I’ve always loved best-of lists. I whole-heartedly enjoy the debates they create if you disagree with the choices, or the satisfaction they create when your favourites make it on the list. It is the best way to find new music, and a great way to connect with fellow music fans. So I thought I would share my favourite albums of all time.
This isn’t a “best albums of all time” list so much as it is my personal favourites. I didn’t pick classic albums that I never really got into (hence the lack of any Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd albums). They had to be albums I grew up with and obsessed over. So this list won’t show the typical objective mentioning of Bob Dylan or Miles Davis records, because those albums were before my time, and they were not a staple for my parents. I am sure they deserve recognition as great albums, but they were not a part of my musical experience, so they never had a chance to be my favourites. I also set these additional ground rules to make the list:
- I had to love 90% of the songs (that is why The Knife’s Silent Shout and The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely didn’t make the list)
- I had to still enjoy listening to them today (that is why True Blue didn’t make the list)
- The album couldn’t be a compilation (that is why Bob Marley’s Legend didn’t make the list)
So take a peak at the albums that defined IMVERYAPE’S taste in tunes, and let me know what you would have added, or what you would have taken away.
ACHTUNG BABY – U2 (1991)
U2′s most vital transformation turned out to be a lifeline for their career. Every track is a sonic masterpiece, especially the world’s most beloved song – One.
ALLIGATOR – THE NATIONAL (2005)
This album may take five or six listens to truly appreciate, but after that it becomes a favourite. Berninger’s burban-soaked poetry marries perfectly with the musical genius of the Dessner brothers.
AQUEMINI – OUTKAST (1998)
Outkast had already set themselves apart with ATLiens, but they decided to diverge even further with this distinctly southern, uber creative, uber addictive rap album.
A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD – COLDPLAY (2002)
Coldplay attempted to mix pop tendencies with more exploratory sounds, and they were extraordinarily successful. This chronically listenable album would prove to be the first and last time Coldplay could be defined as a forward thinking band.
ATLIENS – OUTKAST (1996)
Where did the pimps go? Outkast decided to set themselves apart from the rest of the rap world with this cold, minimalist style that had no predecessor. It is based on solid beats, and observant and unparalleled lyrics (Andre 3000′s best). ATLiens will go down as one of the most unique hip hop albums of the mid-nineties.
AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE – R.E.M. (1992)
No R.E.M. album stood the test of time better than their mega-successful Automatic for the People. Every song is excellent, and almost every song reminds you of the best radio tracks of the early nineties.
Try Not to Breathe
THE BENDS – RADIOHEAD (1995)
The record that solidified Radiohead’s fame. The band’s most intimate and heartfelt album is also one of their best. Listeners would never get this close to Thom Yorke ever again.
BLUE – JONI MITCHELL (1971)
One of the few albums on this list that came out before I was born, and oddly I never heard it in completion until 2006. Deeply personal, Blue defined the singer/songwriter genre. It also remains the best of the genre.
The Last Time I Saw Richard
BOXER – THE NATIONAL (2007)
Easy to ignore after one listen, this grower is The National’s most sophisticated album. Matt’s poetry is at an all-time high, and their music is at their most blue-blooded and pristine.
CHUTES TOO NARROW – THE SHINS (2003)
Nobody has ever made perfectly crafted songs so damn fun.
Fighting in a Sack
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH – CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH (2005)
The definition of solid. Probably one of the most consistently great indie albums.
The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
CONTRA – VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2010)
Vampire Weekend followed up their self-titled debut with a sound all their own (no more Graceland comparisons, yay!). But what didn’t change is just how amazing they were at making excellent pop songs.
CRASH – DAVE MATTHEWS BAND (1996)
The underestimated talent of the Dave Matthews Band reached an apex with Crash. It is pure organic and fun emotional release. So many of the songs feel wildly liberated, and deeply romantic.
Lie in Our Graves
DEAR SCIENCE – TV ON THE RADIO (2008)
TV on the Radio tries on accessible for size, and it fits perfectly. Undeniably infectious rock soul.
DISCOVERY – DAFT PUNK (2001)
Daft Punk at their most imaginative and open-minded. Every song is a completely diverse and creative ride into the world of Discovery.
