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Sunnyvale's Top 100 Albums (All-Time)

After thinking about making a list like this for years, I'm finally doing it. Ground rules as follows: 1) no limit on albums per artist, although inevitably there was some internal debate comparing an artist's top albums against each other. 2) criteria for inclusion is some mix of current feelings on the album and importance to me in the past (although any album that I don't still enjoy when revisited isn't included) 3) I would expect virtually all albums here are rated at a 5 or 4.5 by me, but the ratings aren't necessarily correlated with order on the list.
100Arcade Fire
The Suburbs

As it was for many people, this was one of my gateways into indie music. While over time I have eventually come to prefer a certain critically acclaimed album by this band (which will be featured further down the list), the album holds up well nonetheless, with many classic tunes and a (mostly) well-executed theme and concept.

A modern bedroom dream pop classic, this is one of those musical gems which makes excessive levels of music consumption worthwhile, with an extremely little known artist releasing one of the best albums of the past decade. Well recommended for anyone who enjoys mellow/catchy/dreamy styles.

Kauan are (in my book) easily one of the best artists of the last twenty years, with a rock-solid discography spanning a wide range of genre influences. It's somewhat ironic then that Kaiho is my favorite of their records, as it is arguably their most one-dimensional, leaning heavily on post-rock. An absolutely beautiful release which draws the listener into its atmosphere.
97Bob Dylan
John Wesley Harding

John Wesley Harding is sort of the black sheep of Bob Dylan's prime era. It is sparse on hits or songs which are considered among the man's greatest masterpieces, but for all that it flows and fits together better than nearly all of his albums. An underrated offering of folk and a touch of country from probably my favorite artist of all time.
96Dr. Dre

You won't find a ton of hip-hop on this list, as my tastes have moved away from the genre pretty hard in recent years. Nonetheless, earlier in my life I was fairly into hip-hop, both mainstream and underground styles. 2001 was a constant presence at that time, a classic release which most of my friends liked as well. While I only occasionally return to this one, it's an incredibly fun listen with the excellent beats, overall catchiness, and entertaining (sometimes laughable) lyrical content.
95The Jayhawks
Hollywood Town Hall

This is one of the great classics of the 90s alt-country movement. The Jayhawks play a style of music influenced by the early country rock pioneers like the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the songs here are fairly laid-back and unpretentious. You won't find a weak track though, this is an excellent release through and through, which rewards a listen under varied circumstances.
94Van Morrison
Saint Dominic's Preview

I'd rank this as my third favorite of Van The Man's releases, which is saying something given his exceptionally high quality level during his heyday. The album has a few weaker moments, but the vast majority of it is brilliant and highly recommended for anyone who wants to venture beyond Astral Weeks and Moondance.
93The White Stripes
White Blood Cells

This was a defining album in my musical development, being perhaps the first album by a more contemporary rock band that I fell in love with, at the time largely listening to the standard classic rock fare. Granted, The White Stripes are fairly retro in some respects, but that gave me an opening to appreciate newer music, which opened the gateway to all sorts of genres. I don't listen to this band much anymore, but this album has held up nicely with lots of songs I still greatly appreciate.
92Kishi Bashi

An almost manically positive/optimistic sounding indie pop album, there's a lot that could wrong with Lighght, but it all works really well. This one narrowly beats out Omoiyari for my favorite Kishi Bashi release.

Crowbar have been one of my favorite metal bands for years, with one of the most consistent discographies anywhere in music. Their self-titled is my favorite, a crushingly heavy sludge release. Also, that No Quarter cover is ridiculously good.
90Tom Petty

Tom Petty was my "first favorite artist", and still one of my defining musical heroes. His body of work stands up well to anyone, despite being more of a song rather than album artist. Wildflowers is arguably his most consistent album, either solo or with the Heartbreakers. A highly-recommended singer-songwriter rock album.
89The Blue Nile

One of my more recent discoveries to make this list. A night-time vibe masterpiece, all the songs here have a wonderful amount of sentimentalism without (somehow) becoming unbearably corny. All the tracks are excellent, with closer Saturday Night competing for my top 10 songs of all time.
88Grateful Dead
American Beauty

A mellow country rock classic, this is ultimately the Grateful Dead's most consistent and best studio album. If you've never deliberately listened to this album, you've probably still heard half the songs, but it all fits together remarkably well too.
87The Clientele
The Violet Hour

I've been pretty much obsessed with The Clientele for the past year or so, a band that gets fair too little attention on this site (many of their excellent albums aren't even reviewed). Very much an artist for a certain mood, all their releases explore the same atmosphere from slightly different angles. The Violet Hour is my favorite of theirs, while it may not have quite the same number of career highlight tracks of compilation Suburban Light (also highly recommended), it is the band at the top of their game and an atmospheric masterwork from start to finish. Expect delicate indie rock/pop with a nocturnal vibe and poetic lyrics which call to mind nostalgia, youth, lost love, and all that jazz.
86Nick Drake
Five Leaves Left

