“…and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I love music. I always have music playing in the background while I am cooking or running, I listen to it as a hobby, and enjoy perusing record shops.
Since being quarantined, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. With some of that extra time, I’ve been listening to my favorite albums again. It passes the time, and also allows me to introduce my favorite albums to my child. I do not actually think that he understands the complexities of The Beatles’ Revolver album, but it’s important to teach your children well (get it? *wink*).
Below I have listed my fifteen favorite albums of all time. Now, this is not a list of what I deem to be the most important albums of all time, or albums I believe everyone should own in their collection. (I have written about that subject here, for anyone interested!) These albums are my favorite. These albums are those that have changed my life, and the way I listen to and appreciate music.
15. Pure Heroine, Lorde (2013)
Teenage Antoinette ate this album alive. I remember hearing “Royals” on the radio for the first time and being, honestly, unimpressed. Then, I heard “Tennis Court” on the radio and was intrigued. I bought the album on iTunes and must have listened to it about a thousand times on repeat.
Even a few years later, while driving back and forth from New Jersey to Washington, DC, in college, I listened to the album on repeat in the car. Lorde’s lyrics in “400 Lux” captivated me. The line, “We’re hollow like the bottles that we drink,” forced me to look at myself nakedly, and to examine who I was as a person. This album genuinely meant a lot to me, and still does to this day.
I also believe that this album is important for female artists everywhere. Lorde was a mere teenager when she wrote this album, and it’s a damn good album that grasps at the experience of the human person throughout multiple stages of life: their first love, growing up, friendships, etc.
14. Careless Love, Madeleine Peyroux (2004)
This is one of my favorite jazz albums of all time. Peyroux’s voice is enchanting and haunting, her original work is captivating, and her covers are perfect. My favorite song on the album is a toss-up between Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” and Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
A few years ago I actually had the chance to see her perform the album live, and it was just as perfect as the recorded work. If you are a fan of jazz, I highly recommend listening to this album.
13. The Great Twenty-Eight, Chuck Berry (released 1982, recorded 1955-1965)
Berry’s The Great Twenty-Eight is an essential album to own for anyone who claims that they love rock and roll. I love this album because all of the songs are just so good. If you listen to “Maybellene” or “No Particular Place to Go” and claim those songs to not urge you to get up and move, you’re fooling yourself.
Another thing I love about this album is that it has a lot of music on it. It’s not an album with five songs, three of which are fillers. As the title suggests, there at twenty-eight (great) songs on the album. A lot of musicians have many albums that are deemed great, but really only have two hits on each. The Great Twenty-Eight has just that: twenty-eight great songs.
12. Some Girls, The Rolling Stones (1978)
This one was actually difficult for me. I am a huge fan of The Rolling Stones and love so many of their albums. My other favorites are Beggar’s Banquet and Sticky Fingers. My all-time favorite song of theirs is actually on Sticky Fingers (“Dead Flowers”), but when all is said and done, Some Girls takes the cake.
I genuinely enjoy every song on this album. They are bluesy, hard, grungy, and even catchy! This album has “Miss You,” “Far Away Eyes,” “Beast of Burden,” and even “Shattered.” I mean, in terms of rock, it doesn’t get much better than that.
11. Time Out, Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959)
If you haven’t noticed, I am a fan of jazz. This album is a cool jazz masterpiece that I have always just found appealing to the ear. Side one of the album is, in my opinion, perfect.
10. American Idiot, Green Day (2004)
One of my favorite aspects of music analysis is looking at albums that came out in the same year and comparing them. Green Day’s American Idiot was released in the same year as Peyroux’s Careless Love. I find this sort of thing amazing because while Peyroux’s album was a contemporary jazz success, Green Day’s album was also a major success, but in a different genre of music.
I remember the first time I ever heard a song from this album. I was in the car with my mom in the fall season either going to or coming home from school and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” came on the radio. Without sounding overdramatic, that song changed my life. I remember literally thinking to myself, This is the greatest thing I ever listened to.
Okay, a lot has changed in sixteen years. After listening to this album I went through that obligatory pseudo-punk phase that most kids go through. Now I primarily wear the color pink, blog about baking, and obsess over a good pedicure. However, this album is one of my favorites. The music is awesome, timely, and important. It truly depicted an image of America during the early 2000’s that was important. Not to mention, the album came with awesome music videos.
9. Elephant, The White Stripes (2003)
Everyone knows the song “Seven Nation Army.” However, this is only one of the many amazing songs on this album by The White Stripes. This album reminds me a lot of a Rolling Stones album insofar as it includes a lot of unique and different sounds throughout its songs. Its bluesy at times, grungy, punk, soft, etc. Some of the songs even sound like they were recorded straight out of a garage.
My favorite song on the album is… honestly? I cannot decide. “Seven Nation Army” is amazing, but so is “The Air Near My Fingers,” and “Ball and Biscuit.” I am a huge fan of The White Stripes in general, and love their Get Behind Me Satan album, but Elephant is my all-time favorites of theirs.
