In recent times, I’ve been writing various articles about music on the website Medium.com. Some of those articles have been reproduced here on this blog, and some stories from this blog have been published on Medium. It is an interesting writers community, quite interactive, and I enjoy sharing my writing about music that I love. Medium is a platform largely populated by Americans, however there are interesting contributors from all over the world. I enjoy bringing an Australian perspective to certain discussions.
A few weeks ago a writing challenge was put forward by one of the key music article contributors that writes for one of the website’s ‘publications’. The challenge was to write about your favourite album from every year that you have been alive. Now, being a total music tragic, I jumped at the chance to put a list together. However, it was a little more difficult than I expected. It ended up being quite the retrospective and introspective exercise!
Obviously many of the early records in the list came into my life much later than the year of release. But some of the albums listed from about 1975 onwards I did enjoy as a kid. As an example, I loved AC/DC from the first time I saw them on Countdown.
The challenger split his list into decades, thereby splitting one article into separate pieces, and we were encouraged to do the same. I published five separate pieces, each of which was well received and attracted quite a few comments. Many writers including myself gave and received recommendations about albums unknown to them.
I wanted to take those articles and reproduce them here on my blog, largely for my own benefit so that I may look back on it, but to also be able to present it to other readers. However, I have decided to consolidate the lists from the five stories into one master list. I have dispensed with some of the article background material, and have simply listed the albums along with some brief remarks on each. I list 54 favourite albums, which, along with the year of release, are displayed in bold, making it easy to scan through to see the winner from each year. I also list 194 runners-up or ‘honourable mention’ albums! You can see how difficult this task was!
So, let’s go for a musical wander through the last 54 years. Let me know what you like!!
1969: Abbey Road by The Beatles. I just can’t go past this masterpiece. As great as anything else they made (Revolver), with so many moments of pure genius. Some close competition in the year though, with Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II, released in January and October respectively. And I’ve always had a soft spot for the self-titled Blind Faith.
1970: Paranoid by Black Sabbath. The second album from the masters of doom slides in easily here, although the number of gems on Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival does allow it to compete for the number one spot. That pair is closely followed by Deep Purple In Rock.
1971: Aqualung by Jethro Tull. A big year for some incredible records, however, Aqualung means a lot to me for many reasons so it takes the gong. Other albums I have always loved include Master Of Reality by Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin IV, Electric Warrior by T. Rex, Meddle by Pink Floyd, and the self-titled Budgie.
1972: Hot August Night by Neil Diamond. A magnificent collection of material from a songwriting genius, and it’s an excellent recording. The double live album was the #1 charting album of the 1970s (#1 album of 1973 and #3 album of 1974) in Australia. It entered the charts in late 1972, and was still in the top 20 in 1976. My other ’72 favourites were Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull, Vol. 4 by Black Sabbath, Made In Japan by Deep Purple, the self-titled Neu!, and #1 Record by Big Star.
1973: The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. One of the all time greats and an all time favourite. Really doesn’t need any further comment! There weren’t too many other frontrunners, although Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin gets an honourable mention.
1974: Living In The 70s by Skyhooks. The classic debut with lots of “adult themes” and coarse lyrics which led to six of the ten songs being banned from radio. It still became a #1 album for 16 weeks! When the ABC launched 2JJ in January 1975, they kicked off with the banned Skyhooks song ‘You just Like Me Cos I’m Good In Bed’. Not much else really tickled me from 1974, although Sheer Heart Attack by Queen and the self-titled Bad Company still get a run.
1975: TNT by AC/DC. Their second LP had a tougher sound and set them on the path to becoming monsters of rock. I loved their music as a kid. The album just beats Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith, and Bandolier by Budgie.
1976: Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy. A great record that still gets a regular spin. Everyone loves ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, ‘Jailbreak’, and ‘Cowboy Song”, and I can understand why. But my favourite was, and still is, ‘Emerald’. It is just epic! Thin Lizzy wins by a nose over Presence by Led Zeppelin, the self-titled Boston, and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC.
1977: Animals by Pink Floyd. As I got into Pink Floyd in my early teens I was absolutely taken in by the majority of their records, and thought every album from Meddle to The Wall was spectacular for multiple reasons and in their own unique ways. In a three way struggle for first though were Radios Appear by Radio Birdman, and Let There Be Rock by AC/DC.
