101 Albums To Hear Before You Die

These days, there’s more good music available at your fingertips than you could ever hope to listen to. Confused as to where to begin? We don’t blame you. But there are some albums so seminal, so integral to the core of modern sound or just so damned brilliant that you need to get them on your musical bucket list: End. Of. Here are 100 of the finest…

101 Clara Rockmore – ‘The Art Of The Theremin’

“Concerning death in Japanese Buddhism, it is not the end of life but just a turning point. Life and death is a counterpart. We keep being threatened by the existence of death. Conversely, we keep aiming for future. This album is a requiem for the people who live through the transmigration of the soul to life on the planet, before the soul leaves the body.” – Mon-Chan, Bo Ningen

100 Joni Mitchell – ‘Blue’


“I love her music but I’m not a freaky fan, I couldn’t name all of her songs or anything. I thought she was so good that it put me off writing songs. My favourite song from this album would ‘A Case Of You’ or ‘Little Green’. When you look at lyrics that intensely, every time you listen to it you’re trying to work it out and form opinions.” Marika Hackman

99 Dandelion Gum – ‘Black Moth Super Rainbow’

“Vocoders generally have a rough time, but if you want to listen to it done well you need to hear this album. Melodic, spacey wonderment from a band I don’t really know a lot about other than they know how to handle synths. ‘Sun Lips’ uses one of the coolest sounds you can dial up on a keyboard, a Mellotron on flute setting. ‘Forever Heavy’ has a pulse that you just can’t deny. It’s been on repeat since I stumbled upon it’ and it’s already one of my favourite albums ever. Listen to it immediately.” Dom Ganderton, Superfood

98 Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘Songs For The Deaf’

“I was on the train for four hours the other day, missing my husband [Josh Homme], so I started listening to his records. And ‘Songs For The Deaf’ is honestly one of the best rock records ever written. It is mind-blowingly good. You could put it up against anyone else’s record and it would blow it away. I don’t know how they made it sound like that. It’s really impressive and there are so many good solos. People are going to keep discovering that record. It’s not going to go away.” Brody Dalle

97 Iggy And The Stooges – ‘Raw Power’

“I got it when I was 15 and immediately related to it. I was living on a housing estate in Manchester where it seemed like winter lasted forever. But I didn’t mind it being dark when the soundtrack to those days was so beautiful and mysterious. There are plenty of people who think the first Stooges album is the best, or maybe ‘Fun House’. But they’re wrong. ‘Raw Power’ is far superior, not least because it’s got James Williamson on it, who’s my favourite guitar player ever.

96 Life Without Buildings – ‘Any Other City’

“When I listen to this album, I know that I am truly alive. My chest swells with excitement, my pulse quickens, and my mind is flooded with different emotions. With a basic rock’n’roll set-up of drums, bass, guitar and vocals, this album has a pleasing simplicity – a light-heartedness coupled with direct and driving melodies. The lightening rod at its centre is Sue Tompkins, whose voice and words are a continual stimulant throughout this album, flitting this way and that, discovering profundity in the commonplace, distorting meaning via repetition.

95 ESG – ‘Come Away With ESG’

“So many things have been influenced by ESG. They later made an EP called ‘Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills’ because so many people, from Kool Moe Dee to Wu-Tang were sampling them, but they weren’t making any money! I love drums, I love rhythm and lyrical simplicity – it’s definitely influenced me over the years. It’s not just any one thing, it’s not just disco, not just funk, not just no-wave, it’s its own thing.”

94 Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Siamese Dream’


“The people I love and fight with the most love ‘Siamese Dream’. The first sound you hear – Jimmy Chamberlain’s drum roll start to ‘Cherub Rock’ – it’s as if the band know they are about to join the rock‘n’roll circus. ‘Who wants honey? As long as there’s some money’. Calling out heartless hipster culture in 1993? A strong opening statement. We decided to use it as a starting point for our own rock record, our own trip to the circus.”

93 Oasis – ‘Definitely Maybe’

“It doesn’t fuck about. It exudes such natural unapologetic brilliance. Noel is the master puppeteer with a tiger on a lead. My appreciation for this album does not necessarily extend to what it is, but what it isn’t. It’s not mindless noise trying to be rock‘n’roll by sounding shit on purpose and compromising it’s own sound, it is what it is. And it happens to be a diamond.”

92 Lou Reed – ‘Berlin’

“I like how claustrophobic and pompous it is. I like to imagine the recording studio. What clothes they were wearing and what kind of foul and paranoid mood they were in. Because the instruments are played with the soulless proficiency of some beardy clock watchers (in a good way) it seems to enhance what Lou Reed is singing about. ‘Oh, Jim’ is probably my favourite on the album, especially the end section with the Buddy Holly-ish vocals.

91 Talk Talk – ‘Spirit Of Eden’

“Ditching the synths and the electronics and embracing everything organic, this truly was a bold left turn for a band who were Top 10 chart fodder. The record is made up of six songs, but because of the way the developments segue into one another and how themes get revisited it feels more like a series of movements, not unlike how classical music is structured. Moments of noodling improv flow seamlessly into something more calculated yet still exquisite.

90 Germs – ‘(GI)’

“I will always root for the underdog. The Germs could hardly book a gig. They were banned from most clubs for their stage antics and the violent reactions the crowds had to their shows. Darby (Crash, singer) would cover himself in peanut butter or liquorice, throw bags of flour into the audience, anything to mask the fact they couldn’t play. This group of brats were running around the same scene as X, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks – all bands much more polished. So away these scruffy kids go to record their first album, produced by Joan Jett of all people.

