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Sowing's All-Time Top 100

Feel free to follow along as I update this list. I created a SPOTIFY PLAYLIST with some personal favorites (1 per album) HERE: few things: (1) I did not start paying attention to music until the mid 00s, so this list will be heavily skewed towards the 2010s. I'm aware of this. (2) This merely reflects my own favorite albums. I've made no attempt at objectivity. (3) This may not match up exactly to my ratings. For example, there are 5's I left off the list and 4.5's I included. I am aware this seems odd and yes I probably am due to revisit a lot of my ratings. (4) Enjoy, and feel free to guess the top 10! Closest person gets nothing!
100My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade

Ah yes, no better way to kick off an all-time greatest albums list than with a cheesy concept album that rips off Queen (and there's no Queen to be found on this list!). I guess that's just the nature of subjectivity, so if it infuriates you, I'm offering you an early exit point. You're welcome. Anyway, The Black Parade came out during my freshman year of college (boomer alert), and it was a huge album for me at that time: massive hooks, over-the-top concepts, and depressing emo lyrics were everything I wanted and needed at the time. MCR's ridiculous commitment to the concept (Gerard Way buzzed and bleached his hair to look like a cancer patient) proved they were willing to go all-in on this record. Folks now just don't understand the phenomenon this created at the time, but that's okay. Even if I no longer listen to this daily, it's still a punk/emo landmark that I'll never be able to forget.
99Green Day
American Idiot

Alright, let's knock out all the paper tissue deep concept albums early. It's admittedly not the best method of locking in the interest of a bunch of metal and indie snobs, but hey I gotta be true to myself. American Idiot is probably the reason I'm on this site. It's what got me into modern music. In hindsight the political "statements" are a bit "lol", but I fell for them at the time and it inspired me to take an active interest in social issues and politics. The hooks are enormous throughout, the melodies soar, and the multi-suite 9 minute tracks remain high bars for any punk rock opera. This is a classic merely for the influence it had on my taste, as well as the tastes of millions of other young Americans who lived through the immediate fallout of 9/11.
98Taylor Swift

Words can't quite describe how close of a decision this was with Speak Now. I adore Speak Now, and in a lame sort of way, it helped get me into country music. It also has 3 or 4 of my favorite Swift songs ever. But 1989 was just a whole different beast. Her entry into pop felt like an event - something we all expected to happen eventually - and she didn't disappoint. It's a catchy, smart, sophisticated pop record that preceded all of the Jack Antonoff fatigue. The production here was as slick as you could find at the time, and Swift didn't waste one glistening, glamorous second of it. This may not be the model of artistic ambition, but you could do a whole lot worse when it comes to mainstream, multi-platinum selling records.
97Childish Gambino
"Awaken, My Love!"

I was never big on soul. Or R&B. Or Hip-Hop. Perhaps this explains why this record felt like a huge discovery to me even though I was vaguely aware of some guy named D'Angelo. Donald Glover's transformation from hip-hop to neo-soul and R&B caught me off guard, but what surprised me even more than the directional change itself was how well he pulled it off. "Me and Your Mama" shows off pipes I didn't even know Glover had. Even though I probably haven't listened to "Redbone" in at least two years, I can still vividly imagine that slinking, sinister beat. In short, this is one of the better recent examples of an artist pulling off an image/genre overhaul with near-perfect results.
96Straylight Run
Straylight Run

The year is 2006, and a young Sowing lays on his dorm room bed heartbroken. Unrequited love, man - it sucks. A good friend with some Limewire download (lol) of questionable quality burns me a CD (lol) and says bud this is all you need right now. To this day, the way that "The Tension and the Terror" resonated with me still hits like a ton of bricks: "gorgeous green eyes smiling, and I'm going straight to hell" / "I die trying just to keep myself from kissing you" / "It's somehow all I need just keep me guessing please". Now just take those sentiments and spread them across a full album of slow, emotional indie-rock, and you have a hangover cure for any relationship troubles. Oh, and "Existentialism on Prom Night" is a song everyone needs to hear at least once in their life, preferably in dim lighting, watching the love of their life dancing with someone else. *sobs uncontrollably*
95Jack's Mannequin
Everything in Transit

Summer air. Seagulls circle overhead, and you can taste salt on your tongue. Your hair blows in the wind as you walk the length of the boardwalk with a group of eight of your closest friends. You don't know it at the time, but this is as good as life gets. Everything In Transit spins in the car all weekend long as you take turns driving around to different parties and sneaking alcohol back to the hotel. Youth. Life. The melody of it all. That's what this album means to me, and its sentiments stick like glue to anyone willing to blast this full volume, let their guard down, and just experience life to the fullest. I can't think of any piano rock albums that have that effect, but this one does.
94Circa Survive
Blue Sky Noise

Blue Sky Noise is Circa Survive realizing its fullest potential. The band sort of hovered in "good" territory across its first two releases, but this was the moment when everything clicked. "Glass Arrows" and "Spirit of the Stairwell" remain two of the best songs ever released in the 2010s, and everything from the guitar tone and chord progression to the overall production can be found operating at a higher level here. Of course, Anthony Green delivers yet another knock-out performance, solidifying his spot as one of the best vocalists in alt-rock/post-hardcore. This is far from an underrated release, yet there aren't many "best-of" lists that you'll find this on. I think this is more than deserving of such an honor.
93Zach Bryan

Songwriters with talent as obvious as Bryan's only come along a few times a decade, if you're lucky. This is a man who insists on doing things his way - bare-bones country, recorded in a barn or hotel room - and for good reason, because his voice is so rich and his lyrics so impactful that he doesn't need help from the big labels. Bryan's sophomore effort Elisabeth is an 18-track ode to small town life which sees him confront alcoholism and the death of his mother, all while trying to prevent the cycle from repeating. Elisabeth is a hidden gem with enduring appeal, and Bryan is an unsung hero in the realm of lo-fi country/folk. He'll never get the recognition he deserves, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
92The Roots

A hip-hop album on an all-time Sowing list: finish your drink. I may not be the world's biggest fan of rap, but when an album like undun comes along, even I'm not immune to its pull. undun is the best album ever created by The Roots - a band with a lengthy, diverse, and storied catalog. It flows brilliantly, is catchy without sacrificing great lyrics or intensity, and carries with it an empowering message of triumph. Usually albums within genres I don't frequent lose their luster rapidly; this one is still going strong 10 years later.
91Fair to Midland
Arrows and Anchors

A weird thing happened with this album. Back in 2011 when it dropped, I thought it was good - not great. I think it placed like 20th on my year-end list or something. I probably went a full few years without listening to it even though I acknowledged that it was a competent, catchy rock album. Several years later it floored me out of nowhere. I'm not sure if that counts as "growing", or maybe my taste matured, or maybe my taste regressed, or maybe the whole musical climate changed to the point where great progressive rock albums just aren't that common anymore. Whatever the reason, I felt like I had to include this here because whenever I'm looking for a fundamentally sound rock album that is anchored by top-notch melodies but is still adventurous and experimental, I always come back to this. Few if any albums I've heard fuse those traits together so well.
90Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV

I'm going to be that guy. No, this is not the greatest album of all time. It's amazing, sure. It features one of the greatest songs of all-time to boot ("When the Levee Breaks"...why, what were you thinking of?). It's definitely one of the best classic rock albums I can think of, so I can see why folks my parents' age look at it like it's the holy grail. For me though, it's an objectively excellent release that I grew up hearing and have attached some memories to. Oh, and for a deep cut, ya'll should check "Stairway to Heaven". Pretty good song.
89The War On Drugs
Lost in the Dream

I can safely say I'm not a War on Drugs fan so much as I am a Lost in the Dream fan. Nothing Adam Granduciel touched before or after this album left me awestruck, but this...this is something special. All War on Drugs albums have that dreamy guitar-driven sound that I love, but Lost in the Dream doubles as urgent/poignant, and the lyrics are some of the best that Granduciel has ever penned. Even at its most placid, "Eyes to the Wind" feels nostalgically Dylan-esque. The whole shoegaze "transporting" you to another time and place is such a cliche, but dammit if it doesn't just fit perfectly here. There are likely many records that influenced this which deserve slightly higher praise, but to me - admittedly a product of 2010s music - this is just about as well as this particular aesthetic has ever been executed.
88Gregory Alan Isakov
This Empty Northern Hemisphere

Imagine Coldplay kept making more albums like Parachutes. As they continued to age gracefully, maturing and refining their sound at every turn, they released their best album ever. That's what I think This Empty Northern Hemisphere would sound like. Oh, except with much, much better lyrics. Isakov's sound here is simultaneously romantic and melancholic, all flourishes earned as he quietly strums and sings like a troubadour under a starry summer night sky. Often, being married with kids means days drift into one another without meaning - churned out like a routine. This Empty Northern Hemisphere reminds me of what it feels like to be young and in love: back when everything mattered so tremendously much and music still had the power to move me. It's not something I want to let go of quite yet, and thanks to Isakov, I don't have to.
The Marshall Mathers LP

When everyone in school was talking about Eminem, I was putting my earbuds in on the bus and letting the sweet chorus of "Come Sail Away" serenade me. I was never what you'd call "with the times", but I did eventually discover The Marshall Mathers LP some ten years after its release (better late than never, I say!). This is an amazing record. It's brash, humorous, wildly inappropriate, and at times even a little frightening. One thing it is 100% of the time, though, is honest. Eminem made me understand something about hip-hop culture that I didn't necessarily get before: rappers (and the rap audience) can smell bullshit from a hundred miles away. You'd better admit what you are (in Eminem's case, a white rapper) and own it with authority. Mathers does that here better than anyone I've ever heard.
86The Weeknd
House of Balloons

As soon as House of Balloons begins, I'm immediately sucked into its world. Drugs, alcohol, endless parties, money, and beautiful women...what's not to like? This is more than just insanely catchy and appealing music, though. Tesfaye's production is unlike anything I've heard in the hip-hop/pop/R&B sphere - it's slick, innovative, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The fact that this is his debut makes it even more impressive. The Weeknd is now very popular (Tesfaye just played the Superbowl halftime show!), and although his most recent works are still excellent, there's something about House of Balloons that feels more authentic than anything that followed. It just might be the best R&B record I've ever listened to.