1978: Parallel Lines by Blondie. This was a pop-rock-punk-new wave work of art and it was brilliant. Or perhaps I was just smitten with Debbie Harry? Either way works for me. Such a great record, and ‘Heart Of Glass’ is in my top 20 favourite songs somewhere. Blondie only just narrowly beat the debut self-titled Cold Chisel. Another self-titled debut, The Cars, fell in at third place.
1979: Head Injuries by Midnight Oil. I’ve written about the importance of Head Injuries in a previous blog post, and it easily wins 1979. Some iconic records made the cut, including Get The Knack by The Knack, The Wall by Pink Floyd, Highway To Hell by AC/DC, and Dynasty by KISS.
1980: East by Cold Chisel. A monumental year for Australian music as Back In Black by AC/DC hits turntables everywhere, going on to become one of the biggest selling records ever. However, East is my favourite from the year. Just. A photo finish. The band’s third album cemented their status as Australian rock legends. The only other albums that were even close to being in the running for this particular year’s race were Freedom Of Choice by Devo, and True Colours by Split Enz.
1981: Sirocco by Australian Crawl. Very closely followed by Cats And Dogs by Mental As Anything, and Business As Usual by Men At Work. More Aussie magic with these wonderful, fun records that I still enjoy to this day. Two other records that came within shouting distance were Prince Charming by Adam And The Ants, and the self-titled Duran Duran.
1982: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 by Midnight Oil. Lordy, what a year. And so important for this 13 year old. Life-changing events were fortunately accompanied by life-changing records, including 10–1, and The Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden. Add in English Settlement by XTC.
Below, one of my favourite band photos ever, Midnight Oil promoting the song ‘Read About It’. They also did the burning newspaper thing in the video for the song.
1983: Synchronicity by The Police. Another complex year with more life-changing experiences. Music was my refuge. The Police let me escape the world, as did Piece Of Mind by Iron Maiden, Escapade by Tim Finn, Under A Blood Red Sky by U2, and Let’s Dance by David Bowie. Later, I discovered Sideroxylon by The Celibate Rifles and Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits.
1984: Powerslave by Iron Maiden. An immense record, I played it so much I know it note for note. My love for Spy v. Spy began with their mini-LP Meet Us Inside. My love for Hunters & Collectors also began here with their album The Jaws Of Life. I thoroughly enjoyed The Swing by INXS, Volume One by The Honeydrippers, The Unforgettable Fire by U2, and Couldn’t Stand The Weather by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.
1985: Mars Needs Guitars! by Hoodoo Gurus. Plenty of great records everywhere. Other favourites included Listen Like Thieves by INXS, Little Creatures by Talking Heads, Flip Your Wig by Husker Du, Songs From The Big Chair by Tears For Fears, and the mini-LP Down On The Farm by Cosmic Psychos.
1986: Harry’s Reasons by Spy v. Spy. A huge year for my favourite band at the time, releasing Harry’s Reasons in February and A.O. Mod. T.V. Vers. in December. Running a very close second (well, third) was Human Frailty by Hunters & Collectors. Behind the leaders was a pack that included Master Of Puppets by Metallica, Gossip by Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, the self-titled Crowded House, and Reign In Blood by Slayer.
1987: Diesel And Dust by Midnight Oil. Yes indeed, that’s three Midnight Oil albums in ten years, and I just can’t (won’t) remove them from their winning spots! Some great records joined the Oils in ’87, particularly End Of Innocence by Permanent Damage, What’s A Few Men? by Hunters & Collectors, Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani, and Man Of Colours by Icehouse.
1988: … And Justice For All by Metallica. Every metal fan has Master Of Puppets as the greatest metal album ever, and I’m kind of there with them, but it couldn’t beat out local talent for me in ’86. As much as Master is the goods, I still prefer Justice, and it easily takes out the ’88 first place! I would love to hear it remixed please Lars! Other worthy contenders were 16 Lovers Lane by The Go-Betweens, Labyrinth by The Moffs, Dick Cheese by The Hard-Ons, and The Trinity Session by Cowboy Junkies.
1989: Doolittle by Pixies. So much has been written about Pixies and how awesome and influential they were. And it’s all true, and Doolittle is the cat’s pyjamas. ‘Debaser’ is one of the great side-one-track-one songs you’ll ever hear, and it only gets better from there! Mind-blowing. Streets ahead of anything else. The also-rans included The Real Thing by Faith No More, 11 by The Smithereens, Blind Ear by The Celibate Rifles, Claim by not drowning, waving, and Wrong by nomeansno.
