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Added by JxSxPx on 19 Dec 2008 09:03
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Favorite music

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TOP 20

This was only supposed to be 100 albums, but it clearly ballooned from there. Here are 200 of my favorite albums from across the decades, genres, and the world. Why 200? I don’t have a particularly good answer other than if it’s good enough for Rolling Stone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Uncut, and various others to do, then it is good enough for me.

Any album was up for inclusion, and I didn’t want to limit it to just studio albums, so there’s a healthy smattering of EPs, live albums, and compilations. I tried to stick to one solid rule throughout: only one album per artist. That doesn’t mean that several people don’t appear twice, but their work as a solo artist and their original band aren’t the same thing. A loophole? Probably.

I did try to keep the live albums, EPs, and compilations to a minimum, but sometimes that’s the best showcase for an artist. Be it Johnny Cash performing for inmates and cohering his persona, Motown divas the Supremes delivering a string of perfect singles in various incarnations, or Ronnie Spector flirting with punk on her best solo work; you can’t argue with great music just because it doesn’t fit a prescribed form.

Every album has one song highlighted as its “crown jewel.” The only exception is the Top 10, which have two songs highlighted. Why? Because they’re my best of the best of this expansive list.

Enjoy your reading!

TOP 20
As it stands right now, think of these as my "desert island discs." The indispensable, the ones that made the biggest emotional impact on my life, the ones that I can return to at any point in time.
People who added this item 304 Average listal rating (218 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 0
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
During the earliest writing sessions for Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson turned to his then-wife and said, “I’m gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!” Inspired by the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, a record that he believed to have no-filler, Wilson wanted to top it, to bring a new maturity and depth to pop song craft. I like to think he accomplished all of his goals, and that quote is true for me.

I firmly believe that Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever made, a work of exquisite artistry and beauty. The type of immaculate artwork that comes along once in a generation, if you’re lucky. Listening to this album is the closest I ever get to prayer, it touches me that deeply.

I distinctly remember my first listening experience with Pet Sounds. Having been a casual fan of their work, I knew of the Beach Boys mostly as surf-pop enthusiasts with song after song about girls, cars, and the mythology of California, and I wanted to check out more of their work. I knew this was frequently thrown around as their best album, and one of the all-time greats.


Download: “God Only Knows,” “I’m Waiting for the Day”
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People who added this item 142 Average listal rating (102 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Purple Rain - Prince & the Revolution, Prince
Prince, the diminutive sex god of rock, led a varied and long musical career, but no moment capture the zeitgeist quite like Purple Rain, both the semiautobiographical film and the corresponding soundtrack. 1999 primed Prince for his launch into the stratosphere and out from the critical and cult following, and Purple Rain delivered the goods over nine songs of impeccable musical dexterity, hooks upon hooks, and instantaneous pop classics. Here is an album that contains no less than “Baby, I’m a Star,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “The Beautiful Ones,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” any other album would be lucky to have just one of those, and these aren’t even the biggest and brightest songs in this exquisite jewel of an album. If nothing else, Purple Rain proved that Prince was the greatest of all-time, most notably though his guitar wizardy like the ending flourish of “Computer Blue.” This is one of those rare albums that never feel long enough, that you just want to keep going so you let it finish then start it over again and again happily getting lost in the sustained luxury of the Purple One’s towering artistic genius.
Download: “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry”
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People who added this item 295 Average listal rating (203 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Low - David Bowie
The Berlin Trilogy: Low, Heroes, Lodger
David Bowie’s career is astonishing not just for its sheer output but for the consistently high-quality of his material, and no period better demonstrates his full range as a pop cultural mover and shaker than the Berlin triptych. As if recording these albums wasn’t enough, he also managed to appear in films (Just a Gigolo), television specials (the infamous Christmas duet with Bing Crosby), and produce albums (Iggy Pop’s one-two punch of The Idiot and Lust for Life). The trilogy begins with Low, an album that’s half fractured avant-rock and half chilly electronic instrumentals that pointed towards previously unexplored territories for what a rock song/album could be. He followed that up with Heroes, the only part of the trilogy recorded entirely in Berlin, which contains what is arguably his greatest song in the sweeping, stormy, triumphant love story of the title track. And closes it out with Lodger, an album that has been destined for a critical re-evaluation since the moment of its release with material that’s some of the most glorious (“Boys Keep Swinging”) and obtuse (“Yassassin”) pop he’s ever recorded.
