Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 10-1


10. The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)

The Ramones‘ debut was the first album that can be called punk without any reservations or qualifying statements. It was also a reclamation of the visceral impact of simple hard-driving rock music delivered with personality, fun and conviction. Best song: “Beat On The Brat”

9. Nirvana – In Utero (1993)

In Utero challenged Nirvana’s new post-Nevermind audience with a harsher sound via producer Steve Albini. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics were great artistic statements about fame and the album is one of those rare example of a band that hit the big-time but wasn‘t willing to compromise its‘ sound for the mainstream. Best song: “Milk It”

8. The Stooges – Funhouse (1970)

How good is this album? Well, it‘s only seven songs long and I don‘t really care much for the seventh (a free-form freak-out called “L.A. Blues“). That means it only took six of Funhouse’s songs to get it in the Top 10. And what six songs they are! If you like albums built on “livewire energy”, this is the greatest album ever made. Like a punch to your soul. Best song: “T.V. Eye”

7. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972)

After spending the better part of a decade searching for a direction, Bowie finally found himself with Ziggy Stardust, a loose concept based around a fictional futuristic character (the first of Bowie’s many alter egos). Whatever the concept was, the songs were brilliant. Guitar player Mick Ronson was Bowie‘s secret weapon, quietly dialing up the perfect guitar tone, and brilliant string arrangements to enhance Bowie’s space-age glam epics. Best song: “Moonage Daydream”

6. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

There’s never been a collection of pop songs as staggeringly good as these. Brian Wilson‘s arrangements and the group‘s harmony singing were miles beyond whatever anyone else was doing at that time in terms of sophistication. It opened up a world of ideas and sounds that ushered in the sea change of the psychedelic era. Best song: “Hang On To Your Ego”

5. Television – Marquee Moon (1977)

There are two things that make Marquee Moon the best album to come from New York in the 1970s. The first is the musicianship, which fired on all cylinders. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were an accomplished guitar duo, Billy Ficca found space for jazzy accents in his drumming, and Fred Smith (not the same Fred Smith that was in the MC5) held it all together on the bass. The other thing that elevates Marquee Moon is that every note and lyric of every song is equally as good as every other one. There isn‘t a less than stellar moment anywhere to be found. Everything works perfectly. Best song: “Marquee Moon”

4. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

The most artistically important record of the 1960s. It can be argued that this album created the genre of alternative/indie/art rock and that each of it‘s songs was the starting point of a different sub-genre. Whether that’s true or not, The Velvet Underground and Nico is probably in some way responsible for at least half of the albums on this list. Best Song: “Heroin”

3. Iggy and The Stooges – Raw Power (1973)

Raw Power is the sound of a band and people all becoming unhinged. The Stooges (now contentiously known as Iggy and The Stooges) were falling apart at an alarming rate due to addiction, corporate pressures and general burnout, and you can hear every bit of meltdown on Raw Power’s chaotic grooves. There are two different mixes available on CD- David Bowie’s and Iggy Pop’s. I prefer the Bowie version, which is admittedly razor-thin, but that thinness does a better job of framing all the last-ditch desperation in the performances. Best song: “Gimme Danger”

2. Sigur Ros – Ágætis byrjun (1999)

Sigur Ros’ second album contains the most beautiful music ever made. Heavenly songs that usually clock in over seven minutes, sweeping oceans of guitar (played with a bow), a singer with the most jaw-dropping falsetto ever committed to record, and lyrics that are a mix of Icelandic and made-up gibberish. Ágætis Byrjun expanded the scope of emotions that music could touch. If you don’t find it affecting, you might not be human. An actual life changer. Best song: “Svefn-g-englar”

1. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

This is my favorite album of all time. Hearing it marked the first time that I, as an adult, was able to make a distinction between good music and great music. When it was released in 1997 OK Computer perfectly captured the feeling of the oncoming information age – and it still feels rich with meaning and context today. It also marked the turning point at which Radiohead began outgrowing the constraints of rock music and in their search for fresh ideas, incorporated hip-hop, electronica, jazz, classical and avant-garde touches to push themselves, and their audiences, into previously uncharted terrain. Make sure to buy the double disc which includes B-sides like “Polyethylene (Parts 1 and 2“, “Lull“ and “Pearly“ that were better than anybody else‘s singles. Best Song: “Airbag”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 20-11


20. The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968)

The Stones‘ best album was a welcome return to their roots after taking a psychedelic detour on Their Satanic Majesties Request. Features some great slide guitar work from Keith Richard and Brian Jones. Best song: “Sympathy For The Devil”