89 Charlotte Gainsbourg – ‘Charlotte For Ever’

“She was 15 when she made her musical debut with this LP. It’s not only a strange and fascinating milestone for her but for her father as well. This record is so pop that very few people, let alone punk rockers, can listen to it for more than one song without losing their mind. The mixture of genre and production value is very near and dear to my heart. Clean guitar recorded direct without amps, verses in French with choruses in English, a sax or keyboard solo on every track, musical references to Chopin in a style of ’80s production only Serge can pull off, and lots of whispered vocals.


88 Jamie T. – ‘Panic Prevention’

“This album blew my mind. A scruffy punk style kid from London who can’t stereotypically ‘sing’ but produced the catchiest singalong anthems gave me massive inspiration. It showed me another way to approach music: the gritty straight up sentiment of punk, which I adored, delivered behind melody and rhythm. Nowhere to hide. I love that idea about music, keep it simple, don’t hide behind a mass of strings and synthesisers.”

87 Lana Del Rey – ‘Born To Die’

“The perfect contemporary pop record. The post-modern themes in songs like ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ and ‘Video Games’, though subtle, encapsulate the essence of youth in this tasteful and timeless way. The topic of most of her songs are about strange/taboo relationships with men of all ages. But it’s like she’s falling hard in love just to feel something (even if the feeling is bad or wrong), not because she needs a man to be happy.”

86 The European – ‘In A Very Real Sense Now’

“I remember being taken back by the lyrics, the unashamedly English voice and the song’s balancing act of comedy and pathos. I was hooked instantly. The rest of the album follows suit, every song being a mixture of quirkiness, sincerity, playfulness and genuine emotion. We used to play this album in the van on tour all the time and I’ve probably listened to it more than anyone would think is sane.”

85 Simon Joyner – ‘Songs For The New Year’

“I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes some nice beautiful poetry with their folk music. Simon is one of the reasons I started writing songs. He put out his first album in ’92 or so and he was a legend around Omaha when I was really young. He’s got a lot of great albums, but there’s something about ‘Songs For The New Year’ – I was a teenager when it came out and I associate it with a time in my life when I was getting into music and songwriting, so it has a special meaning for me.

84 Jimi Hendrix – ‘Electric Ladyland’

“That’s when my mind got blown for the first time. I’d never heard guitar playing like that. Coupled with the songwriting, it was music being played in a way I’d never heard before. Russell [Marsden, Band Of Skulls’ guitarist] showed me it when we were very young kids and just starting to play music together. We were jamming and we’d sit there for hours and hours doing these blues-y things, not speaking but just playing. I think that really moulded what we ended up doing now.”

83 Bill Withers – ‘Live At Carnegie Hall’

“The songs he writes have this deep passion and this sincerity, but then you hear him between the songs and he’s just chilling. He’s so witty. This album is a whole, so it’s difficult to pick out any tracks, although ‘Grandma’s Hands’ is lovely. The thing about it is that I listen to lots of lyrical music, and Bill Withers’ lyrics have no bullshit at all. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, but it’s really clear. For something to be poetic doesn’t mean it has to be full of stupid words. He expresses this clear and present truth.

82 Steely Dan – ‘Katy Lied’

“When you’re a record nerd, you consume everything to the extent that what’s left is the stuff you didn’t like before. That’s a good analogy for Steely Dan. First you consume all this classic rock that’s sort of hip, or not. Then there’s Steely Dan. People say they’re too smooth or whatever, but if you really listen, you realise Steely Dan are badass as shit. I’m always about that anyway, accepting the cheesy moments for the really good moments. Then you take that further, listen to the records you used to hate most. Man, I hated ‘Katy Lied’ for so long. Then you listen deeper and it changes.

81 XTC – ‘Skylarking’

“It’s a close call between this and ‘Drums And Wires’ for our agreed favourite XTC effort, but this swings it for the Todd Rundgren factor (he produced it). It was XTC’s ninth album, and third since becoming a full time studio band following lead singer Andy Partridge’s breakdown. It’s a very summery album, and draws on XTC’s western country routes. Lyrically it opens with young love and its humble beginnings and develops towards marriage followed by the struggles and paranoia of a mid-life crisis. Delve into one of the best bands in alt-pop history.”

80 Cat Stevens – ‘Teaser And The Firecat’

“Cat Stevens was on a real run of form around this time. The stories in the songs are very moving and unforgettable, and I still listen to this record a lot. ‘The Wind’, ‘Moonshadow’, ‘Morning Has Broken’ and ‘Peace Train’ are all on here, and I completely wore out the first copy I got of this record. Back in the days when you could wear out a record, which really ages me, I know.”

79 X – ‘X-Aspirations’

“Recorded in one afternoon, X (by the Australian group of the same name, not the LA one) summed up everything great about rock music. It’s equal parts hard rock scumbaggery and punk rock pessimism, and every track is a hit. Pissed Jeans has ripped off all we could from this record, and I recommend that any other hopeful rock band do the same. If there was ever a reason to believe in the holiness of the rock power trio, it’s ‘–Aspirations’.”

78 Guns N’Roses – ‘Appetite For Destruction’

“By this time, I’d gone past the point of the naivety of punk and began to see through the iconoclastic thing of trying to destroy… I didn’t want us to have that horrible anti-star ethic that ‘anyone can do it’. I wanted us to keep the basic premise of punk, but be quite snotty too. For me, Axl Rose and Slash replicated the Jagger/Richards axis. Slash was such a big lumbering bloke but really gentle too, just like, millions of contradictions, but everyone just thought he was a twat in a top hat. This was an incredibly romantic time for me.

77 Durutti Column – ‘LC’

“It was the first Durutti Column album I listened to all the way though. I was aware of the band as they were on Factory – a label I loved and the home of my favourite band, New Order. The album opens with Bruce Mitchell’s drumming – he was working with the band for the first time at the start of a stint of over 30 years alongside mainstay Vini Reilly – a partnership that continues to this day. There was something so frail and delicate about the music, almost as delicate as Vini looked in photographs.

