Greatest Pop, Hip-Hop and R & B/Soul Albums (Additionally includes critically acclaimed classic albums rated 7/10)

  1. NOTE: In the 7/10 section (6.8/10 - 7.2/10), I've included highly acclaimed classic albums, regardless of genre. These are from the top 300 of's aggregate top 3000 albums list. These selections are marked with an asterisk (*)

  2. 9.3/10
  3. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

  4. 8.6/10
  5. Original Sin Pandora's Box (1989)

  6. 7.9/10
  7. Underwater Moonlight - Soft Boys (1980)
  8. It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back - Public Enemy (1988)

  9. 7.8/10
  10. White Soul - Green (1989)

  11. 7.7/10
  12. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
  13. Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy - Brian Eno (1974)

  14. 7.6/10
  15. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae (2010)
  16. Charm of the Highway Strip - Magnetic Fields (1998)

  17. 7.5/10
  18. Funeral - Arcade Fire (2004)
  19. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West (2010)
  20. Skylarking - XTC (1986)
  21. Return To Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio (2006)
  22. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye (1971)

  23. 7.4/10
  24. To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar (2015)
  25. Clouddead - Clouddead (2001)
  26. The Cold Vein - Cannibal Ox (2005)
  27. The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem (2000)
  28. The College Dropout - Kanye West (2004)
  29. Murmur - R.E.M (1983)

  30. 7.3/10
  31. Endtroducing - DJ Shadow (1996)
  32. Forever Changes - Love (1967)
  33. Marry Me - St Vincent (2007)
  34. Untitled - Dalek (2010)
  35. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Lauryn Hill (1998)
  36. Bellybutton - Jellyfish (1990)
  37. Something/Anything - Todd Rundgren (1972)
  38. Song Cycle - Van Dyke Parks (1967)
  39. If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian (1996)
  40. The Tain - Decemberists (2005) [EP]
  41. They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants (1986)

  42. 7.2/10
  43. Negro Necro Nekros - Dalek (1998)
  44. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd (1975)*
  45. Remain in Light - Talking Heads (1980)*
  46. For Your Pleasure - Roxy Music (1973)*
  47. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin (1971)*
  48. Desire - Bob Dylan (1975)*
  49. Screamadelica - Primal Scream (1991)*
  50. Picaresque - Decemberists (2005)
  51. Homogenic - Bjork (1997)*
  52. A Wizard/True Star - Todd Rundgren (1973)
  53. Amnesiac - Radiohead (2001)*

  54. 7.1/10
  55. OK Computer - Radiohead (1997)*
  56. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles (1967)
  57. Purple Rain - Prince (1984)
  58. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac (1976)
  59. Music From Big Pink - The Band (1968)*
  60. In Utero - Nirvana (1993)*
  61. Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen (1975)*
  62. Nevermind - Nirvana (1991)*
  63. Grace - Jeff Buckley (1994)*
  64. Sign O' the Times - Prince (1987)
  65. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement (1993)
  66. Turn On The Bright Lights - Interpol (2002)*
  67. London Calling - The Clash (1979)*
  68. No Now - Clarence Clarity (2015)
  69. The Queen is Dead - The Smiths (1986)
  70. Paul's Boutique - Beastie Boys (1989)
  71. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire (2007)
  72. Graceland - Paul Simon (1986)
  73. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - Smashing Pumpkins (1995)*

  74. 7.0/10
  75. Who's Next - The Who (1971)*
  76. Castaways & Cutouts - Decemberists (2002)
  77. Let it Bleed - The Rolling Stones (1969)*
  78. This Year's Model - Elvis Costello (1978)
  79. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys (1966)
  80. Slanted & Enchanted - Pavement (1992)
  81. Stands For Decibels - DB's (1981)
  82. The Chronic - Dr. Dre (1992)
  83. Abbey Road - The Beatles (1969)
  84. The Joshua Tree - U2 (1987)*
  85. Gulag Orkestar - Beirut (2006)
  86. Pearl - Janis Joplin (1970)*
  87. Paid in Full - Eric B & Rakim (1987)
  88. Tapestry - Carole King (1971)
  89. Metallica - Metallica (1991)*
  90. Ten - Pearl Jam (1991)
  91. Hotel California - The Eagles (1976)*

  92. 6.9/10
  93. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder (1976)
  94. White Blood Cells - The White Stripes (2001)*
  95. Innervisions - Stevie Wonder (1973)
  96. Personal Journals - Sage Francis (2002)
  97. The Score - The Fugees (1996)
  98. Boy in Da Corner - Dizzee Rascal (2003)
  99. Kid A - Radiohead (2000)*
  100. Cardinal - Cardinal (1995)
  101. Dookie - Green Day (1994)
  102. Dusk at Cubist Castle - Olivia Tremor Control (1996)
  103. Green - Green (1986)
  104. 3 Feet High and Rising - De La Soul (1989)