The first of all three Nick Drake LPs to make this list. The beauty of the singer-songwriter's brief but exceptional discography is that each of his masterpieces has a very distinct feel compared to the other two. Five Leaves Left, his debut, sits midway between the other two in terms of both orchestration and depressiveness. The mood has always struck me as warm-weather and outdoorsy, and as such this is one of my go-to records during the summer months. While this is a classic, it's the Nick Drake album I feel the desire to listen to the least, which is why it is ranked below the other two.
85Defiance, Ohio
Midwestern Minutes

I've never understood why this album has significantly lower ratings on Sputnik than this folk-punk band's first two LPs. To my ears, this has always been the most engaging of their releases, infectiously catchy with good lyrics and a boundless amount of emotion. Brilliant little album!
84Galaxie 500
On Fire

Galaxie 500 is another of my relatively recent discoveries which have become staples of my listening. On Fire narrowly beats out Today as my favorite release by the band, while Today is a more sonically varied album it also is a tad more inconsistent in my view. Galaxie 500 gets criticized for all their songs sounding the same, and it's basically a fair critique, particular on this album. Nonetheless, I just love that sound, with its amalgam of indie/slowcore/proto-shoegaze. Great winter album as well.
Fables of the Reconstruction

I've always swore by 80s R.E.M. over everything which came after (although the band has great later material too), but my pick of Fables Of The Reconstruction as my top album is probably an unpopular one. To me though, the folkier approach and Southern Gothic vibes of this album give it an atmospheric edge that tops anything else they ever did. It doesn't hurt that the songs here are very good too, and often incredibly haunting (particularly tunes like Green Grow The Rushes and Wendell Gee).
82The Moody Blues
Days of Future Passed

An influential classic which was one of the earliest examples of progressive rock, the lush classical/rock hybrid of Days Of Future Passed feels dated but still sounds incredible. The concept of the album always blows me away as it's simultaneously extremely simple but also remarkably ambitious to attempt to pull off. I have to be in a certain mood to turn to this album, but every time I am it is sheer brilliance.
81Yo La Tengo
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside...

Yo La Tengo is easily one of my favorite bands, but I will freely admit that all their albums have some flaws, usually inconsistent tracklists. My favorite YLT, featured further down the list, gets that spot because it's the closest they ever came to creating a consistent masterpiece while also retaining a solid vibe throughout. This album gets second billling in my personal YLT ranking, despite honestly not being very consistent in track quality at all. It's a strange beast in that it is a long album, and most of the songs aren't particular highlights. The beauty of it is the atmosphere, which is all-encompassing, and like many YLT albums, the atmosphere completely matches the album artwork. A summer night soundtrack, for sure.
80Townes Van Zandt
Delta Momma Blues

Townes Van Zandt doesn't get enough attention on Sputnik, but is nonetheless easily one of the greatest country artists of all time. His discography is solid throughout, but Delta Momma Blues is my pretty clear-cut choice for his top album. This is an album full of extremely powerful songwriting. Also, I'm not sure you'll ever find a song which packs as much lyrical brilliance and emotional devastation into under three minutes as "Only Him Or Me".

This is my all time favorite dark folk album. Both of Vali's LPs are masterpieces, but I find the songs here slightly more memorable than those on Forlatt. This album feels so rustic in a mysterious way. One of my go-to winter albums.
78Bark Psychosis

One of the influential early post-rock classic releases, this album has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. Hex explores a wide variety of moods from peaceful to unsettling, and evokes a great night-time atmosphere. It also has probably my all-time favorite album artwork. YOU KNOW IT'S THE BIGGEST JOKE OF ALL...
77The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

Outside of a few songs here and there, I've never fully gotten into The Decemberists' early to mid-era output. That changes with their transition to a new sound on The King Is Dead. This album's rousing brand of country rock and folk rock always hit the spot with me, but it's aged incredibly well. This is an endlessly catchy LP with impressive lyrics by turn witty and touching.
A Farewell to Kings

Rush has long been a staple of my listening habits, one of those bands which survived my earlier "classic rock phase" to be a long-time favorite. Honestly, there's four Rush albums which are very close in quality for me (including this one), so three of them very narrowly missed inclusion on this list. A Farewell To Kings was the first full Rush album I got into, and still a strong contender for their best work in my view. It's also nice in that it melds their proggy and more radio-friendly hard rock sides in a way that few of their other efforts do.
75Big Thief

Big Thief is undoubtedly one of my favorite recent indie bands, but U.F.O.F. took me by surprise nonetheless with its astounding quality. To me, it's definitely a step above everything else they've released to this point. There's some almost undefinable quality which sets this album far apart from the sea of similar indie folk/rock acts around these days. A ton of magical moments on this record, and a wondrous vibe that I don't quite get from any other album.
74The Radio Dept.
Lesser Matters

I've gotten into this Swedish band within the last year or two, their brand of shoegazey/dreamy stuff mixed with more straightforward indie/alt rock really hits the spot for me. While their whole discography is quite good, the debut Lesser Matters is definitely their strongest work in my opinion. Really no weak tracks in my view, and a very affecting bittersweet tone throughout.
73Gregory Alan Isakov
This Empty Northern Hemisphere

This guy is undoubtedly one of the best folk singer-songwriters to come along in the 21st century so far, but I'd argue that this album is a clear step over any of his other releases. This Empty Northern Hemisphere felt like a masterpiece from the first time I heard it, every song is great and GAI holds a solemn and romantic vibe throughout (also lyrically brilliant as well).
72Kanye West

