Top 200 Albums

Top 200 Albums


Since we’re consistently in and out of cell reception on this trip, and since all my music is in the cloud, I needed to download my top two hundred albums. Several folks asked to see the list, so here it is, alphabetically by artist and by major genre (in other words, not post-emo fusion dog hybrid pre-rock jazz). A handful of disclaimers first:

  • The first cut was three hundred. Then I was able to cut another fifty or so fairly painlessly. I struggled after two hundred and fifty. As such, in a obvious display of indecisiveness, I’ve also included thirty or so albums that almost made the list.
  • The list is proportional to my favorite genres. While I have the occasional metal and country album in my repertoire, I mostly listen to rock, jazz, R&B, ambient, Christmas, and classical music.
  • I’m an album man from way back (I typed that with my buddy Gabe’s inflection). I tend to listen to albums straight through versus shuffling through playlists. Hence this list is comprised of albums not songs.
  • I shied way from best-ofs and compilations. Just felt like cheating.
  • I erred on the side of diversity — the top five albums from my top ten favorite artists would’ve occupied a quarter of this list — therefore I went with more versus fewer artists.
  • I favor first (or early) works. The sense of discovery, for me at least, is difficult to replicate, regardless of how trailblazing future albums are.
  • I’m biased against recent albums. Few albums post 2012 made this list. That’s, of course, not because recent music sucks (though a compelling argument can be made here), but because I must listen to an album dozens of times before it roots my good music psyche. Time doesn’t favor new.
  • Despite ruminating on this list for several weeks, I know a dozen albums I neglected to list will pop into my mind the moment I push “publish”. Thus, I suppose this is Top 200 Vol. 1. This list will evolve many times over this trip.


Top 200


Rock (116)

