My Top 50 Albums of All Time - 2023

My Top 50 Albums of All Time - 2023

Published Date
February 1, 2023

Over the past several years, I have become much more intentional about seeking out new music. A big driver of that effort has been the discovery of, which has also led me to rating all of the albums I listen to. At the end of 2022, I had my 30th birthday and also passed 500 albums rated, so I thought it might be a good time to attempt to rank my top albums of all time. This is something I’d like to do every 5 years, as I think it would be interesting to see how my tastes change and how many of my top albums can stick around for half a decade.

This post probably doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know me and have seen that I also rate board games, movies, books, etc. That said, I find music albums very difficult to rank, primarily because enjoyment of music is highly dependent on mood, and it is difficult to compare albums of different genres. If I was to blindly redo this list in a week, there is a good chance there would be some significant changes, just because exact feelings about music can be so volatile. However, most of the music on this list I have listened to a lot, so I’m at least working with a nice sample size.


For context, here is how I approached creating this list:

First, I compiled a list of all albums that I currently rated 8 or higher. This ended up being 85 albums. I then did a quick and dirty ranking with an online tool, just to get a rough list. I didn’t overthink at this point, I just quickly went with my gut.

Second, I took this rough list, started at the bottom, and listened to every single album in its entirety. That distinction is important, because while all this music is in my regular listening rotation, many of them are trimmed down in some capacity as I don’t keep the songs I don’t like. So, many times, I think I really love an album, but what I actually love is the album with a few songs removed, and I need a full listen to determine how much those extra songs should sway my overall opinion in these rankings.

Each time I finished listening to an album, I jotted down some rough thoughts and then ranked it among all of the albums that I had listened to up to that point. Generally, subsequent albums were ranked higher since I had roughly ranked them already, but many times I found that my rough rankings were way off — either being way better or worse than I thought after intentionally listening.

Once I got through the entire list, I did some sanity checking and tweaking as I deemed necessary, and ended up with my final rankings! The whole process probably took a little over a month; not too bad for needing to actively listen through 85 albums.

Worth mentioning that I am specifically rating albums. This means that there are many artists that I enjoy that did not make the list, simply because their music that I like is spread among many albums and no single album in its entirety ranks high enough. I know listening through albums is kind of a dying art, but it is still the primary way that I consume my music.

Results Distribution

I have been very intentional about seeking out both old and new music, and I was interested to see how my top albums would be distributed over time. Turns out I had fairly consistent representation across each decade going back to the 1960s!


Honorable Mentions

Before I jump into the top 50, here are the albums that just missed the list. These would have been #51-60, but they are unranked here — simply listed alphabetically:

  • The Beatles [White Album] - The Beatles
  • The Beautiful Game - Vulfpeck
  • The Bends - Radiohead
  • Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You - Big Thief
  • Future Nostalgia - Dua Lipa
  • Hot Lava Sex Machine - Gallowstreet
  • Melodrama - Lorde
  • Ram - Paul McCartney
  • Silent Steeples - Dispatch
  • Toxicity - System of a Down

Onward to the list, which represents the top ~10% of all albums I have rated!

#50 - Father of the Bride Vampire Weekend


Release Year: 2019 Genres: Indie Pop

Father of the Bride has a very different sound than Vampire Weekend’s other albums, probably largely due to band member Rostam leaving the band (though still involved in a smaller capacity). It may be my lowest ranked Vampire Weekend album (spoiler), but it is still fun, happy music that I enjoy and also has some nostalgic attachment to a California vacation several years back.

#49 - OK Human Weezer


Release Year: 2021 Genres: Chamber Pop, Pop Rock

I had been aware of many of Weezer’s hits over the years, but it was listening to OK Human that got me to really revisit their discography. Much more strings driven and Weezer’s take on the Chamber Pop genre, but I was surprised to find that after intentional listens, I actually currently rank this higher than Weezer’s debut (Blue) album, which I would have thought was my favorite.

