With the intriguing rise in vinyl sales, and YouTube’s ‘full album’ campaign, it seems time for a best ever list. I consider the Album, an hour or so of recorded music, to be the highest form of artistic expression; and while all things must pass, it seems that the public agree. These 35 albums stand here because of depth, fascination, listenability – everything that music should be, far from publicity campaigns, marketing strategies, profit margins, and ‘demographics’. Enjoy…
Slacker reinvigorates indie hip hop, with brilliantly danceable results.
Standout tracks: Hotwax, The New Pollution
Violent mysogynist goes it alone, as he always really was. White soul,
and White’s guitar and piano, at it’s best.
Standout tracks: Take Me With You When You Go, Love Interrupted
English gentleman singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist finds the soul,
roots, and confessionals.
Standout tracks: This One’s For You, Born In The 70s
Insane hirsute Germans capture the sound of travel and
freedom through motorik beats and synthesizers.
Standout tracks: Isi, Seeland
New York so-self-conscious-it-hurts poseurs find the keyboards
and get edgily, and somehow beautifully, funky.
Standout tracks: Machu Picchu, Gratisfaction
New York so-self-conscious-it-hurts drug addicts somehow produce
debut of perfect songwriting, overseen by oppurtunistic graphic
designer Andy Warhol.
Standout tracks: Candy Says, Pale Blue Eyes
Gibby Haynes teaches musicians how to steal, appropriate, and offend
at the same time.
Standout tracks: Sweat Loaf, Kuntz
Joyous magpying debut from antipodean control-freak Kevin Parker,
tuneful and energising.
Standout tracks: I Don’t Really Mind, It Is Now Meant To Be
Former Roxy Music keyboardist and soundmeister goes solo,
shouldn’t really sing but conjures up a mesmerising art rock
Standout tracks: Dead Finks Don’t Talk, On Some Faraway Beach
US psychedelic disco duo, compelling in psychedelia and successful
in disco, confidently embracing the world with help at the desk
from The Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann.
Standout tracks: Weekend Wars, The Youth
Delicate and sensual sonic and songwriting debut mastery from Gallic duo.
Standout tracks: La Femme D’Argent, All I Need
West country female-of-madness gets uncompromisingly political on
the nature of war and the contemporary UK.
Standout tracks: The Words That Maketh Murder, The Last Living Rose
Post-hardcore DC folk Ian McKaye and Guy Picottio join forces to create
uncompromising, conscious, visceral, yet tuneful debut.
Standout tracks: Waiting Room, Suggestion
Ex-Velvet Underground violinist/soundman gives masterclass in
existential American/Welsh songwriting.
Standout tracks: Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend, Barracuda
Indie chaos-mongers get serious about critiquing nineties England.
Standout tracks: For Tomorrow, Oily Water
Angry hippy laments the environment, mankind’s inhumanity and
the end of the sixties on his most stately, yet earthy record.
Standout tracks: I Believe In You, Old Man
US alt.rock/country/indie kings and more especially their
acerbic frontman Jeff Tweedy make maybe the last note
in addictive, down-yet-up modern music.
Standout tracks: I’m The Man Who Loves You, Jesus Etc.
Art-pseuds and glam poseurs grab the horns and pretty much
invent postmodern British pop/R&B.
Standout tracks: Could It Happen To Me? End Of The Line
Ambitious Icelandic pixie waves goodbye to the Sugarcubes and rave
with a beguiling mish-mash of heartfelt songwriting, squelches and bleeps.
Standout tracks: Isobel, Army Of Me
Half an hour of perfect pop music as the guys find themselves more
confident around electronics.
Standout tracks: She Said, Got To Get You Into My Life
Istanbullian ex-death-metallers turned ska pop-punkers deliver an assured,
energising tour de force, whereafter their Turkish major record label
goes down for copyright infringment.
Standout tracks: Bak Takılmana, Öpücük
Handome offspring of visionary-yet-obscure 60s folkie has a few too many
bottles of wine, then goes for a swim in the Mississipi… but leaves this
sepulchral, other-worldly recording behind.
Standout tracks: Last Goodbye; Lover, You Should Have Come Over
Recorded with David Bowie while co-habiting in Berlin, ‘The Idiot’
contains the finest sensibilities of both artists, helped along by
comparatively unsung sonic genius Tony Visconti.
Standout tracks: Dum Dum Boys, Mass Production
‘Purple Rain’ may be the money-spinner, and ‘Sign O’ The Times’
a justified critics favourite, but it’s on ‘Lovesexy’ where Prince
really goes crazy, as psychedelic, freeform, and naturally as only he can.
Standout tracks: Anna Stesia, Alphabet St.
David Byrne and co at their most insistent, oblique, and fascinating,
as rhythms, chord-changes and lyrical ideas collide to form an
Standout tracks: Drugs, Heaven
The old sea dog comes up with a concept album concerning
the highs and lows of the life of Frank Sinatra, containing Waits’
most engaging performances – truly funky here, and desolate there.
Standout tracks: Hang On St Christopher, Temptation
Discredited they may now be, but Peter Gabriel’s swansong with his
old band was this immersively powerful, absorbing story of
desperation and insanity in New York.
Standout tracks: Carpet Crawlers, Back In N.Y.C.
Eric Clapton is now as disregarded as the aforementioned Genesis,
but before he turned into a cliche, he had a hand in making this,
a masterpiece of sleazy, sensual 60s guitar R&B.
Standout tracks: Strange Brew, World Of Pain
Noel Scott Engel had been a teenage star with The Walker Brothers,
before turning his back on the media and eventually making this
gorgeous statement. An otherworldly dream from beginning to end,
we await Justin Bieber’s artistic rebirth with anticipation.
Standout tracks: The Old Man’s Back Again, Boy Child
6. Kate Bush – ‘The Kick Inside’ (1978)
Standout tracks: The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Wuthering Heights
The righteous ire of Martin Luther King Jr and Louis Farrakhan
filtered through the no less incendiary delivery of Chuck D,
sonically manipulated with total authority by DJ Terminator X.
Standout tracks: Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos, Don’t Believe The Hype
There was more to edgy New York guitar music before The Strokes.
Along with Talking Heads, Blondie, Ramones and MC5, Television
made NY immediate in rock again at the end of the seventies, and this
complex and engrossing debut is far beyond any ‘punk’ expectations
Standout tracks: Elevation, Marquee Moon
At the peak of their multifaceted path, this double album at last takes the classic
Cure line up, approves them, lets them contribute songs, and records live.
Robert Smith is still omnipresent, but now emboldened as the web expands
around him, truly exploiting the band’s love for the exotic so often ignored
in appreciation of the band.
Standout tracks: If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, Catch
Subsisting on cocaine and reading George Orwell and Aldous Huxley
in his north London townhouse, Bowie left Aladdin Sane behind and
near single-handedly recorded this kaleidoscopic dystopia of a future
Britain. An authoritative, encapsulating experience from beginning to end.
Standout tracks: Big Brother/Chant Of The Ever-Circling Skeletal Family;
Ringleader/frontman Wayne Coyne and musical genius Steve Drozd finally
mustered their incredible potential on this pre-millenial statement; a fuller,
sadder, more complete piece of work never before heard. From it’s cinematic
beginning to resigned end, the battle between science, man and love is explored
and torn apart, leaving the listener loved, confused, and finally satisfied.
Standout tracks: What Is The Light? A Spoonful Weighs A Ton