1990: Tingles by Ratcat. Absolutely loved the mini-LP from Ratcat. Simon Day used various Gretsch hollow body guitars, with distortion and gain set to 11, and those guitars absolutely screamed. Other records in the race were The Good Son by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Black Sheets Of Rain by Bob Mould, Dear 23 by The Posies, and Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction.
1991: Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet. An astonishing number of incredible and influential records were released in 1991. In fact, there were so many that a lot of people deem the year to be the best ever. I wrote an extensive piece about it. For me, Girlfriend will always be the winner, it is an absolute masterpiece. It was very closely followed by Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub. Then behind these two leaders was a peloton featuring Ten by Pearl Jam, Goat by The Jesus Lizard, Gish by Smashing Pumpkins, The Low Road by Beasts of Bourbon, Nevermind by Nirvana, Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden, self-titled Metallica, and self-titled Temple Of The Dog.
1992: Copper Blue by Sugar. Another massive year for amazing records. Copper Blue proved for the n-th time that Bob Mould is a genius, and it was the closest contender for matching Girlfriend for album of the decade. Following Bob was a flying wedge of awesome albums including Dirt by Alice In Chains, Meantime by Helmet, Liar by The Jesus Lizard, Dry by PJ Harvey, Vulgar Display Of Power by Pantera, self-titled Rage Against The Machine, Psalm 69 by Ministry, and Angel Dust by Faith No More.
1993: Spilt Milk by Jellyfish. A genuine masterwork from a band considered power pop gods, and I loved it. Other favourites were Almaron by The Mike Gunn, Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Gram by The Welcome Mat, Rid Of Me by PJ Harvey, Undertow by Tool, Saturation by Urge Overkill, and Holy Mountain by Sleep.
1994: At Action Park by Shellac. An instant favourite the second I heard it. An all-time fave record from an all-time fave band. I love that the sleeve lists the instruments as velocity, mass, and time, rather than guitar, bass, and drums. Other superb records included Ro Sham Bo by The Grays, Betty by Helmet, self-titled Weezer, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement, Welcome To Sky Valley by Kyuss, Twice Removed by Sloan, and Turf by Luka Bloom.
1995: One Chord To Another by Sloan. More brilliance. This time it’s Sloan’s third album and a perfect response/comeback after getting dumped by Geffen. Ably backed up by 100% Fun by Matthew Sweet, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins, Grand Prix by Teenage Fanclub, I’m with Stupid by Aimee Mann, and Ejector Seat Reservation by Swervedriver.
1996: Massachusetts by Scud Mountain Boys. An eye-opening record that set me on a path of admiration for everything Joe Pernice made. Such a different record to almost anything I’ve owned to this point. My deep-within melancholy streak truly rose to the surface. Another amazing and different record was Horse Stories by Dirty Three. A quieter year (or perhaps I was a little more selective?) was rounded out with great power pop in the form of So Wound by Jale, Presents Author Unknown by Jason Falkner, self-titled Fountains Of Wayne, and Pinkerton by Weezer.
1997: Songs From Northern Britain by Teenage Fanclub. The absolute gems from Teenage Fanclub just kept on coming. Songs easily won 1997 and is probably my go-to record of theirs. Or Bandwagonesque. Or Grand Prix. You can see the bind I’m in! I invested in another couple of definitive works in Either/Or by Elliott Smith and OK Computer by Radiohead, and the year wrapped up with Apartment Life by Ivy.
1998: XO by Elliott Smith. I was so full of admiration for Elliott, a man that wasn’t afraid to show that he was fragile, and he truly wore his heart on his sleeve. Perhaps another more selective year, with the brilliant Ocean Songs by Dirty Three, and self-titled Queens Of The Stone Age.
1999: Sweeter Than The Radio by Icecream Hands. A slab of pure power pop perfection. Absolutely brilliant, and easily first past the post. Come On Die Young by Mogwai comes in at second place, with ‘Christmas Steps’ alone making it a sure thing. The trifecta was comfortably completed with In Reverse by Matthew Sweet.
