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An ode to the album format, and my top 11

LincLinc BardDetroit, MI Icrontian

As you may know, I'm a bit of an album junkie.

I don't buy singles. I abhor shuffle mode. Spotify and its ilk are foreign to me.

When I hit play, I want a 30-90 minute experience, not your 10 latest tracks slapped together. Highs and lows, openings and closings, amazing transitions, and contrasts between sections. Give me a movement, goddamn it. Evoke emotions. Hold a thought for more than 3 minutes 15 seconds, and don't you dare fall back on that chorus one time too many. Throw me off balance; don't just give me what I expected.

I can guess how good an album is going to be from the first half-dozen spins, but it's around 10-20 spins that I figure out how good it really is. That's the exciting discovery phase, where it starts to burn into your brain a bit. From there I'll easily spin it 80-120 times (or more) if it's one of the great ones. That's the pure bliss phase: You think you know it, but you're still finding tiny details, and it hasn't become old hat.

Then there are the albums that just never wear out.

Here's my current top eleven (deal with it). They're unranked, but man the first three get serious bonus points for containing my favorite track transitions ever. I give Pink Floyd & The Who a second honorable mention each because they really are the paragons of the format.

  • Pretty. Odd. - Panic! At the Disco
  • Some Nights - Fun.
  • Let Live and Let Ghosts - Jukebox the Ghost
  • Black Holes and Revelations - Muse
  • Give Up - The Postal Service
  • Animals - Pink Floyd (honorable mention: Wish You Were Here)
  • Folie a Deux - Fall Out Boy
  • Blackstar - David Bowie
  • Broken Bride - Ludo
  • Quadrophenia - The Who (honorable mention: Tommy)
  • Nordo - Air Traffic Controller (my latest addition to this list of greatness)

Genre footnote: I'm sticking to the refuge of my rock/alt standard fare here. I've been getting increasingly into jazz, and while Time Out (Brubeck) and Kind of Blue (Davis) surely are among the greatest albums, I'm abstaining from venturing into that genre with Opinions™ yet. I also have a few strong soundtrack opinions as well, but I've likewise omitted those as I only dabble with them and am not a huge proponent of taking that music out of its context.

ZanthianCliff_ForsterUPSLynxTushonMt_GoatRahnalH102keto
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Comments

  • IvanIvan Icrontian

    image

    UPSLynxMt_GoatRahnalH102
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian

    Touché, Ivan.

    Cliff_Forster
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian

    I would have to say my all time favorite album is definitely BloodSugarSexMagick by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's a seamless experience and the whole thing is just a masterpiece.

    Cliff_ForsterUPSLynxAlexDeGruven
  • CBCB Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ @TheButterflyman Icrontian
    edited 21 Mar

    I would LOVE if Spotify would have an 'album shuffle' mode to randomly play whole albums at a time from my collection because I also prefer to listen that way, but I'm too indecisive/easily distracted to be trusted to actually pick which albums to play throughout my day all day, so I usually just revert to regular shuffle for convenience. In the pre-computermusic era, I would often just pick one album to listen to over and over for a few weeks before picking a new one, much to the annoyance of family and other nearbys.

    My current favorite album experience is Regina Spektor's "Far"

    Other favorites include (in no particular order)

    Cliff_ForsterUPSLynxTushonRahnalH102
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Baltimore, MD Icrontian

    http://icrontic.com/article/digital_killing_albums

    I am 100% with you. That front to back experience is important. It is an art that is less appreciated today, and thus, less effort is going into crafting great albums from front to back.

    And since this thread suggested a top eleven, as hard as it is to narrow...

    For me.

    1. R.E.M. "Automatic for the People"
    2. B.B. King "Live at the Regal"
    3. RUSH "Moving Pictures"
    4. Pink Floyd "The Wall"
    5. Stevie Ray Vaughan "Couldn't Stand the Weather"
    6. Dave Matthews Band "Before these Crowded Streets"
    7. Live "Throwing Copper"
    8. Alice in Chains "Jar of Flies" (Okay, it's a short EP, but I love it)
    9. Tedeschi Trucks Band "Revelator"
    10. Miles Davis "Bitches Brew"
    11. Led Zeppelin "IV"
    BuddyJMt_GoatRahnalH102
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited 21 Mar

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    4. Pink Floyd "The Wall"

    It's really interesting to me where people come down on the Pink Floyd divide. I feel like The Wall is story-driven & dramatic while Animals/WYWH are emotional & a musical laboratory.

