Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by babyBlueSedan (2020)

My favorite albums, or "The 100 albums I'd keep if iTunes had a capacity of 100 albums."

The theme of this update, as with the past couple, is upheaval. Every time I update this I claim to be moving new favorite up higher while still stubbornly putting albums I used to love but never listen to anymore near the top. I won't know for sure if I've been more successful this time around until I update this again. But I hope that this current iteration shook things up a bit and added a bit more variety, even if that variety is in the form of albums most people have heard of. I've tried to include as many artists and genres where possible, partially because I want to appear more interesting than I actually am, but in the end this is still very rock and pop oriented. In particular, this iteration makes obvious my current love of plaintive folk/singer-songwriter stuff.

I've also relaxed my artist limits just a bit to highlight the artists I really love, but I still couldn't include everything I wanted because spots are so limited. In some cases I decided what to include based on what I wanted to write about. I recommend checking out my decade charts for more deep cuts.

Also, I appreciate all the kind and generous comments - they're my main motivation for updating this every couple years or so.

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Like walking down a long dirt road. You work at a consulting firm in New York but secretly wish you lived in a small town in the rural Midwest

The inspiration for that summary came from a camping trip I took the summer I discovered this album. I took a few days off from my technology-focused job and went camping up north for a long weekend. As we drove around, I threw the Country genre from my iPod on shuffle because I thought it would fit the scenery, and at the time that included this album (lol). There are a lot of songs I associate with that trip years later, from Lucinda Williams to Sturgill Simpson, but this album might have the biggest association. While I enjoyed my job, it was draining to spend that much time in front of a computer, and being in a small town surrounded by people who spent much of their days outside, who lived on the shore of a Great Lake and were only minutes away from being on or in the lake at any moment, filled me with a bit of jealousy.

There's an irony here of course, as The Magnolia Electric Co is not an album about wanting to go back to your roots or find solace in rural life. It's the opposite. Jason Molina's discography around this time period is filled with songs informed by the life and hardships of the Rust Belt, and it's on "Almost Was Good Enough" that this becomes most explicit. In his mournful, barrel-aged voice that sounds like it could be coming out of that old bird on the album cover, he half sings / half scoffs, "Did you really believe that everyone makes it out? Almost no one makes it out." This then isn't an album about connecting with the nature and industry that helped birth you - it's about feel consumed by it, about being surrounded by past reminders of things you've done with no way to move on because you're tied to a single place. But I guess as long as you can relate to that - to wanting to become someone different, someone better - this album will have a lot to relate to regardless of whether you're moving in or against the direction Molina intended.

After all, there's enough here that's left open to interpretation. Molina isn't the kind of songwriter to tie an idea directly to a place or a time. Instead, he fills them with familiar references, stringing together ideas to paint a picture. Some of his favorite tropes make appearances here, such as birds ("I'll streak his blood across my beak. Dust my feathers with his ash"), ghosts ("I was riding with the ghost" / "A tall shadow dressed the way secrets always dress when they want everyone to know that they're around"), and the full moon ("Beneath this full moon heart"). Molina also always had a fascination with American history, particularly the civil war, and American folk tales make an appearance here as well with the references to John Henry; this one bridges eras together as Molina begs Henry to break his heart and "Swing the heaviest hammer you got, knock this one out of the park," therefore connecting legends of one era with America's past time of the modern age (and I doubt this was intentional, but baseball, particularly the Negro Leagues, was known for spawning legends the size of John Henry - look up Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, or Cool Papa Bell and you'll find any number of legends that rival that of John Henry). These are all fairly broad, or at least commonly used, images, but somehow they speak to something specific, something universal.

