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My 100 Essential Albums

I'll sum up this list like this: if I met somebody who had never heard music before, and I was rrrrthen instructed to give them 100 albums to go away and listen to, these would be the ones. rrrrThere are no arbitrary Bob Dylan compilations or inclusions of Queen to be objective, these rrrare rmore or less my favourite albums from over the years. Not listed in order of preference ror rrrurgency, simply alphabetically by band name. Because of the hugely subjective nature of rthis rrrlist, please comment with the numbers which would make your own 100 or a link to a list rof rrryour own, rather than questioning inclusions/exclusions. Thank you and enjoy!
Three Organic Experiences

A trio of extended ambient pieces, varying between 16 and 27 minutes in length. Each
song is a seamless wall of sound, a shifting screen of warm bass tones, wordless vocals
and delicate instrumental work. Comparable to standing at the foot of an overgrown cliff
in the jungle. -----------------------------------------------------------------
Listen: "The Mysterious Fish Named Kun"
Set em Wild, Set em Free

Groovy, childlike, occasionally schizoid psychedelic rock, bursting with rich melodies
and stunning instrumental interplay. The heart and soul of Animal Collective breathed
into the Allman Brothers Band.
Listen: "Everyone Is Guilty"
3Animal Collective

Sleepy, colourful music that ripples like the surface of a disturbed pond. Built on simple
drum rhythms and Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies, this albums lulls you into a
serene state and whisks you away for its entire hour-long duration. Perfect for lazy
afternoons or reminiscing over childhood memories.
Listen: "Grass"
4Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Similar in construction to Feels, however a more wide-eyed, big-scale album. The
samples are much more synthetic, the lyrics (marginally) less obscure, and the beats
dancier in a tribal sort of way. A watercolor collision of playful world music and space-
age Wilson-esque melodies.
Listen: "In The Flowers"
Tri Repetae

An electronic masterpiece. Glitchy beats and soaring synthlines create an almost
dystopian, Eno-like landscape. Amidst this metallic swarm are some of the catchiest
hooks and most infectious rhythms you'll ever hear. Perfect for very late nights and
battling robots.
Listen: "Clipper"

Nigh impossible to pigeonhole, Battles' sound is a very unique one. High-register
guitar, sparkling keyboard, bombastic drums and outlandishly distorted vocals dance
around each other in 11 very strange, dissimilar songs, blending post-rock
seamlessly with electronica and jazz elements. How this manages to be so infectious
and listenable I have no idea. Not as coherent or as gooey as their follow-up, Gloss
Drop, but ultimately more ambitious and definitely the place to start.
Listen: "Atlas"
7The Beatles

Probably their most well-balanced and iconic work, Revolver for me is where The
Beatles really began to triumph. Their very early days bore fruit too sugary for my
liking, and predecessor Rubber Soul felt like an uncomfortable transition from lovable
rock pixies to real-deal psychedelic voyagers. Here the strings, sitars and samples all
sit happily alongside the frank guitars and peerless pop melodies, and to such effect.
Listen: "Love You To"
8 The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

All of the successful elements of Revolver, presented here in a baroque, theatrical
concept album. Amidst the carnivalesque chaos are some of their most beloved and
well-known songs, each contributing to the eccentric and timeless soul of Sgt.
Listen: "A Day In The Life"
9Big Black
Songs About Fucking

Noisy, industrial-tinged punk from Illinois duo Big Black. Here Steve Albini (producer
of bands such as Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard) works his magic, spitting venom over
mechanical bass grooves and titanic drumbeats. Raw, absurd and hugely influential.
Listen: "Kitty Empire"

Arguably the best album by one of the world's most respected ambient musicians,
Biosphere. Its atmosphere is achieved by natural sounds (particularly howling
snowstorms) setting the foundation for sad, repetitive keyboard melodies and
haunting samples (two of which come from my favourite TV show of all time, Twin
Peaks). Chilling, insular and dreamlike.
Listen: "Hyperborea"

Icelandic pop temptress Bjork goes all-out cerebral on her third album, Homogenic.
Her rich, catlike vocals are here enveloped in velveteen strings and muted IDM
beats, creating a lavish atmosphere akin to a well-furnished spaceship. Bold,
dynamic and hypnotic. -------------------------------------------------
Listen: "Joga"

A poppier but less satisfying affair than successor Homogenic, Post is still a stunning
art rock record, and probably Bjork's best known album. Sassy industrial, lite
electronica and crackling old-school jazz create a busy and eccentric environment for
Bjork to let loose within.
Listen: "Army of Me"
13Boards Of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children

Neon electronica and eerie synth drones glide breezily throughout Scottish duo
Boards Of Canada's phenomenal debut album, Music Has the Right to Children. Full of
rippling sonics and stranded melodies, this gorgeous yet haunting record is a must-
have for fans of artists such as Aphex Twin, Daft Punk and Radiohead. Perfect for
lonely walks in the woods or watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
Listen: "Roygbiv"

One of a long list of inscrutable Japanese volume addicts, Boris is truly a force to be
reckoned with. On Pink, their many sounds and genres (drone, doom, surf rock,
dream pop) come together in a deafening, colossal, largely coherent slab of pure
sound. Catchy, industrial-strength and pleasantly ridiculous.
Listen: "Farewell"
15Brian Eno
Ambient 1: Music For Airports

Probably the most revered and iconic ambient album of all time, Music For Airports is
truly a landmark in the genre. Comprised of four lengthy tracks, it features angelic
piano meanderings, bright drones and choruses of synthetic vocals. Delicate and
Listen: "1/1"
16Brian Wilson

