No.20 – Michael Jackson, ‘Thriller’

What is it?: The youngest Jackson brother serving casual white tie realness and making some good music while he’s at it.

What’s it like?: Apparently ‘Thriller’ is “better” and “more influential” than ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’. Whatever, Rolling Stone, whatever.

Anyway. ‘Thriller’. If I remember rightly, this is the biggest-selling record in the UK, ever – and lord knows it’s iconic. It’s a surprise it hasn’t appeared until no.20 on this list. This is Jackson at his best, pumping out classics like ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billie Jean’, and making those squealing sounds we all love.

There are a few dud tracks present, though – more than I would have expected, actually – and that was a little disappointing. But on the whole, it’s clear ‘Thriller’ deserves its iconic status.

When to listen to it: When you have something to celebrate and want to do it in style, baby.

Verdict: It’s fab, but I do see why it only just cracked the top 20.



No.19 – Van Morrison, ‘Astral Weeks’

What is it?: Okay, before I continue with this review, let’s just address the elephant in the room: we’re nearly at the end of the top 20 greatest albums of all time, and there’s still no sign of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’, i.e. the single best piece of music ever recorded. Disgusting, right? Utterly unbelievable? I can only assume that the Rolling Stone staff just have appalling taste and have put it, for some reason, as low down as no.20. Anyway. Whatever.

What’s it like?: It’s a sad-sounding man cawing dismally and a little too slowly over plucked guitars and occasional percussion.

‘Astral Weeks’ very much epitomises ‘it’s probably great if you’re into that sort of thing’, and unfortunately this album (and Van Morrison as a whole, I suspect) is merely on the outer fringes of the sort of thing I’m into.

On a side note, I absolutely love the album art.

When to listen to it: In a field somewhere on a summer’s day when you’re feeling a little bit heartbroken.

Verdict: Ehhh, it’s fine. I wouldn’t listen to it again though.



No.18 – Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born to Run’

What is it?: The top album from rugged human embodiment of liberal Americana, The Boss.

What’s it like?: I did enjoy ‘Born to Run’… but I think I’d need to be American to really get it.

It’s so earnest, which I’ll admit is refreshing to hear. But every song is so, so earnest, all in the exact same way – although the songs themselves are each listenable and melodic in and of themselves, the lack of variation in mood gets a little tiring.

The title track is still a tune though.

You have to be in a very specific mood to sit down and listen to ‘Born to run’ from start to finish, and unfortunately I was not in that mood – but I bet this album’s a 10/10 when you are.

When to listen to it: On a road trip through the American midwest, windows open and/or top down, sun shining, cactuses or something, I don’t know, I’ve never been to the midwest.

Verdict: Great for your road trip, won’t really work for a morning commute on the Tube.




No.17 – Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’

When it comes to ‘Nevermind’, I’m afraid I am extremely biased: this was the album that got me into rock music.

At the age of 13, I watched the video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on Kerrang channel, all the way through for the first time, and something really clicked. Cut to me a few nights later, listening to my dad’s copy of ‘Nevermind’ on my personal CD player and drinking in every note. It felt phenomenal. It felt like how rock music was supposed to sound like – not like Avril Lavigne or Michelle Branch and all the other crap I’d be contenting myself with. Nirvana sounded like a real band making music that I’d never heard before, that broke boundaries I didn’t even know existed while still giving me something I could sing along too. I came into school the following few weeks just raving about Kurt Cobain, making copies of this album to throw at all my friends.

So, I don’t really feel I can judge this album properly at the age of 26. I still adore it on a very personal level – and the music is amazing regardless. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ packs a muddy punch, ‘Polly’ haunts, ‘Drain You’ drips with sleaze. It’s an album worth discovering and re-discovering at any age.

When to listen to it: When you don’t want to tidy your room or be a responsible adult.

Verdict: I’ve fallen back in disgusting, grungey love.



No.16 – Bob Dylan, ‘Blood on the Tracks’

This was a pleasant surprise. I always kind of wrote Dylan off as being a bit trite and overrated, but ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is actually… I mean, it’s really good. I liked every single track. Imagine me saying this in that very British way where your voice goes up at the end of the sentence that makes you sound mildly surprised when actually you’re deeply astonished by the situation.

The album sounds fresh – if you’d played it to me and told me it was, I don’t know, Conor Oberst’s latest record, I’d have said Wow, when did Conor Oberst start being good? and would just completely accept that it’s a 2017 release.

It’s through ‘Blood on the Tracks’ that I can really see how much Dylan has influenced modern folk, indie, and pop music: melodies that speak for themselves, lyrics that just feel right, and a balanced attitude towards production that makes every element enjoyable.

My profoundest apologies to ol’ Bobby for doubting him. He is a Nobel Prize winner, after all.

When to listen to it: In a meadow somewhere, either in spring or autumn, but not summer or winter.

Verdict: Liked it enough to add it to my Apple Music, and I might download it to listen to on my commute. Conor Oberst wishes.



No.15 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Are You Experienced’


That’s the best, and most accurate, review I could possibly give of the first Hendrix album of the list. YEEAAAAHHHHH, I inwardly yelled as the opening riff of ‘Purple Haze’ came in. YEEAAAAHHHH, my mind screamed every time I recognised a song that I never have the chance to really enjoy on its own. YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH I had to try and stop myself from saying out loud as Jimi kept the licks comin’.

‘Are You Experienced’ speaks to a very specific mood – and thank heck I was in that mood when I listened so I could properly enjoy the yyeeeeaaaaahhhh factor. I reckon this’ll be one of my go-to albums next time I’m in that mood too.

When to listen to it: When you need to get pumped, or when you want to seduce a very energetic person. Also works for when you’re cleaning the house.

Verdict: YYYYYYEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!! but such a mood would get exhausting when experienced 24/7.



No.14 – The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’

Yeah, no, this is too much Beatles – we’ve talked about this. ‘Abbey Road’ is fine but it’s nowhere near as good or interesting enough to even bother reviewing compared with some of the albums we’ve got coming up.

One thing I do love about this album, however, is one of my personal favourite pieces of Beatles-trivia-slash-conspiracy-theories: the cover art famously proves that Paul McCartney had in fact died and been replaced by an impersonator. We can tell he’s dead because he has bare feet – I guess ghosts don’t need shoes – and because the car on the road is headed right for him. And he’s stepping forward with a different leg from the others, which shows he is different, specifically that they are alive and he is dead.

The best thing about this theory – sorry, I mean fact – is that they obviously managed to replace the old Paul with someone who is talented enough to continue writing music at the same calibre as the old one and have just as successful a career. Well done, guys.

When to listen to it: While writing up a business plan for your new line of shoes for ghosts, which you’ve named Phantom Phootwear.

Verdict: Who cares?