It was silly of me to label this "country" back in the day, but it's undoubtedly connected to the folk and country tradition of American music. On the bonus track "The Big Game is Every Night," Molina sings about Hank Williams passing the American music torch to Bob Dylan, who you can only assume passed it to Neil Young and then perhaps directly to Molina, as Neil Young is the easiest comp for the music here. The band's live albums in particular are very indebted to Crazy Horse, and songs like the opener have that feel of a moderately paced rocker that still sounds best when lying spread eagle on the floor. "Riding with the Ghost" is the closest thing to a rocker here, and on the other end of the spectrum you have the nearly slowcore "Peoria Lunchbox Blues," which is the weakest song but has indispensable vocals from Scout Niblett. And of course there's the centerpiece, "Old Black Hen," which features some classic country twang, husky vocals from Lawrence Peters (I love Molina's voice and the fact that he doesn't sing on two songs on this album, and it's better for it, is really something), and lyrics that could make this a classic country tune about the blues. The climax comes near the end of "John Henry," as Molina wails "Boy what you gonna do with your heart in two?" and the song morphs in the outro from "Farewell Transmission." In that way the closer, "Hold On Magnolia," is the comedown, a weary song about feeling like your time is up but being oddly content about it. I don't have any tattoos, but if I ever decide to get one it will be of the owl on this cover. If there was room, which there wouldn't be because they're too lengthy, I'd include a line from this song. There are plenty to choose from:

"Hold on, Magnolia to that great highway moon. No one has to be that strong, but if you're stubborn like me I know what you're trying to be."

"Hold on, Magnolia, I know what a true friend you've been. In my life I have had my doubts, but tonight I think I've worked it out with all of them."

"Hold on, Magnolia, I hear that station bell ring. You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me."

I could quote this album for hours. I haven't even mentioned "Just Be Simple," where the first verse + chorus is one of the highlights of the album. Or pointed out that the opening track seals the fate of the album by being named "Farewell Transmission." Or said how "Almost Was Good Enough" speaks for itself. Or commented on Steve Albini's crisp production, or how the album was recorded in his basement with guitars from his early noise rock days. Or how "Farewell Transmission" was recorded in a single take with no rehearsal. It's as if the album was meant to be, a feeling that was floating in the air over an old Lake Erie factory and was finally inhaled and then exhaled again by the man who I really believe is the best songwriter of all time.
[First added to this chart: 10/06/2018]
Year of Release:
2003
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Rank Score:
2,312
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Like walking through a new subdivision that stands where a park used to be

You know what's great about Modest Mouse? You'll be listening to a song and you'll hear lyrics that you swear you've heard before. You get chills and wonder if you're crazy. Then you listen some more and you realize that it's Isaac Brock who's bat-shit crazy, not you, but you have to be at least a little insane to empathize with him. And you have heard those lyrics before (about ships sinking, cars driving, land being paved, and "the thin air"), and the whole thing is just one big loop of insanity. And this album is all about that, a mournful look at the old west seen through the eyes of someone who spent just enough time in it to not be able to be sure why he misses it.

Any conversation I have about Modest Mouse will always begin and end by talking about Isaac Brock's lyrics, and I believe this album was his lyrical peak (Moon and Antarctica isn't far behind though of course). Brock has a knack for writing songs that seem really general or obtuse and then injecting one or two lines that just really hit hard. Take the opener: the verses are pretty abstract, forcing to listener to make up their own meaning in some cases. And then the chorus (or slower bit, this is hardly a verse-chorus-verse song) hits, and Brock mentions malls and Orange Julius and seriously, who can't relate to that? Teeth like God's shoeshine is such amazing imagery, and then comes "And the telephone goes off. Pick the receiver up try to meet ends and find out the beginnning, the end, and the best of it...." This line always catches me off guard - him trailing off as he realizes he no longer has anything in common with an old friend is such a striking statement of finality. And just like that the song makes sense...kind of.

I could go on for days about the lyrics, but this album's other strength is the sprawling, country feel it has and the loose songwriting. "Trucker's Atlas" has an extended outro that sounds amazing at first but goes on about four minutes too long, though that feeling of exhaustion is surely meant to mirror the lyrics about driving three days from Alaska to Florida. It's harder to find a verse/chorus/verse song here than to find one that ignores the pattern entirely; "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" eschews conventions entirely while "Doin the Cockroach" opens with a fairly standard sound and then quickly speeds through four different verse structures in a row. "Lounge (Closing Time)" is the highlight from a writing perspective, as it has four different songs crammed inside, and I'm not sure why is my favorite. It opens frantically, with one of the greatest guitar riffs ever put down by indie rockers. Then it stops on a dime, with Brock whispering sweetly about his girlfriend outside the city who's very pretty. From there the song slows down, stretching out as all three instruments maintain their own rhythm. Slowly they fuse together, and the moment the guitar gets in sync with the drums as the drums increase in volume is the clear highlight of the track. After that the song slows down and loses form, like water breaking out of a dam, and the band reprises not one, but two, past songs: both "Lounge" and "Heart Cooks Brain." In the middle of the album is what is probably the greatest three song stretch on an album ever in "Doin' the Cockrach" -> "Cowboy Dan" -> "Trailer Trash." And then there's the closer, which starts out as a folk song and then morphs into a drum driven track as it repeats into glorious infinity.

