fore and backgrounds. Even the auto-tuned vocals are done with the lightest touch.
This is music for after something went terribly wrong, and you don’t want answers, you just want there to be something else out there. A pulse of acknowledgment that’s just a hint above neutral. And that’s a hard sound to nail down. But Darkstar does it here.
36 | LCD Soundsystem | Sound of Silver
James Murphy gets more complicated on the second album without losing his sense of the beat. Let’s sing about coffee, vacations in France, and mother being right, wrong, and everything in between. We can lament the past we can never get back with the frantic piano loop of ‘All My Friends’. When I saw them live they opened with ‘Us & Them’, and now it’s practically a call to arms. Well, a call to feet to the dance floor, which is where all the best revolutions start, anyway.
35 | The Clash | London Calling
Heard this one young and at one point I thought I had my fill, so now I have to keep re-discovering this album, but because of its sprawl there’s always something to find that’s fucking great. Recently: The symphony-like sounds of ‘The Card Cheat’, which sound so far away from what you would expect from The Clash. And there’s always a handful of lines in ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ that punches me in the heart. Who knew that these fuckers could actually sing, too? The band left the inherent temporality of punk on the side of road and consequently became timeless (how that for a blurb?).
34 | GZA | Liquid Swords
Grit-hop. The best Wu-Tang-ish album. The gang’s all here, and they’re cold as the world and got your back (but watch your front). And I love the Shogun Assassin samples. I love the opening and closing monologues (the end of ‘I Gotcha Back’). The piano and keyboard loops are amazing on here, perfectly encapsulating the lyrics, with their edgy, unresolved chords. It gives credence to the notion that the best work comes in the initial push of creative power, and it’s unusual that RZA spent much of his time and effort on Wu-Tang solo albums in the mid-nineties, thereby weakening the eventual follow-up to 36 Chambers. Like he knew this and Cuban Linx were going to be gold standards.
33 | Sly & The Family Stone | There’s a Riot Goin’ On
The bass on here is dreamy. It’s heavier than all the drugs Sly was taking while putting this together. This whole album is kind of about failure, and in that respect, it succeeds wildly. Marvin Gaye asks ‘What’s Goin’ On’?, and Sly responds. He has family problems, writing problems, punctuality problems, drug problems, social justice problems, spaced cowboy problems. Even with the full band, there’s a muddy sound throughout. And a sensible answer would be that recording process was full of overdubbing, but really it’s because that was the state of the architect’s mind. But the collapse of a creative genius’s mind is still an incredible thing to hear.
32 | Aphex Twin | Richard D. James Album
Late to this. A friend of mine played this incessantly in high school when it first came out and said it changed him forever. I didn’t meet him ‘til years later so I’ll never know how true that is, but this does feel like one of those records where if you’ve never heard much electronic music, the first track alone will just floor you. In the ‘what the hell is this?’ variety, because Mr. Twin is not the kind of man who pulls punches, but rather surrounds himself with booby traps. It’s a restless forty minutes, but that doesn’t mean every little sound and intended skip/clip can’t hypnotize you.
31 | William Onyeabor | Who is William Onyeabor?
Maybe my mind blows easy. A collection of this Nigerian musician’s late seventies, early eighties output, WiWO feels like you’ve know it all your life. It’s funk with a hilariously heavy dose of synth. It’s sound so very eighties, but so much better because there’s no sense of restraint, or commercial aspirations. It’s effortlessly joyless, with lyrics that are simple, repetitive, but also cutting at the same time. I mean, how are you feeling right now? Why don’t you go listen to the closer, ‘Fantastic Man’? You’ll feel better. I won’t link it here, but really, it’s worth a google and a youtube click.
30 | Pixies | Surfer Rosa
I think a lot of people have said that no one sounds like the Pixies (I know Dave Eggers did). A lot of people are right. It’s such a strange cobbling of different musical styles that should sound like a train wreck, and it kind of does, but that just goes to underscore the notion that some train wrecks are beautiful (namely, allegorical ones). Loud-quiet-loud. Black Francis screaming (when I saw ‘em live in 2009 I was worried that he couldn’t howl anymore, and I was thankfully wrong).
Confession time: I bought a Pixies greatest hits album first, and there were so many songs on it from this album I figured, ‘I probably don’t need to buy Surfer Rosa’. Then I heard it at a friends house. No more greatest hits purchases. Thank you, Pixies.