While my hip-hop listening has fallen off quite a bit in recent years, I still hold true to my long-standing claim of Kanye being my favorite artist in the genre. Graduation might be an unpopular pick for his best work, but I find it easily his most listenable in an album format. It's a very consistent release not bogged down by skits or bloated tracklists, which is all the more impressive given this is Kanye's take on pop-rap, a style definitely not known for being "all killer, no filler". Upon my occasional returns, Graduation still impresses. Great beats, enjoyable lyrics, all around solid songs from start to finish.
Ashes Against the Grain

Agalloch was one of the first metal bands I really got into, and while I don't listen to them nearly as much as I used to, several of their albums are still pretty heavy on my fall and winter rotation. The Mantle narrowly missed inclusion on this list, which Ashes Against The Grain edging it out as my favorite Agalloch release. This is a masterful set of songs which shows the band at the top of their game.
70Bruce Springsteen
The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle

Springsteen's golden era in the 70s and 80s contains about a half-dozen albums which drew consideration for the list, but ultimately this is the first of only two of his records to be included. I've always been a big fan of The Boss' early work, although I find his debut to be a bit underdeveloped compared to the later music. This album, his sophomore release, really sees Springsteen come into his own, even though the style her is a lot more fluid jams than the tighter songs he would write later. All seven tracks here are top notch and this album has a full-of-life feel that captures something no other music really does.
69Miles Davis
In A Silent Way

I got my first significant education in jazz a few years ago when I read a Miles Davis biography, and followed along by listening to many of albums mentioned (both by Davis himself and other figures in the jazz world). While I discovered a lot of great works this way, and learned a lot about an unfamiliar genre, this is the one LP which has stuck with me above all the others. In A Silent Way is rich, atmospheric listen which is really set apart from anything else in the jazz world, certainly up to that point, and has influenced a lot of experimental, ambient, and post-rock which came later.

One of my favorite indie bands, Sparklehorse have an excellent discography but no perfect albums, always marred by having a few too many songs which results in inconsistent quality. That said, the almost unpronounceable debut album is their most reliably brilliant. So many incredible songs on this album, but special shout-outs to Saturday, Cow, and Sad And Beautiful World.
Blast Tyrant

The first band that really got me into stoner rock and metal, Clutch have a consistently solid and long-running discography. For all that though, Blast Tyrant blows the rest of their releases out of the water, to my ears. From start to finish, this album is the best of Clutch with absurdly catchy tunes, great riffage, and witty lyricism. All of these things can also be found throughout the rest of Clutch's discography, but never this consistently.
66Blue Mountain
Dog Days

The finest album from one of 90s alt-country more overlooked bands, Dog Days is a near-forgotten classic. I reviewed this one years ago, so check the review out of if you want to learn more. This is an album with a great "sunny day, sitting on the porch, drinking a beer" kind of vibe, with a backwoods feel mixing traditional rock, country, folk, and blues to a very satisfying result. There's a lot of classic tunes on here, but I can single out Blue Canoe, Wink, and Let's Go Running as some of the best alt-country/Americana songs of all time.
At the Heart of Winter

Immortal's long been one of my favorite black metal bands, I've enjoyed all of their albums to various degrees. At The Heart Of Winter is ultimately my hands down favorite, with its tasty mix of cutting blackened riffs with progressive stylings. Immortal really perfected their sound on this LP and really set themselves apart from sounding at all like any of their peers.
64The Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

This album was one of my gateways into 90s rock. While it's way too long and could've dropped a half-dozen songs without any issues, I've always been appreciative of the band's grandiose vision of what they were going for, and the large majority of the results are impressive. In terms of sheer numbers, I could make the case that this has more personal classic songs than any other album of any band ever. This is an album which also showcased the band's great versatility, with highlights ranging from grungy rockers to soft ballads to epic proggy pieces.
63My Morning Jacket
The Tennessee Fire

Another possibly controversial pick, the only MMJ album on the list is The Tennessee Fire, with the second lowest Sputnik average rating of their LPs. MMJ is one of my favorite bands, and while I love their revered classics like It Still Moves and Z, there's just something about their debut album. The Tennessee Fire is no exception from MMJ's unfortunate tendency to have some filler in their albums, but this one has a drenching atmosphere which grips the listener throughout. If you haven't heard this album, prepare yourself for a different sound than you expect from MMJ. While traces of their original sound can be heard on At Dawn, the rest of their albums are far removed from this sound. This one is essentially rustic folk/country meets indie rock, with exceptionally lo-fi recording. The production is pretty crazy, but it actually works to the band's benefit, the brilliance of many songs still shining through and the haziness providing a sort of night-time lonesomeness to the pieces.
62The Verve
A Storm in Heaven

What a great album... While The Verve had a great discography, they never topped their debut LP, with its fairly unique mixture of shoegaze, alt-rock, and psychedelia, The sound hits you like a ton of bricks (not to mention the album cover is awesome), but beyond that there's just a bunch of killer songs to be found here.
61Tom Waits
The Heart of Saturday Night

I've never been able to get into the more renowned later portions of Tom Waits' career, but I've always loved his first few singer-songwriter albums. The Heart Of Saturday Night is easily my favorite of his works. This one has such a distinctive vibe, it's like the jazzy soundtrack to an old speakeasy, start spinning this and you can immediately smell the bourbon and cigars. One of my go-to nocturnal albums, full of great lyrics and sentimental songwriting.