One more note on that last song - I never realized until recently that the guy in heaven who "looks a bit like everyone I ever seen" is God. It's a great line and I thought it just meant the guy was nondescript, but I think it's supposed to be God because we're all supposed to look like him. It made an already awesome song about an atheist going to heaven and baking manna, somehow, even better.
[First added to this chart: 08/04/2013]
Year of Release:
1997
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Rank Score:
10,580
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Like walking past a guy in a fedora with a guitar and stopping in your tracks because you realize this one actually has something to say

Stephin Merritt has made it clear that this album is not about love; rather it's about love songs. Now that seems like splitting hairs, but I think what he's getting at is a clarification about how this album was written. It wasn't written about anyone, but instead written as a way to pick apart the different ways we write about love. The lyrics are non-specific - they could refer to anyone or anything, any gender or any race, any age or any time (though there's one that's pretty clearly about gay cowboys). Some of the songs sound very sincere (Blue You), while others do not (Zebra). There is irony (Meaningless) and loneliness (Acoustic Guitar) and despair (No One Will Ever Love You) and pure goddamn ridiculousness (Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits). But if Merritt is to be believed, it's all a farce.

Sometime I wonder, as I'm singing along teary eyed to "Luckiest Guy On the Lower East Side," whether I'm a fool for feeling so emotional while listening to this. Did Merritt write these songs with the analytical precision of a scientist, picking apart pieces of other songs to concoct a statement on the current state of love songs? The majority of these songs can be compared to other famous love songs, at least in terms of theme. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" is an emo song about not wanting to forget about someone even though you know you can't have them. "I'm Sorry I Love You" is a 50's pop song about wishing your love hadn't inconvenienced someone. "Yeah! Oh Yeah!" is a murder ballad. In some cases I can think of specific songs that are comparable to these songs. I wonder, as I listen to Merritt sing "I don't know if you are beautiful, for I love you too much" on "Asleep and Dreaming," whether I'd get laughed at for thinking it's the most beautiful line ever written. Or whether someone would hear the word "unboyfriendable" on "All My Little Words" and use it as ammunition as to why this album is meaningless. Sometimes I do.

But then I listen to the work put into it. To all the stunning metaphors on "Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin." To Merritt moaning "Some fall in love...I Shatter." To the great variety of instruments, including songs carried by banjo and violin and accordion and who knows what else. To "If I was the Grand Canyon I'd echo every word you say. But I'm me, I'm just me, and you used to love me that way." And I realize that there's way too much work put into this album for it to be nothing but mimicry. Yes, there are 69 songs, the album is really long, I don't really need to mention that. But there is so much thought, so much care. Sure, a lot of it is silly. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" has the laughable moment where Merritt suggests dressing in black and reading Camus as a way to cope with lost love. But love is ridiculous! Love isn't just serious, it's nonsensical and unpredictable too. And that song manages to be really affecting despite the obviously tongue-in-cheek lyrics. And that helps to uncover the true heart of this album; by reflecting on how we react to love, we invariably end up talking about love. You can't write a line like "I always say I love you when I mean 'turn out the light'" with no specific experience in mind. And you can't end a song called "The Way You Say Goodnight" with the line "oh I could write a song about the way you say goodnight" without caring just a little. Man, sometimes Merritt is just too clever for his own good.
[First added to this chart: 06/18/2014]
Year of Release:
1999
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Rank Score:
4,966
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Like walking through an empty city, thinking about your high school and college friends

At the risk of stealing the idea for this summary from a review I read on Rate Your Music, this album perfectly conveys the idea of "post college angst." Emo has become a pretty widely derided genre, but this is probably because most people who hear the word "emo" think of Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance instead of Rites of Spring, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Cap'n Jazz. There is a value to the kind of immature angst conveyed in this type of emo music, because whether or not we can still relate to it, it's still something everyone goes through growing up. But what Emergency & I does is go beyond the normal sexual frustration and feelings of hopelessness and ventures into a much more mature rumination on what it means to grow up and still have these emotions.

