As the NME recently proved, Best Albums of All Time lists are rubbish. They repeatedly contain the same tired choices and teach nobody anything interesting about new music. Here, our writers were challenged to come up with a list of their ten favourite albums in ten minutes, and to justify their choices in a paragraph. The Beatles were banned and the selection of compilations, live recordings and universally discredited oddities heartily encouraged. (Part I of II. Part II can be read here)
Prince – Purple Rain
Dexys Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down
Various artists – FIFA 99 Soundtrack
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Dr Dre – 2001
John Cooper Clarke – Snap, Crackle & Bop
Arthur Russell – Calling Out Of Context
Deacon Blue – Raintown
The Cast of Grease – Grease Soundtrack
Skinnyman – Council Estate of Mind
This could feasibly have been a list of ten Prince albums. Instead it’s a list of his most accomplished and ridiculous record with a fine gang of rappers, innovators, masters and popstars hanging onto probably purple coattails beneath. Memories of stale crisps, stale underpants and digitalised hat-tricks with the Fifa 99 soundtrack, my biggest inspiration in the twitching kitchen sink spitting of Snap, Crackle & Bop, sweeping glory in Don’t Stand Me Down and in the twinkling heartbreak of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ from the Grease soundtrack, the Best Song Ever Written That Isn’t a Prince Song ™. So it’s football and pretension, weed, tears and naive melodies. But mainly tears.
Dizzee Rascal – Boy In Da Corner
The Rolling Stones – Stripped
The Rolling Stones – Love You Live
The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St.
The Streets – Original Pirate Material
Fugees – The Score
The Artful Dodger – It’s All About The Stragglers
Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
Four Tet – FabricLive.59
Chic & Sister Sledge – The Very Best Of Chic & Sister Sledge
The best albums are the ones which teach you everything you later come to hold dear. From Fugees I learnt about politics (“Probable cause got flaws like dirty drawers”), from Chic I learnt the importance of sharp suits, singalongs and prioritising good times over the majority of all other things. The key album here is Stripped, my fail-safe weapon against pretty girls and other unsuspecting Stones doubters who profess Jagger and co. aren’t all that. Original Pirate Material and Reasonable Doubt remain more revealing and timeless case studies of London and New York than any bit of literature or film I’ve come across to date. Elsewhere, there’s Dizzee at his exhilarating best, my favourite torrented mix CD, some terrible mainstream garage, and a low-selling Stones live album. Honourable mentions for Editors’ The Back Room, The Radio Dept.’s Pet Grief, and a Radiohead live album called I Might Be Wrong.
The Beatles – Revolver
Various Artists – Motown 50
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Bruce Springsteen – Greatest Hits
The Libertines – Up the Bracket
Various artists – Now 44
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
The Specials – The Specials
Summer Camp – Welcome to Condale
Various artists – Kerrang! 3: The Album
I’ve realised these are all albums I like to listen to on my own – some of them for glaringly obvious reasons. When I’m washing the dishes one of these albums is on. They were my accompaniment to all-night essay writing sessions and they will undoubtedly be the albums I force upon my children. I know exactly how I came to own each album: some were presents; some were hand-me-downs; one was taped for me; one was even my first album. While they may vary in quality, they are my soundtrack. Forget the iconic cover sleeves of the Velvet Underground or Bowie. Give me the garish purple and yellow cover of Now 44 anyday.
Julia Symmes Cobb (@JSymmesCobb)
Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
Blink-182 – Enema of the State
Good Charlotte – The Young and the Hopeless
A New Found Glory – Catalyst
Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit
The Bravery – The Sun and the Moon
Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
It’s a bit hard to know what criterion to use when compiling one’s list of top ten albums – should they be the ones which remind me most of important moments? The favourite works of my favourite bands? The ones which most shaped my personal taste? It was all too complicated, so I just decided to list the albums which I can sing along to the whole of, much to the chagrin of half a dozen past/current roommates. My choices skew heavily toward albums I discovered in junior high – the hairbrush-as-microphone-bedroom-concert glory days; but also included are a few albums which have proven so enduringly relevant they have never been out of rotation. A few beautiful places to get lost.
Arcade Fire – Funeral
James – Laid
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Pulp – Different Class
Johnny Cash – American IV:The Man Come Around
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
The Courteeners – Falcon
Jamie T – Panic Prevention
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The National – High Violet
The albums that I regard as my favourites of all time stem from a number of influences. The city in which I was born and raised, Manchester, has had a huge part to play (Laid, The Stone Roses) and I also take into account the music I was brought up on – although my mum’s love for Celine Dion doesn’t appear to be hereditary, thankfully. I have included records that have provided the soundtrack to different times of my life (Favourite Worst Nightmare, Panic Prevention, Falcon) and a number of albums, spanning various genres, that I have listened to and would class as ‘superb’ (American IV:The Man Comes Around, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, High Violet, Different Class). Funeral by Arcade Fire is the most majestic, beautiful album I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to. My belief is that music is about more than just what sounds good, its about the emotions it creates and the influence it has on your life. No album has ever had an impact on me like Funeral – nigh-on perfection.
Adam Terris (@adamterris)
The Strokes – Is This It?
Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
Cage the Elephant – Thank You, Happy Birthday
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Yeasayer- Odd Blood
Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
Muse- Origins of Symmetry
Blur- Think Tank
The White Stripes- Elephant
This was a hair-tearing exercise, which had me chopping and changing albums according to various criteria I set myself, but I eventually decided to stick with albums that to this day still leave me speechless. These are albums that define certain points of my life; the anti-social teen, first relationships and the enlightened university student. I conveniently managed to avoid the emo/punk phase of my youth by deciding that my top ten favourite albums had to be ones I still hold close to my heart to this very day and unfortunately (for you) I have moved on from the Fall Out Boys and Panic! At The Discos of yester-year. In many ways the affects of these albums have often been enhanced by live performances of the songs that have in all honesty changed my life. I have to apologise that there aren’t more embarrassing gems that would have me running for cover for the pelters that I would no doubt receive for including the likes of My Chemical Romance and Alkaline Trio (that I of course never liked).
Luke Healey (@oystersearrings)
Various artists – Tropicalia: a Brazilian Revolution in Sound
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Grimes – Visions
Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder
Dark Dark Dark – Wild Go
The albums by Grimes, Nico Jaar and Balam Acab are all releases from the last few years that I just never stopped listening to. Bitches Brew, Trans-Europe Express and the Soul Jazz Tropicalia compilation from 2006 are there for blowing open my conceptions of what music could be. Joanna Newsom is the most talented songwriter of her generation, and Jeff Mangum might have been the most talented of his (I’m stretching the definition of generation here). Both of these albums feature an unjust number of jaw-dropping moments. I want the full film version of Stop Making Sense, because neither vinyl nor CD nor cassette release has done it justice. Also, I want to watch the dance routine to ‘Life During Wartime’. Finally, I have to put Wild Go on there because the second track from that album, ‘Daydreaming’, was the first dance at my wedding. This is all to say nothing of Cass McCombs, the Cocteau Twins, Peaking Lights, Julia Holter or Joanna Newsom’s other albums.
Part II of this feature can be found here:
Music of My Mind: Our favourite albums (Part II)
What do you think of our choices? What would your top 10 list be? Leave us a comment below.
Follow the Music Factory on Twitter @MusicFactoryNo1