After his tragic, drug-induced mental breakdown, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys
completed what is generally regarded as the best record of his career. All of the
irresistible melody and positive imagery of the Beach Boys is here in full bloom, each
song leaping eagerly from one idea to the next. A fun, uplifting and sonically dazzling
listen, as well as a definitive testament to Brian's creativity.
Listen: "Roll Plymouth Rock"
17Butthole Surfers
Locust Abortion Technician

A dirty-minded, avant-garde punk record, it's sleazy grooves and jams drenched in
acid and stretched into impossible shapes. Feasible lo-fi rock songs are in a matter of
seconds chewed up by tape manipulation and queasy samples, only to be spat back
out again. An album for those willing to go slightly further down the rabbit hole.
Listen: "Sweat Loaf"
Horse Rotorvator

A criminally unknown industrial act (they remixed "Gave Up" on Fixed, remember?),
Coil have a strong ability to make the fundamentally mechanical genre of industrial
sound strangely organic. Relentless drum patterns pound their way through your
consciousness, as John Balance reels off vivid, poetic lyrics and elastic basslines
twang to and fro. The lo-fi production further adds to the grainy, Medieval ambience.
Dark, moody and strangely familiar, like a half-remembered dream.
Listen: "Slur"
19The Constructus Corporation
The Ziggurat

The first and only record by South African hip-hop group The Constructus
Corporation, The Ziggurat is a loosely conceptual mammoth of an album. Full of
cartoon voices, trippy interludes, and surprisingly moving motivational raps, this
album is akin to Gravediggaz being reincarnated as Adult Swim characters. Rest
assured, the scatterbrain nature of this album is wholly intentional.
Listen to: "Rick Flare"
20Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles

A tour de force of chopped-up vocal lines, simple beats and bitcrushed synth stabs,
all dripping with energy and melancholy melodies. The songs fizz, squirt and bounce
into impossibly catchy hooks, the effect sexy and overwhelming. What NES
characters must listen to when they're getting ready to go out.
Listen to: "Crimewave"

Harsh, politically-fired hip-hop from New Jersey outfit Dalek. The jaw-dropping lyrics
are here embellished by grimey dub textures and bursts of industrial noise. Forget
expensive cars and underage women... this music is cold, dark and hollow.
Listen: "Distorted Prose"
Transilvanian Hunger

Normally I hold anything born under the umbrella of Black Metal at arm's length. The
infamous tales of self-mutilation, cannibalism and Satanic ritual are ultimately
depressing and boring, and the image-driven genre itself is one of pretty strict formula
and convention (I imagine I'll get some purists out there contending against that).
Transilvanian Hunger, however, is an album I can't ignore. Here, all of the harsh
vocals and morbid imagery and one-track blastbeats and papery walls of guitar...
work. The raw-as-sin production surrounds you in a cold haze, allowing the disturbing
shapes and sounds within to encircle you. An album I'm willing to admit to enjoying,
and famously a classic in the genre.
Listen: "Skald av Satans Sol"

Aptly named, Death may be the most renowned band within the Death Metal genre (which I prefer to Black Metal for several
reasons). The late Chuck Schuldiner was
an undeniable master on the guitar, and his broad-ranging vocal style has since been
mimicked by countless artists. Human is a relatively brief but battering record, it's sad and
harsh imagery enforced by cathartic walls of drums, chainsaw guitars and tectonic
bass. The strong flow and sparkling production are also a treat.
Listen: "Flattening Of Emotions"
24Devendra Banhart
Rejoicing in the Hands

An artist I like to describe to people as "Heath Ledger's Joker picking up a guitar."
Devendra's third album, Rejoicing in the Hands, is by far his most consistent work, and
to me also his most aesthetically pleasing. Unlike other ramshackle releases of his (such
as Smokey Runs Down Thunder Canyon), the songs present have a common thread and
base without sounding repetitive or formulaic. He caws and croons in his trademark
vocal style over sixteen earthy, spidery folk songs, each telling a unique story from
within Devendra's fried mind.
Listen: "A Sight To Behold"
25Diamanda Galas
The Divine Punishment

An unearthly amalgam of Kate Bush and Mike Patton, Diamanda Galas is one of the
most technically astounding vocalists you'll likely ever hear. Shouting, screaming,
chirping, crooning and yawning over graveyard piano lines and eerie synth drones,
she shifts seamlessly in style and effect across her most hypnotic release, The Divine
Punishment. A woman to be feared, to be amazed by, with a dazzling sense of
theatrics and space.
Listen: "Deliver Me From Mine Enemies"
26Echo and The Bunnymen
Ocean Rain

Whilst not "the greatest album ever recorded", as the band themselves continue to
so modestly claim, Ocean Rain is a stunningly orchestrated and frequently gorgeous
post-punk record. Blending autumnal acoustics with regal strings and Barrett-esque
psychedelia, this album was an instant success and is rightfully considered a classic.
Celestial, dynamic and mournful, yet with an air of hope.
Listen: "The Killing Moon"
27Electric Wizard

Its title a smirk-inducing play on the name of the band behind Transilvanian Hunger,
Dopethrone is in my mind the archetypal stoner doom album. Bluesy, Sabbath-like
riffs and gasmask screams bear down on the listener with crushing intensity and
volume, setting the standard and style for many bands to come. Essential not only
for the album cover (Satan pulling a bong - who'da thunk of that?).
Listen: "Funeralopolis"
Buck Fever