76 Neil Young – ‘On The Beach’

“This was Neil Young’s long-awaited studio follow-up to ‘Harvest’, and found him uncomfortable with his new-found fame. Although he had spent the previous two years touring arenas off the back off ‘Harvest’’s commercial success, by 1974 he had mostly shunned performing his crowd-pleasing songs in favour of new, darker material, devoid of the pure melodies beloved of his droves of soft-rock loving followers.

75 Girls – ‘Album’

“In the book and film ‘Submarine’, the main character’s dad makes a cassette tape for his son to listen to after finding out about his first girlfriend. Side A is the soundtrack to the joys of young love – happy and carefree tunes, all effortless and major key. Side B is the morning after – Berocca for the inevitable hangover. While it’s not a post-breakup album, Girls’ ‘Album’ is essentially Side B, flying you to San Francisco to show you how life is out of the shade. Everybody can relate to these songs.

74 Neil Young And Crazy Horse – ‘Weld’

“Because he’s a stubborn old goat and he won’t put out a Greatest Hits, the only albums with all the good songs on are the live ones. What makes me laugh about this album is that my manager, Marcus Russell, and the guy who was MD of Creation, Tim Abbott, they call it ‘The Air Guitar Workout Album’. I had them round my flat one night and it was like watching two old men doing the Jane Fonda Workout. They were on the table going, ‘Dow-now, dow-now’, it was like f***ing Beavis and Butt-Head, man. Neil Young And Crazy Horse are the greatest live outfit in the business at the moment.

73 Snoop Doggy Dogg – ‘Doggystyle’

“Hip-Hop was a big part of growing up for me in New Zealand. My school was pretty small and we listened to a bunch of different music but hip-hop was the dominant genre. Snoop Doggy Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’ came out in 1993 and I remember seeing Snoop’s “Dog” logo etched into desks at school and wondering what the hell it was and what was that canine smoking? It wasn’t till a wee bit later that i heard it banging out of some stereo and asked who it was that I put the two together. It soundtracked parties, make out sessions, fights all those thrilling moments of growing up.

72 Hugo Montenegro – ‘Music From The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’

It reminds of getting ready to go to school and my mum always used to have Terry Wogan on the radio. It was quite haunting and mysterious to me. I was four or five at that time and the records remind me of pain because mum used to brush me and my sister’s hair before we went to school and, if you didn’t keep still, she’d hit you on the head with a hairbrush. They were plastic, so often they broke. I had a number of hairbrushes broken over my head to the sound of this record.”

71 Suicide – ‘Suicide’

“As far as I know it’s maybe the pioneer of that kind of electronic trance. It’s got a good modern edge – it’s not cluttered, it’s basically a synthesizer and a drum machine. The vocals have got a ‘50s vibe because of the echo. I like the bands they inspired, too, like Spacemen 3 and even Bruce Springsteen. There’s this one song, ‘Frankie Teardrop’, that kind of reminds me of ‘Riders On The Storm’. ‘Suicide’ reminds you that you’ve got to go back to the basics – nothing has to be that complicated, the less information the better. I think that’s what we’ve got to get back to.


70 Paul McCartney – ‘McCartney II’

“Our manager showed it to me when we were at this house party in New York. He played me this song called ‘Temporary Secretary’, which is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. It’s really bonkers and the lyrics are really clever. I couldn’t believe it was McCartney. I got the record for my birthday and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. Every time I play it to anyone, everyone asks what it is. Paul and Linda did a video as a band called The Plastic Macs, which was like a homage to the Plastic Ono Band.

69 Failure – ‘Fantastic Planet’

“It’s droney, it’s heavy and the guitar tones are outrageous. It’s the epitome of mid-to-late-‘90s alternative rock. I like their band mostly because his [singer Ken Andrews’] vocals sound like he doesn’t care, just singing about things he’s passionate about.”

68 Health – ‘Health’

“It’s noisecore and some of the songs are quite unlistenable, but it’s so original. I’ve seen them a couple of times and they’re an incredible live band. We were on the NME New Noise tour with Crystal Castles in 2008 and at the Newcastle show Health were also playing in the city. Crystal Castles are good friends of theirs, so we went to the show with them.”

67 Spacemen 3 – ‘Performance’

“I’ve always been into Spacemen 3, and we used to cover ‘Walking With Jesus’ at school. Joe [Goddard] would tape down the notes on the keyboard to make it easier and I would play the guitar. It was a fairly pivotal moment in terms of keeping us together, and if we hadn’t done that, we may not have moved away from the acoustic stuff we were playing before. Even now, the song is still with me and it seems to come back into Hot Chip. I wrote a new song not long ago and when I took it to the band, Joe could hear a bit of a ‘Walking With Jesus’ element to it.”

66 PJ Harvey – ‘Is This Desire?’

“This album really affected me. I started to research my country and my heritage and write from experience. The lyrics are fantastic, they’re short stories really. ‘The Wind’, that’s real poetry, ‘Angelene’ is a treasure of a song. In the same way I like Björk for her optimism, I appreciate PJ Harvey for daring to be negative. It takes you to such depths, you can see little bits of joy; it opens things inside you that you didn’t expect. She was experimenting with electronics alongside acoustic instruments too, which really inspired me.”

65 The Vines – ‘Highly Evolved’

“In many ways the band and the significance of the record have been forgotten, which is a shame. It has everything you would want from a guitar band. They contrast soft, sweet tones with huge cascading guitar riffs throughout. Songs like ‘1969’ or ‘In the Jungle’ represent the harsher side of the band. The vocals and style of these numbers often nod to Lennon, Cobain. Then we’re given classic pining ballads that soothe the soul. The harmonies that punctuate these songs are so infectious it hurts.”