#48 - A Beginner’s Mind Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine


Release Year: 2021 Genres: Indie Folk

Sufjan Steven’s discography is a wild ride, and one side of the spectrum is mellow but beautiful songs with just him and his acoustic guitar. A Beginner’s Mind has Sufjan revisiting this simpler approach and collaborating with a similar artist in Angelo De Augustine, and the results are just some really great laid-back acoustic arrangements with nice harmonies.

#47 - ZABA Glass Animals


Release Year: 2014 Genres: Indietronica, Alt-Pop, Downtempo

The first few times I listened to ZABA, I enjoyed it, but felt like a lot of the songs sounded too similar. I still acknowledge that it stays in the same sonic space the entire way, but it is just some really groovy, jungly vibes that have grown on me with each listen.

#46 - The Queen is Dead The Smiths


Release Year: 1986 Genres: Jangle Pop, Indie Pop

I sometimes have a hard time figuring out why I like a lot of The Smiths’ music, particularly given Morrissey’s unique vocal style and lyrics. But I think the arrangements, specifically the guitar and bass interplay, just work for me and keep me coming back. The Queen is Dead has some of their best tracks, and while the front half can drag a little bit for my tastes, there are still enough standouts to move it up my rankings.

#45 - High Visceral {Part 1} Psychedelic Porn Crumpets


Release Year: 2016 Genres: Psychedelic Rock, Heavy Psych

Yeah, it’s a dumb name for a band. But for some reason, I just love rocking out to this Australian Heavy Psych group. While I have listened to their entire discography, their debut pair of High Visceral albums are still their strongest in my opinion. In fact, I like Part 2 even more…

#44 - Paranoid Black Sabbath


Release Year: 1970 Genres: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock

This is kind of a funny one to make my list because it is so classic, so overplayed on the radio, and not exactly within the genres I typically enjoy. That said, Paranoid just rocks hard and I enjoy the mix where every instrument so clearly holds its own. I’ve listened to other Black Sabbath albums but realized that, while some of them aren’t bad, if I want to listen to Sabbath, I just want to listen to Paranoid.

#43 - This Is All Yours alt-J


Release Year: 2014 Genres: Art Pop, Indietronica

alt-J is a band that just felt really fresh when I discovered them, and their combination of Art Rock and Electronica with unique arrangements just clicked with me. Their discography gets progressively worse as it goes on, but their sophomore effort This Is All Yours still retains a lot of what I enjoy about them, and flows really nicely as an album.

#42 - Talking Book Stevie Wonder


Release Year: 1972 Genres: Soul, Funk

Stevie Wonder is one of those names everyone knows, and everyone has at least heard Superstition, but, at least for me, wasn’t an artist I had really listened to in more detail. So glad that changed over the past couple years! Talking Book includes the aforementioned big hit, but also is filled with other great soul and funk tracks, and Stevie’s voice is killer as usual.

#41 - Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles


Release Year: 1967 Genres: Psychedelic Pop, Pop Rock

I knew I enjoyed Magical Mystery Tour, but it wasn’t until I listened through it to make this list that I realized how solid it is from top to bottom. Just fun tracks as The Beatles enter their psychedelic era, and the back half of The Beatles catalogue definitely has all my favorites. Just one of those feel-good albums that is likely to put you in a good mood.

#40 - Contra Vampire Weekend


Release Year: 2010 Genres: Indie Pop

Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra, much like their debut, is 100% their distinct style. Fortunately, I enjoy that style a lot and find them to be very fun listens. Lots of catchy melodies and well-constructed pop-synth instrumentation… this was one I expected to be lower, but active listening proved it still is just a solid collection of songs.

#39 - Californication Red Hot Chili Peppers


Release Year: 1999 Genres: Alternative Rock

At one point in my late childhood, I would have picked the Red Hot Chili Peppers as my favorite band of all time. While my tastes have developed a lot since then, I still enjoy a lot of their funk-rock catalogue. This surprised me, but if we are just talking about albums as a whole, Californication actually rose to the top as my favorite Chili Peppers album. A lot of good classic tracks here and the bassist in me always has fun grooving to Flea’s contributions.