There's such a wide range of themes on this album that it still sometimes shocks me when I listen to it. The hopefulness of songs like A Life of Possibilities and You Are Invited contrasts perfectly with the pessimism of songs like Gyroscope and What Do You Want Me To Say. The Jitters and Spider in the Snow are the easiest for me to relate to, as a recent college grad who misses everything about living close to the friends I made during my time at school. Memory Machine seems to be about a simple wish to be able to forget the bad moments of life, but whenever I hear it I can't help but think about how nostalgia frames everything that happened in the past (even the bad memories) as enjoyable. The album predictably touches on the desire for sex as well, but does so in a very mature way (which is masked as being immature). Not content to stay outside the realm of science fiction, the album veers into a fairly depressing tale in 8 1/2 minutes about the sun going out and everyone having 8 1/2 minutes to reconcile with people before they freeze (I think that's what it's about anyway). It's like Bowie's Five Years, but more frantic. And of course The City wraps everything together with a nice bow. (Obligatory mention of Back and Forth which isn't even close to my favorite on the album but is a fantastic closer, and which has more words packed into it than I could ever hope to decipher even on repeated listens.)

As far as instrumentation goes, I hardly know what to call it. I labeled it as Post Hardcore in my iTunes library, but there are definite punk and indie rock influences as well. The vocals might be, in my opinion, the best on any album ever. And it all combines to sound like something you swear you've heard before but becomes more unique every time you hear it.
[First added to this chart: 05/05/2015]
Year of Release:
1999
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Rank Score:
5,497
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Like walking back into your home town after having your life irreparably changed

I've only been keeping up to date with new music for a few years now, and in that time there's only been one album I've heard and known will be a classic in years to come. I'm not talking about that I know I'll listen to for years to come: those albums aren't hard to find. But in fifty years, there's only one album released in 2015 I've heard that I know people will still be talking about. And it's this one.

How was that for a cliche opening paragraph? I worked really hard on it. It's hard to write about albums that are universally beloved, because it feels like there's nothing new to say about them. But in this case it really is true. I remember hearing King Kunta and i before this album dropped and wondering "will this album be bad?" It was something I was legitimately worried about. I just realized I'm not actually talking about the music here at all. But come one, you've heard this album right? If not, pause your ELO album and give it a listen.

This is a special album because it manages to spin a very personal story out of something that is a very widespread problem. Of course I'm talking mostly about racism, but beneath that there is tons to relate to here. The feeling of moving away from home. Depression. Falling out of touch with friends. The anger comes out on tracks like Blacker The Berry and Complexion, but there's a lot of human emotion throughout that isn't directly related to race. That's still my main takeaway from the album, especially considering when it was released, but there's so much more to it than that.

And musically, it sees Kendrick finding one thing he's always lacked: a musical identity. The production on his records has always been rather scattered, at least to the point where he didn't have one style. Which is good - I like varied production - but it also meant that the focus was always heavily on his lyrics. Here he's found a crazy combination of soul, jazz, funk, and rock, and it really suits him.
[First added to this chart: 06/13/2015]
Year of Release:
2015
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Rank Score:
40,651
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Like walking along a beach with your girlfriend who you've been with since high school after she just had a miscarriage

Most of the narratives surrounding this album are stupid. Or at the very least, inessential to enjoying or understanding it. Anne Frank? Yes, there are lyrics that are probably about her (the years can't just be a coincidence). And yes, there is talk about "burying her body with others" and "sav[ing] her in some sort of time machine." But if you didn't know who Anne Frank was this album would still be incredible. The other narratives are generally around this being a pretty clichéd pick for "best underground indie album eva", which is unfortunate because this really is a great hidden treasure that, outside of all that context, is still great.