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    6. Dave Matthews Band "Before these Crowded Streets"

    I'm glad someone said it. An addition worthy of my list for sure.

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    10. Miles Davis "Bitches Brew"

    Trying to get into this album. Not there yet.

  • KwitkoKwitko Sheriff of Banning (Retired) By the thing near the stuff Icrontian

    OMG, Bitches Brew!!!

    In no particular order:

    Pink Floyd "WYWH", "DSotM", "Animals", "Meddle" (all equal in my eyes)
    Frank Zappa "Fillmore 1971"
    Traffic "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys"
    The Beatles "The Beatles" (white album)
    Jethro Tull "Thick as a Brick" (honorable mention: 180g MFSL quad pressing of "Aqualung")
    Yes "Fragile" (honorable mention: "Yessongs")
    Mars Volta "De-Loused in the Comatorium"
    Led Zeppelin "Physical Graffiti"
    Led Zeppelin "The Song Remains the Same"
    Miles Davis "Kind of Blue"

    That's enough for now.

    Mt_Goat
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited 21 Mar

    Deloused in the Comatorium is similarly fantastic as a whole album experience. I can't really get into individual tracks, but that album is a piece of art.

    LincUPSLynxTheRedburn
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian

    No order implied. Didn't want to double down on artists either. I'm with you @Linc in that I much-prefer the full album experience.

    • Sufjan Stevens - Greeting from Michigan (hon. mention Seven Swans)
    • Deltron 3030 - s/t
    • Kraftwerk - Autobahn
    • Postal Service - Give Up
    • Radiohead - Kid A (hon. mention Amnesiac)
    • The xx - xx
    • Belle and Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister
    • Lucero - Tennessee
    • LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
    • The Weakerthans - Left and Leaving
    • Sneaker Pimps - Bloodsport (hon. mention to Splinter)

    And a special Palme d'Icrontic to Jamie XX - We're New Here, the remix of Gil Scott Heron's "I'm New Here." Jamie xx's music (and subsequent DJ sets and BBC Radio 1 residencies) almost overshadow The XX despite being a side-project.

    Mt_Goat
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Baltimore, MD Icrontian

    Also, like @Linc how do you pick one Floyd or Who album? I went with "The Wall" because it has some of my favorite moments. David Gilmour may be my favorite guitarist and the solo's on "The Wall", so brilliant, but "Wish you Were Here" may be the best cover to cover as far as feeling like a complete cohesive album.

    The Who, how do you pick from the amazing singles on "Who's Next" to the long concept pieces. All amazing, stuff, big fan, but down to eleven I choose Zeppelin as my favorite 70's hard rock band instead.

    Steely Dan, like if you are going to listen to a Jazz fusion thing, "Aja" and "Gaucho" are hard to beat but instead, I'll go with Miles Davis because I love the kind of controlled chaos of that style. There is this moment on Dave Matthews Before these Crowded Streets where he does a duet with Alanis Morissette at the end of the album and the last minute breaks apart like a Miles Davis fusion moment where everything is going on and it's just barely holding together and it's so powerful for me. I love it, one of my favorite moments on any album.

    I completely cut classic British metal as a genre here, which kills me, but if only eleven I could not quite fit it at that top of the musical mountain. That all said, I'm pretty sure Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" cures ED better than viagra. Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" and any number of Judas Priest albums. I left off Black Sabbath's "Paranoid"... how is that even possible? (Perhaps the worst album cover ever though)

    I suppose the one band I'd love to give an honorable is Kings of Leon... See, it's really difficult for me to pick a best album there because my favorite is probably their third right before they started getting some real radio airplay. Not the most album driven band, each is a collection of singles, mostly kinda pop rock, but an amazing live band, and one of those unifying factors in the household because my wife love's a lot of really awful music, but it's one thing we agree strongly on. Just hard for me to pick that singular album and say, yeah, that's the one everyone should have.

    The Door's LA Woman.... How the hell did I leave that off?

    Buddy Guy's "Damn Right I've got the Blues"... WTF Cliff

    Not a single Beatles mention??

    Need a bigger list to work with. Cool thread though, I'm so into music and I have nobody to really talk with about it. My wife and kid are one Katty Perry tune away from destroying my soul... Thank you Icrontic for restoring my faith in humanity.

    BuddyJ
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    I suppose the one band I'd love to give an honorable is Kings of Leon... See, it's really difficult for me to pick a best album there [...]

    Well sure, I don't think the above list accurately maps to my favorite bands very well. There are a ton of great "albums" that are a hot playlist I love but don't have much glue holding it together.

