My 10 "Perfect 10" Albums
If you know me, you probably won't be surprised by many of these, but the whole point of this is to share my love of music, right? Below is my list of all time favorite albums and narrowing this down to ten was TOUGH. Maybe we have some overlap, and even if we don't, I hope this puts you on to something that could be a favorite of yours too!
10. Brothers- The Black Keys
If you were a client of mine when I worked in software sales, you 100% saw my Black Keys' Brothers poster I had on my wall in my Zoom meetings. To me, this is the best modern blues album of all time and there's no clear second runner up. This album catapulted The Black Keys to mainstream success with their hits "Howlin' for You" and "Tighten Up," but the album from start to finish is garage rock gold with indie rock bangers like "Next Girl" and "She's Long Gone" that will live in your rent free for life. I also saw a social media post today for a 10th anniversary edition of this album to drop later this year and it just reminded me how timeless it really is.
9. The Waterfall II- My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket is in the middle of quite a career renaissance right now with the release of The Waterfall II last year, composed of leftover tracks from 2015's The Waterfall and spoiler alert: it's actually better. Add to that, they are in the middle of a massive tour with Brittany Howard that's getting rave reviews (can confirm it's amazing from their stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion). With a new album out next month, their new surge in activity is being hailed as a "third-act" by music journalists. I've been a fan for a bit now, but longtime fans will tell you that 2003's It Still Moves or 2005's Z are their best, but let's be real, I wasn't hipster enough to be a fan at ages 10-12. Jim James' angelic voice shines on emotional ballads "Spinning My Wheels," "Welcome Home," and mostly "The First Time" where his iconic falsetto soars over you and grips you. Add to that the fun, psychedelic-country rooted "Climbing the Ladder" and you've got one hell of an album.
8. Dreamland- Glass Animals
Glass Animals' hit it HUGE in 2020 with the release of their third album "Dreamland" partially due to the major success of the single "Heat Waves." While that song is great, it's far from being the best on the album with "Tangerine," "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," "Your Love (Deja Vu)," and the Denzel Curry collaboration "Tokyo Drifting." (I could easily keep going). On top of the bangers, we saw an overall more vulnerable theme similar to "Agnes" from their second album How to Be a Human Being. This album sees the indie pop group at their best and I think next album cycle will see them as top-line status on music festival lineups. The success is well deserved and I think will only keep growing.
7. Walking on a Dream- Empire of the Sun
This album is probably the most over the top on this list and that's why it's such a standout. Empire of the Sun's modern take on glam rock with an electro-twist is as fun and technical as it is theatrical and ridiculous. You probably heard the title track in every car commercial for a good two years, but if you haven't dove in to this album, don't let that stop you. "We Are the People," the second most well known song off the album, has one of the most hard-hitting dance-rock choruses ever. Along with that, you get the ultra, delightfully weird distorted vocals of "Swordfish Hotkiss Night" and the surprising emotional depth of "Without You," that all blend together to take you on a sonic journey. Also, for what it's worth, Empire of the Sun ranks #2 in best live shows I've ever seen. It's flashy, it's hyper-pop, it's costumes and dancers, utter insanity. I've come to terms that I will probably never experience them live again (or may never get another album), but I'm happy with the memories I have.
6. Dark Side of the Moon- Pink Floyd
A classic. The psychedelic crown jewel that still remains massively popular almost 50 years after its release. There's really no words to tie together the legacy of this album, but it's reflected in its sales (45 million+) and influence on modern music. The album touches on human themes that still resonate (debatably, more so) today like greed, mental illness, and death. "Breathe" remains one of the most lyrically beautiful songs ever written. "Time" is one of Pink Floy'd most well known hits whose influence knows no bounds (I even remember Pretty Lights doing a remix in 2010). "The Great Gig in the Sky's" iconic, wordless vocals done by Clare Torrey take you on an astronomical adventure over melancholic piano that can only be described as biblical. Front to back, this is one of the single most important albums ever created and I'm so, so glad it has stood the test of time.
