Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by buzzdainer (2020)

There are so many ways to make a "100 Greatest Albums" list. What do we mean, after all, by "greatest"? Do we mean most important? Most popular? Most influential? I'd end up with very different lists for each of those questions. What I've done is select the albums that are most meaningful to me personally, the ones I keep wanting to hear time and time again. These are the albums that have fed my soul in some way, often riding in the car or spacing out on my bed. My tastes lean toward Americana, but you'll see multiple genres represented here. In general, I prefer sincerity over sarcasm, earnestness over cynicism, sentiment over cleverness, and subtlety over bombast (though I'm sure you'll see exceptions). I've included no more than one album by any primary artist, which is an accurate reflection of my tastes: I like to listen to many different artists as opposed to concentrating on only a few. That's the college DJ in me coming out, I suppose. I invite your feedback and (especially) your music recommendations. Enjoy!

As difficult as it is to rank albums, it's probably even more difficult to rate other people's charts. Really, it all comes down to taste, which is subjective, or at least a product of our own individual listening experiences, preferences, biases, phobias, and desires. If you like the Cramps and I don't, who's to say who's correct? As Public Image Ltd. put it so many years ago, "I could be right; I could be wrong." Originally I tried to evaluate the quality of the albums on user charts, but I have learned that doing so was basically impossible. Now it seems to me that charts that are lovingly created, and with a sense of some depth and breadth of knowledge, are, by definition, good. I don't use my ratings and comments to try to police other people's tastes, but instead to seek common ground and spark conversation.

There are 109 comments for this chart from BestEverAlbums.com members and Top 100 Greatest Music Albums has an average rating of 91.0011978149414 out of 100 (from 109 votes). Please log in or register to leave a comment or assign a rating.