How do I know? Well, the first time I heard it all I knew was that it was listed on some sites as a great album. And the cover was neat, so I listened to it. And...I've never had a case of "love at first listen" as powerful, before or since. By the time Oh Comely hit I knew this was my favorite album. I listened to it several days in a row. Two Headed Boy became my go to jam. I wrote lyrics in my notebooks when I was bored. I jokingly said that my dream girl had to be able to name all 11 tracks on this album (provided my dream girl hadn't already slit her wrists). This album became my one true love.

Why? It wasn't the simple yet beautiful guitars. There's nothing like simple songs without much to them, but anyone can write songs that repeat the same chords over and over again. It wasn't the variety of instruments, though I had never heard an album with a singing saw before. And I like bagpipes a lot too. And it wasn't the perfect amount of fuzz that permeates the entire album. The lo-fi recording does help to give it that old timey, penny arcade vibe though.

No, the thing that really got me was Jeff Mangum delivering lyrics that sadden and enlighten at once, and the fact that he did it in the most carefree voice I'd ever heard. He's not a great singer, by any means. I do enjoy his voice because I like high-pitched, atonal sounds, but most people would probably be turned off by him. But he doesn't care, which is great. He holds nothing back, hollering at the top of his lungs about God knows what. There's a lot of nonsense on this album; there are mentions of radio wires and Christmas trees and Jesus Christ and all sorts of things that have no congruence to anything else on the album. But every once in a while, Mangum drops a line that is unforgettable:

"And how I remember you, how I would push my fingers through your mouth to make those muscles move."

"And in room one afternoon I knew that I could love you, and from above you how I sank into your soul, into that sacred place where no one dares to go"

And that's where the magic comes from: the fact that within so much chaos, imperfection, and brashness there are touches of real beauty. And semen.
[First added to this chart: 08/04/2013]
Year of Release:
1998
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Rank Score:
54,806
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Like walking past a group of people yelling insults as you go to tell your significant other you cheated on them before they hear it from someone else

In 2015 Kanye West said he was the biggest rock star on the planet. Lots of old people scoffed at this statement since, spoiler alert, Kanye makes hip hop music. But in 2015, and really for many of the years before that, was there a bigger name in music than West? Did anybody inspire as much of a reaction from fans and haters alike than him? The answer is "probably not, I guess", which shows that West was right. He's not a rock star in the sense that he makes awesome rock music, but in the sense that he's a larger than life musician who manages to wedge his way into pop culture and every day conversation. Would the Foo Fighters ever come up in a conversation with your grandparents? Would the Black Keys ever the subject of a story on CNN? Nope, and that's why Kanye is the biggest. (admittedly, Adele, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé come close but shhhhhhhh)

And this album is West's masterpiece simply because it's larger than life. This album embodies West's personality more than any other. It's brash, overblown, foul-mouthed, and arrogant, just like him. But it's also repentant and self-conscious...just like him. If I'm trying to get a Kanye hater to like one of his songs, I'd probably use Jesus Walks, Never Let Me Down, Hey Mama, or Everything I Am. But to get the true Kanye experience, you need to hear this. Or at least Runaway.

The narrative of this album is shaky at best. It starts off arrogant (Dark Fantasy) and bull-headed (Gorgeous). This culminates in Power, which also shows the first chink in Kanye's armor ("well this could be a beautiful death"). This trend continues to Monster but then shifts rather abruptly into the regretful So Appalled, which seems a liiiitle insincere, but does manage to combine the earlier boldness with the idea that this lifestyle isn't completely fulfilling. From there on out the album treads into the "fallen hero" phase, with Kanye lamenting his actions. It's an imperfect sequence - it's hard to feel sorry for him in a lot of cases, and songs like Hell Of A Life only work if you're completely sold by the narrative, which new listeners often are not.

But the tricky thing is that although Kanye does lament his arrogance, it's that arrogance that makes this album possible. How many other artists would have the confidence that they could make this album? Who else could combine King Crimson samples, a Chris Rock skit, a Gil-Scott Heron outro, and features from Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj into something that somehow gels perfectly to become greater than the sum of its parts? No one, that's who. And Kanye manages to bring the best out in everyone he works with.

