I’ve done the best films of every year since 1960, so it’s only fair that I give music the same treatment.
Same rules as before – this ranking is a mixture of public opinion as well as my own, and I’m only human so I’m bound to miss a few classics here and there. And in this list’s case, I’m not going to include “best of” or live albums.
Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:
1960 – Sketches Of Spain (Miles Davis)
This is an album I picked more for the vibe than the individual songs – Miles Davis was a musical genius, and that shines on every track from “Sketches Of Spain”.
1961 – My Favourite Things (John Coltrane)
Like with Miles Davis, John Coltrane was the master of music in these early years. “My Favourite Things” is one of his best.
1962 – Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (Ray Charles)
Good on Ray Charles for mixing two distinct genres together on one album.
1963 – Please Please Me (The Beatles)
The Beatles’ first album, and the start of their sixties dominance.
“Please Please Me” is both a fun record and an immensely important landmark in music history, and the songs are infectiously catchy.
1964 – A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles)
Competition started to grow more fierce after the Beatles redefined what modern music could be, but even so they still managed to blow all of their contempories out of the water with “A Hard Day’s Night”.
It’s their best album yet, and you can tell that the lads are starting to take more creative risks in their songwriting.
1965 – Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)
I could have picked the boring choice and gone for the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul”, but for the sake of uniqueness I went for Bob Dylan instead.
“Highway 61 Revisited” may just be his best album, and some of the songs on it have gone down as classics.
1966 – Revolver (The Beatles)
Aaaaaand we’re straight back to the Beatles. I would have loved to showcase another artist’s work, but the Fab Four were just on a roll in the sixties!
“Revolver” is such a fantastic experimentation of sound, and it set the groundwork for some of the greatest music of the late sixties.
1967 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles)
The album that defined one of the most iconic summers in British history, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bands” doesn’t really need an introduction.
It’s the perfect example of an all-consuming concept album, and I’m always swept away by the various musical ideas and stories it weaves during each listen.
1968 – Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix)
“The White Album” may have been the obvious choice, but I think I like Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” even more.
Some of Hendrix’s most iconic songs are packed into this album’s tracklist, and even the “sub-par” efforts have their charm.
1969 – Abbey Road (The Beatles)
This is the fifth Beatles album to make the cut already, and I assure you it’s the final one. Luckily, they saved the best ’til last.
“Abbey Road” is my favourite album of all time, and the tracklist has some of the greatest songs you will ever hear. That second half medley still amazes me to this day.
1970 – Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
With the Beatles out of the way, it was time for a new generation of music to take the forefront – and Simon & Garfunkel entered this new era with their masterpiece “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
The title track is one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard, and a lot of the other songs are quite underrated on the whole.
1971 – Led Zeppelin IV
All of the first four Led Zeppelin albums were revolutionary, but it was their fourth self-titled record that I love most – even in one of the toughest years so far, the rock gods reigned supreme.
“Stairway to Heaven” has gone down as arguably the greatest song ever, and other tracks like “Black Dog” and “When The Levee Breaks” slap too.
1972 – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (David Bowie)
I had to show some restraint whilst making this list – I wanted more than anything to have a dozen Bowie albums, but I’ve limited myself to only the greats … and what’s more iconic than “Ziggy Stardust”?
It’s a brilliant concept album from start to finish, and a lot of the songs here boast some of Bowie’s best ever lyrics and storytelling.
1973 – The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
“The Dark Side of the Moon” is one of those albums that always ranks highly in people’s lists, and mine is no exception.
I consider it to be Pink Floyd’s greatest work, and some of the songs here are their very best – and for a band this talented, that’s saying something!
1974 – Sheer Heart Attack (Queen)
1974 was a bit of a stagnant year in terms of all-time great albums, so I decided to play it safe and go for the effortlessly cool “Sheer Heart Attack”.
Queen were a band that always understood the assignment, and tracks like “Killer Queen” still get played on radios today.
1975 – A Night At The Opera (Queen)
Whilst “Sheer Heart Attack” may have been an unsure choice, there was no doubt in my mind that “A Night At The Opera” was 1975’s best record.
This is Queen at the peak of their powers – “Bohemian Rhapsody” alone would earn the album this spot, but other tracks like “The Prophet’s Song” and “Love Of My Life” always wow me.
1976 – Station to Station (David Bowie)
The objective choice for 1976’s slot would probably be “Songs In The Key Of Life” by Stevie Wonder, but Bowie’s “Station to Station” is in my top three favourite albums of all time.