64 Two Lone Swordsmen – ‘From The Double Gone Chapel’

“At the time of this album’s release I was still trying to be Fred Neil. An old mate threw it at me one day, said I’d like it. It introduced me to new possibilities straight away. It reminded me of local punk bands back in Grantham when I was a kid and it made me begin to value those things. The dominating bass lines, fire alarm, crap vocals and ’80s synths are alienating and really yobbish, cheeky like the cover suggests with its gas masks, empty fag packets and real clutter, clutter you only get from an hard day in the studio. Its realism really got me.”

63 Björk – ‘Homogenic’

“The first thing I felt when I heard ‘Homogenic’ was warmth. The electronic beats that start the album are like a warm blanket that instantly enveloped me as a listener. When Björk’s unmistakable voice enters, the structure is almost even harder to understand, and it takes a whole two lines to make total sense, a quirk of her melodies and timing that have made her totally unique as a writer and singer for so many years. It ended up shaping my idea of what an album should be, and the sounds on this record started my appreciation for electronic music. I absolutely couldn’t live without it.”

62 Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’

“This is the Radiohead album I had always been waiting to hear. For me, this is a warm and human sounding album – the former not really being one of their hallmarks. There is still the melancholia, but without much of the anger and paranoia that grated with me previously. The arrangements, instrumentation and performances are as out-there as ever, but they really complement the intimate songwriting with gorgeous, expansive textures and tight organic rhythmic patterns that reveal themselves more with every subsequent listen.”

61 Scritti Politti – ‘Cupid & Psyche 85’

At times ‘Cupid & Psyche 85’ sounds like the best Michael Jackson record that Michael Jackson had absolutely nothing to do with. On my first listen I thought that I was listening to outtakes from ‘Thriller’ or ‘Bad’, outtakes that slammed some serious dunks. It’s one of the most grievously underrated pop/post-punk albums of all time. This is for the lovers of slap bass, sophisti-pop, happy music with extremely dark lyrical undercurrents, and slap bass.


60 The Last Poets – ‘The Last Poets’

“It’s out of control. It’s this Black Power, conga drum music. They were from New York in the early ’70s and this was the most revolutionary record. It’s poetry over percussion; four guys playing conga drums with rapping over the top of it. There’s a track called ‘Niggers Are Scared of Revolution’ which is insane; he’s going down this whole list of what black people love – jiving and pulling scams and all these things, but the one thing they’re afraid of is revolution.

59 The Jesus And Mary Chain – ‘Psychocandy’

“It’s been a prominent record in my mind from the moment I laid my eyes on the Reid Brothers in the catatonic Warholian cool ‘Just Like Honey’ video: a subliminal punky ‘fuck you’ sentiment drowned in doo wop melody with static feedback to whirl you around a bit. Shoegaze wouldn’t exist without this effort, as it opened the world’s ears to the subversive and contextual language that is feedback. A couple of riots, leather pants, big lonely haircuts and beautiful associates like Mazzy Star later, we’ve got some anti-legends.

58 Skream – ‘Skream!’

“This album really captures a moment in time, when dubstep was really gaining momentum. You can hear the early influences of the genre so well, the best of garage, dub and grime. ‘Midnight Request Line’ was a big tune in the clubs, and I remember being on the dancefloor at Plastic People hearing it on the loudest sound system I’d ever encountered. It felt so fresh to me. I loved the instrumentation used, like the flute sounding like a dark pied piper on ‘Rutten’ over the bass lines and mad synths. I also loved the space created in the music.

57 The Weakerthans – ‘Reconstruction Site’

“It has the best lyrics that I’ve ever heard in my life. What John K Samson does with words on this record is so far advanced and ahead of all other pop music lyrics that I’ve heard – it’s crazy. The only other person I can think of who comes close is Nick Cave – his words are pure poetry. And the music is lovely – it’s a really great country rock record. When I was a kid I was really into a Canadian punk band called Propaghandi and their bass player quit and formed his own band, which is The Weakerthans.

56 Elliott Smith – ‘From A Basement On The Hill’

“A lot of his songs after the first couple of albums seem heavily Beatles-inspired, which is perfect for me. Not so much with production but with melodies and progressions. ‘From A Basement On The Hill’ differed to Smith’s previous work with that ‘White Album’-style production: ploddy bass tone and random pieces of reverse guitar, flanger vocal harmonies. I’ve thought of a million meanings and messages this album delivers but i don’t want try and make sense of it as a whole. Its far too dreamy to want to pull it apart.”

55 Super Furry Animals – ‘Fuzzy Logic’

“It’s a really stunning and complete record that’s heavily psychedelic but still grounded by a pop vibe. The themes are weird and wonderful, and Gruff Rhys sings his beguiling lyrics in a voice that could only be his. I love how it’s so impeccably recorded but still maintains a real spontaneity and playfulness, especially in the unusual guitar sounds and arrangements. Songs like ‘Hometown Unicorn’ are just on the right side of pop, tempered by a nice dose of weirdness: “I was lost, lost on the bypass road / Could be worse, I could be turned to toad…”

54 Kraftwerk – ‘Trans-Europe Express’

“The most influential band of the last 30 years. They had such a huge impact on all the hip-hop stuff I used to listen to in the ‘90s. Their influence is so important in everything I’ve done, and what I continue to do. Strangely though, it’s not necessarily the kind of music I’d listen to a lot on my own, it just finds its way into so many parts of songs that I love. ‘Showroom Dummies’ in particular I really loved because I’d never heard anything like it at the time.”