Download: “Heroes,” “Sound and Vision”
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People who added this item 147 Average listal rating (108 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Parallel Lines - Blondie_III
Producer Mike Chapman found Blondie to be sloppy in their execution but knew a diamond in the rough when he heard it, and it’s his tough love that propelled Blondie from downtown art-pop into the purveyors of New Wave to the masses. Equal credit goes to lead singer and icon Debbie Harry as she fused glamourous indifference to a tough punk ethos, and Parallel Lines is a testament to her artistic fearlessness. Her vocal range runs the gamut from one-woman-girl-group sweetness (“Sunday Girl”) to riotous snarl (“One Way or Another”) with a few pit stops at garage rock dominatrix (“Just Go Away”) and untouchable pop goddess (“Pretty Baby”) along the way. Matching her is a group of musicians that lay down tracks just as smart, sexy, and ironic as Harry’s vocals and lyrical ruminations effectively launching the New York demimonde into the mainstream. The pop genius of Parallel Lines provided the roadmap that countless artists have followed ever since, just look at the careers of Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Shirley Manson, and others too numerous to count.
Download: “Heart of Glass,” “Fade Away and Radiate”
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People who added this item 209 Average listal rating (119 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 0
Rock Steady - No Doubt
Blender described Gwen Stefani as “Jean Harlow on a skateboard” during this era, and it remains one of my favorite summaries of her personality to date. No Doubt always aimed for the musical polymath style of forefathers like Blondie, the Police, and the English Beat, and no album proved their potential to live up to those lofty goals better than Rock Steady. The colorful, sunny personality of the group dominates as Rock Steady reveals itself as a collaborative effort, far more carefree and unconstrained than prior albums and all the richer for it. Where else could you hear William Orbit’s Eurodisco (“Making Out”), Sly & Robbie’s reggae (“Underneath It All”), Steely & Clevie’s dancehall (“Start the Fire”), Nellie Hooper’s moody sounds (“Hella Good”), Ric Ocasek’s twitchy New Wave (“Platinum Blonde Life”), and a surprise appearance from the GOAT Prince (“Waiting Room”) jammed together on one album? That’s the genius of Rock Steady, it encompasses all of the band’s various styles and influences then spits them back out in a fun party album that’s drunk on ocean waves and rum.
Download: “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Rock Steady”
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People who added this item 548 Average listal rating (457 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 0
London Calling - The Clash
London Calling is the moment the Clash took the punk scene from the grimy underground and shot it into the stratosphere – artistically, critically, even got a Top 30 hit in the States with “Train in Vain.” Made in dire financial straits and under incredible personal duress, London Calling can easily play like a pirate radio station beaming out from the post-apocalyptic world, but that doesn’t entirely account for that seed of optimism within the fury. From the cover referencing Elvis Presley’s first album to the general aura and belief in the power of rock and roll to battle back the darkness, the Clash make their claim for legendary status throughout. They succeeded by sticking their punk sound through a musical prism and seeing what genre experiments emerged: multilingual rock (“Spanish Bombs”), reggae (“Rudie Can’t Fail”), chant-worthy near-pop (“Lost in the Supermarket”), and boozy pub-rock (“Death or Glory”). “Clampdown” positioned a question – “What are we gonna do now?” – and the Clash’s answer was to make punk rock’s variation of Pet Sounds, now that’s daring.
Download: “London Calling,” “Hateful”
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People who added this item 182 Average listal rating (135 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 0
Like a Prayer - Madonna
From her self-titled debut straight through to True Blue, Madonna had used each of her prior albums as a building block towards complete musical and cultural dominance, and then she got deeply personal, cohesive, and confessional on Like a Prayer, an album that’s basically a blueprint for the modern pop star. She infamously told Rolling Stone that she “liked the challenge of merging art and commerce,” and Like a Prayer was proof-positive that she knew what she was doing and doing it exceptionally well. For all of her vocal limitations, few other singers could match her intensity of feeling on “Promise to Try,” soulfulness on “Keep It Together,” call to arms on “Express Yourself,” or reveal the cracks and vulnerabilities as candidly as she does on “Spanish Eyes.” She meets up with Prince (yes, THAT Prince) on “Love Song” and the 80s biggest cultural provocateurs marry their volcanic sensuality and tortured spirituality on one of the album’s strongest hidden gems. And in the title track she crafted her greatest artistic statement, a song that works on multiple levels: the sacred, the heartfelt, the profane, and the celebratory.