70 minutes of mind-bending, genre-hopping eclecticism from the gang of musical
virtuosos known as Estradasphere. Loosely based around the theme of hunting deer in the
woods, these songs leap effortlessly from jazz to klezmer to bluegrass to death
metal to disco to video game music, and then all the way back again. For fans of the
likes of John Zorn and Mr. Bungle, or those who enjoy being wowed on a purely
technical level.
Listen: "The Dapper Bandits"
29Faith No More
Angel Dust

Faith No More's second album with Mike Patton, the legendary Angel Dust, is
generally considered the band's best work. Blending Mr. Bungle's tongue-in-cheek
carnival style with rap, metal and funk, this album hits hard with shredding riffs and
heavy grooves, but manages to still be infectious and downright beautiful at points
(the floating piano break halfway through quasi-death metal track "Malpractice" must
be heard to be believed). Hugely influential and an absolute blast to listen to.
Listen: "Midlife Crisis"
30Faith No More
King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime

Heavier, weirder and more coherent than predecessor Angel Dust, but not quite as
consistent. Aside from a couple interchangeable shredders in the middle section, this
album still manages to be as memorable and fun as Angel Dust, and probably gets
more plays from me. King For A Day varies stylistically from overblown jazz-rock to
velveteen funk to first-class headbangers, and even finishes on a lighters-in-the-air
singalong, complete with backing choir. A lovable album, but not the one to start with
(see above).
Listen: "Ricochet"
Delirium Cordia

If I was to take a single album with me to a desert island, this would be a very
strong contender. A single, wordless, 74-minute track, all I can really describe this as
is soundtrack music. Not to say everything occurs in the background (there are in
fact several very loud, visceral, attention-grabbing moments), but the way the
myriad of fragmented, haunting musical ideas flow into one another and
surround you is akin to watching a narrativeless horror film. Alone. In pitch
darkness. Eerie melodies creep menacingly into the mix, only to disappear under
waves of static, never to be heard again. Not a fun, casual or relaxing listen, but a
terrifying and immersive one. Tense, ambient, immaculately produced, and utterly
Listen: "Surgical Sound Specimens From The Museum Of Skin: Like The Surgeon,
Suspended Animation

Lightyears away from its predecessor, Delirium Cordia, Suspended Animation is a
much more accessible album, but nevertheless a truly unique listen. Like their
sludgy, comic book-inspired debut, this album is divided into 30 idiosyncratic blasts
of music, however this time each song represents a day in the month of April 2005.
8-bit ditties and cartoon samples flit around the mix, only to be chased by surges of
speed metal and Mike Patton's trademark vocal acrobatics. Colourful, energetic and
utterly detached.
Listen: "04/10/05 Sunday"
33Faun Fables
Mother Twilight

Gorgeous, forest-dwelling freak-folk from Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum,
Idiot Flesh) and his wife, Dawn "the Faun" McCarthy. Hypnotic acoustic patterns
dance around the campfire as Dawn tells tales of stars, lovers and strange creatures
in her quirky, ethereal voice. Organic, luminescent and breathtaking.
Listen: "Traveller Returning"
34Gary Numan
The Pleasure Principle

"... in cars." Unfairly known for only a couple 1979 chart-toppers and a handful of
name-drops on The Mighty Boosh, Gary Numan in fact has a back catalogue largely
worth celebrating. Despite some very promising industrial works this side of the
millennium, The Pleasure Principle remains his masterpiece. Built on rolling piano
lines, tinny drum rhythms and fizzing synth hooks, Gary appropriated the futuristic
pop of artists like Kraftwerk to the personality of the eccentric Englishman, with
stunning results.
Listen: "Metal"

The ambitious Death Metal outings of Gorguts reached their zenith on 1998's
Obscura, an elaborate avant-garde record of mathematical polyrhythms and
mutilated guitar riffs. Although initial listens will only yield nightmarish brutality,
repeated visits will peel back Obscura's gnarled exoskeleton and reveal the sincere
beauty beneath. Challenging.
Listen: "Rapturous Grief"

After the first of several hiatuses in Blur's history, enigmatic frontman Damon Albarn
created a side project which would turn out to be the biggest move of his career.
Built on the idea of a group of virtual cartoon characters, Gorillaz proved to be a
unique blend of dainty pop, buoyant hip-hop and urban dub. Not as commercially
successful as follow-up Demon Days, but a stronger and more impressive album
Listen: "Clint Eastwood"
6 Feet Deep

Gravediggaz, a hip-hop supergroup consisting of names such as Prince Paul and
RZA, blends their dark sense of humor with savage hooks and impressive
instrumentalism. Centered on the theme of death and graveyards, this is a grim,
bloodthirsty but very enjoyable listen. Witty and intelligent.
Listen: "6 Feet Deep"
38The Horrors
Primary Colours

Although far from an original band, The Horrors have a broad palette of influences
and channel from them well. Thankfully moving on from the gimmicky goth
implosions of Burton-esque debut Strange House, Primary Colours sees The Horrors
convincingly mining the veins of post-punk and shoegaze. Despite some questionable
production and repetitive elements to the songs, this album is a success. Kevin
Shields would be proud.
Listen: "Scarlet Fields"
39Idiot Flesh