    For instance, I like listening to You're Awful, I Love You by Ludo more than Broken Bride but as an album? The latter is leagues beyond. It's an important distinction between "best song group" and "best album" in my mind. Deloused in the Comatorium really is a great example of that distinction.

    Cliff_ForsterBuddyJ
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian

    Do you ever find yourself unable to remember the name of the song because you only listen to complete albums so song titles become less important?

    CBCliff_ForsterLincMt_Goat
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx Top EA shill, The Dean of Computer Graphics Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited 21 Mar

    I'm also all about albums (though I do sometimes shuffle because YOLO). When I buy new music, I always make sure my first listen is either on a long drive, or with headphones sitting alone beginning to end.

    I still buy physical CDs because I want the entire experience (including album art/booklet), and I always put them into my car's stereo so I can listen over and over again. Just last week I bought Spoon's newest album "Hot Thoughts", and my co-workers made fun of me for not buying it on iTunes or whatever, but man, I know my business. Albums rule.

    Dream Theater has been my favorite band for years, and without a doubt they made me appreciate the album format. In my opinion, they've made some of the gold standards of compete album experiences. Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence are two great examples of DT at the top of their game with albums. Worth a listen if you enjoy progressive rock.

    Recently, I've been digging into The Dear Hunter's Act I-5 albums, which are a massive, chunky, cohesive set of 5 albums telling a collective story. It's absolutely fantastic. Full of emotion, excellent transition, just enough orchestration and incredible lyrics. The whole shebang is worth a listen, but if you've only got time for one, Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading is my favorite of the five.

  • SonorousSonorous F@H Fanatic Virginia Icrontian

    @primesuspect said:
    Another amazing band that does albums better than songs is Coheed & Cambria.

    Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, while a lengthy name is an outstanding experience aurally. I find myself constantly drawn back to that album time and time again. I highly recommend everyone give it a listen. Coheed as a whole took me some time to appreciate, but that album drew me in instantly.

    I have to also mention Tool's Lateralus. Tool management to tick all my check marks by providing an more melodic experience, much departed from their earlier works. Not only is Lateralus technically marvelous, it also manages to have a raw edge to it all. It can be quiet, somber and reflecting in one moment then brutal, aggressive and sharp in the next. To this day I pick up more and more nuances in the massive sound they were able to capture, and I have listened to Lateralus over a hundred times. It's a modern masterpiece.

  • WinfreyWinfrey waddafuh Missouri Icrontian

    @Linc said:

    Genre footnote: I'm sticking to the refuge of my rock/alt standard fare here. I've been getting increasingly into jazz, and while Time Out (Brubeck) and Kind of Blue (Davis) surely are among the greatest albums, I'm abstaining from venturing into that genre with Opinions™ yet. I also have a few strong soundtrack opinions as well, but I've likewise omitted those as I only dabble with them and am not a huge proponent of taking that music out of its context.

    I've been meaning to ask you about which of the holy trinity of 1959 jazz albums were your favorite. Remind me next time I'm at ICHQ to talk some jazz.

  • CantiCanti =/= smalltime http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9K18CGEeiI&feature=related Icrontian

    I feel required by law to throw in on this.

    The Cure - Disintegration
    Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile
    Dream Theater - Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory
    Foo Fighters - The Colour and the Shape
    Garbage - Beautiful Garbage
    Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
    Rammstein - Mutter
    Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
    No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom
    Metric - Live It Out

    Bonus

    Not an album. Just album length.

    UPSLynxcolaSonorous
  • pigflipperpigflipper The Forgotten Coast Icrontian

    I only listen to shuffle/radio at work, if I am at home, I listen to full albums. No particular order, just albums I can listen to at any time start to finish.

    • Radiohead - OK Computer
    • Pixies - Surfer Rosa / Come On Pilgrim
    • The Postal Service - Give Up
    • Catch-22 / Streetlight Manifesto - Keasbey Nights (Originally Catch-22 but re-recorded by members of the band when they formed Streetlight)
    • The Beatles - Rubber Soul
    • Nirvana - Nevermind
    • Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
    • Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
    • Jimmy Buffett - A1A (Or pretty much any non-live album, though A1A is my favorite)
    • Sublime - 40oz to Freedom
    • The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop
  • Mt_GoatMt_Goat I am the hatchet man, look over your shoulder Icrontian
    edited 22 Mar

    I am album driven and only listen to vinyl at home. In the car it's mp3 albums. On the topic of Pink Floyd I have been listening to them for 45 years now and like all of it. From Meddle, Obscured by Clouds and on is certainly the best . I also feel the same way about The Moody Blues and The Who.
    The following is not in any order and I had a difficult time narrowing it down this far and the above fall in here too.