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In the spring of 1994, a group of friends and I followed Uncle Tupelo around New England on what turned out to be their final tour, in support of this outstanding album. They were playing small venues then; one friend from that tour recently reminded me, for instance, of Club Babyhead, a bizarre venue in Providence, Rhode Island, that had on its men's room wall a mural of some sort of pseudo-psychedelic imagery involving all manner of demonic, disturbing, devilish-looking eyes. But I suppose that's part of the fun of the small venue circuit. By the second show, the band recognized us, gave us comp tickets, and invited us to join them on their tour bus to play Sega hockey with them after the shows. We were treated like family. Every time I hear this terrific album, the crowning achievement of the alt-country genre, I'm grateful to have shared a few moments of the great musical odyssey that was Uncle Tupelo, before Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar went their separate ways to form Wilco and Son Volt, respectively. "Chickamauga" is a searing rocker that showcases Jay Farrar's talents as songwriter and lead guitarist, and is probably the most thoroughly self-aware band breakup song that I've ever heard. [First added to this chart: 09/25/2013]
Year of Release:
1993
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949
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Recently I was part of a conversation with some friends about the career trajectory of Buffalo Tom. Among my friends in college, it was undisputed conventional wisdom at the time that Buffalo Tom's first two albums, their self-titled debut and Birdbrain, are alternative-rock classics. The album where we began to split is Let Me Come Over. Some missed the raw, imperfect production of the first two albums, whereas others liked the slicker production of the new album. By the time Big Red Letter Day came out, most of my friends had moved on, rolling their eyes at the band's "selling out." I have always been in the camp that thinks Let Me Come Over is the band's high point: a loud, guitar-driven, three-chord rock album with some surprisingly tender moments layered into the album's overall arc. For me the clean production is a sign of the band's increasing maturity and development, and I for one welcome the change from the band's fuzzier early sound. Any discussion about this album has to begin with the driving rocker "Velvet Roof," which was about as close to a hit single Buffalo Tom ever came. A great, emotional statement from one of the best bands of the Northampton scene of the early nineties. [First added to this chart: 12/14/2018]
Year of Release:
1992
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465
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My favorite album by Josh Ritter, the artist I've listened to more than any other over the past fifteen years or so, who writes meticulously crafted lyrics within his relatively traditional, organ- and guitar-centric, Dylan-inspired folk Americana. These songs evoke beautifully the rolling agricultural landscapes of Ritter's native western Idaho, a place I first visited in 1997 when I helped my sister move from Boulder, Colorado, to Moscow, Idaho (Ritter's hometown), to start graduate school. Hello Starling is chock full of stories and mythologies unique to Ritter's tunnel-blasting, lentil-growing, West-winning oeuvre. The romantic "Kathleen" is the highlight here, with one of the all-time greatest musical pickup lines: "All the other girls here are stars; you are the Northern Lights." [First added to this chart: 04/28/2015]
Year of Release:
2003
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150
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The Silver Gymnasium is a criminally underrated record, one that gets overshadowed when we talk about Okkervil River because they're recorded so many great albums in such a short time. I understand, though, that not all listeners will identify with it as much as I do. These are Will Sheff's stories of growing up in a small New England town, an experience that resonates for me, having grown up in the next state over. The stories are unsettling, with hints of violence and darkness always lurking just around the corner, as in these lyrics from "Down Down the Deep River": "We lie awake at night in a tent and I say / Tell me about your uncle and his friend / Because they seem like very bad men / Well we'll want to keep away from them." Haunting. This feels like a thematic step toward a Will Sheff solo album, although the sound of the band as a whole has never sounded more full. [First added to this chart: 09/25/2013]
Year of Release:
2013
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231
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This album is the loud, swampy, in-your-face high-water mark for great Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers. Unlike their spiritual forebears Lynyrd Skynyrd, who have at times been naïve and reactionary in their uncritical depiction of white Southern pride, Drive-By Truckers have always understood the underlying irony of Faulknerian Southernness, which principal songwriter Patterson Hood has elsewhere called "the duality of the Southern thing." I'm not even sure that the best track here is one of Hood's, though; that honor has to go to Jason Isbell's brutal, whiskey-drenched ballad "Goddamn Lonely Love," with its achingly desperate chorus: "I'll take two of what you're having / And I'll take all of what you've got / To kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love." [First added to this chart: 03/14/2015]
Year of Release:
2004
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Rank Score:
775
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I have approached few albums in my lifetime with as much anticipation as I did this one when it was first released in 1995. At the time I was fully convinced that Jay Farrar was the real talent behind Uncle Tupelo, so when they broke up it was Farrar's work, rather than Jeff Tweedy's, that I most wanted to hear. This was Farrar's first album with Son Volt coming off the last, and greatest, Uncle Tupelo album, Anodyne. So when it came out I persuaded the woman I was seeing at the time to drive with me into Portland, Maine, to my favorite independent record store to buy it, and we listened to it in the car on the way back to Ferry Beach. I loved it immediately, of course. "Windfall" is one of those songs that, upon first listening, sounded to me like something I'd known and loved all my life, with its timeworn, world-weary wisdom: "May wind take your troubles away / Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel / May the wind take your troubles away." [First added to this chart: 03/14/2015]
Year of Release:
1995
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1,228
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This album brings together rock and dance music in a way that's more successful than any other album I can think of. I love the club freakouts in "Get Innocuous" and "North American Scum," but then there's also the incredible tenderness of "All My Friends" and "Someone Great." James Murphy brings these disparate styles together better than anyone, perhaps because he seems oblivious of, or indifference to, distinctions between what constitutes "pop" and "indie," respectively. All that matters to him are sounds that work beautifully, and he brings it all together with real instrumentation and analog production that feel fresh, immediate, and spacious. [First added to this chart: 02/10/2016]
Year of Release:
2007
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16,872
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When I was living in Korea back in 1997, my sister mailed me a cassette tape of this album. It was one of three tapes I had with me at the time (for some reason I didn't have the presence of mind to bring more music with me), and I wore the thing out. The title track is one of the sweetest love songs I've ever heard, and while it's probably overplayed, it still moves me every time. It reminds me sense of kinship that I always experience when I'm in the wilderness, and the profound longing I feel when I hear the words, "You belong with your love on your arm." [First added to this chart: 09/25/2013]
Year of Release:
1994
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1,748
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A grand, life-affirming statement encompassing both childhood and mortality. Several of the band members had lost close family members in the year or so preceding the release of this album, and they poured their love and soul into making this album. It shows. I remember hearing this album for the first time, sitting on an old couch--the same old couch that once resided in my parents' living room when I was a teenager--in my new apartment in Bennington, Vermont, and being completely entranced both by how new and innovative this album seemed, and also how nostalgic and familiar. Maybe that's what the greatest albums do. "Indie rock" doesn't do justice to the ambitiousness of their sound, but I'm not sure there's an appropriate label out there for this one. Check out "Rebellion (Lies)" to get a sense of the power of this album. [First added to this chart: 09/25/2013]
Year of Release:
2004
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58,774
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This is the album that lifted Jason Isbell to the summit of Americana's songwriting mountain, the one that established him as the finest craftsman working today at his particular art. It's no coincidence that this was the first album he recorded after quitting drinking. While he wrote a number of terrific songs while still suffering from the ravages of alcoholism--he was a notoriously mean drunk, so much that his bandmates in Drive-By Truckers, no saints themselves, kicked him out of the band for his own good--the songs on this album have an emotional clarity, and raw honesty, that make them unlike anything he'd done previously. These are songs of heartache and addiction, but also profound redemption and gratitude. Isbell's singing has never been stronger, too, as evidenced by the powerful and fantastic opener, "Cover Me Up." I always get a lump in my throat when he sings, "In days when we raged / We flew off the page / Such damage was done / But I made it through / To somebody new / I was meant for someone." [First added to this chart: 03/07/2015]
Year of Release:
2013
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1,621
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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 6 6%
1970s 15 15%
1980s 17 17%
1990s 18 18%
2000s 26 26%
2010s 18 18%
2020s 0 0%
Country Albums %


