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Album List, List, Music List

My 150 Favorite Albums of All-Time

Of everything that has changed or disappeared on the music landscape in the past 20 years, perhaps nothing has been so altered as the album. Gone are the days of platinum hits every other week. Gone are the mass trips to record stores to pick up the new compact discs. Gone are the times when you had to hear your favorite CDs out of your car stereo instead of a laptop speaker.

In the music world, things change all the time, so the iTunes movement could not have come as a huge shock to the experts. It has served the same function that CDs served when the vinyl age was coming to a close. So far, however, the basic concept hasn’t changed much. An artist puts together a collection of songs from similar recording sessions and releases it, either on their own or through a label.

What I love about the album is the snapshot it provides of the artist who makes it. It can be hard to explain a band’s sound to someone based on the artist’s overall work, because a good artist is dexterous and experimental. I believe that we shouldn’t view music purely in terms of the artist, but in terms of a particular piece of work an artist made during a particular place in time.

After all, Green Day in 1994 (Dookie) and Green Day in 2004 (American Idiot) are almost night and day in terms of songwriting. If someone asks you what Green Day is all about, would you tell them they write tunes about masturbation or about social ills? My point is that Green Day is multiple entities, and creates quite a fissure in a music conversation: “Do you like old Green Day or new Green Day?”

Of course, there are numerous similarities between the albums: The band’s core three members remained intact over that 10-year period, and both albums are rife with power chords. However, it is important to respect both pieces of work, and view them separately. That’s what this list is all about. I might include an album from Justin Timberlake here, despite the fact that he wouldn’t sniff a list of my 150 favorite artists. It’s like actual art: You might really dig “Starry Starry Night” even if Van Gogh isn’t one of your favorite painters.

This list should be taken with a grain of salt for many reasons, but the main one is because these are my favorites. Music is incredibly subjective, but I thought I would offer you a portal into my music tastes because 1) It might help you understand the writer of this blog a little better and 2) Everyone loves to read a list, especially one including songs, artists or albums.

I’m sure I will post a list of my 100 favorite artists or something to that effect sometime this coming winter, but for now, you’ll just have to deal with my favorite albums. Take a peek at this monster of a blog post, and be sure to post your thoughts in the comments section, be they well-intentioned or harmful. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about me and some great music. Without further adieu, I give to you my 150 favorite music albums of all-time:

150. Raising Hell – Run-DMC

Year released: 1986
Key tracks: “It’s Tricky”, “My Adidas”, “Walk This Way”

One of the most influential rap albums ever made, Raising Hell popularized the rap/rock sound with the mega-hit “Walk This Way”, which featured Steven Tyler and Joe Perry doing an updated take on an Aerosmith song. The remixed song made Run D.M.C.’s career and probably saved Aerosmith’s. The album is widely considered one of the best ever. It may be tricky to rock a rhyme according to these hip-hop stars, but they made it seem easy in the late 80s.

149. The Crane Wife – The Decemberists

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “The Crane Wife 3”, “O Valencia!”, “Sons & Daughters”

An indie take on a famous Japanese folktale, The Crane Wife is a loosely-themed collection of clever tracks. The (very) bright spot is “O Valencia!”, which perfectly embodies singer Colin Meloy’s tendency for antique fairy-tale-ish lyrics, as well as the unique ensemble of instruments the band strings together.

148. Final Straw – Snow Patrol

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “How To Be Dead”, “Run”, “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking”

This album saw Snow Patrol’s rise from an indie phenomenon to a pop phenomenon. “Run” is probably the best track they have ever made, or ever will make. Final Straw doesn’t have “Chasing Cars”, but it was essential in the band’s journey to American moms’ iPods.

147. Strictly Business – EPMD

Year released: 1988
Key tracks: “Strictly Business”, “I’m Housin'”, “The Steve Martin”

EPMD’s debut album is routinely placed on “best-of” lists, but the group has little to no relevance in my generation. Perhaps the only relatable reference is when B. Rabbit disses some punk in 8 Mile by calling him “Erick Sermon… the generic version.” That being said, Sermon and Parrish Smith’s gem of a CD is thoroughly entrenched in 80s style, and it’s a nice blast from the past to give Strictly Business a spin every once and a while.

146. The Sun and the Moon – The Bravery

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Believe”, “Time Won’t Let Me Go”, “Above & Below”

Although critics didn’t appreciate the Bravery’s second effort (this album) compared to their debut, I definitely prefer their soaring pop hooks and singing guitars to their techno-ish rock club thumping. “Believe” and “Time Won’t Let Me Go” are two of the most underrated rock songs of the last decade.

145. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

Year released: 1998
Key tracks: “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1”, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”, “Holland, 1945”

Neutral Milk Hotel’s second and last album is one of the most celebrated of all-time. Thoroughly indie and thoroughly good, singer Jeff Mangum puts together his acoustic chops and his wailing voice to make some magic. I still don’t know how In the Aeroplane Over the Sea caught fire like it did, but I definitely appreciate the music.

144. Angles – The Strokes

Year released: 2011
Key tracks: “Machu Picchu”, “Under Cover of Darkness”, “Life is Simple in the Moonlight”

After a long hiatus, the Strokes reconvened to make a comeback album last year. The four musicians in the band made the instrumental tracks, and then sent them to diva singer Julian Casablancas in order for him to add vocals. It was a truly odd way to make a record—especially since Casablancas usually writes most of the music—but with songs like “Under Cover of Darkness”, the end result wasn’t half-bad.

143. Contra – Vampire Weekend

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Holiday”, “Cousins”, “Giving Up the Gun”

In my opinion, Vampire Weekend’s debut record and Contra are very similar sonically and in terms of quality. What pushes the second album over the edge is the fact that the best songs shine a little brighter. “Cousins” and “Giving Up the Gun” received heavy airplay, and for good reason: they’re really good. Vampire Weekend’s afro-indie concoction is certainly unique, and I look forward to hearing what they come up with next.

142. Vitalogy – Pearl Jam

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “Corduroy”, “Betterman”, “Immortality”

Vitalogy marks the beginning of Pearl Jam’s resistance stage. After their first two critically-acclaimed albums, Eddie Vedder and co. decided to say to hell with music videos, to hell with Ticketmaster, and to hell with the grunge tag. They did not, however, say to hell with good songs. “Corduroy” and “Betterman” still dominated modern rock radio stations, along with a host of other tracks from this semi-awkward stage of Pearl Jam’s career.

141. Bringing Down the Horse – The Wallflowers

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “One Headlight”, “6th Avenue Heartache”, “Three Marlenas”

Bob Dylan came close, but he never had a #1 hit on the U.S. charts. It is perhaps the only musical area where he has been one-upped by his son, Jakob, the lead singer of the Wallflowers. “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache” are two of the most unfortunately forgotten pop gems from the 1990s. Dylan and the Wallflowers continue to make good music, but their fall from the top came very quickly and unceremoniously.

140. Surfacing – Sarah McLachlan

Year released: 1997
Key tracks: “Building a Mystery”, “Adia”, “Angel”

After a big-time album and a couple years of touring, McLachlan took some time off in the mid-nineties to craft the slow-moving Surfacing. Although the record’s pace is its partial downfall, the trio of hits “Building a Mystery”, “Adia” and “Angel” are three of the smoothest female pop numbers of the past 20 years.

139. Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.

Year released: 1988
Key tracks: “Fuck tha Police”, “If It Ain’t Ruff”, “Express Yourself”

This CD is the bible of gangsta rap, with scriptures written by Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren. The first album to go platinum with virtually no radio play and no major touring, Straight Outta Compton kickstarted a movement that has lost a lot of steam, but still exists today. One of the most important hip-hop albums ever.

138. Congratulations – MGMT

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Flash Delirium”, “Brian Eno”, “Congratulations”

While hipsters everywhere awaited a pop follow-up to the fantastic Oracular Spectacular, the boys from MGMT were cooking up this psychedelic progressive-rock disc. An obvious attempt to shy away from the pop structures and catchy hooks of the first album, Congratulations is an interesting change of direction for a suddenly mysterious band.

137. The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “Heresy”, “Closer”, “Hurt”

1994 was the last year for the truly classic rock albums of the grunge era. You’ll find many records from 1991-1994 further down this list. But, while Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell were busy tending to the booming guitars of the time period, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails was building the American industrial rock culture by himself. While un-attentive music fans attribute the beautiful “Hurt” to Johnny Cash, the original (and best) version resides on this disc, in all of its painful glory.

136. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 1987
Key tracks: “Fight Like a Brave”, “Me & My Friends”, “Behind the Sun”

The third album from the Hollywood punk/funk stars, Party Plan gave the Peppers their first tinge of mainstream success. Oddly enough, due to music conflicts, drugs and death, it was also the only album to feature the four original members of the band. It was guitarist Hillel Slovak’s last album, as he died from an overdose before RHCP’s follow-up. Slovak’s influence lives on in future band recordings, most notably in numerous lyrics from singer Anthony Kiedis.

135. Man On The Moon: The End of Day – Kid Cudi

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Soundtrack 2 My Life”, “Day ‘n’ Nite”, “Enter Galactic”

Making his artistic debut on a major label label, Kid Cudi follows the model of “go big, or go home.” He made an impact on the pop community, the hip-hop community and the rock community all at once with songs like “Day ‘n’ Nite” and “Soundtrack 2 My Life”. Since stepping out from Kanye West’s shadow, Cudi has certainly turned himself into his own separate brand name.

134. Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor – Lupe Fiasco

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Kick, Push”, “The Instrumental”, “Daydreamin'”

Lupe debuted his unique Midwest alternative sound with Food & Liquor, named after the prototypical food & liquor stores found in urban areas. On the album, he created the quintessential skateboarding tune of the 2000s (and maybe of all-time) with “Kick, Push”, a love story that develops with every ‘ka-kunk ka-kunk’ of the two protagonists’ wheels.

133. Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Breakaway”, “Since U Been Gone”, “Behind These Hazel Eyes”

Sure, you can laugh at this album’s inclusion on the list, but don’t be surprised to find more like it further down. Clarkson killed it—in a mainstream pop way— on this CD, right during the peak of American Idol fanaticism and before the record industry really realized it was in decline. Her chart domination included the three songs listed above, along with “Because of You”, and “Walk Away”. This album represents 2000s American pop better than just about anything else.

132. Morning View – Incubus

Year released: 2001
Key tracks: “Nice To Know You”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Warning”

Incubus chilled out a little bit on this record, but all of their main elements are still in play: the scratching of the DJ, the wall-o-sound guitars, and Brandon Boyd’s unique pop/rock vocals. “Nice To Know You” features a dirty off-time riff, and it’s tough to get songs like “Warning” and “Wish Your Were Here” out of your head after listening.

131. There Is Nothing Left To Lose – Foo Fighters

Year released: 1999
Key tracks: “Stacked Actors”, “Learn To Fly”, “Next Year”

Once you get past the face-smasher “Stacked Actors”, the rest of the album is a departure from earlier Foo Fighters records. A rock record that your mom will probably put on repeat in her minivan, There Is Nothing Left To Lose is mellow, poppy and pretty good. “Learn To Fly”, while not necessarily exemplifying the true Foo sound, might be the band’s most recognizable song, and Dave Grohl has stated that “Aurora” is his favorite FF track.

130. Recovery – Eminem

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “W.T.P.”, “Cinderella Man”, “Almost Famous”

Eminem called this his comeback album, and while that may be confusing to the people who point out he did release Relapse in 2009, this was a noticeably more clean-cut and un-drugged Marshall Mathers on the microphone. Its unclear if the culprit for his new style and delivery is age or the obscene amount of drugs he did in the late 2000s, but this is not the same man who made The Slim Shady LP, or even Encore for that matter. Check out my full album review here.

129. Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King – Dave Matthews Band

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Shake Me Like a Monkey”, “Funny the Way It Is”, “You and Me”

DMB’s first album after the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, Big Whiskey sees the band breaking out more electric guitars and pop structures, “You and Me” being the most blatant attempt at Top 40 radio they’ve ever done. Dave and company’s last album is also their catchiest effort, and the casual fan benefits.

128. One of the Boys – Katy Perry

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “I Kissed a Girl”, “Waking Up In Vegas”, “Hot n Cold”

Kay-Pay hit the scene in a big way with her irreverent debut, One of the Boys. The preacher’s daughter stormed the pop charts with “I Kissed a Girl” and didn’t look back. In my opinion, Perry has the sexiest voice in pop, and the only reason her last release, Teenage Dream, isn’t on this list is because I haven’t been able to hunt down a copy (anyone?).

127. Hotel California – The Eagles

Year released: 1976
Key tracks: “Hotel California”, “Life In the Fast Line”, “Wasted Time”

This album not only features one of the best songs ever made in the history of music (the title track, as if you needed me to tell you), it doesn’t have a weakness. Joe Walsh’s first album as an Eagle equated to a truly unforgettable and classic disc. And again, the title track is good enough that if the last eight songs were just dead air, Hotel California would still make this list.

126. People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm – A Tribe Called Quest

Year released: 1990
Key tracks: “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It?”, “Ham ‘n’ Eggs”

Along with De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest spear-headed the hippie hip-hop movement in the late 80s-early 90s. The antithesis to the N.W.A. gangster scene, the Tribe (Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammed & Jarobi White) took to more light-hearted topics and defined the era of alternative hip-hop. If you haven’t heard anything from this group, “Can I Kick It?” is the best place to start.

125. This Will Work For Now – Kristoff Krane

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Crystal Clear”, “Miracle?”, “Easy Way Out”

One of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, Kristoff Krane can play guitar, sing, and freestyle with the best of them. His debut album showcases all of these things, and while there are a decent amount of filler spots, Krane proves just how talented he is. From the quick rhymes of “Crystal Clear” to the pop of “Miracle?”, This Will Work For Now cemented Kristoff Krane as one of the best hip-hop artists in not only Minnesota, but the whole midwest.

124. 21st Century Breakdown – Green Day

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “East Jesus Nowhere”, “Peacemaker”, “Horseshoes and Handgrenades”

Green Day took another bold stab at a rock opera in 2009, and the results were mixed. The story was just as vague as American Idiot, but the band couldn’t replicate the home-run singles from that 2004 album. “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns” became stale almost instantly after hitting airwaves, but there are still a good amount of solid songs on the record.

123. The Open Door EP – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2009
Year released: “Little Bribes”, “My Mirror Speaks”, “I Was Once a Loyal Lover”

What was meant as a filler EP between albums ended up being a rather good 5-song EP. “My Mirror Speaks” is one of my favorite Death Cab songs, and the others are extremely solid. Another good effort from the Washington band, it was a great way to pass the time between Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys.

122. Devil’s Night – D12

Year released: 2001
Key tracks: “Pistol Pistol”, “Purple Pills”, “Fight Music”

At the peak of his fame, Eminem decided to get his childhood friends signed alongside him, and turned his rap group D12 into a major-label artist. Of course, Shady is still the highlight of just about every song, and its rare to find truly good verses from any of the other members besides Proof and Bizarre. This is a different-sounding record from D12 World—or the “My Band” album—and isn’t as bad of a hip-hop landmark as it may seem.

121. Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends) – Coldplay

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Lost!”, “Viva La Vida”, “Violet Hill”

Coldplay went political with this album, and it is a bit of a departure from their trio of initial albums. Although there is no underlying theme to the tracks, it feels like it is supposed to be that way. It’s not the best Coldplay album, but the direction they took makes sense. Chris Martin and the guys made the 2000s their own, and Viva La Vida was the exclamation point on their millennium discography.

120. Check Your Head – Beastie Boys

Year released: 1992
Key tracks: “Gratitude”, “So What’Cha Want”, “Professor Booty”

After their absolutely classic first two releases, the Beastie Boys could do anything they wanted on their third album. So, they picked up real instruments and decided to make a hip-hop record while playing some of the backing tracks. This would continue with later songs like “Sabotage”, but the Beastie Boys really developed their repertoire with Check Your Head. Nothing gets you on your feet quite like “So What’Cha Want”.

119. FutureSex/LoveSounds – Justin Timberlake

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “SexyBack”, “What Goes Around… Comes Around”, “Summer Love”

If you’re wondering how Justin Timberlake suddenly became cool in the past couple years, look no further than his second album to understand where that all began. Once “SexyBack” hit pop radio, Timberlake was a new man, and this CD is 66 minutes of sweet revival.

118. Picking Flowers Next To Roadkill – Kristoff Krane

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Leave the Summer”, “Best Friends”, “Student Body”

Kristoff Krane became one of the hotter names on the Minneapolis rap scene after his 2008 debut, and he decided to take advantage of the exposure with not one but two follow-up albums in 2010. Picking Flowers Next To Roadkill and Hunting For Father are Krane’s sophomore companion pieces, but I unfortunately only own the former. This one features P.O.S., Slug and the late Eyedea, who is featured in the youthful number “Best Friends”.

117. Barenaked Ladies Are Me – Barenaked Ladies

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Bank Job”, “Sound of Your Voice”, “Easy”

This album finds the Barenaked Ladies almost a decade after their smash hit “One Week” took over America in the late 90s. Although their fame had peaked a long time before Barenaked Ladies Are Me, the band is still comfortable as ever on the disc, albeit not as sharp as on their best work. This album’s inclusion is more about my artist fandom than about its actual musical worth, although “Bank Job” and “Easy” are great nuggets to uncover if you are curious.

116. Bleach – Nirvana

Year released: 1989
Key tracks: “About a Girl”, “School”, “Love Buzz”

When people talk about the grunge movement, Nirvana is the first band brought up in the conversation. The first record people tend to look at is Nevermind, but in my mind, Bleach contains the definitive sound of “grunge”. The sludgy guitars, semi-melodic yells and sloppy drumming combine to create the roots to the biggest musical movement of the 1990s, and the biggest game-changer in mainstream rock since Zeppelin.

115. We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “405”, “Company Calls Epilogue”, “Scientist Studies”

This album is the perfect space between the very-indie-sounding Something About Airplanes and the fan-worshipped The Photo Album. “405” is probably the most popular song of the pre-fame Death Cab era, and features singer Ben Gibbard’s melancholy musings with a catchy guitar hook. Gibbard’s abstract story-telling is the star of the show, and you can see the makings of a star on this record.

114. Collision Course – Jay-Z & Linkin Park

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Numb/Encore”, “Izzo/In the End”, “Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer”

This was a tricky EP to place, because while I’m ashamed that this is the only Jay-Z record on the list, I’m not ashamed that it is the only Linkin Park effort in my 150. Despite my hesitation to fall head over heels for the metal rockers, this mashup is pure genius. Somehow, Jay-Z’s vocals match-up perfectly with the screams and industrial-ish guitars. To put it simply, it’s kind of like if Rage Against the Machine was a pop band.

113. Stankonia – Outkast

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “So Fresh, So Clean”, “Ms. Jackson”, “B.O.B.”

If you are a hip-hop buff and don’t have this album in your collection, you need to stop reading and go pick up a copy immediately. I’ll wait a couple minutes for you… Alright, essentially, Big Boi and Andre 3000 create their own country, “Stankonia”, and fill it up with their catchiest songs ever, with some tight rhymes to boot. So weird, so odd, so funny, so… awesome.

112. X&Y – Coldplay

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Fix You”, “Speed of Sound”, “Til Kingdom Come”

After A Rush of Blood To the Head was released in 2002, Coldplay became one of the biggest bands in the world, if not the biggest. This album, released three years later, was still very good, but did not push the band’s boundaries much musically. The songs weren’t as good as their old tunes (with the exception of the astounding “Fix You”), but they did enough to meet the Coldplay status quo, which isn’t anything to scoff at.

111. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “The Suburbs”, “Rococo”, “Month of May”

After this album captured the “Album of the Year” Grammy this past winter, the general sentiment from the United States population was, “who the hell is Arcade Fire?” Well, they were possibly the most popular indie band in the country, which is a clue as to how warped “fame” is in the indie world. Anyway, a hipster without a copy of Funeral is like a police officer without a badge, if that simile does the trick for you muggles. If you want me to talk about this record, well, I’m afraid I didn’t think it was the band’s best work. You can read my full review here.

110. Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded – Rihanna

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Umbrella”, “Don’t Stop the Music”, “Disturbia”

Reloaded is the re-release of Rihanna’s third album, but the special edition includes three chart-entering hits—”Disturbia”, “Take a Bow” and “If I Never See Your Face Again”. Essentially, this album is on the list because Rihanna is my girl, and there are a hell of a lot of good pop songs on it. “Umbrella” is one of the best pop jams of all-time. Of all-time! Seriously, what’s better?

109. This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Dance Yrself Clean”, “Drunk Girls”, “I Can Change”

LCD’s three albums are all well-reviewed, all stylish and all very solid. This Is Happening is the last release from the band, as they broke up this year. The “band” is really mostly James Murphy thowing together jams in the studio. Murphy is responsible for creating a signature dance/punk/pop style which finds the singer alternating between speaking gibberish and humming some catchy notes over electronic drums and synthesizers.

108. Stunt – Barenaked Ladies

Year released: 1998
Key tracks: “One Week”, “It’s All Been Done”, “Call and Answer”

BNL hit the big time with “One Week”, completing their journey from an unknown Ontario outfit to chart-topping mainstream rock group. One of the most recognizable songs of the 90s is surrounded by a host of other good tracks like “It’s All Been Done”, “Call and Answer”, “Never is Enough” and “Alcohol”. Definitely not the band’s best work, but this CD obviously put them on the map.

107. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Take Me Out”, “The Dark of the Matinee”, “This Fire”

A modern day classic, Franz Ferdinand received almost universal acclaim from critics, and is as strong of a U.K. debut as they come. Named after the Austrian archduke whose assassination effectively sparked World War I, the band is part rock and part glam, and to this day is still best known for the hit single “Take Me Out”.

106. Humbug – Arctic Monkeys

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Crying Lightning”, “Cornerstone”, “Dance Little Liar”

The third album from the British sensations, Humbug took a much darker and more experimental turn than their past work. Only three years removed from their sensational (and rockin’) debut, the Artic Monkeys employed Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme as producer, and Humbug has an obvious QOTSA influence. Maybe one day we will look back at this album as the beginning of the end for a great young band, but in my mind this record was a cool step in their progression.

105. Temple of the Dog – Temple of the Dog

Year released: 1990
Key tracks: “Say Hello 2 Heaven”, “Hunger Strike”, “Call Me A Dog”

After Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood died of an overdose, an all-star collection of Seattle-area musicians came together to make a tribute record of original tunes. Featuring Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, and Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, this record is a hidden classic in the sense that it was made just before the national grunge explosion.

104. 19 – Adele

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Chasing Pavements”, “Right as Rain”, “Hometown Glory”

Adele debuted at #1 on the U.K. charts, but it took her awhile to find fame in America. It wasn’t until a successful appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live that her album blew up in the states, and “Chasing Pavements” was soon all over American soft-pop radio stations. Adele’s first record has the warm feel of a coffee-house recording at times (“Make You Feel My Love”), but she also reaches heights that make listening to 19 addicting.

103. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, “Jesus, Etc.”, “Heavy Metal Drummer”

Wilco has enjoyed a long and successful career while dabbling in country, alternative rock and indie pop, amongst other things, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was their crowning achievement. This album can be found on just about every “best of the 2000s” list, and usually in the top 10 at that. Balancing their signature sounds with enough pop sensibilities to engage the listener during the first listen, Wilco made one of the better records of the decade.

102. Red Letter Days – The Wallflowers

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “When You’re On Top”, “How Good It Can Get”, “Closer To You”

After the smashing success of 1996’s Bringing Down The Horse and 2000’s not-as-well-received-but-still-cool Breach, the Wallflowers released their last big-time effort Red Letter Days in 2002. The album featured their best song (in my opinion), “When You’re On Top”, and their best overall album from start to finish (again, in my opinion). They continue to record—and singer Jakob Dylan dabbles in solo land as well—but they understand they’ve been removed from teenagers’ iPods.

101. Far – Regina Spektor

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Folding Chair”, “Machine”, “Laughing With”

Spektor has made a career of toeing the line between mainstream and indie, and her songs reflect that. She’s an artist whose songs are perfect for corporate commercials, but stand up easily on their own. She is one of my favorite songwriters, and her last album, Far, is a perfect example of great piano pop at the hands of a uber-talented songstress. She’ll twist your heart in “Laughing With” then get you sucked into her storytelling with “Wallet”. Watch out for her in the coming years. She just might crack that mainstream barrier into superstar status.

100. Backspacer – Pearl Jam

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “The Fixer”, “Just Breathe”, “Amongst the Waves”

After years of fighting fame and the mainstream culture, Pearl Jam decided it wanted to get back into the commercial fray with Backspacer. It’s definitely a valiant attempt at reclaiming old glory, with a spruced-up, poppier sound than is generally expected from a PJ record. The harsh reality for these guys is that they will not be “Pearl Jam: the greatest band on Earth” to a new generation, only a cool collective of older dudes who made “Just Breathe”.

99. Illmatic – Nas

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “N.Y. State of Mind”, “The World is Yours”, “One Time 4 Your Mind”

Nas was 19 years old when he began recording one of the most celebrated hip-hop debut albums of all-time. Illmatic sparked a change in rapping style, and a sort of rebirth for the East Coast rap scene. Although Nas has had a sparkling career, his most cherised work came in the form of this album.

98. High Violet – The National

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Terrible Love”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Conversation 16”

This album is the third in a row from The National that has received extremely positive critical reception. Although their style is very melancholy and deep, some of the music is instantly relatable. The main reason this is so high on my list is because I spun this CD in my car for two straight weeks last summer after its release. This is one of those albums that sparks memories when you pop it into the player after a long layoff. If something could haunt you in a good way, High Violet would fit the bill.

97. Mr. A-Z – Jason Mraz

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Life is Wonderful”, “Wordplay”, “Please Don’t Tell Her”

Although this is by far my least favorite Jason Mraz album, the dude makes such great songs that I still had to put this in my top 100. None of his absolutely best songs are on this disc, but the tree listed above belong with his better tracks. Mr. A-Z is probably would you would call Mraz’ awkward stage between his acoustic-centric debut and his stoned-out classic third album.

96. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “In da Club”, “If I Can’t”, “Wanksta”

This record has probably fallen so far down my list because, since this came out, 50 has proved to the world that he can’t actually rap very well. I mean, come on, the guy went from the hottest rapper in the game to receiving the majority of his income from a Vitamin Water investment. Whether or not Eminem wrote most of the lyrics on this album, the songs are very, very good. A classic hip-hop album in my mind.

95. Wasting Light – Foo Fighters

Year released: 2011
Key tracks: “Rope”, “Arlandria”, “These Days”

The last grunge-era group of musicians to still be making a consistent impact on the charts, the Foo Fighters went old school with their latest release. Frontman Dave Grohl set up a “studio” in his garage, and the band rocked out while conjuring up memories of their first two albums. Everything was done 90s style, including the music video for lead single “Rope”, which was shot without digital cameras.

94. Only By The Night – Kings of Leon

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Closer”, “Sex On Fire”, “Use Somebody”

One of the most polarizing albums of the decade, Only By The Night split critics right down the middle. The negative half were mostly fans of the band who felt chapped that the group took a shot at the big time (see: “sold out”), and the other half looked at the music for what it is: a sleekly produced modern rock album with some huge pop hits. Although KOL lost all of their hipster cred when “Use Somebody” started getting played on the radio, they can take solace in the fact that they took a big swing with this album and absolutely nailed it.

93. Vs. – Pearl Jam

Year released: 1993
Key tracks: “Daughter”, “Dissident”, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In a Small Town”

After the huge (and I mean HUGE) success of their debut album Ten, Pearl Jam was faced with the task of creating an equally-successful follow-up album. The band kept a cool head, and churned out the incredibly solid Vs. in 1993. With a more balanced record than the debut (while “Oceans” and “Garden” were low-key, they weren’t as chill as “Daughter” or “Elderly Woman”), Pearl Jam didn’t match all of the hits from Ten, but their fame grew by leaps and bounds.

92. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “The Cave”, “Winter Winds”, “Little Lion Man”

Talk about confusing. If you popped this CD onto your computer, you’d think you’re listening to an old Irish dude and his sons playing banjos and kick drums. Mumford and Sons are not, in fact, related, and they are not, in fact, Irish. To clear the slate, they are four young Englishmen who make incredibly catchy (albeit similar) songs and give the listener an extraordinary happiness in his or her bones. Throw on “Little Lion Man” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

91. Sound Of Silver – LCD Soundsystem

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “All My Friends”, “Watch the Tapes”, “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”

James Murphy’s dance/punk machine hit a high note on its second-to-last record. Sound of Silver is Murphy at his finest in the studio, and “All My Friends” is one of my favorite songs on any CD, ever. The singer’s quirkiness is irrepressibly charming, and the ticks and whirrs of his backing tracks made LCD Soundsystem the premier dance band in the nation. If you want to get into this band, start with the closing track on this album.

90. American Ghetto – Portugal. The Man

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “The Dead Dog”, “All My People”, “1000 Years”

America’s favorite Alaskan band with a period in its name struck again with a different sounding record in 2010. Since they recently made the leap to Atlantic, this will technically be remembered as their last indie record before the jump. The main reason this album is on the list instead of the others is because I don’t have full copies (somebody has to be able to help me out here…) of Waiter: You Vultures! and all those other good records. American Ghetto is still a pretty damn good listen while I wait for your help, however.

89. Incredibad – The Lonely Island

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Lazy Sunday”, “Ras Trent”, “Natalie’s Rap”

Apparently, Andy Samberg was no longer satisfied with just having his humorous rap songs played on Saturday Night Live, and decided to compile 19 tracks onto a major-label-pressed album. With the help of childhood friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (along with countless cameos from pop stars and actors), Samberg’s music sounds just as funny without the visual aids than with them.

88. Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies For The Film Curious George – Jack Johnson

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Upside Down”, “Broken”, “We’re Going To Be Friends”

As far as movie soundtracks go, Sing-A-Longs was one of the most successful in the history of film. Johnson grabbed a bunch of his buddies and made an album that sits as well with 3-year-olds as it does with 30-year-olds. It also spawned his biggest hit, “Upside Down”, along with the cherished White Stripes cover “We’re Going To Be Friends”.

87. Infinite – Eminem

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “Infinite”, “It’s OK”, “313”

It’s hard to imagine Eminem selling cassette tapes out of his trunk, but that’s what he was doing in the early winter of 1996 while attempting to get a few spins at the local Detroit radio station. This underground album has been dismissed as Eminem trying to find his style and features a noticeably laid-back Marshall Mathers in the booth, but the curious style doesn’t detract from the man’s ability to rhyme with the best, even before he was discovered by Dr. Dre.

86. Theft Of The Commons – No Bird Sing

Year released: 2011
Key tracks: “Afterlife Insurance”, “Night Lights”, “Cool Hand Luke”

The second album from the nation’s best blues/rap trio, Theft Of The Commons features a harder-edged sound than its predecessor. This might be the result of the band recording in a rural Minnesota barn while utilizing live tracking. Frontman Joe Horton continues to delve into the topics of societal tendencies and inequality, while guitarist Bobby Mulrennan and drummer Graham O’Brien bring the record home with an acid-soaked punch.

85. The Bends – Radiohead

Year released: 1995
Key tracks: “High and Dry”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Just”

After their grungy debut, Pablo Honey, Radiohead shifted gears a bit and created one of the most quintessential alternative rock albums ever. Mixing modern rock (“Just”) with singer-songwriter anthems (“High and Dry”) and a load of other influences, Radiohead showed the world their versatility, and hinted at what would come next.

84. Room For Squares – John Mayer

Year released: 2001
Key tracks: “No Such Thing”, “Why Georgia”, “Your Body Is a Wonderland”

Through constant shows and and a lot of talent, Mayer signed with Aware Records to release Room For Squares in 2001. The album was later released in the same year by Columbia. This disc was obviously Mayer’s breaking-out party, and “Your Body Is a Wonderland” earned him his first Grammy. He’s stuck around, obviously.

83. MTV Unplugged In New York – Nirvana

Year released: 1993
Key tracks: “About a Girl”, “The Man Who Sold the World”, “Lake of Fire”

If Nevermind was Nirvana’s masterpiece and In Utero was the band’s artistic mark, then MTV Unplugged was the group’s legacy. Kurt Cobain strums his acoustic guitar in a way no one had ever seen him do it, and rarely does a live album produce multiple songs that still get played on the radio almost 20 years later (“The Man Who Sold the World” and “All Apologies”). Most Americans’ last impression of Cobain was on that MTV stage, in front of the most polite audience Nirvana had ever faced.

82. Parachutes – Coldplay

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “Yellow”, “Trouble”, “Everything’s Not Lost”

Chris Martin and Coldplay broke into the world of pop music with their major label debut Parachutes. Before they had dreams of world domination, the band kept it simple with ballads like “Yellow” and “Trouble”. Though the group is reportedly embarrassed by their debut, a lot of fans tend to favor Parachutes over the other albums.

81. Houses Of The Holy – Led Zeppelin

Year released: 1973
Key tracks: “The Song Remains the Same”, “D’yer Mak’er”, “The Ocean”

Led Zeppelin found their Sgt. Pepper moment, so to speak, on Houses of the Holy, layering more instruments on their songs and coming up with completely original material. They experimented with newer sounds, and the results were almost magical. “No Quarter” breathes like an old man on his death bed, and “The Ocean” ends with something not unlike a hoe-down soundtrack.

80. Paul’s Boutique – Beastie Boys

Year released: 1989
Key tracks: “High Plains Drifter”, “Hey Ladies”, “Shadrach”

The Beastie Boys brought back 80s rap before the 80s were even over with Paul’s Boutique. Their artsy hip-hop opus came smack dab in the middle of the gangster rap startup, and influenced a sort of renaissance in the hip-hop culture for the alternative folks. Paul’s Boutique is more of an insanely cool landmark than an insanely awesome rap album, but either way, it deserves to get played on your stereo.

79. Heavier Things – John Mayer

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “Clarity”, “Bigger Than My Body”, “Daughters”

The title for Mayer’s second album came from a critic who asked why he doesn’t write songs about “heavier things”. So, Mayer responded with a melancholy record about abuse, depression and heartbreak. The instrumental tracks are familiar from the first album, but the man behind the microphone seems slightly changed. This is a great bridge record between Room For Squares and Continuum.

78. Warning: – Green Day

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “Minority”, “Waiting”, “Macy’s Day Parade”

While some may disdain Green Day when they step away from the punk style (with the exception being “Good Riddance”, which no one hates), this is mostly due to the fact that people think the band has an identity crisis. Contrary to that idea, the group announced they were moving away from strict punk rules in the late 90s, and their most underrated record was released a full four years before the follow-up album that changed everything.

77. We The People – Flipsyde

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Someday”, “No More”, “Trumpets”

This band is more fitting of the “identity crisis” tag discussed above on #78. Flipsyde made this masterpiece of a hip-hop album, then added a female diva a la Black-Eyed Peas and immediately went down the drain. They are going back to their roots now, and for good reason: their debut album is hella good. “Someday” was one of the best songs of 2005, and the rest of the album is chock-full of underrated tracks.

76. Let It Be – The Beatles

Year released: 1970
Key tracks: “Two Of Us”, “Across The Universe”, “Let It Be”

Though some fans may argue that Abbey Road is the final Beatles album (it’s complicated, but Let It Be was originally recorded in January 1969 as Get Back), this feels like a fitting end to the career of the best rock artist there may ever be. “Across The Universe” is one of those songs that I played on my iPod over and over again as I really got into the Beatles this past year or so. I think some people have maybe heard the title track too.

75. Seven’s Travels – Atmosphere

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “Trying To Find a Balance”, “Gotta Lotta Walls”, “Always Coming Back Home To You/Say Shh”

Atmosphere slowly crept into the mainstream rap world in the early 2000s, and they were helped along by this brilliant effort, utilizing live instrumentation and storyline-style sampling throughout Seven’s Travels. Rapper Slug and producer Ant created the quintessential Minnesota rap album, complete with a hometown hidden track that matches anything on the disc. This is Atmosphere at their most creative, and maybe their best.

74. One Hot Minute – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 1995
Key tracks: “Aeroplane”, “My Friends”, “Shallow Be Thy Game”

After the departure of drugged-up guitarist John Frusciante, the Chili Peppers faced the task of following up their most successful album—Blood Sugar Sex Magik—without their star musician. The band decided to enlist former Jane’s Addiction six-stringer Dave Navarro, and their marriage lasted just long enough for them to produce this music child. One Hot Minute is not RHCP’s best work, but it deserves a listen from every fan.

73. All Eyez On Me – 2Pac

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “Heartz of Men”, “Life Goes On”, “When We Ride On Our Enemies”

2Pac’s last studio album before his death, All Eyez On Me is also Pac’s best record. Despite a wide (some might say conflicting) base of ideals and themes, including gang warfare and the beauty of life, 2Pac shows why he was the king of the west coast in the 1990s, ripping through verses on tracks like “Heartz of Men” and “When We Ride On Our Enemies”.

72. Oracular Spectacular – MGMT

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Time To Pretend”, “Electric Feel”, “Kids”

The major label debut for two college kids just messing around, Oracular Spectacular was an instant hit, garnering rave reviews from just about every big-time American music publication. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser made a synth pop classic without much effort, insisting that they just made “dumb pop songs”. They’ve since moved in a more experimental direction, but this CD is something special.

71. One Day As a Lion EP – One Day As a Lion

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Wild International”, “Last Letter”, “If You Fear Dying”

Although this is just a 5-song EP, it holds a special place in my heart. Former Rage Against the Machine vocalist Zack de la Rocha, he of the solo album that never came to be, teamed up with former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore to create a Rage-meets-distorted-keyboards-and-a-good-drummer sound. I remember my anticipation for the day it was released, and it was one of the main records I can point to that got me interested in creating music.

70. Graduation – Kanye West

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Stronger”, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, “Flashing Lights”

Kanye finished his schooling with the third record in his College Dropout trilogy (you might find the first two if you keep looking down the list), and cemented his pedestal at the top of the pop world. With this album’s incorporation of synth and big-time anthems like “Stronger”, it was clear that no one goes bigger than Kanye, and that includes Jay-Z, who West had some choice words for in “Big Brother”.

69. Mother’s Milk – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 1989
Key tracks: “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, “Taste The Pain”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers truly broke into the mainstream’s consciousness with this rock record, the first to feature insanely gifted guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith. More and more pop elements began to creep into the band’s sound, and it was clear that their rebellious side was beginning to shift towards more funk ditties than crazy punk and hip-hop tunes. Mother’s Milk is the last album from the Chili Peppers that showcases their truly wild side, and it’s worth a listen for any rock fan.

68. Brothers – Black Keys

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Tighten Up”, “Howlin’ For You”, “Ten Cent Pistol”

Long revered as a sick underground band from Ohio, the Black Keys put together an album that was impossible to keep from the general population. The first indication of a hit record was the high amount of radio play “Tighten Up” received, followed by a big-budget music video for “Howlin’ For You”. The latter track has transformed into the band’s first true hit, although I probably wouldn’t put it in my top 10 favorite Keys songs. The best part of the album is the physical disc, which changes color when you play it.