53 Dead Kennedys – ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’

“I definitely was not the same after hearing this one. I got it because I saw it at a record store when I was 15. I knew the Dead Kennedys were punk and I knew that I wanted to be punk, so I bought it. This album totally shattered my perception of what a punk band, or a rock band for that matter, was capable of. I can recall putting it on for the first time with my friend Mike and flipping thought the Winston Smith/Jello Biafra collage book that came with the record and being absolutely floored. From the first refrain of ‘Terminal Preppie’, I was completely hooked by this strange band.

52 The Smiths – ‘Louder Than Bombs’

“This album had the biggest impact on me. I was living in a small town in Utah and kids my age were into Korn and Tool, but I was on the other end of the spectrum. I didn’t feel better than them, it was just nice to have something of my own. Years later I actually went with Dave [Keuning] to the Salford Lads Club in Manchester and took pictures. We played a gig at Manchester Academy, and across the street is the same church which Morrissey sings about in ‘Vicar In A Tutu’. Even driving by a cemetery, I was thinking, ‘Is that the cemetery he was talking about?’.

51 Bob Dylan – ‘Blood On The Tracks’

“This is my favourite album ever. I spent the end of my teenage years and the start of my twenties listening to old music – rockabilly music, stuff like that. Then I discovered folk music when I was 25, and that led me to Dylan. He totally blew me away with this. Not only is this a great album, but it’s like the great album from his second period, y’know? He did that first run of albums in the ’60s, then he started doing his less troublesome albums- and out of that came ‘Blood on the Tracks’. It’s his masterpiece.’

50 Casino Versus Japan – ‘Whole Numbers Play The Basics’

“I quickly became infatuated with this record, and it became my personal score to Interpol’s first coach tour. Musically, it transcends any common notion of format in a ‘pop’ sense, while still extending a friendly invite, voiced in one electronic medium or another. I believe the intension behind this work was not to alienate, but to avoid convention.”

49 The Clash – ‘The Clash’

“I went to high school in Hackettstown, New Jersey, this farming country town where they make M&Ms. It was horrible, but Sound Effects Records was its crown jewel. I was getting into punk and I was searching out records and the owner of the store was like, ‘You’re trying to get into punk and you don’t know The Clash?’ So him and his friend actually bought the record for me. I went back and gave him the money because I was like, ‘This is awesome’.”

48 Bernard Herrmann – ‘Psycho OST’

“This really unhinged me when I first heard it. Later on, I played it to John McGeoch (one-time Banshees guitarist) and he said, ‘That’s how I want my guitar to sound’. I think the film affected me more than anything I’d ever seen. I was so scared. I remember trying to be brave – I was only 11 or 12 – but, secretly, I kept hoping my mum would never buy a shower! Eventually we did and I used to jump out at her, with a bread knife in my hand. We nearly had a few accidents…”

47 MIA – ‘Matangi’

“It’s so inspiring. The production is incredible and she’s smart and cool and it’s empowering and positive and uplifting. It just made me feel like a new woman when I listened to it. I think I’m in love with her. I saw the video for ‘Bad Girls’ and I was like, ‘this is the coolest fucking video ever’ and then I just started listening to the last album. I love ‘Only 1 U’, ‘Come Walk With Me’, ‘YALA’ – it’s all so smart. It’s like a journey, the whole record.”

46 Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’

“Nothing’s come near since, not in that genre and maybe even not in any other genre. It was my childhood, man. It sent me crazy. I’d be in front of the TV for hours trying to mimic him and them dance moves. I don’t think I’d be onstage or singing in a band if it wasn’t for Michael Jackson and that album. He’s a big part of me, and of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, from what I hear the guy was a fucking monster, but on his day he could shred anyone. Can’t take that away from him.”

45 Blackalicious – ‘Nia’

“What springs to mind is something a lot of people might not be familiar with – the Blackalicious album ‘Nia’. The production, the delivery, the emcees, the lyrics… it’s just phenomenal. My mate’s a DJ and introduced me to a whole world of music. He was like ‘You’ve gotta get on this’. Changed everything for me, didn’t it.”

44 Buffy Sainte-Marie – ‘Illuminations’

“’God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot’ is, in my book, the greatest piece of recorded music to date. Razor-sharp text by Leonard Cohen, set to surging guitar, composed and sung by Buffy with her signature confrontational, aggressive vibrato, voice cut up and altered further with a Buchla oscillator— this less a song than a comet. The album that follows is top-level experimental folk.”

43 Public Enemy – ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’

“I remember going into Our Price with my mum and asking the guy for some Public Enemy; my mum wasn’t sure but when I got it home it didn’t leave my Walkman for months. I was used to the ‘60s music in my folks’ LP collection, and that was mind-expanding enough, but this felt like my music, speaking for my generation, and it blew my tiny, Scottish head.”

42 The Holy Modal Rounders – The Holy Modal Rounders

“Although this is ostensibly in the genre of early ’60s folk-revival sounds, you can tell there’s something different about this almost immediately after it starts spinning. It’s somehow retro and futuristic at the same time. But this album is not just magical because of being ‘ahead of its time’ – its charms require no knowledge or context. Every song, whether poignant or goofy, has a special soul to it, a writhing spirit rarely captured alive in the wild and taken back to civilization.”

41 Lauryn Hill – ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’

“It’s flawless, from the rasta cry intro of ‘Lost Ones’ to the heart wrenching ‘When It Hurts So Bad’. No-ones created anything close to the cohesion and the timelessness of the songs. She has a swagger like Biggie coupled with the message and wisdom of a poet.”

40 The Byrds – ‘Fifth Dimension’

“McGuinn’s 12-string said it all – the songs just fly. They had harmonies, a rock beat and a jangling country feel. Theirs was a mixture of The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, and some kind of mutant country sound. Songs like ‘Eight Miles High’ and ‘Mr Spaceman’ were a major influence on me. When I was in a band called The Chain Reaction, we opened up for them a couple of times – what a pleasure.”