#38 - Hail to the Thief Radiohead


Release Year: 2003 Genres: Alternative Rock, Art Rock

Radiohead is a band that has been a huge grower on me, and maybe a good poster child for how my tastes have developed in the last five years or so. And of all of their albums, Hail to the Thief might be the most unexpected grower — I was not expecting it to make my top 50. But there is a lot to like here, and I think my familiarity and enjoyment of other Radiohead albums have allowed me to enjoy this one more each time I come back to it.

#37 - California Mr. Bungle


Release Year: 1999 Genres: Experimental Rock, Art Rock

Perhaps the most eclectic and odd entry on the list, and a fairly recent discovery, but for some reason this Mr. Bungle record just works for me. I knew I had to give it a listen when I saw it included both “Surf Rock” and “Avant-Garde Metal” as sub-genres, on top of coming recommended from a friend. Definitely not going to be for everyone, and the closest comparison I can think of is System of a Down, but California stands in a category of its own that I happen to have really enjoyed so far.

#36 - America, Location 12 Dispatch


Release Year: 2017 Genres: Indie Folk, Folk Pop

The late 90s era of Dispatch has been some of my favorite music for a while now, so it was interesting to see the band reunite in the 2010s and put out albums as their lineup also slowly shifted away from the original trio. Of all their new efforts, America, Location 12 is my favorite. Just solid and consistent from start to finish, and filled with a lot of little pieces of what I enjoy most about Dispatch.

#35 - Fetch the Bolt Cutters Fiona Apple


Release Year: 2020 Genres: Art Pop, Singer-Songwriter

I discovered Fiona Apple through this album, and only because it appeared on some “album of the year” lists for 2020. It took a bit for me to warm up to it, but it really has grown into a favorite with her unique style and arrangements, as well as some of the more percussive elements on the album. I’ve listened to most of her other albums as well, but Fetch the Bolt Cutters has still remained my favorite.

#34 - Red King Crimson


Release Year: 1974 Genres: Progressive Rock, Art Rock

A very recent listen, but one that rocks hard and has lots of little hooks that got stuck in my head and kept me coming back. I enjoyed Red quite a bit more than their debut In the Court of the Crimson King, and I am interested to see how this one will hold up for me. But as of right now, it is one of my favorites in the progressive rock genre.

#33 - Remain In Light Talking Heads


Release Year: 1980 Genres: New Wave, Post-Punk, Funk

Remain in Light is my favorite Talking Heads album, but one I find very difficult to rank. The first four songs are fantastic, and then it shifts to pretty good, and keeps slowing to an anticlimactic finish. That said, the strength of the front half still powers this up my list; such a unique style of grooves that makes you want to dance and sing along.

#32 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band The Beatles


Release Year: 1967 Genres: Psychedelic Pop, Pop Rock

Another solid collection of Beatles tunes from their more psychedelic era, Sgt. Peppers edges out Magical Mystery Tour in overall quality but has a similar vibe and catchiness. Its consistency helps it rank higher on my list, compared to something like the White album (in my honorable mentions) that has a lot of bloat for my tastes.

#31 - Revolver The Beatles


Release Year: 1966 Genres: Pop Rock, Psychedelic Pop

I really go back and forth between Revolver and Sgt. Peppers, which is why they end up back-to-back on my list. For now, the edge goes to Revolver. Not much more to say: The Beatles are a band I enjoy a lot, and Revolver is one of their best albums.

#30 - Flight of the Conchords Flight of the Conchords


Release Year: 2008 Genres: Comedy Rock, Musical Parody

Comedy music is always hard to do well, but Flight of the Conchords’ self-titled album really nails the genre for my tastes. It is genuinely funny throughout, but the music is really well done and catchy. One I have frequently found myself itching to give another listen.

#29 - Innervisions Stevie Wonder


Release Year: 1973 Genres: Soul, Funk

Innervisions takes Stevie’s approach from Talking Book and does it even better overall. This is really the album that got me listening to Stevie Wonder more and more, and it is filled with solid soul-funk tracks from start to finish.

