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11:11 a.m. - December 19, 2006
The Best Albums Of Each Year Of My Life
Yesterday, I looked at the worst albums of each year that I was alive as rated by the users of Rate Your Music, and so today, let’s look at what those users rated as the best album of each year that I was alive.

Now, there are definite patterns here, especially as we near the late 90’s and the current decade, because of the way the music business is and the way that this site captures reviews. Not to say its bad, or biased, but it just is what it is.

Let’s go…

1965 – John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
1966 – The Beatles – Revolver
1967 – The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground And Nico
1968 – The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)
1969 – The Beatles – Abbey Road

Coltrane’s record was a landmark, no two ways about it. However, it’s NOT for everyone. I do think you need an ear for jazz to get it. I, of course, would have put Pet Sounds ahead of Revolver.

The Beatles, of course, ruled this period in music. The irony is that their alleged landmark record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is upstaged by the debut album recorded by this creepy group of Warhol associate freaks in New York. That’s probably a bit overrated for that record, if you want to rate the music itself. Hendrix’s debut also was 1967, as was Forever Changes by Love and Something Else by the Kinks.

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society gives The Beatles a run for its money in 1968 and Let It Bleed and The Velvet Underground are close by for 1969. Looking back, there’s just a lot of quality happening in this time frame.

1970 – Neil Young – After The Gold Rush
1971 – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (Zoso)
1972 – David Bowie – The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
1973 – Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

I don’t know if you can argue against After The Gold Rush . It’s a staggering record, and the title track is one of the best songs ever written. Sure, some people cower at Young’s voice, but take a pill, people. I can’t argue with that Zeppelin album, even though I’m sick to death of some of the songs. (Classic rock radio really ruins some songs for me.)

1972 wasn’t that great of a year for music, really. Randy Newman released a great album, as did the Who (which I probably would have rated Who’s Next ahead of Bowie) and the Stones. Big Star’s debut was also released in 1972 – actually that would be my top choice. There are also not a lot of choices for 1973, so Floyd’s uber classic kind of wins by default. Steely Dan and Wings also released great albums that year, and Skynyrd’s debut came out as well.

1974 – Neil Young – On The Beach
1975 – Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks
1976 – Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life

This is the last hurrah for ‘classic’ artists on this list for the most part. I was surprised when I saw Young’s brilliant record as the best for 1974, but it’s not something to listen to if you’re depressed. But there’s not much competition for 1974, either, besides a Steely Dan and Zappa album. I mean, Bert (from Bert and Ernie) released a record that was rated in the top 10 that year. No kidding.

1975 was a strong year, but I can’t argue with that Dylan album, just because Idiot Wind and Tangled Up In Blue are so tremendous. Stevie Wonder’s magnum opus is brilliant, and deservedly fended off the Ramones first album for the honors.

1977 – Television – Marquee Moon
1978 – Elvis Costello – This Years Model
1979 – The Clash – London Calling
1980 – Joy Division – Closer

Hello, punk rock! Ok, so only the Clash are really ‘punk’, but the spirit of the new music that was happening during this time is definitely reflected here. Television’s album is dreamland for anyone who enjoys complex guitar based songs. They can stretch out solos and they’re not boring at all. That is arguably Costello’s finest hour as well, and it’s his second release. It’s just packed with great tunes.

London Calling is one of my top five albums of all time. Go buy it now. I was surprised by the pick of the Joy Division. I mean, it’s good to great, but I would have probably slotted in the Pretenders’ debut there. But what do I know?

1981 – Rush – Moving Pictures
1982 – Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
1983 – Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
1984 – The Minutemen – Double Nickles On The Dime
1985 – Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

I was going to say that Rush’s win in 1981 was a surprise, but that’s an outstanding record and there weren’t many good albums released in 1981. The Femmes’ debut is a must have for everyone like me – weird, dorky, insecure. You know. Me. And yes, it’s better than Thriller. Murmur is better, but Tom Waits’ albums are so highly rated because the people who buy his records just absolutely LOVE them, and no one else really cares.

That Minutemen album is also an all-timer. Anyone who likes anything that’s non-conventional and adventurous should grab it. Sure, it’s over 40 songs but there’s hardly any filler at all. Packed to the gills with great stuff, and it beat out Husker Du and the Replacements as the alternative bands come to the fore. In 1985, I probably would have picked New Day Rising by Husker Du, but Waits’ cult does him service again.

1986 – The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
1987 – Prince – Sign O’ The Times
1988 – Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
1989 – The Pixies – Doolittle
1990 – Megadeth – Rust In Peace
1991 – My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
1992 – Pavement – Slanted And Enchanted

Alternative rock and metal come to the fore during this time frame. That’s a great Smith’s album, and looking at the top rated competition it’s hard to argue against it. Prince’s terrific double album is a just winner, though 1987 was a strong year and the first year that rap albums got consideration by the masses.

So, the same year that Sonic Youth releases Daydream Nation, Public Enemy releases its landmark album, and NWA comes to life, that a mix of the worst blend of progressive rock and metal wins out? Cult! I’ve always found Queensryche ponderous, pretentious, and BORING! Yawn.

No complaints about the Pixies, though Paul’s Boutique was also a 1989 release. Looking at the 1990 releases, most of them have some flaws, so someone like Megadeth could sneak in there with one of their strongest releases, though I’ve never been a huge Megadeth fan. Loveless has a cult of its own, and I bought it and decided it just wasn’t for me. To me, the best 1991 record was Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden. Pavement’s record is a good choice – not for everyone, but if you get it you love it.

1993 – Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
1994 – Nas – Illmatic
1995 – Genius / GZA – Liquid Swords

This is when rock and roll fell off the rails. Grunge was corrupted – the pioneers seemed spent and the newbies were just making ‘faux grunge’ albums. Metal was also a spent force, and all of the dinosaur bands were fossils. So something had to fill the void. If you’re not a hip-hop fan, then this era is pretty gnarly. My choices? For 1993, Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville or Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne. In 1994, I looked at the top 100 records, and they all seem to be flawed in some way. In 1995, I can half-heartedly put up Son Volt’s Trace or The Jayhawks Tomorrow The Green Grass as alternatives.

1996 – Tool – Aenima
1997 – Radiohead – OK Computer

A couple of artists that are know for having rabid fan bases, and when they make a good album their true believers perhaps overrated them. Which I think is at work here. I’ve never been a Tool fan, and only like some Radiohead. However, music during this era was pretty mediocre, so you know, go figure.

1998 – Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
1999 - Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
2000 – Godspeed You Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
2001 – Opeth – Blackwater Park
2002 – Agalloch – The Mantle
2003 – Kayo Dot – Choirs Of The Eye
2004 – Arcade Fire – Funeral
2005 – Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
2006 – Joanna Newsom – Ys

Now we get into the era where I think this format exposes its flaws. A band or artist that has a small but rabid following can really skew the ratings. Consquently, I don’t have much to say about these records, except that I liked the Neutral Milk Hotel, was meh about the Arcade Fire, and am not convinced by Sufjan Stevens. Most of these, I think, are “acquired” tastes that fans adore, and only fans buy the records.

Another issue is that there is SO MUCH product being released right now, it’s hard for a mega-release to get popular traction on a site like this. But, I’m not saying that these albums aren’t quality. Perhaps I’m the one that needs to get out more.

Anyway, there you go. Whatever you think of it, it’s interesting no doubt!


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