Name an album, in any genre, that you think is 100% perfect – where you don’t skip 1 track. – @MOBOAwards
Of course I fell prey to this meme. Here’s an obviously partial list:
The La’s, The La’s — Singer/leader Lee Mavers might think this masterpiece of his is incomplete and nowhere near what he was hearing in his head, but to me it’s a perfect album. A mix of the blossoming alternative rock sound of the late 80s-early 90s, Liverpudlian guitar folk, and just a pinch of psychedelia for flavor, and it became an album that I will always think of as my favorite albums of the 90s, tied with…
Failure, Fantastic Planet — On a completely different plane of existence, it’s an incredible record filled with amazing songwriting and production. It’s loud, it’s devastating, and it leaves me breathless every time I listen to it.
The Beatles, Revolver — Of course, I could list almost any other Beatles release here, but their 1966 album remains my favorite of theirs because it’s the moment where they changed from lovable mop-tops writing songs about love to adults writing about life. Just after their folky Rubber Soul and just before their psychedelic Sgt Pepper.
Global Communication, 76:14 — If you need to own just one ambient album, let it be this one. It’s a lovely album to get lost in and let your mind wander. Where a lot of ambient instrumental albums can sometimes meander into navel-gazing boredom, this album keeps your attention all the way through.
Massive Attack, Mezzanine — “Teardrop” is right up there as one of my favorite songs of all time, and the album it’s from is equally excellent. A great example of trip-hop moodiness and clever sonic creativity — especially with this album, which uses quiet and empty spaces as part of its soundscape.
Depeche Mode, Violator — Another album that signifies a band’s change. This is where they went from their classic synth-and-sample sound they’d been known for, to a full-band sound complete with guitar. Martin Gore’s songwriting evolved at amazing speed here; “Enjoy the Silence” remains one of his crowning achievements to this day.
Beck, Sea Change — Before this album, he’d been known as that “Loser” guy who wrote weird and goofy Mad-Lib-style lyrics with the occasional foray into odd but listenable folk rock, but this album was where he proved just how serious of an artist he really is. It’s haunting, sometimes heartbreaking, and extremely personal, but it’s also an absolutely gorgeous album.
UNKLE, Psyence Fiction — A very fitting title for this record, it’s a mix of hip-hop, trip-hop, alternative rock, rap, and more, all with a science fictional subtext. James Lavelle has always been an amazing musician/producer who creates chilly and cavernous soundscapes, and this is a perfect example of it.
Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls — Ever have one of those albums where you kinda like a few songs on it, then once you finally sit down and listen to it all the way through and realize just how freaking amazing it is? Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are brilliant songwriters, but they’re also brilliant at crafting a perfect vocal duet.
And one more I forgot to mention that I thought of today:
Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair — It’s their most famous album (I still hear “Head Over Heels” on the radio to this day), but it’s also one of my favorite albums of the 80s. Poppy, jazzy, and even a little experimental, every single one of its tracks has a certain amazing quality to it. [Listen, for example, to the Gershwin-esque “The Working Hour” with its slow build and blistering sax solos.]
I could of course come up with so many more albums to add to this list, but I’ll hold myself back. For now!
Being a baby boomer, I would go with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. John Lennon reportedly said that there were things on that album that he would like to go back and change, but I can’t imagine what they would be!