2000: Sunset Studies by Augie March. A sprawling, yet cohesive, masterpiece, and its 15 tracks (76 minutes) are all killer, no filler. The following descriptors come to mind: joyous, scary, moving, passionate, challenging, sad, quiet, bitter, raw, jubilant, moody, loud, dreamy, and beautiful. If you’ve not heard it and want to give it a go, set aside the time, with no interruptions or distractions, and play it from start to finish. Still plenty of other good records were around, particularly Big Tobacco by Joe Pernice, Odyssey Number Five by Powderfinger, and 1000 Hurts by Shellac.
2001: Blackwater Park by Opeth. Astounding progressive metal, and easily their best work. Considered one of the all time great metal records. Other impressive albums were Meaningless by Jon Brion, Lateralus by Tool, and Dedicated To The Ones We Love by The Blackeyed Susans.
2002: Songs For The Deaf by Queens Of The Stone Age. The addition of Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan on this record was genius. Also in the running were Omerta by The Belles, self-titled Audioslave, and Have You Fed The Fish? by Badly Drawn Boy.
2003: Let Go by Nada Surf. I remember Nada Surf’s first single, ‘Popular’, from 1996, thought it was ok, and then didn’t hear much about them after that. Cut to 2003, and I heard a song on the radio that was just awesome, and it turned out to be Nada Surf! I bought the album (their third), and it became a life-time top ten entrant. Amazing guitar power pop, supremely uplifting melodies, hints of melancholy, just wonderful stuff. Quite a good year, which finally saw the official release of Dopesmoker by Sleep, Living 2001–2002 by John Butler Trio, Electric Version by New Pornographers, Mary Star Of The Sea by Zwan, and Yours, Mine and Ours by Pernice Brothers.
2004: Leviathan by Mastodon. A reasonably quiet year, with just the concept album from Mastodon, and the posthumous From A Basement On The Hill by Elliott Smith making the grade.
2005: The Weight Is A Gift by Nada Surf. Somehow, this album from Nada Surf might be better than Let Go. Put it this way, I can’t decide which one is my album of the decade! A few other gems were Twin Cinema by New Pornographers, Ghost Reveries by Opeth, Tea And Sympathy by Bernard Fanning, self-titled Wolfmother, and The Carlton Chronicles: Not Until The Operation’s Through by South San Gabriel.
2006: Black Holes And Revelations by Muse. Brilliant set from Muse, so good. Hated that they allowed a song to be in that awful Twilight film. Other brilliant LPs came in the form of 10,000 Days by Tool, and Moo, You Bloody Choir by Augie March.
2007: The Mezzanine by The Nobility. After some fun power pop from these guys from Nashville, they changed name and direction, and released a gem with a more sophisticated (perhaps quirky) pop sensibility. Two other contenders were Pilgrimage by Om, and All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone by Explosions In The Sky.
2008: Lucky by Nada Surf. But wait, there’s more!! Nada Surf’s fifth album, their third for the naughties, takes out a third ‘favourite album of the year’ title. A group of excellent albums featured Posters Fade by Derby, Restless Rubes by Ninja Gun, Alpinisms by School Of Seven Bells, and SheBANG! by Kelly Jones.
2009: When The Devil’s Loose by A.A. Bondy. I first heard a song by Auguste Arthur (otherwise known as Scott) Bondy, on a TV show. I sat motionless (after my jaw fell open) for the whole song/scene, then immediately began the search for what it was that had just knocked my socks off. I bought the album and played it non stop for weeks. Here was a guy who had been in a power pop/indie rock band, and changed tack to produce a soulful folk-blues mix that is utterly compelling. Some indie power pop in Peacock Swagger by Plasticsoul was also a masterful album. The year’s top records were rounded out with some superb post-metal in What We All Come To Need by Pelican, and the stoner-psych of Solar Corona by The Machine.
2010: Time Flies When You’re Losing Your Mind by The Belles. A wonderful pop/rock album from Christopher Tolle, a veteran musician from Lawrence, Kansas. He wrote, sang and played everything on the album (except drums). Its release was eagerly anticipated, as the Omerta album was way back in 2002, and the Idle Acres EP in 2004. The Belles record was just in front of the brilliant psychedelic rock debut album Innerspeaker by Tame Impala. I also enjoyed the self-titled Birds of Tokyo.
2011: Dead Roots Stirring by Elder. This trio (at the time; they’re now a four-piece) created an incredible blend of stoner-prog-doom-folk-sludge-psych metal. Great riffs, plenty of melody, and virtuosic playing (without getting too widdly-diddly ridiculous!). This excellent piece of work was admirably backed up by more excellence in the forms of The Secret Of Blennerhassett Island by The Nobility, and The Hunter by Mastodon.
