Everyone who knows me and/or reads this site knows I’m a music freak. And every year I create a new list of top ten albums. It’s normal for a listener to crave certain albums, fall out with them, and then perhaps, a few years later fall back in love with that album.
So what is it about these albums that speak to me? There’s a certain organicism layered with the albums. The engineers and producers had a knack for creating a sonic work that doesn’t shout “this is from the 80’s” or whatever time period the recording emerged from.
In this list you’ll find a mix of “classics” with modern classics, and maybe a couple you’ve never heard. So, let us begin.
10. The Beatles – The Beatles
The Beatles gets picked on by critics for “filler” and a chaotic nature, but this is exactly what makes The Beatles great. The album is fun and adventurous with the occasional melancholic piece. I know some would consider this blasphemy, but I much prefer the Beatles work on Abbey Road and The Beatles to Revolver and Rubber Soul.
9. The Trials of Van Occupanther – Midlake
If the first track “Roscoe” doesn’t convince you that Midlake is something special, well….The album is a work of genius, laced with melody, nuance and fine imagery. If “Roscoe” doesn’t convince, try “Van Occupanther” and the McCartney-esque “Branches“.
8. Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts – M83
M83 has received a lot of attention lately (from movie producers and Victoria’s Secret especially), but Dead Cities is still their best.
7. Our Mother the Mountain – Townes Van Zandt
A dark, weird alternative country record before anyone even knew what the word meant. A few critics have knocked the album for overproduction (including Steve Earle), but I call bullshit. The production imparts an otherworldly ambiance onto these tracks, separating them from the lame country played on radio stations. Can production every really hinder Townes’ songwriting? No. The songcraft and melodies are just too strong. If you want the songs pared down, seek the live albums.
6. Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Dylan is at his best singing epic ballads, and this album is mostly epic ballads. Therefore, it is Dylan’s best album.
5. Southern Rock Opera – The Drive By Truckers
The greatest pure rock album of the last twenty years. Big, sprawling, in-your-face but also nuanced and full of great storytelling. The Truckers sound never got bigger or wilder after this (and for some reason the production has sounded smaller on each consecutive album, not sure why, but it has hurt the music). Southern Rock Opera is the greatest southern rock album of all time, and easily eclipses the best from Lynyrd Skynyrd.
4. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips
The album that launched The Flaming Lips from indie to mainstream. Still, you can’t deny the melodies. This might be one of the first truly accessible weird albums.
3. Sumday – Grandaddy
Jason Lytle sounds almost too relaxed on Sumday, but don’t be fooled. On Sumday you’ll find limousines that never drove rock stars, a group of neophyte office workers set loose in nature for the first time, and the saddest parking lot in the world. The songwriting is deceptively grand, while at the same time Lytle paints miniature scenes that will stay with you forever.
2. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven – Godspeed You Black Emperor
The greatest post-rock album of all time. Chilling, yet inspirational. The moment with the preacher will haunt you, and the catharsis on “Storm” will make you cry with joy.
1. Meddle – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd with no concepts, no grand theme, no pressure. Just four of the greatest musicians to ever grace the earth focused on experimentation. Meddle sounds almost free compared to the next few albums. It’s also the sound Roger Waters and Pink Floyd should have returned to after The Wall. Instead, Waters kept making weaker and weaker version of The Wall. Gilmour tried to find this sound again on The Division Bell with Mason and Wright, and sort of came close with “Poles Apart” and “Cluster One”.
Meddle is probably the greatest Pink Floyd album, and quite possibly the finest rock record of all time (#89 all time at Rate Your Music).