It’s very difficult picking your top ten albums and the list could change slightly from day to day, but I think it comes down to the albums that you don’t have to skip a track on.
Over the years I think these albums have provided the most inspiration for me, although you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that, as most of them are completely different to my style of music. I’d imagine many artists are the same though, in the the sense that their favourite music doesn’t necessarily reflect in the music they write.
Most of these albums also invoke nostalgia for me and I think to do that, songs must have a lot going on musically. There can be songs that you’re a fan of, but the simpler ones don’t always stand the test of time for you personally, but the ones that have more going on in them, can take you straight back to when and where you were when you first heard them, whether it be a certain melody line, a vocal harmony, an effect on an instrument or even something as simple as a drum fill. These are the reasons you can go back to these songs years later and still enjoy them as much as you did back then.
Be sure to check out the playlist at the end that was inspired by this post.
So in no particular order, here are my top ten:
‘Nirvana - Nevermind’ (1991)
This album has to be on the list for me, it was the album that properly got me into music. Every song on this album gripped me straight away; I felt like I was hearing something brand new but at the same time, something that felt so familiar to me. I was a kid at the time and probably only just discovering music, but there were some key things that had my attention from the off, the powerful sound, the simple yet effective chords and chord structures, the words and phrasing used in the lyrics, the imagery and metaphors and the sound of Kurt Cobain’s vocal. If it wasn’t for this album, I wouldn’t be a musician today.
Favourite Tracks: ‘In Bloom’ ‘Drain You’ ‘Lounge Act’ ‘On A Plain’
‘Deftones - White Pony’ (2000)
I had never heard Deftones before this, but got the album because I loved the front cover, they are now my favourite band! I was absolutely blown away by this album. Chino Moreno’s voice is haunting throughout, the guitars and bass use so many interesting harmonies, the samples and sound effects used are cinematic and I’ve never heard a better drum sound before or since. Chino’s lyrics always surprise me too, you never know which angle he’s going to come from, what kind of metaphors he’s going to use or how he’s going to structure them. Digital Bath is probably one of my all time favourite songs, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. I just can’t fault this album from start to finish, there’s not a bad song.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Feiticeira’ ‘Digital Bath’ ‘Knife Prty’ ‘Passenger’
‘Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish’ (1993)
I was actually looking to get the ‘Parklife’ album when I bought this, but it was sold out everywhere, so I got this instead and I am so glad I did. I think it’s a much better album. Graham Coxon is a very unique guitarist and this is one of those albums that brings on a lot of nostalgia because of the way he plays on it, some of those chords are left ringing in your head forever. I was a kid in Jersey when I bought the album, & even now when I listen to it, it’s like I’m right back there at that time. The ending of ‘Oily Water’ is one of the most epic outros to a song that I’ve ever heard, I’d love to know how they created that in the studio. I think that Damon Albarn really found his place as a unique storyteller in British music on this album too.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Blue Jeans’ ‘Chemical World’ ‘Oily Water’ ‘Miss America’
‘Chicane - Behind The Sun’ (2000)
I’ve always been a fan of 90’s trance music and although this wasn’t released until 2000, it still encapsulates that 90’s trance sound. I remember getting this album for my birthday when I was a kid and it was the only thing I wanted that year. You wouldn’t usually associate trance music with chilling out, but Chicane have always managed to find that balance somehow. Songs like ‘No Ordinary Morning’ and ‘Autumn Tactics’ still take me back to the first time I heard them and ‘Saltwater’ still stands up as one of the greatest trance songs of all time for me. Great album by a talented guy.
