Best Albums Since 1965

Surprisingly, I resisted making any sort of “all-time” album list for a long time. I can handle ranking albums in a one year span, but it’s another thing to compare albums from completely different eras. Why start at 1965? Two reasons. 1965 was the year that rock really started to mature, with Dylan, The Beatles and Stones beginning to make full albums as a complete artistic statement, rather than some singles and filler. Also, my expertise on music before that year begins dwindles significantly. Lacking access to any deep vinyl-based collections of often out-of-print pre-1965 records, my knowledge is more sketchy, though I did make an effort to list the ones I know.

The top of the list favors 60s and 70s albums. Does that mean that music in the last
24 years isn’t as good? Not necessarily. Earlier in history, there were fewer bands, and certainly fewer albums being produced. The great ones that came out were extremely important and had a huge cultural impact. This hasn’t happened as much since the 80s. I believe there’s been more great music produced overall since the mid 90s. But it’s more difficult to single out ones that are "classic" amongst all the excellent choices.. There are 153 albums that earned a perfect 10. That could be a lot or a little, depending on your perspective. Nine (or 4%) are from the 90s, zero from the 00s. Maybe it’s more difficult to recognize a classic without more hindsight, but I doubt it. While there’s more great music being produced than ever, there’s fewer truly consistently great albums being made. Whether it’s a slight rut in the creative zeitgeist, who knows. I am at the very least confident that the albums below deserve their rankings. The exact order is always debatable, and not all of them belong in your girlfriend’s or parent’s collections, but they’re all my sweet babies.

These artists were scored for their best four albums. Keep in mind that this is just by numbers, not feel. I don’t necessarily favor Slayer over Stevie Wonder as artists overall. It’s just how the albums ranked.

  1. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
  2. Bob Dylan
  3. David Bowie
  4. The Beatles
  5. Iggy & The Stooges
  6. The Rolling Stones
  7. John Coltrane
  8. Talking Heads
  9. Curtis Mayfield
  10. The Velvet Underground
  11. Black Sabbath
  12. Led Zeppelin
  13. Can
  14. The Jam
  15. The Kinks
  16. PJ Harvey
  17. Tim Buckley
  18. Aretha Franklin
  19. Tom Waits
  20. Bob Marley & the Wailers
  21. Miles Davis
  22. Toots & the Maytals
  23. Fela Kuti
  24. Radiohead
  25. Iron Maiden
  26. Brian Eno
  27. The Birthday Party
  28. Al Green
  29. Hüsker Dü
  30. The Fall
  31. Björk
  32. Fugazi
  33. Funkadelic
  34. Sly & the Family Stone
  35. Alice Coltrane
  36. The Who
  37. Otis Redding
  38. Buzzcocks
  39. Van Morrison
  40. Sun Ra
  41. Nina Simone
  42. R.E.M.
  43. Dennis Brown
  44. Popol Vuh
  45. Bruce Springsteen
  46. Slayer
  47. Lee Perry
  48. TV On The Radio
  49. Esther Phillips
  50. Sonic Youth
  51. Amon Düül II
  52. Neil Young
  53. Tom Zé
  54. Thin Lizzy
  55. The Clash
  56. Archie Shepp
  57. Public Enemy
  58. X
  59. The Sound
  60. Roxy Music
  61. The Temptations
  62. Serge Gainsbourg
  63. T. Rex
  64. Melvins
  65. The Flaming Lips
  66. Judas Priest
  67. Michael Rother
  68. Mastodon
  69. Walt Mink
  70. Arto Lindsay
  71. Cedric Im Brooks
  72. Roy Harper
  73. Wilson Pickett
  74. Echo & the Bunnymen
  75. Stevie Wonder
  76. New Order
  77. Colour Haze
  78. Lizzy Mercier Descloux
  79. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  80. Eddie Kendricks
  81. Gilberto Gil
  82. Chico Science & Nação Zumbi
  83. U2
  84. Sweet
  85. Electric Light Orchestra
  86. The Pixies
  87. Procol Harum
  88. Herbie Hancock
  89. The White Stripes
  90. Hawkwind
  91. XTC
  92. OOIOO
  93. Afghan Whigs
  94. Simple Minds
  95. Opeth
  96. Heldon
  97. Beck
  98. Joni Mitchell
  99. Dinosaur Jr.
  100. Amon Tobin