67. Is This It – The Strokes

Year released: 2001
Key tracks: “Is This It”, “Someday”, “Last Nite”

The White Stripes, The Hives, and countless other bands are responsible for the garage rock revival of the early 2000s, but The Strokes’ Is This It is the sole album that symbolized the movement. Five young lads from New York became media sensations overnight with the release of their debut, and you can thank them for semi-fathering bands like The Killers later in the decade.

66. Continuum – John Mayer

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Waiting On The World To Change”, “Gravity”, “Dreaming With A Broken Heart”

This record’s worth is punctuated by Mayer’s opinion of it. He called it his best album… while doing promotional interviews for his most recent album, Battle Studies, in 2009. He’s not wrong, of course, as Mayer the musician largely overshadows Mayer the pop artist on this brilliant record. His guitar solos would make Stalin cry, and the pure soul of just about every song hits the listener with a wave of realization that this bro is really good at what he does.

65. Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins

Year released: 1993
Key tracks: “Cherub Rock”, “Today”, “Mayonaise”

The Smashing Pumpkins are largely forgotten in my generation, and its hard to picture them being one of the biggest bands in the world, but Siamese Dream and the entrancing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness propelled them to near-God like status in the USA. Of course, their nasty break-up and frontman Billy Corgan’s continuation of “The Smashing Pumpkins” (minus 75% of the real band) into the 2010s has basically killed off the magic, but Siamese Dream was a beautiful album in its own way, and was one of the essential alternative rock records of the decade.

64. Automatic For The People – R.E.M.

Year released: 1992
Synopsis: “Everybody Hurts”, “Man On The Moon”, “Nightswimming”

Speaking of classic 90s alternative rock records, R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People may have been the most critically-acclaimed of the bunch. R.E.M. is truly a college rock band—hell, they might be the quintessential college rock band—but this record was beyond indie, and they recorded it at the height of their reign. Of course, they’re still chugging along today, and they’ve basically had a hit on almost every album, but this one is their magnum opus.

63. Encore – Eminem

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Like Toy Soldiers”, “Mosh”, “Mockingbird”

Although this album has been largely forgotten with time, it was Eminem’s last effort before his terrible drug addiction pulled him out of the music scene for almost five years. It doesn’t touch (or even sniff) his first three major-label albums, but he strung together enough pop hits to keep people from realizing the severity of his deterioration. Encore was not Em’s best work, but I would certainly take it over his newer releases. Plus, it’s case is helped because it was the first Slim Shady album I ever owned.

62. Waiting For My Rocket To Come – Jason Mraz

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “You and I Both”, “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)”, “Who Needs Shelter”

Jason Mraz’ first album was all over the place. “The Remedy” seemed to be on every pop station, but Waiting For My Rocket never followed through with another unit-shifting single. Musically, it wasn’t as shallow as Mraz’ second album (see #97) but it was still tough to balance out the silliness with the seriousness. The one thing that makes this album work is his pure talent. He has a catchy way of writing songs, and his voice is very memorable.

61. The Photo Album – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2001
Key tracks: “A Movie Script Ending”, “Information Travels Faster”, “Styrofoam Plates”

There isn’t a lot of happy charm on this CD, and even the peppy-sounding “I Was A Kaleidoscope” has a depressing break-up message. Frontman Ben Gibbard sort of cements himself as the saddest man in indie rock, and the band’s following record Transatlanticism could be considered the bible for failing long-distance relationships, so you can kind of see the career arc Gibbard’s songwriting took. The Photo Album is addictingly sad, a formula that Death Cab has made millions off of in their time as rock stars.

60. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long – Maroon 5

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Makes Me Wonder”, “Wake Up Call”, “Won’t Go Home Without You”

I have mixed feelings about this album. I was a huge fan of Maroon 5’s debut, Songs About Jane, which featured laid-back alt pop love songs, and It Won’t Be Soon is predominately foot-stomping synth pop. However, the album, while not solid as a whole, is insanely catchy, especially with tunes like “Makes Me Wonder” and “Won’t Go Home Without You”. The shift in style is why I’m no longer much of a fan, but I suppose it’s more than bearable here.

59. The Documentary – The Game

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Hate It Or Love It”, “How We Do”, “Put You On The Game”

The Game is sort of a one-album wonder in the sense that his debut, The Documentary, was extremely popular, and then the guy basically fell off the face of the Earth. He never stopped making good music, and found mild success with his recent Purp & Patron. The Documentary featured a number of classic songs which include but are definitely not limited to the three above. The production is mesmerizing, combining intriguing samples and instruments in a very early-90s way.

58. Licensed To Ill – Beastie Boys

Year released: 1986
Key tracks: “Fight For Your Right”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, “Slow and Low”

Licensed To Ill is significant because it was the first rap album to top the Billboard 200 charts, and changed the hip-hop game. Suddenly, a few white kids were at the forefront of Def Jam and the rest of hip-hop, and it’s truly amazing that they are still making music today (their latest album, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2, was released in May). This is one of the premier hip-hop albums in the genre’s history, and songs from it still get played on modern rock and hip-hop stations.

57. I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “I and Love and You”, “January Wedding”, “Kick Drum Heart”

The Avett Brothers caught a lot of flak from their “true” fans when this album came out, partly because of the lack of banjos incorporated, and partly because of the quick fame the band attained because of it. I and Love and You was a different sounding record from its predecessors, with more pianos and slow hooks. Of course, I obviously dig it, and so does just about anybody who peeps it.

56. The College Dropout – Kanye West

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “All Falls Down”, “Jesus Walks”, “The New Workout Plan”

The crazy empire that is Kanye West began with his production on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint in 2001, but Kanye finally got to put out his own disc in 2004. Deciding not to mess with the gangster persona that was virally infecting hip-hop at the time, West instead spoke about faith and other matters close to heart, while displaying a more outsized ego than Caesar. The man is an asshole, but boy, does he make great music.

55. Coco – Colbie Caillat

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “The Little Things”, “Bubbly”, “Realize”

When I want to relax and listen to some sunny, chilled-out music, I throw on Sublime, Jack Johnson or Colbie Caillat (and a three-way mix isn’t half-bad, if you’re curious). Her debut album, Coco, is just a feel-good record with a lot of catchy choruses. Caillat’s voice is slightly addicting, and fits her acoustic style perfectly.

54. Neon Bible – Arcade Fire

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Keep The Car Running”, “Intervention”, “No Cars Go”

Arcade Fire’s first album, Funeral, was about childhood and independence, and was almost as creepy as it was awesome. Their second effort, Neon Bible, was recorded in a church, and the creepiness to awesomeness ratio is about even. There’s a little more brooding and a few more somber notes on the second disc, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the album in the slightest. “No Cars Go” is just as good as “Neighborhood #1” or “Wake Up”, and the rest of the album is sneakily intoxicating.

53. Gordon – Barenaked Ladies

Year released: 1992
Key tracks: “Brian Wilson”, “The Flag”, “If I Had $1,000,000”

After winning a talent search contest, the Barenaked Ladies entered the studio to record their debut, and came out with one of the most successful albums in Canadian history, topping the chart for eight straight weeks. Lead singers Steven Page and Ed Robertson are hilarious, and the band shifts easily between ballads and humor songs. Nothing on here is as poppy as “One Week”, but the charm is through the roof.

52. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin

Year released: 1971
Key tracks: “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “Stairway To Heaven”

Easily recognized as one of the best albums ever, rock or otherwise, Led Zeppelin IV cemented the band as the biggest thing in rock and roll, broken-up Beatles be damned. From the excellent opening riff of “Black Dog” to the echoing drums of “When The Levee Breaks”, this is the quintessential release from possibly the most talented band in history. Eight classic tracks of Page on guitar, Plant on vocals, Bonham on drums and Jones on bass. Gives you a shiver down your spine, doesn’t it?

51. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

Year released: 1969
Key tracks: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Getting Better”, “A Day In The Life”

Rolling Stone listed this as the #1 greatest album of all-time, and it’s hard to argue with that. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is instantly recognizable, and holds some of the Beatles’ best songs. It plays incredibly well, with few, if any, weaknesses. It combines the Beatles’ newfound psychedelic prowess with their pop sensibilities and outstanding musicianship to culminate in something so popular that anyone who doesn’t recognize the cover should be considered a musical outcast.

50. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

Year released: 2010
Key tracks: “Monster”, “Runaway”, “Lost In The World”

In the words of my friend Dan, Kanye is “batshit crazy”. I can’t argue with that, especially when MBDTF proves that thesis to be completely true. Kanye’s records have never been this crazy, and the production is all over the place. “Runaway” runs on for more than nine minutes, but I listen to the full track every time. There’s a bizarre Chris Rock phone call that lasts for three minutes at the end of “Blame Game”, and something like 50 different artists are featured on “All of the Lights”. Then, West re-spins Bon Iver’s “Woods” into “Lost In The World”, and it becomes apparent that “batshit crazy” must be synonymous with “genius”.

49. Revelations – Audioslave

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Revelations”, “Wide Awake”, “Moth”

Four years after forming, Audioslave pitched in their third and final record amid some criticism that they were just punching in and punching out at the studio to meet their label contract. It is their weakest effort of the three, but as such a big fan of Tom Morello and Chris Cornell, it still holds a place in my heart. I’m kind of glad that this was the last Audioslave album; it’s not half-bad, and it was probably smart for them to break it off when they did. After all, it allowed both Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden to reunite by the end of the decade.

48. Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

Year released: 2007
Key tracks: “Brianstorm”, “Fluorescent Adolescent”, “505”

The buzz from the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album had barely died down when their sophomore effort, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released. Their song takes a tiny step back on the intensity meter, but it was just a sign of the band growing up a little bit. “Brianstorm” provided them with a solid concert opener for the rest of their careers, and “Flourescent Adolescent” provided them with a solid encore. “505” is their best slow song to date, and the rest of album lands its fair share of punches.

47. 40 Oz. To Freedom – Sublime

Year released: 1992
Key tracks: “40 oz. To Freedom”, “Smoke Two Joints”, “Badfish”

The only major Sublime release while singer Bradley Nowell was alive, 40 oz. To Freedom is the purest the band could possibly get in the ska department. While the much more popular Sublime record (see further down the list) focused on more pop songs and hooks, 40 oz. is an awesome mix of punk, hip-hop and reggae. Plus, stoners everywhere have been trying to find a better pot-smoking anthem than “Smoke Two Joints” for the last 19 years.

