Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by NoAlarms (2021)

Subject to change (often). These are my personal favorite records...not necessarily a reflection of an objective musical hierarchy. (Wow. These write-ups have grown like weeds, particularly as you descend through the list. Only the slightest bit proud. (: )

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Where is the appropriate point of origin? Where does one begin eloquently without bellowing out praise like a music-snobbed elitist hell-bent on hard-headedness of musical appreciation. OK Computer's coronation may send shivers down spines of readers who watch it litter charts all across the platform, a sentiment felt by frontman Thom Yorke, who tries to downplay it's place in music history in an effort of self-conscious humility. Never one to be put in a creative box, Yorke refuses to be defined by one album and he's surely not. However, this list is not one of objective knighting, but rather a reflection of the records that reside the deepest in my heart, regardless if many minds consider this to be the greatest album ever constructed. To this point, this listener wouldn't argue, but still, in the context of this chart, such clearly-defined praise would only cheapen the work.

For me, it's not OK Computer's futuristic motifs, slick guitar lines or harmonic prowess that take the cake. It's the intangible wonder of an album so meticulously crafted to the note. The emotional response that wells up from within during each and every listening experience and the philosophical resonance that never fails to affect me. In an age where resistance to a popular opinion is so prevalent, I'd have every reason in the world to dismiss OK Computer, to liken its listeners to a brand of entry-level beginners to the world of critically acclaimed music and yet the album dazzles each and every listen. In many ways, OK Computer warns against the monotony of modern times and times to come, but still the album comes home every night, reliable as ever.

"This is my final fit, my final bellyache. With no alarms and no surprises..."

- No Surprises

Standout Tracks:

1. No Surprises
2. Let Down
3. Paranoid Android

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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2. (=)
I've never found the old saying "Less is more" to be notably applicable in the scope of music. Often I've been drawn to music that incorporates a great deal of moving parts, riddled with crushing crescendos and soul-shaking moments of softness. After OK Computer, many Radiohead fans found far "less" with 2000's Kid A. They were wrong.

It's true there are a startling lack of instruments here, but the band has never upped the ante like this before or since. While I consider its predecessor to be the finer album both personally and objectively, Kid A will always be the record that encased Radiohead in the annals of music history.

A dystopian, shivering piece of art, depicting a future that has completely gone metallic, Kid A is the brain's answer to OK Computer's heart. It was here where the marriage of the band and synthesizer incorporation was fused. The opening tones of Everything in its Right Place encapsulate the definitive sound the band will be remembered for. The skittering, emergency siren of Idioteque paints a picture of a world too preoccupied to sense approaching apocalypse. Finally, the faux comfort of better times evaporates during the final moments of Motion Picture Soundtrack, ending the album with metaphorical hands full of ash.

Radiohead did not redefine the rock record with Kid A, for there is no all-encompassing definition of a rock record. What the band truly did, is redefine themselves, thrusting headlong into a cycle of phoenix-like reincarnation and reinvention.

"Who's in a bunker? Who's in a bunker? I have seen too much. I haven't seen enough."

- Idioteque

Standout Tracks:

1. Idioteque
2. How to Disappear Completely
3. Everything in its Right Place

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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Film director Todd Haynes once made a wonderful film entitled I'm Not There (2007). In it, a fabled troubadour, storyteller, prophet, father, icon and outlaw all follow an intersecting, snaking path of existence. They all went by the name of Bob Dylan. "A song is something that walks by itself" said the poet. Todd Haynes knew there was no single way to personify music's resident Shakespeare, but this album may be the finest summation of the man himself.

Laying out themes of love, loss, ambition, desolation, desire and drug use, all of which could apply to Dylan during his finest creative years, Blonde on Blonde serves as the magnum opus for one of music's finest artists. He's never been more cheeky than with Rainy Day Women #12 and #35. He's never been more bashfully in love than with I Want You and he's never been more appreciative than with Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Dylan never more clearly presented his thoughts through music and we have the LP to prove it.

A stunning collection of emotional highs and lows, one can't help but marvel at Dylan's wordplay and pension for lyrical brainstorm. Through all this, Dylan stayed tight-lipped while contemporaries such as the Fab Four themselves gawked at his greatness. The bard stayed playfully humble or ostentatiously coy for the entire duration. I suppose the truth comes down to how you view the man, or maybe more astutely, his music.

"Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine
An' I said, "Oh, I didn't know that
But then again, there's only one I've met
An' he just smoked my eyelids
An' punched my cigarette"

- Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Standout Tracks:

1. I Want You
2. Just Like a Woman
3. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is often a simple album, filled with simple chord progressions and hooks. It's fuzzed out production creates the illusion that it was recorded in a damp basement, waterlogged after a thunderstorm and packed to the brim with insulation subbing for soundproofing. These are all misconceptions, most of all the simplicity. Jeff Mangum subverts the idea of simplicity with his rollicking, depressing, life-affirming piece of indie rock. His lyricism cuts through the haze of intentionally wooly production illustrating an observation of both the beauty of ordinary life and the daunting nature of philosophical thought.

The album's crown jewel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, layers striking metaphorical proclamations in rapid succession, partnering that with dizzying singing saw, creating an indie masterpiece confined within an alien biodome. Communist Daughter eases down the tempo but not the whimsy, as it oozes beauty almost in a whisper as it flutters into Oh Comely. The album closes with the hauntingly reflective Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2 as it whirrs into Mangum’s words. He declares, "God is a place where some holy spectacle lies", endlessly waiting for divine intervention, even if he questions its existence in a world that can be so cold.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is partly a horror story of the Nazi Regime, a love letter to the courage of Anne Frank, but mostly its an examination of life's smallest moments and whether it's worth going forward or not. Whatever it is to you, however, is likely the most fitting description. Mangum’s poetry on the LP is indicative of a higher consciousness and it's partnered with a cornucopia of musical ingenuity to form one of the finest, most earnest albums ever pressed.

"Now how I remember you,
How I would push my fingers through,
Your mouth to make those muscles move,
That made your voice so smooth and sweet."

-In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Standout Tracks:

1. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
2. Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2
3. Oh Comely

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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Throughout their extensive history, alternative rock pioneers Swans have made a habit of metamorphosing, trading in bone-crushing no-wave anthems for folk-inspired, religiously-tinged ballads. In 2010, Swans emerged once more with My Father will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, another drastic change in form and direction, prioritizing prolonged excursions drenched in post-rock fueled repetition. This formula was the basis for 2014's To Be Kind, an album that championed the creative advantages of welding moments of ear-splitting fortissimo and hair-raising delicacy. Take A Little God in My Hands for example. Even the most well-traveled listeners have to be taken back by the atomic force of the horn-powered flurry that kicks off the middle of the track. To Be Kind showcases Swans not merely dabbling in a musical style unseen in their discography, but perfecting it.

The centerpiece is the 34 minute odyssey, Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture. A track detailing a Haitian slave revolt with all the ferocity one could imagine. It carries guitar hits that resemble facial punches that only cease once the skull has caved in. Incorporating horse whinnies and tribal chanting, the track dares one to ponder the music's inspiration, or even the headspace of the men crafting it. The most "straight-forward" rocker on the album is Oxygen, a song detailing an asthma attack with inertia that never ceases until the horn-soaked climax.

Rarely has an album been so visceral and so well-realized simultaneously. The frightening aspect behind it all is that it seems to flow through the band so effortlessly, almost as vessels for transcendent music powered by an unseen force. While its not a record for the conventional listener, you'd be hard-pressed to find an audiophile not displaced by To Be Kind's translucent beauty, or not horrified by its unfettered explicity.

"May planets crash, may god rain ash, to sear our skin, to fold us in
Kneeling close, seeking hands, our blood is warm, but what comes next?"

-Kirsten Supine

Standout Tracks:

1. Oxygen
2. She Loves Us!
3. Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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The halls of Columbia University birthed Vampire Weekend, a baroque pop outfit with a pension for utilizing world music. They were critically lauded soon after, but in the eyes of those who equate surroundings to people, they were little more than privileged rich boys who gained the favor of those with power in the industry. The band shrugged such ridiculous claims off and just kept on keeping on. In other words, they kept making some of the best pop music of the decade. Nevermore was their genius more validated than with 2013's Modern Vampires of the City. Sporting a crystalline sheen and drastically more sinister tone, Vampire Weekend concocted its best collection of tracks to date.

Seemingly alternating between uptempo, positively-charged romps and sentimental, breezy ballads, Modern Vampires of the City prioritizes balance far more than the band's prior work. The first landmark comes in the form of third track Step, which twinkles triumphantly leaving Rostam Batmanglij's production as the hallmark of the sweepingly gorgeous cut. The album soon receives an adrenaline shot in the form of Diane Young, a full-gear stomper which emphasizes a desire to live life at its fullest, with no regrets about being rebellious or young for that matter. One of the album's most audacious excursions comes in the form of tenth track Ya Hey. Frontman Ezra Koenig's vocal delivery is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, invoking religious fervor at a subdued pace.

