AOTY 2023

The best however-many albums of all time

This is a list that I've been wanting to make for a long time - ever since seeing Rolling Stone try and fail hard at making one of these lists last year. And that new songs list they released recently has pushed me to finally making this list.

It should be said beforehand that this list isn't down to personal preference. This isn't how I'd rank these albums personally, but rather what I'd imagine a proper, objective list made by credible critics to look like. That said, don't expect this to have a proper ranking, because at the end of the day I am just one guy who doesn't know nearly as much about music as I'd want an actual critic to know. As such, only the top 50 or so will have any sort of understandable ranking, and the rest will probably end up a lot more loose and probably not entirely accurate.

For the ones that are higher up, I'll try to write a paragraph or so on why I believe them to be so high on the list. But obviously, since I am just one guy, I haven't heard every single essential album out there, let alone some less-popular-but-still-arguably-deserving-of-a-placement albums, so I'm completely open to any and all recommendations for the list, as well for any words you'd want to say for any album on the list, higher up or lower. Also just any recommendations on any placement on the list that you genuinely think should be higher/lower.

Finally, don't take the list too seriously. As I keep saying, I'm just one guy, and any list like this is quite the undertaking. I'm not a professional critic, nor is anybody else here. This is ultimately just for fun and shouldn't be seen as a 100% serious list - just an attempt at a comprehensible list of what a hypothetical "objective albums list" would look like. At the end of the day, all art and music is completely subjective, so you or I may hate an album on the list, view some as deserving higher placement or some as deserving no placement whatsoever. This list is just down to impact, critical and commercial success, and how well they've stood the test of time, not personal feelings.