Idiot Flesh, a now-defunct avant-garde project from Oakland, California, left behind
some truly stunning musical works for humanity to one day discover. Their final and
strongest release, Fancy, is a psychotic magnum opus of theatrical "rock-against-
rock", bounding from genre to genre and leaving chaos in its wake. Bombastic
drums, percussive bass and ear-tickling skewers of guitar lead the theatre troupe of
killer clowns, devil worshippers and picture book characters, purring tales of falling
skies and men made of straw. It may sound gimmicky, but once inside this house of
mirrors, the madness within is irrefutable. Sits happily alongside such groups as Mr.
Bungle and The Residents.
Listen: "Idiot Song"
40The Jesus Lizard

Championed by Nirvana and renowned for their manic live performances, Chicago
noise rockers The Jesus Lizard made a series of increasingly polished albums before
their disintegration in 1999. Their most iconic album, Goat, features scorching punk
riffs, doomy basslines, galloping drum rhythms and raw howls from frontman David
Yow. Both claustrophobic and nauseatingly open, this album dizzies the listener and
pummels them into submission. A true masterwork.
Listen: "Monkey Trick"
41The Jesus Lizard

A more focused but less playful album than predecessor Goat, Liar nevertheless
delivers comparably thrilling riffs and sticky melodies. The rhythms are simpler and
more percussive, and the subject matter somewhat more serious. Another heart-
pounding, fist-pumping listen from the band.
Listen: "Gladiator"
42Joanna Newsom

After the modest, earthenware delights of her debut album The Milk-Eyed Mender,
Californian fairy harpist Joanna Newsom decided to go all-out on her ambitious
follow-up, Ys. The album plays like a broadway adaption of its predecessor, her
idiosyncratic croons and harp cascades now featuring the backdrop of a soaring
string section. The lyrical content has matured also, moving from her farmyard
anecdotes to fantastical tales of space, kingdoms and meteorites. An album so
immersive and exciting, you'll never want to leave its embrace.
Listen: "Emily"
43 John Zorn

A mind-blowing, Lynchian opus of fractured narrative and hyperactive musical suites.
Follow the story if you can, but prepare for the carpet to be pulled from beneath your
feet a number of times. Hilarious, terrifying and disorientating, often at once.
Listen: "Spillane"
44Joy Division
Unknown Pleasures

More or less the beginning of alternative rock, Unknown Pleasures' linear bass
grooves, pattering drums and sad tales of isolation set the mold for many beloved
bands today in the genre today. Crucial for fans of Radiohead, The Editors and Franz
Listen: "Disorder"
45Kate Bush
The Dreaming

Not as well-remembered as her debut The Kick Inside or her breakthrough album
Hounds Of Love, The Dreaming shows Kate Bush at her most poetic and ambitious.
Her rotation of pantomime voices, ranging from helpless child to seductress to cockney
lass, carries these quirky pop songs to distant places. Less poppy, but more
Listen: "Pull Out The Pin"
46Kate Bush
Hounds Of Love

An imaginative and memorable imitation of progressive rock of the era, Hounds Of
Love is packed to the rafters with experimental yet powerfully poppy songs. Here
Kate's eccentricity and melodic mastery sit hand-in-hand, in a better and more
balanced manner than at any other point in her career.
Listen: "The Big Sky"
47Killing Joke
Killing Joke

Bold, energetic post-punk debut from long-haul legends Killing Joke. Each of its 9
tracks stamps, chugs and whirrs along in an crackling manner, marrying tense
verses to sing-your-heart-out choruses. Raw and hugely influential.
Listen: "Requiem"
48King Crimson
In The Court Of The Crimson King

One of the most revered progressive rock bands of all time, second only to Pink
Floyd. While not as commercially viable as that band, King Crimson's complex,
fantasy-themed jams and instrumentals travel to more distant realms, and on a
technical level reign supreme. Widely considered their best album, this debut is a
stunning, intricate and often beautiful listen.
Listen: "21st Century Schizoid Man"
49King Crimson

Sadly overshadowed by records such as Red and the above debut, Islands is
something of a lost treasure. The songs are less direct and linear, generally
wallowing in slowly-evolving pools of sound. Bells ring, strings pluck, bass thuds and
guitars soar. From the hull-of-a-ship cello that opens the album, to the powerful
piano chords that lie at its final destination, this is to me King Crimson's most
emotionally moving album and their greatest journey sonically, even if the voyage is
a long one.
Listen: "Formentera Lady"
50Kings Of Leon
Because Of The Times

Third time's the charm. Far more coherent than their previous efforts (and less
dependent on regional stereotypes), Kings Of Leon's big-scale third album was a
success musically and commercially. With grooving basslines, powerful choruses and
shimmering, open production, this album represents the perfect blend of the band's
slacker rock personality and their ability to write a viable pop song.
Listen: "Fans"
Don't Blow Your Top

Heavy, metronomic, coin-operated dance music. The first of four KMFDM albums to
feature on this list, 1988's Don't Blow Your Top is a truly unique incarnation of
industrial music. Built from bi-cultural shouts, radio show samples, slot-machine drum
beats and bursts of synthetic brass, it is catchy, metallic and generally inconceivable.
Listen to it, maybe even sing along, and adapt to the band's strange sense of
humour... for there's plenty more where that came from.
Listen: "No News"

Generally considered their best and most creative work, Naive represents all of
KMFDM's different facets at once: cheesy synth lines, obscure samples, ludicrous
lyrics, piledriving beats and jagged industrial riffs. Vocal duties flick between the nasal
tones of Sascha Konietzko and the gruff, often Deutsch barks of En Esch. Also
balanced perfectly are the egos of these two leading men, Sascha's songwriting ability
complimented and validated perfectly by En Esch's antics and personality. An absolute
Listen: "Naive"