As convention would have it, Modern Vampires of the City is indeed a pop record. It's one that takes risks, nudges away stereotypical classification and entrenches Vampire Weekend as a prominent force in modern music. Provocatively written, skillful executed and exquisitely produced, the album is a testament to the blossoming creativity of a young group on the rise, with much success predicted to follow. The album has a warm quality and has effectively become a comfort piece for me, calling back to better times. It's a record for those with youthful flesh and minds with temperaments far beyond their years.

"Ancestors told me that their girl was better
She's richer than Croesus, she's tougher than leather
I just ignored all the tales of a past life
Stale conversation deserves but a bread knife"


Standout Tracks:

1. Step
2. Finger Back
3. Don't Lie

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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Acid Bath were an outfit from the swamps of Louisiana, likely the only place where music of this ilk could be spawned. The sludge metal group only produced two studio albums with a lifespan abridged by the sudden death of bassist Audie Pitre. The introduction to their brief discography is nothing less than a masterwork in the metal genre, an album of intense hate coupled with stunning musical proficiency that many have overlooked or more likely have never experienced. The guitar work is polarizing, often resembling a slithering eel bathing in distortion and feedback. Honestly, what else could suffice for a record that brandishes track titles such as "Cassie Eats Cockroaches", "Dr. Seuss is Dead" and the penultimate "The Bones of Baby Dolls". As horn-rimmed glasses wearing, toffee-nosed onlookers may categorize its content as a slobbering collection of shock rock, the truth is far more personal.

Lead vocalist Dax Riggs likens tracks Tranquilized and Cheap Vodka to drug-triggered, personal anecdotes. The bluesy restraint of Scream of the Butterfly harkens back to the regret of an abortion and the distinctive sound of the woman's grief over said act. Toubabo Koomi is cajun french for Land of the White Cannibals and takes aim at the savagery of the governmental system. Finally, The Bones of Baby Dolls details the unvarnished evil of a child molester. All in all, When the Kite String Pops is not for the faint of heart.

With John Wayne Gacy plastered on the cover, few would gaze upon the album and foresee the intense, brilliant musicianship buried within the catacombs of this striking record. This is partly the appeal. Sometimes it seems like this is something we shouldn't be listening to, like a suicide caught on tape. The dichotomy of the vulgarity and poetry on the album makes it the best kind of rarity. It's a shame that it will likely be restricted to residing in dusty attics, at the bottom of garage sale bins and quiet corners of failing record shops. Listening to When the Kite String Pops is the musical equivalent of watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). A brilliant film no doubt, but one of immense depravity. When the Kite String Pops makes you want to shower once it's over, but you are helpless to the notion of starting it all over again, bathing in its magnificent grime.

"I feel the wetness of her tongue that slides across my skin
The viruses crawl over me and feel for some way in."

-Cassie Eats Cockroaches

Standout Tracks:

1. The Bones of Baby Dolls
2. The Blue
3. Dr. Seuss is Dead

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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For many, In Rainbows is the definitive record for the prodigal sons from Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It's certainly the most earthly and naturalistic of the lot. More importantly, it's the most human from a band that's consistently alien. The warm embrace that In Rainbows provides is a welcomed outlier amidst a catalogue fearful of the outside world and entrenched in emotional isolation. On the album, Radiohead don't create panic over climate change like on Kid A. They don't warn of a technology-driven future due to human complacency and they don't protest the political direction of world powers like on Hail to the Thief. They simply reflect, ponder human vanity, recall drunken evenings and most of all, have fun.

The band collectively "letting their hair down" has led to an undeniably earnest entry in the Radiohead canon. Emerging with the bouncy, yet refined 15 Step, it's easy to admire Phil Selway's percussion on the track. The 5/4 time signature creates the illusion of a mutated pop song, awash in sarcastic wit. Bodysnatchers seems to rekindle the band's love for guitar rock as Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien imprint their likenesses all over the thundering track. Nude, track three, could easily take the cake for Radiohead's pinnacle of aesthetic beauty, a song that unfurls slowly and fades into the ether ever so softly. Yorke's vocals on this cut are among the finest he's ever produced. It's very apropos that a song about physical vanity ends up being so tangibly gorgeous.

Late album entries such as Reckoner, Jigsaw Falling Into Place and the heartbreaking Videotape, bookend an album submerged in consistency. Still, there is no grand memorandum, no life-lesson other than what it means to be human, whether fallible, physically self-conscious or devoid of direction. Radiohead have made a name for themselves by zigging and subsequently zagging, but In Rainbows resides on the straightest of lines. A line that is neither accessible nor challenging, existential nor nihilistic. Ten tracks of simply being, at the heights of exuberance and the base of sorrow. A full spectrum of emotion, paralleled by the spectrum of light that dons the album cover.