Musically, the album is full to bursting with ideas. There are samples and sounds everywhere. The word maximalist always seemed sort of odd to me, but that really is what this album is. Every second is packed with something, whether it's an autotuned Justin Vernon sample, a tacked-on guest verse, or a weird voice box outro. Kanye sings along to one of the samples. RZA shows up to yell a couple lines. Kanye brags about putting an Egyptian ruler's vagina inside of their burial chamber. Everything that can happen happens on this album.

And I can see where that would turn people off. But I find it incredibly impressive that an album this packed with ideas, influences, and sounds works.
[First added to this chart: 12/06/2013]
Year of Release:
2010
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Rank Score:
32,795
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Like walking through the astral plane with a CB radio set to scan

As calculated as this album is, as methodical as every guitar prick and drum beat is, this album still feels incredibly human and effortless. The soft-buildup-crescendo-loud dynamic is fairly formulaic, but it works here because of how they pull them off. In Sleep it's not just a buildup, or a crescendo, but a smorgasbord of horns and all kinds of instruments. It's the beginning of the journey, the sending-off party. In Static things threaten to explode...and they don't. Even after three or four listens I still expected the guitars to get loud at this one point. This is a few months into the journey, where we're deep into the unknown. By the time the final movement roles around it's as if Godspeed know we're onto them; after several minutes of droning and near silence, the music just gets louder, no buildup, no warning. At this point our journeyers are lost and have gone mad in the wilderness.

Some might complain that the spoken word parts and interludes seem pretty random or incongruent, and they'd be right. But why does that matter? You're in a desert of noise, you start to hear voices, and what do they say? They tell you not trust the people offering to wash your windows. There's such a sense of mystery there that it really draws you in. The second spoken word part is genius - as you hear the speaker say "and when you see the face of God you will die" chills run down your spine, no matter how the music previously made you feel. It makes you uneasy - this might be the first time you realize something isn't quite right. Sometimes when bands throw in spoken parts they seems like they're trying too hard to shock you *cough* Swans *cough*. In this case you're flying through an ocean of noise, trying to get back to reality, but all you can catch are little glimpses of people's thoughts as you fly by.

I hate the word epic, because this is not striving to be grand or entrancing, it's striving to make you feel.
[First added to this chart: 09/19/2013]
Year of Release:
2000
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Rank Score:
18,634
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Like walking through a construction site listening to a pop album through one shitty earbud

What kind of album is this? What's its genre? Well, a quick look at a few places will tell you this is a "lo-fi indie" album. But that's not a genre, is it? Lo-fi recording is a production technique, not a writing technique. Let's pretend for a minute that this wasn't recorded on a four-track recorder and instead had a moderate studio budget. What would this album be then? Well, I think it would be a pop album, and a very good one at that. "Gold Star For Robot Boy" and "The Queen of Cans and Jars" could be classic power pop tracks. "Mincer Ray" is a sweet indie pop song. "Awful Bliss" is a slow ballad for the climax of a rom-con. These are probably the four poppiest songs on the album, but the rest of the album is scattered with great pop hooks as well. Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout prove themselves here to be masterful songwriters. And I think that's the biggest thing that makes this album endlessly listenable.

Is that what people talk about when this album is brought up though? No, it's the production. So let's answer a crucial question: is this album better because of the production? Yes, a hundred times yes. So the narrative isn't misguided, just incomplete. If you've never given this album a chance, give opener "Hardcore UFOs" a spin. There are so many things that make this song great. Those immediate alt-rock guitars. The way the verse and chorus both immediately hook you. But then, in the second half, it happens. The guitar completely cuts out for a moment. Is it intentional? I have no idea, but even if not I think it really makes the song. There's something about the combination of great pop melodies and poor recording quality that really makes this album gel, as if you're listening to some lost gem that an unknown band that should have been huge recorded. These kinds of moments are all over the album. "Ester's Day" starts as a weird synthy track before melting into an absolutely beautiful ballad. "A Big Fan of the Pigpen" segues from over-the-top "ba-ba-bas" to a noisy, chaotic outro.