29 | New Order | Power, Corruption and Lies
There are Joy Division people and there are New Order people. It is known. I am a Joy Division person, but my god, is Power, Corruption and Lies incredible. The devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist (Usual Suspects), but Barney, Pete, Steven, and Gillian pulled the same kind of amazing stunt by re-inventing Joy Division as a dance-pop act, and this is the masterpiece. The high energy stuff like ‘Age of Consent’ and ‘The Village’ sits beside shadowy experiments like ‘We All Stand’ and ‘Ecstasy’. And ‘Leave Me Alone’ is a tender closer that still has a bit of muscle so it doesn’t end on a dour note. Plus the immaculate ‘Your Silent Face’. Actually, not plus. That should be the first sentence.
This album makes me wish I was a teenager in the early eighties. Preferably in England, so when I run away from home I could stare out at the Channel from the cliffs of Dover. But not jump.
28 | Saul Williams | Saul Williams
Saul Williams is better known as a poet, but he’s put out a couple albums and has even opened for Nine Inch Nails. His self-titled gets all personal and political, and while socially conscious rhymes haven’t always made a break into the mainstream (Public Enemy notwithstanding), Williams’ talent for spitting oodles of dope lines means all the songs here can grab you from the first word. And sometimes the beats measure up, too, especially ‘List of Demands’ (‘god’s just a baby, and her diaper is wet’) and ‘Seaweed’ (shark chanting mantras). It’s a great left field introduction to non-Top 40 hip hop.
27 | Ous Mal | Nuojuva halava
I’m pretty sure I got this album from the avant-garde-ish loving ateaser named treblekicker (his avatar was a fish) a few years back. It’s wormed its way into my heart in a wonderfully subtle way. There’s only a few sounds I can attribute to any specific instruments, it’s so alien (well, Finnish). It’s the sound of being underwater and childish play, and exploring an ordinary world in a bubbly haze. I feel like I only barely begin to understand it, and I’m sure that’s partly why I keep coming back.
26 | Television | Marquee Moon
See? You could have fun in 1977! You didn’t have to sneer or shoot up in London or fool around with synths in Berlin with Brian Eno. Why not rock out with the skeletal looking Tom Verlaine and his pals in New York? ‘See No Evil’ is just one of the best openers you can get, the happy screams of ‘evil’ betraying the word itself. Television had a lot of those wonderful juxtapositions. A punk band with ten minute tracks filled with solos. Verlaine wearing his heart, liver, and stomach on his sleeve while howling and crushing the keyboards on ‘Torn Curtain’. And that guitar sound, right? Everyone likes to mention that cold, jagged guitar sound. But that don’t mean shit if you can’t write tunes, and there’s eight winners on this album.
25 | Minor Threat | First 2 7”s
I think this counts as an EP. I hope this counts as an EP. I pray this counts as an EP. Punk constantly perches on the edge of sellout ridiculousness, and Minor Threat was able to avoid it by breaking up as soon as anyone outside DC had ever heard of them. They are probably the ‘purest’ band from a critical perspective, inasmuch as their music, aesthetic, and politics seems to synergize so impeccably that by understanding one part you ultimately understand the whole.
Plus they fucking rock their balls off for all these seventy second songs. In fact, the best one here, ‘In My Eyes’, is a comparatively Stairway to Heaven-like two minutes and fifty seconds. It also has a better line about politics that Dylan never wrote: ‘You tell me I make no difference/well at least I’m fucking trying/what the fuck have you done?’
24 | Nine Inch Nails | The Fragile
Nearly drowning for one hundred intense, crushing, expansive minutes. I saw NIN live in 2005 and they played ‘Even Deeper’, which made me very happy as its kind of one of those forgotten but fantastic tracks. Reznor’s said he wishes he broke it into two albums, but it doesn’t feel bloated. It’s size is its point. It’s probably the best sequenced 23 song album I’ve heard, flowing like ocean waves at night, with crashing industrial giving way to quiet piano instrumentals. ‘Somewhat Damaged’ begins with a pipe to the head, and the final song, ‘Ripe (with decay)’, is just everything quietly breaking down, trying to clean its own mess, and fold itself back into the box.
23 | Angels of Light | We Are Him
I heard ‘Not Here/Not Now’ playing in a record store and immediately asked the guy behind the counter what it was and then bought this album. It was my introduction to Michael Gira in general. Saying Angels of Light is more accessible than his Swans work is all relative. ‘Black River Song’ is a headsmasher (not banger), ‘Promise of Water’ ends with Gira on his knees, and ‘Sometimes I Dream I’m Hurting You’ is just insane, but there are moments of levity and compassion here. There’s a folk influence too, but it spends almost all it’s time in the shadows. It’s got echoes of Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ running throughout. Noble and sordid histories intertwined.