"No matter what happens now
You shouldn't be afraid
Because I know today has been
The most perfect day I've ever seen."


Standout Tracks:

1. Nude
2. Videotape
3. Jigsaw Falling Into Place

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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2016's The Glowing Man was intended to be the final stop for post-rock icons Swans. Even though it was not their final record, in many ways it feels like an ending, musically embodying a purifying crescendo. It's no secret that the band played their hand in a few false finishes in the past. 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind was a haunting, alluring attempt to combine Swans' music with a score to a film that did not exist. This also was planned to be the band's final musical epitaph. 2010 brought a new sound and a new Swans lineup and The Glowing Man was seen to be the concluding artistic flourish and what a flourish it turned out to be.

While the previous record, 2014's To Be Kind conveyed a seething, scathing critique of human indecency, The Glowing Man is a far more reflective and anguished experience, almost communicating that the emotional toll of the journey that this era of the band went through was a soul-altering odyssey. Take second track Cloud of Unknowing for instance, a 25 minute, bone-rattling lead up to a midpoint climax that I have yet to see duplicated. After the storm passes, the track slinks back into the bowels of darkness from which it was conceived, hissing chants of "Monster eater" and "Jesus feeler". The second half of the record commences with the towering Frankie M, a 20 minute pulse-pounding journey dedicated to a battle lost to drug addiction. An abridged version was featured in Swans' live sets as early as 2014 but the final form of the song serves as a moment of tempestuous strength and intense catharsis on the album. When Will I Return? details a horrifying rape-attempt that befell Michael Gira's wife Jennifer. Possibly the album's most gentile track, Jennifer claims to "Still kill him in her sleep". The penultimate track here is the title track, The Glowing Man. The most extensive cut on the album, clocking in at nearly 30 minutes, is the most chameleonic, beginning as an avalanche of bruising guitar hits. The track then simmers before swelling again into a furiously paced proclamation of bodily manifestation. Vocalist Michael Gira cries, "Joseph is moving his tongue in my neck, Joseph is riding a vein in my head, Joseph is cutting my arm on his bed, Joseph is making my body fly". After having listened to it, you'd be liable to admit to an out-of-body experience.

The Glowing Man only consists of eight tracks, eight tracks spanning nearly two hours with enough vexation, desperation and despair to rival a lifetime of alcoholic's anonymous meetings. I've stated in earlier write-ups that the band incorporates their music with a staunch focus on the dichotomy of sound decibles. The Glowing Man seems to consummate this idea with the concept of emotional contrast. Moments of exhilaration lap on the shores of severe hysteria and dejection. Additionally, It shines through in practice as well as from the listeners point of view. At times the album ceases to be organized sound, but instead formulates as a raw force of nature. Put simply, it sounds like a human soul crying out for liberation.

"I beat him on his face
And I stab with all my strength
And I scream until he goes
I scream until he's gone
Then I crawl across the road"

-When Will I Return?

Standout Tracks:

1. The Glowing Man
2. Cloud of Unknowing
3. Frankie M

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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In the earliest days of the 21st century, New York City was not only a dominant fulcrum for the arts, it also stood as a mecca for some of the best up-and-coming indie rock artists of the era. Bands such as The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If these wonderful acts were assembled at a legendary NYC party, deep in the corner, pensively camouflaging would be Interpol. Always tastefully suited and donning black, Interpol were surely the most brooding and moody of these groups and their music brilliantly reflected the sentiment of a city that they loved but was holding them prisoner. Their crowning achievement was 2002's Turn on the Bright Lights, an introspective compendium of social alienation and the poetic juxtaposition of perception and reality in the city they called home.

Lead singer Paul Banks pulls no punches on third track NYC, claiming, "The subway is a porno, The pavements they are a mess, I know you've supported me for a long time, Somehow I'm not impressed". Lead guitarist Daniel Kessler vigorously drives fifth track Say Hello to the Angels. The breakneck pace is notably apt when uncovering the song's inspiration, unfailing sexual yearning during a rocky relationship. Fan favorite Obstacle 1 is often noted as an anthem for the turn-of-the-century indie revival. It was seemingly influenced by the death of a model that willingly pierced her own throat. The relevance to the narrator is still up for interpretation but lines such as, "But it's different now that I'm poor and aging, I'll never see this face again, And you go stabbing yourself in the neck," imply a distant, one-sided affinity. The darkness only purveys further from there. Playfully titled track Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down describes another flesh-centric liaison gone awry due to the title bearer's personal instability. Sam Fogarino's burst-guided drumming creates the sensation that the song itself is slowly descending deeper and deeper into the Hudson. Banks croons, "Bottom of the ocean she dwells, bottom of the ocean she dwells", as he too drifts into the abyss.