The production also makes this album feel really loose, as if the band is just playing around and experimenting. The experiments don't always work; "Her Psychology Today" feels undercooked, as do a few of the very short tracks. But that almost makes the album better, as it shows its flaws for the world to see. If nothing else, it adds to the chaos that the fuzzy recording and silly lyrics provide. This is a loose album, never meant to be taken seriously. Well, at least I think. Most of these songs seem like nonsense, but there are moments of sanity as well if you choose to look for them. Is "Kicker of Elves" a song about kicking mythical creatures or a commentary on how we pick on the smaller among us? Probably the former. But is "Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" about an acid trip or how we fall out of touch with people we used to know? Probably the latter. Sometimes the line blurs too much for us to be able to tell though. Is "I Am a Scientist" about using drugs to understand the world or about human beings trying to learn too much? Not sure about that one...
[First added to this chart: 08/09/2013]
Year of Release:
1994
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Rank Score:
4,070
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Like walking down the street on a windy day in autumn, taking the long way to work to avoid seeing your ex

Just from the title of this album, you can probably tell it's a break-up album. But here's the thing: it's not. Sure, there are songs about break ups on here, but they're actually some of the more joyous songs, at least comparatively. No, this album is about Leaving. What does Leaving mean, you ask? Well, it might mean Leaving a room. Or a relationship. Or it may mean dying, maybe by your own hand. But we'll get to that.

I've recently gotten more into the slowcore genre, and I don't want to get all hyperbolic here or anything, but this is the best slowcore album I've heard. And it's not particularly close. I'm skeptical whether this even qualifies as slowcore, since it's not really slow-paced as much as it is quiet and deliberate. It doesn't plod along like a Low or Bedhead album, but the vocals are typically whispered and don't have much energy. What really makes it stand out from other slowcore though is the violin, which appears on every track and is really the foundation of the music here. The result of this, besides making the songs more beautiful, is that it makes the songs sound really peaceful and comforting. There are some albums with lyrical content that I listen to when I'm feeling down, and this is one of them. But this is one of the few albums that actually makes me feel better instead of helping me to wallow. The music feels like a hug that's telling me everything will be alright.

Which is funny, because the lyrics do not. I could go in depth on every one of these songs, but I won't because it would take forever. But I need to touch on a few things. Like I said earlier, the break-up songs are the least heavy songs here, even though they contain lyrics like "I hope that nothing will ever remind you of me." This might be because they're from the perspective of the person doing the breaking up, whether this be because of a toxic relationship ("Sophisticated Fuck Princess") or realizing that the other person deserves better ("September"). Though this makes sense; this is Songs About Leaving, not Song About Being Made to Leave. The same applies to death; there are a few songs that feel like they could be about natural death, including the closer. But when you hear "I might be leaving soon" on "So You Wanna Be a Superhero," you get the idea that the leaving might be permanent. Mostly because of the whole thing earlier in the song with:

"It's 5am I've got no sleep at all
Just thoughts of how I might struggle through tomorrow"

And the title of "They'll Only Miss You When You Leave" kind of speaks for itself. Thankfully the songs aren't always that dark, and sometime Leaving can even be a positive thing. "Farewell To All These Rotten Teeth" opens with a mournful repetition of "farewell..." that eventually expands into the title of the song. But of course here it's positive - shedding the broken parts of yourself in an effort to get better. Proving that there's always some light amidst the dark, so you shouldn't ever give up hope.
[First added to this chart: 05/29/2020]
Year of Release:
2002
Appears in:
Rank Score:
742
Rank in 2002:
Rank in 2000s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
Total albums: 100. Page 1 of 10

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums composition

Decade Albums %


1930s 0 0%
1940s 0 0%
1950s 0 0%
1960s 4 4%
1970s 9 9%
1980s 8 8%
1990s 23 23%
2000s 28 28%
2010s 28 28%
2020s 0 0%
Country Albums %


United States 79 79%
Canada 9 9%
United Kingdom 7 7%
Sweden 2 2%
Ireland 1 1%
Mixed Nationality 1 1%
Australia 1 1%
Compilation? Albums %
No 99 99%
Yes 1 1%