Face to Face
EMERALD CITY – JOHN VANDERSLICE (2007)
Each song from John Vanderslice’s Emerald City carries an eery emotional weight. This unclear story of the lives of the terrorists behind 9-11 immediately after the attack gives you excellently structured songs that leave a very unsettled feeling. Perfect cult classic material.
ENTER THE WU-TANG (36 CHAMBERS) – WU-TANG CLAN (1993)
Enter the Wu-tang (36 Chambers) marked a change in the course of East Coast rap music. Dark, unique, and never again duplicated, this album started the cold era of New York gangsta rap.
Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber
FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO – BON IVER (2008)
Incredibly intimate yet completely unintelligible, For Emma, Forever Ago was the album you never wanted to share. It was for you and snowy days only. There is no better way to warm the soul than a fireplace and this album.
FUNERAL – ARCADE FIRE (2004)
It wasn’t just that it was a masterpiece, it was also the fact that it was a debut that made it a game changer for 2000′s music. Intricate and patient, but with all the passion and romance of the wild youth they sing about, it was a trailblazer that so many bands tried desperately to imitate.
GHOSTS OF THE GREAT HIGHWAY – SUN KIL MOON (2003)
Nothing felt like home quite like Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts of the Great Highway. It was the pinnacle of Mark Kozelek’s folky, sepia-toned style, and it was completely hypnotizing.
GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS – MODEST MOUSE (2004)
Modest Mouse being more accessible didn’t take anything away from this album’s staying power. The perfect sing-along indie rock. Try listening to Good News for People who Love Bad News and feel anything but a comfortable warmth.
GRACELAND – PAUL SIMON (1986)
The thumping heart of South African music married so perfectly with Simon’s genius ear for impeccably constructed pop songs. A classic that never grows old, and mine and my mother’s favourite road trip album.
GRADUATION – KANYE WEST (2007)
This was Kanye at his most comfortable (a rare thing), and that equalled stellar beats that felt novel but familiar, and lyrics that were more introspective and less show-offy. All good things.
HELLO NASTY – BEASTIE BOYS (1998)
I think everyone can agree, nothing sounds quite like Hello Nasty. This album is Beastie Boys flexing their musical muscles and endless creativity with the help of Mix Master Mike. The result is dense, layered, and out of this world.
HIGH VIOLET – THE NATIONAL (2010)
High Violet was The National’s attempt at more accessible music. They didn’t want to make another album that took ten listens to love. Good job boys, this album has instant gratification. But with their genius, it still sounds better after the tenth listen.
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
ILLINOIS – SUFJAN STEVENS (2005)
Grandiose and rich, Illinois proved to the world the talent of Sufjan Stevens. With 22 songs, not one of them sounds less than amazing.
Casimir Pulaski Day
ILLMATIC – NAS (1994)
No other rap album transported the listener into the streets of New York quite like Illmatic. Nas’s beats are cold, soulful, and timeless. Nas’s lyrics would never again sound as focused and sharp. Illmatic is the best of this era of rap music.
Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park)
I’M A BIRD NOW – ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS (2005)
Sex Pistols, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails had their time as the world’s most daring music. I believe Antony is the new daring music. With themes of sex changes, homosexuality, and domestic abuse, all wrapped in a raw emotional delivery, it takes far more courage to play this loud in your car than it does to play Tyler the Creator. As beautiful as it is challenging, I’m a Bird Now is courageous music for the 2000s.
Fistful of Love
IN GHOST COLOURS – CUT COPY (2008)
No other band re-envisioned eighties synth pop better than Cut Copy did with In Ghost Colours. Nobody. Instead of cheesy retro, we get absolute electro-pop bliss.
IN RAINBOWS – RADIOHEAD (2007)
When the world’s best band decides to pick up their instruments again, this is what it sounds like. Perfection.
IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA – NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL (1998)
Quirky and unbelievably unique, In the Aeroplane Over Sea was a masterpiece ahead of its time. It would be the catalyst for hundreds of indie bands to come.
IN UTERO – NIRVANA (1993)
Kurt Cobain didn’t want to be in a rich sellout band, he wanted to be in a great garage band. So Steve Albini made them sound like that. Raw, unfiltered, and bare for everyone to see the flaws. I believe this is what Nirvana always wanted to be.
IS THIS IT? – THE STROKES (2001)
This is how you make rock sound effortless and cool. The confident and infectious sound spread like wildfire. Is This It is catchy, simple, and full of nonchalant charisma.