46. Badmotorfinger – Soundgarden

Year released: 1991
Key tracks: “Rusty Cage”, “Outshined”, “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”

If they didn’t make such technically sound music, Soundgarden would probably be known as the grunge band with the terrible album names. Badmotorfinger belongs to a discography populated with Ultramega OK, Superunknown and Telephantasm, among others. Thankfully, the band is also the most talented group of musicians from the grunge era, and they come into their own with a much more accessible sound here. Chris Cornell shrieks, Kim Thayil makes the guitar weep, Ben Sheperd plucks bass lines like it was keeping him off the street, and Matt Cameron whacks the toms like one of the all-time greats.

45. Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “I Will Possess Your Heart”, “No Sunlight”, “Grapevine Fires”

Death Cab’s star rose tremendously after the semi-upbeat Plans release in 2005, and the band decided to take a break from being chipper on Narrow Stairs. The album is drenched with a deep sorrow that’s tough to pin down. I have a theory that DCFC is most addicting when they write sad songs, so that would explain the high standing of this album. The individual songs were not as polished and friendly as on Plans, but the mood is set perfectly throughout, from the first notes of the epic second song “I Will Possess Your Heart”.

44. Give Up – Postal Service

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, “Such Great Heights”, “Sleeping In”

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and producer Jimmy Tamborello collaborated on an album for the first and only time in 2002, and the results are magnificent. Essentially Death Cab with an electronic background, Give Up soars just as high on “Such Great Heights” as it does on “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”. The record starts to lag a bit in the back half, but this cult album is recognized by most major publications as one of the best of the 2000s.

43. In Utero – Nirvana

Year released: 1993
Key tracks: “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Dumb”, “All Apologies”

After the smashing success of 1991’s Nevermind, Nirvana retreated to Cannon Falls, Minnesota to record a record with producer Steve Albini. The band wanted to move away from the poppy sounds of their last album, and In Utero is full of feedback and odd noises. It still manages to stand up on both legs, and is truly a classic rock album. Singer Kurt Cobain died from a drug overdose a little over a year after the release, making it the last Nirvana LP.

42. A Rush Of Blood To The Head – Coldplay

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “In My Place”, “The Scientist”, “Clocks”

This album is often considered Coldplay’s masterpiece, and for good reason. A slight departure from their debut, A Rush of Blood to the Head features a more serious, focused band, with more piano arrangements and somber tunes. “Clocks” was featured on probably every American commercial and movie trailer in 2003, and is the band’s most recognizable song. “The Scientist” is possibly their best jam, and there are more hidden gems on this CD than any of their others.

41. The Beatles (White Album) – The Beatles

Year released: 1968
Key tracks: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, “Blackbird”, “Rocky Raccoon”

The Beatles fell even farther into their self-imposed psychedelia on The White Album, and the results are wonderful. Lennon and McCartney spin pop songs, music concrete and countless other styles over the course of 93 minutes. As the band got weirder, their popularity soared, and this is typically recognized as their second-most successful endeavor (behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), but it is number one to me. So many great songs from the greatest band in history.

40. When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold – Atmosphere

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “Yesterday”, “Guarantees”, “The Waitress”

Slug and Ant released their most successful album, When Life Gives You Lemons…, on their own label, Rhymesayers. This isn’t necessarily the duo at their best (in my mind it might be, but many fans will disagree with me), but the majestic storytelling and awesome producing make for a grand record. It’s back heavy (all of the songs above come in the last handful of cuts), yet the front holds its own admirably. Atmosphere didn’t necessarily become better with age, but their old-man product attracted the sweet tooth of hip-hop fans all over the nation.

39. Hot Fuss – The Killers

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Mr. Brightside”, “Somebody Told Me”, “All These Things That I’ve Done”

The Killers were a big part of the post-punk revival in the early-2000s, and they are a great example of a band who’s classic debut features many of the songs they began with. I like Hot Fuss much, much more than anything else The Killers have done, and it’s not really close. They kind of have that Maroon 5 vibe of making a decently alternative first album, then branching off into dance-ier and dance-ier stuff. “All These Things That I’ve Done” might have been one of the 10 best songs of the 2000s.

38. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “You Oughta Know”, “You Learn”, “Ironic”

In my mind, this is possibly the biggest pop gem of the 1990’s. Completely forgotten by my generation, Alanis Morissette scored a handful of top 10 hits from her 1996 effort. Of course, she’s done little else in her career, but no one was as scorching hot on the charts in the mid-90s. I always find it “Ironic” that Morissette found such fame with her brand of angsty female pop before indie-critic darling Liz Phair.

37. Renegades – Rage Against The Machine

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “Renegades of Funk”, “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, “Maggie’s Farm”

The importance of this album is tough to pin down. Rage pumped out this all-covers LP just before their breakup, and it’s been rumored that frontman Zack de la Rocha did not want it to be released. It’s quite clear that this is the weakest of RATM’s four albums, but that doesn’t mean that it should be passed over. “Renegades of Funk” is one of the band’s most cherished songs, and other tracks like “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Maggie’s Farm” can hold their own with anything else in Rage’s discography.

36. Back In Black – AC/DC

Year released: 1980
Key tracks: “Hells Bells”, “Back In Black”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”

After the death of lead singer Bon Scott, AC/DC regrouped with a new lead man, Brian Johnson. Back In Black was sort of like a phoenix emerging from the flames, as no one was sure what exactly would happen to Australia’s biggest band. From the title track to the epic “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, Back In Black hits harder than any other AC/DC album. Although I’ll always be more of a Scott guy, Johnson showed off his best work fairly quickly here.

35. Begin To Hope – Regina Spektor

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Fidelity”, “Samson”, “On the Radio”

Regina Spektor is the highest female artist on this list, and for good reason. Her brand of pounding piano pop has spawned legions of semi-imitators (Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles come to mind) and taken over big-budget company commercials. The song “Fidelity” pushed her into the mainstream, and it’s my personal theory that her overall lack of physical attractiveness has kept her from super-stardom. It feels wrong to say that, because she is such an amazing songwriter, but it might be true.

34. Pinkerton – Weezer

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “The Good Life”, “El Scorcho”, “Pink Triangle”

This is the classic album that critics initially hated, and then later applauded. After the smashing success of Weezer’s debut, Rivers Cuomo wrote a bunch of highly personal songs, including one about a long-distance relationship with an 18-year-old Japanese girl. Cuomo has never been so open as he was on Pinkerton, and the album is one of the rare few on this list that doesn’t feature a single weak track. Everything on here is catchy and raw as hell.

33. Down on the Upside – Soundgarden

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “Pretty Noose”, “Blow Up the Outside World”, “Burden In My Hand”

Soundgarden decided to self-produce this record after the breakthrough success of 1994’s Superunknown. Tensions were running a bit high during the recording, and the group played their last show soon after the release. Down on the Upside was a bit more of a subdued turn musically, and a featured a departure from the heavy riffs of albums past. “Burden In My Hand” is probably my favorite ‘Garden song, and countless other nuggets exist, none more underrated than the closer, “Boot Camp”.

32. We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. – Jason Mraz

Year released: 2008
Key tracks: “I’m Yours”, “Lucky”, “Live High”

It’s easy to forget that the happy-go-lucky Californian Jason Mraz is now 34 years old. After two poppy, slightly immature albums, Mraz finally grew up with We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. Digging a looser, laid-back vibe, Mraz crafted songs that didn’t try to hard to be heard. Each one is an acoustic precursor to the next, and it’s the first time fans can really chill out to the full CD.

31. In Between Dreams – Jack Johnson

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Better Together”, “Banana Pancakes”, “Breakdown”

This is my favorite Jack Johnson album, mainly because he houses a whole bushel of his hits here. Let me have the songs do the talking: “Better Together”, “Banana Pancakes”, “Good People”, “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”, and “Breakdown”. Add to this list the undeniably great material that never hit the radio (“Do You Remember”, “Staple It Together”, “Crying Shame”) but could’ve made a chart impact, and this is album you want to lay next to the pool listening to. On repeat. All day.

30. Plans – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Soul Meets Body”, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, “Crooked Teeth”

In 2003, Death Cab hit the national scene with the indie classic Transatlanticism. The theme of that CD was a long-distance relationship and lost love. The songs and lyrics were both sadder than Phil Ivey at a sports jersey bonfire. Yes, that was a terrible pop culture reference, get over it. Plans features the same sad lyrics, but with a happy soundtrack. Death Cab went more poppy than normal on this effort, scoring hits like “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and “Soul Meets Body”, while forever forcing their way into college girls’ dorm rooms all over the country.

29. Out of Exile – Audioslave

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Out of Exile”, “Be Yourself”, “Doesn’t Remind Me”

Most music fans and critics assumed that Audioslave’s eponymous debut would be their only album, but they returned in 2005 with Out of Exile, an effort that sounded more like a cohesive songwriting unit instead of the debut’s epic Rage Against the Machine vs. Soundgarden feel. “Doesn’t Remind Me” and “Be Yourself” are miles away from The Battle of Los Angeles or Down On The Upside, and guitarist Tom Morello struts his stuff with an absolutely blistering solo ever on the former.

28. Ten – Pearl Jam

Year released: 1991
Key tracks: “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Black”

With a classic rock edge and a booming singer, Pearl Jam sounded like a bunch of 40-year-olds jamming in the garage. To put it in perspective, the band’s current old man-look fits their musical sound more than their young, trouble-making selves did. The guys in the band were a bunch of stoned-out west coast bros who could make “I don’t give a single shit” sound believable. Their epic debut album featured a handful of modern rock hits, from the 70s-esque solo-centric “Alive” to the slow dance feel of “Black”. Whereas people listened to Nevermind to be mad at the world, people listened to Ten to appreciate the sound of a true rock group.