I'm typically more appreciative of older 70s era prog rock than the more contemporary era, but Gazpacho is an exception. They're a band I know will reliably put their name to a strong release. Demon is definitely their masterpiece in my view, the whole album is relatively accessible but also moody and indeed, pretty creepy, which befits the themes. There's several moments where I get goosebumps no matter how many times I've listened to the album.
59The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main St.

Despite my early musical preferences for classic rock, it took me a long time to get into the Rolling Stones. Eventually I did though, their classic period is among the best the genre has to offer. Exile On Main Street is the only Stones LP to make this list, even though Sticky Fingers could make the case for their best album. Nonetheless, this one takes the cake for me. It's a long-winded, sprawling masterpiece seeped in drink and drugs, a perfect canvas for the band's gritty, sleazy brand of rock. An essential album.
58The Twilight Sad
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters

This Scottish band has always been one of my modern favorites, but I doubt they'll ever top the magic of their debut. The striking shoegaze-adjacent songs presented here really set their own atmosphere and style which sounds like nothing else. One of my winter night go-to records.
57Jason Isbell
The Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell is in the conversation for best songwriter of the past few decades, but no release of his has ever hit me as hard as this one. Part of it is just timing, I think, this record really captured the sense of existential angst which prevailed in the US during the Trump era. Ultimately, though, the songs here speak for themselves. A very consistent album with many classics like Tupelo, Chaos And Clothes, and Something To Love.
56Van Morrison

The second of three Van Morrison albums to make this list, Moondance is perhaps the most accessible of his classic period albums, although it's grown on me steadily since first hearing it. A distinctive mix of pop, soft rock, folk, and blue eyed soul, there's no weak songs here. Moondance is a timeless album that shows one of the greatest artists ever at the top of his game.
55Phoebe Bridgers

Punisher is my favorite new release in years. While I was a big fan of Stranger In The Alps, I was surprised by how much I loved this one. Ultimately, I expect the degree to which it connected with me is due to the craziness of the year 2020, and how resonant some of the lyrics and themes of this album were. An album where every song grew on me like crazy, and holds up today.
54Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy always fall into the same bucket as Blue Oyster Cult for me, "great 70s hard rock bands now sadly overlooked". While the band had a reliably great discography, Jailbreak is their only album I'd definitively describe as a classic. I could make an argument that this is the greatest guitar album of all time, there so many riffs and solos which are absolutely amazing, and the tone is remarkable. The songwriting on this album is the band at their best as well, even with a few slighter weaker tracks this is an essential work.
53Nick Drake
Pink Moon

Nick Drake's most universally revered album is the second of his LPs to appear on this list. Pink Moon was my gateway into his music, and I'm not sure I've ever been as obsessed with an album as I was with it for the first few months. This is Nick Drake at his darkest and most sparse, and it's an essential night-time listen for me. That said, this is a very specific mood piece at this point, and as such it has been by-passed by other of his records for the top spot in his catalog.
52Billy Joel
The Stranger

Billy Joel was one of the earliest artists I got into, during my (late) dive into music fandom. To this day, his discography holds up as some of the best pop-rock singer-songwriter stuff around. The Stranger is his clear peak (although I could at least entertain arguments for Turnstiles). You've probably already heard most of the songs on this album more than you can count, as most of the tracklist is top oldies radio fodder at this point. Brilliant stuff, any album with Scenes From An Italian Restaurant and Vienna back to back has to be in my top 100.
51Electric Light Orchestra

As a generally casual fan of ELO, it always blows me away that Time isn't considered the clear-cut consensus pick for their best release. This has it all, a grandiose sci-fi concept, diverse musical styles combining prog, pop, and Beatlesque rock (among others), and a massive helping of cheesiness. An immensely fun album from start to finish, one that I find far more consistent than ELO's more frequently acclaimed releases. Even the bonus tracks on this one are brilliant.
50The Menzingers
On the Impossible Past

I'm the rare breed of Menzingers fan who doesn't hold On The Impossible Past as their favorite album in the collection (it's the first of two Menzingers LPs to make this list). For the longest time, I found this one to be half-brilliant, half songs which are decent but nothing special. In recent years, the supposedly lesser songs have pretty much all slowly grown on me, so at this point I have to admit the consensus was right... On The Impossible Past is a classic, however you want to define the band''s chosen genre, this is one of the best examples out there.
49David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

David Bowie has emerged as one of my all-time favorite artists over the past few years, and he has a number of albums which were close to making this list. Ultimately though, this is the only one to appear. Ziggy Stardust (not writing the whole title out) is easily, of my favorite Bowie albums, the one that's most easily listenable in a variety of moods. It may not be the most consistent album, but the best songs here are absurdly brilliant and even the weaker tracks are thoroughly enjoyable. Just the bookends alone make this album deserve to be on this list.
48American Football
American Football

