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The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

The classics are still the classics, but the canon keeps getting bigger and better

Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time was originally published in 2003, with a slight update in 2012. Over the years, it’s been the most widely read  — and argued over — feature in the history of the magazine (last year, the RS 500 got over 63 million views on the site). But no list is definitive — tastes change, new genres emerge, the history of music keeps being rewritten. So we decided to remake our greatest albums list from scratch. To do so, we received and tabulated Top 50 Albums lists from more than 300 artists, producers, critics, and music-industry figures (from radio programmers to label heads, like Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman). The electorate includes Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish; rising artists like H.E.R., Tierra Whack, and Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail; as well as veteran musicians, such as Adam Clayton and the Edge of U2, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, Gene Simmons, and Stevie Nicks.

How We Made the List and Who Voted

When we first did the RS 500 in 2003, people were talking about the “death of the album.” The album —and especially the album release — is more relevant than ever. (As in 2003, we allowed votes for compilations and greatest-hits albums, mainly because a well-made compilation can be just as coherent and significant as an LP, because compilations helped shaped music history, and because many hugely important artists recorded their best work before the album had arrived as a prominent format.)

Of course, it could still be argued that embarking on a project like this is increasingly difficult in an era of streaming and fragmented taste. But that was part of what made rebooting the RS 500 fascinating and fun; 86 of the albums on the list are from this century, and 154 are new additions that weren’t on the 2003 or 2012 versions. The classics are still the classics, but the canon keeps getting bigger and better.

Written By

Jonathan Bernstein, Pat Blashill, Jon Blistein, Nathan Brackett, David Browne, Anthony DeCurtis, Matt Diehl, Jon Dolan, Chuck Eddy, Ben Edmonds, Gavin Edwards, Jenny Eliscu, Brenna Ehrlrich, Suzy Exposito, David Fricke, Elisa Gardner, Holly George-Warren, Andy Greene, Kory Grow, Will Hermes, Brian Hiatt, Christian Hoard, Charles Holmes, Mark Kemp, Greg Kot, Elias Leight, Joe Levy, Angie Martoccio, David McGee, Chris Molanphy, Tom Moon, Jason Newman, Rob O’Connor, Park Puterbaugh, Jody Rosen, Austin Scaggs, Karen Schoemer, Bud Scoppa, Claire Shaffer, Rob Sheffield, Hank Shteamer, Brittany Spanos, Rob Tannenbaum, David Thigpen, Simon Vozick-Levinson, Barry Walters, Jonah Weiner

From Rolling Stone US


Cocteau Twins, ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’

Cocteau Twins were Scot goths who helped invent the dream-pop aesthetic that ruled U.K. indie during the Eighties. Heaven or Las Vegas is their arrestingly beautiful pop peak, despite being released as the band itself was in turmoil, largely brought on by guitarist Robin Guthrie’s drug addiction. Somehow, they created something wholly transporting; Elizabeth Fraser’s celestial soprano works like a vocal Rorschach test, gorgeously floating over Guthrie and Simon Raymonde’s magic-hour instrumentation.


Kanye West, ‘808s & Heartbreak’

Part of Kanye West died in the fall of 2007, when his beloved mother, Donda, passed away; soon afterward, his 18-month-long engagement to designer Alexis Phifer fell apart. So when he returned in 2008 with 808s & Heartbreak, it was akin to watching an emotional purge and resurrection. Drenching his voice in Auto-Tune and turning his synths to their coldest settings, he sang of unbearable winters, shattered love, and endless nightmares. Part of West’s healing was charting a path where the distinction between rapping and singing was beside the point. Within a few years, Drake and others picked up the torch he’d lit here and ran with it all the way to the top of the charts.


The Zombies, ‘Odessey and Oracle’

The Zombies broke up two weeks after they completed Odessey and Oracle, in December 1967, and the album wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1969. But its baroque psychedelic-pop arrangements continue to exert a powerful influence, particularly on whimsy-loving indie rockers. Recorded in London at both Abbey Road and a Stones haunt, Olympic Studios, Odessey combined the adventure of Sgt. Pepper with the concision of British Invasion pop. And “Time of the Season” went on to become a Number Three hit.


The Velvet Underground, ‘Loaded’

The Velvet Underground made their most accessible album in 1970, during a summer alternately comprising triumph and stress. Drummer Maureen Tucker was on maternity leave; singer-guitarist-songwriter Lou Reed quit in August before the record was even finished. But Reed left behind a pair of hits (“Sweet Jane,” “Rock ’n’ Roll”), two of his finest ballads (“New Age,” “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”), and a record that highlights the R&B/doo-wop roots and Sun Records crackle buried deep inside the Velvets’ noir-guitar maelstrom.