39 T2 – ‘It’ll All Work Out In Boomland’

“I really love the T2 album ‘It’ll All Work Out In Boomland’. Their drummer Peter Dunton was in a lot of good bands in the ’60s and ’70s like Neon Pearl [psychedelic two-piece] and Please [a psych band formed in London in 1968 after Neon Pearl disbanded] and a few other things, but I think that record is probably the most influential record, when it comes to heavy and progressive rock, of that time. It’s an incredible example of how to balance different dynamics on an album. The singing is all done quite softly, and then the riffs are just very, very heavy.

38 The National – ‘Boxer’

“It’s the most wrenching record I’ve ever heard in my life. Now let’s talk about why. I had an inordinately painful – for many, many reasons – year and a half, about two years ago. Life was not something I wanted to involve myself in at all, but I had to. Then I discovered ‘Boxer’, so I put it into my car one afternoon. I’m talking about a time in my life when I was wishing my windows were tinted because I was weeping at every stoplight I came to. It was really rough year. That album was incredibly reassuring in many, many ways.

37 Fela Kuti – ‘Shuffering And Shmiling’

“This is great when you’ve got people round for a party and it’s getting into the early hours of the morning. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t instantly fallen in love with it whenever I’ve put it on. Deep down I think everyone loves a really funky groovy song and this album has all these huge catchy melodies which are infectious.”

36 J Dilla – ‘Donuts’

“I can go a lot further into what I have picked up from this record as far as hidden messages and meanings, but I’d rather you just listen to it, enjoy it and marvel at how heartfelt and groundbreaking it is. J Dilla is a massive inspiration to me, and many others, particularly this record, and I beyond than thoroughly recommend it. I’m still unpacking it now, eight years after its release.”

35 Captain Beyond – ‘Captain Beyond’

“There’s a prog band called Captain Beyond who released three albums in the Seventies, and this self-titled one was their first. It’s a great album, riff-strong from beginning to end. They formed in California at the beginning of the ‘70s and they’re a really great band. This record doesn’t really stop. I’ve tried to look up how they recorded it because it sounds like it’s a massive jam. It’s like they’ve decided to not stop until they drop. It’s a good one to play loud.”


34 Michael Chapman – ‘Rainmaker’

“When I’m writing I have this thing where I’ll get ‘reset’ by a new song, or by some song I haven’t heard before. When it happens it gives you a physical feeling, like you can feel a tingle run down your back. If I get that when I hear a song I think: ‘Shit! I’m not even close to that.’ Then you build it up again, you think you’re getting somewhere and then something will blow your mind again. That’s what happened to me when I heard the Michael Chapman records ‘Rainmaker’ and ‘Fully Qualified Survivor’. On ‘Rainmaker’ there’s a song called ‘You Say’ that had that effect on me.

33 Dr Dre – ‘2001’

“The first time I heard it I was so intrigued by it and how it sounds. It was just completely different. I see the importance of being able to relate to music, and I think that’s something that we’ve often relied on as a band. People listen to our songs and think: ‘Yeah, I know what it’s like to be kicked out of a club’. But with this I also love the idea of learning about something that’s completely foreign to you through music. I love listening to a record and having to find out what certain words mean, those slang words that when you find out what they mean make it all make sense.

32 Santana – ‘Abraxas’

“I’m a music fan of all genres. I listen to a lot of Spanish music, prog-rock, Metallica – you name it. Growing up, my father was a guitarist in a band and he first played this to me in the car while driving to New York state park Bear Mountain. I can remember I was about nine and ‘Black Magic Woman’ was the first song I ever fell in love with. I love listening to the album’s guitar and jungle rhythms and beautiful drums and different percussions. I can’t get enough of psychedelic shit like that!

31 Bob Dylan – ‘Blonde On Blonde’

“Bob showed us all in the ’60s a new approach, new ways of writing songs. He came from a folk tradition, which had much looser possibilities, and he showed you that rock’n’roll didn’t have to be quite so restricted by that verse-chorus-verse formula. We all pushed each other on in those days. Bob’s a nasty little bugger. I remember him saying to me, ‘I could have written ‘Satisfaction’, Keith, but you couldn’t have written ‘Desolation Row’.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re right there, Bob!’”

30 The Velvet Underground – ‘White Light/White Heat’

“I first came across it when my housemate gave me a whole load of music from his hard drive and I was plodding through it all while we were recording in London. I was listening to all the Velvet Underground albums, but this was the one that really stuck out for me: it starts off with the title track, which is a great song, then goes into ‘The Gift’, which is eight minutes of John Cale reading Lou Reed’s short story while the band just jam over it.

29 Cro-Mags – ‘The Age Of Quarrel’

“Nothing was the same after I found this record. It was everything from the cover art to the crushing riffs to the current topics being covered in the lyrics. The music is a fucking atomic explosion. This record belongs up there with the classics such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and the Circle Jerks. Thank me later.”

28 Kong – ‘Snake Magnet’

“Anyone who likes loud, dirty music that their parents will hate, this is the one. The lazy comparisons would be to Fugazi and Shellac. Lots of space and, yeah, it’s all kind of undercut with a very sinister, genuinely frightening centre. Jon-Lee, the singer, did the artwork for our first record, ‘Curses’.”

27 Yellow Magic Orchestra – ‘BGM’

“It was the Japanese band that Ryuichi Sakamoto was in the early 80s. It’s kind of early synthpop, amazing synths. What they’re doing with synths, in a different dimension, is a precursor to what Fatima Al Qadiri is doing now. It’s all-electronic, but they were particularly interested in mixing traditional Japanese melodies with synthesisers and proto techno. This is a slightly darker album than some of their other stuff.”