Take It or Leave It
JOSHUA TREE – U2 (1987)
Perhaps the most agreed upon classic album of all time. And for good reason. Nobody plays with this much passion anymore, and nobody will ever make a song greater than Where the Streets Have No Name.
Where the Streets Have No Name
KID A – RADIOHEAD (2000)
When Radiohead sought to revolutionize their sound, they also ended up revolutionizing what could be mainstream music. This dark, claustrophobic, and terrifyingly dystopian album pushed the envelope for intelligent music.
LATE REGISTRATION – KANYE WEST (2005)
Inspired by a Fiona Apple album, Kanye sought to add a new level of production quality and sophistication to rap music. I guess he succeeded. Late Registration was a hit maker, and a critical success.
LICENSE TO ILL – BEASTIE BOYS (1986)
Probably the first hip hop songs I really liked. Some may call it wack now, but to me the minimalist style and hilarious goofball rhymes have stood the test of time excellently.
LIVE THROUGH THIS – HOLE (1994)
To me, Live Through This was the definitive grunge album. It was deeply revealing and sepia-toned, with the perfect mixture of bittersweet revelations, and open-scar anger. Yes, Courtney Love made one of the greatest albums of all time (or was it Kurt?).
LOVELESS – MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1991)
A sonic exploration far ahead of its time. Loveless forced the listener to play “Where’s Waldo?” with song structure under a thick layer of whirling reverb. However, when they found Waldo, they realized the incredible beauty of the album.
Blown a Wish
MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS – A TRIBE CALLED QUEST (1993)
No other hip hop album got more spins in my discman. This classic proved to be the last piece of real New York hip hop before the Wu-Tangs and Mobb Deeps took over, and it may still be the best piece of real New York hip hop.
Oh My God
MIDNIGHT ORGAN FIGHT – FRIGHTENED RABBIT (2008)
This felt like a special and secret little find for me in 2008. Nobody I knew had heard of them, and they were so amazing. I couldn’t wait to share their down-to-earth and organic music, or their incredibly effective and poetic lyrics. Scotland’s best.
THE MOON & ANTARCTICA – MODEST MOUSE (2000)
Modest Mouse decided to widen their musical horizons, and up their level of sophistication with The Moon and Antarctica. The results are a kaleidoscope of different sounds that all seem to blend together perfectly. It is Modest Mouse’s greatest achievement.
NEVERMIND – NIRVANA (1991)
The first album I ever loved. The first time I felt real rebellion. And probably ranks as the first in my “most listened to albums ever”.
O – DAMIEN RICE (2002)
Singer/songwriters who play radio-friendly, touchy-feely folk tunes are easy to dismiss as safe and boring. But with Damien Rice’s O, it was impossible to ignore the brilliance of the material.
The Blower’s Daughter
OK COMPUTER – RADIOHEAD (1997)
PARACHUTES – COLDPLAY (2000)
In a way I understand Pitchfork’s criticism of the album, to the casual listener it could sound safe and boring. But to me, Parachutes sounds like expertly executed dark lullabies. It was notably nocturnal and claustrophobic, which juxtaposed perfectly with Martin’s falsetto.
We Never Change
PLAY – MOBY (1999)
Moby’s Play was a bizarre and unique creature full of stunning emotional powerhouses and hip-hop inspired pop gems. It only takes one listen of My Weakness to remind yourself of Play’s force.
REVOLVER – THE BEATLES (1966)
The Beatles ditch the folk style of Rubber Soul to enter the world of sonic exploration. Indian sitar, psychedelic drums, and endless imagination. This was the birth of something new in music. But for me, it was just the nice music my father would listen to late at night as I drifted off to sleep
Tomorrow Never Knows
ROOM ON FIRE – THE STROKES (2003)
Just as catchy and as cool as Is This It, but they seemed to have learned how to play their instruments better, so the sound is tighter, and far more immediate. Room On Fire was actually my first Strokes album, so it feels closer to my heart than its predecessor.
THE SCORE – FUGEES (1996)
The Wu-Tang and g-funk era of hip hop was thrown a curveball with Fugees. Less aggressive, and far more eclectic than the competition, The Score brought another approach to rap listeners, and we were all happy for it.
SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND – THE BEATLES (1967)
Commonly considered the greatest album ever, I loved Sgt. Pepper because it was the apex of Lennon’s creativity and McCartney’s impeccable song crafting.