  1. Andrew Bird, Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs — odd, cool album
  2. Archers Of Loaf, Icky Mettle — messy and crazy punk rock
  3. Arctic Monkeys, AM — one of the later albums to make this list
  4. At The Drive-In, Relationship of Command — the album that broke up the band; but then we got Mars Volta!
  5. Band Of Horses, Everything All The Time — any of their first three albums could’ve made this list
  6. Battles, Gloss Drop — infectious music that does make you think of battles
  7. Beach House, Bloom — dream pop at its finest
  8. Belle & Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister — a great rainy day album
  9. Ben Folds, Rockin’ The Suburbs — I attempted to learn “The Luckiest” on the piano; it did not go well
  10. Billy Joel, The Stranger — I’d love to see Billy Joel live, just love it
  11. Blues Traveler, Four — the only harmonica forward band on this list
  12. Blur, Modern Life Is Rubbish — such an English-sounding album
  13. Bon Iver, Bon Iver — the lead singer once recorded an album in the forest!
  14. Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning — listening to this album is like reading someone’s diary
  15. Broken Bells, Broken Bells — a rad Danger Mouse and The Shins collaboration
  16. Built to Spill, Keep It Like A Secret — awesome album from my hometown favs
  17. Built to Spill, Untethered Moon — I was a little shocked this made the list over some of their other albums
  18. Cake, Fashion Nugget — “The Distance” is adrenaline in song form
  19. Cat Stevens, Teaser And The Firecat — would’ve preferred a Best Of album here, but this one will do
  20. Coheed & Cambria, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 — favorite album from one of my favorite live acts
  21. Counting Crows, August & Everything After — Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers should thank Counting Crows
  22. Crooked Fingers, Dignity & Shame — former lead singer of Archers of Loaf continuing excellence
  23. Dave Matthews Band, Under The Table And Dreaming — the soundtrack to my college years
  24. David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars — otherworldly album from an omnisexual alien rock start
  25. Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism — the soundtrack to my early twenties
  26. Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me — messy, beautiful rock
  27. Doves, Lost Souls — a melancholy yet invigorating album
  28. Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty South — essential car album for driving in the South
  29. Elliott Smith, Either/Or — Smith is one of the better modern-day songwriters
  30. Foo Fighters, The Colour And The Shape — this album just straight-up rocks
  31. Fugazi, 13 Songs — perhaps my favorite punk-ish album…perhaps
  32. G. Love & Special Sauce, G. Love And Special Sauce — unique sound and style that I crave when the weather is hot
  33. Grandaddy, Sumday — the best lo-fi album from one of the best lo-fi bands
  34. Grizzly Bear, Yellow House — sweet, melodic lo-fi
  35. Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand — the best song titles of any band
  36. Idaho, The Lone Gunman — I admittedly got into this band because of their name
  37. Jars Of Clay, Jars Of Clay — best Christian album ever, but still stands on its own
  38. Jeff Buckley, Grace — his version of “Hallelujah” is hypnotic
  39. Jimmy Eat World, Clarity — I can, and have, listened to this album on repeat for days
  40. Jimmy Eat World, Futures — the tempo of this album is perfect for exercising
  41. Keane, Hopes And Fears — this album has held up better than any Coldplay album
  42. LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem — dance techno rock at its best
  43. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin III — “Tangerine” sets this album apart in my opinion
  44. Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams — such awesome folk rock here
  45. M. Ward, Transfiguration Of Vincent — pop, blues, folk, ragtime, techno? not sure, but awesome
  46. Maroon 5, Songs About Jane — too bad these guys never produced anything else this good
  47. Massive Attack, Mezzanine — my first foray into trip hop
  48. Mazzy Star, Among My Swan — it’s crazy this album was made in the 90s; it sounds like today
  49. Mercury Rev, Deserter’s Songs — dream, orchestral rock that oddly reminds me of a screensaver
  50. Mice Parade, Bem-Vinda Vontade — excellent and intriguing guitar and drum work on this album
  51. Minor Alps, Get There — engrossing harmonies and vocals, kinda like The Postal Service
  52. Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates — another album with funny song titles
  53. Mogwai, Mr. Beast — dynamic post-rock album
  54. Mute Math, Mute Math — these guys use a keytar!
  55. My Morning Jacket, Z — the album is the lovechild of Radiohead and Drive-By Truckers
  56. Nada Surf, Let Go — the soundtrack to Andrea’s and my life before kids
  57. Nada Surf, The Weight Is a Gift — if I ranked bands, this band would certainly fall in the top ten
  58. Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea — if I ranked this list, this album would certainly fall in the top ten
  59. Pavement, Slanted & Enchanted — raw, cool, indie rock
  60. Pearl Jam, Ten— my favorite grunge album (yes, even over Nirvana)
  61. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — these guys are French but sound like quintessential American pop
  62. Portishead, Dummy — top trip hop; makes me feel like James Bond
  63. Radiohead, Kid A — I didn’t like this album at first; a hundred listens later…
  64. Radiohead, OK Computer — prophetic album about the future of technology
  65. Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine — this album makes me want to break something
  66. Red House Painters, Songs For A Blue Guitar — hypnotizing blues guitar
  67. Refused, The Shape Of Punk To Come — it’s unfortunate that punk didn’t listen
  68. Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures — one of my favorite albums to listen to while driving
  69. Say Hi To Your Mom, Numbers & Mumbles — funny lo-fi that’s strangely addicting
  70. Scale the Summit, The Migration — vocal-less rock opera
  71. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream — the first album I ever purchased! until my parents made me return it (see track eleven)
  72. Snow Patrol, Final Straw — over a decade old, but still as good today as when I first heard it
  73. Spin Doctors, Pocket Full of Kryptonite — this albums reminds me of Young Life
  74. St. Vincent, Marry Me — intriguing album with intriguing lyrics
  75. Stars, Set Yourself On Fire — this albums makes me want to ride on a cloud
  76. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup — best album title ever?
  77. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Texas Flood — he almost joined David Bowie’s band…just think of the possibilities…
  78. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State — beautifully worded concept album
  79. Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary — I guess this is emo? best emo ever then
  80. Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair — distinctly 80s, but certainly radical
  81. Temples, Sun Structures — a cool throwback to 60s and 70s rock
  82. The Album Leaf, A Chorus of Storytellers — very chill album
  83. The Arcade Fire, Funeral — I think “Wake Up” is on the soundtrack to every movie
  84. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds — brilliant, vivid, orchestrated American pop rock
  85. The Beatles, Rubber Soul — formed a band in high school just to play this album
  86. The Beta Band, The Three EP’s — this album makes me want to walk around and check stuff out
  87. The Blue Nile, Hats — this album makes me want to walk around in the rain
  88. The Decemberists, Her Majesty The Decemberists — when I’m pillaging villages, I listen to this album
  89. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin — a symphonic pop masterpiece
  90. The Frames, For The Birds — “Santa Maria” is such a frickin’ awesome song
  91. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday — not sure if you’d call this singing or yelling, but regardless, it’s cool
  92. The Killers, Hot Fuss — hey, I’m in Las Vegas writing this note!
  93. The Mars Volta, De-Loused In The Comatorium — freaky, hard, and addictive album
  94. The National, Alligator — this album is so depressing it makes me happy
  95. The National, Boxer — a dark, inspired masterpiece
  96. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema — infectious power pop
  97. The Postal Service, Give Up — another album that has been on every movie soundtrack
  98. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow — tough call between this and Oh! Inverted World
  99. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead — another great rainy day album
  100. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses — the sophomore slump killed this band, which is very sad
  101. The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico — I think this album is just one long euphemism
  102. The Who, Who’s Next — that album cover!
  103. Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy — what I listen to to feel cool
  104. Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind — my high school anthem
  105. Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse — this album makes me want to play video games and eat candy
  106. Tom Waits, Closing Time — this album makes me want to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey
  107. Townes Van Zandt , For the Sake of the Song — perhaps the greatest songwriter ever
  108. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History — ebullient awesomeness
  109. U2, The Joshua Tree — the first three songs on this album are, perhaps, the band’s best
  110. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend — the album you play when driving down the California coast
  111. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks — Van Morrison has produced a million albums! but this is his best
  112. Weezer, Pinkerton — I think I have listened to this album more than any other
  113. Weezer, Weezer — these guys made being a nerd cool
  114. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — a catchy, complicated, cool album
  115. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass — a contender for best album title
  116. Youth Lagoon, The Year Of Hibernation — the ultimate bedroom project — and he’s from Boise!