Slowpeth, heh heh. I've never been a huge metal fan, so when my college roommate wanted to get me into the genre, he wisely started me here. It worked - I immediately fell for Opeth's clean, melodically progressive sound. As time wore on, I learned to love the harsher vocals and I eventually became a full-fledged Opeth aficionado. First impressions last a lifetime, and for that reason alone I don't think I'll ever be able to shake Damnation's influence on my taste. It's so lush, powerful, and depressingly beautiful though; why would I ever want to? When I think of modern rock/metal albums produced in a similar vein (see: Katatonia's City Burials), I know that my affinity for them can be traced back to this very record.
84King Crimson
In the Court of the Crimson King

Prog on, baby. In the Court of the Crimson King is one of the most drugged-up and trippy albums I've heard. I say that as a compliment in this case, because it's a downright transcendental experience. Bookended by two of the best prog-rock songs I've heard in my entire life ("21st Century Schizoid Man" and especially the title track), In the Court of the Crimson King reins supreme. The three songs in the middle are not to be overlooked either: especially the breathtaking "I Talk to the Wind." An iconic release in every single way, it's a shame so many people had to find out about it from Kanye fucking West.

I did not understand this album for the longest time. The gentle, almost effeminate vocals and the jazzy saxophones/trumpets just didn't mesh to me, and while everyone was losing their shit over the album I probably replayed some angsty emo/hardcore album for the 100th time instead (and to this day I don't regret that!). But Kaputt's charm did eventually work its magic on me. The atmosphere is so different from anything else I enjoy (probably because it's actually sophisticated), and there's a sexy, sultry beauty to it that unravels over time. "Chinatown" and "Song for America" deserve to be heard by every man, woman, and child in the world. "The Laziest River" is also incredible and should have been included on the standard US version of the album. Anyway, this is a very unique and polished experience that doesn't quite feel like any of the genres that it is currently tagged as on this site - a rare instance of genre evasion which speaks to its imaginative songcraft.
82The Antlers

I remember sitting at my desktop computer writing a review for Burst Apart, expressing my satisfaction with the record on paper while my mind wandered: where could the band possibly go from there? It was a valid thought, considering Hospice obliterated any chance of them reaching a new emotional milestone while Burst Apart seemed to take all of their atmospheric strengths and roll them up into one cohesive experience. Familiars was the perfect answer: a relaxed, spacious, brass-laden experience that sounds majestic, regal, and untethered to anything earthly. Familiars is Silberman's vocal showcase, but the level of artsy sophistication on display matches him stride for stride. The moment the trumpets kick in on 'Hotel' is pure class. 'Palace' sounds like being serenaded by an angel. The one-two punch of 'Revisited' and 'Parade' is possibly better than life itself. Hyperbole aside, Familiars is The Antlers at their fanciest and most eloquent - a moment worth basking in at least once.
81Frightened Rabbit
Painting of a Panic Attack

I don't talk about this album as often as I should. The last Frightened Rabbit album before Scott Hutschison's unfortunate and tragic passing, it was a snapshot of where his mind was at in the years leading up to his suicide. Maybe it's because I feel uncomfortable listening to it, I don't know. Regardless, this is a very bleak, depressing affair that specifically details a panic attack/suicide on the opening track before weaving through heartbreak ('Get Out'), alcoholism/substance abuse ('I Wish I Was Sober'), and more. Some of the tracks take some time to grow, but that's about the worst thing I can say about an otherwise flawless cry for help.

Vheissu is almost like Thrice's greatest hits album. It's not because it posseses all their best songs (although it has many of them), but rather because of the styles it includes. Want soft, aquatic-sounding Thrice? There's 'Atlantic'. Want abrasive, fiery Thrice? There's 'Like Moths to Flame'. Every extreme variation of Thrice can be found here, as well as midtempo ones in between. For that reason, this will always be the best "starting point" for new fans, and it's also the most informative of all their future directions taken. More than anything though, it's just a damn good album - full of intensity and diversity, emotion and spirituality. A true post-hardcore classic.
79The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis

Option Paralysis crossed my radar at the perfect time: I was as into metalcore as I'd ever be, and I really didn't know anything about math rock, or what a mathy riff is, or whatever (I'm still no expert). All I know is that 'Farewell, Mona Lisa' came on and nearly caused me to spit out my drink. The entire album is highly listenable from front to end - in my opinion a rare feat when it comes to hyper-aggressive metalcore. The guitar work here is absolutely insane - it's ridiculously complex but entirely accessible too. Guitars are easily my favorite instrument, and when you combine that with the fact that the clean vocals here are pretty melodic, it was the perfect storm for one of those rare Sowing metal 5's. I still jam this as often as I can.
78The Avalanches
We Will Always Love You

The way this fuses so many different genres and styles intoxicates me. It's an ocean of shimmering electronics, but it also has elements of hip-hop, rock, folk, indie-pop...everything, really. When I listen to it, I like to imagine that prominent statesmen from every genre have put aside their differences to create one epic, immaculately flowing album - which this is. I've listened to The Avalanches' other two records (including the one everyone says is better), and neither measure up to this. We Will Always Love You is a landmark album for me in the world of electronic music; a place I'm excited to explore in greater depth and broader breadth thanks to this release.
77Manchester Orchestra
I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child

Before there was the Manchester Orchestra of today - churning out one magnum opus after another - there was this screeching, raw little indie-rock piece called I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child. This isn't their most impressive record by any means, but it's maintained its hold on me spanning decades now thanks to the unfiltered passion of Andy Hull, who puts some of his most brilliant lyrics to paper here. There's something about his hushed awkwardness throughout this record that makes the resplendent, belted-out choruses all the more impactful. For proof, just listen to 'I Can Barely Breathe' or, especially, 'Colly Strings'. No amount of epic production could ever match the emotional impact of this gem, which is sadly overlooked in a nearly perfect discography.
When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes

I was initially disappointed when this came out, but I think it's because my heart was set on the old Yellowcard - bouncy, carefree, and sort of immature. Once I realized what they were doing with their post-hiatus run, this clicked in a big way. This is something of a love letter to fans, with the return of prominent violins and a callback to 'Only One'. It's all done through the lens of a young adult though, rather than an impressionable teen - a sentiment expressed brilliantly on the towering closer 'Be The Young'. There's enough hype out there for the so-called second wave of pop-punk (The Menzingers, The Wonder Years) and many of them are admittedly excellent, but my heart will always reside with the first wave elder statesmen who aged gracefully.
75Father John Misty
I Love You, Honeybear

Josh Tillman is an asshole. I think, anyway - his mannerisms are just so cocky and self-important. Regardless, it makes for great entertainment: his sexual anecdotes and dry humor simultaneously repelling and alluring. I Love You, Honeybear's charm disarms you, and then it forces you to stare down at some of the ugliest tendencies of humanity/society. I always liked to think of it as something of a fucked up Valentine's Day album - it's not roses and chocolate, it's drugged-up kinky sex that you're certain is illegal in at least 50% of the world. And I think we both know that's preferable to the former.
74Damien Rice
My Favourite Faded Fantasy

The grandaddy of breakup albums. Rice became everyone's favorite sad Irish troubadour with the release of O, and more specifically, the hit single 'The Blower's Daughter' - but My Favourite Faded Fantasy takes everything that album did and improves upon it triple-fold. 'It Takes a Lot to Know a Man' is a nine and a half minute acoustic/orchestral song about the stuff of our childhood that messes us up as adults, thus making us unsuitable for healthy relationships. This is not typical of the sadboi-with-guitar arena, and that's because Damien Rice blazes trails rather than following them. MFFF is eight tracks of similar brilliance, somehow finding new, impactful ways to express the same heartache that has plagued us since the concept of love was first invented.
All We Love We Leave Behind