A Day in the Life
SILENT ALARM – BLOC PARTY (2005)
Franz Ferdinand may have created their own style of post-punk, but they didn’t perfect it. That was achieved by Bloc Party. Silent Alarm was the best post-punk had to offer. Every song was passionate, liberated, immediate, and expertly structured. And oh my god, the drummer! I would also like to take this opportunity to say that Drowned in Sound calling the amazing song So Here We Are “filler” was the biggest mistake they ever made.
So Here We Are
SIAMESE DREAMS – SMASHING PUMPKINS (1993)
Siamese Dreams had more drama than any other alternative album. Every sound was dripping with emotion, and every emotion was grand. It took grunge music to new heights, and remains fantastic because of it.
SINCE I LEFT YOU – THE AVALANCHES (2000)
3500 vinyl samples. That’s right, 3500. Since I Left You was a labour intensive, tedious album to create. However, what it created was the most breezy and carefree summer album ever.
SOUNDS OF SILVER – LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (2007)
James Murphy knows how to make music fun, funny, and sentimental all at the same time. It is quite a skill. Sounds of Silver was his masterstroke, mostly because of the back-to-back classic songs Someone Great and All my Friends.
TALKIE WALKIE – AIR (2004)
See description of Discovery!
Alone in Kyoto
TEASER AND THE FIRECAT – CAT STEVENS (1971)
My first memory of music as a child. It is soft, heartfelt, and natural. Timeless.
TEN – PEARL JAM (1991)
Pearl Jam was the anti-Nirvana. Not apathetic or ironic, Pearl Jam were genuine in their passion for the songs they played. Eddie Vedder’s sincerity in his troubled lyrics and incredible baritone mixed well with the draw-dropping skill of the band. This album stands out as one of the best of all time.
THRILLER – MICHAEL JACKSON (1982)
Disco wasn’t quite dead yet, MJ still wanted to try his interpretation of it. This quirky, bizarre creation was weird enough to work. Oh, and to sell 100 million copies.
Wanna Be Startin’ Something
TRACY CHAPMAN – TRACY CHAPMAN (1988)
Before this album, Tracy Chapman was performing in cafes. Luckily, her talent was released on the public. Her voice and her storytelling still carry so much weight.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND – VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2008)
Vampire Weekend brought fun back to indie music. Taking style tips from another of my favourite albums (Graceland) Vampire Weekend brought afro-pop together with intelligent song-crafting and made musical gold.
VESPERTINE – BJORK (2001)
Glacial, precious, and personal. Bjork dropped her need for “creativity above all else” to just make an excellent record, and it became her best.
WELCOME TO THE NIGHT SKY – WINTERSLEEP (2007)
This album holds a special place in the hearts of my girlfriend and I. It is uncomplicated, genuine, and loveable rock music. Paul Murphy and co. outdo themselves.
WEEZER (THE BLUE ALBUM) – WEEZER (1994)
We all loved The Blue Album. It really is impossible to not like their charming nerdiness. Every song feels innocent and timeless, and every note seems perfectly placed. There is a reason why it sold over three million copies in the US alone.
Surf Wax America
WE WERE DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK – MODEST MOUSE (2007)
I liked this album way more than most critics. With the exception of March Into the Sea, each track is so easily loveable. Perhaps critics wanted more challenge, but to me that is not a prerequisite for great music. Plus, the band never made a better song than Parting of the Sensory.
WHITE LADDER – DAVID GRAY (1998)
David Gray excels in romantic urban hymns. White Ladder happens to be his greatest achievement. Song after song show a skill for melancholy hypnotic love stories that are impossible to dig out of your mind.
Please Forgive Me
YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE – BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (2002)
Who would have thought this large scale collaboration of Toronto indie artists would feel so cohesive? This supergroup that includes Feist and Metric’s Emily Haines, is perfectly orchestrated by founding members Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, and what the listener is left with is an unforgettable indie album.
YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY – FATBOY SLIM (1998)
The hype around the song The Rockafeller Skank, or the Spike Jonze produced video for Praise You, might have drawn attention away from the fact that this is one of the most fun and enjoyable electro-pop albums ever made.
( ) – SIGUR ROS (2002)
( ) didn’t need a title. It didn’t need grand variation. It didn’t even need a language. It was simply beautiful music.
What are your favourites?