It’s six perfect rock songs, with an energy that never loses steam across its relatively short run-time. My only complaint, if any, is that it should have been longer!
1977 – Rumours (Fleetwood Mac)
I wanted to put Bowie’s “Low” in this slot, but for the sake of changing it up I went for a little known album called “Rumours” instead.
This is everyone and their dad’s favourite 70’s soft rock album, with tracks like “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams” consistently playing in people’s barbecue parties.
1978 – Parallel Lines (Blondie)
The late seventies were a tumultuous time for mainstream music, with Disco and Punk duking it out to be the public’s go-to, but out of the chaos came the New Wave movement.
Blondie’s “Parallel Lines” is arguably the greatest New Wave album of all, with classics like “Heart Of Glass” that sound totally unlike any other hit at the time.
1979 – London Calling (The Clash)
Disco and New Wave are all well and good, but sometimes you need a bit of Punk to scratch that itch – and who better to provide the gnarly riffs than The Clash?
Their iconic album “London Calling” is not only a great head-banger, but it also contains more complex and ambitious tracks to keep the listener engaged.
1980 – Remain in Light (Talking Heads)
1980’s music would be forever changed when Talking Heads introduced African beats and polyrhythms to the mainstream.
“Remain in Light” is my favourite Talking Heads album, and I think it has the perfect structure – songs that build in intensity to the masterpiece that is “Once in a Lifetime”, before slowing down to a methodical crawl in “The Overload”.
1981 – Moving Pictures (Rush)
Rush is the conglomeration of three virtuoso musicians, and my favourite album of theirs is “Moving Pictures”.
It’s short but sweet, with thrilling tracks like “Tom Sawyer” and “YYZ” to keep the listener engaged.
1982 – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
198’2 spot was a no-brainer – “Thriller” smoked the contemporary competition out of the water, both commercially and musically.
Michael Jackson mastered the repetitive pop on this magnum opus, and songs like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” never get old.
1983 – Synchronicity (The Police)
The Police made some fantastic albums in the late seventies and early eighties, but the one worth mentioning has to be “Synchronicity”.
It’s a fascinating collection of musical ideas, and “Every Breath You Take” has gone down as one of the greatest songs ever.
1984 – Purple Rain (Prince)
I wasn’t going to include movie soundtracks on this list, but I think “Purple Rain” does enough to distinguish itself as a regular album.
It’s Prince’s masterwork in an already glistening discography, and every track here slaps. The title track in particular is a glorious display of lyrical and instrumental mastery.
1985 – Brothers In Arms (Dire Straits)
1985 was relatively weak on the whole, and I don’t know of any of its albums are still held in high regard, but I can’t help but love Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms”.
It’s such a fun and vibrant record, with tracks like “Your Latest Trick” and “Money For Nothing” providing danceable bangers.
1986 – So (Peter Gabriel)
1986, on the other hand, was an extremely tough year with many fantastic albums.
I went for Peter Gabriel’s “So” for its brilliant blend of pop and African music, but I could have easily chosen half a dozen others.
1987 – The Joshua Tree (U2)
I’m more into U2 for their singles rather than their albums, but “The Joshua Tree” has so many great tracks that I can’t help but love the collection as a whole.
“With Or Without You”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where The Streets Have No Name” all came from this album – what a tracklist!
1988 – Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.)
Arguably the most important album of the 80’s, N.W.A. ushered in a new appreciation for rap music.
“Straight Outta Compton” has a great title track, and “Fuck Tha Police” has become an anthem for justice.
1989 – The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses are such a strange band – they made one of the best albums of all time (as well as another that I’m not too fond of), and that’s basically it for their discography.
As one-album-wonders go, their self-titled debut is pretty mesmeric, with tracks like “Fools Gold” and “I Wanna Be Adored” providing a vibe that had never been heard of before or since.
1990 – Violator (Depeche Mode)
Nine Inch Nails would perfect the format a few years later, but “Violator” by Depeche mode paved the way for experimental, hard electronica.
There are loads of great tracks here, with bangers like “Enjoy the Silence”, “Personal Jesus” and “Policy of Truth” that still hold up today.
1991 – Nevermind (Nirvana)
1991 was a tricky year, especially when Rap and Grunge were just starting to find its mainstream footing, but there could only ever be one winner.
“Nevermind” is Nirvana firing on all cylinders, with a tracklist filled with more bangers than I could ever hope to mention.
1992 – Rage Against The Machine
Nirvana and the Grunge movement were pioneering a sort of moody, downbeat aggression, so it was down to Rage Against The Machine to go for a full-frontal assault.