#28 - Continuum John Mayer


Release Year: 2006 Genres: Pop Rock, Singer-Songwriter

I don’t listen to John Mayer’s discography as much as I once did, but Continuum has held on as his finest work to date. Being in my collection for so long, I had kind of forgotten just how solid this record is from beginning to end. Mayer is a great example of a musician with ridiculous chops, but that shows a lot of restraint and uses his musicianship to serve the songs instead of flexing. An easy-listening album, but a very good one.

#27 - Is This It The Strokes


Release Year: 2001 Genres: Garage Rock Revival, Indie Rock

Years back, I had the opportunity to play bass in a Strokes cover band for a charity benefit concert, and we mostly played songs off this album. It was spending so much time with this record through that experience that really turned me on to the Strokes more, and their debut is still some of their best. Fun, catchy “garage rock” that is consistently good all the way through.

#26 - High Visceral {Part 2} Psychedelic Porn Crumpets


Release Year: 2017 Genres: Psychedelic Rock, Heavy Psych

I mentioned in High Visceral {Part 1} that I liked Part 2 even better, but I was surprised to see just how much! Because I usually listen through my music collection by alphabetized albums, both High Visceral records are back-to-back, and I think it did a disservice to Part 2 because I already had been listening to similar music for 45 minutes before starting it. But it really is the best work from this group; rocks hard but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

#25 - A Moon Shaped Pool Radiohead


Release Year: 2016 Genres: Art Pop, Art Rock, Chamber Pop

A Moon Shaped Pool is another Radiohead album that has really grown on me. Its more understated dynamics requires more of a specific listening mood, and I think it just didn’t stand out to me at first coming off some of their heavy-hitting records. But it really is a beautiful album with great arrangements and a great flow.

#24 - In Rainbows Radiohead


Release Year: 2007 Genres: Art Rock, Alternative Rock

Another example of two albums by the same band that I have a hard time picking a favorite, but for now In Rainbows gets the edge over A Moon Shaped Pool. A wide spectrum of dynamics on this album and just a lot of cool soundscapes within the Art Rock genre while retaining strong hooks and catchiness. One of Radiohead’s best.

#23 - Smiling With No Teeth Genesis Owusu


Release Year: 2021 Genres: Neo-Soul, Funk, Conscious Hip Hop

Smiling With No Teeth was easily my biggest surprise of 2021, and a great example of why I try to regularly listen to highly-rated music outside my normally preferred genres. It means I end up listening to a lot of music I don’t like, but it is worth it for when you find something that just clicks and expands your musical preferences. It spans several genres, but the combo of soul, funk, hip-hop, and more on this album really work for me — an impressive debut from Genesis Owusu.

#22 - Bone Machine Tom Waits


Release Year: 1992 Genres: Experimental Rock, Singer-Songwriter

The artist I listened to the most in 2022 was Tom Waits, as I found myself continually intrigued by his music and interesting discography. He goes from jazzy singer-songwriter to embracing a dark and quirky persona that can be a little off-putting at first, but really grew on me over time as his strong songwriting shone through. Bone Machine is a dark album overall, and not what I’d recommend as an entry-point for new listeners, but has grown into a favorite with a ton of his best tracks.

#21 - Swordfishtrombones Tom Waits


Release Year: 1983 Genres: Singer-Songwriter, Experimental Rock

Swordfishtrombones is really the album where Tom Waits transforms into the persona that would carry through his subsequent albums, and I like it for many of the same reasons as Bone Machine. It is a little more accessible and not as dark, but still plenty of quirk and character over a collection of well-written songs. We’ll see if I cool on these Waits albums over time, but no denying that they rank rather high for me right now.

#20 - Who Are We Living For? Dispatch


Release Year: 2000 Genres: Alternative Rock, Jam Band

Who Are We Living For? takes much of what I like about Dispatch and skews their music ever so slightly towards the electric and jam band side of the spectrum. One of my favorites from the early “original” Dispatch years with many of my top tracks from the band. I also enjoy most of the jam interludes here, and I feel like it enhances the overall flow of the album.

#19 - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco


Release Year: 2002 Genres: Indie Rock, Art Rock

I was first introduced to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by one of my teachers in high school, and while I enjoyed it at the time, my music tastes were really not ready for it. I was much more into generic alternative rock that defines my tastes less today than it once did, and revisiting this album in recent years has been a new discovery of just how good it is. I haven’t yet explored other albums in Wilco’s discography, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a classic.