2012: The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy by Nada Surf. Matthew Caws can’t put a foot wrong. It is simply great record after great record, and Stars is right in there. The band is supplemented by Doug Gillard from Guided By Voices on lead guitar. Two old hands created some top albums, in Silver Age by Bob Mould, and Walking In The Green Corn by Grant Lee Phillips.
I wrote a blog post about our experience seeing Nada Surf play in Sydney. I recently dug out the video of Matthew playing a song for Elliott outside the Annandale Hotel, a still of which is below. Glorious musical memories for us all.
2013: Forever Becoming by Pelican. An absolute monster from the instrumental post-metal outfit from Chicago. So incredibly heavy without being harsh or vulgar. Joe Pernice turns up again this year in Do You Love The Sun by Scud Mountain Boys. I also really liked Trouble Will Find Me by The National.
2014: Dude Incredible by Shellac. From out of the blue comes a year with a whole pile of great albums. Following up Shellac were Clearing The Path To Ascend by Yob, Into The Lime by The New Mendicants, Benji by Sun Kil Moon, To Be Kind by Swans, and Brill Bruisers by New Pornographers.
2015: Currents by Tame Impala. Kevin Parker’s third album is probably his best, and easily my favourite of the year. His melodic sensibility is extraordinary, and the sound on this record is stunning, even if he is essentially abandoning the broader use of electric guitars. The only other contender this year was I Wasn’t Born To Lose You by Swervedriver, which demonstrated that they’ve still got it!
2016: Lemanis by Spaceslug. The debut from the three piece stoner-space-psych-doom band from Poland. It’s amazing what you can find using resources on the web like DoomCharts. A warm sounding album, with big riffs. While on warm sound and big riffs, The Vast Electric Dark by Witchskull was an absolute gem. I also loved the raw guitar pop of Teens Of Denial by Car Seat Headrest, the warm guitar pop of Masterpiece by Big Thief, and the heavy prog metal (now sans growls) of Sorceress by Opeth.
2017: Guppy by Charlie Bliss. Killer power pop from this NY band, with a unique vocalist (some people found her too shrill). A crowd funding campaign (why, yes that is my name in the liner notes!) permitted the recording and release of Made Of Breath Only by sleepmakeswaves. More brilliant prog-psych metal in Reflections Of A Floating World by Elder. I also enjoyed Mental Illness by Aimee Mann, and Burial Songs by Palehorse/Palerider.
2018: Our Raw Heart by Yob. A massive year for heavy music! Mike from Yob recovers from near death illness to record a spectacular album, while The Sciences by Sleep gets released surprising just about everyone. Two monumental bands releasing stunning new records. It was hard to choose, however Yob wins by a nose hair in a very high-res photo finish! Other great heavy releases that got plenty of air time were Eternal Return by Windhand, The White Witch by Frayle, and American Scrap by Huntsmen.
2019: Leaving Meaning by Swans. I thoroughly enjoy the hypnotic industrial/experimental/noise rock made by Swans, after being introduced to them through 2014’s To Be Kind. Leaving Meaning wins this year, but only just, over Forever Turned Around by Whitney, Woodland Rites by Green Lung, and the self-titled Better Oblivion Community Centre.
2020: Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple. A magnificent piece of work, with brutally honest lyrics supported by Apple’s wonderful piano, minimalist instrumentation, and percussion that includes thumping on walls and stomping on floors. Refractions by Lowrider comes in at second (one reviewer said they sound more like Kyuss than Kyuss!), just ahead of Dead Star by King Buffalo, self-titled Hail The Void, Richard by Joe Pernice, Derek by Lucifungus, and Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers.
2021: The Burden of Restlessness by King Buffalo. I am still catching up on various releases from 2021, however nothing will beat the spectacular Burden, or Acheron, their second LP released in the year (which was recorded live in a cave).
2022: Celestial Blues by King Woman. Mind blowing record, which is winning this year so far. King Buffalo just released Regenerator, which was originally slated for release last year. I wonder what else will come up in the next six months?!
You made it through all 54 years?? Congratulations on sticking with me for the journey! I really would like to know your thoughts on my selections. And, perhaps you might like to have a go at compiling your own list. Do you accept the challenge??
Thanks for reading!