22 | Joy Division | Closer
You know what? It’s easy to forget how much Closer actually fucking jams. Sure the last two tracks is Ian Curtis’s tragic end put to music, but shit, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ has crazed drums, ‘Isolation’ is practically a dance track, and both ‘Colony’ and Twenty Four Hours’ are dark, goth rockers. And then, when you consider the slower, brooding tracks, you realize that this album can tear you in two.
21 | Bjork | Vespertine
Whenever the chorus comes in on ‘It’s Not Up to You’, I feel like the walls in my house are expanding and I’m in a futuristic temple where god is worshipped in the guise of a tiny Icelandic woman. It’s my go to winter album. It has a cryptic, life amongst the quiet and dormant flora and fauna feeling. You could play this album from a boombox in a forest and deer would come up to it, unafraid.
Also: the spoken line ‘I’m sorry you saw that’ in ‘An Echo, A Stain’, seems to be one of the most genuine and tender phrases ever committed to tape. And draped in mystery, which is always nice when we’re dealing with love.
20 | Bob Dylan | Blonde on Blonde
Why not Highway 61 Revisited? Really. ‘Cause that’s got good shit all the way through, and ‘Thin Man’ might be better than anything on Blonde except ‘Visions’. Blonde’s bumpy. Blonde’s got piss-ups and meandering. Blonde was a White Album two years before The White Album came out. It’s got jokes, but it’s the best-sounding rock jokes of all time. Go down to Nashville with some A-plus session guys and knock out a grand slam. It’s all the guys playing the ivories, I think. The pianos and keyboards just make the beat poetry plump and swell. Pete Seeger said ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ will be the Dylan song people will be singing long after Dylan’s name is forgotten, but the real tune will be ‘Rainy Day Women’, because that’s so much easier, fun to sing, and filled with just as much truth.
Should I copy and paste the lyrics to ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’? Oh, you know them by heart and are already tearing up? Excellent, excellent…
19 | Neil Young | Tonight’s the Night
Sheer mournful exhaustion. You either put it on the record player when you’re about to start drinking, or when you wake up in the morning after a night of drinking. Dirty, lived-in house music. There are mice skittering across the floor and cigarette butts everywhere. There was a good time somewhere, but it’s just hazy memories, and the current comedown seems so much more real. Ever have to drive away from somewhere hungover? Put on ‘Roll Another Number’. Neil sounds like an old hardwood floor that a sick dog is laying on, and the band is just enough on point to get you through. ‘Borrowed Tune’, ‘Tired Eyes’, and the title track(s) are ways to honour the person drowning right beside you.
18 | Broken Social Scene | Broken Social Scene
This amount of people shouldn’t be able to be this on point A house party full of musicians and hangers-on, all on the same page for an amazing hour. ‘It’s All Gonna Break’, but it never quite does. One of the best summer albums, on patios or in cars, it can be in the background and grooved to or cranked and sung along with. Oh so very functional, and you can’t spell that without ‘fun’.
17 | The Beatles | Abbey Road
Blah, blah, blah, there’s almost less to say about this one than any other fab four album. John and George steal the show for the first thirty minutes (first off, there’s ‘Because’, and also I’m a ‘She’s So Heavy’ enthusiast, because I love the idea of the biggest pop band of all time being brain crushingly heavy, I love picturing people who love ‘Something’ have their eyes pop out of their heads as Lennon screams, and I know for certain that ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is much better than ‘Something’), until Paul starts plunking the piano keys to start up ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’. Then it’s his, and he never lets go, even with Lennon’s three bits in the medley. It’s probably the best pop music ever will get, packed tightly into sixteen minutes. Highs, lows, laughs, tears, Spanish gibberish, and bathroom windows.
16 | Queens of the Stone Age | Rated R
Drugs are cool. This album proves it. Too many drugs, well, that’s more subjective and your own problem if you’re thieving or giving sexual favours for crack. Anyhoo, the punk opener just screams the laundry list, ‘Better Living Chemistry’ talks about the red and blue pills and then goes down the rabbit hole (in the most audio-literal sense), and ‘I Think I Lost My Headache’ is the monumental closer in the grand tradition of monumental closers. There’s also ‘Auto-Pilot’ about (ahem) flying high, a silly dumb rock song about hallucinations (‘Monsters in Your Parasol’), and Nick Oliveri screaming about selling little boys or something. Lanegan comes on to brood for four minutes, playing the role of the man in black at the party that everyone is impressed with and a little afraid of. And Josh Homme’s soloing all the while. The gang’s all here, so come on, take a hit. You aren’t afraid, are ya’?
