The Strokes – Is This It
The debut from one of New York’s most famous musical exports is what kicked off the indie scene and started the biggest musical movement of the century thus far, one that we are still in the grip of. Though the album displayed a simple, bare-bones approach it provided a blank canvas for the vast multitude of bands which followed.
The Libertines – The Libertines
The most notorious British band of the 21st century. Though they received plenty of critical acclaim and commercial success during their brief heyday, they were more famous for the drug fuelled exploits of Pete Doherty. Despite the fact that Doherty was completely out of it, spent time in prison and avoided bandmate Carl Barat like the plague, the band produced a classic British album.
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Arguably the most commercially successful indie band around. Though they have produced their fair share of hits across their career, they could never match Hot Fuss as far as albums are concerned. Inspired by new wave and post punk it features the massive hits ‘Somebody Told Me’, ‘Smile Like You Mean It’, ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ and of course their signature song ‘Mr Brightside’.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Having already established themselves as one of indie rock’s biggest success stories with their first two albums, Vampire Weekend then delivered a stone cold modern classic. All together more sophisticated, both musically and lyrically, it plays like a coming of age story of the band. Rather than focus on privileged youth the lyrics are more world weary with a more experimental musical backdrop.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call
This marked a major change for Australia’s darkest and most influential music icon. Moving away from the fanciful character driven post-punk of his origins, Cave instead adopted a more minimalist approach with more intimate and personal lyrics. The sombre piano balladry of tracks such as ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘People Ain’t No Good’ resulted in the album received universal critical acclaim.
Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible
This was the band’s final album before the mysterious disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards. As he was dealing with severe depression and various complications at the time the subject matter is suitably dark, including serial killers, consumerism, fascism and the Holocaust. It remains one of the boldest albums ever made and is a lasting legacy to Richey’s memory.
The Verve – Urban Hymns
To this day Urban Hymns remains one of the UK’s best selling albums, thanks in part to it’s hit singles ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’. Boasting some impressively complex sonic textures in dabbles with everything from orchestral balladry, feedback fuelled rock and vivid psychedelica. It stands as one of the best British albums of the nineties and regularly appears in lists of the best albums of all time.
P J Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
With an impressively eclectic back catalogue, multi-instrumental singer/songwriter P J Harvey remains one of the premier figures of the genre. Stories is often considered the high point of her career and earned her the 2001 Mercury Prize. She also won the prize in 2011 for Let England Shake making her the only artist to have won the prestigious Mercury Prize twice!
The National – Boxer
Brimming with dark melancholy, but also with a an inescapable air of worldly wisdom, it’s hard not to be moved by The National. Boxer is the perfect album for contemplation and escapism, for times when you feel disillusioned with the whole of life and humanity and you need something to cling onto to stop you from drifting away into the abyss. When all else fails this album brings comfort.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Before you have even listened to this album, one look at what is possibly the most beautiful album artwork ever designed should tell you that this is something special. The band have grown from the folk origins of their debut For Emma, Forever Ago and have expanded into a grand yet delicate baroque pop soundscape. A thoroughly enrapturing listen from start to finish.
Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
Following the collapse of his band Whiskeytown, Adams went on to create his first solo album. The raw honesty of his lyrics and the passion of their delivery led to a prolific career and Whiskeytown was soon forgotten. The intense beauty of songs like ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and ‘Come Pick Me Up’ have resulted in them becoming some of his most well loved hits.
Tame Impala – Lonerism
With the release of their second album Tame Impala proved themselves to be Australia’s greatest creative force. The mesmerising psychedelica of tracks such as ‘Elephant’ and ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ hark back to the heady hey day of the late 60s, and yet it feels so refreshingly modern like a vision of an alternate musical future. Indulgent, lavish and expansive it feels like a whole new world waiting to be discovered.
Kate Bush – The Kick Inside
Long before all the rest Kate Bush was the queen of crazy. Her ambitious music, incredible high notes and her wild live performances have made her one of the best selling artists in history. She started her career with a bang with her debut single and biggest hit ‘Wuthering Heights’ earning her the title of the first female artist to reach the UK number 1 with a self-written song.
