My Top 10 Favourite Albums of All Time — A List Article

Today I indulge in a cheap exercise that has proven in the past five years to be one of the most popular forms of articles on the internet. Today I write the first list article for Radio Friendly. I’ve said it before, I don’t like list articles, they are an excuse for writers to litter the page with GIFs and shit tweets they find that are remotely relevant to the topic. Thanks, Buzzfeed. But list articles are enjoyable to make, and enjoyable to read if written with half a brain and basic understanding of the English language.

There’s a trend hitting Facebook where you list your ten favourite albums, one a day for ten days, and tag your friends so you see their favourite albums. I was tagged in a post by my mate Heath. Thanks Heath. And since I already bother my Facebook friends with my dribble once or twice a week, I thought I better not flood my profile with more music related posts. So, I’ve put it all together in one article. The first list article for Radio Friendly: Nick Devin’s Ten Favourite Albums, in particular order.

Note: These are my favourite albums, not necessarily the best album in the band’s discography. All these albums hold a special place in my heart.

10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds— Push the Sky Away

Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away came out in 2013 and was the first Nick Cave album to hook me. I had listened to Murder Ballads a few years before, but it was the soft, seductive melodies of Push the Sky Away that reeled me into the dark and gloomy Cave world. The album begins with the pulsating We No Who U R, Cave’s melodic croon a stark contrast from his early work. The instrumentation is mystical in the opening track and continues throughout the album. Jubilee Street follows a hypnotic guitar melody, eventually crescendoing after six minutes into a lavish string section and angelic choir refrain. It’s one of my favourite Cave tracks, as well as second last track Higgs Boson Blues. Here, Cave once again showcases his devilish lyrical wit as he poetically spins a yarn about a post-apocalyptic world, beautiful female harmonies elevating Cave’s vocals. I was addicted to this album when it came out, and it is the reason for my deep love of Nick Cave’s lyrics and his discography.

9. The Middle East — Recordings of the Middle East

Recordings of the Middle East is an EP, but I’m still adding it to my favourite albums list. Released in 2009, the band’s first and only EP consists of five stellar tracks, including their infamous single Blood. The band would go on to release one album before dismantling, but it’s the EP that shows the band’s brilliance. The EP came out the same year as Mumford and Son’s first album, a time where indie folk was at it’s all-time high, but instead of mimicking the booming choruses of Mumford, the Middle East took a subtler approach. Jordan Ireland’s delicate, breathy vocals showcase a vulnerability to the band’s music. Paired with the gentle female harmonies in opening track The Darkest Side, the band might sound like nothing more than a folk duo with an acoustic guitar. But as the second track, Lonely, begins, the band show that they are much more. Alternating rhythms, complex harmonies and beautiful instrumentation reach a peak towards the end of the track, the music swells into a folk breakdown led by crashing drum cymbals and bending guitar lines. It’s my favourite song on the EP. But then there’s Blood. The song that changed my life. It’s easily taken for granted now, but nothing sounded like Blood back in 2009. At least, not as good as Blood. It’s a perfect song; the whistling melody, the childlike glockenspiel, and the echoing crescendo at the end. I love this EP more than I love most albums. And that’s why it’s on my list.

8. Pixies — Doolittle

I don’t know how I got into Pixies. Everyone who wasn’t born in the 80s would have first heard Where is My Mind at the end of Fight Club, but even their most famous song isn’t on their 1989 album, Doolittle. I got into them during that time where downloading music off YouTube videos was cool. I had a bunch of Pixies music on my iPod Touch back in high school. Yes, the quintessential hipster. It wasn’t until a few years after that I realised all my favourite tracks came from the same album. Debaser, Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone to Heaven, Hey, Gouge Away; all sit snuggly on Doolittle. I felt like an idiot that I didn’t realise sooner. So of course, I downloaded the entire album. The band sound like shit to the average music listener, especially in ’89 when Cher, Milli Vanilli and Madonna were all the rage. That’s a trait vocalist Frank Black embraces as he screams on the second track Tame, against the infamously dissonant guitar licks from Joey Santiago. Pixies embody the phrase ‘beautifully dissonant’, being one of the only bands to reach mainstream success by not sticking to the conventions of popular melodies. And I think that’s why I like them. This album blends punk, post-punk, garage rock and other-worldly weird shit to create Pixies’ signature sound. A sound that would go onto influence 90s grunge and garage rock. There’ll never be another Pixies, or another Doolittle.