19. The Clash – London Calling (1979)

An exhaustive nineteen-song trawl through reggae, soul, ska, glam, pop, disco, rockabilly and anything else that The Clash liked. By embracing music’s past London Calling pissed off a lot of close-minded punks, which is always a good thing. Best song: “Spanish Bombs”

18. Jimi Hendrix Experience- Electric Ladyland (1968)

Boldly chucking three-minute pop structures to the side, Electric Ladyland was the sound of Jimi Hendrix running free in the studio. Jimi’s guitar playing gets all the praise (and it absolutely should) but pay close attention to Mitch Mitchell’s drumming, which is just about Hendrix’s equal. Best song: “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”

17. Minor Threat – Complete Discography (1989)

Hardcore punk’s ultimate statement, collecting everything from Minor Threat’s 1981-1983 lifetime. You’d be hard pressed to find an album with a better combination of hyper-speed aggression, tuneful singing, and stop-on-a-dime instrumental precision. Best song: “In My Eyes”

16. Radiohead – Hail To The Thief (2003)

Hail doesn‘t get the critical love other Radiohead albums get, but it‘s perhaps their most consistent collection of songs from this millennium. Maybe a few people were turned off because it’s dark and foreboding – even for Radiohead – but they know how to maneuver on that terrain. As accomplished, cutting edge and beautiful as anything else in their discography. Best song: “Sail To The Moon (Brush The Cobwebs Of The Sky)”

15. Joy Division – Closer (1980)

Speaking of dark and foreboding, this is THE dark and forbodingest album ever. Ian Curtis killed himself two months before Closer was released, and it‘s not hard to hear it as a musical suicide note. Even the cover is a photograph of a tomb! Not the feel good hit of the summer then, but still an amazing and essential listen. Post-punk’s crowning achievement. Best song: “Twenty Four Hours”

14. Patti Smith – Horses (1975)

Part poetry, part garage rock, Horses didn’t really sound like anything else when it came out in 1975. Today it still doesn’t quite fit in with any one specific genre or style of music either (lump it in with punk if you want, but what exactly was punk about it?), and that’s cause for celebration. Best Song: “Gloria”

13. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

Recorded over a period of two years, Kevin Shields’ innovative guitar playing and maddeningly acute ear for minor sonic details made Loveless worth the wait. Forget the lyrics (vocals are treated as just another layer of sound), and get lost in the web of indescribable sounds, textures and emotions. Best song: “Only Shallow”

12. The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)

The Stooges‘ debut was in some ways the first “real“ rock album. There was no pretense, no wasted notes or words. Everything is honest, rebellious, rudimentary and brilliant. Music was never really the same afterwards. Best song: “I Wanna Be Your Dog”

11. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

A bold and artistic album filled with difficult choices and rewarding experiments. It’s amazing to think that Radiohead  responded to the success of OK Computer with such a brave and uncompromising record, and that they were able to pull it off. Nobody understood it on first listen, but further listens revealed a masterpiece. Best song: “National Anthem”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 30-21


30. Black Sabbath – Master Of Reality (1971)

Master Of Reality was both Sabbath and heavy music’s finest hour. The musicianship, performances and (especially) production are all flawless. Listen to how the band shifts from fast to slow tempos on “Into The Void” – an extremely hard trick and yet they make it sound easy. Best song: “Into The Void”

29. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

Gaye’s 11th album in as many years dealt with important social issues in a way that never felt heavy-handed or preachy. Amazingly, Motown head Berry Gordy didn’t want to release it at first, thinking it would be a flop! Motown’s greatest achievement. Best song: “Inner City Blues”

28. Love – Forever Changes (1967)

The most accomplished American album from the psychedelic ‘60s. Arthur Lee‘s mercurial lyrics hinted at dark times ahead, but the flamenco, mariachi and orchestral overdubs were elegant enough to make the album seem almost light-hearted if you weren‘t paying close attention. A masterpiece. Best song: “Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark and Hilldale”

27. The Bad Brains – The Bad Brains (1982)

Hardcore punk fury and righteousness, played at blitzkrieg speed. The Bad Brains started out as a fusion band in the mid-‘70s, which explains why they were better musicians than every other hardcore band. The reggae songs that they sprinkled in every few tracks created a perfect balance with the white-hot energy they delivered everywhere else. Best song: “Big Take Over”

26. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)

This was the album that introduced Brit-rock to the world. By the time Ian Brown sings “I Am The Resurrection” towards the end of the album, you’re so blown away by what you’ve heard for the past 40 minutes that it’s impossible to disagree with him. Best song: “I Wanna Be Adored”

25- Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

It sounds miles away from where Radiohead are at today, but it’s an exhilarating album of British guitar rock, with a lot of acoustic ballads for Thom Yorke’s voice to soar on. Listen closely and you’ll hear them planting the seeds of what was to come (more on this later in the countdown). Best Song: “My Iron Lung”