Prince – Purple Rain
Plenty has been said about Prince just lately since his tragic death. He was an inspirational musical pioneer and innovator. Purple Rain, the soundtrack to his film debut and widely considered his best work, sums up his eclectic style, incredible vocal range and instrumental prowess. From the hard rock of ‘Lets Go Crazy’, the funky ‘I Would Die 4 U’, the hypnotic synthpop of ‘When Doves Cry’ and of course the guitar masterclass on the title track.
Bjork – Post
This Icelandic art-pop icon is the unquestionably the definition of weird. Whilst not to everyone’s taste there’s no denying her talent and influence. Post followed the trend set by her debut of introducing electronica and club music into mainstream pop. Never one to do the expected it also contains a cover of jazz classic ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ which went on to become the definitive version as well as her biggest hit.
ELO – The Electric Light Orchestra
Out of the ashes of The Move grew what would become one of Britain’s best loved bands. Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne were the creative force behind the band and aimed to combine mainstream pop with classical music. Their debut spawned their first hit in ‘10538 Overture’ but sadly it would turn out to be the only album to contain founding member Roy Wood as he later went on to form Wizzard.
T Rex – Electric Warrior
Although mainly known as a singles band, T Rex had their share of influential albums. Electric Warrior marked a shift from the band’s folk origins and ended up pioneering glam rock and making Marc Bolan a musical icon. It spawned one of the band’s best selling singles ‘Get It On’. Bolan’s simple yet theatrical songwriting is simply superb. Bold, bonkers and brilliantly British.
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
Composed by one of the world’s greatest guitarists Mark Knopfler, Brothers in Arms went on to top the album charts all around the globe. It remains one of the best selling albums in history with over 30 million copies sold. It’s easy to see why with the rock’n’roll of ‘Walk of Life’, the smooth sax of ‘Your Latest Trick’ and the instantly recognisable riff of ‘Money for Nothing’.
The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
Having already established themselves as one of the most important rock bands of the sixties and releasing a string of best selling singles, the band tried something a little different for the last album with the original line-up. The album was amongst the first concept albums and focuses on a series of vignettes of old fashioned English traditions. Although it sold poorly at the time it has since come to be considered their best work.
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
At the time this was one of the most ambitious albums ever produced. Young Mike Oldfield, who was only 19 at the time, decided to compose a prog rock magnum opus. He played nearly all of the instruments himself, recording them separately and then layering them afterwards. It seems simple now but at the time this was a revolutionary way to record an album and has changed the industry forever. It was the first album released through the Virgin label and was made famous as part of the soundtrack of The Exorcist.
The Doors – The Doors
The Doors debut album features very little overdubs; it is essentially a snapshot of one of their famously wild live performances at the Whisky a Go Go. Featuring some of their biggest hits including ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ and ‘The End’, this album introduced the world to Jim Morrison’s dark poetic lyrics and wild personality. The world hasn’t seen anything quite like it before or since.
Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
Quick to capitalise on the success of their performance at Monterey Pop Festival, the band released their debut and Cheap Thrills shortly after. It would be the band’s last album with the incredible Janis Joplin as their lead singer. It spawned two of her biggest hits, ‘Piece of My Heart’ and ‘Ball and Chain’, and kickstarted her hugely influential, but sadly short-lived solo career.
Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow
One of the greatest albums of the “Summer of Love” and the first to include Grace Slick as front woman. Spawning the massive singles ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ it propelled them to become international stars. Glace Slick became one of the pioneering women in rock music and inspired such people as Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith and Florence Welch.
Cream – Disraeli Gears
Considered one of the first and most successful supergroups of all time. Disraeli Gears saw them depart from the blues sound of their debut and venture into more psychedelic territory, such as on ‘Strange Brew’, ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’ and the band’s signature song ‘Sunshine of Your Love’. Although they were only together for a couple of years, they influenced a host of important bands including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
With a string of hits under their belt, and a high profile set at the legendary Woodstock Festival, CCR were one of the biggest bands around. This double album would be their commercial peak just before the band rapidly spiralled towards a tempestuous breakup. It’s also their most diverse album featuring the rock’n’roll of ‘Travellin’ Band’, the psychedelic ‘Ramble Tamble’ and a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it Through The Grapevine’.
Neil Young – Harvest
As much as he tried to avoid it, fame and success followed Neil Young around, whether with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or with his solo work. All other success though paled in comparison with that of Harvest, an acoustic album featuring the hits ‘Heart Of Gold’ and ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’. Following this Young tried to escape his acoustic troubadour image and went on to make heavier albums that helped found alternative rock and grunge.