It's tough to find a hardcore/metalcore act as consistent as Converge. The popular pick here would have been Jane Doe (sorry folks, this is my only Converge entry!), but I enjoy the sonic diversity of AWLWLB over the visceral emotional pummeling that is JD. AWLWLB is still brutal in its own right, but it exhales often enough to allow for creepy/gorgeous moments like 'Glacial Pace' and 'Coral Blue'. When Converge is doing its usual thing here, Bannon's vocals are...rockier? It's a welcome change over the relentless pained cries of some of their other records, and makes the album easier to return to. Sure, if I've just had my heart pulled out of my chest nothing hits quite like Jane Doe, but for the rest of the times in my life, there's All We Love We Leave Behind: Converge's best all-around record.
72Neutral Milk Hotel
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

When I first heard Jeff Mangum's voice, and then looked at the Sputnik average of 4.4 or whatever it was back in 2009, I thought I was just out of the loop on some kind of site-wide joke. Like, surely, this guy's voice can't be for real, right? Well, my tastes weren't as "refined" then, and I've really come to appreciate the guy's Kermit The Frog croons. In fact, they're my favorite part now. Aeroplane has some of the best songwriting all in one place that I've ever heard, too. Regardless of whether or not you develop a taste for Mangum's singing, it's tough to deny how excellent the musicianship is on this indie-folk masterpiece. That's how it roped me in, after all. Sooner or later, this album seems to win everyone over.

Oh shit, Weezer! I bet you almost forgot about them. Well, I did not: The Blue Album was critical to the development of my musical taste. Everyone's favorite lovable nerds, Weezer's ability to act like a bunch of misfits and still triumph was something I related to a lot back in high school. These guys have had a pretty bumpy career with a few amazing highs and plenty of disappointing lows, but they've never done better than this. Pretty much every song here is a classic, and it's probably not taking it too far to say that it's one of the best albums ever released in the 90s.
70Pink Floyd
The Wall

I've always respected/admired Pink Floyd more than I've actually enjoyed them. I know, that's blasphemy. Anyway, The Wall is my favorite Pink Floyd record. I know for some people the concept is overbearing, and it doesn't have the same natural feel as a lot of their other records, including WYWH (top ever song, album never fully clicked for me though!), but The Wall has it all as far as I'm concerned. Huge overtures, tender acoustic songs, sinister rockers, dreamy atmospheres - it shows all of their best aspects in one huge double album. If you've ever wondered where my affinity for all things grandiose and epic (See #100 on this list) came from, look no further than my childhood exposure to this record. This is where the dominoes began falling. Yes, I just blamed my amateurish affinity for MCR on the legendary Pink with it.
69The Republic of Wolves

One of my favorite styles of music is indie-rock that gets all dark, introspective, and religious. The Republic of Wolves were basically made in a lab to appeal to me in that regard: the blood-curdling shrieks, the thoughtful croons, the existential lyrics: yeah, these guys bring the haunted forest rock hard. Although TROW's discography is great across the board - especially their EPs - this is their strongest full-length offering and it ties together all of their best traits. From the equally heavy and infectious 'Bask' to the heavenly refrain of 'Birdless Cage', it covers a pretty wide spectrum both sonically and in terms of intensity. The extended version of this LP with all the bonus tracks is the best way to hear it, but even without those, it's still a no-brainer to make this list.

I've flirted with the idea of Lowborn being my favorite Anberlin, but every time I think that could be the case I put Cities back on and it lays any doubt to rest. This admittedly isn't as consistent across the board as some of their other records, but the highs here more than make up for it. 'Godspeed' fucking goes. 'Unwinding Cable Car' is a jaw-dropping acoustic ballad, as is the heart stoppingly romantic 'Inevitable' (which played at my wedding ya'll - where's academy's sowing wedding fanfiction list - is that still a thing?). 'Dismantle. Repair.' is a top 10 Anberlin song, and don't get me started on 'Fin', because these text blocks have character limits. Bottom line: the only thing holding this back from being a top 25 release (if not higher) is the fact that about half the songs here are just okay. But again, let its presence on this list be a testament to just how absurdly good that other half is.
67Bon Iver
22, A Million

I'll never understand the disdain for this in certain musical circles. This is some cryptic shit: think UFOs, cave symbols, and hidden codes. It's a brilliant meshing of the natural and supernatural, produced with so many layers that it just implodes into a matrix of vocodered warbles and acoustic strums. This is Justin Vernon's boldest and most experimental piece; his Kid A. I sort of wish it was more highly regarded around these parts, but I guess that just makes it even more endearing to me.
66Thomas Azier
Love, Disorderly

Ah yes, my last review ever - oops. My intentions were good (focus more on the family, quit a borderline unhealthy focus on music) but Sput I just can't quit ya. Anyway, I chose this to be my "final" review because I felt like it was a worthy finale - it's got this apocalyptic/dystopia feel to it despite basically being an electronically infused indie-pop record, which means that you also get the melody/hooks to boot. Above all, it's just persistently epic in a doomsday sort of way, all too befitting of its 2020 release date. It's only 8 tracks, but they're all the very best cuts. Azier's voice ranges from frightening/booming to mesmerizing, and Love Disorderly flows gracefully like a river through a burned down city. This will most likely end up being one of the list's more unheard-of inclusions, but I have no reservations about placing it here, recency bias and all other considerations included.

If you're anything like me, you've imagined what your life would be like as a movie. I think we all do that at least to some extent: romanticize everything, projecting our comparatively mundane existence onto the big screen to make our lives feel more purposeful. That's basically what Melodrama is; it's Lorde - a young-twenty-something - taking cab rides to parties, drinking and getting high, flirting with her crush, and then falling on a pillow of despair and depression upon returning home alone...another night spent staring in the mirror and wondering why nobody else feels as hard as she feels about literally everything. It's a heartbreaking album, mostly because Lorde yearns for this movie-like love which can't be found because it's not real - it's melodrama. Backed by longing strings and immaculate production, few pop albums I've heard in my entire life are as poignant, cohesive, and relatable as this one.
64Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Aside from being Lana Del Rey's most complete album front-to-end, drawing 4 albums and 7 years of inconsistency to a close, NFR! is the kind of album that raises questions. What those questions are seem entirely up to the listener. The album could be anything from apathetic accounts of sex, drugs, and parties to a piece that slyly remarks on the collapse of American society. It takes a deft touch to create an experience that vague, which also elicits such tremendously strong reactions from listeners on both ends of the spectrum. NFR! is a catalyst capable of igniting a revolution; or a nap. I view it as every bit the statement album that Pitchfork detailed in an exceedingly rare 9.4 score. This is more than just a series of melancholic ballads, it's something extremely special.
Ride the Lightning

I sort of haphazardly attached myself to a handful of thrash albums over the course of my life, but perhaps none more than Ride The Lightning. Metallica was always the sort of metal band I could enjoy repeatedly; their guitar work takes center stage and they're not afraid of writing a strong hook. At their most basic, they're crafting earworms like 'Escape' - at their best, they're questioning the point of life and coming face-to-face with suicidal despair ('Fade to Black'). My favorite moments are when they just lose themselves in those complex but equally soulful electric guitar solos; of which they've perhaps never done better than 'Fade to Black' (although for a late career surprise, 'The Day That Never Comes' absolutely delivers the goods). Ride The Lightning is a classic thrash album for good reason...even an indie-folk enthusiast like me can appreciate its value.
62Titus Andronicus
The Monitor

Few albums have gotten under my skin like The Monitor. It makes me want to go out there and do something - burn down a liquor store, pick a fight with a homeless person, I don't know. It just makes me want to feel something in the most reckless way possible. I guess that's what a great punk album should do, right? Frontman Patrick Stickles sounds one beer away from passing out in a pool of his own piss, and the rest of the band mashes their instruments in the most gratifying way possible. This album's claim to genius is in its lyrics, though. For my money I don't know if a song has ever inspired me as much as 'A More Perfect Union', or made me as hungry to spark upheaval as 'The Battle of Hampton Roads'. This is an album about breaking out of your shell, shattering the day-to-day monotony, and living every day like it's your last.
61Kacey Musgraves
Golden Hour

How good can country-pop really be? I think Golden Hour answers that question - taking the magical aura of Swift's "Fearless" record but making it smoother, prettier, stronger lyrically, and better in just about every way conceivable from a songwriting perspective. Golden Hour is a simple album at its core: acoustic guitars are plucked thoughtfully while the drums do little more than keep the beat, but it allows the record's glistening production and Musgraves' sweet, limber voice to take center stage. It flows beautifully, sounds stunning, and has overarching messages of implied optimism. It's tough not to feel totally at peace when listening to this - something we need more of in a society that values everything being new/improved/faster. There's something to be said for sitting on the back porch and watching the sun rise with an acoustic guitar and a coffee in-hand. This is the closest thing to a musical deep breath I've heard in a long time.
White Pony

