Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by corenfro (2020)
*Not necessarily in order yet beyond the top 10-20 or so*
I'm going to try to do the "one album per artist" as much as it pains me to do so. Shoutout to the many albums by The Who, The Beach Boys, Miles Davis, Radiohead, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, David Bowie, Yes, Genesis, and Kendrick Lamar. Some of them were VERY hard to pick a "only album from X artist" since some have 2 (or more) really important albums w/ vastly different stories that deserve inclusion (smile vs. pet sounds, tommy vs. who's next, kid a vs. ok computer, to pimp a butterfly vs. good kid madd city, lonerism vs. currents, sgt. pepper vs. others, kind of blue vs. bitches brew). But until I can unlock decade charts I must do this to fit a wider variety of music (there are well over 100 great albums that I really want to consider a top 100 album).
On a site littered with contrarians I actually tried to make a "top greatest music albums" list as opposed to a "top obscure albums you've never heard of" list. Because of this, when choosing which album from an artist to include, I generally err on the side of the more euphonic record when in doubt.
Hipsters and snobs: feel free to downvote at how mainstream I am.
- Chart updated: 04/05/2020 15:45
- (Created: 06/07/2015 21:31).
- Chart size: 100 albums.
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Beautiful chord progressions, fantastic productions, lyrics relevant to the information age. Great compositions, wonderful guitar layering. I hear all of this stuff about it being experimental and "out there" and I suppose it is, and when I first listened to it I thought it was honestly pretty terrible. But now it just sounds like really great melodic music to me.
No other album has had such an influence on the way I see music.
“They’ll think that I’ve finally lost it completely. I’d show them the stars, and the meaning of life. They’d shove me away, but I’d be alright”
From the opening riff of “Airbag”, to the final ding of “The Tourist” this is a flawless musical masterpiece that is unrivaled and unparalleled. OK Computer is a perfect blend of creativity and musical proficiency. While Radiohead certainly has its influences, there is no question that the sheer breadth and intensity of this album is truly theirs and has no predecessor and, to date, no successor.
If there is any concern about the musical complexity of this album, rest assured a phd student from Michigan University published a 204 page dissertation “Coding OK Computer” detailing the music theory behind this incredible 52:27 minutes of bliss. It’s very rare that you see artists in pop music experimenting with microtonalism, atypical time signatures and frequent key modulations. It’s even rarer for an artist to do so with the satisfying success that is demonstrated on this album.
In the history of art, there are many masterpieces that can touch the soul, but very few that have the power to transport to an entire different dimension. The first two tracks provide the high octane liftoff to take the listener away from the ground of his otherwise meaningless existence; sailing into space. Then the guitar delays and reverb of the “Subterranean Homesick Alien” will certainly be enough to evoke longings for a distant planet on this journey through the finest hour long sonic cosmos.
OK Computer is all about distance - distance from society, isolation, and distance from the self. It’s simultaneously both detached, yet deeply intimate. It’s both incredibly melancholic and life affirming. All emotions are present in their most poignant form.
OK Computer is a piece of art that - like all great artwork - takes time to fully understand and appreciate. One listen will not do it justice, neither will haphazardly paying attention to it while you surf twitter or instagram or whatever meaningless things you do as a substitute for appreciating good art without distraction. OK Computer is not an album that you tell your friends about who are looking for a catchy hook or a headbanger.
There are many things OK computer is not, but what OK Computer is, is the greatest album ever recorded. [First added to this chart: 06/07/2015]
What do you get when you combine the smoothest voice in the history of music with the greatest bass lines in the history of music, and hotbox a Motown studio full of marijuana? An album that is better than anything in its genre and in its decade - which is saying a lot when you consider all that happened in the 1970’s.
If heroin could sing, it still wouldn’t sound as good as Marvin Gaye. I stand very firmly behind my opinion that Marvin Gaye possessed the greatest voice of all time. There are countless things to love about this album musically, the tight bass lines, the smooth aesthetic, the jazz feel, liberal use of assorted wind and stringed instruments, and the variety of percussion the crystal clear production that sounds as incredible in 2015 as it did in 1971. However, it’s Marvin’s show, and it’s his voice that carries the listener through the album. The man clearly had enormous talent, and it is displayed in its entirety on “What’s Going On”.
Listening to Marvin Gaye perform live must have been similar to watching Michael Jordan make the final shot of the 1998 NBA finals, or watching Aaron Rodgers play quarterback except better by several orders of magnitude because music is clearly a domain of excellence far superior to sports. One of his studio assistants was questioned at one point what the most difficult thing was when working with Marvin Gaye. The response was that it was so difficult to select which takes of his voice to keep and which to discard, because they were all so beautiful that it felt wrong to delete anything that he recorded.
“What’s Going On” is about discontent - with culture, with politics, with discrimination, with the imperfect self. It came at a time when the Barry Gordy’s Motown record label was interested only in pumping out radio hits for profit and wasn’t interested in any of this introspective, challenging music. Gaye demanded it be released as he envisioned it and was nearly close to breaking ties with the record label.