Download: “Like a Prayer,” “Love Song”
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People who added this item 35 Average listal rating (23 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 0
Specials - The Specials
The Specials are the eternal torch bearers of 2-Tone ska music, the pivot point at which punk’s aggression and the jaunty beat of reggae merge into something completely unique and unexpected. At once as danceable as it is likely to incite a mosh-pit, The Specials is a ferocious blast of youthful disenchantment and aggravation funneled into bouncy beats, high-octane energy, and several bits of political sloganeering. And this biracial group has a lot of energy, check the way they blast through originals (“Nite Klub,” “Stupid Marriage”) and a bevy of covers (“Do the Dog,” “Too Hot”) like they’re the Clash, and a lot of antiracist sentiment (“Doesn’t Make It Alright”). Thank producer Elvis Costello for being smart enough to merely kick back and observe the recordings, offering a few helpful tidbits but mainly sitting back and letting the wild, manic energy of their live shows bound out of the speakers. The drabness, ennui, and madness of Thatcherite England skanks the night away on the Specials debut album.
Download: “Too Much Too Young,” “(Dawning of a) New Era”
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People who added this item 29 Average listal rating (20 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
The Los Angeles-based junkyard Beat poets John Doe and Exene Cervanka married seedy, deadpan tales of the lost souls of the City of Angels to a breakneck rockabilly beat, effectively bolting country music’s romantic distress to hard-hitting punk rock into something fresh and dangerous. Los Angeles comes thundering out the gate with “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not,” a perfect demonstration of everything X has to offer: Billy Zoom’s frantic guitar, DJ Bonebrake’s pile-driving drums, and Doe and Cervanka trading barbs and spiky harmonies. Hollywood sleaze has never sounded quite as deadly as it does on “Nausea” and “Sugerlight,” nor has romantic melodrama ever sounded as corrosively funny as it does during “Sex and Dying in High Society.” We may never get a coherent answer to Cervanka’s intonations on “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss,” but it is abundantly that she wants to take you on a trip to hell, beyond and back. A standard bearer for the West Coast scene, and one of the all-time greatest punk albums.
Download: “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss,” “Los Angeles”
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People who added this item 189 Average listal rating (108 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 0
Grandiose mopey pop theatrics that shake the rafters as often as they weep into the ocean, the Cure catapulted themselves into the major leagues with this gargantuan album of tortured love songs. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is the rare case of more actually being better with catchier hooks, more sonic experiments, louder guitars, and more long musical introductions or breakdowns that give these songs more thorns and snap than would otherwise be present. Just when you think you have got a handle on where the songs are going, you’ll get smacked with a sharp left turn either lyrically or sonically that keeps you guessing as to where Robert Smith is trying to take you. Don’t worry baby, just kick back and enjoy the pictures that he’s painting as the various views are so wonderfully, wonderfully pretty. Of course, it all comes to a dizzying head on “Just Like Heaven,” the song that even Smith admits is “the best pop song the Cure has ever done,” and that’s no small feat considering this album alone contains “Catch,” “The Perfect Girl” and “How Beautiful You Are.”
Download: “Just Live Heaven,” “One More Time”
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People who added this item 168 Average listal rating (108 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Blue - Joni Mitchell
A song cycle, primarily written on a European vacation, reflecting on Joni Mitchell’s love labors lost and won (mostly lost) and still somehow even more intimate than that summary may suggest. The minimalist approach reflects the confessional nature of her lyrics, and the simplicity of the music hits you hardest when Mitchell is at her most tender, both lyrically and vocally. With nary a stray note or unnecessary syllable, Blue is a towering achievement and proof positive of the power of poetic economy, and it remains one of the most profoundly moving and personal listening experiences you’ll ever encounter.
Download: “All I Want”
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People who added this item 311 Average listal rating (232 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
It’s the underlining tension between the glossy harmonies and the interpersonal dramatics on display throughout Rumours that give it its particular energy and spiky pop grandeur. My personal favorites are the Stevie Nicks songs, but Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie’s contributions are just as ecstatically ornate and groovy, further proof that they’re better as a dynamic, combustible group than they are as individuals. Look at “The Chain,” the gang’s-all-here composition about betrayal where the fury of the performances rubs against the sunny Californian production in delirious friction.
Download: “Gold Dust Woman”
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People who added this item 337 Average listal rating (257 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse looked like a tattooed Ronnie Spector and sang like Sarah Vaughan over a jukebox banging out retro-soul and pop ditties, but this is no pastiche album. Back to Black drips with Winehouse’s heartache and pain, style and sass, and her humor and attitude shine bright throughout, but it’s that combination of her unique voice and musical muscularity that’s at once forward-thinking and backwards-leaning that was so special. We lost someone really unique and gifted, yet this album remains burning brightly as a testament to her genius.