#18 - Funeral Arcade Fire


Release Year: 2004 Genres: Indie Rock, Chamber Pop

Funeral is another album that I enjoyed a few tracks from many years ago, but it wasn’t until I revisited it in recent years that it really shot up my rankings. There just aren’t a lot of albums like it, and it flows perfectly with no tracks that I’d take out. I need to explore Arcade Fire’s catalogue more, but I have a feeling Funeral is going to be hard to beat.

#17 - Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend


Release Year: 2008 Genres: Indie Pop, Indie Rock

Vampire Weekend has made a nice showing on this list, and their debut album is still one of their strongest. I can definitely see this being a love-it-or-hate-it album since it is such a specific style, but I find it very fun and catchy with lots of musical interest. Though, spoiler, it’s still not their best.

#16 - Hatful of Hollow The Smiths


Release Year: 1984 Genres: Jangle Pop, Indie Pop

I mentioned on The Queen is Dead that I have a hard time explaining my enjoyment of The Smiths, but Hatful of Hollow is just packed with tracks that I genuinely enjoy listening to from start to finish. Another album that I am very curious to see how my opinion holds over time, but at this moment I think it’s great.

#15 - Ants From Up There Black Country, New Road


Release Year: 2022 Genres: Art Rock, Post-Rock, Chamber Pop

Easily the newest album to make my Top 20, Ants From Up There is a really fresh collection of music. It took a few listens to warm up to the vocal style and some of the unexpected qualities in the arrangements, but wow… this album has some really great highs. The last couple of tracks start to get a little drawn out for my tastes, but not enough to keep this from shooting up the list as one of my favorite albums.

#14 - Illinois Sufjan Stevens


Release Year: 2005 Genres: Chamber Pop, Singer-Songwriter

Illinois is an impressive 70+ minute output of music from Sufjan Stevens, made even more impressive by the fact that the same session yielded another 70+ “B-side” album, The Avalanche, which is also very good! Really nothing else like it, Illinois is much of Sufjan’s finest work filled with tons of well-written, acoustic-driven chamber pop with layers of eclectic instrumentation and harmonies. It’s one that probably takes a few listens to grow on you, but it has really grown on me.

#13 - An Awesome Wave alt-J


Release Year: 2012 Genres: Art Pop, Indie Pop

When I first heard some tracks off an An Awesome Wave, which was my initial exposure to alt-J, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by their unique style. Since then, this has been one of just a few albums that has really stuck around in my collection for a decade without my opinion of it wavering. Love the arrangements and grooves here, and it really is well put-together as an album.

#12 - The New Abnormal The Strokes


Release Year: 2020 Genres: Indie Rock

Is the newest Strokes album, The New Abnormal, stronger than their highly-esteemed debut Is This It? As I listen to this record more and more, I have realized that, for my tastes, this has actually risen to the top as my favorite album by The Strokes. The consistent sonic space they explore here just works for me, and as each song comes on I go, “oh yeah, I love this song!”

#11 - Pet Sounds The Beach Boys


Release Year: 1966 Genres: Baroque Pop

Just missing my Top 10 is the classic Pet Sounds. There is some nostalgia at play here as one soundtrack of my childhood was my dad’s “Beach Boys Greatest Hits” CD, but I do just love listening to all the tracks on this album. No other Beach Boys record even comes close, and it really is an impressive song-writing achievement by Brian Wilson. Great melodies and arrangements, and some huge highs with tracks like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” and “God Only Knows.”

#10 - Bang Bang Dispatch


Release Year: 1997 Genres: Alternative Rock, Jam Band, Folk Rock

Bang Bang is my favorite Dispatch album, and I think it boils down to it just being so catchy and singable. Maybe it has become one of those comfort food albums since I have listened to it so much over the last decade, but I am always happy to hear it come up in my playlist and it tends to just put me in a good mood.