5. RTJ4- Run the Jewels
Rap duo, Run the Jewels, continued their string of critically acclaimed releases with last year's RTJ4. Like their previous material, this album diverts from the hip-hop standard in favor of something more conscious, but still has beats that are club and festival ready. In the wake of the protests in 2020, Killer Mike and El-P made the decision to release the album early with songs like "Walking in the Snow" and "Ju$t" being perfect for the high political tensions of today's America referencing greedy politicians and police brutality. The album wakes you up; it wants you to feel angry; it wants you to do something about. Add to all this, collaborations from Mavis Staples, Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, and Pharrell Williams, you've got a master class in intense, introspective music that calls for social change.
4. Settle- Disclosure
Hot take: Settle is the best debut album of all time and the best electronic studio album to ever be released. I will gladly die on the hill that Disclosure is so much more than the guys that teleported Sam Smith to stardom and an insanely popular Flume remix (both things awesome in themselves). This album reignited my love for house music and showed what the Howard brothers were capable of crafting, from radio-friendly pop hits like "Latch" (still not tired of it) to homages to the UK Garage scene with "Stimulation." Obviously, "Latch" took over the airways in 2013, even becoming a top 10 hit in the US, but if you haven't, I encourage you to listen to the whole album through to understand why it was such a critically lauded master class in modern electronic music. This album created an instant legacy for the duo who came to get you up and dancing. Holy shit, did they succeed.
3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- Kanye West
I wrote in my review of Donda that I had spent most of my life up to a certain point thinking that Kanye West was the damn coolest dude on earth. I have debated with many, many friends about his best work and I stand by that 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best hip-hop album of all time. The album, like him, is avant garde, unapologetic, and a god damn ego trip; and I love every single second of it. This also marked when Kanye stopped making music for the masses and got really weird, so to speak, with a drastic artistic shift. He vanished from the public eye following the 2009 VMA's controversy to reflect and record in Hawaii. He ditched his radio-friendly hooks and went for a progressive, call it ultra-excessive, rap sound. Critics and fans loved it, but that's the thing: he didn't care because HE loved it. Sure, you can please the crowd with Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, and a young Nicki Minaj on your album, but collaborating with the likes of newly on the rise indie band, Bon Iver, was unheard of in the hip-hop world. No matter how far Kanye falls, I will always remember what he gave us with this album and how hip-hop was never the same.
2. Alive 2007- Daft Punk
Earlier I wrote that Disclosure's Settle is the best electronic studio album of all time and I 100% stand by that. However, you know what is the ACTUAL best electronic album of all time? The recording of Daft Punk's Paris show from their Alive 2007 tour. I have been a longtime Daft Punk fan and this album, but ever since their official breakup this year, I've found myself coming back to this over and over. Excluding their 2013 album Random Access Memories (an amazing album in its own right), this album takes you through the best versions of their best songs flowing through what is an hour and a half of pure, French house joy. Seeing Daft Punk live was the top of my bucket list until literally the day they broke up and while I've accepted what will never be a reality, running through this album with noise cancelling earbuds, listening to the crowd going insane to the music almost creates nostalgia for a moment I never got to experience. Music is so powerful.
1. Currents- Tame Impala
I know being a Tame Impala fanboy is a meme these days ("it's actually one guy"), but I welcome that with open arms (and it's totally deserved). I still remember when this album was being toured in 2016 and catching his set at Firefly and being absolutely floored by what I saw. The insane light show, an ocean of confetti, Kevin Parker's impeccable vocals backed by his touring band (Pond, an amazing band on their own) was my gateway into being a super fan. Currents is a showcase of the genius of Kevin Parker as he diverts from his psychedelic rock roots on Lonerism and Innerspeaker in favor of something more pop and disco, and there will always be naysayers, but I think his transition between genres is seamless and made a perfect album. In fact, it's my favorite of all time. The attention to detail that Parker put into his magnum opus is reflected in the songwriting and production which he all did single-handedly and did so without relying on psychedelic cliches. A breakup album, many songs make use of sad lyrics over dance-pop and funk. Smash hit, "The Less I Know the Better" is probably the best known example of this and is well on its way to a billion Spotify stream (which are all me, probably). I think the best thing about it though, is that with every listen, different songs will jump out and resonate with me each time. "Let It Happen" is my constant (and debatably my all time favorite song), but album closer "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" (famously and respectfully covered by Rihanna) has been gripping me lately.
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