Download: “Back to Black”
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
Radio City - Big Star
Power pop’s supreme band is the missing link between the British Invasion and New Wave, and they accomplished this by finessing their pop inspirations to their Memphis roots and adding a dash of early-rock and roll varnish. “What’s Going Ahn” and “I’m in Love with a Girl” are teenage anthems filled with bliss and heartache, while “O, My Soul” and “Back of a Car” are addictive blasts of eccentric rock. Big Star didn’t sell during their heyday, but their inspired take on rock and roll has proved seminal with Radio City being the definitive power pop album.
Download: “September Gurls”
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When you hear the Ronettes sing it paints a picture in your mind of a trio of young girls harmonizing on a neon lit street corner, hair piled high atop their heads, wearing too tight black dresses with spike heels, and their winged eyeliner like a switchblade. Super-producer Phil Spector builds his Wall of Sound brick-by-brick around Ronnie Spector’s powerful belts and deeply sensual phrasing, her voice a thing that combines New Yawk sass and kittenish glee into sweet-tart bliss on immortal songs like “Walking in the Rain” and “Baby, I Love You.” This is what pop perfection sounds like.
Download: “Be My Baby”
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People who added this item 31 Average listal rating (23 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Pretenders - The Pretenders
From the opening snarl of “Precious” to the final pounding of “Mystery Achievement,” the self-titled debut from the Pretenders remains a forceful and hit filled experience. But the true allure of the Pretenders remains Chrissie Hynde, a biker-chick tough exterior wrapped around a tender heart and deep vulnerability. For all her Johnny Rotten-like scowls (“Up the Neck,” “The Phone Call”), and there are a lot of them on this record, there is also a clear sense of melody and song craft that owes a tremendous debt to pop music (“Brass in Pocket,” “Lovers of Today”).
Download: “Tattooed Love Boys”
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People who added this item 88 Average listal rating (53 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 0
Beautiful Garbage - Garbage
Shirley Manson had this to say about the band’s most divisive record: “I have a soft spot for Beautiful Garbage – I think we all do in the band, actually.” Same Shirley, and it is in the way that the robotic sadomasochism of the prior records, the overwhelming sense of threatening sexuality, alienating depression, and oppressive darkness thaws into something approximating human warmth, tenderness, and honesty. The band (and Manson’s vocals in particular) demonstrate a versatility here that’s quite astonishing, accomplished, and, yes, beautiful.
Download: “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)”
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People who added this item 48 Average listal rating (30 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
This Year's Model - Elvis Costello
The Attractions were the secret ingredient to really make Elvis Costello’s acidic songs sting, and they prove an indispensable backing band on everything from spongy reggae (“(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”), bristly punk (“Pump It Up”), and twitchy New Wave (“You Belong to Me”). It’s a skinny tied bludgeoning with Costello’s disgusted lyrics sharpened to such a fine point you won’t even notice when he goes in for the kill. This Year’s Model is the thinking man’s punk album with its richness of lyrical dexterity, musical assault, and pervading sense that it’s all so nasty and pitched at such a gallop it’ll combust at any moment.
Download: “Radio, Radio”
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People who added this item 327 Average listal rating (194 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
Give Up - The Postal Service
Ben Gibbard, with his soft, sensitive voice, sounds right at home on this album of retro synthpop that swirls, pulsates, and sounds like it was beamed in directly from 1985. The romantic yearning of “Clark Gable” recalls a more literal-minded Roxy Music, while “Nothing Better” is a forlorn Human League tribute, and “Natural Anthem” sounds like something Talk Talk would have cooked up in their more experimental years, but it’s not all 80s appropriation and reverie. It’s for the best that the Postal Service only managed to produce one perfect album as its alchemical magic of Gibbard’s warble, whimsy, and retro synth burbles walks such a tightrope that performing the trick twice would only dim this ensemble of bright, shiny pop masterpieces.
Download: “We Will Become Silhouettes”
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People who added this item 161 Average listal rating (107 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 0
It doesn’t matter how much pop finish is plastered over these metal-leaning and punk-annex guitar riffs, there’s no repressing a hellion like Courtney Love from wailing in anger and anguish. The production gives her the chance to live out her Stevie Nicks fantasies on sunny pop songs like “Heaven Tonight” and “Awful,” while her trademark Dorothy Parker-like acidic wit and rage is evident in blistering songs like “Boys on the Radio” and “Celebrity Skin,” and she gets downright tender on “Northern Star.” This isn’t a sellout record by any stretch of the imagination, this is what it sounds like when Love’s wild child id successfully marries her Top 40 aspirations.