Marvin Gaye had a wild and remarkable career, plagued by the internal conflict which is was clear from his art, as well as his ongoing struggle with depression and multiple suicide attempts and drug addiction. It’s this struggle that fuels the beauty that is his music. His angelic voice carries just enough of a painful undertone to send shivers down the listener’s spine. That’s “What’s Going On” [First added to this chart: 06/07/2015]
Not sure if most of my millennial peers have the background to fully appreciate this thing. But I show it to my Dad who grew up in the 60's and he instantly grasped the genius of this piece. Parker wears his influences on his sleve, as far as 60's/70's psychedelic/progressive rock. Lots of sources claim comparison to the Beatles, and now that I've studied both artist's catelogues I can see it. But it wasn't apparent to me at first listen, because this is so much more sonically immersive than the beatles.
Parker doesn't "hide" his influences because he doesn't need to - he's created a whole new landscape with his guitars/synths/arpegiators and the production is otherworldly as far how he uses effects to expand the dimensions of the music in different ways. The masterful production is only fully appreciated through a quality set of headphones/speakers and a quality DAC + preamp, because what he does to the mix is truly incredible. Phaser, flanger, filter, envelope, reverb, panning, all these things are floating around in sonic perfection. Even if you don't appreciate this kind of music, you can't deny this is a remarkable piece of engineering.
Musically he comes up with the most infectious, and emotional chord progressions / harmonys / melodies that I honestly can't make it through this album without crying. Songs rarely stay in one key and even if they are there're often chords that don't belong in the key but it's KP so it just works. And it's not always the vocals providing the melodies. The interactions of the instruments, particularly the bass lines, that weave in and out of the unique chord progressions is truly remarkable.
Tame Impala is also without a doubt the best live band I've ever seen. His meticulous approach to perfection is tweaked perfectly for a live setting. The painstaking effort that is put in to the live show is far to great to detail on this already massive album comment, but let's just say if you have a chance to see him live, take it. If it's within a day's drive do it. Take a vacation day for afterwards because you won't want to do anything other than reflect.
KP writes music as good as any rock artist who has ever done it. Currents will get knocked for it's already-aging aesthetic but the songwriting and meticulous production is there all the same. KP please keep making music. [First added to this chart: 05/15/2016]
Pet sounds is the best album of the 60's - and it was all Wilson. Plagued with mental health issues his whole life, there was a time period where he was able to utilize his wonderfully unique brain to create just some very stunning art. Three things drive this album: vocal harmonies, chord progressions, and aesthetic.
The voice of Brian Wilson along with the other beach boys are just tremendous. They weave through the chord progressions adding and subtracting different notes, it's just wonderful. The mostly major chord progressions will change key without the uncritical listener noticing much of a difference because Wilson does it so smoothly. I'm no music theory expert, but the "God Only Knows" has such a beauty in how it moves between different keys. When I go to play it on piano I'm amazed by it's beautiful simplicity.
Pet Sounds was revolutionary as far as the recording technology that went into it. It sounds a little dated, but there are so many bands today trying to get a similar aesthetic that it's hard to knock him for that. So many different instruments were used for various purposes. You will get a 7 million part harmony on the hook from "You still believe in me" then occasionally music will cut out and have just a bass and piano along Brian's vocals like in the "Here Today" pre-chorus.
This thing is trippy! The debate rages on whether this is psychedelic or pre-psych or whatever but there are many parts on this where you just want to zone in and feel your body reverberate with the music. "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" was WAY more psychedelic live and I felt like I was tripping my balls off when they played it.
Pet Sounds MADE the Beatles start to be more artistic (they took influence from Zappa as well for this) The Beatles, Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Radiohead, Brian Eno, and may others have the Beach Boys to thank.
SHOUT OUT TO SMILE - BEST UNRELEASED ALBUM OF ALL TIME. IT PAINS ME TO NOT INCLUDE THAT IN THIS LIST!! [First added to this chart: 05/15/2016]
Establishing the connection is so easy because it's so clear that Jimi was doing exactly what he was meant to do. Because he was so obviously fulfilling his divine purpose, if you will, he was able to put so much of his personality into his music and convey everything he needed to so effectively in such a short period of time.
Jimi's lesson was so poignant: find what you are meant to do and do it because it's all you can do. You are a part of radiant cosmic energy that is unstoppable there is no birth or death or life there is only being. Birth, death and rebirth are only heuristics to help us understand the essence of being.