  105. 6.8/10
  106. Doggystyle - Snoop Doggy Dogg (1993)
  107. Late Registration - Kanye West (2005)
  108. Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen (1984)*
  109. Beware (The Funk is Everywhere) - Afrika Bambaataa (1986)
  110. Illmatic - Nas (1994)
  111. Ready to Die - Notorious B.I.G (1994)
  112. Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A (1988)
  113. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel (1969)
  114. Bee Thousand - Guided by Voices (1994)


  116. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morrisette (1995)
  117. Fear of a Black Planet - Public Enemy (1990)
  118. Aquemini - Outkast (1998)
  119. LA Woman - The Doors (1971)*
  120. Moondance - Van Morrison (1970)*
  121. Electric Warrior - T-Rex (1971)*
  122. Hey Babe - Julianna Hatfield (1992)
  123. There's A Riot Goin' On - Sly & The Family Stone (1971)*
  124. Use Your Illusion, Parts I & II - Guns N' Roses (1991)*
  125. Paranoid - Black Sabbath (1971)*
  126. Younger Than Yesterday - The Byrds (1967)
  127. Pink Flag - Wire (1977)*
  128. The Notorious Byrd Brothers - The Byrds (1968)
  129. Back in Black - AC/DC (1980)*
Author Comments: 

In many cases, I've stretched the definition of "pop".

For an explanation of my criteria, go here:

I'd recommend any one of R. Stevie Moore's albums. Start with Phonography.

Thanks! Keep 'em coming.

Personal favourite on Taking Tiger Mountain? For me it would have to be The Great Pretender, in my opinion a serious contender for greatest short track of the 70s. To me it seems like what would happen if you combined the Residents with Nine Inch Nails.

Yes, that's a great one. Possibly my favorite as well!

Very good list. If you haven't already heard "Odessey & Oracle" by The Zombies, check it out. It's a really fine 60's Pop Rock album, definitely better than both Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds.

Thanks, I have heard it a bunch of times but its been about 10 years -- it should probably be on here, but would have to re-listen to it first

The Velvet Underground? The Beatles? The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society?

Maybe the Kinks. There's many 7's to add. This isn't really a list I focus on filling out as there are few 7.5+ albums. I just sort of add to it on the side from time to time.

Nice to see Arcade Fire here. Have you heard 'The Suburbs' yet? Personally, I think it's their strongest record.

Nope, aside from some songs (I think) I haven't heard that one yet. Even better than Funeral?

'Funeral' is undoubtedly a force of nature, but I think, song for song, 'The Suburbs' is Arcade Fire's most consistently enjoyable (and most mature) record -- full of great pop melodies and focused songwriting.

I'd rank their albums something like this:

1. The Suburbs (A+)
2. Funeral (A)
3. Neon Bible (A-)
4. Reflektor (B+)

Thanks, Funeral is difficult to top for the type of music it is, but they're very consistent so far so it sounds like Suburbs has potential :)

Why are The Beatles underrated even in the "Pop" category? This list could use some explanation of what you think pop music should be. As it is, it gives the idea that you despise the genre (at least in its classical form) and that you can only accept pop music if it somehow negates or deviates from its principles (direct, simple, engaging, repetitive music). Only this can explain the inclusion of Neutral Milk Hotel's album. In what way is this a better pop album than Abbey Road? Why not put Trout Mask Replika as well if your going by the same criteria you apply in every other genre?
Having said that, your first place excepted, I don't really disagree with your choices (Taking Tiger Mountain is cool), just with their order and with the blatant omissions (Odessey and Oracle, Between the Buttons, With the Beatles, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, The Who Sell Out, etc.).

With the Beatles? Really?

I guess if I were to make a list of pop albums which work best as pop albums, then Abbey Road would be #1.

Well, what's the point of doing a list called "Greatest Pop Albums" if you're not going to take the genre into account? It's frivolous, that was my point. It's AfterHours' Greatest Albums list minus the non-Pop Albums. One might as well do a "Greatest Albums with Animals On Their Covers" list or "The Greatest Albums that have 9 Songs on them".

Its really just "greatest albums that happen to be within the 'pop' genre". I'm not sure what the issue is with that. Personally, I could care less about genres, but throughout the years I get people asking me from time to time which pop albums I prefer as my lists tend to more strongly favor other genres. And, if you examine the list more closely you'll find that 26 of the selections (or, most of them) aren't on my "greatest albums" list at all.

I know you included different selections here. That's what validates it for me.

Ok cool, makes sense.

It's interesting you say you don't care about the genre when you're listening to music. Is that even possible? By genre I mean the craft and the tradition of a certain kind of music. Even subconsciously one usually takes these into account when listening/evaluating music. I should read more about this topic but for all I know music (like every other art) needs to be somehow recognizable and follow some kind of pattern for us to understand or enjoy it. And also for us to recognize how revolutionary it is. Citizen Kane won't appear half as impressive today if I'm not familiar with the filmmaking tradition that preceded it. Do you really strip every work of all its context when you judge it? Is it a kind of tabula rasa competition between avant-garde masterpieces?

