Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.
Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.
Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.
We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.
That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…
(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)
70. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left
69. Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun
68. Best Coast, Crazy for You
67. Green Day, Dookie
66. M83, Saturdays=Youth
65. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra
64. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
63. U2, The Joshua Tree
62. The Black Keys, thickfreakness
61. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head
A CLOSER LOOK AT…
#67: Green Day, Dookie
A song with a killer bass line and lyrics about polishing the skin flute…that’s what piqued my interest in Green Day. Then I bought Dookie, and found myself absolutely enamored with all the simple things that make rock n roll great: an amazingly tight rhythm section, a catchy sequence of power chords, faux-British-accented vocals, lyrics about having a blast and burning out and “paradise” and wasting other people’s time and being paranoid and/or stoned and hearing someone cry aloud out all the way across town and being told to fuck off and die.
I think Dookie came along at a perfect time. Grunge was running its course, especially with the death of Kurt Cobain, but I was still interested in non-flashy guitar-driven rock. Green Day provided that. The band had matured into better songwriters and stepped up their production values after two solid albums (the debut compilation of LP and EPs, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, is a definite indicator of the potential, even with a lesser drummer). The glossiness of Dookie never bothered me, just like I had no reason to despise the sound of Nirvana’s Nevermind compared with the sludgy sound of the $606 production of Bleach. I was also in a new town when I started listening to Dookie in earnest. I was making new friends in Ames and enjoying life and more often than not we had songs such as “Having a Blast” on the sound system while, erm, having a blast.
I thought Green Day had additional bright moments over the years, but nothing that burned as bright as this piece of shit from 1994. From the first two touches of the high hat that kick off “Burnout” to the last quiet bits of the jokey “hidden track” that followed “F.O.D.,” this was youthful joy. I never reach for the skip button when listening to this album, and the songs have aged well over the subsequent two decades.
And if you don’t like it, you can F.O.D.
#63: U2, The Joshua Tree
Many people like to romanticize that Nirvana (more specifically, Nevermind) killed hair metal. For me, it was The Joshua Tree.
When U2’s fifth album came out in 1987, I was listening to a lot of “awesome” music; that spring, I probably played my Poison tape more than anything. Then the song “With or Without You” hit the radio and music video rotation, and I was intrigued. Then I heard the whole album, and found myself really drawn to the two songs that ended up being the next two singles, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” And the bombast of “Bullet the Blue Sky.” And Bono’s yowls on “Trip Through Your Wires.” And “The Edge guitar sound” on “In God’s Country.”
And the quiet hush of “Running to Stand Still,” which I included in my #61-70 sampler above. I found so much to enjoy about the lyrics:
Sweet the sin
Bitter taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out
You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice
You know I took the poison
From the poison stream
Then I floated out of here
Suddenly, singing along to “‘Cause baby we’ll be at the drive-in, in the old man’s Ford, behind the bushes, ’til I’m screamin’ for more” seemed juvenile, even to a hormonal 13-year-old dude. Admittedly, it’s not like I immediately threw away my Look What the Cat Dragged In cassette after hearing The Joshua Tree. But I never bought Open Up and Say…Ahhh!; I did get Rattle and Hum when it came out and plucked War from the back catalog and started giving bands like R.E.M. a try when joining the BMG tape club.
Before The Joshua Tree, my lone exposure to U2 was watching Bono leaping down into the crowd (sort of) during the 1985 Live Aid broadcast (I was really annoyed, because I was waiting and hoping to see–surprise!–Duran Duran). I had no idea that in two years, this band of Irishmen would seriously alter the way I listened to and appreciated music. And I believe The Joshua Tree is one of those albums that is able to speak to myriad audiences. Consider life in my dorm during freshman year at the University of Northern Iowa. I lived two doors down from a couple of football players; their room was a popular hangout for a fair number of the Panthers. Whenever they got together to play Madden on the Sega Genesis, they always listened to The Joshua Tree, even though it was a good five years old by then. Not macho metal, not ridiculous rap…”Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Mothers of the Disappeared.” I always liked that…even if I could never beat those fuckers in Madden. Oh well: Tecmo Super Bowl was always my game, anyway. And I owned them in NHL ’93 the following spring…
/video game braggadocio
(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)
70. The Sundays, Static and Silence
69. The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue
68. The Breeders, Last Splash
67. Crash Test Dummies, God Shuffled His Feet
66. Oasis, What’s the Story(Morning Glory)?
65. Madonna, True Blue
64. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Stoned and Dethroned
63. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
62. Feist, The Reminder
61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
A CLOSER LOOK AT…
#70. The Sundays, Static and Silence
This was the third of three stellar albums from The Sundays. After its release, lead singer Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin quit the business to settle down and raise their kids. I have patiently waited 15 years for a fourth Sundays album. Waiting…Waiting… I’m starting to get impatient. So, in an effort to get them out of retirement, I am going to make a personal plea to The Sundays. Please, come back! Pretty please! Seriously! C’mon!
I get that you wanted to live a simpler life, have kids, and get away from the hassles of the record industry. But we live in different times now. You don’t need large record labels to record and distribute music anymore. We have a thing called “The Interwebs” now. Get a computer (heck I’ll buy you one) and record in your basement like 23 million other artists are doing now. Throw the new material up on a website (I’ll do that for you too. It would be a Music or Space Shuttle? exclusive release. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.)
If it’s the money that’s holding you back, I have a plan for that as well. No one makes money doing it the old way. Unless your last name is Bieber, Swift or Gaga, you aren’t selling albums like the old days. Listen up Sundays. Here’s the new plan. And all you new bands can get in on this as well. Release your album slowly, one song a month. Stream it online and let me decide it I like it or not. If I like it, I buy it. If not, someone else does. Or doesn’t. Who cares? You have another song coming out next month. Maybe we like that song instead. I’d be way more likely to pay for a band’s music one dollar at a time than I would be to buy a whole album for $10 without hearing it. I’m sure a lot of other people would as well.
Sounds great right Harriett? Right Dave? I’m ready when you are. Just think about it.
Please come back! Pretty please?
#61. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I was going to music school in Minneapolis around the time The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released. I listened to it a lot in between classes and would get different reactions.
There were a lot of guitar students in one of my music theory classes and they would give me shit for listening to it. I didn’t take it personally. Most of them were assholes and looked like rejects from a Black Sabbath cover band. One guy dressed almost exactly like Rob Zombie sans makeup. He kept trying to tell me Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe was the greatest album of all time and Lauryn Hill was crap. Unfortunately, Hellbilly is still on my “Albums To Listen To” list so I’ll have to take his word for it. (Side Note: Zombie guy could shred on guitar. I watched him play an inspired solo during his rendition of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.”)
My production classes were a mixed bag, half the students were into electronic and trip hop music and the other half were into rap. One trip hop guy thought he was way too cool for me because I wasn’t listening to the newest Portishead record every day like he was. I never thought that record was very good. Portishead’s first album, Dummy. Now that was good. The rap guys were way into Silkk The Shocker around that time. I had to listen to Charge It 2 Da Game several times. To this day, I still think it is one of the worst things ever recorded. If I made a list of worst albums of all time (coming Fall 2013) this would be at the top, if not #1.
In a school full of musicians and music lovers, why was the future #61 album of all time getting no love? Why did we all hate each other’s music? Why couldn’t we all just get along? Maybe I was an asshole to the guitar guys and not the other way around. Is there some long haired cover band guitarist in the Twin City area blogging about some dick from Iowa that used to say Hellbilly Deluxe was shitty? That’s too much to take in right now. Maybe I need a therapist.
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