24. The Wailers – Catch A Fire (1973)

Catch A Fire was The Wailers’ fifth album and their first for Island Records. It proved without doubt that they were capable of growing reggae from a Jamaican music to a worldwide phenomenon. All the studio overdubs label-head Chris Blackwell ordered to make the music more palatable to non-Jamaicans actually enhanced the record (at least in my non-Jamaican opinion). Best song: “Stir It Up”

23. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)

A lengthy double-album epic that combined punk, free-form noise, beat poetry and the good parts of classic rock. It’s the definitive pre-Nirvana American alt-rock album, and one of the few albums whose lyrics can be appreciated separate from the music as good poetry. Best song: “Teenage Riot”

22. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (1997)

J. Spacemen was in the middle of a personal low when he made Ladies and Gentlemen… His life was littered with break-ups, depression and addiction, all of which he wisely used to fuel his music. Expansive, spacey music that combined the hedonistic spirit of The Stooges and Velvet Underground with the compositional skills of Miles Davis. Best song: “I Think I‘m In Love”

21. The Kinks – Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Released at the height of the UK psych, brothers Ray and Dave Davies ignored all LSD-gobbling Sgt. Peppers-influenced music that was going on at the moment and made this tribute to the quaint England of years past. Touching, intelligent, and fun, Village Green only seems to get better with time. Best song: “Do You Remember Walter”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 40-31


40. Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 (1972)

One of the few albums to be made in a cocaine-fueled haze that actually sounds great. Best song: “Supernaut”

39. The New York Dolls – The New Yorks Dolls (1973)

Loud, brash and trashy, the Dolls debut was the most explosive rock album of its time, with ragged playing, gutter riffs and larger-than-life personality. Best song: “Looking For A Kiss”

38. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I (1969)

Right out of the gate they were the most exciting musicians on the planet, and they were never more direct or consistent than they were here. Best song: “How Many More Times”

37. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976)

Recorded in 1971 and 1972, but not officially released until 1976, this was a perfect punk-era collection of Velvets-inspired garage rock songs. The kicker is Jonathan Richman whose bassy voice and goofy wide-eyed lyrics about sobriety and nostalgia for old ways flew directly in the face of everything hippies stood for. Best song: “Roadrunner”

36. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)

A unique, one-time-only performance that spent almost half of its tracklist tipping its cap to the band’s influences. The greatest live album of all time. Best song: “The Man Who Sold The World”

35. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street (1972)

The Stones capped off their first decade with this sprawling eighteen-song epic. The murky sound only enhances the decadent blues and country vibe. The last great Stones album.  Best song: “Torn and Frayed”

34. Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

Punk had barely been invented, but Wire was already growing tired of its constraints and began pushing it towards post-punk, with an intelligent art-rock inspired approach that put them ahead of their British contemporaries. With twenty-one songs thrashed out in a lightning-fast thirty-five minutes, Pink Flag was also a huge influence on hardcore. Best song: “Ex Lion Tamer”

33. The Wailers – Burnin’ (1973)

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were the best of Jamaica’s many vocal trios and these songs (many of which are re-recorded versions of previously released songs) belong in everyone’s record collection. Best song: “Get Up Stand Up”

32. Various Artists – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era: 1965-1968 (1972)

Twenty-seven garage rock, folk rock and psychedelic one-hit wonders compiled by Patti Smith collaborator and guitarist Lenny Kaye. The bands behind these songs wanted to be The Beatles or The Stones, and for a three minutes each, they were. Best song: “Psychotic Reaction”

31. The Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)

Hip-hop’s finest hour. This album introduced the world to eight gifted MCs (and U-God) from New York who came together (“like Voltron”) to form  powerful unit under direction from The RZA who provided the Clan with guidance and his staggering production skills. Best song: “Wu-Tang Clan Ain‘t Nuthin‘ Ta F Wit”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 50-41


50. The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

Forget all the hype, and definitely forget their last two albums. This was the real deal – a lean, mean and exciting return to stripped down rock‘n‘roll. Best song: “Take It Or Leave It”

49. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)

Clocking in at just 28 minutes, Nick Drake‘s final album was sparse and haunting. Amazingly, it was recorded in just four hours. Best song: “Pink Moon”

48. Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

Lou Reed goes glam with the help of David Bowie and Mick Ronson. It’s a perfectly executed testament to Warhol-era New York decadence. Best song: “Satellite Of Love”

47. The Ramones – Leave Home (1977)

The Ramones’ second album introduced 14 more punk classics to the world. Wonderfully demented songs about pinheads, shock treatment and sniffing glue. Best song: “Pinhead”