All I meant is that I dont rate something based on genre. Your previous posts seemed to expect me to rate The Beatles higher on a pop list than I would on my greatest albums one, but my ratings for any genre or art are based on the same all-encompassing criteria. A 9/10 pop album is every bit as amazing as a 9/10 classical work, etc (though amazing for different reasons/through different means).

I got that part. I was just wondering about your (and my) mental process when it comes to evaluating music.

I simply listen to the songs/piece closely and, while doing so, assimilate its emotions/themes and how amazing I find these (with attention also given to the singularity of its expression). So yes, definitely experience and a historical context comes into play while doing this.

I don't find the Beatles very compelling or emotionally interesting -- though they made some excellent albums and several good songs. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the most emotionally devastating and compelling albums ever created.

The albums on this list aren't rated on a curve of "how 'pop' the album is". They're rated by the same criteria as any of my other rock/jazz lists. Also, the definition of pop is stretched in some cases, such as Aeroplane (which is several other genres as well).

I wonder why you do not find the Beatles to be emotionally interesting. Do you think they're faking their emotions when they perform? Do you dislike their personalities?

I think Lennon is the most interesting, by far. He was the most dedicated to saying something new, towards creating transcendent music. The rest of them didn't go outside the box much.

I think they were often good, sometimes very good, and occasionally amazing -- Revolution 9, A Day in the Life, Tomorrow Never Knows, Strawberry Fields Forever ... but even these are far surpassed by greater, more extraordinary efforts by other artists, such as (off the top of my head): (Revolution 9) Faust I - Faust, (A Day in the Life) Parable of Arable Land - Red Crayola, (Tomorrow Never Knows) National Anthem - Radiohead, (Strawberry Fields Forever) In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel...

To be honest I don't see so much relation between the pairs you have compared (except for Faust and Revolution 9 both being collages). Speaking of collages, the White Album is one huge successful collage of a vast variety of musical styles. I've yet to hear another pop album that does it so perfectly or even comes close in terms of scope and creativity. From the melodic point of view, their music has always been transcendent. They just needed a double album with no concept or commercial direction or producer/manager supervision to let their collective talent fully blossom. The White Album is a timeless masterpiece. Can't say this about the rest of their albums though.

Strawberry Fields Forever is more connected to ITAOTS than R9 to Faust. I do agree with all you said about the White Album though.

RE: White Album ... I'm totally open to it being amazing -- the more the merrier ... but I remember it being consistently solid/entertaining/interesting as a series of mildly interesting diversions/novelties, and occasionally very good (such as Happiness is a Warm Gun), and one or two times very very very good (such as Revolution 9). Is it really that amazing next to something like, say, a 7.5/10 like Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle? And then, compared to a towering masterpiece like Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill?

I do agree that it is their least artificial album, where each of them seem to be expressing "themselves".

But yes, I'll give it another shot in the near future. It's been 5+ years so who knows what might happen...

George Harrison has some great moments too though. Whatever, just try the White Album again when you feel like it.

So why bother doing a list called "Greatest Pop Albums" if you don't care about pop music's characteristics? If the criteria is just "emotionality" what keeps you from adding Trout Mask Replica, The Doors or Velvet Undergroung?
I've listened to In the Aeroplane Over The Sea more times than it deserves, and I never found it that compelling. Apart from two beautiful songs (that I would hardly call "pop songs"), Two Headed Boy and the title track, the album lacks diversity and gets tedious very quickly.

Because these are pop albums to greater or lesser degree -- just not pure, standard barers of the genre like Britney Spears or N'Sync, et al. There's a small argument that The Doors debut is sort of a pop album, but The Velvet Underground and Capt Beefheart are pretty far removed (obviously you know that).

Re: "not caring" ... I care when it's done in an amazing/emotional/compelling way. This is not an objective list, it's my opinion. Re: you not finding In the Aeroplane Over the Sea compelling and it lacking diversity and becoming tedious... sounds like you have a different take on it than I do, which is fine. If you want to place The Beatles at the top of a pop albums list, and rate ITAOTS lowly, you should just make your own list (if you haven't already) or write an article of the Beatles merits and why they're so compelling/emotionally significant/influential (or whatever merits you look for).

These discussions always end silly ("you should do your own list", etc.). We've had it before on your paintings list but I can't seem to explain my point right. It's about your approach, which always seems too closed and too self-centered to me. You expect the artwork to amaze you by matching your criteria. This is a very dangerous attitude towards art if only because it can freeze your taste. It's always a one way street between you and the artwork - the artwork must satisfy you. What I argue is that even something as apparently simple as pop music has created over the years a number of characteristics and traditions that should be studied and considered. There are many interesting things to value in Beatles' music, many more in Beethoven's music, even more in Bach's music. Before judging them, maybe we should try to learn about them. And maybe direct emotionality isn't the most interesting criterium, nor the most edificating one. The years pass and only Scaruffi comes to mind when I check your lists (even though I enjoy them).