I have pretty particular tastes in emo, while I theoretically love the genre, I'm pretty picky about the bands therein which I fall hard for. The end result is that the bulk of my emo listening is comprised of a few choice artists, many towards the indie and post-rock fringes, so basically things heavily influenced by this album. There's not a ton to say about this classic which hasn't already been said: the instrumentals are gorgeous, and the lyrics might be adolescent but the feeling and the musicality of it all makes it seem brilliant. In a certain mood, there's nothing better than this album.
47Iron And Wine
Our Endless Numbered Days

I'm at least a casual fan of all of Iron And Wine's material, but I have a definite preference for Sam Beam's early material, particularly the first I & W albums. Our Endless Numbered Days is my choice for his best, still embracing the pretty bare-bones folk of the debut while providing some of the best catchiness in his whole discography. For whatever reason, this album always hits me harder in warm weather, and as such it's one of my go-to albums summer after summer. I also want to mention that the album title is one of the best turns of phrase I've ever heard, really captures the essence of living and the passage of time.
46The Tallest Man On Earth
There's No Leaving Now

This is the first of three albums by The Tallest Man On Earth on this list, he may be my pick for the most consistently great artist of the 21st century so far. All of his LPs thus far were in strong contention for my top 100. This album was, strangely enough, the first of his albums I fell hard for, and while it's no longer my favorite, it still holds up extremely well. There's No Leaving Now has a more nocturnal vibe for me than his other works, with a sort of strange mix of comforting and desolate vibes which somehow works great. As always, the lyrical content and guitar work is top-notch.
45Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d city

This album came out right in the middle of my college years, and for the better part of a year it was omnipresent, with either myself or one of my friends or acquaintances playing it seemingly nonstop. It's a mark of the album's quality that hearing it so much hasn't worn it thin on my ears. The last hip-hop album to make this list, as this is perhaps my top go-to when I do revisit some of my old favorites in the genre. A modern classic.

I still haven't made it all the way through Destroyer's discography (I've largely heard his more recent works), but I know enough to realize this is a weird choice for Dan Bejar's top album. Nonetheless, this is the Destroyer album I gravitate towards the most (it was my first experience with Destroyer, which may help explain it). This is one of those albums where I love every song, and it has a distinctive style to it that no other album provides in the same way. Lyrically, this is a fascinating album as well, I can't make head nor tail of most of them in terms of meaning but the delivery and style is brilliant.
In Rainbows

It took me a long time to appreciate Radiohead to the fullest, and many of their albums are still growing on me. At this stage, In Rainbows is the one of their albums which I've deeply connected with. In many ways, it feels like their quintessential record to me, with its fusion of their rock-ier and more experimental sides. Not a bad song here, and many of their best tunes (in my humble view).

This is the album that got me into grunge, and still my favorite in the style. A long album, but one that is remarkably consistent. The band's at the top of their game, delivering classic after classic, and I have too many favorite songs on here to name. A masterpiece, fusing grunge with classic rock and metal influences.
41Arcade Fire

Funeral has steadily grown on me over time, slowly emerging as my favorite of Arcade Fire's releases. This is a fun album in that it's one of the last (arguably, THE last) which was almost universally revered by underground music fans, and as such it's an easy reference point since most music fans know what you're talking about. A classic which is worthy of the hype, really no weak songs and a great theme. This album always gets more play for me in the winter months (probably something to do with the frequent references to power outages, snow, etc.)
40Simon And Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon And Garfunkel were one of the earliest artists I got really into, and there whole discography is still close to my heart. That said, I think all their albums have at least a sliver of filler material. Bridge Over Troubled Water is their LP with the least, by far, and much of the songs here are among their peak work. A touchstone of folk music and a true classic, this is an album I know I will always come back to at least somewhat regularly.

This is my favorite shoegaze album. So many classic songs on this one, with the bookends Alison and Dagger being perhaps my favorite. What elevates this one even more is that there's a subtle emotional element to this album which isn't found in a lot of releases in this genre (or at least doesn't come through as well).
38Black Sabbath
Master of Reality

Definitely my top Black Sabbath album, this is a fairly short record filled with nonstop brilliance. It's hard to think of an album in any genre which has had as much influence on future music as this one, but even ignoring that this is one of the best metal LPs ever released. I don't listen to this one nearly as much as I used to, but when I do it still greatly impresses.
37Son Volt

Once the alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo split up, their two songwriters formed separate bands, Wilco and Son Volt. While Wilco rose to far greater prominence in the future, Son Volt's first album Trace is my favorite release from either band. An absolutely essential alt-country/Americana release, a collection of sad and deeply affecting countryish songs along with some grungy rockers. Jay Farrar is one of my favorite lyricists, and he's in top form on this album.
36Dire Straits
Dire Straits

These days, Dire Straits definitely seems like one of the most overlooked artists in the pantheon of "classic rock" bands. Their discography is consistently excellent, but their debut remains my favorite as it's their most consistent from start to finish in my opinion. A masterpiece collection of melancholy blues rock, amazing guitar playing and touching lyrics. Highly recommended if you've never heard anything outside of Sultans Of Swing.
Scheherazade and Other Stories