1995's Nihil shows a darker side of KMFDM, reflected in the more serious tone,
politically-charged lyrics and generally harsher songs. Yet amongst these venomous,
unforgiving blasts of Reznor-esque metal are also some of KMFDM's most irresistible
hooks and vocal deliveries. The refreshing change in style and effective songwriting
are enough to forgive Nihil for its shortage of humour.
Listen: "Ultra"

The third and final perfect KMFDM album (following Nihil and Naive) is Symbols,
another considerable departure stylistically. Here, guitars are kept to a minimum,
dance beats run riot and techno synths ripple into infinity. Also evolved is the lyrical
content, which whilst remaining ridiculous features some genuinely jaw-dropping and
vivid couplets, largely concerning death, narcosis and technology. To top off this
delicious mix, Symbols is probably the best produced album I have ever heard - crisp,
clean, clear and crystalline. The mix sounds wide and dizzyingly deep, and every last
sound has its rightful place and volume. My personal favourite from the band.
Listen: "Down And Out"

Criminally unknown release from my personal neck of the woods, Aotearoa. Kora
masterfully mix in all of the recent NZ sounds, blending dub, roots, reggae and sun-
baked rock. Features some fantastic beats, crystal four-man harmonies, and top-
notch production. The obvious Mike Patton influence on the vocals and playful
samples is another huge bonus.
Listen: "Skankenstein"
The Man-Machine

One of Kraftwerk's most minimal releases and by far their poppiest, The Man
Machine is a masterpiece of harmony, melody and futuristic ambience. An undeniable
influence on any synthetic music made since.
Listen: "The Robots"
Trans-Europe Express

A more progressive and ambitious affair than The Man Machine, Trans-Europe
Express sees Kraftwerk less concerned with seducing the listener and more
concerned with transporting them, the songs gliding across an idealistic European
landscape. Parks, hotels and palaces is exactly what you'll see. Prepare for a handful
of more reflective and introverted moments however.
Listen: "The Hall Of Mirrors"
Welcome To Sky Valley

Forerunners of the desert rock scene, Kyuss are a huge influence on many rock and
metal bands today. Blurry riffs, extended psychedelic jams and acidic shouts from
frontman John Garcia make this an inflaming listen as well as a total out-of-body-
experience. I recommend that you do(n't) listen to this album whilst on drugs.
Listen: "Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop"
59Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV

Although this album doesn't offer the consistency of Led Zeppelin II or some of the
polish of later releases, this is the most cohesive and definitive album Led Zeppelin
ever released. A perfect balance of nordic storytelling and riff-based hard rock, this
album features some of Led's most iconic songs, riffs and lyrics.
Listen: "When The Levee Breaks"
60Lightning Bolt
Earthly Delights

One of the heaviest, trippiest albums I have ever come across, Earthly Delights sees
Lightning Bolt's signature noise rock sound blown up to massive sizes and distorted
(even further) into a howling, spiraling snowstorm of sound. Featuring a lot more
bottom end than previous Lightning Bolt releases, this album has a generally doomy
and more ominous nature. Combined with some stunningly beautiful breaks from the
crushing chaos and perfect dynamic production, this is my personal favourite release
from the duo.
Listen: "Colossus"
61Lightning Bolt
Wonderful Rainbow

Their most popular and accessible release, Wonderful Rainbow is definitely the place
to start. More varied than their first two albums, more coherent than Hypermagic
Mountain and more upbeat than Earthly Delights, I wouldn't hesitate to call this album
perfect. Colorful, noisy bass spews forth from the speakers in a giant wave, with
singer/vocalist Brian Chippendale hammering and yelping atop it. Who'd have
thought feedback could be beautiful?
Listen: "Dracula Mountain"
62Massive Attack

The greatest album by the greatest group of trip-hop artists to ever walk the planet.
A maximalist, far-reaching expansion of the lazy hip-hop and everyman dub of their
previous efforts, Mezzanine is big, organic, dynamic and masterfully executed. Full of
rumbling basslines, gorgeous piano, timeless beats and seductive lyrics, it drifts
slickly between genres and moods like one dream into the next. Amidst the pulsing
rhythms, paranoia and tendrils of smoke are some of my favourite slices of music
ever recorded.
Listen: "Teardrop"
Hostile Ambient Takeover

A criminally underrated album, Hostile Ambient Takeover sees the signature stoner
rock sound and personality of the Melvins transformed into oozing, mind-numbing
sonic experimentation. All of the familiar elements are present (chugging riffs,
pounding drums, barked vocals), but through some truly impressive studio wizardry
these are stretched and squeezed into all new shapes. Comparable to having your
brain sucked through a straw.
Listen: "The Fool, The Meddling Idiot"

The most dynamic Melvins album, and probably their most accessible. The usual
shredding, stomping numbers are balanced with folk ditties, jazzy freakouts and
some truly unsettling ambient tracks. Again, not a Melvins classic so to speak, but a
favourite of mine and their album that I listen to most.
Listen: "Bar - X - The Rocking M"
Stoner Witch

Much more of a throwback to an older sound than the previous two albums listed,
Stoner Witch is unmistakably a Melvins release. Generally reliant on jagged grooves
and sheer impact, but graced with several quieter, prettier moments.
Listen: "Roadbull"
66Miles Davis
Bitches Brew