Top 100 Greatest Music Albums chart changes

Biggest climbers
Climber Up 44 from 79th to 35th
E•MO•TION
by Carly Rae Jepsen
Climber Up 35 from 45th to 10th
Songs About Leaving
by Carissa's Wierd
Climber Up 29 from 76th to 47th
The Glow Pt. 2
by The Microphones
Biggest fallers
Faller Down 32 from 57th to 89th
Dig Me Out
by Sleater-Kinney
Faller Down 29 from 26th to 55th
The Suburbs
by Arcade Fire
Faller Down 29 from 52nd to 81st
Crack The Skye
by Mastodon

Top 100 Greatest Music Albums similarity to your chart(s)


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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums ratings

Average Rating: 
93/100 (from 147 votes)
  Ratings distributionRatings distribution Average Rating = (n ÷ (n + m)) × av + (m ÷ (n + m)) × AV
where:
av = trimmed mean average rating an item has currently received.
n = number of ratings an item has currently received.
m = minimum number of ratings required for an item to appear in a 'top-rated' chart (currently 10).
AV = the site mean average rating.

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75/100
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07/01/2020 11:22 odetoviceroy98  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 32085/100
 
100/100
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06/29/2020 06:54 DJENNY  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 2,316100/100
 
90/100
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06/13/2020 01:11 Exist-en-ciel  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 1,34480/100
  
95/100
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04/06/2020 21:01 Spyglass  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 20386/100
  
100/100
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12/03/2019 09:48 kynes  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 2397/100

Rating metrics: Outliers can be removed when calculating a mean average to dampen the effects of ratings outside the normal distribution. This figure is provided as the trimmed mean. A high standard deviation can be legitimate, but can sometimes indicate 'gaming' is occurring. Consider a simplified example* of an item receiving ratings of 100, 50, & 0. The mean average rating would be 50. However, ratings of 55, 50 & 45 could also result in the same average. The second average might be more trusted because there is more consensus around a particular rating (a lower deviation).
(*In practice, some charts can have several thousand ratings)

This chart is rated in the top 1% of all charts on BestEverAlbums.com. This chart has a Bayesian average rating of 93.3/100, a mean average of 93.4/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 93.9/100. The standard deviation for this chart is 7.7.

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums comments

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Rating:  
95/100
From 04/06/2020 21:01
Good level of variety.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | 0 votes (0 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 10/28/2019 21:19
Any chart with this much time put into it is so cool to me
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
95/100
From 10/04/2019 19:23
These notes are so detailed and helpful for advocating your choices. You must really know how to listen to music and listen to it hard. Great albums, too.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 07/24/2019 00:02
Best Chart ever
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 07/23/2019 19:24
incredible. you have a different taste in music, but wow these descriptions are prime
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 07/23/2019 12:00
Is there a limit of how much inspiration, this chart can give?
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Rating:  
100/100
From 10/18/2018 04:05
Holy crap what a chart, have a bunch in common with me and a whole list of new ones to check out, i also loved your descriptions.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +2 votes (2 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 10/18/2018 01:19
This is one of the most amazing things I've ever read
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Rating:  
90/100
From 10/16/2018 23:43
Like walking through a collection of some really good albums. Seriously though, glad to see some love for Dismemberment Plan and Modest Mouse.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
90/100
From 10/16/2018 20:07
+5 for this chart, I am sure it has improved a lot since I visited it. You clearly have a vast knowledge of albums and the chart is very well written. I love your comments for On the Beach, which is also my favourite Neil Young album.
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Best Artists of the 1990s
1. Radiohead
2. Nirvana
3. Neutral Milk Hotel
4. The Smashing Pumpkins
5. Oasis
6. My Bloody Valentine
7. Pearl Jam
8. Weezer
9. R.E.M.
10. Richard David James
11. Björk
12. Pavement
13. Jeff Buckley
14. Blur
15. Sigur Rós
16. Red Hot Chili Peppers
17. Portishead
18. Nas
19. Elliott Smith
20. Belle And Sebastian
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