The lion's share of the band's attention appeared to revolve around their status as dead ringers for legendary post-punk foursome Joy Division. Interpol, while respecting Joy Division's legacy, dismissed the strategic intention of such comparisons, not content to live in another's shadow or (Shadowplay). While The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem concocted hits that were not out of place at Columbia University parties and the sprawling New York City club scene, Turn on the Bright Lights' target was an entirely different audience. A sector of listeners that felt petrified at the notion of being present at a social soiree or those who desired whole-hearted love in favor of booze-soaked escapades. It's a shame that these days Interpol are perceived to have lost their labels as critical darlings, lost to a new generation sporting deaf ears on which the band's music falls on. Shamefully, they often get lost in the shuffle when commenting about the impact of early 2000's indie rock, swiftly swept to the side by more thematically positive acts that potentially have less provocative things to say. How appropriate of the band to be caught up in such a woebegone story. Hindsight suggests that Interpol just may have been the finest act to grace that era. They certainly released its most polished, brilliantly arranged artifact. You can find it gracing the shelves of a Greenwich Village antique shop.

"I had seven faces
Thought I knew which one to wear
But I'm sick of spending these lonely nights
Training myself not to care"


Standout Tracks:

1. Obstacle 1
2. Leif Erikson
3. Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down

[First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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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 12 12%
1970s 12 12%
1980s 9 9%
1990s 17 17%
2000s 22 22%
2010s 28 28%
2020s 0 0%
Artist Albums %

Radiohead 7 7%
Swans 5 5%
Bob Dylan 4 4%
New Order 4 4%
Deerhunter 3 3%
Pink Floyd 3 3%
Aphex Twin 3 3%
Show all
Country Albums %

United States 51 51%
United Kingdom 35 35%
Canada 4 4%
Mixed Nationality 3 3%
Iceland 3 3%
Australia 2 2%
Japan 2 2%
Soundtrack? Albums %
No 99 99%
Yes 1 1%

Top 100 Greatest Music Albums chart changes

Biggest climbers
Climber Up 2 from 58th to 56th
The Velvet Underground & Nico
by The Velvet Underground & Nico
Biggest fallers
Faller Down 1 from 56th to 57th
by Pink Floyd
Faller Down 1 from 57th to 58th
The Milk-Eyed Mender
by Joanna Newsom

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums ratings

Average Rating: 
89/100 (from 18 votes)
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04/28/2021 05:53 iannicolson  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 31490/100
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04/27/2021 19:21 StreakyNuno  Ratings distributionRatings distribution 3277/100
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This chart is rated in the top 4% of all charts on This chart has a Bayesian average rating of 88.6/100, a mean average of 90.8/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 90.8/100. The standard deviation for this chart is 12.6.

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From 04/27/2021 22:55
@StreakyNuno: Your statement is demeaning to every individual who's ever experienced an inkling of an original thought...
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From 04/27/2021 19:23
you are a Radiohead fan ok. But The Dark side of the moon in 28 behind acid bath or interpol or swans discredit your chart despite the comments.
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From 04/27/2021 13:50
*shocked emoji* this is ridiculously great.
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From 10/21/2020 23:28
Like your taste
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From 06/17/2020 10:18
Saw your comments on Syro which intrigued me enough to wander over here and read a bit more. I’ve always rated charts that offer explanations for each choice. So far you have gone above and beyond, plus I tend to agree with your love for many of these albums (Smiths aside). Look forward to seeing the finished version!
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From 05/14/2020 02:18
Even with very many “stereotypical” choices, this is not that bad a list.

Although I have never heard their music, Acid Bath is a wonderful surprise, as is the Misfits. I heard of both bands in the middle 2000s from one writer on called “janitor-x”, whose musical taste I cannot relate to but whose virulent criticism of ‘Rolling Stone’ I have never doubted nor seen refuted.
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Best Ever Artists
1. The Beatles
2. Radiohead
3. Pink Floyd
4. David Bowie
5. Bob Dylan
6. Led Zeppelin
7. The Rolling Stones
8. Arcade Fire
9. The Velvet Underground
10. Nirvana
11. The Smiths
12. Kendrick Lamar
13. Neil Young
14. The Beach Boys
15. Pixies
16. Miles Davis
17. Kanye West
18. Jimi Hendrix
19. Bruce Springsteen
20. R.E.M.
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