As a companion piece to my previous article on the essential top movies lists to follow, I also have used music lists as checklists to shape my taste. Now, music definitely needs to be way more open-minded as it’s very subjective. These lists are more starting points than anything because one top album could lead you to an underrated album from that artist you prefer or they could be related in some way to an under-appreciated artist that you find catchier. However, going through these lists you do tend to find the freshest music. Music that really stands the test of time. There’s some objectivity in that, in the way the albums are produced and the way the songs are formed. You may not need to like any of it, but it’s a good education in music either way.
Rolling Stone Music 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time
These were my humble beginnings as a young music fan. I turned to this list when I decided to branch out and listen to classics. I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and he opened me up to listening to albums as complete works of art and I was hungry for more. Before then I only listened to certain greatest hits even if the bands were old. The Rolling Stone list leans towards its roots in the 60s and 70s. It has far too many Beatles albums in its top 10. But most of the albums are up there for good reason. I discovered albums like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours from this list. Their 2012 update did include some newer albums and some shuffling and is worth comparing to.
Digital Dream Door
I mentioned DDD in my last list on film. Well, really, they’re music geeks. There’s really lists for everything. Not only top albums in general (which extend to 200) but top artists within genres, subgenres, top Metal bassists. Everything. And ranked. It’s a wonderful resource for branching out and covering all ground possible. The most useful list I found is the forgotten albums list. Here I found The Flying Burrito Brothers Band, Todd Rundgren, The Move, Warren Zevon, Little Feat, Marshall Crenshaw among others. Some albums are certainly not forgotten but there’s diamonds in the rough.
You could argue that BestEverAlbums are more list-mad than DigitalDreamDoor. But instead of being the opinions of a few trustworthy music geeks, they follow strict algorithms that calculate the appearances of certain albums on other lists. You can find the ranking of any album within the band’s discography, within its decade, within its year, within all-time, which even goes to the thousands. Granted, the list is changing all the time and Radiohead, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd dominate the top quarters but unlike other lists, newer albums like records from Arcade Fire are welcome to join the top ranks.
You’ll see a pattern of OK Computer, The Dark Side of the Moon and 1965-1969 Beatles at the top of most of the lists here. But those details are arbitrary. Lists are about discovering anything that grabs you when you look down the ranks. RateYourMusic is the IMDb of music and much more eclectic too. Albums are ranked by their overall user rating as opposed to number of appearances on lists. Granted, that means its demographic rules the roost which is evidently directed towards young men who like challenging and dark music. Worth checking out as new music mingles with the old and very old.
Pitchfork Decades Lists
Pitchfork have deliberately declined to make any all-time lists. They’ve decided they can’t do it. Which is fair enough. They have decade lists for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, created almost 10 years ago to the month. They couldn’t even make a list for the 1960s because they knew that 100 slots wasn’t enough. They’re fairly eclectic, typical for Pitchfork, favouring innovation, darkness and often underrated and unexpected albums from popular artists, such as their top choice for the 70s David Bowie’s Low. These lists are great for seeing what’s also well liked and respected from your favorite artists that don’t often get a mention, often omitting cliche classics in favor of them.
NME: The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time
The most recent update for a list besides the websites, in 2013 NME posted their most extensive top albums list yet, along with a top songs list too. Most certainly an alternative to Rolling Stone’s top list, they also show affinity for the roots of their lifetime with favourable placements for records of the late 1980s. Their #1 choice of The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead is quite a shocker really, no magazine dares put an album after 1970 at #1 usually. It’s refreshingly modern overall, despite obligatory sprinklings of The Beatles, The Velvet Underground and David Bowie, with even a 2012 album making the top 20. The best part is the contemporary British albums that rank highly which often get too ignored for their British invasion uncles.