Grateful Dead – American Beauty
The biggest cult band in the world. Although they were one of the most popular bands in America at the time they didn’t receive much commercial success until they swapped out their psychedelic acid test jams for the acoustic style of American Beauty. It featured some of their most famous and familiar songs including ‘Truckin’, ‘Sugar Magnolia’ and ‘Friend of the Devil’, ‘Ripple’ and ‘Box of Rain’.
The Band – The Last Waltz
Starting out as a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, The Band went their own way and became known as one of the most loved and talented bands of the time. By the late 70s however pressure was starting to build and they decided to call it quits with one massive farewell concert. Though it featured such incredible guest stars as Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton, The Band pulled off one final swan song and upstaged them all.
U2 – The Joshua Tree
This is the album that made U2 one of the most famous and commercially successful bands of all time. The album’s big hits ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and ‘With or Without You’ came to define their sound and was one of the best opening trios of songs on an album.
Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous
The greatest Irish rock band were always destined to produce one of the world’s best live albums. Charismatic frontman Phil Lynott, and the duelling guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, go on a whirlwind our of some the band’s biggest hits including ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ and ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. One of the most underrated bands at their peak.
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
“Van The Man” took a radical step away from the big hits such as ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ for his second album. His tender yet powerful vocals, his hypnotic stream of consciousness style lyrics and his blend of folk, rock, soul and jazz made it one of the most daring and enchanting albums ever made. Although often overlooked, he has deeply influenced so many incredible artists in a way that few other artists have.
The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy & the Lash
Shane MacGowan and the gang have always been unique, blending punk, traditional Irish folk music and a “fuck it” attitude. Equal parts brash and romantic, this was the bands finest hour. Featuring the hits ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ it is an album from a band that remain quite unlike anything else, and yet are quintessentially Irish.
Boston – Boston
The brainchild of musical maestro Tom Scholz, recorded almost entirely in his basement. The record label didn’t like this unprofessional approach, so Scholz had the rest of the band act as a decoy in the studio so he could carry on creating the album at home at his own pace. It had a revolutionary guitar sound that was the product of effects designed by Scholz himself. It helped influence a generation of rock bands and cost a tiny fraction of the cost to produce a regular album.
Eagles – Hotel California
The greatest achievement by one of America’s quintessential rock bands. It is a concept album that looks at the dark side of the American dream, as well as the prominent hedonism and excess in the music industry at the time. It contains some of their most famous songs, most notably the title track and ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, and has since become one of the best selling albums of all time.
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
With their first two albums Bon Jovi had found little success either critically or commercially, but clearly it was third time’s the charm as they soon became a household name across the globe. They have since become one of the most successful bands in history but this is where they really kicked off, and it includes their biggest hits: ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’.
Journey – Escape
The band had been shuffling round a fair bit since their prog debut with former members of Santana. Now on their seven studio album, Jonathan Cain joined as keyboardist and as one of the key songwriters. With the band’s classic line-up all together for the first time they produced hit after hit. On Escape they could do no wrong and with Steve Perry’s incredible vocals they became one of the best selling bands of the time.
Pixies – Surfer Rosa
In the same way that The Stone Roses acted as a catalyst for Britpop in the UK in the 90s, the Pixies kickstarted alternative rock in the US. Though their debut album had modest sales, most of the people who purchased it seemed to forever changed by the experience. They were on of the biggest influences on the exploding alternative scene and Kurt Cobain used this album as a template for Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
For their final album before signing on with a major label, Sonic Youth decided to give it their all. Writing and recording in long and often improvised jam sessions to try and capture their live sound, the end result was an innovative and enthralling double album. It stunned critics across the globe and was a revolutionary masterpiece that helped define a generation.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
One of the most ambitious albums in rock music; a double album (triple album in vinyl format) that lasts over 2 hours. With growing tensions in the band and everyone sensing the end, they tried to cram every single idea they had into one album. Rather than being almost solely written and recorded by frontman Billy Corgan like their previous albums, the band struggled to work together to create something special.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Even with such a short career spanning just this one album, Jeff Buckley is considered one of the greatest singers of all time. His rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is one of the most famous pieces of music ever recorded. He tragically drowned before releasing a follow up, and so Grace remains his lasting legacy. One can only wonder what more amazing music he could have created if he was still with us.