I have no idea how one could look at the resulting works on my lists and think my approach to be "closed", but, okay... Escalator Over the Hill or Vampire Rodents alone cover more types of music than the average music listener will hear in their entire lifetime ... And I have no clue why some people act like it's a flaw when someone judges something based on observation and opinion and doesn't attempt to judge something "objectively" (whatever the hell that even means. Are you in communication with God when you rank your choices?) or whatever agenda it is you're thinking with when you consider that I am somehow "wrong" for not ranking the Beatles highly on my personal, subjective list ... The interesting things I value in The Beatles music are represented here. A 7/10 is a very good/excellent score. It's not like they're Beethoven, Bach or Mozart or something...

Okay, I tried the White Album again and honestly feel it's below a 7.

It has some great peaks: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Revolution 9, some others ... and some songs were a little better than I remembered such as Back in the USSR (and how the airplane keeps landing during the chorus). Also, there is a certain charisma to each of them splitting their personalities and diversifying their sound. Plus, with the 2009 stereo remastered sound quality, it did bring out some nuances that I'd missed in previous years which improved the experience and gave their sound some added depth.

But when it comes down to it, there are plenty of sprawling, multi-faceted albums that I think are much more amazing, and in particular, do a better job of accumulating in impact and resonance as they expand. I recommend comparing it to Dusk at Cubist Castle for starters. And if you want to go straight for the jugular -- albeit completely unfair -- compare it to Escalator Over the Hill.

Well, I don't know...try it again I guess? I'd say you should pay attention to the more relaxed and sleepier parts of the album and their contrast to the explosive ones -- they're what truly represent the spirit of the album, e.g. USSR+Prudence, Julia+Birthday, Monkey+Sadie+Helter Skelter+Long Long Long. The Beatles is essentially a disconnected dream, where everything, including the nonsense, in contrast to the psychedelia of the year before, is more subtle and sincere, as if the band really believes in what they're talking about and somehow this dream is more real than real life itself. Another notable portion would be the last three tracks -- the tired Cry Baby Cry, with its underlying tension suddenly breaking out in R9, only to wind down with the soothing Good Night. I hope I'm making some sense here, sometimes I think I exaggerate its significance and depth myself but anyway, that's what I think at the moment.

Meanwhile, thanks for the recommendation, I should try Dusk at Cubist Castle soon.

Thanks, that's an interesting take on it. I'll see if that works better for me the next time I listen to it.

I'm going to take a middle ground between you two...

The White Album was made at a time when a lot of the key practitioners of psychedelic rock switched to a more rootsy style, (supposedly) more humble and less pretentious. To that end, the songs are a lot simpler and humbler and while there is some experimentation on the album, it's more of the home-made variety (a tradition going back to the early Fugs). Several of the songs, in the aim of not taking themselves so seriously, find them making fun of themselves and referencing their (and others) old material. Mostly, however, it's filled with some just-for-fun "genre exercises" in contemporary genres. They don't add anything significant to the canons of those genres nor are they deconstructions. They're just for fun.

Top moments:
"R9" does a brilliant job of sound sculpting by juxtaposing various types of sounds in changing ways (backwards, loops, backward loops, classical samples, sound effects, etc.), but sticks a little too close to its classical source material for me. "Helter Skelter" is one of many songs that year that inched the psychedelic blues-rock toward hard rock and/or heavy metal, but is edgy only in parts and comes across as a little disingenuous. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" is a genius Zappa-ish mini-suite. "While My Guitar Gentle Weeps" is one of the most emotionally devastating songs they ever did. "Cry Baby Cry" has some Syd Barrett qualities. "Piggies" cleverly arranges an old folk melody with classical touches and weird sound effects. "Wild Honey Pie" is a bunch of demented screams (not too far off the from the Pixies' cover). "Long Long Long" feels genuine.

Other curiousities:
"Buffalo Bill" is midly amusing in its eccentricity as is "Do It In the Road". "Me and My Monkey" brings some energetic quirkiness and "Rocky Racoon" is a good Dylan parody (John Wesley Harding). "Sexy Sadie" feels emotional.

The rest are those useless genre exercises (part of the second category can count as that too) and the problem is that they take up a whopping 53% of the length. They include some stabs at folk which I find shallow and some others that are, again, just for fun. In terms of structure, the 8 great ones mentioned above are placed well. 3 of the sides have them placed consecutively. Side 1 has 3 of them. They're almost always at or toward the end of the side (side two has only one of them and it's in the middle). So there is slight attempt at some sort of pattern when comparing the sides: lowkey--> more enegery--> the above 8 (except side 1 doesn't have that middle part of the pattern). However, the more banal songs don't give me the feeling of building anything up cumulatively (for the more accomplished songs to extinguish). Also the better songs don't match each other within or across sides.

