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The Riot Act- Top 17 Albums of All Time

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Guest TSMAdmin

The Riot Act


My Top 17 Albums of All Time (so far)


Who doesn’t love a list? They’re wonderful for the reader; he or she gets a synopsis of someone else’s opinion in an organized format that anyone can follow. They’re great for the writer; he or she can easily throw together a bunch of information without having to go through the painstaking process of actually writing a real article. They’re neat, educational, and fun for the whole family. And, in this case, they serve a purpose: Allowing you, the reader, an opportunity to get an idea of what I actuallylike, which has kind of gotten lost in the vitriol of my previous few pieces. Bear in mind that this based on what I personally own, which is a somewhat paltry 212 albums. It’s also a list of my favorite albums, as opposed to the 17 I feel are most important. There’s a bit of a difference. Either way, it gives me great pleasure to present to you My Top 17 of All Time (so far):




Leonard Cohen- The Best of Leonard Cohen

Best Tracks: “Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Chelsea Hotel no. 2”


This is one of the few examples of a greatest hits compilation being superior to a musician's proper albums. Which is not to say that Cohen's first four albums, from which these tracks were culled, aren't good. But The Best of Leonard Cohen manages to portray his unique and highly engaging songwriting style better than anything he released before or since.


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PJ Harvey- Rid of Me

Best Tracks:“Rid of Me,” “50 Ft.Queenie,” “Ecstasy”


One of the premier songwriters of the 90s at her angriest. Highlighted by the scatching production of Steve Albini, Rid of Me remains probably the most justifiably heavy album I've heard.




The Beatles- Revolver

Best Tracks: "I’m Only Sleeping,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Tomorrow Never Knows”


The Beatles' most experimental album to that point, Revolver is an excellent showcase for all three of the extraordinarily talented songwriters in the group. Lennon gets the best of it, in my opinion, and some of McCartney's schmaltzier tunes are the only things keeping this from being higher on the list.



The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground

Best Tracks: “What Goes On,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “I’m Set Free”


While definitely more streamlined than the two albums that preceded it, VU's self-titled album is debatably their best written and most consistent collection. Check out the somewhat superior "closet mix" in the Peel Slowly and See box set. As a matter of fact, just buy the box set on principle.


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Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks

Best Tracks “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Idiot Wind,” “If You See Her, Say Hello”


By far Dylan's most personal album, Blood on the Tracks details the painful breakup of his marriage. This is a simultaneously gorgeous and harrowing album, but the name alone should tell you it's worth owning. Saying "Dylan=Must own" is like saying "Oxygen=Must breathe." It's that simple.


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Pavement- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Best Tracks “Cut Your Hair,” “Gold Soundz,” “Range Life”


Following Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement's second album is almost disengaging. Gone are the oddball sonic experiments. In their place are some of the best indie rock songs of the decade.


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The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead

Best Tracks “Cemetry Gates,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”


Don't ever let anyone tell you that The Smiths are to be grown out of. The Queen Is Dead features what should turn out to be Morrissey's greatest collection of lyrics and a number of absolutely classic songs that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age or maturity level. And that's a shoot.


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Nirvana- In Utero

Best Tracks “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “All Apologies”


More evidence of Steve Albini's status as the most distinctive producer of the 90s. Nevermind may have been what broke them, but In Utero is where their real legacy lies.


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Bob Dylan- Bringing It All Back Home

Best Tracks "Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”


Yeah, this is Dylan's first album with a full band and electric instruments and everything. But the real gems are on the acoustic second side, where Dylan brings forth some of the most understatedly epic songs ever released.


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Elvis Costello- My Aim Is True

Best Tracks “Alison,” “Less Than Zero,” “Watching the Detectives”


Costello's first album is also his best, in my opinion. It's a little more organic than the new wave sound he later perfected with The Attractions, and the songwriting is simply better than anything he's done since. Absolutely boiling over with negative energy and the seemingly limitless potential of Mr. Costello.


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Pixies- Doolittle

Best Tracks “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Gouge Away”


The most influential late 80s alternative band at their best. Much more focused than the similarly awesome Surfer Rosa, the Pixies' second albums brings the noise and doesn't stop. This is what so-called alternative music sounds like, in case anyone was interested.


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Beach Boys- Pet Sounds

Best Tracks “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Caroline No”


Some of the best songs and most gorgeous melodies ever written. Brian Wilson gives the best indication here of why he's so revered as a songwriter.




The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground and Nico

Best Tracks “Venus In Furs,” “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “Heroin”


Maybe the most influential "alternative" album ever released. Basically every alternative rock band has its roots in the Velvet Underground's debut album.


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Radiohead- OK Computer

Best Tracks “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” “No Surprises”


"That seems a bit high," you're probably thinking. It isn't. OK Computer is, quite simply, the best album of the 90s and one of the greatest albums ever released. The band brings us into their dystopia with 12 claustrophic classics. And the robot voice is bad ass.


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The Clash- London Calling

Best Tracks “Spanish Bombs,” “Death or Glory,” “Revolution Rock”


Best punk album ever released. If you consider yourself a fan of rock music, there's no excuse for not owning this album.


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Bob Dylan- Blonde on Blonde

Best Tracks “Visions of Johanna,” “4th Time Around,” “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”


Or this one. Dylan at his absolute most awe-inspiring. He goes from stunning ballads to bluesy romps effortlessly and closes it out with a beautiful ten minute love song.


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The Beatles- Abbey Road

Best Tracks “Here Comes the Sun,” the entire second side


The second side of this album is, without a doubt, the best side of music recorded in the modern era. Without exception. The first half is excellent, as well. The best band ever formed at their absolute peak.


(There you have it. Bear in mind, of course, that I have nowhere near as many albums as I want. That explains the exclusion of various artists and all black people. Thanks for reading.)


Send feedback, expressions of humored derision, etc. to [email protected]

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