One of my favorite prog rock bands, Renaissance achieved decent prominence in the 70s but aren't remembered so much today. Their folk and classical influenced approach still sounds great, and the vocals of Annie Haslam are one of my favorites of all time. This is their most consistent album in my opinion, gorgeous stuff.
34The Tallest Man On Earth
Shallow Grave

The Tallest Man On Earth's first LP is a classic which laid the groundwork for his brilliant discography to come. A little rawer, especially vocally, then his later works, even The Wild Hunt, but the style suits him and the quality of the tracks here is almost flawless. A brilliant release which would easily be the best thing in 99% of artists' discographies, but not quite TTMOE's best.
33Waylon Jennings
Honky Tonk Heroes

My favorite traditional country album, and an essential for anyone with an interest in the genre. Waylon Jennings is undoubtedly one of the greatest country artists of all time, and this is his peak. Most of the songs here were Billy Joe Shaver compositions, but Waylon makes them his own in impressive fashion. Expect awesome vocals and lyrics and a raw and rugged outlaw sound.
Selling England by the Pound

The best album by my favorite band in the 70s prog movement. Selling England By The Pound is a prog tour-de-force, you could argue a few moments here are unnecessary but any fluff is more than overshadowed by the prolonged stretches of absolute brilliance. Stuff like Firth Of Fifth and The Cinema Show is absolutely untouchable.
A Sun That Never Sets

The first Neurosis album I was able to get into, and still my definite favorite after they've emerged as one of my top bands. This one has sort of a mystical vibe, with its folkier influences despite being crazy heavy at times. Also some absolutely top notch vocal performances.
30Bob Dylan
Bringing It All Back Home

The second of three Bob Dylan albums to appear on this list. Despite being divided into electric and acoustic sides, this album has always flowed better to my ears than many of Dylan's (all brilliant) 60s and 70s records. This is Dylan at the top of his game, gorgeous melodies at times, gritty musical accompaniment at others, and lyrical brilliance (and a lot of wit) throughout. So many classics, a must listen.
29The Beatles
Abbey Road

This is the first of two Beatles records to make the list. The Beatles were the first band I really got into, and still a staple of my listening. I'd say Abbey Road is my pick for their "objective" best record, an ambitious effort which is thoroughly consistent from start to finish. However, it gets edged out narrowly in my personal preference by another of their albums. Nonetheless, this is a classic which is still easily among my all-time favorites.
28Magnolia Electric Co
Magnolia Electric Co

All of Jason Molina's projects are some of my favorite alt-country, the guy has great discography. Nonetheless, this album, whether considered to be under the Magnolia Electric Co or the Songs: Ohia moniker (it's complicated) is definitely his peak. A near-flawless record which has grown steadily on me over the years, lyrically, musically, and emotionally gripping stuff.
27Yo La Tengo

My favorite release by one of my favorite bands. As mentioned in an earlier entry, Yo La Tengo's primary weakness has been an inability to maintain consistent quality through virtually any of their albums. Painful is the closest they ever came to avoiding this drawback, and as such it's my pick for their best. This is an incredible collection of songs which both cover the diversity of the band's sound and fit well together with a great flow. For me, this is an essential summer record, the hazy vibe of the sound conjures up the feel of heat and sunlight instantaneously.
26Creedence Clearwater Revival
Cosmo's Factory

There's probably never been a band that packed so many all-time classic songs into such a short period of activity as CCR in the late 60s. They're sort of a weird case where I would consider them a "song" band rather than an "album" band, but most of their albums are classics anyway because they have so many classic songs that they dominate their album's tracklists anyway. Cosmo's Factory is hands down their best album even with this solid competition though, a fairly lengthy effort with no letdown from start to finish. CCR excels on here with anything from short bursts of rock-and-roll energy to menacing pyschedelia to extended jams. One of the greatest rock albums of all time, if you haven't heard this listen to it immediately.
25The National
High Violet

The first of three albums by The National to make my top 25. Honestly, my favorite of the top trio of albums by these guys changes by the day, but I'd say High Violet is one I'd put highest the least commonly, so here it is. Pretty much an untouchable album, with little to no weaknesses. A lot of the band's most essential tracks, and it flows great.
24Nick Drake
Bryter Layter

While all three of Nick Drake's albums are pretty heavily acclaimed, Bryter Layter seems to be the one of the three with the least praise. Ultimately, this isn't too surprising, this album is his most diverse musically and least depressing, which stands out given his (primarily Pink Moon-inspired) image as a sparse, dark artist. Over time, though, this album has grown to become my most regular go-to Nick Drake release. The songs here are just gorgeous, and the record as a whole has an autumnal feel with plenty of melancholy, even if it's pretty bright by the man's standards.
Axioma Ethica Odini

Enslaved is a strong contender for my favorite band in any metal genre, and Axioma Ethica Odini is my clear favorite of all their works. While it has plenty of heavy moments, this album really thrives by the band's adoption of proggy textures and elements, which I think are integrated more flawlessly here than in any of the band's other releases of this period. A classic through every single song.
22The Appleseed Cast
Mare Vitalis

The peak of one of my all-time favorite bands, The Appleseed Cast. The band has alternated between emo, indie rock, and post-rock directions throughout their discography, with this release leaning towards emo but with influences from other genres. A solid, engaging listen throughout with an immense amount of charm. This one also has beautiful artwork which you will likely recognize.
21The Beatles
Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul has long been my personal favorite among the The Beatles' impressive collection of albums. It's not their most ambitious, but as a collection of songs, it's thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. I like the folkier style presented here, and the songs are extremely catchy (as always for the band). There's also a ton of relatively overlooked gems on here (such as You Won't See Me and Michelle).
20The Lawrence Arms
Oh! Calcutta!