I generally agree with your points, including which songs are the best on the album.

Surely Dear Prudence, Glass Onion, I'm So Tired, Blackbird, Julia and Honey Pie also deserve a mention as highlights?

"The Beatles is essentially a disconnected dream... and somehow this dream is more real than real life itself" Couldn't have summarized the album better myself. The album is overflowing with emotions disguised as (all sorts of) "simple" songs. It's pop music at its purest and finest. It's easy to mistake the album as yet another fun collection of random songs by the Beatles (I used to think that for years) but the fact that Revolution 9 works so well as an avant-garde piece shows how powerful the band (including George Martin who deserves so much credit for this album) had become as composers, arrangers and performers at this point. They could do ANYTHING in their newfound free mindset, so they did it all. Excessive, yes, but so were Trout Mask Replica and Uncle Meat.

Odyssey & Oracle not a pop album either ;-)? Surely it's a 7.5 at least now you seem to be back in a pop album kind of mood. No rating Sgt Peppers' a 10 though, don't make me lose faith after you rated Dirty Beaches so high! :-)

Haha, thanks. Sgt Pepper a 10? Hmmmmmmmmmmm, maybe if I were being payed by Rolling Stone magazine... Don't know about Odyssey and Oracle -- its been too long since I listened to it but I'll try and give it a go soon.

You rated TMR a 9.5, Highway 61, VU & Nico and Doors 9....obviously you ARE being paid by Rolling Stone magazine.

And now, even more tellingly, Rolling Stones themselves are rising dramatically on my lists ;)

Carole King's Tapestry?

Thanks for the reminder, I haven't heard it in eons. I'll revisit it and get back to you.

This list is turning out pretty sweet. Your top 5 choices are specially very comprehensive and strong. I think Crazy Rhythms by the Feelies has a good shot at being included here. Also, Underwater Moonlight is one hell of an unassuming album. It took me so many listens to truly reveal its greatness.

I've only heard some of Fleetwood Mac's greatest hits (Tusk has always been a favorite). I'm gonna get Rumours and listen to the whole thing.

Thanks, surprisingly I've never heard Crazy Rhythms even though I've intended to several times.

Try Juliana Hatfield's Hey Babe.

Thanks for the reminder to revisit that one. It should probably be on here, but I'll listen to it again soon to be sure.

Another one: "Imperial f.f.r.r" by Unrest.

Thanks for the suggest, when I come back around to pop, I'll give it a spin.

Throwing some more stuff out there, maybe a bit of a stretch for some...

Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything?
Decemberists - Castaways And Cutouts
Counting Crows -August And Everything After
Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (echoing above statement)
Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks
Peter Gabriel - So
Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow
Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
Ultravox - Ultravox!
Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield Again
Sly And The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On
Talking Heads - "More Songs" or "Remain In Light"
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
* Gram Parsons -Sleepless Nights

* This is the Grievous Angel album under it's original title before Parson's wife had the cover photo changed and made sure to not include a few songs, both out jealousy over Emmylou Harris' inclusion. Let's presume that "Sleepless Nights" would have been included as track 1 (being the title-track) and that two other songs recorded but excluded would have been excluded anyway ("The Angels Rejoiced in Heaven Last Night" was explicitly rejected by Parsons and "Brand New Heartache" was the worst of 3 Felix/Bryant tunes, an excessive amount, the album being long enough ayway)

Thanks, I'm not sure about Remain in Light or There's a Riot Goin On being pop (though the funk/soul/R & B side of things might allow them on here), but like you said "a stretch". I need to revisit Rundgren, Counting Crows, Kinks, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and the Gram Parsons. If Jagged Little Pill is "pop" than it already deserves to be added (probably 7.5). I'll revisit it to see whether it's pop or not. I don't think I've heard the rest so I'll check them out.

Yeah man. I guess Remain In Light is pop only in the "fun" sense. And if Jagged Little Pill counts than probably so should Liz Phair eh? Any more Jim Steinman stuff worth checking out? Bat Out Of Hell Part IV: Straight Outta Trenton, New Jersey? On a related note, I ended up rating Odelay much lower than I thought. Just a low 7. I think it's because the Dust Brothers-less stuff ruins the feel.

Updates: I don't quite consider Jagged Little Pill pop. I currently think it's between 7.4 - 7.6/10 though. Maybe if I stretched the definition enough I would (which one could argue I've already done with some other albums on here) ... Probably the same with Exile in Guyville -- though that one is a little bit closer call as a pop album imo. I'd probably rate it 7.3 or 7.4ish... Also I relistened to Younger than Yesterday and thought it might be a 7, but currently in the 6.5 range for me. I'll have to check out Odelay again. Been awhile on that one. I'd recommend Solex's Low Kick and Hard Bop, which seems influenced by it but is probably even better.