This was one of those Sputnik rite of passages back in the day. I was vaguely aware of Deftones thanks to a certain NHL 2004 video game soundtrack, but I didn't really expect to become a huge fan of the band. White Pony sucked me in immediately though, with its blend of sheer heaviness and shimmering lush atmospheres. I don't have the nostalgic attachment to this that some others do, hence why it's not my #1 Deftones record, but it's undeniably amazing from a technical/melodic/production standpoint. I don't get the itch to play this constantly, but when I do - regardless of time/setting/mood - I always feel like it's one of the best records I've ever heard.
59Brand New
Deja Entendu

Where my obsession began. Deja Entendu is a mature take on old school pop-punk, and it was exactly the step forward I was looking for as I got ready to graduate high school. Its adolescent urgency was something I could feel in every verse - from the now regrettable lyrics about sexual frustration ('Sic Transit Gloria', 'Me vs Maradona vs Elvis') to occasional lyrics so deep that they ventured into poetry ('Play Crack the Sky'). That dichotomy represents what it's like to be a late teen/early twenty-something; torn between the impulses of youth and the worries/responsibilities of adulthood. Deja Entendu captures that delicate transition perfectly, and even if I don't relate to it so much anymore, it still transports me to a time of diplomas, part-time jobs, and college textbooks.
58Trophy Scars
Holy Vacants

I have a thing for vocalists who just don't give a shit what anyone thinks, and Jerry Jones fits that mold. He growls, screeches, and writes some of the most laughable on-paper lyrics - doesn't matter, because he has an energy and spirit in his delivery that can't be matched. Holy Vacants throws in the best guitar work of Trophy Scars' discography (uh, hello 'Qeres'!), oddly fitting vocal duets, their biggest choruses ('Crystallophobia'), and their most absurd concept yet (two reincarnated lovers who kill angels because their blood contains the fountain of youth). Self-awareness is the name of the game here, and Trophy Scars make the most pompous, ridiculous, and undeniably fun post-hardcore album I've ever heard with this one.
Diamond Eyes

Since White Pony (and all other previous Deftones records) were an exercise in revisiting missed items from the past, Diamond Eyes was my first exposure to this site's unparalleled Deftones hype - and damn did it get me. I remember reading Nick Greer's review tagline and flipping out simply because I knew it would send the entire site spiraling into chaos - but I never thought in my wildest dreams he'd actually be right. This album delivers big time: the powerful melody of the title track, the fist to the face that is 'CMD/CTRL', the slinking sinister beauty of 'You've Seen the Butcher' and 'Beauty School', the seductively climactic 'Sextape''s all gold. This is a new and improved White Pony. Nick, wherever you are these days, I've got your back on this one.
56Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor's Guide To Earth

A huge gateway country album for me. This was one of my first forays into "non-country pop" country, and it was hugely successful in convincing me that the genre had a lot to offer besides cliches. Sailor's Guide is a concept album in which Simpson writes to his newborn son, providing something of a "guide to life" - and it hits me harder now than it ever did before now that I'm a dad too. The psychedelic, funk, and soul elements are just the cherry on top of what is already a landmark moment for the genre. 'Welcome to Earth', 'Breakers Roar', 'Brace for Impact' and 'Call to Arms' are all must-hear songs regardless of whether you like country or not. Go listen to them, now!

I stand by my review calling this the best Deftones album. I know as well as anyone how much nostalgia can come into play with any release, but one would be hard-pressed to find a 'tones record that combines all of their best traits like this does without sacrificing any of the raw intensity or shimmering beauty. 'Genesis' is a blistering opener which is absolutely perfectly placed. For my money, I don't know if I've ever heard Deftones throw up a wall of sound as menacing as 'The Spell of Mathematics'. 'Pompeji' is sheer anger and beauty intertwined. I could go on about every single track, but I won't - this is like a new improved Diamond Eyes, a former highwater mark that I never thought they could top.
54Honey Harper

Fusing country, folk, and dream-pop into a jaw-droppingly lush parallel universe is no small feat. Starmaker accomplishes this with ease, making me wonder where Harper might take his sound next. I'm not too worried about that right now though, because I'm still basking in the soft glow of 'Something Relative' and 'Vaguely Satisfied' (just to name drop two songs, because they're all flawless gems). Harper's voice is ethereal and as smooth as his namesake. He's capable of carrying an entire album himself, but luckily he doesn't have to: strings swell with tinges of forlorn memories, pan flutes hum like a chorus of crickets in the night sky, and his wife/musical partner Alana Pagnutti contributes inspiring backing vocals/duets throughout. This is one of the best country albums I've ever heard, and hailing from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it proves that beauty can indeed arise out of calamity.
53The Dear Hunter
Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise

If you like catchy alt/indie-rock, then hooo boy do you need to hear this. Act IV is basically bursting at the seams with infectious choruses, over-the-top songwriting, and thematically-bound lyrics which continue the storyline from previous Acts I, II, and III. Casey Crescenzo reminds me of a mad composer - eccentric and fanatical, everything has to flourish/swell/crescendo/erupt in the most glorious and aesthetically rewarding fashion possible. Yet, he never falls into the traps that cause weighty projects like this to collapse in on themselves. Thanks to his amazing vocal range, quality lyrics, and instrumental/songwriting diversity, Act IV never outdoes itself to the point of feeling ridiculous nor does it ever get stale. It's a rollicking, gorgeous, memorable indie-rock opus and it's the best of all The Dear Hunter's five acts.
52Kishi Bashi

Pastoral. Pristine. Emotional. Candid. You've heard it all before when Sufjan Stevens dropped his lifetime achievement Carrie and Lowell, but you probably wouldn't have expected something nearly just as good to follow less than five years later. Kishi Bashi has released his own near-and-dear folk masterpiece in Omoiyari, a piece that explores the atrocities of Japanese internment during WWII while weaving in subplots of a couple who is in love but becomes forcibly separated during the war. Kishi Bashi's shift from frenetic/over-the-top happy (2014's Lighght) to this marks a stark contrast, but it's a direction that suits him far better. It's as tragic and heart wrenching as it is beautiful.
Ocean Avenue

Ocean Avenue was a very difficult album for me to place on a list like this, because at one time it meant more to me than almost any other record, but now I've outgrown it. As it falls somewhere in the middle on this list, please understand that in no way have the emotions and memories I associated with this waned. It's just more of a fond recollection now of things that I went through in high school: my first time falling in love, my first time having my heart broken, and my first time having an actual big group of friends outside of school (not just people I sat at the lunch table with, et al). Ocean Avenue scored some of my most important developmental years, and I'm not the Only One (lolol, get it?). Ryan Key's penchant for penning universally relatable lyrics and singing them with more passion than anyone else in the pop-punk arena made Ocean Avenue a generational event - something that I'd guestimate anyone between the ages of 30-38 has enjoyed and stowed away in their memories.
The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II

Putting this here implies the entire collection (I: Fire, II: Water, III: Air, IV: Earth). This is the only piece of music Thrice created that I can say, as a whole, tops Vheissu. This dropped during the most inventive and ambitious phase of their career, pitting the primary elements of the Earth against each other: the blistering reverb of Fire, the cool electronics of Water, the spacious and chime-laden Air, and the dusty bare-knuckles Earth. Concept albums like this are hardly ever executed this well. You can take a song from any of the four EPs, have a stranger listen to them, say "which does this sound like?", and they'll probably get it right every time. Themes aside, this is still one of their best collections of songs. The sonic diversity, the rich atmospheres, and the appetite for experimentation makes this a top-50 album of all-time in my eyes.
49Beach House

This is my all-time favorite dream pop album. This thing just evokes such romantic imagery: nights spent dancing beneath the stars, a hopeful gaze, stealing a kiss - it's just got this aura, man. Pretty sure this was naught but a blip on my radar when it dropped in 2012, but as time progressed, it became an essential piece of music to me. 'Myth' and 'On the Sea' were the first two songs I ever slow danced to with my wife - the product of a playlist I made to end our first date. Bloom feels like an unfurling of its namesake - the soundtrack to something beautiful coming to fruition. That's exactly what it was for me, and as long as there remains a romantic bone in my body, this will always be a shimmering, flourishing reminder of one of the best nights - and years - of my life.
48Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d city

The best rap/hip-hop album I've ever heard. Kendrick Lamar is at the peak of his game on good kid as he details what it was like to grow up surrounded by gangs and violence in Compton. What makes it special is how he doesn't just focus on the obvious stuff (gun violence, etc) - while that element is certainly still there, the lyrics are personal and the people he references are real. This means we get firsthand accounts of how he interacted with them - like how friends pressuring him to break into someone's home was an act of initiation that strengthened their ties. There's stuff going on within the confines of good kid, m.A.A.d city that I can't pretend to fully understand, but its honesty is apparent and the storytelling keeps you hooked the entire time. There's not a hip-hop album out there I'm as loyal to as this - it's the GOAT in my eyes.
Sing the Sorrow

