Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by DriftingOrpheus
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. 😌)
- Chart updated: 08/28/2023 19:45
- (Created: 04/25/2020 20:18).
- Chart size: 100 albums.
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Plastered upon its face, an illustration of intersecting pavement in Hartford, Connecticut, far from the homes of the boys who formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. For many, OK Computer is a road map, a canal en route to lovely musical landmarks that both influenced and took inspiration from the seminal album. 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 and the product of a quintet so acutely dialed in to the very limit of human feasibility. The emotional response that wells up from within during each and every listening experience is paramount and the philosophical resonances never cease to astonish. 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 time. It's adorned in a luster than cannot be eroded by the years or a position on a slapdash, 'Buzzfeed' hot-take list. Despite its warnings that ring truer by the day, the album no longer "stands" for anything and concurrently "represents" nothing. Some like to erroneously place it within a gift-wrapped package labeled "1990's time capsule". They fail to realize that the album belongs to no period of history as its resonance would be seismic during any era. It isn't the champion of any aristocratic sub-culture, as masses of people from all walks of life can be heard singing Karma Police's chorus in physical and spiritual unison. OK Computer is native only to the air it occupies and to the millions it continually enchants. It sounds just as alien today as it did in 1997 while simultaneously swelling, softening and transmitting from some distant, undiscovered galaxy.
"This is my final fit, my final bellyache. With no alarms and no surprises..."
- No Surprises
1. No Surprises
2. Let Down
3. Paranoid Android
107.3 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
It's true there are a startling lack of traditional instrumentation here, but the band has never upped the ante like this before or since. While the group had previously made stellar, conscious efforts to avoid being pigeonholed, Kid A marked the planting of a flag which flew colors of musical experimentation and encased Radiohead in the annals of music history as they stared down the barrel of studio pressures for a 'conventional' LP. What the band hand-delivered towards the end of 2000, as the shadow of an unfulfilled Y2K dissipated, was their vision of an approaching apocalypse that would be patient in temperament and self-inflicted.
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 as they devised chemical processes like crazed alchemists in order to weld tracks which could survive both boiling heat and glacial cold. The opening tones of Everything in its Right Place encapsulate a sound which would soon serve as an idiosyncratic anthem as Radiohead firmly shook the hand of the 21st century. The skittering, emergency siren of Idioteque snags a snapshot of a world on the brink of collapse, too preoccupied to sense impending armageddon. 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 didn't redefine the rock record with Kid A, for there is no all-encompassing definition. What the band truly managed, was the elusive task of redefining themselves, synchronously altering expectations for their subsequent work and thrusting headlong into an unbroken cycle of phoenix-like reincarnation and reinvention bedizened with staggering success.
"Stop sending letters
Letters always get burned
It's not like the movies
They fed us on little white lies"
-Motion Picture Soundtrack
2. How to Disappear Completely
3. Everything in its Right Place
106.7 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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
1. I Want You
2. Just Like a Woman
3. One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
102.9 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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
1. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
2. Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2
3. Oh Comely
102 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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 embodied both a densely visceral and well-realized existence. 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 it's 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?"
2. She Loves Us!
3. Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture
101.8 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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
1. The Bones of Baby Dolls
2. The Blue
3. Dr. Seuss is Dead
100.6 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
Sato and company begin with the pleasantries and with 'Oh! Slime', which bestows respective introductions to each of the band's players. This preamble progressively evolves from a spacey, serene whirring into a bouncy declaration of jubilee. It's clear that the forthcoming ceremony isn't going to be colored by solemnity, despite it being Kashiwabara's swan song. The chants of "Are you feel good?" further blur the collective reality and affix the qualities of a fragmented dream. The band slips back into serenity with the arrival of their legendary cut, 'ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)'. This 'Night Cruise' is more tranquil than its studio album doppelganger, exercising more force and dramatic heft. Sato's presence seems to emanate like vapor through the bright, twinkly guitar chords. The track unfurls at a measured tempo, conjuring images of summer-swept, evening car rides with the windows at half mast. Distorted guitar clangs charge into Sato's banshee wail which fuels the burgeoning sense of grandiosity as the track fades from view. Next in queue, is a revisitation of the band's sophomore effort, 1992's King Master George. The cosmic, percussive 'なんてったの (What Was It)', materializes in a form seemingly untethered and which could fly away at a moment's notice. It's Honzi's work at the keys that colors and elevates the track, as her exploits attach a perceptible sense of melancholy to the song. The bittersweet sensations persist as Fishmans slip into 'Thank You', a explicit championing of life and an unbridled expression of gratitude for its peaks and valleys. The track's somber essence is one of hindsight, as Sato's screeches of life pre-date the ending of his own just months thereafter. It, at times, seems like a conscious goodbye, adding to the mystical gravitas of the band's live farewell.