46. The Ramones – Rocket To Russia (1977)

The third Ramones album in two years, and their second of 1977. This was the most fun collection of songs they ever had. Best song: “Rockaway Beach”

45. Massive Attack – Mezzanine (1998)

Heavy bass, slow smoked-out tempos, paranoid atmospheres and great guest vocals from Horace Andy and Elizabeth Fraser make this the best trip-hop album by a long-shot. Best song: “Angel”

44. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

Neil‘s best, this captured the mythic Crazy Horse sound in top form, with guitar epics abound. Best song: “Down By The River”

43. The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms (1980)

Nerdy anxiety-ridden songs from the suburbs of New Jersey, Crazy Rhythms created the template for American indie-rock – although it was better than anything that followed. Best song: “Loveless Love”

42. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

The impact of Zeppelin‘s fourth album may be blunted from classic-rock radio overplay, but it‘s still amazingly powerful. Somewhere out there is a teenager listening to it for the first time, and I’m jealous of that teenager. Best song: “Black Dog”

41. The Sex Pistols – Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

Groundbreaking UK punk that was often imitated, but never bettered. There’s a lot more going on here musically than they get credit for. Best song: “God Save The Queen”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 60-51


60. Talking Heads – Fear Of Music (1979)

Each of these eleven songs is uniformly great. No dips in quality anywhere. Also one of the best produced albums ever (Brian Eno was the producer). Best song: “Memories Can‘t Wait”

59. John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Really intensely emotional stuff coming from the same guy who once sang “Love Me Do“. A deep artistic statement. Best song: “Working Class Hero”

58. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

The album that changed music in 1991. It may have been more brightly produced than your typical punk album but in no way did it compromise punk‘s principals. Best song: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

57. X- Wild Gift (1981)

Wisely shedding Ray Manzarek‘s keyboards from the Los Angeles album, X returned a year later with a more nimble and direct follow-up. Best song: “We’re Desperate”

56. The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (1968)

The Zombies in psychedelic flight, with a set of touching songs that was unjustly ignored in its day. Best song: “Care Of Cell 44”

55. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

One the most feedback-drenched albums ever made, but beneath all that beautiful noise Psychocandy also has some of the catchiest tunes ever. Best song: “Never Understand”

54. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

The best Beatles album, it caught them right in-between the chirpy pop of their early years and the weighty psychedelia of their later albums. Best song: “Tomorrow Never Knows”

53. T. Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)

The album where Marc Bolan spliced the best ‘50s riffs to his own space-cadet poetry and dressed them up to create glam rock. Best song: “Jeepster”

52. Gang Of Four – Entertainment! (1979)

This album added a new dimension to punk by bringing in elements from reggae and funk. Marxist politics never sounded quite as good. Best song: “At Home He‘s A Tourist”

51. The Meat Puppet – Meat Puppets II (1984)

As strange as it is great, with acid-skewed lyrical visions and technically stunning musicianship. Best song: “Plateau”

Top 100 Albums of All-Time: 70-61


70. John Cale – Paris 1919 (1973)

A complete departure from the noisy avant-garde you would have expected from him coming out of The Velvet Underground, but completely brilliant all the same. Rock at it’s most literary. Best song: “Hanky Panky Nohow”

69. The Wipers – Is This Real? (1980)

A hugely influential album for grunge bands, Is This Real was also probably the most musically accomplished album of the early-‘80s U.S. punk underground. Best song: “D-7”

68. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)

Each of Eno‘s four “vocal albums“ from the ‘70s could have made the list, but this one gets the nod for having the most adventurous sounds, including a typewriter solo. Best song: “China My China”

67. Nick Drake – Bryter Later (1970)

Drake’s second album featured his most ornate arrangements and instrumentation (including John Cale on a few tracks) which enhanced the beauty of his songs. Best song: “Fly”

66. Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription (1987)

Drugs. Best song: “Take Me To The Other Side”

65. Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde (1966)

Dylan at his peak, right before the motorcycle accident that forever changed him. Even the song titles on this album are better than most people’s lyrics. Best song: “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”

64. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

The most consistently interesting album from the Fab Four‘s later years…even with “Octopus’s Garden“. Best song: “Oh! Darling”

63. Ride – Nowhere (1990)

A powerful album of high-flying guitar acrobatics, thunderous rhythms and cool shoegaze atmospheres. Best song: “Vapour Trail”

62. Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970)

Ol’ Man Neil‘s potent mix of haunting acoustic songs and ragged rockers. Best song: “After The Gold Rush”

61. John Lennon – Imagine (1970)

You don‘t need me to tell you that Imagine is a great album. You already knew that. Best song: “Gimme Some Truth”