Download: “Malibu”
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All the rest

Here are the 180 albums that have also made a lasting imprint on my life. So many of these came close to cracking the Top 10, but tough choices had to be made.
People who added this item 12 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 9.3 IMDB Rating 0
Marc Bolan and T. Rex released several great albums (T. Rex, Electric Warrior, The Slider, Tanx), but nowhere was the power and might of their glammed out guitar licks and androgyne, boa-accented fae allure better displayed than in their singles. Bolan’s lyrics are often obtuse empowering his gibberish with emotive heft through sheer charisma and a sexuality that wafted out the speakers. Crafting a coherent single-disc collection of their biggest hits is a daunting task, but this one succinctly sums it all up in 75 glorious minutes.
Download: “20th Century Boy”
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They burned out fast after only two studio albums, but the Waitresses left behind a series of dry, bratty, snarky New Wave classics that are indelible to the genre and the popular lexicon. This has got everything you need: their masterpiece (“I Know What Boys Like”), their sitcom theme (“Square Pegs”), holiday staple (“Christmas Wrapping”), and plenty of feminine tales spiked with punk-adjacent attitude (“Wise Up,” “Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful,” “A Girl’s Gotta Do”). Patty Donahue’s playful voice, capable of being aggressive, sexual, disaffected, sometimes all at once, gives these songs the extra punch necessary to go from “enjoyable” to “earworm.”
Download: “Bruiseology”
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People who added this item 195 Average listal rating (155 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
21 - Adele
Everyone know that I’m a sucker for a tortured love song, for practically performing an autopsy on a failed romance and trying to explain to myself just where it all went wrong and why. Clearly, Adele is a kindred spirit if these ten original compositions and complete reworking of a beloved Cure staple is any indication. 21 is a collection of fiery, stubborn, heartbroken songs that build organic instrumentation around her voice, a big, emotive thing that blisters in fury before wavering in deep ache and melancholy.
Download: “Rumour Has It”
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People who added this item 2 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 0
25 All-Time Greatest Hits - The Shirelles
They transitioned from schoolgirls doing doo-wop harmonies to pop sophisticates armed with songs by the likes of Goffin/King and Bacharach/David all the while being the architects of the girl group sound and look, so all hail the Shirelles. Their sound, a mixture of naivety and girlish innocence with a rich inner emotional life, kept the rock and roll fires burning in the period between Elvis’ initial explosion and the eventual British Invasion. All their colossal hits and several lesser-known greats, it’s an indispensable hour of vulnerable, tender, sweet, and warmly rich pop music.
Download: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”
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People who added this item 16 Average listal rating (14 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 0
40 Greatest Hits - Hank Williams
Hank Williams’ special brand of no bullshit Americana breathed with a folksy, meditative sound that was a blend of honky tonk, gospel, blues, and an early, primitive form of rock and roll that blazed the path for others to walk through. 40 Greatest Hits reveals the poetic simplicity of Williams as a writer, and demonstrates all of his thematic obsessions from heartache (“Why Don’t You Love Me”) to ramble rousing (“Move It on Over”) to a raw emotional state (“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”) that underscores the hint of danger throughout. He died before the advent of the full-length album, but this set collects all of the killer material for your enjoyment.
Download: “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
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People who added this item 69 Average listal rating (45 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 0
40 Oz. to Freedom - Sublime
Sublime’s debut album works perfectly as a soundtrack to a day hanging out at the beach and/or the skate park. It is the sound of days spent driving along the southern Californian coast, drinking too much, smoking even more, and hanging out with friends lazily making music in the living room or garage. But the true genius of the album is how Sublime merges together hardcore punk, ska, dub, reggae, and hip-hop to create something unique and it is my choice for their greatest sonic document.
Download: “DJs”
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People who added this item 65 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Aaliyah - Aaliyah
Aaliyah’s self-titled third, and final, album found the hip hop and soul starlet drafting the meeting point between the sensuality of Marvin Gaye, the pop dynamics of Janet Jackson, and the sonic cosmos of Missy Elliott and Timbaland and essentially staking her claim for eventual pop dominance. Aaliyah’s vocals are both dulcet and lithe gliding on top of the snaking, glitching beats and exploring darker, more mature, self-possessed, and sensual themes than what she had been previously known for and marked a towering artistic triumph. The sound and aura of the album has made a lasting impression as it can be heard in the likes of Solange, Tinashe, and Kelela.