Possibly the most ambitious piece of music ever released, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew
is a free-jazz masterpiece and a landmark in the history of jazz in general. Made up
of six seemingly formless, rock-tinged improvisations, Bitches Brew totally
disregards expectation or convention, instead floating musical motifs across a sea of
squealing sax, skittering percussion and reverbed guitar. Revolutionary.
Listen: "Bitches Brew"
67Mr. Bungle

Including all three of Mr. Bungle's albums into this list may seem ludicrous, but I
believe each deserves its place. California, their third and final album, is a polished,
poppy and superbly orchestrated incarnation of all of Mr. Bungle's trademark
elements: stunning lyrics, mid-song gear changes, a strongly cinematic atmosphere,
and a ripe sense of the ridiculous. I wouldn't call this album conceptual as such, but a
sunny, surfy feel flows throughout. On a technical level, this album is just as
gobsmacking as either of their previous releases, it just so happens the outcome is
less stomach-turning than it is seductive. A fine note to go out on.
Listen: "Sweet Charity"
68Mr. Bungle
Disco Volante

Mr. Bungle's most challenging release, Disco Volante saw their debut's overt humour
buried beneath a prickly, uninviting exterior. Replacing the wild, casual atmosphere
was one of claustrophobia and mystery, of submarines and alien spaceships. Cross-
eyed funk became plodding death metal, and circus-bound jams became free-jazz
scuttles. Only repeated listens could possibly give you the sense of familiarity needed
to navigate these impenetrable songs... but once the bug has bitten, the melodies
are apparent. The common thread is found. The humour steps out from its hiding
place, wondering where the hell you've been. And now, there's no going back.
Listen: "Platypus"
69Mr. Bungle
Mr Bungle

Where it all started. From the moment you hear that glass break, and the first house-
of-horror keyboard appears before you, it has begun. For the next 73 minutes,
you're in Mr. Bungle's humble abode. Clowns run amok, food and numerous human
substances are thrown in all directions, disembodied laughs encircle you, and limp
bodies hang from the rafters. Stringing all of this nauseating imagery together is
some of the most skillful, enjoyable music I've ever been graced with. A myriad of
genres, moods and pop culture stabs are hurled into the debauchery, every last
speck of it thrilling and convincing. It is chaotic yet coherent, ugly yet irresistible. It's
Mr. Bungle.
Listen: "Quote Unquote"
70My Bloody Valentine

Scarcely a drum roll, and then the first iconic riff of Loveless explodes into your
brain. However, it sounds nothing like a guitar. It is too organic, too shapeless.
Following it is a seemingly endless blur of hyper-distorted rock, indecipherable
whispers, and staccato drum rhythms. This purple nimbus flows throughout the
remaining ten tracks, its hue and mood altering accordingly. The perfect shoegaze
Listen: "Only Shallow"
71Neutral Milk Hotel
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Raw, experimental and emotionally devastating folk rock from the mind of Jeff
Mangum, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a unique listen and one that'll likely stay
with you. This album was recorded as his mental health continually declined, which
you can hear in the detached nature of his singing and how many songs play out.
Although his nasal vocal style and roughly carved guitar riffs may appear
overbearing or sloppy, their defeated nature only further adds to the heartbreaking
feel of the album. Lyrical themes include sex, death and reincarnation, as well as
numerous references to Anne Frank.
Listen: "Oh Comely"
72Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nail's most compelling and believable album, The Downward Spiral's
abrasive industrial rock style served as the perfect canvas for the nihilism and hatred
Trent Reznor felt at the time. The noisy, lurching songs play out like improvisations,
often collapsing far from where they began. Aside from some corny lyrics and a
couple of cheesy moments, this is genuinely disturbing, infectious music.
Listen: "Heresy"
Definitely Maybe

The general consensus on Oasis is this: band begins promisingly, band believes their
own hype, band stumbles on bloated third release, band spends next decade
recovering from said stumble, band breaks up. Although this perception is a pretty
accurate one, Oasis' near-perfect debut Definitely Maybe is often forgotten by those
so eager to hate them. Here we have fifty minutes of raw, melodic guitar rock, as
soulful and delectable as it is cocky and derivative. And although they never quite
matched this release in earnestness or attitude, their other albums do feature the
occasional gem. Mad fer it.
Listen: "Columbia"
74Pink Floyd
The Dark Side Of The Moon

Not much can be said about this release that hasn't been said already. A timeless,
groundbreaking classic of blistering rock and space-cadet experimentation, Dark Side
sounds as fresh and exciting today as it would've done back in 1973. One of the first
albums not out just to thrill and invigorate, but to transport and mesmerize.
Listen: "Time"
75Pink Floyd
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett-helmed debut, although rightfully considered a classic, lives
in the shadow of later releases such as Dark Side and Wish You Were Here. This
album showcases a very different Floyd - one of extended discordant jams, eccentric
British musings, whispered storytellings, and geese. Ah, those geese. Less cinematic
than later releases, but a revolutionary album in the history of psychedelic rock.
Listen: "Flaming"
Pork Soda

Which Primus album you consider the best is wildly subjective, however this album
for me takes the cake. Amusing tales of oddball characters are sung over rolling
drum patterns, sizzling guitar and machine-gun basslines. Their most varied and
atmospheric album.
Listen: "My Name Is Mud"
Automatic For The People