An absolutely blackened soul of an alt-punk album, Sing the Sorrow still puts a pit in my stomach. Sure, most of that sensation comes from the creepy-as-all-fuck 'This Time Imperfect' (hidden track at the end), but the whole thing feels twisted and evil from the start. It really comes from a dark place, and it helped me through what was probably my most difficult stretch of college: I found out I was failing a course I needed in order to graduate, my grandmother passed away, my dad had a heart attack, and the girl I was in love with started dating my best friend -- all in the same week. I was beside myself and some unhealthy thoughts popped into my head, but Sing the Sorrow bailed me out. Aside from personal stories that are far too revealing, this is just the best AFI record and also one of the best punk albums ever, the end.
46Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

When Springsteen meets The National, the album. This record has such a zest for life that I only wish I could replicate myself. It's like Dave Le'Aupepe sings on the opener: "I feel everything, yeah, I feel it all." The lyrics are incredible throughout and I could list my favorite quotes for days: "I’m terrified of loving 'cause I’m terrified of pain / and of missing out on human things by cowering away"..."And it’s strange, all the things that I’ve run from / Are the things that completeness could come from"..."Say yes to me! Say yes to love! Say yes to life!" I feel most alive when I'm listening to Le'aupepe's beautiful ruminations overlaying Go Father in Lightness' rollicking, affirming folk rock.
A Moon Shaped Pool

On the heels of the disappointing King of Limbs, A Moon Shaped Pool marked a triumphant return by one of the greatest bands in the history of all music. It's a lush, string-bound record that experiments slightly less but more than makes up for it with breathtaking aesthetics. Pianos and acoustic guitars dominate A Moon Shaped Pool, with highlights including the frenetic strings of the ominous 'Burn the Witch', the mesmerizing/aloft 'Daydreaming', the mysteriously swirling 'Ful Stop', the lucid 'Glass Eyes', the terrifying account of climate change that is 'The Numbers', and the highly experimental, orchestral penultimate stunner 'Tinker Tailor...". Radiohead has a magnificent discography, but few of their efforts top this. Strictly from an aesthetic standpoint, it's their prettiest album.
44Bright Eyes
Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was

By the time Weeds dropped, I'd long given up on the idea of Bright Eyes ever matching the heights of Morning or Lifted. I almost didn't even listen to it - and that would have been a grave oversight on my part considering this blows all his other albums out of the water. It's an epic folk magnum opus about the end of the world - so it contains 3 of my favorite things ever (stuff that is epic, apocalypse fantasies, and folk music). Oberst sounds as convincing as ever when he sings, "This world is waving goodbye" or "Swallow hard and say you’re sorry / Just admit what you have done". Everything about Weeds seems like an indictment of where we are as a society, and Oberst's take is basically that we're fucked - so it's time to make up and say goodbye. Set to poignant lyrics about love and loss (likely sparked by his real life divorce), the conceptual aspect works on multiple levels and hits hard every time thanks to its swelling strings and massive crescendos. Indie-rock at its best.
43The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

The greatest pop album of all time? Could very well be. Pet Sounds evokes sounds of summer and love/relationships on the surface, but its arrangements are ambitious and complex. Take the sudden tonal/directional change at the conclusion of 'I'm Waiting for the Day' for instance, or the avant-garde instrumental/ambient song 'Let's Go Away for Awhile' tossed smack dab in the center of the tracklist. We might not think much of this right now, but for a pop album in 1966 they were pretty novel concepts. They even got into some trouble on this album, like use of the word God in a love song which was taboo and got 'God Only Knows' banned in some parts of America. This was a very progressive piece that shifted the Beach Boys' entire trajectory from "summer boy band" to serious player in the world of cutting edge art. This is one of the most important albums ever made, and its influence over mainstream music looms large even to this day.
42Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind

It's hard to think of an alt-rock/grunge band that had as large of an influence on the late 90s/early 00s as Third Eye Blind. Of course, because I was late to the game like I always am when it comes to older music, I got really into their debut towards the end of my college days (without dating myself too badly, let's just say the late 00s). The longing nostalgia of a song like 'Motorcycle Drive By' couldn't possibly hit harder than when you're 21, enjoying the freedom that comes with the ability to drink alcohol unhindered by worry of the cops showing up, thinking about your career, and still trying to get the girl. Lyrically, it's full of some of the best one-liners - for example: "I’ve never be so alone, and I’ve never been so alive", "How’s it going to be, when you don’t know me anymore?" The album doesn't miss, either - like seriously, all 14 songs are great and there's never a time when I'm bored enough to skip ahead. It's an untouchable ode to life, love, and moving on.
41The National
Sleep Well Beast

This might be the dullest National album - which is saying something in a discography of mostly hushed baritone laments. But it's not dull as in boring, more as in sanded down - like a rock on the shoreline that has seen too many years of crashing waves and inclement weather. I'm reminded of how life wears us down as we age. We become adults and we start to lose faith in the things that matter. We start to accept things that can still be changed as inherent truths. We stop feeling. It's an idea brought to the forefront by Berningers' masterful lyrics: "I'm just trying to stay in touch with anything I'm still in touch with"...or maybe "I'm losing grip, the fabric's ripped" expresses it even better. This album sounds like a dying star; hope waning from the once bright-eyed frontman who finds himself struggling to deal with a life that grows more and more disappointing with each passing year.
40Simon and Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water

When we're talking about artists that have undoubtedly influenced my taste, I'm not sure that anyone tops Simon and Garfunkel. Bridge Over Troubled Water is chock-full of hits: the title track, 'Cecilia', 'El Condor Pasa/If I Could', 'The Boxer', 'The Only Living Boy In New York' almost reads like a greatest hits lineup. The duo is near the top of their game here on their final album, writing heartbreaking lyrics and covering them in the most gorgeous of melodies. I don't think (and I'm surmising, I haven't done my research!) that there has ever been a duo as vocally skilled as these gentlemen, and although not all of their albums will place on my list, their entire discography is very near and dear to me. This deserves a listen from anyone with ears, genre preferences be damned.
39Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues

Speaking of influenced by Simon and Garfunkel, I give you the modern indie-folk version. Helplessness Blues is a stunningly picturesque album, evoking imagery of mountains, forests, and rushing rivers - but at its heart, it was born out of Robin Pecknold's need for respite from mounting depression. Freshly broken-up after a five year relationship and in substantial debt, Helplessness Blues was his outlet. I always feel bad benefiting from the suffering of others, but Helplessness Blues is on an entirely different plane of rustic beauty that I can't resist - and I'm so glad that despite his difficulties, he chose music as his cathartic vessel. Helplessness Blues does more with (pretty much) just chamber vocals and acoustic guitars than any album I can think of. It's a testament to Pecknold's ability to captivate us with his voice and lyrics alone; an old school solution to modern problems.
38Phoebe Bridgers

This one surprised even me. I must have drafted twenty different versions of this Top 100, and every time it climbed higher and higher on the list. There's something about the atmosphere that is bleak and ominous, yet totally subdued. The analogy I always return to is that it's like realizing a meteor is about to strike Earth, ending life as we know it. You only have minutes left, but rather than panicking, you go into this self-induced calm. You look up at the sky, sense the stillness, and just inhale and exhale; it's just you and the universe - one last moment of conscious thought before you become one. Punisher is something like that; an intimate apocalypse. It's a vibe I'm totally in love with and I have no qualms about putting it super high up on this list because with each passing week, its lore only grows stronger as a reminder of 2020/Covid/Trumpism - a time when the end of the world didn't seem like such a far-fetched concept.
37Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy

I've always been a big Led Zeppelin fan, perhaps more so than any of the other highly revered classic rock acts of the 60s/70s. Houses of the Holy followed IV - widely regarded as their crowning achievement - but I actually prefer this one. The guitar maelstrom that is 'The Song Remains the Same' remains a top-3 Zeppelin track; 'Dancing Days' has one of the most memorable guitar licks/melodies in the history of rock music; 'D'yer Mak'er' is possibly the most purely infectious song the band has written - I could go on ad nauseam about every song here, but I'll save that for a future review. Bottom line: this is both the best and most consistent LZ offering - it hits on all 8/8 tracks. Anyone who only has a baseline knowledge of Led Zeppelin, or perhaps has only heard 'Stairway to Heaven', should check this out in its entirety. It's one of the best albums of all-time.
Brother, Sister

The only reason I bought this record in 2006 was because I wanted to know some of the songs when I watched them open for Brand New/Thrice. I thought the band was kind of odd, but in an endearing way. They absolutely owned live, and then I started digging into the lyrics - and holy shit was I hooked. Aaron Weiss is one of the greatest lyricists of all-time, and this contains some of his best work. It's more than just pen-on-paper genius though; Weiss delivers every verse and chorus here with the utmost conviction. When he screams "one day the water's gonna wash it away", I'm ready to head out to my back yard and start building an ark. That's the impact that he has both on record and live. The intensity of his half-spoken, half-shouted delivery is inimitable. Had it not been for Brother, Sister, I never would have discovered what is, at least at this point, one of my top 3 all-time artists. Even though the band would eventually top this, it's still a career achievement in its own right.
35The Who
Who's Next