The band ceases to drag their feet as they decide to live within the present with 'Shiawase-mono (A Happy Person)', a bassy, simmering concoction of placid guitar tones which are ushered away gracefully by Honzi's egressing, endearing keys. The pace lounges more evidently with 'Tayorinai Tenshi (Unreliable Angel)', which shimmers like a calm before a storm, despite its aesthetic allure. Carrying distinct reggae and ska sheens, Fishmans re-enliven their dub roots with pastoral, matured sensibilities. The velocity does resurface, however, the piquancy remains with 'Hikōki (ひこうき; Airplane)', a noticeably more rosy affair fit with phosphorescent guitar and jovial vocals. The infectious guitar solo marks a triumphant break within the track, providing a raucous, screeching wall which firmly divides the two melodic sections. After a brief exchange, the mood swells, the crowd loosens and the stage at the Blitz is now shrouded. The band recrudesces with a signature composition, 'In the Flight', off of 1997's 'Uchū Nippon Setagaya (Space Japan Setagaya)'. The track is rife with gradual escalation, with a dream pop alpha flowing into a brief but elastic, omega. Often cooing as gently as a dove, Sato's vocals on the track are befittingly avian, fragile and susceptible to a soft breeze. Honzi's violin passage weeps softly and elegantly acting as the perfect placeholder and compliment to Sato's own delicate offerings. An arresting symbiotic relationship carries 'In the Flight' into the ether. With a pivot from one legacy-defining track to another, 'Walking in the Rhythm' manifests. This 'Rhythm' is not as melodramatic as it dutifully chugs along before cascading overtop of itself with an assortment of varying guitar sections. The eponymous chants have never sounded so weighty as the track spirals into a cosmic cauldron of intergalactic synth and dueling guitar before crescendoing with labored exaltations from all parties. It's an incredible, stream-of-consciousness adaptation of the band's original masterpiece.
Another trans-dimensional odyssey takes place with the subsequent, 'Smilin' Days, Summer Holiday'. This voyage is powered by guitars that swirl and circulate like maelstroms, but without carrying a semblance of menace or ill-will. They gleam brightly from portion to portion as a cluster of voices flow out, tucked in snugly beneath the ever-advancing strings. After a particularly upbeat, punchy rendition of 'Melody' off of 1994's 'Orange', the stage darkens once more and the disposition becomes one of voiceless consideration. Fishmans begin to perform 'Yurameki in the Air (Flickering in the Air)', a composition that brandishes the same genetic makeup of slow-developing staples such as 'Night Cruising' and 'In the Flight', but stretched out to infinity. It's here that they return to music so gauzy and ethereal that, if you adjust your gaze or shift too brashly, it may flee from view, like innocent fauna of the forest. This intimate mind-meld between artist and audience for 16 unbroken minutes is pure bliss. Penultimate effort, "Ikareta Baby (いかれた Baby; Crazy Baby)", uncoils in a very disparate fashion than its studio counterpart. Here, the piece prefers to wander amidst the expanded acoustics of the Blitz and ride a persistent tempo into the final act of Fishmans' final hour.
So, Fishmans and Shinji Sato offered their parting gift to the world and it began with a cosmic whirl which bleeds into the unforgettable keyboard centerpiece. 'Long Season' was now in full swing, and experiencing it in its fully-realized form makes it easy to forget that the project was once a microscopic idea. This idea continued to propagate from the original six-minute version to the now towering, 41-minute monolith of musical perfection. Albeit tragic, it seems utterly apt that this composition would be the last thing the first iteration of the band would perform. Sato's guitar solo creates the proverbial shriek of a imploding star, a ball of gas which burns so bright that it collapses in on itself by way of its own brilliance. This final 'season' is one which seemingly endures the changing of the leaves, the shifting of tectonic plates and causes the earth, for a brief moment, to cease its rotation and stand still.
The Akasaka Blitz was closed in 2020, now a musical tomb, further painting a picture of a night more reminiscent of a mirage than a historical event. Its memory remains eternally imprinted upon the site and in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed this performance. Until recently, few outside Japan knew of the majesty Fishmans could conjure, but their creative tree fell in the woods in December 1998. Few heard it's alluring reverberation then, but now, finally, all can take part in its auditory luster. You see, as the tree collided with the Earth below, its descent and demise fertilized a beautiful garden which blooms more vividly each day and remains an idyllic place to sit, listen and ponder the radiance of life itself.
"I hope you don't fade away today"
- ゆらめき in the Air
1. Long Season
2. ゆらめき in the Air
100 [First added to this chart: 02/24/2022]
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."
3. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
99.8 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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"
2. Finger Back
3. Don't Lie
99.6 [First added to this chart: 04/26/2020]
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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums composition
|The Beach Boys||4||4%|
Top 100 Greatest Music Albums chart changes
| Up 32 from 60th to 28th|
by The National
| Up 23 from 46th to 23rd|
by The National
| Down 2 from 27th to 29th|
by Aphex Twin
| Down 2 from 28th to 30th|
by フィッシュマンズ [Fishmans]
| Down 2 from 29th to 31st|
by Weyes Blood
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This chart is rated in the top 9% of all charts on BestEverAlbums.com. This chart has a Bayesian average rating of 88.2/100, a mean average of 88.9/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 88.9/100. The standard deviation for this chart is 11.6.
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Exceeding chart and a great read.
We are 2 generations apart, so no surprise that our musical tastes/album preferences are not going to align. Totally respect your selections and appreciate your commentary - this chart is a definite labour of love. BTW - our one common album ~ Dark Side Of The Moon. BTW2 - thank you for introducing me to Night Beds' Country Sleep album - a future inclusion in my 2013 year chart.
I guess youre a fan of radiohead.
Hard work on the descriptions good stuff.
@StreakyNuno: Your statement is demeaning to every individual who's ever experienced an inkling of an original thought...
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*shocked emoji* this is ridiculously great.
Like your taste
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!
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 Amazon.com 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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