The definitive R.E.M. album. An instant classic of cathartic acoustics, tear-jerking ballads
and high-concept rock. Not any new ground for the band musically, but a whole new level
of emotional resonance.
Listen: "Drive"
In Rainbows

Legendary alternative rockers Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows, to
commercial and critical success. The ten breezy, minimal tracks proved to be some of the
band's most personal and beautiful, built from the fewest and finest ingredients of their
career. Clicking, humming and purring in equal measure, In Rainbows is Radiohead's
most chilled and accessible release, more than redeeming for its lack of all-out
Listen: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
Kid A

Heavily departing from the soaring, intricate rock of OK Computer, Radiohead redefined
their sound for the new millennium with 2000's Kid A. An album of twitchy electronica,
acidic jazz and nebulous post-rock, this cryptic release initially divided listeners and critics
alike. Was it Radiohead's key components reborn into styles fresh and exciting, or
experimentation for the sake of experimentation? Regardless of the band's wishes, Kid A
eventually became one of their most popular releases, commonly viewed as their most
challenging but rewarding listen. Beautiful, diverse, ethereal, devastating. Another strong
contender for my desert island album.
Listen: "Everything In Its Right Place"
OK Computer

A pig. In a cage. On antibiotics. Continuing the aesthetic evolution set in place by Buckley-
inspired sophomore The Bends, Radiohead made their third record an ambitious and
expansive one. Discussing themes such as modern alienation, political stagnation and public
hysteria, the band explored a Floydian mix of big dynamics, prog-rock riffs, peculiar
rhythms and sudden changes in tempo. Also present were several clues to their musical
future, with dashes of electronica and ambience sprinkled throughout. Visceral yet
intelligent, disturbing yet life-affirming, this album lives up to its monstrous reputation.
Listen: "Paranoid Android"

An electronic side-project of the grindcore band Napalm Death, Scorn's music is a
chilling mix of trip-hop beats, deep bass vibes and industrial textures. Use of
dubstep-style rhythms and bass manipulation on Zander establish it as an early
incarnation of that genre, as opposed to one of Scorn's more metallic releases.
Listen: "Twitcher"
82Scratch Acid
Just Keep Eating

Influential post-hardcore group from Austin, Texas, two members of which moved on to form
the Jesus Lizard. Aside from sharing vocalists, these bands have a common thread of DNA;
both employ a raw, aggressive style of playing, both specialize in pleasantly vile lyrical
themes, and both emanate stunning musical interplay. Built on simple grooves and momentum,
these songs blast headfirst into the abyss, caring little for where they end up. Snatches of grim
anecdotes and insinuations are spat down the phone line, burning into your consciousness and
occasionally sparking a smile. Less bite than the Jesus Lizard, but more easygoing.
Listen: "Crazy Dan"
83 Sigur Ros
Agaetis byrjun

My personal favourite release from Icelandic faerie folk, the unforgettable Sigur Ros.
A subterranean journey of slow tempos, yawns of bowed guitar and falsetto
utterances in fictitious languages, this is otherworldly music indeed. Gorgeous
melodies and keyboard sparkles hang in the air like fireflies, as icebergs melt and
stars sit high in the sky. Although the mood is generally a sleepy one, bright
crescendos do occasionally rise from the mist and pull the songs skywards. Their
most organic and enveloping album.
Listen: "Svefn-g-englar (Sleepwalkers)"
84 Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Horses in the Sky

The bastard child of King Crimson and Sigur Ros, A Silver Mt. Zion are a stripped-
down, visceral post-rock band of the highest measure. A gang of extremely talented
musicians, the band begin songs with small musical phrases which they variate upon
and develop in extended gypsyish jams, creativity and forlorn melody running riot.
Crying out amidst the storm of handclaps, guitar stabs and swelling strings is singer
Thierry Amar, his striking poeticisms sung in a conquered, Magnum-style wail. Not
their most polished album, but certainly their most haunting and heartbreaking.
Listen: "God Bless Our Dead Marines"
85Skinny Puppy
Last Rights

Wildly experimental yet rhythmically unstoppable, Skinny Puppy is a twisted and gothic
take on the industrial sound of the 80s and 90s. Full of titanic beats, blurry synths and
bizarre interludes, this is atmospheric and detached dance music. Easily my favourite of
their releases, and where Nivek Ogre's villainous vocals shine their brightest.
Listen: "Love In Vein"

The legendary hour-plus epic from Californian stoner doom band Sleep. A slow-
burning (no pun intended) jam of colossal riffs, demonic vocals and pounding drums,
its mountainous form stretching on beyond the horizon. Thick, hazy, disorientating
music, with a surprisingly biblical feel to it. Essential to hear in its entirety at least
Listen: "Dopesmoker"
87Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Of Natural History

Born from Idiot Flesh's ashes, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a strongly experimental
music collective led by Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun and Carla Kihlstedt. Evolving from
the cavernous avant-metal of their debut Grand Opening And Closing, Of Natural
History is seventy minutes of textural, headspinning progressive rock, centered around
the concept of mankind's devastation to our planet (and the violent natural
repercussions this will have). The perspective of the band changes from that of man,
the merciless perpetrator, to faceless onlookers and even to that of the elements
themselves. Dark, detailed, harshly beautiful and compositionally gorgeous, these
songs burn with an industrial fury and shimmer with a classical grace.
Listen: "Phthisis"
88Sunn O)))
Monoliths And Dimensions