The Beatles - Abbey Road
Realistically, there's probably a couple dozen albums that could possibly be considered number one of all time. So any album you could possibly make a case for would end up being both wrong in somebody's eyes but right generally speaking. That said, Abbey Road, to me at least, just seems like the most obvious pick, as well as the one that I'd hope wouldn't turn too many heads. You don't need to introduce the Beatles to anybody - they're widely considered the greatest band to have ever lived, filled with so much talent both in their music and in their songwriting, and helped pioneer production techniques that are still in use today, way back when the technology for it was still primitive. Abbey Road is perhaps the most striking when it comes to this. Whether it's the medley that makes up the last half of the record, which is simply mind-blowing thinking it came out in '69, or simply phenomenal tracks like "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Come Together" which are simply landmarks in '60s production. Then you get the songwriting, which is perhaps the best of any Beatles album, solo or as a band. I mean, can anyone listen to "Something" and not call it one of Harrison's most heart-felt and mature songs? The simplicity of "I Want You" making it endlessly memorable, the simple yet lovable "Here Comes The Sun", this is simply the Beatles at their peak in every sense of the word, proving that even at the end of the road for them as a band, they could still pump out some of the best, most groundbreaking and influential music of all time.
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
When Dylan went electric, it sent shock waves through the entire rock scene. Not only had he completely alienated his folk audience, but he opened up the still quite simple rock audience to the true art of lyrics. Dylan's poetry is arguably at its best here, resulting in songs like the timeless and ever-influential "Like A Rolling Stone" which is simply impossible to not like. And quite honestly, this mesh of blues rock and folk works so amazingly that it's a wonder how this wasn't done much sooner, and how the folk crowd were initially so strongly against the idea. Honestly, the only way someone could possibly dislike an album like Highway 61 Revisited is if they simply dislike Dylan's vocals, but even then, he brings something to these songs that nobody else could. This is his poetry he's performing, and you could get the best singer in the world to sing these songs, but nobody could grasp that mystique that Dylan effortlessly brings to "Ballad Of A Thin Man", or that intrigue he brings to "Desolation Row". This is just an album that only Dylan could make, and its long-lasting impact is undeniable.
The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
"The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."
- Brian Eno
The Velvet Underground & Nico is perhaps the most influential rock album of all time. Maybe you may see that as a stretch, especially seeing how The Beatles and Bob Dylan (among others) are much more widely regarded when it comes to sheer scope of their influence. But honestly, where some people may find those artists not as great, this is the album that seems to inspire and change anyone who listens to it. When it comes to influence, not only the great Brian Eno, but it was also a major influence for everyone from David Bowie, to Frank Zappa, to even Devo. TVU&N had such a wide impact despite so little commercial attention, and listening to it today, it isn't hard to see why. Lou Reed's gritty lyrics, grounded in a dark realism that you couldn't find anywhere else at the time, alongside the simple guitar work of both Reed and Sterling Morrison, the rough-around-the-edges drum work of Maureen Tucker, John Cale's ear-piercing avant-garde viola, the intentionally rough production, all makes for an album that is filled with a sad beauty. Add to that the swaggering charisma found in Reed's simple vocal performances, contrasted by the angelic voice of Nico, and you get yourself an album that is easily deserving of its endless praise.
The Beatles - Revolver
Quite possibly the definitive turning point for rock in the '60s. This may not have been the first psychedelic album, but it was certainly the one that brought it to the mainstream and inspired almost every single artist after it. Revolver marks the point where the Beatles went from the pop rock group that everyone loved, to wild experimentalists and revolutionaries who fully embraced the rapidly rising drug and hippy culture. With that said, if there's any album that shows the positives of drugs, it's probably Revolver, what with Harrison going from easily the weak-link when it came to songwriting in all their prior releases to writing such masterpieces as "Love You To" and "Taxman", Lennon writing songs as crazy as "Tomorrow Never Knows", and McCartney penning such ambitious tracks as "Eleanor Rigby" and "For No One", both of which have more obvious classical influences. And the production on this thing is simply immaculate, and unlike anything else you could find from '66.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Miles Davis is certainly a mainstay of any list like this. You simply cannot talk about the greatest music without mentioning him. And perhaps Kind Of Blue is a predictable choice to have this high, but there's a reason why that is. This is the album that set the standard for jazz. The intricacies in the performances, the calm, cool and collected improvisations that would convince the unaware that it was meticulously written, the overall tone and mood of the album makes for one hell of an entertaining listen. And Kind Of Blue is arguably one of the very few pure jazz albums that broke free of the genre itself, going on to inspire countless other artists who worked in many other genres. In all honesty, any rock, rap, or pop album worth its pennies likely had some sort of influence from this album, no matter how big or small that influence may be.
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon
Essentially the poster child of rock music. Everyone's seen the iconic cover of The Dark Side Of The Moon, everyone's tired of being told it's the best album of all time, and we're likely all tired of our parents blasting it out of their speakers every couple days. But honestly, there's certainly a reason why it has gained this reputation, and how it's managed to maintain said reputation for close to fifty years now. Pink Floyd made such an intricate and beautiful concept record here, one filled with enough sadness and happiness to make you smile just as much as it'll make you reflect on your own life. Quite frankly, The Dark Side Of The Moon is no one's favourite Floyd album, but it's one that everyone can unanimously agree is perhaps their best, most ambitious (yes, even more so than the notoriously ambitious "The Wall"), successful (critically, commercially, and musically), and instantly impactful. And that impact certainly never left, and only makes itself more prevalent over time.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
The album that changed everything when it came to pop. Nowadays, this seemingly simple album filled with nostalgic love songs may not be much to the average listener, but back when it was released, Pet Sounds had such a drastic and sudden change to the entirety of music. It set a new standard when it came to production. Written, recorded and produced entirely by Brian Wilson, only ever bringing in the other Beach Boys when he needed the vocals, and acquiring an orchestra for certain segments, it never ceases to amaze me just how much the one guy was able to accomplish. Not only is it one of the most immaculate-sounding records of the mid-'60s, but it's also one of the most mature of the whole psychedelic pop movement, having lyrics that are perhaps simple and what you'd expect from '60s pop, but are perhaps the best of the time, and some truly amazing instrumentation and vocal harmonies. This is easily the Beach Boys' magnum opus, and an absolute game-changer that should never be forgotten.
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
The '60s was easily Dylan's most creative period - releasing album after album of nothing but top-tier songs filled with only the best writing you could find ever. And Blonde On Blonde is arguably the peak of that creativity - released after the timeless and groundbreaking Highway 61 Revisited, and showing that even he couldn't falter after making something so phenomenal. Although Blonde On Blonde doesn't necessarily have singular stand-outs like prior releases, it does have one hell of a solid and damn consistent track listing, with each and every track easily being on par - or even BETTER than - the best of his previous outing. Whether it's a silly song like the controversial "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", a timeless beauty like "Just Like A Woman" or "Visions Of Johanna", or just a blues rock banger in "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat". Bob Dylan just couldn't miss, and it's no wonder why this is seen as just as important to his discography and the history of music as Highway 61 Revisited.
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson's debut album started a whole movement of music - setting all the tropes in place of arguably the greatest subgenre of rock, progressive. And in their first ever release, they pretty much perfected everything that the genre would ever do; long songs that don't drag, poetic lyrics that should impress even the most adamant prog hater, and undeniable talent from each and every one of the members that makes the album wholly impressive no matter how many times you hear it. It's no wonder how this is one of the only albums ever made that seemingly never ages; always impressing new listeners. Where some other classic albums may have the occasional hater claiming it to be dated, The Court Of The Crimson King rarely ever gets any of that flak, and whenever it does, you can guarantee that that person will change their mind after another listen or two. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that this is one of the most important pieces of music to ever be released.
David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
David Bowie was such a unique character. In his long career, he made so many albums that are known as innovative masterpieces, and the man himself was such a fascinating person; a forward-thinking visionary who seemingly never ran out of fresh ideas. His most commercially successful album, Ziggy Stardust, isn't necessarily his most groundbreaking, but for what it did - all that it accomplished musically and all that it influenced - it's undeniable that it sticks out as his most noteworthy project. A concept album focusing on the bisexual, androgynous alien Ziggy Stardust, his rise to stardom and his tragic end, all the while holding some of the most amazing glam rock out there. Bowie's vocals all throughout are at their peak, managing to capture so many emotions throughout the record's full run time, with "Five Years" and "Rock 'n Roll Suicide" in particular sticking out as some of his greatest vocals in his entire discography, and some of the most hard-hitting I've ever heard. And the instrumentation is fabulous all throughout, whether it's the proto-punk of "Hang On To Yourself" or the danceable "Starman", it all ends up being so damn enjoyable. It's simply rock at its peak, and it's no wonder why this is by far Bowie's most renowned release.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
The most recent album to rank this high up. Some may argue that it's still too early to rank To Pimp A Butterfly up there amongst albums that have solidified themselves over decades, but I'd argue that it's already solidified itself as one of the all-time best after such a short period of time. Kendrick Lamar is seen as one of, if not the best rapper of the 2010s, with many arguing that he's one of the best ever. TPAB stands as arguably his magnum opus, an album that had so much influence on every single hip hop album released afterwards that you'd think it had been released much earlier than it actually was. Even though hip hop had long since been in the mainstream, this still managed to make it even more widely accepted. Where the classic rock kids would say "I hate rap but love Eminem," they now say, "I hate rap but love Kendrick." I still remember how within the week of its release, the "born in the wrong generation" kids at school went from listening exclusively to Nirvana and Guns 'n Roses to rapping along with songs from this album. Needless to say, TPAB had such an instant and widespread success and its influence was sudden and seen clearly wherever you look. So with that said, is it REALLY too early to call this one of the all-time greats?
Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
Over a decade into his career, Dylan made what may just be his most heart-felt record ever. Blood On The Tracks is perhaps the ultimate break-up album, made during his progressively failing marriage, and portraying it through ten tracks filled with some of his most beautiful poetry that perfectly captures the emotions during such a rough break-up of such a long-term relationship. Whether that's capturing the nostalgia of the good times in "Tangled Up In Blue", or the uncontainable emotions in "Idiot Wind". If nothing else, Blood On The Tracks shows just how human Dylan has always been; a superstar who had been called the "voice of a generation" at such a young age, whose life was always on display for the whole world to see, and even he was able to get such strong human emotions, and perfectly convey them through some of his best written songs in his entire career.
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I'd also suggest some other 1950s rock, maybe Here's Little Richard.
my favorite album is below multiple albums i despise ๐Ÿ˜”
Elvis (Presley that is) should definitely at least have on album on here. Probably the self-titled debut
This is a great list but I think you forgot about Queen. I would also include out of the blue by ELO and one of the 70s Kansas albums on a list like this. Otherwise great list especially the prog rock inclusions.
It always really makes me happy to see just how many people really appreciate "In the Court of the Crimson King". Great list, I can easily see a lot of effort was put into this!
@21stcenturyschi Thanks!