8. The Soft Parade, The Doors (1969)
This is another album that I think is very interesting to analyze in terms of music history. The Soft Parade, with songs featuring lyrics such as “Cobra on my left, leopard on my right,” was released only three years after Pet Sounds and Revolver. Further, this album only came out one year before Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. In terms of music history, it cannot be denied that between these dates, something changed deeply within music. What was acceptable to write or sing about changed, and I think The Soft Parade is an album worth mentioning in this historical sequence.
Besides all of that analytical or historical stuff, this album just rocks. I genuinely feel like each song on The Soft Parade is memorable, interesting, and downright great to listen to. I feel like a lot of people are not fans of The Doors, but this album holds a special place in my heart.
7. Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (1967)
I actually believe Magical Mystery Tour was a greatest-hits album of sorts. However, that does not change my mind and heart. This album is one of my all time favorites.
All of the previously mentioned albums do have some sort of sentimental value to me, but Magical Mystery Tour is one of the first mentioned that I can truly say I grew up listening to. I remember being a very small child in my father’s billiards’ room, surrounded by clouds of cigar smoke, dancing by myself to “Your Mother Should Know” or “I Am the Walrus” amongst adults trying to play a decent game of pool.
Even now, grown up with my own baby, I listen to this album with him. During bath time we listen to “Penny Lane” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” We listen to the album on weekend mornings. I do not think this album will ever not be one of my favorites.
6. Bat Out of Hell, Meatloaf (1977)
What can even say about this album?
Bat Out of Hell is argulably the most unapologetically dramatic album of all time. Between the theatrical lyrics, striking guitar playing, baseball announcing (yes, you read that correctly), this album has it all. I think the theatrical sounds of this album is why I enjoy it so much. Bat Out of Hell is a powerhouse of sound that does not care that the neighbors are annoyed. You’re going to sing along to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” damnit, and you are going to like it.
Besides all of that, the music itself is amazing. I mean, even Todd Rundgren worked on this album.
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground (1967)
I remember the first day my father came home with his album on vinyl. At first I was intrigued by the cover art. I thought it was very odd. However, I was about eight years old and didn’t know much about Warhol or pop art yet and therefore probably couldn’t appreciate it.
Anyway, my father put the album on. Okay, “Sunday Morning” was alright. The light sound of the song was pleasant to the ears, I felt relaxed, whatever. A few minutes later “Venus in Furs” came on and I was sure that my father had lost his mind.
Despite my confusion the first few times I listened to the album, it wound up growing on me. Today, this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I think I learned to appreciate this album when I thought about what Lou Reed was writing about during the time when this album came out. I also wound up appreciating the quirky sounds of the songs, even in “Venus in Furs.”
4. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan (1966)
I am a big fan of Bob Dylan. Just like with The Rolling Stones, it was difficult to pick my favorite album of his because I felt like there was just so many great ones to choose from. Blonde on Blonde wound up taking the cake though. I just enjoy so many songs on this album, from “I Want You” to “Visions of Johanna.”
Dylan’s lyrics are truly poetic masterpieces, too. I mean, just listen to “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and tell me that’s not a poem.
3. Rumours, Fleetwood Mac (1977)
I feel like when there are three types of people who like Fleetwood Mac nowadays:
- Girls who watched American Horror Story: Coven and pretend to dabble in witchcraft
- Older generations who were probably hippies when they were younger
- Everyone else
Let’s be honest: everyone loves Fleetwood Mac. It is true. And we all like Fleetwood Mac for a variety of different reasons! “Dreams,” “Secondhand News,” and “Go Your Own Way” are probably my favorite songs on the album. However, I do enjoy the album in its entirety. This was actually the first record I ever bought myself for my own record collection.
2. Revolver, The Beatles (1966)
You know how it was hard for me to pick one Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan album? Well, it was impossible for me to only pick one Beatles album for this list. I just could not do it. If I was naming my top twenty favorite albums of all time, another Beatles album would have made the list, too. The Beatles are my favorite band of all time. I feel like that is such a cliché thing to say, but it is true. I just love their music.
I think my favorite aspects of Revolver are the lyrics and experimental use of new instruments for the band. The sadness of “Eleanor Rigby” in combination with the dreaminess of “I’m Only Sleeping” or the lovingness of “Here, There, and Everywhere” captivates me. Combine those lyrical aspects with Harrison’s experimental use of the Indian sitar and tabla and you’ve got a masterpiece.
This is another album that I feel very sentimentally attached to, also. I remember listening to this album when I was very young and genuinely believe it shaped the way I listen to music now.
1. Blue, Joni Mitchell (1971)
I do not think a single note is out of place in this whole album.
Besides being musically magnificent, Mitchell’s lyrics are haunting, beautiful, and true. I think my favorite part of Blue is that it speaks to women first and foremost. How many rock n’ roll albums have been written by men, for men? Most of them. Mitchell’s lyrics capture significant moments of the female human experience. She sings about love, loss, sex, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, traveling, finding one’s soul, the concept of “home,” depression… the list goes on.
She empties her heart upon the piano, asking for audiences to do nothing but listen to her cry out. I have always loved this album, and it has gotten me through some dark times of my own. For some reason, when you think that no one understands you, Mitchell is there to tell you otherwise.