Although The Who's entire discography never fully clicked with me, Who's Next is on another level. 'Behind Blue Eyes' will always be one of my favorite songs...I love how it possessed this subdued, burgeoning anger - a hate born out of hurt. It's not just the obvious tracks ('Behind Blue Eyes', 'We Won't Get Fooled Again', 'Baba O'Riley') that anchor this for me though - ah shit, I backed myself into a corner because all these songs are fairly well known - but 'Bargain', 'My Wife', 'Love Ain't for Keeping', and especially 'The Song Is Over' are absolute gems. Between Keith Moon's incredible drumming and Pete Townshend's rough-but-melodic delivery, I'm not sure The Who were capable of writing a bad song as this phase of their career. Who's Next is a snapshot of one of the greatest rock bands at their absolute peak.
34Simon and Garfunkel
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

My favorite Simon and Garfunkel. I know it doesn't boast as many hits as Bridge Over Troubled Water, but it flows so well while espousing much more of a folksy vibe. It's their most stripped-down album and it's so much better for it. This duo clearly has the vocal talent to carry an album, and all the subtle instrumental flourishes just make this glow even brighter: like the elegant strings on 'The Dangling Conversation', or the way that they don't even introduce any drums until the fourth track, making 'Homeward Bound' feel all the more propulsive. One of the low-key highlights of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is the final song, '7'O'clock News/Silent Night', which overlays the simple arrangement of the Christmas carol “Silent Night” with a bulletin of the actual events of August 3, 1966. It's a haunting way to end a beautiful album, and it's the little moments like these that make Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme an under-discussed gem in the American folk canon.
Nearer My God

My initially middling interest in Foxing transformed into an obsession when they dropped the earth-shattering, epic, and apocalyptic Nearer My God. The Brand New meets Modest Mouse opener 'Grand Paradise' rocks harder than anything that preceded it in their discog, and from there they keep their foot on the gas pedal while varying their sound frequently: 'Gameshark' has an almost Muse-ish frenetic energy; there are literal bagpipes on 'Bastardizer', 'Trapped in Dillard's' dabbles in electronics; 'Lich Prince' masterfully executes the band's first true electric guitar solo; 'Lambert' has almost Berninger-esque vocals before launching into another memorable solo. Foxing pulls out all the stops for their magnum opus, and it ends up being a full realization of all their most grandiose inclinations. This album singlehandedly launched Foxing into the same sphere as Brand New/Manchester Orchestra/mewithoutYou - for me, that's sacred company.
32Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon Iver, Bon Iver is the best Bon Iver (that was fun to type). While For Emma, Forever Ago packed all the emotion and 22, A Million explored Vernon's most experimental whims, this (sort of) self-titled record is simply the project at its most gorgeous. The cascading drums, magisterial trumpets, pristine acoustic picking, and smooth 80s-ish glaze over the entire atmosphere make this an absolute pleasure to listen to in almost any setting. It transcends what I'd merely call a "beautiful indie-folk" album though - this is like a high bar for everyone else to aspire to. It's meditative, soulful, and passionate - one of the most jaw-dropping releases of the 2010s, and as history might dictate, of all time.

Awash in a hazy indie/dream pop atmosphere, and with almost ASMR spoken passages, Blushing transports you. Aaron Marsh not only has a stunning voice, but he also has a way with words. Lines like, "Still your body curves, it bends like time" or "I'll be kissing rhythms from your neck / Chasing melodies around your skin" are playfully sensual, but then he can turn around a song later and deliver emotional knock-out blows like "These days I'm terrified of silence / My thoughts unbearable in the quiet" or "Call me desperate, at times I am for you / Call me 'fuck up', at least I pull myself up", or perhaps the most shattering of all: "A blur of streetlights, through my tears they're beautiful / I might crash my car just to feel something pull my world apart." Blushing is basically just a canvas for Marsh to paint his poignant and colorful poetry upon, and I for one am totally fine with that - especially when the words are this sad and beautiful.
Ten Stories

I feel like Ten Stories sort of got lost in the shuffle. mwY had a celebrated early discography (Catch For Us The Foxes and Brother, Sister) as well as a fruitful final run (Pale Horses, Untitled), but this falls into that middle zone along with It's All Crazy that nobody seems to care about. Despite favoring an indie-rock approach over their post-hardcore roots, Ten Stories is an amazing album full of lyrical diamonds-in-the-rough. 'Elephant in the Dock' has always been my favorite reference point, with themes borrowed from C.S. Lewis’ "God In The Dock", but the entire experience is overflowing with philosophical nuggets. While waxing poetic about love, life, God, and society, mwY craft their most balanced record with rockers like 'February, 1878', stunning ballads like 'Bear's Vision of St. Agnes', and unexpected contributions from Hayley Williams elsewhere. This doesn't reach the highs of mwY's very best offerings, but it's their most consistent effort with tons of replay value.
29Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire had one goal in mind for their debut: write ten songs, and have each one be the new best song you've ever heard. The fact that they nearly succeed in that impossible mission is a testament to the incredible zone they were in back in 2004. I mean seriously, every song here is a top tier indie-rock moment to the point that highlighting anything specific would be pointless. I don't even know exactly what it is - Win Butler is a great frontman, and the songwriting is varied and sort of innovative...but I still can't pinpoint exactly what it is about Funeral that makes it one of the best things to ever enter my ear canals. They're just really fucking good songs, with rock solid musicianship. Sometimes I guess that's all you need.

Sweepingly powerful. Adventurous. Progressive. All these things describe my all-time favorite metal album, a piece that I believe has aged better than any of Opeth's other creations. Watershed is the best fusion of Opeth's heaviest traits and their prog ambitions, and the resultant cocktail is an aggressively dynamic masterpiece. 'Coil's calm before the storm sets the mood perfectly, and then Akerfeldt brings down the house with the start-stop gorgeous/terrifying 'Heir Apparent'. The refrain at the end of 'The Lotus Eater' qualifies as one of my top 10 moments in all of music. This whole albums winds and turns, leaving you on the edge of your seat and wondering whether or not you'll get pummeled next, or whisked away by some experimental, folksy whim. The guitar tone on this album is also what I want every metal album to sound like. This is sheer perfection, ugh.
27Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

I was a big fan of Manchester Orchestra's first two albums, but I felt like they weren't maxing out their potential - they definitely had a huge magnum opus somewhere in them, they just had to reach inside and pull it out. That's why I'll never forget how Simple Math made me feel upon first listen: it was the full realization of everything I hoped they would become. Simple Math is sleekly produced, but not to the point of overshadowing some tremendous instrumentation (see the end of 'Mighty', the entirety of 'April Fool', and those guitar licks in 'Leaky Breaks'. They employed a shit load of strings, and I fucking love me some strings. There's a children's choir on 'Virgin' that makes me want to run for the hills. Everything about this is over-the-top, and that's exactly how I like my music most of the time: larger than life. Factor in heart wrenching personal confessions (like admitting to his wife on record that he doesn't love her, wtf?) and you have one ballsy piece of music.
Pale Horses

Lifetime achievement award for biggest grower, Pale Horses was a *mild* disappointment to me initially that has become a borderline top-25 favorite record. The theme certainly helped me appreciate it more over time, set to a nuclear holocaust and the sort of biblical apocalypse that I had drilled into me when I went to church as a kid. I don't actually believe that four horsemen will come riding out of the clouds someday, but I like to speculate about them on a metaphorical level (like, the four horsemen could be four world leaders, right?) Anyway, mwY captures the essence of an apocalypse perfectly, even down to Will Yip's hazy production feeling like a radioactive nuclear fallout zone. The zenith is obviously 'Rainbow Signs', where Weiss ties the entire experience together in what is one of the most chilling/frightening songs I've heard about Earth's final hours. As we constantly inch closer to fulfilling our own demise, Pale Horses becomes more relevant every day.
25David Bowie

Anyone who says that Bowie's death didn't make them appreciate Blackstar even more is kidding him/herself. It's one thing when an artist tragically passes, but it's another thing when said artist crafts a piece with their death in mind. Blackstar was made while Bowie was dying, and he hides references to it in the lyrics. That's what makes it so tragic: we were listening to him writing his own eulogy, we just didn't know it until he passed away. After that, all of the hidden lyrical references became illuminated. Bowie was always a performer, and he even made his own death into magnificent art. Sure, this is an objectively excellent record - but it's the way Bowie premeditated how it all would unfold that makes it unlike anything I've ever experienced in music. What an unforgettable farewell from the legend. RIP.
Kid A