I really need to get back to this list at some point.
Huge respect for the effort ๐Ÿ‘Œ
I'll get back to this in November.
@ThomasGuy Yeah, that Femmes record certainly deserves a fairly high spot, just down to how ahead of the curve it was and how good the end result was. Eno's Ambient 1 will definitely be on the list, I'm thinking somewhere in the 350-400 range, and I've added Before And After Science to 225.
@DoubleZ Thank you so much! It means a lot!
I like the Violent Femmes appreciation. Personally, I feel as though Eno's Before and After Science deserves a spot, and so do a number of his ambient records, specifically ambient #1.
It's great! Abbey Road number 1, I can die in peace! Excellent work, I will follow the evolution !
@Fhhgvnjscvbbg Thank you!
Very cool list!
@Dabzilla Yes, that's very true and something that I have thought about. The only issue there is that I'm not knowledgeable on other culture's music, so I'll definitely need to do more research on that front.
Solid list. One critic would be that thereโ€™s a massive lack in representation of other cultures and counties. This list is very Eurocentric.
Of course once I get the top 250 sorted I realize that I forgot about the existence of CCR. FML.
Man, just looking at the first 100 albums I have written down, I can tell I'm going to piss off some/a lot of people lol. I'm just gonna list 'em for now and do the writing, thinking and re-thinking over the next few days.
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November Playlist