26 Chromatics – ‘Night Drive’

“I’m always putting this on. It’s been out on Italians Do It Better for a couple of years, but it’s not just Italo disco. There’s guitar, then more disco beats, then it jumps back to Italo disco – it’s deliberately all over the place. It’s something I can put on at any time and it’s always got that really nice, sad, transporting sound to it.”

25 Run-DMC – ‘Run-DMC’

“Although there was hip-hop before Run-DMC, they were one of those bands where it’s like, ‘Wow, you see those same people on the corner’. I didn’t see Grandmaster Flash on the corner every day with the leather and the spikes and all, but Run-DMC, you saw them every day in their Adidas. So to see somebody in your neighbourhood and on TV, doing hip-hop that big, was impressive.”

24 Van Morrison – ‘Astral Weeks’

“I can’t remember when I first heard ‘Astral Weeks’, but it feels like it’s always been with me, like it was playing when I was born. I remember when naming Twin Shadow I wanted to pay homage to Van. Astral this Astral that. I’m glad that feeling died off and I can just do my respect thing in moments like this. The beauty of this record lives inside of its freedom, its ability to stretch itself so loosely around melody and rhythm in a supernatural way.”

23 The O’Jays – ‘Travelin’ At The Speed Of Thought’

“This was the first album I ever bought. I was a big O’Jays fan. I always liked the way their vocals overlapped and intertwined with each other. Eddie Levert and Walter Williams are the greatest singers of all time in my book.”

22 The B-52’s – ‘The B-52’s’

“This was the first thing to really grab me. Those guitars! Two strings! How cool! Those drums! Slap slap slap slap! Dead easy! The women looked like they were from outer space and everything was linked in – the sleeves, the sound, the clothes, the iconography, the logo, everything. I think when you’re a kid, that’s what you’re after, a real unified feel to a band and that’s what The B-52s offered. Their songs were so easy to learn, they got me into playing really easily. This was definitely the first thing after Kiss or Rush that totally absorbed me like that.”

21 Red House Painters – ‘Rollercoaster’

“It’s a beautifully heartbreaking record that taught me a lot about music. Having grown up listening to a lot of extreme stuff like Slayer and Pantera, to hear something so gentle but so intense opened my eyes to the fact that music doesn’t have to be brutal to take you somewhere heavy. I discovered the album through my lovely friend Craig B from Aereogramme. He used to make me these mixtapes. As a 17, 18 year-old kid, this was a world of music that I didn’t know existed, and I can never thank him enough for introducing me to it.

20 Led Zeppelin – ‘Houses Of The Holy’

“When I was really little and learning how to play drums and stuff, my brother had this record. I thought they were the best band ever. And John Bonham [Zep drummer] was my rock idol. He was kinda crazed. I’ve been hearing stories about Led Zeppelin from the head of WEA (Dinosaur’s record label). He said, ‘Guns N’ Roses? Very nice boys!’ The wildest rock’n’roll thing I’ve ever done was when I threw my guitar into the audience one time and cracked a guy’s head open. That was pretty wild.”

19 Minutemen – ‘Buzz Or Howl Under The Influence Of Heat’

“The band that proved the point best that being outstanding musicians didn’t need to interfere with fully kicking ass. I could have named any of their records, which are all nearly perfect. To say that Minutemen influenced me, and an entire population of others, is such a gross understatement, it’s like saying the Civil War had ‘some effect’ on the slave trade. The only other three-piece rock band to carve out such a distinctive path would probably be The Wipers, about whom you limeys know way too little for me to help you very much.”

18 Brian Eno – ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’

“This album is filthy, droll, sequinned, morose, desperate and devastatingly experimental. I first heard this in my mid teens, and it’s stayed close with me ever since, willing me on to create something of note of my own. This was his first solo foray after two albums with Roxy Music. Only recently have I realised how venomous Eno is towards his ex-bandmate Bryan Ferry on and each song is veiled in oblique, malodorous wordplay. He sounds potent, lost, hateful and creative.”

17 Huggy Bear – ‘Taking The Rough With The Smooch’

“I had this record, on cassette, and would listen to it in the car every single day en route to the college music course that I would eventually drop out of to start touring with The Cribs. It’s the most important record in the world. It made college seem futile, I wanted to forget everything I knew, everything I had learned, everything they were teaching me there. As Jo from Huggy Bear would say, “I know hundreds of chords, I made them all up”. And no one could ever teach you how to do what these guys, my new heroes, could do.

16 Roland S Howard – ‘Teenage Snuff Film’

“It’s the kind of record that when you hear it for the first time you immediately feel something has been stolen from you. It’s constant sexual power and groove will grab you by the genitals and throw you into the shower for a thorough soaking. Considering its consistent impact it confuses me as to how this album isn’t talked about more often. The lyrical balance between humour and depth is what makes it such a great rock’n’roll record. “You’re bad for me like cigarettes, but I haven’t sucked enough of you yet” ignites the onslaught in the opening track ‘Dead Radio’.

15 Black Sabbath – ‘Master Of Reality’

“This changed the way I thought when I was eight years old. I’d picked it up from my uncle. The album looked so cool with its dark evil colour and purple writing. I put it on and listened to its stupid Ozzy intro and it sounded so heavy. OK, the lyrics are pretty hit or miss. ‘Sweet Leaf’ is their bad ode to pot and never has a man rhymed ‘insane’ with ‘brain’ so many times. But the music is amazing. It spawned grunge. Unfortunately. A lot of bands wouldn’t admit to its influence, I guess because of the satanic connection.”