Download: “Rock the Boat”
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People who added this item 33 Average listal rating (23 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
America's Sweetheart - Courtney Love,Patty Schemel,Linda Perry_IV,Samantha Maloney,Jerry Best,Chris Whitemyer,Emilie Autumn
Reaction to Courtney Love’s first (and only, so far) solo album was a decidedly mixed affair with Spin giving it a rave, Rolling Stone a pan, and NME landing squarely in the middle, just to give a brief overview. And it’s no surprise as the album sounds like a battered, bruised hooker teetering down the Sunset Strip, strung out on coke and pills, and raving about the hell she’s been through before finding herself alone as the dawn rises over the remnants. Love’s ethos has always been something of a contradictory “be the bitch” and “girl power,” and America’s Sweetheart from its title on down is a pure distillation of her fragmented, disastrous, entirely surviving persona.
Download: “But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You”
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
Anthology - Diana Ross & the Supremes
Three girls from Detroit took the baton from the Shirelles and became an assembly line of hit singles, rivaling only the Beatles for chart dominance during the 60s, and finessing the girl group look and sound into a form that numerous others are still trying to emulate. When Diana Ross coos the word “baby” on these songs, and it is quite often, it’s one of the most sublime moments in pop music. 50 songs of glamour and heartbreak from three girls from the Detroit ghetto that batted super-sized eyelashes while dressed as untouchable pop goddesses – this is essential listening.
Download: “Baby Love”
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People who added this item 8 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
Arkology - Lee "Scratch" Perry
One phrase comes up repeatedly when looking into Lee “Scratch” Perry’s legacy and influence: reggae’s mad-scientist producer, and the honorific is entirely earned. Not only is he one of the pioneers of the dub sound, but his habit of sampling and remixing clearly paved a path towards hip-hop’s infancy and eventual ascendancy. Perry’s looping, hallucinatory grooves flint between mysticism and socio-political pronouncements, and he could draw out masterful performances from the various musicians spread across Arkology all while flirting with cartoony spirituality, danceable beats, and haunting roots music.
Download: Junior Murvin’s “Police & Thieves”
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People who added this item 60 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
Arular - M.I.A.
The rumor goes that M.I.A. couldn’t get a visa to record her follow-up, Kala, in the United States based on the fiery polemics and provocations found on Arular. In-between world beats and sound effects that resemble a Super Nintendo going on the fritz, M.I.A. stands in the middle of it all chanting her slogans into a megaphone while a party thrashes all around her. The music is every bit as defiant as her lyrics, and the entire thing is a genre-defying experience that’ll turn your head inside out.
Download: “Sunshowers”
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People who added this item 233 Average listal rating (158 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 0
At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
At Folsom Prison is the sound of country music’s one-man Mount Rushmore fully embodying his own personal mythology alternately playing defiant, mean, mischievous, spiritual, and deeply poignant, sometimes all within the same song. This wasn’t merely a career comeback, but the sonic document that launched Johnny Cash from musical great into a legend for all-time. What really lasts is the profound sense of empathy and connection he provides to his audience, as if this rabble-rousing troubadour was paying penance for his misdeeds and giving them a sense of hope in the process.
Download: “Cocaine Blues”
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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 0
The B-52's - The B-52's
Cosmic surf rock for your intergalactic luau, served up with a healthy portion of kitsch asides, Pop Art colorfulness, and Dadaist-like inventive humor. New Wave has never been quite as eccentric as it was on the B-52’s debut, an album that is practically perfect in every way. The silliness culminates in “Rock Lobster,” a song that’s a microcosm of the vibrantly weird world of the B-52’s and remains just as bizarre today as it was back then.
Download: “Dance This Mess Around”
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People who added this item 64 Average listal rating (47 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
Bad Brains - Bad Brains
A group of African-American Rastafarians delivered one of the hardest, fastest punk albums of all-time and spliced in some chilled reggae grooves in-between just because they could. Bad Brains is a foundational document for eventual fusion bands like Sublime, No Doubt, Fishbone, and countless others who married reggae grooves to a rock sound. Sixteen songs at thirty-four minutes, Bad Brains is a perfect introduction to the bands PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) ethos and one hell of a punky reggae party all in one.
Download: “Sailin’ On”
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 9.3 IMDB Rating 0
They started life as ska-revivalists (“Best Friend”) before experimenting with something approaching punk (“Twist and Crawl”) and later on moved towards a more New Wave sound (“I Confess”) but kept it all going with a certain bouncy, striking pop element. The English Beat are a band that’s both genre defying as they are genre defining and Beat This! captures fifteen jewels of party-orientated ska/punk rhapsody. What you hear on this compilation is the wellspring of ska/punk ever flowing.