7. Talking Heads — Remain in Light

This is a relatively new addition to my favourite albums, I only started listening to it about two years ago. But it soon became an album I turn to when I don’t really know what to listen to. 1980s Remain in Light is Talking Heads’ fourth album and was their definitive shift from post-punk into abstract new wave, incorporating electronics, funk, African, and world music. Opening track Burn Under Punches is one of my favourite Talking Heads tracks, it’s glitchy guitar lines and polyrhythmic electronic beats sounds chaotic, but David Byrne’s wailing refrain keeps the instrumentation at bay. The album moves from track to track with rapid pace, Crosseyed and Painless sounds like the track to a car chase in a classic 80s movie. Soaring guitars imitate sirens against fast paced, almost tribal, percussion. The album has very little downtime, Once In a Lifetime allows the audience to breathe after a hectic opening three tracks, and The Overload is where the band showcase their darker side with an almost Joy Division inspired track. Remain in Light is a chaotic but brilliant album. I count on its hypnotic rhythms and mesmerising instrumentation to pick me up when I’m in a music rut.

6. The Dave Brubeck Quartet — Time Out

This is the album that kickstarted my love with jazz. It’s not the best jazz album of all time, if anything it’s the perfect album for beginners; Jazz For Dummies if you will. The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album Time Out is a cruisy, laid back cool jazz album that doesn’t need much concentration to enjoy. It’s the perfect album to chuck on on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I usually have this playing when I’m cooking dinner. But there’s more to Time Out if you choose to look, in this case listen. Dave Brubeck incorporates unusual time signatures into this jazz album, 9/8, 6/4, and 5/4 Wikipedia tells me. But you can hear the unusual time signatures in opening piece, Blue Rondo à la Turk; it changes from 9/8 time into it’s main theme at 4/4 time. It’s a jarring transition, but Brubeck’s delicate choice of instrumentation makes it an easy listen. Same can be said for the album’s hit, Take Five, a composition Brubeck popularised but never wrote. It’s the classic school jazz band song, the song everyone quotes as their favourite jazz piece when they don’t want to say anything by Miles Davis. I’m proud to admit it’s on of my favourites. It’s catchy and cool as hell. Time Out’s brilliance lies in its performance; every musician understands the tone and feel of the piece they are playing, and though they individually solo in every song, they all work harmoniously as to not outdo one another. It’s a classic jazz album and my favourite.

5. Joy Division — Unknown Pleasures

This is the pick that’s even snobbier than having Pixies and a jazz album in your top ten list. And before you ask, yes, I do have a piece of clothing with Unknown Pleasures’ album art on it. It was a present. And I enjoyed it. You’ll probably find this album in the top ten favourites list of some angsty teenager who is too cool to listen to emo music. Or by some toffy nosed music critic who claims nothing can be a perfect 10/10, but Unknown Pleasures sure does come close. I like to think I’m in the middle. Joy Division’s 1979 album is not only the best post-punk album, it helped define the genre. The conception of the album, as well as the band, is legendary. Born from the inspirations of a Sex Pistols gig, Joy Division would go on to take punk’s angsty attitude and mix it with personal and heartbreaking lyrics thanks to front man Ian Curtis. And it’s showcased perfectly on Unknown Pleasures. From gut wrenching and hypnotic bass lines of Peter Hook on Shadowplay, to Stephen Morris’ robotic drumbeat on She’s Lost Control, to Bernard Sumners dreary guitar licks on Day of the Lords; this album is bleak and depressing, yet utterly addictive. And at the heart of Joy Division is Curtis’ passionate, yet destructive lyrics of love, alienation and desolation. It’s not an album for the feint hearted, but it’s brilliant.

4. Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly

Speaking of brilliance. I can’t do this album justice in a short recap. I still find new things every time I listen to To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar’s 2013 magnum opus. Whenever I do a deep dive in hip-hop’s history, and then return to TPAB, I find new things to appreciate. To Pimp a Butterfly is a love letter to hip-hop from the G-Funk inspired Wesley’s Theory that opens the album, the album incorporates jazz, funk, soul, and old school hip-hop with Lamar’s trademark lyricism and impeccable flow; any other rapper would struggle to rap over the polyrhythmic jazz on For Free. Lamar’s lyrics are full of stories of social and racial inequalities, depression, discrimination and family love; all tied together with a spoken word poem that continues throughout the album. Dr Dre’s The Chronic was the quintessential album of West Coast hip-hop, and TPAB took what made that album great and elevated it for a new generation. Though it’s severely under looked because of its lack of ‘bangers’, To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar’s best album. And it’s the album that allowed me to fall in love with hip-hop.