    +Phenomenon by UFO
    +Children of the Sun by Billy Thorpe
    +Spartacus by Triumvirate
    +Killer by Alice Cooper
    +The Yes Album
    +The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis
    +The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
    +Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
    +The Turn of a Friendly Card by The Alan Parsons Project
    +Willy and the Poor Boys by Credance Clearwater Revival
    +Watertown by Frank Sinatra

    WinfreyBuddyJ
  • IvanIvan Icrontian

  • edcentricedcentric near Milwaukee, Wisconsin Icrontian

    Yes, I am steeling @Kwitko's list with some revisions

    Pink Floyd "WYWH", "DSotM" (the older stuff is interesting, but not as well constructed)
    Frank Zappa "Fillmore 1971" or "Sheik Yerbouti"
    Traffic "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys"
    The Beatles "The Beatles" or "Sgt. Pepper"
    Jethro Tull "Thick as a Brick" (honorable mention "Aqualung")
    Led Zeppelin "Physical Graffiti" or "The Song Remains the Same"
    Jazz, "Concorde" by MJQ or "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck
    ELP "Brain Salad Surgery" or "Works 1"
    Patti Smith "Horses" if you really want a story
    or for something more mellow, Carole King "Tapestry"

  • KwitkoKwitko Sheriff of Banning (Retired) By the thing near the stuff Icrontian

    @BuddyJ said:
    Do you ever find yourself unable to remember the name of the song because you only listen to complete albums so song titles become less important?

    QFT.

  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Baltimore, MD Icrontian

    Man, Dream Theater, Tool, Genesis, Yes... Smart people dig Prog.

    UPSLynxSonorousKwitko
  • SonorousSonorous F@H Fanatic Virginia Icrontian

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    Man, Dream Theater, Tool, Genesis, Yes... Smart people dig Prog.

    Throw on In The Court of The Crimson King by King Crimson as well and we have a party.

    Mt_GoatThrax
  • Mt_GoatMt_Goat I am the hatchet man, look over your shoulder Icrontian

    @Sonorous said:

    @Cliff_Forster said:
    Man, Dream Theater, Tool, Genesis, Yes... Smart people dig Prog.

    Throw on In The Court of The Crimson King by King Crimson as well and we have a party.

    Can we add Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower and Some Captain Beyond to the party?

    Cliff_Forster
  • ZanthianZanthian Mitey Worrier Milford, OH Icrontian

    Spotify has an ideas for improvement area:
    Shuffle by Album https://community.spotify.com/t5/Live-Ideas/Shuffle-by-Album/idi-p/18457
    Might be worth an upvote.

    CBCliff_Forster
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Baltimore, MD Icrontian
    edited 23 Mar

    How did I leave off "Stop Making Sense"!

    It is so funny how a discussion like this makes you think about the music you love on the drive to and from work. I hear all this stuff on the radio and it's like, I LOVE THAT!!! But I don't always actively think about how much I love it. How sometimes we just take great music for granted.

    Mt_Goat
  • MiracleManSMiracleManS Chambersburg, PA Icrontian
    edited 27 Mar

    There will likely be some recency bias here, but my favorite albums tend to be:

    Relationship of Command - At the Drive-In
    The Greatest Story Ever Told - The Lawrence Arms (the liner notes and story are fucking awesome and it includes tons of cultural references)
    Transgender Dysphoria Blues - Against Me! (took forever to make as Laura was beginning to transition, re-recorded a half a dozen times and self recorded and released)
    At the Edge of Time - Blind Guardian
    Touched By The Crimson King - Demons & Wizards
    Dear You - Jawbreaker (first and only major label release by them. Actually ended up killing the band. Still a good listen and a huge break from their earlier stuff)
    I'd Rather Die Than Live Forever - Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds (Not for the faint of heart, written because he had kids and was stuck listening to Dora and shit. Gets pretty dark while being poppy)

  • WinfreyWinfrey waddafuh Missouri Icrontian
    edited 27 Mar

    I agree with a lot of these lists. Some albums that might have been overlooked or forgotten:

    The Hazards of Love - The Decemberists
    Crane Wife - The Decemberists
    Bleed American - Jimmy Eat World
    Sea Change - Beck

    MiracleManS
  • pigflipperpigflipper The Forgotten Coast Icrontian

    @Winfrey said:

    Sea Change - Beck

    How did I forget that one?! One of my all time favorites.

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