United States 81 81%
United Kingdom 8 8%
Australia 3 3%
Jamaica 2 2%
Canada 2 2%
Ireland 1 1%
Kenya 1 1%
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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums ratings

Average Rating: 
91/100 (from 109 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).
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11/15/2020 00:43 CompassCharlatan  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 2293/100
  
90/100
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11/06/2020 22:33 leniad  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 39580/100
  
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09/20/2020 13:26 LedZep  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 1,02983/100
  
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09/07/2020 18:38 ssteve  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 15492/100
  
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06/19/2020 16:00 Larcx13  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 45581/100

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This chart is rated in the top 1% of all charts on BestEverAlbums.com. This chart has a Bayesian average rating of 91.0/100, a mean average of 90.6/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 91.6/100. The standard deviation for this chart is 11.4.

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums comments

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From 47 hours ago
CompassCharlatan, glad you've gotten a chance to see those folks live. I'm a huge fan of both. Pretty sure I've seen Josh Ritter live more times than I've seen any other artist. He always delivers. I can't wait until it's possible (and reasonably safe) to start going to live shows once again!
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Rating:  
100/100
From 11/15/2020 00:44
Really nice picks. Love Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch especially. Seen them both live a few times and they are crazy amazing and talented.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From 11/09/2020 02:42
It's hard not to Greer with Joshua Tree thought.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | 0 votes (0 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
90/100
From 11/06/2020 22:33
i have to check out some of your selections , can greer with joshua tree thought :(
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | -1 votes (0 helpful | 1 unhelpful)
From 07/24/2020 15:22
Glitterboiii, I hope your dad is at least moderately cool! At my age I'd even settle for "stately."
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | 0 votes (0 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
85/100
From 06/19/2020 16:00
That's different and seems legit.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +2 votes (2 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 06/15/2020 08:14
You seem like an even cooler version of my dad.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
90/100
From 05/04/2020 10:45
Discovered your list today because you placed 16 Horsepower so well. I saw a lot of albums I haven't heard in a while. Thank you. Great list!
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
100/100
From 04/27/2020 02:08
Cool top ten. Good music
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From 04/13/2020 17:09
Thanks, PinkZeppelin and Spyglass, for those encouraging comments! Enjoyed reading your charts as well.
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Best Artists of 2001
1. The Strokes
2. Radiohead
3. Daft Punk
4. Tool
5. Muse
6. The Microphones
7. Björk
8. The White Stripes
9. System Of A Down
10. Jay-Z
11. The Shins
12. Gorillaz
13. Opeth
14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
15. Jimmy Eat World
16. Converge
17. Unwound
18. Cannibal Ox
19. Aphex Twin
20. Richard David James
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