#9 - Modern Vampires of the City Vampire Weekend


Release Year: 2013 Genres: Indie Pop, Chamber Pop

Similarly, we’ve seen a number of Vampire Weekend albums on this list, but Modern Vampires of the City is easily my favorite. It feels like it takes everything I enjoyed about their two previous records and matures it into a deeper set of songs, while retaining much of their signature playfulness.

#8 - How to Be a Human Being Glass Animals


Release Year: 2016 Genres: Indietronica, Alt-Pop

For Glass Animals’ sophomore effort, they took much of what I loved about their style in ZABA and expanded it into much more interesting and catchy pop arrangements. The end result clearly resonates with me, and is exactly what I want out of a synthy pop record. It has dropped a bit from the early years of discovering it, but still holds a strong spot in my Top 10.

#7 - Carrie & Lowell Sufjan Stevens


Release Year: 2015 Genres: Indie Folk, Singer-Songwriter

Where Illinois is sprawling with the kitchen sink thrown in, Carrie & Lowell is more focused and simplified — just Sufjan and layered acoustic guitar arrangements as he processes his mother’s death through music. The music here is just so well-written and seems to keep getting better as I listen more, and it quietly has taken the throne as my favorite Sufjan album. Additionally, the live album for this is an excellent companion record, with some really great arrangements to adapt the songs to a live setting.

#6 - Sylva Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest


Release Year: 2015 Genres: Progressive Big Band, Jazz Fusion

Snarky Puppy hasn’t made an appearance on this list yet, despite producing two of my absolute favorite albums of all time. Sylva is the first, and is a beautifully arranged suite as Snarky Puppy is joined by a full orchestra. Everything I love about Snarky Puppy is here: the grooves and outstanding musicianship; but the layer of strings just brings a new dimension and makes this an easy pick for my Top 10.

#5 - OK Computer Radiohead


Release Year: 1997 Genres: Alternative Rock, Art Rock

Radiohead already has several entries on my list, but there is no doubt that OK Computer takes the cake as my favorite album by the group. It takes the best of their rock and atmospheric elements and executes them across an album of well-written songs. This one has just continued to move up my list every time I listen to it.

#4 - Rain Dogs Tom Waits


Release Year: 1985 Genres: Singer-Songwriter, Experimental Rock

If you had told me this would be in my top 5 albums of all time when I first listened to it, I wouldn’t have believed you. It took some time for me to warm up to Tom Waits’s style, but man has it been worth it. Rain Dogs has so much character and I have just kept coming back to it again and again and again. Not going to be for everyone, but for me it was an album totally worth the patience it took to fall in love with it.

#3 - Songs in the Key of Life Stevie Wonder


Release Year: 1976 Genres: Soul, Funk

Despite really enjoying Innervisions, it was a long time before I listened to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, probably because I was intimidated by its long run time. But I will never forget that first listen… by the time I hit the end of the Contusion → Sir Duke → I Wish stretch on the first half, I knew I had found something special. It’s Stevie at his best, and he keeps it up for over 100 minutes. More than any other album, I know that if I put this on, it will put me in a good mood; and that is pretty high praise.

#2 - Abbey Road The Beatles


Release Year: 1969 Genres: Pop Rock

No question, for my tastes, Abbey Road is The Beatles best album. Incredible that it was made by a band on the brink of breaking up, especially after rocky sessions for Let It Be. I didn’t grow up listening to The Beatles so there is no nostalgia factor here; I just genuinely have grown to enjoy their music in my adult years. Maybe a cliche album to be this high, but I have made a big effort with this list to stay true to how I actually feel about the music, and not care about what others might think. And I love this album in its entirety.

#1 - We Like It Here Snarky Puppy


Release Year: 2014 Genres: Jazz Fusion, Progressive Big Band

After listening to Songs in the Key of Life and Abbey Road, I really thought there was no way they were going to be topped. Despite going in with those preconceived notions, I was reminded of why We Like It Here has been one of my favorite albums for several years now. Just peak Snarky Puppy, nothing but great songs, and plenty of opportunities for funky “stank face” while listening. Feels a little odd to see a fully instrumental album top my list, but the music doesn’t lie; for now We Like It Here is #1.