Download: “Mirror in the Bathroom”
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People who added this item 27 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
Beauty and the Beat - The Go-Go's
They could snarl with punk fervor and throw down some serious surf rock guitar licks, but they wrapped it all up in a girl-group power pop package that was just too good to ignore. Sure, “We Got the Beat” is magic in three minutes, but songs like “This Town” and “Lust to Love” are full of as much snarl as any of the riot grrrls. The Go-Go’s became New Wave icons and major pop players thanks to the strength of this album, and it hasn’t gained a pound since.
Download: “Our Lips Are Sealed”
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People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (17 ratings) 8.7 IMDB Rating 0
Electronic/ambient music pioneer, glam rock weirdo, and art-school brainiac all rolled into one slightly pervy, incredibly weird package, behold the apex of Brian Eno’s days as an avant-pop songwriter. Before and After Science was released as the teenage/young adult burnouts who listened to Roxy Music records took his lessons and launched the punk and new wave scenes, and one cannot help but think of this as his (not so gentle) reminder of who wears the crown. He would go onto to become a super-producer for bands like the Talking Heads and U2, and a hero to the concept of the DJ-as-artist, but he was never better than on this obtuse, horny set.
Download: “King’s Lead Hat”
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People who added this item 1 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 0
The Best Of Buddy Knox - Buddy Knox
He was a contemporary of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, even performing on a 1956 radio show with Orbison, yet he never quite achieved their level of acclaim and prominence in the popular culture despite having a pleasing collection of rockabilly and pop records that mark him as an underrated act from the era. The Best of Buddy Knox collects 18 of his hits and some solid lesser-known cuts, including “Party Doll,” the song he is perhaps best remembered for. But keep an ear out for the likes of “Storm Clouds,” “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself,” and “The Girl with the Golden Hair” which prove Knox deserves a reevaluation as a rabblerousing yet pop friendly musician.
Download: “Party Doll”
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 0
The Best of Darlene Love - Darlene Love
That voice hits you with all the strength of a thunderbolt in its unique combination of church-soaked power and abject longing, and it is no wonder that super-producer Phil Spector was in love with it. Shame that he rarely bothered to properly credit her or release her stellar material with the same flair he used to launch the Ronettes and the Crystals, but no matter. Here are fifteen times where Love’s immaculate vocal prowess, credited alternately as Bob B. Soxx and the Blues Jeans, the Crystals, and herself, threatened to topple Spector’s Wall of Sound like the walls of Jericho.
Download: “Chapel of Love”
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People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 0
Peggy Lee was an incomparable artist. She wrote much of her material, was a tremendously gifted and talented vocal stylist, and could use her instrument in a variety of ways preferring to act out her material instead of just singing it. Here she’s romantic, playful, alluring, tough-talking, and proto-feminist providing the type of wide-range that many female artists of her era rarely touched upon.
Download: “Why Don’t Ya Do Right?”
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People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 10 IMDB Rating 0
The Best Of The Girl Groups, Vol. 1 - Skeeter Davis, The Jelly Beans, Evie Sands, The Shangri-Las, The Chiffons, The Dixie Cups, The Ad Li
Forsaking the obvious (read: no Motown, no Phil Spector), these two volumes contain the best of the rest of the girl group sound. Between the acknowledged classics (the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las) and the lesser-known era-specific acts (the Cookies, the Honeys), The Best of the Girl Groups, Volumes 1 & 2 contain some of the greatest pop music ever recorded. Thirty-six songs combining a potent blend of alluring innocence and weary experience all wrapped up in the feminine mystique – this is aural bliss.
Download: The Jaynetts’ “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”
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People who added this item 18 Average listal rating (14 ratings) 8.8 IMDB Rating 0
Blank Generation - Richard Hell & the Voidoids
CBGB’s matinee idol, punk fashion’s founding father, and outside of Patti Smith, one of rock’s greatest poets, Richard Hell threw down this underappreciated album of urban malaise and post-modern romantic entanglements in the earliest days of punk’s golden years. The nihilism of Hell’s lyrical content is reflected in his vocal style as he does away with things like coherent timbre or sticking to a key, and he tweaks out over ever-shifting guitar grooves from Robert Quine and Ivan Julian. While fellow scene makers like Television and progeny like the Sex Pistols have been heralded, Blank Generation unfairly doesn’t quite get as much attention or prominence within the canon, and that needs to change.