We all knew this would be somewhere on the list, and we've finally arrived at that moment. Radiohead's most creative/experimental piece was truly novel sounding at the time of its release, and the electronic elements totally blindsided fans (sometimes in a bad way, but mostly in a wonderful way). The piece flows as a cohesive experience, and ventures into some truly frightening spaces: the orchestration on 'The National Anthem' sounds like horns announcing the start of a medieval war, 'How to Disappear Completely' is borders on suicidal levels of depression, 'Idioteque' is paranoid and frantic...There are no singles here (which at the time was a huge departure from industry practice) and no songs aim to deviate from the bigger picture - it's an "album experience" all the way through. Groundbreaking and ever mysterious, Kid A is pure class and indisputable art.
23The Moody Blues
Days of Future Passed

Call The Moody Blues "dad rock" all you want - and I agree with you - but Days of Future Passed is one of the most impressive musical opuses ever constructed. Preceding In The Court of the Crimson King by two years, this probably doesn't get enough credit with regard to the origins of progressive rock. Joined by the London Festival Orchestra, The Moody Blues created a gorgeous, sprawling world of color within Days of Future Passed. There's a dream-like progression to the entire experience, as the tracks flow into each other like tributaries. The lush strings and haunting, poetic lyrics contribute to an atmosphere that is simultaneously mystical and comforting - which on that note, is probably the most fitting pair of adjectives that I could assign to this. If you've passed on this band until now, at least do yourself the pleasure of indulging in Days of Future Passed.
22Jimmy Eat World

I. Always believed in Futures. (you're supposed to sing that line). After Bleed American this was something of a comedown record - slower, more introspective, less catchy/bombastic. With Futures, the band proved that atmospheric Jimmy is indeed the best Jimmy: 'Drugs or Me' is a tragic account of watching someone you love succumb to addiction, 'Kill' is an insanely accurate depiction of unrequited love, and '23' is all about seizing the moment while it's there. Even when it kicks the tempo up a notch, Jimmy Eat World is still in top form with thrilling rockers like 'Pain' and 'Futures'. There's a handful of songs here that mean the world to me - which drives up its value on this list - but that's what JEW is all about. Emotion is their currency, and in that sense, Futures is bathing in riches. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better companion for night drives spent deep in thought. This is the sort of album that anyone can immediately relate to.
21Queens of the Stone Age
...Like Clockwork

This might be my favorite traditional "rock" album. In the purest sense of the word, that's what this album does: it truly rocks. There's the funky, groovy beat in ‘Smooth Sailing’ that is virtually impossible not to strut to; the impressive drumming and triumphant chorus of 'My God is the Sun'; the addictive riffs and a mind-blowing drum-fill/piano interchange on 'I Appear Missing'...take your pick from the tracklist, honestly, because it's pure gold front-to-end. Oh, and it's all catchy/memorable as hell - and not in the immediate way that becomes less gratifying after a week, but in the subtly infectious sort of way where the melodies age like fine wine. Considering how every couple years a new shitty band is anointed as "the saviors of rock n' roll", an album like this which actually does carry the torch should mean that much more to us. This is modern rock executed to perfection.
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

Ideally, this placement would include the Prospekt's March b-sides - but because it doesn't work that way, I'll just talk about how awesome Viva La Vida is anyway. This isn't your typical Coldplay album. It has this dated feel - almost Renaissance era - and is both classically influenced and highly orchestrated. Chris Martin is at his absolute peak vocally and lyrically and the pianos are stunningly elegant, but then the band will also turn around and rock your socks off on a song like 'Violet Hill'. VLV also includes some of Coldplay's most intricate and elaborate compositions, like 'Lovers In Japan/Rein of Love' and 'Yes'. The album's fictional setting might be old, but the music and the message are both timeless; lyrics like "I used to rule the world, seas would rise when I gave the word / I discovered that my castles stand, upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand" could be applied to the collapse of a world powerhouse: if not Rome, maybe America. This is pop music at its very best
19Fleet Foxes

Don't trust someone who tells you Crack-Up isn't the best Fleet Foxes album. All kidding aside though, it's like Helplessness Blues for people who want more out of life. It's got classical/progressive elements, and the songwriting is grander and more intricate. Crack-Up is at its most complex/elaborate on the opener 'I Am All That I Need' and the multi-suite 'Third of May', but it also settles into these lusher moments ('Cassius', 'Fool's Errand') which recall the Fleet Foxes of old. Even at the album's most understated, it boasts a subtle beauty that one rarely hears - like the pan flutes and distantly dancing strings on 'I Should See Memphis', which is one of the band's best songs that nobody ever talks about. This is a swirling thunderstorm of creative indie-folk - it definitely takes some time to grow, but those who afford it the repeated listens that it deserves will be richly rewarded.
18The Dear Hunter
The Color Spectrum (Complete Collection)

Nobody:... Casey Crescenzo: Here's 9 EPs and 36 songs about all the primary colors. If that sounds like a complaint then I apologize though, because this thing is an absolute blessing. Each color has a totally different vibe, and for every possible mood/emotion, there's a Color Spectrum EP to pair with it. As you navigate The Color Spectrum's enormous scope, you'll find blistering electric guitar riffs, sunny pop melodies, lush pianos and acoustics, cool/rehreshing reverb, dance-able beats, over-the-top theatrical choruses, and raw vocals upon a blank canvas. This is The Dear Hunter's true magnum opus (in a catalog where every single release tried to be a magnum opus, lol). Its sheer size works in its favor, but there's also nary a weak track across the entire experience - which is just absurd. This is one of the most ridiculous and awesome things I've ever laid ears on.
OK Computer

I had one hell of a time ranking this and Kid A. The two releases duked it out in my mind for almost a week, but ultimately the sheer strength of the songs on OK Computer prevailed over the conceptual genius of Kid A. But phew, it sure was a fight to the finish. OK Computer is just twelve 5/5 tracks, no big deal. There's not a whole lot for me to wax poetic about other than the fact that this is fucking perfect in every way. 'Subterranean Homesick Alien', 'Let Down', and 'Lucky' are my personal favorites, but I won't accept any debates there - not because I think I'm right, but rather because no favorite tracks on OK Computer can be wrong. I should have played 'Fitter Happier' at my wedding, what an opportunity missed.
Southern Air

Pop-punk > Radiohead. Obviously this ranks so high because (1) it's the best album by one of my favorite bands who accompanied me through my teenage/young adult years, there like a best friend for every new chapter, and (2) it coincided with the week I started dating my wife, and I'm such a silly gushing romantic at heart that I'll never shake those precious memories. The actual music here is less important, but I'll briefly discuss it anyway: Southern Air is like a matured and refined Ocean Avenue. When Ryan Key sang "growing up has just begun" to end WYTTSY, he was leading right into all of the concepts of this record. It's an album that laments heartache and severed relationships, but finally has the confidence to pick itself up and move on. It's such a self-affirming piece of music, and it's capable of getting just about anyone through a tough transition period in their life. Premium pop-punk, exhibit A.
15Tigers on Trains

Imagine that Brand New crafted an acoustic folk record that was produced by Paul Simon, and you basically have Grandfather. This is such a lush, pristine sounding, and meticulously crafted album. The atmosphere is like a misty forest, but it's also oddly intimate and comforting. The lyrics are a blend of existentialism, religion, and general philosophizing. My favorite moment out of many would have to be 'A Year In The Garden Shed', which sees Mason Maggio have a revelation about love ("you thought love was a bullshit lie / until you saw the tears in your mother's eyes") and puts a positive spin on dying ("death is not a curse / it's the only thing that's keeping us alive"). The album is brimming with these kinds of brilliant verses, and between its stripped-down atmospheric beauty and the poetry of its words, Grandfather deserves a whole hell of a lot more recognition than it will ever get.
14Brand New

Daisy is Brand New's most misunderstood release, but it just might age better than any of their other albums. The abrasive, experimental indie-grunge came as a bit of a shock given its blunt loudness, especially on the heels of the more thoughtful and intricately crafted TDAGARIM. It seemed disappointingly simple at the time (think how we all feel about COPE in Manchester Orchestra's discog), but the years have been kind to this: subtle melodies like 'Bed' are impossible to shake, while the ones that impressed us from the start have only seen their legend grow, especially the terrifyingly dark 'Noro'. The album's everlasting mystique is rooted in its cryptic lyrics and hidden messages: take the backwards-masked biblical passage on 'In a Jar'. There's simply more to unravel here than there is on other Brand New albums, and that makes it the most rewarding to return to year-in and year-out.
13The National
High Violet

High Violet takes me back to the harshest breakup I've ever endured. The refrain in 'Sorrow' of "I don't wanna get over you" was my soundtrack for several weeks, and the entire record sort of lends itself to such depressing moods. The atmosphere is airy and forlorn, held aloft by Devendorf's phenomenal drumming and Berninger's tired laments - which makes it sound boring, but it's more like being embraced by a kind and empathetic soul. The album does gather steam as it progresses, ending with the remarkable run of 'Conversation 16', 'England', and 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' - the best 3-song streak in their discog - but even when High Violet lays low and wallows in self-pity, it's done so well that you feel like you're right there with the band, laying on the floor with an old picture in one hand and a bottle in the other. The National are a generation-defining rock band which boasts an unbelievably excellent and consistent catalog: this is the best of that bunch by a mile and a half.
12Jimmy Eat World
Integrity Blues