27. Get Born – Jet

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, “Cold Hard Bitch”, “Timothy”

Jet has been mostly maligned by critics and “true” rock fans as a direct beneficiary of the Strokes’ and White Stripes’ garage rock movement of the early 2000s. While this holds some truth, and while they do take much of their style of other Australian wonders AC/DC, Get Born is a case of a CD that was looked over because people instantly disapproved of the band or “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and didn’t listen closely enough to the rest of the music. While Jet may not be the most original band in the world, it doesn’t mean they didn’t write damned good songs. If you don’t agree, give “Timothy” a spin, then come back and see me.

26. No Bird Sing – No Bird Sing

Year released: 2009
Key tracks: “Devil Trombones”, “Land Mines”, “Sparrows”

No Bird Sing is my favorite local Minnesota artist, slightly edging out Atmosphere and a few others. Their style is incredibly unique, featuring only a drummer, a guitarist and an MC. No bass. No DJ. My respect for NBS doesn’t come from the members’ individual musicianship—none of the three are can’t-miss performers—but from the way they weave their songs together. Guitarist Bobby Mulrennan utilizes multiple effects pedals to layer sounds together, shying away from memorable riffs and other attention-grabbing techniques, and drummer Graham O’Brien just does his job, at least on this record. Rapper Joe Horton is a great story-teller who does a formidable job of ensuring the listener’s focus is on his above-average lyrics.

25. Dookie – Green Day

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “Longview”, “Basket Case”, “When I Come Around”

After relentlessly building a following in the northern California punk scene, Green Day hit it big on their major label debut, Dookie. Although the CD was controversial back home (is punk supposed to go mainstream?), it provided the band with millions of new fans whose number slowly dwindled away until their next smash record ten years later. This is the trio in their rawest form, with authentic lyrics and story-telling that focuse on drugs and masturbation instead of politics and other grown-up stuff.

24. Funeral – Arcade Fire

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, “Wake Up”, “Rebellion (Lies)”

In my mind, Funeral is the definition of an album that grows on you. It has the hook (“Wake Up”) that lures you into the full CD purchase, and then catchy enough songs to keep you listening until you realize the amazing depth the music possesses. The band operates like an orchestra, with a lineup that includes a cello alongside the electric guitar. Easily the best of the three Arcade Fire albums thus far, Funeral is the world’s biggest indie band before they could even dream of being such an entity.

23. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC

Year released: 1976
Key tracks: “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Big Balls”, “Ride On”

After my friend’s mom played “Big Balls” on her car stereo one day, I became hooked on the almost-holy dick-swinging masochism of AC/DC. This was in elementary school, where I had my customized band poster torn off my locker by my God-fearing 5th grade teacher. For my next birthday, my dad bought me this album, featuring the likes of that aforementioned song, and what seemed like a full candy store of new rock tunes to discover. Featuring the legendary licks of Angus Young and the epic screeches from the not-so-immortal Bon Scott, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap became my boyhood for a short period of time.

22. Weezer (The Blue Album) – Weezer

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “Buddy Holly”, “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, “Say It Ain’t So”

Weezer was smart enough to hop on the post-grunge train before grunge had even become extinct. In 1994, their debut album started to hit airwaves, and songs like “Say It Ain’t So”, “Buddy Holly” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” absolutely dominated modern rock radio. Singer Rivers Cuomo was half-nerd, half-genius (I suppose that still makes him a full nerd), and his band mates helped amplify the meaty power chords, flat solos and whiny vocals that define the Weezer sound. They looked like pencil pushers, but sounded like Metallica. A lot of people disapprove of Weezer, but man, if your introduction to them is The Blue Album, it’s nearly impossible to hate on these guys.

21. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, “Fake Tales of San Francisco”, “When the Sun Goes Down”

The fastest-selling album in U.K. history was not made by The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, it was made by the Arctic Monkeys. This unprecedented sudden exposure led the group to create the follow-up EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? It became a question that was soon answered with “possibly the best young band in the world”. With staccato’d guitars, Brit-smart vocals and pounding drums, the Monkeys established themselves quickly on their debut. When “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” hit America, kids didn’t know whether to dance or punch somebody square in the face. It’s possible to do both, you know.

20. American Idiot – Green Day

Year released: 2004
Key tracks: “Holiday”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

After testing their fan base with albums un-true to their roots in the late 90s, Green Day put out the rather good Warning: in 2000 to little critical acclaim or fanfare. Then, they disappeared off the face of the Earth, presumably becoming the latest musical casualty of the 90s. Then, in 2004, they came back from the dead with American Idiot, and it was like they never left. Brandishing their new brand of opera/pop/punk, they pieced together their shiny new CD into a full narrative, and became more than relevant again, with “American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Holiday” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” dominating the pop and rock charts. This is the album that defined the 2000s for me, an amalgamation of pop and punk that hit just as gangster hip-hop and garage rock started going out the window.

19. Maroon – Barenaked Ladies

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “Pinch Me”, “Sell Sell Sell”, “Helicopters”

The Barenaked Ladies hit it big with their 1998 album, Stunt, and its catchy single “One Week”. Two years later, they followed it up with the best album of their careers. Maroon didn’t get the heavy radio airplay its predecessor got (although “Pinch Me” is still fairly prevalent), but the songs were crisper and just better overall. Page and Robertson (in my mind, the Canadian equivalent of Lennon and McCartney) pull out every trick in their arsenal, and weave together highly memorable stories, most notably in songs like “Conventioneers”, “Sell Sell Sell” and “Helicopters”. If you want to get into BNL, this is where you must start.

18. The Colour And The Shape – Foo Fighters

Year released: 1997
Key tracks: “Monkey Wrench”, “My Hero”, “Everlong”

Dave Grohl’s 90s timeline goes a bit like this: 1991: Nirvana releases Nevermind, spurring the grunge movement into the mainstream. 1994: Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain commits suicide. 1995: Grohl turns down countless high-profile drumming gigs and enters the studio to record Foo Fighters with little help. 1997: Grohl and new bandmates release The Colour and the Shape, the definitive post-grunge album of all-time. The success of this effort has propelled the Foos to the top of the rock heap. Although they’ve never quite touched this gem with the rest of their discography, it’s okay. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the current timeline… 2011: Dave Grohl still kicks more ass than anybody else.

17. Sublime – Sublime

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “Wrong Way”, “What I Got”, “Santeria”

“Mucho gusto, me llamo Bradey,” Sublime frontman Brad Nowell states in the epic oral sex jam “Caress Me Down”. Unfortunately, by the time mainstream America heard those words on this album, Nowell was dead. The 90s took its fair share of music gods from us (names like Cobain and the dude from Blind Melon come to mind), but none was as chill as Nowell. Sublime made the sunniest music in California, mixed with some filthy guitar work and punk (I guess that’s the near-definition of ska). This is the ultimate summer rock album, the perfect soundtrack for the pool, and, you know, “that kung-fu grip”.

16. Late Registration – Kanye West

Year released: 2005
Key tracks: “Touch the Sky”, “Gold Digger”, “Roses”

One day in the summer of 2005, my brother and dad went to the record store and returned with two great albums: American Idiot for my brother, and Late Registration for me. I was excited to listen to Kanye because he was one of those guys who seemed to be everywhere in pop culture (six years later, he still is). Of course, I had heard “Jesus Walks” a million times, and I was ready for his sophomore album. He didn’t disappoint, and his fantastic blend of old-school production and clumsy storytelling make this album a true hip-hop classic.

15. The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem

Year released: 2000
Key tracks: “Stan”, “The Way I Am”, “The Real Slim Shady”

Speaking of hip-hop classics, The Marshall Mathers LP is widely regarded as Eminem’s top album. O contraire, I say. You’ll find two of his works farther down the list. The reason this album was so huge is because it was released right about the time that the entire United States of America realized Eminem gave them all the finger on his 1999 major-label debut, The Slim Shady LP. Naturally, this meant that every white kid in the country had to have the hip-hop album of the moment, the one that featured a young, angry man with the same skin color as him or her. Perhaps no rap album has ever been as polarizing as Marshall Mathers, mainly because of the purposefully graphic content. N.W.A. would say “fuck you,” but Eminem said “fuck you, I’m going to cut off your guinea pig’s head and stick it in the god damn microwave.”

14. By The Way – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “By The Way”, “Don’t Forget Me”, “Can’t Stop”

After the Red Hot Chili Peppers clawed their way back onto the rock scene riding the phoenix-like John Frusciante on Californication, they followed up that 1999 effort with By The Way, a smoother, more laid-back album. For whatever reason, a lot of fans point to this CD and Stadium Arcadium as reasons RHCP has fallen off, but in my mind, it’s not hard to appreciate the beauty of this disc. There’s nothing wrong with the soulful turn the band took, as they were already well into their 30s. This album can both pop (“Can’t Stop”) and wrench your heart out with despair (“Don’t Forget Me”). The first 12 tracks are golden, but the next three drop off quite a bit before “Venice Queen” finishes it off right.

13. Evil Empire – Rage Against The Machine

Year released: 1996
Key tracks: “Bulls on Parade”, “Vietnow”, “Down Rodeo”

Out of Rage’s three original albums, Evil Empire was by far the most experimental. It took way more dark and brooding twists than the debut, and “Bulls on Parade” is the only song poppy enough to be a track on the clean-produced Battle of Los Angeles. Evil Empire almost feels like an underground indie album, and its certainly the rawest that Rage has ever sounded. On this CD, you can honestly feel the revolution they’re talking about, instead of it being some far-away dream, as it seems on the other two. Evil Empire is more than crunching guitars and screaming vocals; it’s a movement.

12. Songs About Jane – Maroon 5

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “Harder to Breathe”, “This Love”, “She Will Be Loved”

“Maroon 5 in the top 12?” you scream with indignation. Yes, and here’s why: For some reason, my mom and pop purchased this compact disc for me at Christmas-time when I was a young lad. Then, we went on vacation, and all I had was this disc and a CD player. Within a week, I had memorized every single lyric, guitar note and drum hit on the whole thing, and was only semi-ashamed. This album is what Maroon 5 was before their (stupid) dance phase: a sexier version of Matchbox 20. Scoff if you want, but I’m proud to own this album, and more than happy to feature it in my collection.