A three-dimensional and superbly orchestrated expansion of Sunn O)))'s usual rumbling,
low-register drone. Here the dark, distorted soundscapes are layered with (and
occasionally give way to) sweeping strings, ghostly choirs and harsh spoken word. High-
contrast, powerfully immersive music.
Listen: "Aghartha"

The nightmarish beginnings of the Swans story. Dark, violent drum rhythms, ominous
bass saws and bloodcurdling screams from Michael Gira make this their most grim
and unsettling listen. Equal parts punk savagery and bonecrushing proto-industrial,
Filth is at many points hard to swallow, but ultimately rewarding as a powerful and
undeniably human blast of music. Flex your muscles!
Listen: "Stay Here"
The Great Annihilator

Commonly regarded as Swans' best release, The Great Annihilator is a rich and
compelling blend of every style the band ever explored. Combining the rhythmic
hypnosis of early day Swans, the majesty of their art-rock middle period and the
apocalyptic soundscapes of their later days, this album truly is a world unto itself. Full
of dark philosophy and gorgeous imagery, these songs tumble in and out of the
perceivable universe with unparalleled force and momentum. An entity of sound I
would struggle to live without.
Listen: "I Am The Sun"
Soundtracks for the Blind

Two discs. 26 songs. Over 140 minutes in length. An exhaustive, sprawling
masterpiece, Soundtracks for the Blind was (at the time) Swans' triumphant final
release. Comprised largely of ancient, swelling ambient pieces, the album has a
strong aura of death, reincarnation and redemption. Delicate guitar and haunting last
words drift across a sea of oriental drones and found sounds, each piece working
strongly in and out of context. Best experienced in one sitting, however arduous that
may seem.
Listen: "Helpless Child"
92The Strokes
Is This It

The release that sparked the post-millenial resurgence in indie rock, Is This It is
tight, melodic and smartly referential to garage rock of the 1970s. Full of sparkling,
simple riffs and gold nuggets of modern observation, this record is the best and most
important of its kind.
Listen: "Last Nite"
93This Heat

Experimental post-punk masterwork from London band This Heat. A collection of
lullabies of crumbling guitar, ricocheting drums and dreamlike vocals, its playful mood
cleverly disguises the grim topics in discussion, such as imperialism and the threat of
nuclear holocaust.
Listen: "S.P.Q.R."
Mit Gas

Perhaps the most straightforward band in Mike Patton's arsenal, Tomahawk are an
alternative-metal supergroup further consisting of John Stanier from Battles, Duane
Denison from the Jesus Lizard and (at this stage, anyway) Kevin Rutmanis from the
Melvins. Polished, aggressive and tightly-coiled, Mit Gas places itself in a comfortable
middle ground between their twitchy, diary-of-a-serial-killer debut and the Native
American soundscapes of third album Anonymous. The songs present have crunch,
ambience and huge dynamics, ranging from ferocious punk numbers to
extraterrestrial funk and even briefly moving into more experimental and surreal
Listen: "Birdsong"

A single, 44-minute space doom track in five stunning movements, Eve is
Ufomammut's most refined and atmospheric album. The usual monolithic riffs are
separated by moodier, more reserved stretches of space rock and psychedelia, built
on relentless grooves and evolving musical phrases. Shamanistic voices chant behind
a veil of smoke as the mammoth guitars, drums and bass escalate into earth-
shattering crescendos. Ride this starbound vessel to the very edge of the universe,
but don't be surprised if it takes you a while to fall back down to Earth.
Listen: "I"

Heavier, bluesier and more grounded than Eve, Snailking is still another stunning
celestial voyage with Italian trio Ufomammut. Like a formidable collision of Electric
Wizard and Pink Floyd, these songs ripple with alien synths, rumble with crushing bass
and shudder with walls of distorted guitar. Mouthwateringly groovy in some parts and
stunningly beautiful in others, this is deliriously good stoner rock.
Listen: "Blotch"
97Venetian Snares
The Chocolate Wheelchair Album

The most definitive work by the best breakcore artist ever. Although not as ambitious
as the likes of Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett (a mind-numbing fusion of breakcore and
neoclassical strings), this album expertly spurts a mosaic of high-tempo beats,
staccato synth stabs and chopped-up micro-samples. Snippets of conversation and
various music styles flit around the mix, stuttering and glitching into impossible
hooks. The breakneck speed and hyperactive nature of the music make it a very
demanding listen, but one with unique and plentiful rewards.
Listen: "Too Young"
98The White Stripes
De Stijl

The White Stripes struck gold on their second LP De Stijl, providing a searing mix of
punk and blues in a more focused, controlled manner than their spastic debut.
Breathing energy and passion into stories that would otherwise be mundane, their
eccentric personalities and signature playing style gave birth to some of their most
beloved tracks and proved to be an effective mold for the rest of their career.
Listen: "Little Bird"
99The White Stripes

The duo's major label debut and breakthrough release, Elephant is the most well-known White Stripes album by some
distance. Further refined from their original
oddball sound, Elephant showcases a more traditional rock 'n' roll style than its
predecessors, although there is no shortage of electrified punk riffs or quirky,
pantomimic tales to be heard. Their most consistent and anthemic album.
Listen: "The Hardest Button To Button"
100Wu-Tang Clan
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Hugely influential on modern hardcore hip-hop and rap, Wu-Tang Clan's debut album
was one of aggressive rhymes, whiplash beats and well-placed samples from
martial-arts films. Particularly enjoyable is the dark sense of humour in the lyrics, as
well as the seamless tag-team nature of the group members. Torture,
Listen: "Bring Da Ruckus"
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