Also, to an earlier recommendation from some others, or maybe it was only cuki luvz u: I relistened to Odyssey and Oracle and found it to be probably under 7/10 -- probably in the 6/10 range for me.

Haha re: Steinman... Bat Out of Hell IV? Is Jay-Z featured? I thought 1 was enough. The first one is pretty awesome as far as Olympian/pop/rock/melodrama goes.

BOOH 4 - featuring cosmic sound effects representing the "whoosh" sound as Meatloaf enters and exits hell.

As burning doves flock from his sleeves :)

Re: Byrds ... btw, Love's Forever Changes, partially influenced by the Byrds, is far far far superior imo

I've got to admit it's getting better. A little better.

All the time (it can't get more worse) :)

It would've been a truly epic pun if I were listening to Getting Better while reading this

Still, The Who Sell Out has to be there.

Thanks, I don't doubt it re: The Who. I'll have to revisit it. This list is very much in-progress and wasn't meant to be a complete representation. It's more a matter of me listening (for the first time), or re-listening, to the albums. There's many Scaruffi 7's and 7.5's I haven't heard and there's a good chance they'd be represented here if they're pop, just based on the probability of me agreeing with him as I often do.

Listen to Goodbye Lullaby by Avril Lavigne? I could see you liking the song Goodbye actually, but mostly I just want to see you write a detailed pretentious essay on it.

Pretentious essay + Avril Lavigne sounds like an amazing combo indeed :-)

I listened to Goodbye + the first track and a half and, unless the album changes dramatically from there, it's just not my kind of music. As it isn't aligned with my criteria (and not even supposed to/trying to be), whatever I have to say about it would be inconsequential/worthless. She's pretty smokin' though is about all I have to say about it :-)

"She's pretty smokin' though" I'd have to politely disagree with you on that ;)


You now rate people too? :o

Mine is 6.155/10 :P

Yes, and her equivalent album is Exile in Guyville.

By the way, how is it not aligned with your criteria? Are you saying the emotions in the music in the fake and there's no ingenuity in the production?

What are you referring to? This comment is in the middle of nowhere...

You listened to a few tracks of Goodbye Lullaby and said that you weren't going listen further because the music isn't aligned with your criteria.

The emotions in it may be very real to her but I don't remember their expression being particularly extraordinary. The tracks I heard sounded pretty generic and didn't stand out relative to the works that match my criteria.

Hmm, fair enough, I don't think the album is extraordinary either.


You should check out XTC's 'Skylarking' at some point. It may well be the psychedelic pop masterpiece of the '80s.

Thanks I've intended to for years. Have no idea why not yet :)

This Year's Model is really fun. "Pump It Up" is probably one of my favorite pop tracks from the 70s.

I agree. My favorite track is probably the epileptic Lipstick Vogue.

Seeing Dookie here is kind of a surprise, though I completely agree with you about its quality! What are your favourite tracks? I think the whole first half (till Basket Case) is pretty great, (especially from Chump till Welcome to Paradise) and the second half is mostly okay (When I Come Around and FOD are probably the highlights of that portion).

I think it's a very consistent pop-punk album. Really not sure what my favorite track is -- they're all good. Maybe Basket Case and Welcome to Paradise? If someone were to claim its an all time masterpiece I would recommend they listen to Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (which is every bit as catchy but obliterates Dookie) and Ramones' debut and either of The Replacements best albums. Those are clear (and far superior) influences.

Completely agree with you about the influences, which reminds me that I need to re-listen to them all soon!

Nice! I'll be interested to see if they jump onto your list! I too need to revisit the Ramones and Replacements -- probably 3 or 4 albums between them with an excellent shot at an upgrade to 7.8+.

Fresh Fruit and Rotten Vegetables would definitely be on there! The others could have a shot at getting there as well.

Have you listened to American Idiot as well?

Yeah, some years ago. It's probably their second best album.

What would you rate it?

Not sure, probably below 7, like 6.5?

What would you rate Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and Thriller?

Its been too long since I heard Off the Wall. Thriller has pretty amazing production and manages to even be compelling through its different personas. It would maybe make this list as a 7/10. Its at least 6 or 6.5.

Nice list as usual, but I'm sort of curious why you're including hip-hop with pop. They seem like pretty dissimlar genres, even though hip-hop has had a steady presence on the American Top 40 charts for quite some time now. I'm guessing "pop" means music primarily driven by strong melodies, but artists like Public Enemy and Cannibal Ox are far from melodic.

Just because most hip hop is driven by insistent, repetitive verse-chorus-verses, tending to be based in similar structures as pop music. Also because hip hop and R and B seemingly have very few albums above 7.8+ and I thought this was a good list to include those genres' best works.

Don't you think Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain should be included here?

Ill be revisiting it soon but, from memory, no more than a Frank Zappa album.