15 | Radiohead | Amnesiac
Keep your Kid A. That album’s frozen solid as a brilliant mountain landscape (check the cover art). Meanwhile, Amnesiac is alive and boiling, with the weirdness multiplied tenfold. ‘Like Spinning Plates’ is the soundtrack to god’s throne room, ‘Pyramid Song’ crushes diamonds when the drums kick in, and even Hunting Bears dries the mouth in its expectation that is never realized. Calling it a grab bag or ‘Kid B’ is a disservice, but it also allows certain parts of songs to sneak up on you. The glockenspiel on ‘Morning Bell/Amnesiac’ (which itself sounds like the Kid A version placed in a microwave), the rattling percussion on ‘Dollars and Cents’, the paper crumpling sounds on ‘Packt’ and ‘Pulk’. And it’s all a bit of a trick because it’s all pop music, just done a little bit different, which gets big ass results.
14 | The Velvet Underground | VU
Yeah, it’s a collection of leftovers (some of which popped up on Lou Reed solo albums), but it’s still an amazing feast. ‘Ocean’ alone is one of the best ballads ever written. And that weird guitar solo at the end of ‘One of These Days’ still gets me grinning. I heard ‘I Can’t Stand It’ on a Velvets greatest hits collection, and for some reason the guitar sounded to me like some indie-rock band from the eighties. So there’s that timeless thing with this band that everyone likes. But one thing that always kind of makes me hyper aware of Lou Reed’s brilliance (and Mo Tucker’s gentleness) is the line, ‘you held up a stagecoach in the rain, and I’m doing the same’ from ‘I’m Sticking with You’. It’s just nuts, from a historical and relationship perspective. But the song just gets more heart meltingly beautiful as Lou comes in to duet, and the band kicks in…
13 | Liars | Wixiw
The barnstormer for me, pushing so many classic choices aside to land at thirteen. Only from 2012, but definitely the best thing I’ve heard out of the last four or five years. I expected to tire of it a bit, for the album’s attractions to fade, but they haven’t. And part of it has to do with Wixiw being a very different Liars album from all that came before. Bookended with a dreamy, slow, ambient opener and acoustic closer, with an utterly brilliant cohesion of mature electronica and a dark folk influence throughout (and they’ll still blow your speakers out with ‘Brats’). I love the super-personal chorus of ‘His and Mine Sensations’, with singer Angus pleading with guitarist Aaron to ‘tell him it’s a lie’. And I’m thrilled with how poppy lead single ‘No. 1 Against the Rush Is’ (and it’s left turn outro rivals ‘Ticket to Ride’s’).
12 | Boards of Canada | Music Has the Right to Children
Yes. The work of this Scottish duo breathed new life into my appreciation for contemporary electronic music, which, for too long, had that narrow view that Aphex Twin’s cold, pump-up precision was the pinnacle of the genre. Maybe it’s because they’re just willing to slow the temple down so often. I picture this being made outside, on the odd sunny day in the highlands, with microphones being thrust into flowers, babbling brooks, and tumbling rocks. The presentation of this album is great, with the short and long pieces complimenting each other perfectly, a short breath in and a long one out.
11 | Wire | Chairs Missing
Okay, I won’t claim outright that Pink Flag is kind of a gimmick, with its collection of ninety second (on average) songs, but with Chairs Missing Wire raised the bar when no one thought it needed raising. No one even knew there was a bar in the first place. But this album blew punk up, expanding it in so many different directions. There’s the fragility of ‘Heartbeats’, the pop brilliance of ‘Outdoor Miner’, and the creepiness-on-the-edge of ‘I Feel Mysterious Today’. But of course, and most importantly, it still fucking pounds, from ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ to ‘Too Late’. The quicker a fledging punk fan moves from Sex Pistols to Wire the better.
10 | Miles Davis | Bitches Brew
The title’s perfect. This smoky murk of familiar jazz lines going into stranger and more exotic territory. The sound of leaving earth through ritual instead of science. I don’t like the idea of this being made in a recordng studio. I want it to have been created on an Indian burial ground. Miles gives all the songs plenty of time to stretch out and build some sonic blueprints before collapsing them. And he names one of the songs after his guitarist. So very generous, that man.
9 | Beta Band | The Three EPs
It’s allowed now! And good thing, too, because choosing one particular EP is tough. ‘Dry the Rain’ is the obvious gateway song, but just to more of this album, I guess. It’s not that you can’t turn it off once you start, but why would you? Even ‘Monolith’ has charms tumbling out of it left and right. And ‘She’s the One For Me’ is the palette cleanser. Man, the closing one-two punch of ‘Dr. Baker’ and ‘Needles in My Eyes’ are mind melting and heart enhancing.