14 The Shaggs – ‘Philosophy Of The World’

“None of them were spectacular at their instruments but they did it anyway, their own way (kind of). It’s a really exciting listening, and quite a remarkable record. The bottom line is that there’s something very innocent and equally disturbing about it. When I listened to the track ‘Why Do I Feel?’ for the first time, I genuinely felt like my brain was being torn into three or four pieces. In the best way.

13 The Beatles – ‘Revolver’

“This is the bible of popular music as we know it. There are so many layers in there, which is what I want from the songs we put into the world: it doesn’t get old because there’s always something new to discover. I think it was one of their most daring moments, putting together ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and these other very experimental attempts at trying on different personas. It ends up being a variety show of an album full of dips, turns, tempos and moods but there’s a balance of songwriting too.

12 Led Zeppelin – ‘IV’

“Led Zeppelin are the best, and everyone should know that. If you ever truly want to learn how to play rock’n’ roll, just start at the beginning. Everyone wants to write an album this brilliant. As soon as the needle touches the vinyl you hear that whatever the hell that sounds is start going and then boom, you’re getting fucked in the face in the best way. It’s just such a classic. All of the songs are amazing. Riffs for days, man. You’ll never be fully alive until you listen to this record. This album is a stone groove man.”

11 The Space Lady – ‘The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits’

“The Space Lady, Suzy Soundz, performed on the streets of San Francisco with just a Casio. The sound of her voice is something that immediately grabs you, and her take on different songs is really unique. The songs are mostly covers but you wouldn’t know it on quite a few of them. ‘Synthesize Me’ and ‘Slapback Boomerang’ are originals. She’s the epitome of an outsider artist. One story we heard was that her and her husband tore up their ID cards and lived in a cave as he was a draft dodger. She also wears a helmet with wings on it.”

10 Pink Floyd – ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’

“Pink Floyd are me and [bandmate and partner] Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s joint favourite band, and this is our favourite period of theirs. It’s the cusp of them discovering the sound they went on to with ‘Echoes’, and you can hear Syd Barrett really peaking as a songwriter. It’s the bridge between those two worlds and it’s an incredible record.”

9 Outkast – ‘Stankonia’

“I really enjoyed OutKast as a kid, I don’t know why. Obviously back then I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, the production’s amazing’ or anything; it’s just that the whole record is totally solid. ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ is pretty sweet; it’s like a rap/drum’n’bass sound.”

8 Nirvana – ‘In Utero’

“‘Nevermind’’s the first one you hear, because it’s got all the big songs on it. But then you hear ‘Bleach’, ‘Incesticide’, and ‘In Utero’. And ‘In Utero’ still sounds fresh. It’s the closest vision of how the band was supposed to sound. Listening to ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ for the first time, I remember just thinking, how the fuck did they create this noise? I still don’t know.”

7 Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell – ‘El Corazon’

“It’s the record I listen to the most. It’s just such a wide-open, spectral record. To me the best music can transport you spiritually, take you to a wild, open place. I mean, this record is like direct access to a whole other experience. It can make you forget that we’re living in two-thousand and whatever the fuck and give you a more universal, longer view of things.”

6 Lou Reed – ‘Transformer’

“It’s the best record in the world. Every time I listen to it I hear something new and I feel different feelings. It just sounds so live and in-the-moment – it feels like they’re just fucking around in the studio. I’ve never really looked into how the record was made, so I don’t know if that’s what it is – maybe it’s not. Someone played it to me late at night in a bar I used to work at after closing time. It was like ‘Let’s go home’ and I was like ‘No, lets sit down and listen to the rest of the album!’.”

5 Love – ‘Forever Changes’

“As an album it’s just so rich. It’s impassioned, political, ageless and overlooked. It was Bobby Gillespie who first put me on to them when I was in my early ’20s, and then he took me to see them at Shepherd’s Bush. We went backstage and asked for Arthur Lee afterwards, it was quite legendary. He was telling me about prison in LA with Richard Ramirez and Charlie Manson and shit like that. He had some stories! And back in the day with Hendrix.

4 John Coltrane – ‘A Love Supreme’

“It’s a very deep record – it’s a religious experience hearing it for the first time. It’s a religious experience on repeated listens too, but especially on the first time. I was 15 and my aunt and uncle – who are a jazz duo called Jack and Patty – invited me to California to be their apprentice, to be their roadie, for a couple of gigs they were doing in the summer. They did this ceremony where they turned off the lights and lit candles and they put on Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’.

3 Kendrick Lamar – ‘Section 8.0’

“He’s the saviour of modern rap music, and this is why. His first, ‘Overly Dedicated’, is good, but ‘Section.80’ steals it. It’s just good to see someone so talented with such good songs can finally get to the masses. He really deserves it; he came from a shithole and overcame so much to make this record. When someone does that it automatically makes it more interesting. I absolutely love this record and still listen to it all the time.”

2 Jacques Dutronc – ‘Jacques Dutronc’

“For me, this album is what cool sounds like. If I need a pick me up I put this on. It’s intelligent whilst staying fun and very sexy. One day I will learn French as I feel I can’t truly appreciate his work not knowing what these songs actually mean. I’m a bit of a self-conscious dancer but this makes me forget that I have two left feet. It makes you feel rock ‘n’ roll. The world needs more Jacques Dutroncs.”

1 Love – ‘Four Sail’

“Everyone always forgets about this album because it’s so difficult to find. Or it was, before the internet. But when your life IS ’60s garage music, even for five minutes, it’s impossible to not fall for Love. I remember I used to get called a plastic mod on the nightbus because I looked like [’70s Arsenal legend] Charlie George, but you’ve got to stand up for yourself, and sometimes the only way to do that is to let the soul and swagger and passion of something – and for me it was ‘Four Sail’ – reappear and eek out of you. It’s a beautiful, majestic record.