The best Jimmy Eat World album. For a band that has always thrived on evoking poignant responses that are conducive to memory-making, Integrity Blues is their most potently emotional release. The glowing opener 'You With Me' is the perfect encapsulation of what this album brings to the table: aching desire, heartbreak, and ultimately hope. There's a sense of resolution by the end, where Adkins comes to terms with himself without the need for external affirmation: "Are you alone like me? Alone but not lonely." Integrity Blues does Futures even better; an almost unfathomable concept when you consider how great that album is. It's a testament to how well this pop-punk/alt-rock band has aged.
11Ben Howard
Noonday Dream

Noonday Dream evokes an atmosphere unlike anything I've ever heard before. It's sort of like hallucinating from excessive heat - there's a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness progression across these ten tracks, but it's a combination of hovering, ethereal thoughts and parched, dusty earth. At no point will this album reach out and try to grab you. It's a retreat inward towards a place that becomes more beautiful the longer you chase it. It knows precisely when to wax romantic ("Down here I'll crow for you, you crow for me"), when to send a shiver up your spine ("Someone in the doorway...someone in my hallway"), and when to cut to the bone with a momentary jolt (those electric riffs on 'A Boat To an Island On the Wall'). This is a masterclass in the art of modern ambient songwriting; something that you'd best give some time to sink in before shrugging it off.
10Frightened Rabbit
The Midnight Organ Fight

Listening to Scott Hutchison's greatest achievement following his tragic death isn't as easy as it used to be, but that doesn't take anything away from this. TMOF is a shattered, depressing depiction of addiction, self-loathing, and unimaginable heartache. 'Modern Leper' sounds triumphant despite now-telling lines like, "Well, I am ill but I'm not dead / And I don't know which of those I prefer", or the even more gut-wrenching "Fully clothed, I float away / Down the Forth, into the sea / I think I'll save suicide for another day." Matt Wolfe said it best in his marvelous review: "...we can replace the old narrative with a new one. We can focus not on how he died, but on how he stayed alive." That mindset is so crucial. Depression is an illness, and you can die from it just like any other sickness. Scott fought for years before he finally succumbed, and TMOF is a beautiful distillation of him in the midst of that battle, before he lost the will to fight.
9Brand New
Science Fiction

"If it ends up being their swan song, then we can rest assured that Brand New is going out on their own terms: in peak form, bearing no regrets" -SowingSeason, 8/22/17. It's a shame my career wrap-up statement didn't age as well as the music here, because in spite of the ugly way everything went down, this is still an unbelievale album. It ties together all of the band's previous styles, refines them, and turns them into the most mature and glistening piece in their catalog. 'In the Water' is a breathtaking instance of this, whereas elsewhere they opt for darker and more subdued sounds such as the accidentally prophetic 'Lit Me Up'. Bursting at the seams with lyrical callbacks and thematic Easter Eggs, Science Fiction was literally worth the 8 year wait - it was a lifelong fan's dream ending to a storied career.

An absolute torrential wave, [Untitled] swept mewithoutYou out of existence in the most fitting way possible: screaming at the top of their lungs about God and mental breakdowns. I mean really, if you think about it, that's what so much of mewithoutYou's career has entailed: questioning existence, observing various forms of faith, and struggling with one's own identity. [Untitled] does all those things while crafting several of their best songs: the half melodic, half-distantly-screamed 'Julia', the maelstrom of anger that is 'Wendy & Betsy', the earth-shattering revelations of 'Michael Row Your Boat Ashore', and of course pretty much every other track here. The success of this record was partially set-up by the calm, mostly acoustic untitled EP which preceded it - they were meant to function as something of a yin and yang: the calm before the storm, and then the end of the world. [Untitled] sees it all come crashing down.
The Seer

If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Earth's tectonic plates all shifted, creating a jagged opening down the center of its crust, and hell's most perverted demons just started crawling out of the molten core to wreak havoc - then you're in luck. The Seer sounds like hell on earth: you have witch incantations ('Lunacy'), weird quiet laments ('The Wolf'), sprawling 32 minute drone tracks ('The Seer'), creepy-as-all-fuck borderline-industrial rockers ('The Seer Returns'), the aching, and the creaking wheels of hell churning ('93 Ave. B Blues') - and that's all before you even finish Disc 1 of 2. This thing is 2 hours of absolutely terrifying mischief; a foreboding, ominous, and menacing twin towers. I've never heard anything like this, and I doubt anything I ever hear will live up to the darkness this thing oozes out of each of its greasy pores.
6The Antlers
In the Attic of the Universe

In the Attic of the Universe is what I imagine it feels like to become one with everything. It has this expansive aura that feels larger than just you or me. Silberman sings about ghosts, falling off the face of the Earth, and climbing a seemingly endless series of stairs until he arrives at the meaning of life. It's just got this really ponderous, existential vibe that I cannot resist. It of course helps that the music is utterly gorgeous, moreso than any other Antlers record which is saying a ton - take the galactic magic carpet ride that is 'Shh!' for example. It's a combination of crunchy autumn vibes, ethereal ambience, instrumental tracks, and the whole band rolling on all cylinders - all wrapped up in a tidy 27 minute package. There are few better ways I can spend a half hour.
5Godspeed You! Black Emperor
F♯ A♯ ∞

Remember the first time you heard F#A# and it sounded like a fictional account of the end of the world? Listening to it now, it feels less like fiction and more like prophecy: "The government is corrupt / We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine / And the machine is bleeding to death." Like damn. Maybe we just haven't gotten to the skyline on fire part yet. F#A# is the most well-crafted post-rock album I've ever heard: 3 songs and just over 1 hour, but it never feels like its actual length. The record is captivating from those haunting spoken passages on 'Dead Flag Blues', past that preacher shouting for people to repent on 'East Hastings', and right on through the epic crescendo that concludes 'Providence'. I normally can't even be bothered to listen to a post-rock album more than once; the prevalence of vocal-absent, lyric-less music usually prevents them from having longevity. With F#A#, it's the opposite problem - I can't stop listening to it even after all these years.
4Sufjan Stevens
Carrie and Lowell

Having grown up listening to some of my dad's favorite folk records, I sometimes wondered if the time would ever come when a record would hit me and immediately join those classics - something that my children would one day listen to in awe and wonder. With 2015's Carrie and Lowell, that wait ended. This is a downright gorgeous and depressing album - stripped to both its instrumental and emotional core. Despite how intimate and bare the setting is while Stevens laments the death of his estranged mother, the pastoral acoustic guitars plucks and elegant classical piano notes all still ring out resplendently. It's a tragic, melodic, and beautiful farewell - the likes of which only come along once in a generation.
3The Beach Boys
The Smile Sessions

I'm not sure if including an unreleased album is cheating. Either way, whatever you want to file The Smile Sessions under categorically, this is magnificent. Many of these songs made their way onto future Beach Boys records, but they were often either altered and/or placed into a tracklist where their surroundings didn't complement them so well. This collection contains the album's 20 songs (not counting demos) in what is the closest thing to their original form as we'll ever hear - and the craziest part? These tracks - recorded between 1966 and 1971 - would sound avant-garde if released into today's pop climate. Smile was so far ahead of its time - Brian Wilson's goal was to create the band's very own Sgt Peppers, but honestly this blows that record so far out of the water that it isn't even funny. You can find this collection on most streaming yourself a favor and listen to this immaculate pop opus. It totally changed how I view The Beach Boys.
2Brand New
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

Well there you have it: my longtime favorite record finally falls to #2 (hey at least it was a worthy adversary). What is there to say about TDAG that hasn't already been said? The thing is emotionally, spiritually, and religiously profound. It marked an enormous maturation for Brand New coming off their first two pop-punk albums, launching them into a sphere few thought they were capable of ascending to. This album has been cited as a key influence on so many of the artists we enjoy today, including Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, and mewithoutYou. This proved it was possible for an adolescent pop-punk act to transform into an indie-rock powerhouse - and not only that it was possible, but that it could be done in such a way that it could reshape the entire trajectory of music. This is one of the best alt/indie-rock albums of all time, and until quite recently, it was also my absolute favorite.
1Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface

The changing of the guard. Black Mile is the only album in my life that has hit me harder or closer to home than TDAG. I immediately took to it from a sonic/aesthetic standpoint, but it took becoming a dad to fully appreciate some of the things Hull sings about on here. With another kid on the way later this year, this album only becomes more and more monumental with each passing week. It's such a shimmering, sleek album from a production standpoint, but the lyrics here are dark and heavily focus on the shadows of our ancestry: abuse, alcoholism, and the like. Since there are character limits in these boxes, just go and listen to 'The Silence' for me, okay? Oh, and wait until you hear the new record: it's like Black Mile's sister album.
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