I bought it in Australia in August of 2004 and then found out they broke up. My timing’s pretty bad, but that’s definitely one of the worst examples.
8 | Brian Eno | Another Green World
This album messes with my memory. I always thought I heard earlier than when I did. Because you know this music. And it knows you. It powers those weird little moments in your life where you can imagine certain sounds and melodies in the not too distant background. Soft drips and echoes or jagged rhythms. Well, except ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’, which is just an awesome song all by itself.
7 | Lightning Bolt | Wonderful Rainbow
Glorious pummeling. Punk machines revving up, breaking down, and reassembling themselves anew. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then Lightning Bolt is a cup of hot tea poured into your eyes. I frequently work out to this album, and I think I have a look of ‘last angry man in jogging shorts’ look on my face to all the other people at the gym. But it’s not music to kill to. It’s music to raise the dead to. That’s what ‘Wonderful Rainbow’ is supposed to symbolize, I bet. It’s alllll biblical.
6 | Madvillain | Madvillainy
Madlib and (MF) Doom get together – or really, hang out in Madlib’s basement – to cut up and rap over jazz hooks, superhero kid shows, and plenty of weed (and two or three heine’s).
It’s an album that doesn’t feel like it has anything to prove, that it can just fool around and exist for the private pleasure of its creators. As if it only accidentally fell into the wider world, with a happy few lapping it up like sugared water. I still think ‘Meat Grinder’ has the best written and performed verses in all of hip hop (that deep breath before Doom starts…yeah).
5 | David Bowie | Low
Yes, I was one of those people that for too long thought little of the second side of this album. Like the critics, apparently. But the seven short bits and the longer experiments combined makes this feel like a sprawling thirty nine minutes. So much good stuff to pick over and draw close. The cold guitar-synth boogie on tracks like Breaking Glass, the druggy haze of ‘Always Crashing’ and the brooding Warszawa and Subterraneans. Or how about when the piano comes in thirty five seconds into ‘A New Career In Town’? It so simple, but it’s everything coming together so perfectly. And Bowie adds just the right amount of harmonica (it is very easy to overdo the harmonica). Can you find the bad pun on the front cover?
4 | Liars | They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
Okay, um, let me explain. I’ve never heard an album so dark, twisted, creepy, and explosive. The band apparently recorded this in a cabin in the woods, but I think the machines they used must have been haunted. The idea of a wholly artificial forest. It’s this close to being a mess, but there a black-eyed riffs, thunderous drums, and chanting we weirdoes can all take part in (blood, blood, blood!). You listen to this windowless rooms, or when the sky goes particularly black. After all, it eats light.
3 | The Rolling Stones | Sticky Fingers
Greatest rock and roll band in the world, covering all the bases on this album. ‘Brown Sugar’ is the archetypal rock song, and ‘Moonlight Mile’ is the archetypal rock ballad. Everything sandwiched between them is just as good. The raw blues of ‘You Gotta Move’, the creepy art rock of ‘Sister Morphine’, and the two sides to the country rock coin (‘Wild Horses’ for sad, ‘Dead Flowers’ for fun). And you should listen to ‘Sway’ just for the Mick Taylor guitar solo at the end and realize it’s one of the best solos of all time.
2 | The Beatles | Revolver
So this is probably the correct answer (everything The Beatles did right, they did most right on Revolver) because it’s perfect but with so much packed in that it doesn’t ever get boring (and as such - at under 35 minutes – will forever be the proof brevity’s superiority). But…
1 | Radiohead | OK Computer
Because. It’s rare when mainstream critical acclaim intersects with the artistic vision and ability of the creators and the personal experiences of the listener. I only knew the singles when I got it, and even then, I liked OK Computer but didn’t love it for a couple years. I don’t remember why or when it clicked, but it did, and its place at number one has never wavered. It probably will always be. It’s part of my DNA now. It’s the time and place of me in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, trying to make sense of myself and the world around me that is shrinking and cracking at the same time. The malaise and concern of the nineties never disappeared, they only amplified, and Thom Yorke and company were kind enough to make the soundtrack to this feeling as soaring and symphonic as it was uneasy. The music is triumphant while the words can almost drag you down, so that means you try that much harder to find the positive lines, and you do. ‘Lucky’ has the immortal request to ‘pull me out of the air crash’, and that’s a good a metaphor as its ever going to get for a problem in one’s life. This album constantly sees something new when it stares at itself in the mirror. And that’s art, on par with Velazquez’s Les Meninas. Even ‘Electioneering’.
|Another one: I didn't include any Kinks, but you should probably listen to 'Lola vs. Powerman and The Moneygoround'|