Favourite Tracks: ‘No Ordinary Morning’ ‘Saltwater’ ‘Autumn Tactics’ ‘Don’t Give Up’
‘Korn - Issues’ (1999)
After only listening to Nirvana for years, a friend introduced me to Korn with this album just after it was released. I had heard of Korn but had never heard any of their music. For some reason, I was expecting something very heavy and not melodic, so I was surprised when giving a listen. I loved the album from start to finish and became obsessed with the band. This album then introduced me to so many other bands, as this was at the time that the “Nu Metal” scene was becoming so popular. I loved all the little instrumental interludes that apparently Jonathan Davis had created on his own. Munky and Head compliment each other so much on guitar and I think this was the first time that I was introduced to the low sound of the seven string. It’s pretty hard to fault this album at any point and it’s the shame that the band don’t really feel the same way about it.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Falling Away From Me’ ‘Beg For Me’ ‘Wake Up’ ‘Counting’
‘Poison The Well - You Come Before You’ (2003)
This one is on the heavier end of the list by a band that should have gone a lot further than they did. Poison The Well lie somewhere in between Post Hardcore and Metalcore, but I think they were one on their own, just for this album alone. The guitar chord harmonies are like something I’ve never heard before or since and the way they are played is pretty unconventional for any kind of heavy outfit. When it comes to singing, I love anything where you can hear pain in a voice, whether that be screaming, singing, talking, whatever ...and you can hear it clearly in Jeffrey Moreira’s voice on this album. I can very easily relax to this music, which may seem strange to some people, but if I ever need to calm down, this is the first album that springs to mind.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Ghostchant’ ‘For A Bandaged Iris’ ‘The Realist’ ‘Apathy Is A Cold Body’
‘Box Car Racer - Box Car Racer’ (2002)
I was a fan of Blink 182 and loved to see Tom DeLonge take a more serious approach on this album, I always see this as a prelude to Blink’s self titled album which didn’t quite make this list. It was great to hear Tom also experimenting a bit on some of the tracks here. The album has a few key features too; the vocals from Rancid’s Tim Armstrong on ‘Cat Like Thief’ are incredible, that will always be one of those songs that I never get sick of! Of course Tom couldn’t leave out Mark from Blink and I remember smiling the first time I heard his vocal come in on ‘Elevator’. I have to mention Travis Barker’s drumming too, it’s hard not to like a project that he’s played on! Again, another great album with no skippers.
Favourite Tracks: ‘All Systems Go’ ‘Cat Like Thief’ ‘Letters To God’ ‘Elevator’
‘Alien Ant Farm - ANThology’ (2001)
I was a big fan of the song ‘Movies’ and also liked their take on ‘Smooth Criminal’ at the time, although it got overplayed in the end, so when I got the album, I was expecting it to be full of that jokey vibe that they had portrayed in the videos for those two singles, but I was surprised at how different the rest of the album was. I think a special mention has to go to the bassist Tye Zamora on this album for some of the complex basslines, it’s great when you hear a bass player get really creative and almost take the forefront in a lot of songs and it definitely happens on this album. Dryden Mitchell’s imagery in the lyrics is also very interesting, coming from an unusual place throughout the album, which I thought was very refreshing. It’s a shame that they didn’t go on to do more than they did.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Courage’ ‘Flesh and Bone’ ‘Summer’ ‘Attitude’
‘Thursday - Full Collapse’ (2001)
Thursday are placed somewhere in between Screamo and Post Hardcore, but again, like Poison The Well, I think they stand alone in terms of genre. When talking about Nostalgia Albums, there’s nothing that comes close to this for me. It was 2003 when I first heard this record and most of the songs still take me back to that summer. The guitar and bass harmonies along with the vocals are unreal to me. This is another album where the imagery in the lyrics is so different and unique that it really makes you wonder about the background and story behind each one of the tracks. I recently watched a live performance online and to see everyone in the crowd screaming back the lyrics to ‘Standing on the Edge of Summer’ sent shivers down my spine. Great album!
Favourite Tracks: ‘Understanding in a Car Crash’ ‘Cross out the Eyes’ ‘Paris in Flames’ ‘Standing on the Edge of Summer’
‘My Vitriol - Finelines’ (2001)
Another band that should have gone further, but didn’t seem to do much after ‘Finelines’. Some of the sounds created on this album were unreal; the effects used on the guitars coupled with Som Wardner’s haunting vocal make something special. It would have been nice to hear what the band could have done had they carried on recording albums following ‘Finelines’. Again, another band that couldn’t really be defined by genre. We got to hear the fan-funded ‘Secret Sessions’ album from them last year, which was great and captured some of that early sound, but I hope they can push on and make more music in the future.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Always: Your Way’ ‘The Gentle Art of Choking’ ‘Cemented Shoes’ ‘Grounded’
Make sure you check out and like my playlist inspired by this post on the link below:
Some of the albums that didn’t make the cut, but are still great:
M83 - Saturday = Youth (2008)
Radiohead - The Bends (1995)
Deftones - [ Any Deftones Album ] (1995 - Now)
Nirvana - In Utero (1993)
Blink 182 - Blink 182 (2003)
Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City (2007)
Finch - What It Is To Burn (2002)
Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 (2003)
Slipknot - Slipknot (1999)
Eminem - Encore (2004)
Foals - Antidotes (2008)
Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)
The Used - The Used (2002)
Jay-Z - The Blueprint (2001)
Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream (2009)
The Maccabees - Given To The Wild (2012)
Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004)
Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends (2002)
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - East 1999 (1995)
Korn - Korn (1994)
The Game - The Documentary (2005)
Slipknot - Iowa (2001)
Oasis - Be Here Now
System Of A Down - Toxicity (2001)
Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires (2008)