Cyclops seems more melodic and accessible to me than Zappa's work.

Thanks, Ill revisit it soon -- probably this week, maybe next :)

Potential qualifiers from your larger list (all above Murmur): Guyville, Yankee Hotel, Rocket to Russia, Doolittle

Wow. Heard Belle & Sebastian's if you're feeling sinister for the first time the other day and then three more times. There's like 6 songs that just really tug my heartstrings, Graceland-ishly.

Thanks, I might end up going with those. They're close calls. Except YHF probably has too many excursions from pop. Maybe Doolittle too, though it, Guyville and Rocket to Russia are probably 50/50 pop or not-pop.

Re: Sinister .. Yeah, love that album :) Love its confluence of Dylan, Nico, Cohen and others.

Totally. Smiths and Donovan are in their DNA too. Also hard to believe there's 8 people playing because it feels so intimate!

Oh yeah, that's a good point, hadn't thought of those. Probably even a bit of Joni Mitchell too.

Re: intimacy ... I know! I was surprised to learn that. Extraordinary...

Anyone have an opinion on whether or not The Feelies Crazy Rhythms should qualify for inclusion on this list. Its main genre is probably post-punk but the album is really a stylistic quandary. Given which "pop" albums Ive listed -- most of which are borderline examples -- can anyone tell me if Crazy Rhythms is "pop" enough?

I think title track and Beatles cover yes, maybe a few others, but too much impressionism or trance on the whole. But I think Soft Boys and dB's do qualify, to name two other bands bridging the gap betw newwave/post punk and the R.E.M./collegerock sound

Thanks, that makes sense. I might add it, but I'm definitely on the fence about it.

I agree with seanseansean. I think London Calling isn't pop either. It transcends the genre like We're Only in It For the Money.

Would you say London Calling is at least "populist"?

It is, with a big non-conformist twist. They use populism to celebrate the punks and outlaws and fight oppression and expose hypocrisy. I think part of the appeal is that it's designed to have the exact opposite effect of usual populist music on the same audience. As a whole it's a very smart fuck-you to the establishment that also greatly breaks the stereotype of punk rock as savage illiterate music. Rudie can't fail!

Totally agree on London Calling. Its on here because its a 7/10 thats widely critically acclaimed ( along with many others I just added (read my new title for this list above).

My bad, I thought you limited the critically acclaimed additions to pop/mainstream albums as well.

Project I thought of: Suppose you're introducing a nonlistener to music. Start with Billboard's 100 best sellers. Then top 100 Rolling Stone mag albums not on the above list. Then the top 100 per Acclaimed or Pitchfork or whatever not on that list. Then all of the Scaruffi 7.5+ not on that one.

Or just let them start with Trout Mask so it gets progressively easier to swallow..

That could be a workable progression! Its not too far off from the progression I undertook (less Billboard and with fairly extensive experience in Classical to help "quality control"), though with Scaruffi I started with his 9s -- in the main -- before his others.

Good project. It will serve the purpose, but the Scaruffi addition makes it unfair to avantgarde music. Pitchfork could be removed altogether.

Let them start with Trout Mask Replica and Pet Sounds. Watch and laugh!

No worries, it helped me realize it was a bit unclear so I added the note at the top of the list.

That relates a bit to what Christgau writes a lot about. He says 50's r&r and especially 64-68 rock was "mass bohemianism": teenagers were nonconformist with respect to the adult establishment, but there SO many of them.

Right on, it does relate a bit to that. The "but there are SO many of them" situation is an unfortunate thing that happens to almost every big phenomena. Even something like Trout Mask Replica isn't safe: the likes of you and I listen to it for pleasure, but there are millions of hipsters who rate it among the best albums of all time only to say that it's a blabbering mess of random ugly shit and that's exactly why it's great because no one has the balls and originality to do it. Every famous good thing has its share of pretentious supporters.

Word! Shallow bastards..

My Christgau theory: I think the "mass bohemian" concept is what explains why he is sometimes very supportive of purely "poptimist" stuff, especially from formerly more creative artists (think his Born In The USA review). It's like he thinks there is a teenage "rock and roll spirit" that everyone relates to (driven by innate conformist and anti-confirmist desires that coexist in everyone which explain mass bohemia). So when artists sell out to pop they're just switching to the "safer" choice among of styles they already relate to, a less dramatic selling out than. we might think.

Random musing: ... I mean, I suppose Dalek's "Untitled" (2010) qualifies as "hip hop"...

I'm curious about why you rank Amnesiac so much higher than Kid A (well not SO much higher). To me it seems like two or more unrelated and under-developed concepts, even though the main two are are expressive/ingenious to a greater degree than Kid A individually. It would be interesting if they were trying to tie everything together to show ways that the year 2000 zeitgeist was affecting people, but I don't think that's what they were doing.