The Lawrence Arms' finest album, a masterpiece of melodic but still gritty punk. Relentlessly catchy, clever lyrics, and a surprising amount of emotional depth. This is an album which took years and years to grow on me, but once it hit fully it's blown me away with every listen.
19Fleet Foxes

The consensus view is that Fleet Foxes are a very consistent band, and it's true that each of their LPs is one of the finest works indie folk has to offer. That said, Crack-Up has emerged over time as my definitive choice for the band's best work, and the only one of their albums to make this list (although others were close to inclusion). A lot has been written about Crack-Up being Fleet Foxes' most ambitious and artsy record, and that's true. However, the complexities and progressive touches provided here shouldn't obscure that the band still has their trademark sense of melody and sheer beauty, it's just a bit more subtle here in a way that requires more listens to fully appreciate. A brilliant album, all told, from start to finish. This has become one of my go-to summer records, it always hits me even more strongly during that season.
Marquee Moon

Television's Marquee Moon is a bit of an outlier on this list, as it's generally considered a post-punk classic, and that genre is far from my forte (I've heard a fair amount of the essentials, and generally liked but not loved them). That said, there's something magical about this album, and it really sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. The guitar playing here is amazing, as are the eerie and dreamlike lyrics, and together it all creates an atmosphere like nothing else. A remarkable album that gets better every time I hear it.
17Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin was one of the defining bands of my taste early in my music-listening life, and I still love them dearly. Every one of their releases is either a classic or at least "pretty damn great", but at the same time they typically have a track or two which doesn't quite measure up to the rest. Houses Of The Holy has been my longtime favorite record by the band, and I still feel it holds up the best as a complete album. Easily one of the greatest rock albums of all time, quality from start to finish, and there's something mystically wonderful about starting off with Robert Plant singing "I had a dream..." and ending with the "so good, so good, so good". Stone cold classic.
16Uncle Tupelo

There's some fierce competition, but Anodyne is my pick for the greatest alt-country album of all time. This is Uncle Tupelo's swan song before the band's two great songwriters went their separate ways to form Son Volt and Wilco, and it's a remarkable work. The band has largely shed their previous strong punk tendencies to focus on melding mellower rock with country and folk here, and it feels like a more traditional release. There's an absurd amount of brilliant songs here, and atmospherically this a dreary but somewhat comforting release, with the nihilism of previous releases toned down a bit. Definitely a record everyone should hear at least once.
15Built To Spill
Perfect from Now On

This is easily Built To Spill's defining statement in my opinion. A classic indie album which sounds like no other, with its progressive structures and brilliant guitar playing, this is an essential release regardless of musical preferences. No weak songs on here, and some of the best musical moments of all time as well.
14The National

The second of three albums by The National to appear on this list. As previously mentioned, each of these three can be argued to be my favorite by the band, depending on the day. Alligator was my first experience with The National, and the first one I learned to appreciate, and as such was the gateway into one of my top artists. As such, it has great sentimental value, but beyond that this is just a great release. I might say it's marginally less consistent than their other two albums on this list, but it's got an incredible list of highlights as well. This is The National's most nocturnal album for me, and one of my go-to night time listens.
Pale Horses

I've steadily gotten further and further into mewithoutYou in recent years, but this is hands down my favorite of their releases, and the only I'd readily identify as a classic. For one thing, Pale Horses epitomizes the band's sound with its mix of indie rock and heavier elements. Beyond that, the thematic focus is brilliant and the songs themselves are a nonstop run of greatness. Beautiful, emotive stuff which also simply rocks really hard at the right times.
Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler

Ulver's diverse catalog includes great albums exploring a vast array of genre sounds, and I like pretty much all of their attempts. That said, they've never topped this debut album in my book. Bergtatt is a highly-influential blending of black metal and Scandinavian folk music, and it's really never been surpassed by any of its successors in the style. This is an atmospheric masterpiece and, if I had to choose, my top winter album of all time.
11The Menzingers
Chamberlain Waits

LIkely an unusual pick for the best Menzingers record, but I've always absolutely loved this record. Chamberlain Waits is perhaps the catchiest album from start to finish that I've ever heard, and it balances this with strong lyrics and some emotional staying power. This one also has numerous of the band's best tracks. Definitively give this one another chance if you've written it off.
10There Will Be Fireworks
The Dark, Dark Bright

