This has to be, by far, the most trying post I have ever written. Obviously I had a great struggle with bias, as my personal favorite albums would not necessarily be yours. So, instead I took the academic approach and did my research. After spending hours skimming a seemingly endless amount of “Top 100 Albums of All Time” and “THESE ARE THE GREATEST ALBUMS EVER!” lists, I decided to do something a little different.
Instead of another top albums list to tire you with, I’m choosing to write a list of important albums that should be in your collection, from one music lover to another. So, here it is: The 20 Albums That Should Be In Your Library (with only minor personal bias).
1. “Grace” by Jeff Buckley. My friends and family alike know that Jeff Buckley has/had a huge impact on my life. Although he died almost twenty years ago, his words and his songs are still a profound source of inspiration to me. This album, to this day, still hits me hard. Especially his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
2. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. Now here was a difficult task. How do you possibly pick a single album by arguably one of the best bands of all time? After multiple listens to their collective work, I finally settled on “Abbey Road.” Not only is it one of their most iconic album covers, but it also feature’s one of their greatest creations: “Here Comes the Sun.”
3. “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” by Ray Charles. I honestly don’t feel the need to go into a long-winded description for this one. It’s Ray Charles, do we really need to question it?
4. Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. Ah, the innocent songs of the drugged-out Brian Wilson. From the opening track “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” to the endearing “God Only Knows,” I really feel that “Pet Sounds” was the Beach Boys’ best work.
5. “Highway 61 Revisited” by Bob Dylan. This was another tough one. I mean, Dylan is such an influential musician with an impressive discography, how could anyone just narrow it down? Ultimately, I decided on this album because it was the turning point in his career. While his previous releases were more folk-oriented, this one was his step into the rock genre. Starting off with that iconic snare hit on “Like A Rolling Stone,” this album changed the course of Dylan’s career forever.
6. “At Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash. Yet another turning point piece (I’m beginning to see a pattern here), Cash recorded this FOR his incarcerated fans. A great deal of his best songs are on this album. Even if you’re not a Country fan (I know I’m not), you can’t deny The Man in Black.
7. “Turn on the Bright Lights” by Interpol. As oxymoronic a phrase as it is, “Turn on the Bright Lights” really is a modern classic. The debut album from the New York City based Indie-Rock quartet was a real honest effort, and is a personal favorite of mine.
8. “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. THE first Heavy Metal album. Geezer, Bill, Tony, and the madman Ozzy released this ground-breaking album back in 1970, and it features three of their greatest hits: “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “War Pigs.” This album is an absolute must for any fan of rock and heavy metal.
9. “Darkside of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. No list is complete without this masterpiece. Although Pink Floyd has an impressive discography of really great music, “Darkside of the Moon” is by far their most iconic, seconded of course by “The Wall.”
10. “Doolittle” by Pixies. The band that inspired Kurt Cobain and set the stage for the 90’s Grunge movement debuted this beauty back in 1989, a mere two months after my birth. This is always the album I use to introduce people to the Pixies, as it features 90% of my favorite works by them. Personal bias aside, “Doolittle” truly is a great album, and is a definite must-have in any music junkie’s library.
11. “Painkiller” by Judas Priest. Another metal masterpiece from the metal god himself, Rob Halford. A lot of music writers probably would have listed “British Steel” here, but I went with this one because it features the fast-paced, hard-hitting track “Painkiller” as well as “Metal Meltdown” which opens with and insane, face-melting guitar solo. If you really just want to rock out, put this record on and pop some headache medication because you’re about to headbang until you give yourself whiplash.
12. “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” by Public Enemy. Here it is, one of the most angry, in-you-face, rap albums that called out government and police corruption. This is where rap really is at, not the over-produced repetitive nonsense uplifting partying and frivolous spending that gets spewed out of the airwaves. While Public Enemy left us with Flava Flav, they also gave us “Bring Tha Noise” which they later re-did with thrash metal outfit Anthrax.
13. “The Bends” by Radiohead. The sophomore release of the British alt-rock back fronted by the musical genius Thom Yorke proved that Radiohead didn’t fall victim to the 90’s list of “One-Hit Wonders.” While “Creep” from their debut release “Pablo Honey” remains their most iconic song, “The Bends” came out swinging with heavy tracks like “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” which helped establish Radiohead as one of the most original and influential bands of the last two decades.
14. “Remain in Light” by Talking Heads. David Byrne really is a genius, and his work with Talking Heads will always be my favorite of his. Featuring their classic hit “Once in a Lifetime,” this album proves to be a favorite of old and new fans alike.
15. “Vows” by Kimbra. Like me, most of you who know of Kimbra probably first heard her on Gotye’s radio-dominating hit “Somebody That I Use to Know.” However, the reason why New Zealand-born singer Kimbra made my list is due to the fact that she did something that this generation has never seen before. She released a pop album that was not only really good, it was also not hyper-sexualized and over-produced. From the toe-tapping opening track “Settle Down” to the Supremes-esq “Cameo Lover” to the groovy “Good Intent,” Kimbra really showed that she can make a solid album with “Vows.”
16. “OFF!” by OFF!. The follow-up release to the compilation “First Four EPs” is a true-to-self, genuine punk album. Fronted by Punk icon Keith Morris (of Black Flag and Circle Jerks), OFF! released this hard-hitting album with most of the songs clocking in at around 45 seconds. I love everything about this album, especially the Greg Ginn blasting track “I’ve Got News For You.”
17. “The 59 Sound” by Gaslight Anthem. Probably one of the most heart-felt rock releases of the past decade, Gaslight Anthem really channels images of black-and-white movies, classic cars, and heartbreak. They were even joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen himself to perform the album’s titled track. Mixing equal parts retro and alt rock, I really believe that Gaslight Anthem is the spiritual successor to Social Distortion.
18. “The Meadowlands” by Wrens. The best album by Indie’s most elusive group was released back in 2003. This is their third album, their first was released back in the early 90’s. Known for putting on intense, but infrequent shows, Wrens’ music is so good but so far in between that fans eagerly await news much like comic book lovers await Neil Gaiman’s newest Sandman Overture issue. I’ll admit, when they said they’ll be releasing new music this year, I went total fan girl mode for a few minutes. Take a listen to their song “Hopeless” off this album, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
19. “Dive” by Tycho. This has to be THE most relaxing electronic music I have ever heard. It stirs up images of relaxing on the beach while watching the sunrise, or floating on the waves without a care in the world. This album is an excellent addition to anyone’s music collection, and I can’t recommend it enough.
20. “The Airborne Toxic Event” by The Airborne Toxic Event. This is one of those albums that you can just listen to all the way through time and again. The Airborne Toxic Event is compiled of a group of the most talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. At any given point they’ll swap instruments, or randomly do an acoustic set mid-show. I saw them live at the Fox Theater in Pomona, CA. back in 2009, and that remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. And this is the album that started it all for them.