11. Nevermind – Nirvana

Year released: 1991
Key tracks: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom”, “Lithium”

Oh, man. The biggest album of the 1990s clocks in at #11 on my favorite albums list, and now I have to write a few sentences about it. Basically, this is Nirvana at their most accessible, with slick production and power chords that won’t melt your face off. Sure, everybody knows “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and (hopefully) other hits like “Come As You Are” and “In Bloom”, but I doubt many kids in my age class worship it like it should be worshipped. I always wonder what it would have been like back in the day when, instead of Coldplay or Kings of Leon, Nirvana would leak onto mainstream radio stations and scare the bejeesus out my grandmother (or something to that effect).

10. Transatlanticism – Death Cab For Cutie

Year released: 2003
Key tracks: “Title and Registration”, “Expo ’86”, “The Sound of Settling”

Do you want to know why Death Cab is so successful? It’s because they somehow made really emo songwriting cool. There is a quality to their songs that is so addictively sad that you almost enjoy the hopeless feeling you get from listening to them. Of course, Transatlanticism was DCFC’s big breakthrough, with a completely solid lineup of songs and absolutely no holes. Ben Gibbard’s voice is both depressing and angelic, caressing the backing tracks with a full range of emotion and depth. Even “Passenger Seat”, the love ballad, feels like the soundtrack to a slow apocalypse. So, if you like feeling sad, listen to this. Or consult a therapist.

9. Stadium Arcadium – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 2006
Key tracks: “Dani California”, “Snow (Hey Oh)”, “Wet Sand”

This album was released a full four years after 2002’s By The Way, which tied for the longest period between albums for this prolific jam band from Los Angeles (To be fair, they did release a Greatest Hits album in 2003). The Chilis made good use of their time, pounding out around 50 songs in studio sessions. The original plan was for three separate albums of 12 songs released six months apart from one another, but the theme was changed to a double album of 28 songs. Both discs are chock full of tasty sonic goodness, and it’s a testament to how talented each member is that every song has a great amount of detail and technical difficulty. “Dani California” got overplayed, but it’s still one of the best RHCP songs in their discography, and “Snow (Hey Oh)” is a fan favorite.

8. The Eminem Show – Eminem

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “Sing For the Moment”, “Till I Collapse”

In 1999, Eminem was pissed off on The Slim Shady LP. In 2000, Eminem was even more pissed off on The Marshall Mathers LP. In 2002, Eminem started to really look into the true reasons of why he was so pissed off, on The Eminem Show. “White America” discusses his role in the lives of the young white kids who worship him, as well as their effect on him. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” talks about his childhood and broken marriage. Hell, even the jokey tune “Without Me” has a strong scent of social awareness. There are no wife-murdering songs on here (although he does manage to shoot his A&R guy in one skit), and no laments about identity crisis. It gets clearer and clearer as the album presses on: Eminem was getting a grip on how much power he actually had.

7. Audioslave – Audioslave

Year released: 2002
Key tracks: “Cochise”, “Show Me How To Live”, “Like a Stone”

Rage Against the Machine + Soundgarden = ear orgasm. Not everyone agrees with all of the little details and decisions that created Audioslave, but I’ve always been a guy who likes to keep the math simple. The musicians from RATM were looking for a new singer after rapper Zack de la Rocha ditched in 2000, and they decided to scoop up the slightly wayward Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden fame. Audioslave’s debut album is a sheer clash of the 90s titans, and I love every second of it. Sure, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk are nothing to shout about, but Tom Morello and Cornell on the same team? That’s the musical equivalent of LeBron taking his talents to South Beach.

6. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 1999
Key tracks: “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside”, “Californication” 

Nobody in music had as crazy a decade in the 90s as Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. To give you a short summary: In 1991, at 19 years old, Frusciante and the Peppers released the multi-platinum Blood Sugar Sex Magik to huge fan and critical acclaim. In 1992, Frusciante left the band while on tour, citing uncomfort with the band’s newfound fame. In 1998, Frusciante emerged from a half-decade of heavy drug use and unimpressive solo efforts. The man had sold every guitar he owned and was almost on his deathbed when he decided to turn it around and rejoin the band. In 1999, this album was released, featuring Frusciante’s guitar genius, and all was right again. If the production was a little better on Californication (because it was pretty brutal), it would be cherished as one of the best rock albums of all-time.

5. The Battle Of Los Angeles – Rage Against The Machine

Year released: 1999
Key tracks: “Testify”, “Guerilla Radio”, “Sleep Now In the Fire”

By the late 90s, Rage Against the Machine was finally starting to accomplish the things they started out to do. TIME named this album the best music effort of the year in 1999, and the band played a large part in the Mumia Abu-Jamal movement on the east coast. The production on The Battle of Los Angeles is much slicker than its predecessor, Evil Empire, and this helped propel the band to the forefront of modern rock radio. “Testify”, “Guerilla Radio” and “Calm Like a Bomb” kick off the album with a bang. The music video for “Sleep Now In The Fire” (directed by Michael Moore) shut down the stock market for a brief period of time, and you can’t help but laugh when some of the cops who are there to control the situation start rocking out to the music. It’s not as cohesive as Evil Empire or the debut, but it packs a much bigger punch than either of those.

4. Superunknown – Soundgarden

Year released: 1994
Key tracks: “Black Hole Sun”, “Spoonman”, “The Day I Tried To Live”

For starters, the drumming on this album is better than any other full-length I’ve ever heard. Matt Cameron is an absolute beast. Add to that the fact that Soundgarden developed the best songs of their career on this album, and it’s pedestal in my library is secured. Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell’s guitars intertwine beautifully, and with less abrasiveness than on Badmotorfinger. The time signatures are all over the place, but Soundgarden is the one band I know that makes those odd times sound like they’re trucking along in normal 4/4. 90s mega-hits “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” lay smack dab in the middle of the disc, but with unforgettable tracks like “Fell On Black Days”, “Mailman”, “4th of July” and “Like Suicide”, the beginning and the end are easily just as good.

3. The Slim Shady LP – Eminem

Year released: 1999
Key tracks: “My Name Is”, “Guilty Conscience”, “Just Don’t Give a Fuck”

A white dude with mad rhymes tries to piss off as many people as possible in less than an hour. Apparently, this is what the country had an appetite for at the end of the millennium. After the release of The Slim Shady LP, Eminem was everywhere, but no one knew what to make of him. When white boys grabbed the mic, people were used to hearing the simplicity of the Beastie Boys or the stupidity of Vanilla Ice. No one was ready for what hit them, but they lapped it up. After honing his murderous sound on 1998’s Slim Shady EP, Eminem was picked up by Dr. Dre, and the rest is history. What makes this album so good is the sheer energy Em produces in the booth. He is more excited to be in the studio than he has ever been since, and explores his sense of humor more than ever. In my opinion, his best work was on the small collection of songs he did for the movie 8 Mile, but none of his albums can touch The Slim Shady LP.

2. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

Year released: 1992
Key tracks: “Bombtrack”, “Killing in the Name”, “Wake Up”

You could point to Rage and say they were responsible for Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, but to do so would be a gross undervaluing of the sphere Rage created. The first band to find mainstream success by mixing rap and metal, Rage’s debut record shows flashes of Led Zeppelin, the Beastie Boys and EPMD, but to compare the album to other bands is an almost blasphemous injustice. Rage Against the Machine is the epitome of political strife and anger in music, “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” in music form.

1. Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Year released: 1991
Key tracks: “I Could Have Lied”, “Give it Away”, “Under the Bridge”

After the moderate success of 1989’s Mother’s Milk, the Peppers holed up in an abandoned mansion to record what would be one of the most cherished albums of the 90’s. Finding a perfect blend of funk, punk, and pop, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ magnum opus (although that elegant term feels misused on a piece of work dedicated to sex, drugs and a certain part of the male anatomy). Somehow, the goosebump-inciting pop anthem “Under the Bridge” fits right in with the funk-bangers and dick-swinging contests like “Suck My Kiss” and “Sir Psycho Sexy”, and that’s what makes this record special.

SOME USELESS STATISTICS

Number of albums by decade:

1960-1969 – 2/150 (1%)

1970-1979 – 5/150 (3%)

1980-1989 – 9/150 (6%)

1990-1999 – 39/150 (26%)

2000-2009 – 82/150 (55%)

2010-2011 – 13/150 (9%)

Number of albums by artist:

7 – Red Hot Chili Peppers

6 – Death Cab For Cutie, Eminem

4 – Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Barenaked Ladies, Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Coldplay

3 – Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Jason Mraz, The Beatles, John Mayer, Beastie Boys, Audioslave

Tune in next summer for an updated list. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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About Alex Smith

Alex Smith is a writer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He currently attends the University of Missouri in Columbia and is pursuing a dual degree in journalism and english.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “My 150 Favorite Albums of All-Time

  1. Yeah! RHCP is soooo good!

    Posted by Marl | July 15, 2011, 7:31 am
  2. nice post man. of course i don’t agree with all 150, but i was happy to see how diverse your tastes are. i was really surprised to see certain people there (Timberlake, Rihanna, Adele — but no Beyonce!? LOL!!)
    but i know that took a while to prep, so much respect man.

    Posted by d1esel6 | July 15, 2011, 11:05 am
    • Thanks man, it’s funny that you commented because I finally headed over to your blog yesterday. I really like it, and I can’t wait to read more. Sorry about the lack of Beyonce, my problem is that I don’t have most of her stuff.

      Posted by Alex Smith | July 15, 2011, 12:32 pm
  3. Im so happy that i found this blog! Its amazing, and your list is really good!

    I just think that “Blackout” (Britney Spears) is one of the best albuns of the decade. If you didnt listen yet, you should do it!

    Anyway, cant wait to know a lot of stuff in your list.

    Sorry my poor english and congratulations!!

    Posted by Eduardo | February 15, 2012, 7:20 am

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