I've become a fan of quite a few of the indie bands which have popped in Scotland in the past decade or so, but none of their albums have ever hit me as hard as this one. There Will Be Fireworks crafted a masterpiece here by fusing indie, folk, emo, post-rock, and whatever else into a seamless, brilliant sound. The album ties together thematically exceptionally well, and the songs here, whether dejected ditties or propulsive belters, are awesome without fail. This is an album which I connected with in my younger years when I first heard it, but most of a decade later it only hits harder. We can dream of a follow-up release one of these days, but if it never happens the band went out on an incredible high note.
9The War On Drugs
Lost In The Dream

This album came out during a rough patch of my college years, and helped me get through it, so I have a deep emotional attachment to it. Truth be told though, I'd probably love this album regardless, as The War On Drugs' influences of Dylan/Springsteen/Petty/Dire Straits, etc. filtered through modern indie/shoegaze/Americana is basically tailor made for my musical preferences. While the band's discography is all class in my view, this is definitely their peak. These songs rock (in their mild and winding way), but they're also deeply touching tunes with a ton of emotional potency. 100% modern classic in my book.
8The Gaslight Anthem
The '59 Sound

There was a time (probably even a few years) where I would've identified this as my favorite album. My tastes have shifted over the years and I come back to this LP (and the band) a lot less frequently these days, but when I give this the occasional spin I inevitably recall why I held it in such high regard. The Gaslight Anthem was firing on all cylinders with this release, and the vast majority of the tracklist here can be held up to the best tunes on their other albums, and several of the songs here (like Old White Lincoln and Here's Looking At You, Kid) are some of my all-time favorite tracks. This is a nostalgic masterpiece which soundtracked a lot of my more younger days, and as such will always bring back a ton of memories every time I spin it. "Don't wait to long to come home, my how the years and our youth pass on"
7Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here

Despite my appreciate for classic rock, prog, and psych music, I've never fallen too hard for Pink Floyd. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy all their classics and appreciate their significance, but they've never become one of my top artists. That said, Wish You Were Here is easily my favorite of their releases, and beyond that, it's the most fundamentally "perfect" album I've ever heard. Pretty much every record, even one I think is a hard 5, has a few issues I could quibble with, but this one really doesn't, from start to finish it's just pure brilliance. Wish You Were Here doesn't get the #1 spot as other albums have a little bit more connection with me personally, but this one has as few flaws as I've ever heard on any album.
6Van Morrison
Astral Weeks

Van Morrison has as good of a discography as anyone, but this is clearly his best album as a whole. Just a stunning masterpiece, there's really that sounds like this, with Van the Man weaving a wide variety of genres into one dreamlike sequence. Both the instrumentation and the vocals here are one of a kind, and lyrically this is one of my favorite albums of all time as well. There's so many powerful moments on this one, it may take a listener a while to fully appreciate but it's a journey well worth taking. Absolute brilliance!
5Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run

Probably my pick for the greatest straight-up "rock" album of all time. While The Boss has a solid discography with many classic albums, all with a distinctive style, this is pretty clearly the pinnacle, virtually all impressive from start to finish and with most of the songs here being stunning classics. Born To Run just rocks, and the lyrics and thematic elements make this even better. An essential record which will always be one of my favorites.
4The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt

The strongest effort in The Tallest Man On Earth's almost impossibly strong career output. The Wild Hunt is essentially the perfect folk album, filled with brilliant songs, effortlessly catchy melodies, and shrewd lyrics which feel like Kristian Mattson is pouring out his heart and soul. Too many highlights here to count, suffice to say that the every song absolutely rules.
3The State Lottery
When the Night Comes

I came across this album on Sputnik not long after its release date, so nearly a decade ago now. It's an album I immediately connected with, and it's only grown on me with time. It's always great when you discover a nearly unknown band that rocks your sock off, and this is exactly the situation with this one. The State Lottery only ever followed up this album with a two song EP, so for all intents and purposes When The Night Comes was their final statement of intent as a band, but it leaves an impression. The music here is raucous Americana punk, very catchy with strong lyrics and, ultimately, a great life-affirming feeling with emotional depth. I've probably heard this record too many times and have too many sentimental attachments to this album to look at it dispassionately, but just give it a try.
2The National

I won't say I definitely believe this album is the top release of The National's storied discography, as Alligator and High Violet both surpass it sometimes in my view, depending on the day. However, Boxer is the album by the band that most regularly fills that spot, and I can certainly say it's the band's most consistent effort, and arguably also their quintessential album, as it most closely adheres to the sound and style one expects from the band. There's no weak moments here, the album flows impeccably well, and the lyrics are both touching and sharp, as we all expect from the band. An indie rock masterpiece.
1Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks

It's absurdly difficult for me to pick a single album as my favorite of all time at this point in my life, but if I have to this is going to be it. Bob Dylan's music has been a reliably strong portion of my listening habits for the vast majority of my time as a music fan, and this is definitely my favorite of his albums. This one gets a lot of plaudits as the greatest heartbreak album ever, and while that's probably true, it really works in a lot of formats. The songs here are brilliant without exception, with timeless melodies and (especially) lyrics. The album starts with the wondrous Tangled Up In Blue and ends with the crushing Buckets Of Rain, and arguably there's a ton of songs in between which surpass both of those tunes. I could go on and on about this album's remarkable quality, but for now I'll just say it takes the #1 spot, "blame it all on a simple twist of fate".
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