3. The Beatles — Rubber Soul

The Beatles One would ring through the speakers in the lounge room when I was growing up. You know, the red album with the big number-one on it. Their singles, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, Hey Jude, Eleanor Rigby, I Want To Hold Your Hand, would stay in my mind for hours. I knew all their greatest hits because of that CD. And it wasn’t until I was catching the train to uni every day and needed new music that I downloaded most of The Beatles discography. I listened to Rubber Soul, not knowing any of the tracks because none of them were their number one singles. I didn’t expect much. I remember looking out the window of the train, I was about half way through the album, completely mesmerised with what I was listening to. Even though none of Rubber Soul’s singles went to number one on the charts, it is the most cohesive Beatles album. I don’t think it’s the best, that would go to The White Album, but Rubber Soul is my favourite. It marks the start of The Beatles flirtation with psychedelic music, perfectly shown on second track Norwegian Wood; a simple acoustic guitar rings through against the tinnie strum of a sitar. Rubber Soul showcases The Beatles’ unmatched knack for song-writing. Each song has a strong hook, fantastic backing melodies and harmonies, and intricate instrumentation for what was considered to be just pop music. It’s what you’d expect from The Beatles. I don’t know why I ever doubted them.

2. Radiohead — In Rainbows

My favourite band comes in at number two on the list. Radiohead’s In Rainbows is not often looked at as their best. Critics and fans herald Kid A or OK Computer as the band’s best albums, and so they should. Both of those albums not only shifted the tone of the band for albums to come, but also influenced hundreds of other bands. But it’s their 2007 album In Rainbows that is my favourite. The album moves at the pace of a well scripted film, beginning with the glitchy electronic intro of 15 Step and ending with sombre complex and off-beat piano ballad Videotape. In Rainbows isn’t the band’s most technical album, but in terms of song writing, it is the band’s most consistent. Each of the ten tracks are memorable, vocalist Thom York is at the height of his hook writing ability, and his vocals powerful one moment and delicately fragile the next. Some of Radiohead’s underrated hits lie on In Rainbows, specifically Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Reckoner, and Jigsaw Falling Into Place. They just so happen to be my favourite Radiohead tracks, specifically Reckoner. The band strip back the lush guitar sounds and focus on various percussion instruments. There’s an alluring syncopation to Reckoner, as York finger picks a simple melody on the guitar against the clatter of cymbals, the clatter of an egg shaker and the glisten of the tambourine. In Rainbows is the band’s most accessible album and their most melodic; it all makes for an off-beat charmer and an album that mixes all the best parts of Radiohead into one.

  1. Arctic Monkeys — Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not has been my favourite album since I was thirteen years old. I’ve said it many times before, but Arctic Monkeys debut album is a ferocious, punky indie rock album with charming and intelligent lyrics, fast drum beats and duelling guitar lines. Tracks rarely go past three minutes; there are short, sharp and punchy. They leave no room for mistakes, but enough time for lead Monkey, Alex Turner, to succinctly spit a tale on life, love and partying as a young twenty-something-year-old in Sheffield.

There’s innocence in this Whatever People Say, but at the same time Arctic Monkeys crafted a solid set of songs that flow impeccably. The cleverly funny I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor is the band’s classic, but tracks like You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights But You Were Staring Straight at Me, Take You Home and From the Ritz to the Rubble, show a level of song writing that is still not seen in indie rock. And pair that with the punk attitude, you’ve got not only a classic album, but one of the best debut albums of all time. Yes, the lyrical content is all about going out on the town, hitting on chicks and drinking at pubs, but Turner’s ability to take the ordinary and make it into a charming, funny and entertaining tale is incredible. Turner isn’t writing with a posh attitude or big words, he’s writing his lyrics as he speaks, and that adds to the charm of his storytelling. There’s a reason why Arctic Monkeys have die hard fans who punch on with people who like their newer music better. It’s because of this album. They aren’t as bad as football hooligans, but you get the picture. Ever since I heard the opening line to When the Sun Goes Down when I was thirteen on V-Hits or whatever the show was called, I was in love with this album.

There they are. It’s a fucking long article for a simple list. If you made it to the end, thank you. If you just scrolled through the list looking at the titles like lazy tech enthused teens, go and have a listen to these albums then come back and read and argue with me.

Honourable Mentions

  • Foals — Antidotes
  • Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago
  • John Coltrane — A Love Supreme
  • Jeff Buckley — Live at Sin-E
  • Neil Young — Decades
  • The Brian Jonestown Massacre — Tepid Peppermint Wonderland

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