Their self-titled debut is one of the boldest, most bitter opening statements in music history, and tracks like “Killing In The Name” are still used today in protest.
1993 – Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest)
I love A Tribe Called Quest and how they blend Rap with other melodic styles, and I find “Midnight Marauders” to be their best work.
It contains a lot of my favourite tracks, like “Electric Relaxation” and “Award Tour”, providing a vibe you’ll never find anywhere else.
1994 – The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails)
Even today, “The Downward Spiral” by Nine Inch Nails sounds like an album from another planet.
The industrial, electronic sounds are used to great effects, and tracks like “Closer” and “Reptile” paint a dastardly picture of a man losing his grip on life.
1995 – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (Oasis)
You may know “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” for its track “Wonderwall”, but almost every other song is a Britpop banger.
This Oasis album regularly tops lists of Britain’s favourite album, and tracks like “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” make it easy to see why.
1996 – Travelling Without Moving (Jamiroquai)
Jamiroquai is one of those bands that have never made a bad album – their songs are always so funky fresh, and they work in every occasion.
Their magnum opus has to be “Travelling Without Moving”, since that’s the one with “Cosmic Girl” and “Virtual Insanity” on its star-studded tracklist.
1997 – OK Computer (Radiohead)
The start of the Radiohead dominance, “OK Computer” was a turning point in music history.
The songwriting is exceptional, the production is magical, and tracks like “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” are utterly awe-inspiring.
1998 – The Miseducation Of Lauren Hill
“The Miseducation Of Lauren Hill” was one of the first Rap albums to receive both commercial and critical acclaim, even winning that year’s Grammy for best album.
Lauryn Hill weaves together many excellent feel-good tracks, with “Doo Wop (The Thing)” being my favourite of the bunch.
1999 – Californication (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Red Hot Chili Peppers albums have always been a bit hit-or-miss for me, usually having both bangers and skippable tracks, but “Californication” is a non-stop joyride.
A lot of the band’s most famous tracks, like “Around The World” and “Otherside”, are on here, and the rest are good enough to keep you engaged.
2000 – Kid A (Radiohead)
“Ok Computer” was experimental but largely rock-focussed, so it blew everyone’s minds when Radiohead went fully in the deep end for “Kid A”.
Some of the experimentation of production and electronic sounds is mesmeric, and tracks like “Idioteque” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack” are some of the band’s haunting best.
2001 – Discovery (Daft Punk)
I wanted more than anything to put Muse’s “Origin of Symmetry” in this slot, but the cultural impact of “Discovery” cannot be understated.
It’s an album comprised of bop after bop, with a fresh spin on electronic music that revolutionised and massively popularised the genre.
2002 – A Rush Of Blood To The Head (Coldplay)
Coldplay have garnered a bit of a negative reputation in recent years, but some of their early work was truly sensational.
“A Rush Of Blood To The Head” was arguably when they found and perfected their sound, with tracks like “The Scientist” still making it into their live shows.
2003 – Absolution (Muse)
I’ve heard some complaints about “Absolution” and how its production is a little messy, but I love it for the non-stop rock euphoria it provides.
This is Muse at their heaviest and nastiest, with some of the roughest riffs and guitar solos you’ll ever hear. “Hysteria” and “Stockholm Syndrome” are two tracks I feel blessed to have witnessed live.
2004 – Funeral (Arcade Fire)
Arcade Fire are a completely unique rock band, with a Folk Rock sound that many have tried and failed to replicate in the years since.
“Funeral” is their most famous and their best, with tracks like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” presenting interesting stories that bolster the album’s narrative.
2005 – Demon Days (Gorillaz)
Gorillaz’s 2001 self-titled debut certainly set the ball rolling, but it wasn’t until “Demon Days” that they became one of the most pioneering bands in the world.
Damon Albarn and friends weave together a plethora of genres and musical ideas, all while containing it in a neat little concept album package.
2006 – Black Holes and Revelations (Muse)
2006 was a tough year full of some great albums, so I decided to break the deadlock by defaulting to a personal favourite.
“Black Holes and Revelations” is Muse’s best album, in my opinion. It’s such a wild jump from the hard rock that came before, but otherworldly tracks like “Knights Of Cydonia” and “Map Of The Problematique” make it a smooth transition.
2007 – In Rainbows (Radiohead)
The third Radiohead album to make this list, and my favourite in their discography.
“In Rainbows” is yet another masterpiece by the band, with songs like “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” and “Nude” providing some of the cleanest, warmest sounds you’ll ever hear.