Jazz (25)

  1. Arthur Lyman, Yellow Bird — this album transports you to a tiki room
  2. Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans — “Peace Piece” would put this album on this list by itself
  3. Buddy Rich, No Jive — perhaps the best drummer ever
  4. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady — this album is like an avant-garde glance into Mingus’s soul
  5. Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings — it’s like Chet whispers when he sings and plays the trumpet
  6. Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out — every song is written in 5/4 time, which is incredible
  7. Diana Krall, The Look of Love — this album is an aphrodisiac
  8. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Ella & Louis — like a long conversation between old friends
  9. Frank Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim — Frank’s bossa nova masterpiece
  10. Harry Connick, Jr., Blue Light Red Light — cool, mixed-genre jazz album
  11. Henry Mancini, The Days Of Wine And Roses — I don’t drink cocktails, but if I did, I’d pair them with this album
  12. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme — tough call between this and Blue Train
  13. Julie London, Around Midnight — Julie’s voice is perhaps the sexiest voice known to mans’ ears
  14. June Christy, Ballads For Night People/The Intimate Miss Christy — I imagine I’m walking the streets of Paris at night when listening
  15. Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love — her cover of “Between the Bars” is almost as good as the original
  16. Martin Denny, Quiet Village — exotica at its finest
  17. Medeski, Martin & Wood, Combustication — chaotic yet captivating jazz
  18. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew — oh man, the drugs he must’ve been on when recording this one…
  19. Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue — I will fight anyone that says this is not the best jazz album ever
  20. Ornette Coleman, The Shape Of Jazz To Come — never has the saxophone been so cool
  21. Oscar Peterson, Encore At The Blue Note — Oscar can tickle the ivory keys
  22. Sarah Vaughan, Crazy and Mixed Up — one of, if not the, best jazz voices
  23. Sergio Mendes Trio, Brasil ’65 Featuring Wanda de Sah — airy, cool, latin jazz
  24. Stan Getz & João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto — the album that started the bossa nova craze in the US
  25. Vince Guaraldi Trio, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus — pure jazz in trio form


Christmas (20)

  1. Amy Grant, Home For Christmas — “Breath of Heaven” gives this the nod over A Christmas Album
  2. Andy Williams, The Andy Williams Christmas Album — lounge-y Christmas music
  3. George Winston, December — beautiful piano compositions
  4. Brenda Lee, The Christmas Collection — the voice of Christmas songs
  5. Bing Crosby, Merry Christmas — the other voice of Christmas songs
  6. Charles Brown, Cool Christmas Blues — if you must be blue at Christmas, there’s this album
  7. Dave Brubeck, A Dave Brubeck Christmas — classics by the piano master
  8. Diana Krall, Christmas Songs — my favorite Christmas album
  9. Herb Alpert, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Christmas Album — quirky, jazzy Christmas tunes
  10. Ira Ironstring, Plays Santa Claus — the weirdest and best Christmas album you’ve never heard
  11. Low, Christmas — lo-fi, indie Christmas awesomeness
  12. Mel Tormé, Christmas Songs — “The Velvet Fog” — greatest singer name ever
  13. Phil Spector & Artists, A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector — Phil killed a guy! — but this is an excellent compilation
  14. Ray Charles, The Spirit of Christmas — classics from the master
  15. Rosemary Clooney, Rosemary Clooney: White Christmas — my other favorite Christmas album
  16. Sugar & The Hi Lows, Snow Angel – EP — funky, unique album with some original Christmas compositions
  17. The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait — classic duo singing classics
  18. Timbre, Silent Night — indie rock Christmas at its best
  19. Tom Hemby, An Acoustic Christmas — this dude can play!
  20. Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas — my other other favorite Christmas album


R&B (13) 