- Confused, muffled depression a la Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: "Pyramid Song", "You And Whose Army?", "Life In A Glass House"
- Alienated, paranoid man in a high tech land: "Packt", "Pulk", "Dollars", "I Might Be Wrong"
- Maybe a hybrid of the two: "Like Spinning Plates" (especially), "Morning Bell" (Kid A re-write), "Knives Out" (somewhat in this category, also a Paranoid Android-sound alike)
- ?: "Hunting Bears"

Not sure if the two concepts you pointed out are really all that different. Not sure why you think an album should stick to one concept anyway. But I do think they fit together pretty well, in the sense that the songs share a sort of intensity that comes from the "loose" feel of the album as a whole. They're both deliberately offbeat, but Kid A is more polished and colder where Amnesiac is raw and hellish. I'm guessing that's part of what attracts AH to it.

I generally think that, to maximize the "cumulative" effect, there should just be one overall concept to an album and that the diversity, if any, should come from varying the ways of expressing it. But sometimes when I hear Amnesiac it sounds like two altogether separate works, with similarities (which you nailed) being a stretch and/or coincidental.

Yeah, 0.3 isn't a huge difference but it is notable.

Bear with me because I'm about to write this hurriedly, so I hope it makes sense... I'll clarify later if needed...

The main difference between the two is that Amnesiac doesn't overly process its songs to the point where the emotions are limited (even if still fairly impressive). Kid A has a smoother sound and therefore perhaps its songs seem more linked one to the next, while Amnesiac seems more disjointed. But, Kid A has a less interesting palette, and its songs (the title track being the weakest example) tend to be "muffled" in their expressiveness by the band choosing to overly process them, "drowning" the drums and guitars into a suffocating sound that is fairly interesting but doesn't quite make up for the limited expressiveness. For instance, compare the "muffled" drum crescendos on National Anthem (still among Radiohead's best despite this limitation), to how incredible the song could've been had it not been process so much and simply performed like, say, Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and the emotional disparity becomes clearer. The title track (Kid A), Optimistic and In Limbo are all fairly interesting structurally and somewhat evocative/emotional but are, left alone, pretty mediocre (Optimistic might be better than mediocre, but not much better). Songs like Idioteque are quite good, but over repeated listens lose their immediacy and one is left with not-too-impressive emotional/conceptual depth, little to grab onto (it's a fine track but kind of a skeleton of a great song -- again, partially due to the processing of the sounds/instruments instead of live, stronger, fuller versions of them). As I believe Scaruffi points out, the album is more form than content. Still an excellent work, it's just only a "surface masterpiece" so to speak. The best songs are National Anthem and How to Disappear Completely.

Once one hears quite a bit more amazing works like Knife's Shaking the Habitual or Dirty Beaches' Drifters/Love is the Devil, the depth disparity becomes more clear if it isn't already.

Amnesiac features more prominent instrumentation, a higher level (and variety) of ingenuity and a more consistently fascinating set of songs while boasting a similar "peak" in quality as Kid A's best (Life in a Glasshouse + Pyramid Song or Dollars and Cents is basically equal to National Anthem + How to Disappear Completely) -- but Amnesiac also has a better "second/third tier" of songs. It works quite well as a series of scenes where the protagonist is suffering/alienated/claustrophobic in varying, strange/alien environments, psychologically pressing in on him. I agree that Hunting Bears is one of the two weaker tracks (though still evocative and interesting). Imo, Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors is the other (still fairly interesting, probably not as mediocre as Kid A's title track).

Again, realize I wrote hastily with no editing. Have to go for now but feel free to further discuss if needed. Will be available again soon.

I guess one way to phrase what you said was: The timbres resulting from the heavy use of the studio on Kid A don't SIGNIFY in and of themselves (and are just meant as/come across as an odd curio) and happen to either inhibit more expressive stuff underneath or HIDE a relative LACK of expression underneath....whereas the production on Amnesiac is more valuable because the claustrophobia it creates IS what is being expressed.

I basically agree with this (it was more an issue of Amnesiac seeming dis-unified, but I changed my mind on that after another listen). I should say though that I don't think sound processing inherently limits evocation, it just does in this case (I'm sure you'd agree).

Yeah, you hit it on the head. With Amnesiac one will notice that there is a more distinct separation of sounds/instruments to where each one is more distinctly allowed its role to emote/evoke more so than on Kid A, where the instruments are so processed that they sort of merge together into a somewhat muffled lack of definition/individual recognition. Again, this tactic isn't without interest in itself; I just think it inhibits the emotional strength of the album and was taken too far in this case. The most amazing example of an album successfully engineering many different instruments in odd ways and altered timbres into a unified "mass" and wholly unique universe of sound, without inhibiting or losing any of the instruments' tone, definition, or emotional impact, would be Rock Bottom.

Re: Sound processing ...absolutely agree. Not inherently a bad way to go, but was a detriment in Kid A's case.

Kid A is still a superb work though.