2008 – Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (Coldplay)
Brian Eno is one of my favourite producers, and his mastery is all over Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”.
The title track is easily one of the band’s most memorable, and other songs like “Lost!” are fairly underrated too.
2009 – Veckatimest (Grizzly Bear)
In all honesty, 2009 was a weak year for albums. I was tempted to give it to my beloved Muse for their rock epic “The Resistance”, but I’d be kidding myself if I said that was objectively better than every other album released that year.
Instead, I’ve gone for “Veckatimest” by Grizzly Bear. I’m told it’s quite good, and the songs I have heard from it – like “Two Weeks” – are pretty great.
2010 – This Is Happening (LCD Soundsystem)
I was devastated when “Sound of Silver” didn’t make the cut in the mid-noughties, so I made up for it by shoving “This Is Happening” into 2010’s slot.
“Dance Yrself Clean” is one of the best album openers of all time, and other tracks like “Drunk Girls” and “I Can Change” are some of the catchiest songwriting LCD Soundsystem have ever done.
2011 – 21 (Adele)
Adele is one of the greatest singers of this generation, and “21” is filled to the brim with powerhouse tracks.
The best of these has to be “Rolling in the Deep”, one of the most powerful ballads you’ll ever hear.
2012 – Lonerism (Tame Impala)
Tame Impala went from quiet Indie band to worldwide phenomenon with the release of “Lonerism”, a psychedelic rock record for the ages.
I love almost every track on here, with “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” being some of my favourite songs of all time.
2013 – Random Access Memories (Daft Punk)
It’s amazing to me how “Random Access Memories” effectively came and went, vanishing from the public consciousness – it’s arguably Daft Punk’s best album!
Not only does it have great electronic tracks like “Motherboard” and “Contact”, but jazz-infusions like “Get Lucky” and “Giorgio by Moroder” slap way harder than they have any right to.
2014 – Lost In The Dream (The War On Drugs)
2014 didn’t have many albums that I recognised /regularly listen to, but The War On Drugs’ “Lost In The Dream” stands out above the rest.
My favourite track is probably “Red Eyes”, which mixes folk, stadium and art rock without so much as breaking a sweat.
2015 – To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar)
A recent contender for greatest album of all time, “To Pimp A Butterfly” was when Kendrick Lamar cemented himself as one of the GOATs.
It’s the perfect rap album full of ambitious ideas and heavy verses, with “King Kunta” being my pick of the bunch.
2016 – Blackstar (David Bowie)
Just when everyone thought Bowie’s best work was behind him (his last entry on this list was forty years ago, after all!), he shocked the world by releasing the moving, unsettling, deeply dark “Blackstar”.
It’s a brilliant swan song to his majestic career, with seven nightmare-inducing jazz tracks that hit hard and don’t hold anything back.
2017 – DAMN. (Kendrick Lamar)
Kendrick Lamar once again released a banger of an album with “DAMN.”, probably his most famous in his discography.
It’s just as heavy-hitting and profound as before, with tracks like “HUMBLE.” breaking into the mainstream like never before.
2018 – Kids See Ghosts
Kid Cudi and Kanye West combined for “Kids See Ghosts”, and their debut record knocked it out of the park straight off the bat.
It’s a brilliant coming together of both of their sounds, whilst still providing something fresh and new.
2019 – Igor (Tyler, The Creator)
Other than 2009, 2019 might be the weakest year of the lot. There were hardly any albums to shout about, so I had to default to the popular choice.
I’ve heard a lot of positives about “Igor” by Tyler, The Creator, but I’m not really into his music personally.
2020 – After Hours (The Weeknd)
“Blinding Lights” is one of the biggest hits of all time, and the album that it came from – “After Hours” – is no slouch either.
While it may not be The Weeknd’s best critical work, there are so many mainstream bangers in a row that you can’t help but love it.
2021 – An Evening With Silk Sonic
I’m not necessarily a Bruno Mars fan, and I’d never heard of Anderson .Paak before, but their collaboration is one for the ages.
“An Evening With Silk Sonic” is a brilliant throwback album, with tracks like “Smokin Out The Window” and “Leave The Door Open” providing slick, laid-back bops.
2022 – Hellfire (Black Midi)
Time will tell if another album that flew under the radar will rise up and take 2022’s place, but for now “Hellfire” by Black Midi was the record that stood out most last year.
It’s unapologetically brutal and visceral, with tracks like “Welcome To Hell” putting the “mental” in “experimental”.
Aaaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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