I may or may not have been tripping hard upon this discovery, but I don't think I'm wrong. [First added to this chart: 01/01/2019]
On one hand, its rock music, all the elements you expect are there: guitars, bass, drums, vocals, etc. And when taken out of context, none of the songs jump out as remarkable. The beauty lies in the experience. One can get lost in the landscape of “Us and Them” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” and feel haunted by the anxiety provoking “On the Run” and relate to the insanity of “Brain Damage”
All great albums are great because of the story, and how well the individual elements of the story transition and build on one another. This is especially true of The Dark Side of the Moon. There’s a narrator in the background occasionally murmuring a sort of choppy, almost disturbing narrative. This compliments the music which has this feel of slight disturbance, a discontent with the status quo. The album is a testament to the temporal nature of things. The anxiety and stress put into work to obtain money, dealing with the insanity of life to build an empire of wealth, running like a madman while struggling to breathe. “And everything under the sun is in tune. But the sun is eclipsed by the moon” the listener is reminded, as the sound of a heart beat fades out to close the album. [First added to this chart: 06/07/2015]
But back to TPAB: this is wider in scope than his earlier work. He addresses the identity politics of race and a more sociopolitical level, but also addresses his personal experience of coping with fame and the life of materialistic abundance. There is a tension between his newfound life of wealth, fame, and touring the world and his obligations to his friends and family back in Compton. As a white male in a yuppie affluent utopia tech city I can say with 100% certainty that I don't fully appreciate the lyrical themes on this album, but it expands my consciousness of his world, and somehow it weirdly resonates with me still.
What I can respond to is the music though. This is a perfectly eclectic mix of hip hop, jazz, funk, neo-soul, and experimentation. He literally has the father of funk, George Clinton himself, on the first track (which is a banger by the way) along with a variety of expert producers: thundercat, flying lotus, pharrell williams, terrance martin, and not least the great saxophonist kamasi washington.
Kendrick is the hottest rapper in the industry now, and one of the greatest of all time, and his rapping is not even close to my favorite part of this record. The songs are just - good. It takes all it's influences from the genres it does, and the samples it uses (which is another review entirely) but there is a distince "kendrick" sound to it. Imitators (anderson paak?) and the industry as a whole are already starting to take influence from this eclectic "all of the above" blend of genres that's itself become a staple of how experimental jazz hip hop can, and will sound.
Just take a look at 2016: Beyonce's "Lemonade", Solange's "A Seat at the Table", Bowie's "Blackstar", Kanye's "Pablo", Frank Ocean's "Blonde", Tribe's "We got it" all take influence from this in some way or another (if not having directly having Kendrick on one of their tracks).
There's much more that could be said about this album, and this was all from memory I'm sure a little research could spawn several more paragraphs of material for me to suffice it. But let's face it to say Kendrick is taking this decade by storm for better or for worse, and the TPAB is so far the pinnacle of that. The TPAB recording sessions were so great that the untitled unmastered b-sides got released a year later and made many top albums lists. They had an outstanding group of producers and musicians in on this. Unreal. [First added to this chart: 06/07/2015]
It should also set the benchmark for great vocal melodies, harmonies and terrific songwriting. The notes that she hits are the notes that you want to hear and not in a way that they're predictable or trite. The notes will be nice and then a couple quick accent notes will come along and just propel the song into a higher dimension. Or a good little melody will come in and then go to another part w/ another different melody and then they will combine them together with great success and synergy. Unlike other artists who attempt this technique, it's not done in a way that makes the build up to the climax seem like a chore. [First added to this chart: 03/30/2018]
Is there a more life-affirming album than The Joshua Tree? Bono’s soaring voice and with The Edge’s great guitar delays and effects take the listener through a spiritual, socially conscious atmosphere of the most intense of human feeling. The Joshua Tree is like breathing clean air. It was meant to be listened to while driving across America, and has an intensely personal meaning to me as the album first came to life for me while driving through Colorado’s mountains after a breakup. Songs like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You” paint a picture of someone in transition.
But in all the desolation of some of the topics of the album: death, loss, heroin addiction, discontent, there is one unbreakable theme of this album: hope. U2’s unbreakable mission of hope is on full display on this album. The songs are dripping with a sense of seeking spiritual renewal. If you close your eyes and listen to Bono’s beautiful tenor, and some of the best guitar work in rock that doesn’t distract with lengthy solos, you might just find some spiritual renewal on the Joshua Tree. [First added to this chart: 06/07/2015]
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27 artists in common! That's a bunch! Great chart!
A lot of work has clearly gone into this. incredible
I don't really think this is "too mainstream" or anything. Cocteau Twins & Love in the top ten prove that enough on their own. Not sure where you're getting the idea that everyone is having an obscurity contest, this chart is pretty standard -- especially considering the most similar chart to it is "If the BEA chart had a one album per artist rule"
No problems or anything, I just think your hostility towards obscure music seems a bit unwarranted.
Brilliant, detailed, and varied. Maybe not my taste but it is exactly the kind of chart this site needs more of. Fantastic!
Nice chart. Great notes. I'll have to get over my hatred of Kanye and listen to that damn album
Great Job! Based on your picks I would reccomend listening to Loveless and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea if you haven’t already
I like what you said about Cocteau Twins and many other comments.
I hope you don't mind, but I quoted part of your Joshua Tree description because it's the best I've ever read. Also, fantastic chart!