  1. A Tribe Called QuestThe Low End Theory — where hip hop meets jazz
  2. Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You — man, does she have some pipes
  3. Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill — who woulda thunk white guys can rap? 
  4. D’Angelo, Voodoo — I have to take a shower after listening to this album 
  5. Etta James, At Last! — the most soulful voice 
  6. Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE — chill, soulful, eclectic album 
  7. Jurassic 5, Jurassic 5 EP — awesome old-school rap
  8. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On — as good as it is important 
  9. Oddisee, Rock Creek Parkimaginative modern R&B
  10. Otis Redding, Otis Blue — died too young (26), but at least he left us this masterpiece 
  11. Roberta Flack, First Take — bits of rock, jazz, soul, and country in this one
  12. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, I Learned The Hard Way — a modern throwback to old-school soul
  13. Solomon Burke, Don’t Give Up On Me — everything you need to know about life is in this album


Ambient (13)

  1. Bing & Ruth, Tomorrow Was the Golden Age — a gorgeous and psychedelic album
  2. Boards of Canada, The Campfire Headphase — the first, and still one of the best, ambient albums I’ve purchased
  3. Bibio, Silver Wilkinson — this album makes me want to gallop through a meadow
  4. Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music For Airports — the master album from the master of this genre
  5. Explosions In The Sky, All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone — this album could be the soundtrack to your life
  6. Hilary Hahn, Hauschka, Silfra — this album was recorded in Iceland; it sounds like Iceland
  7. Luke Howard, Two & One — beautiful, introspective piano play
  8. Max Richter, 24 Postcards In Full Colour — you can almost imagine each postcard
  9. Mono & World’s End Girlfriend, Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain — haunting
  10. Rob Simonsen, The Way Way Back Score — airy, happy music that makes me smile
  11. Tim Hecker, Harmony In Ultraviolet —  this album makes me feel like I’m walking across the ocean
  12. Tortoise, It’s All Around You — one of the only albums that sounds like the cover looks
  13. Tycho, Dive — perfect for strolling around town and looking at the trees


Classical (13)

  1. Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique — kinda psychedelic classical music
  2. Britten, War Requiem  — it does evoke war imagery
  3. Copland, Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Billy The Kid, Fanfare — what being a cowboy sounds like
  4. Debussy, Clair de lune — “Suite Bergamasque” is the most beautiful piano suite ever
  5. Dvorak, Symphony No. 9 “New World” — Neil Armstrong took this piece with him on Apollo 11!
  6. Eglar, Cello Concerto, Enigma Variations — I can, and have, listed to “Nimrod” on repeat for hours
  7. Holst, The Planets — bold, extraterrestrial stuff here
  8. Mendelssohn , A Midsummer Night’s Dream — awesome accompaniment to one of my favorite plays
  9. Ravel, Bolero — technically only one movement, but it’s a darn good one
  10. Sanit-Saens, The Carnival of the Animals — fun, playful classical music
  11. Schumann, Carnaval — all piano, all awesome
  12. Tchaikovsky , The Seasons — puts sound to each month of the year
  13. Williams. Star Wars — sure I dig Star Wars, but this music stands on its own


Just Missed The Cut

AgesandAges, Alright You Restless; Air France, No Way Down; Andrew Judah, Albino Black Bear; Animal Collective, Sung Tongs; Au Revoir Simone, The Bird of Music; Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast; Blossom Dearie, Blossom Dearie; Boz Scaggs, Boz Scaggs; Cass McCombs, Dropping The Writ; Chet Baker, Silent Nights; Chromatics, Drumless; Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe; Coldplay, Parachutes; Daft Punk, Discovery; Deerhunter, Cryptograms; Echo & The Bunnymen, Songs To Learn & Sing; Hall & Oates, Home For Christmas; Frightened Rabbit, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks; Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, The Swell Season; James Blake, James Blake; John Coltrane, Blue Train; John Mayer, Room for Squares; Junip, Fields; Metric, Fantasies; Michael W. Smith, Christmas; Nick Drake, Way To Blue; Norah Jones, Come Away With Me; Patrick Watson, Love Songs For Robots; The Zombies, Begin Here; Third Day, Time; Toad The Wet Sprocket, Fear; A Sea of Glass, The Leaving; Sugar & The Hi Lows, High Roller; Switchfoot, Learning To Breathe; White Rabbits, Fort Nightly; Wilson Pickett, In The Midnight Hour









5 Replies to “Top 200 Albums”

  1. Nice work! No Dave Matthews though…surprising.

    It was probably senior year of high school, late at night. Rage Against the Machine was playing. We pulled over. There was moshing. I think I kneed myself in my own face. Don’t remember much after

  2. Sweet. Despite being 10% Christmas (ha!), this list and its commentary remind me we have pretty similar taste in music and gives me lots of good/forgotten stuff to add to Spotify as I work through my Pandora -> Spotify transition. Of course I have to commend your choice in album art to represent it as well.

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