Download: “Blank Generation”
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People who added this item 228 Average listal rating (145 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
Blink-182 - Blink-182
The Bart Simpsons of mall-punk matures on their fifth album, a pop-punk fusion of earnestness, artsy swings, and continuing their lyrical tradition of turning the mundane things of everyday life into the mythical stuff of a great rock song. Blink-182 is a more experimental affair than any of their previous efforts, which swung towards juvenilia more often than not, and finds the band aping the new wave of their youth for inspiration, including a Robert Smith cameo on “All of This,” perhaps the stormiest song they have ever written. To date, this is still their best release because it keeps their melodic sense without getting lost in the heaviness of the material.
Download: “Always”
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People who added this item 16 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Body Talk - Robyn
This Swedish pop moppet released the best electronic album of the 2010s by refusing to let the record industry dictate what her pop music would sound like. Rather than chase trends, Robyn infuses Body Talk with a sense of glee and sardonic humor that is refreshing and the ability to sound like the past and the future at the same time. Leave it to a spunky Swede to deliver one of the biggest ear worm records in recent memory while walking away with an album that is essentially an instantaneous greatest hits collection.
Download: “Dancing On My Own”
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People who added this item 18 Average listal rating (13 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
Pop maximalism at its finest as the Lady named Gaga careens the guitar crunch and stomp of glam into the dancefloor while making by turns like she’s fronting the E Street Band or marrying Liza Minnelli’s jazz-hands verve to David Bowie’s arch stylization, sometimes it’s all of the above. Her statement of purpose is crafting a world covered in glitter, queer friendly, a hint of grimy sex, and haute couture, and she has never reached that promised land as often or as well as did on Born This Way. She stomps around the arena like it is her Thunderdome, and there is not one minute that would qualify as dull during the holy bombast of this journey.
Download: “Yoü and I”
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People who added this item 171 Average listal rating (121 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 0
Bob Dylan’s heralded 60s output is an embarrassment of riches, and most would loudly proclaim Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde as the greatest achievements of his halcyon days. Solid choices but I’m throwing down for Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan’s semi-electric/mostly acoustic response to the British Invasion and containing songs as wonderful as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” This is the sound of Dylan in transition, away from folk and protest songs towards a more abstract yet personal writing style and rock sound, and it is positively electrifying.
Download: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
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People who added this item 26 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Broken English - Marianne Faithfull
One of rock’s original good girls-gone-bad, Marianne Faithfull was known as a beautiful chanteuse before winding up a heroin addict, and Broken English was her triumphant, battle-scarred return to prominence. From the junkie confessionals (“Brain Drain”) to the sympathetic character portraits (“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”), from the lacerations (“Broken English”) to a John Lennon cover (“Working Class Hero”), Faithfull presides over an album that’s clearly indebted to the modern sounds of punk and New Wave. Faithfull has described this as her “masterpiece,” and it’s a powerful document of one woman’s rock and roll resurrection.
Download: “Why D’ya Do It?”
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People who added this item 8 Average listal rating (6 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 0
In a recording career that lasted a little under two years, Buddy Holly released a collected body of work that placed him among the essentials, proving an indelible artist with a shadow that looms large to this day. From the country origins (“Down the Line”) to first big successes (“That’ll Be the Day”) to the steady stream of classics (“It’s So Easy”) and the earnest ballads (“Words of Love”), The Buddy Holly Collection is eclectic and invigorating highlighting Holly as one of rock’s first great singer/songwriters. Elvis might be the king, but these fifty songs, complete with his twangy hiccup, nerdy swagger, and heartfelt openness show that Holly was and remains the best.
Download: “Peggy Sue”
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People who added this item 1 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 10 IMDB Rating 0
Phil and Don Everly warred backstage but harmonized with such piercing clarity and beauty that the profound sadness of many of their best songs went down so sweet you hardly noticed. These songs, recorded largely between 1957 and 1960, stripped the musical parts down to the bare essentials, which was all the better to highlight that Southern flavor of vocal harmony that went on to influence the likes of the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. This provides the perfect introduction to their sound, one that moved and motored to the burgeoning rhythms of rock and roll by combining them with country-roots and pop to groove into something uniquely their own.
Download: “When Will I Be Loved”
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People who added this item 935 Average listal rating (985 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
The return of John Frusciante as guitarist was the secret ingredient needed to pull the Red Hot Chili Peppers out of the artistic doldrums and mixed critical and cultural reception that greeted every release post-Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Californication isn’t just a glorious return to form for the band, but an artistic triumph that finds equal space for funk-jams (“Get On Top”), solid songs (“Scar Tissue”), and ferocious rock anthems (“Around the World”). Sure, “Under the Bridge” and “Breaking the Girl” were hints at the deeper introspection that RHCP were capable of, but this album is still a surprise how emotionally visceral it goes all the while Frusciante cements that he’s the quintessential guitarist for the band.
Download: “Otherside”
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