Massive Attack, ‘Blue Lines’

Perhaps the first post-hip-hop masterpiece: Blue Lines combined rap, dub, and soul that gave birth to trip-hop; if you ever found yourself in a “chillout room” in 1995, this album was probably on, and it can still suck you into its gravitational pull. In the U.K., where acid house and jungle were the dominant sounds, its creepingly slow ambiance knocked the music world on its back. “What’s important to us is the pace,” said the band’s 3D, “the weight of the bass and the mood.”


Sam Cooke, ‘Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963’

Sam Cooke was elegance and soul personified, but he works this Florida club until it’s hotter than hell, all while sounding like he never breaks a sweat. He croons and strokes “For Sentimental Reasons” like a superlover, and when the crowd sings along with him, it’s magic. RCA Records originally shelved the album out of fear that Cooke’s raw performance might alienate crossover (read: white) audiences. When it was finally released more than 20 years after he recorded, Live at the Harlem Square Club gave many fans a whole new perspective of his greatness.


Boogie Down Productions, ‘Criminal Minded’

BDP copped a gangsta stance, sporting guns on the album cover, but they opened their debut with “Poetry,” an ode to the edutaining power of their music — “It takes concentration for fresh communication,” KRS-One informs. DJ Scott LaRock laced funky samples into taut, hard-hitting tracks like the classic interborough beef fests “The Bridge Is Over” and “South Bronx,” the latter doubling as a glorious origin story of hip-hop’s early days. LaRock was killed shortly after the album’s release trying to break up a fight.


Kraftwerk, ‘Trans Europe Express’

In 1975, someone asked legendary rock critic Lester Bangs where music was going. “It’s being taken over by the Germans and the machines,” he replied. Not a bad prediction. This German group’s sound sought to eliminate the distinction between men and machines. Kraftwerk’s robot-synthesizer grooves influenced electrodisco hitmakers, experimental geniuses such as Brian Eno, and rappers including Afrika Bambaataa, who lifted the title track for “Planet Rock.” The whole world of EDM may not have happened without them.


Willie Nelson, ‘Red Headed Stranger’

Newly signed to Columbia, Nelson was feeling ambitious. “It was the first time I had ‘artistic control,’” he recalled. “So I thought I would just start writing.” Nelson had penned the song “Red Headed Stranger” years before, on a drive back to Austin after a Colorado ski trip. He kept the arrangements extremely spare, in sharp contrast to the gussied-up music coming out of Nashville at the time. The songs locked together to tell a riveting and heartfelt tale of murder and infidelity, and the concept album became one of Nelson’s biggest hits.


Daft Punk, ‘Discovery’

The robot duo from France perfected house music as pop on their 1997 album Homework. For the follow-up, they took electronic dance music to a whole new place, with the vocoder euphoria of “One More Time” and the deep-groove delight “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” where the title is chanted like a mantra at a dystopian corporate retreat. But even the winky moments have heart, like “Digital Love,” where Eighties guitar cheese takes off toward Tomorrowland.


Metallica, ‘Metallica (The Black Album)’

After a decade of breaking metal’s speed limits, Metallica pared down their sound to the bare bones for their self-titled “Black Album.” “Enter Sandman” became a blockbuster because listeners finally had the space to sing along with James Hetfield’s bleak visions. Metallica achieved maximum heaviness on “Sad but True” by letting their guitars ring out for once; they embraced cinematic melodrama on “The Unforgiven” and “Wherever I May Roam,” and showed unusual depth for a band named Metallica with the sincere, no-bullshit ballad “Nothing Else Matters.”


Black Sabbath, ‘Master of Reality’

Paranoid may have bigger hits, but Master of Reality, released a mere six months later, is heavier. It was the band’s first attempt to use the recording studio, and it’s full of ambitious ideas (check out Bill Ward’s funky timbale work on “Children of the Grave”). The highlight is “Sweet Leaf,” a droning love song to marijuana. The vibe is perfectly summed up by the final track, “Into the Void.” But it isn’t all relentless doom: “After Forever,” written by bassist Geezer Butler, pretty much invents the idea of Christian metal.


Tori Amos, ‘Little Earthquakes’

Here Tori Amos established herself as the poet laureate for a generation of battle-worn young women no longer satisfied with silence. From behind a piano that she wields like a machete aside her sharp, poignant reflections, Little Earthquakes is an incisive reflection on sexual assault, abuse, PTSD, and coming of age under the heavy veil of it all. At times thorny and confrontational, Amos’ voice still remains a warm invitation to people, like her, learning how to diffuse their trauma and move forward as best they can.


John Coltrane, ‘Giant Steps’

With characteristic humility, John Coltrane said the title of this album referred to the loping instrumental gait of his bassist Paul Chambers. On his Atlantic debut, Coltrane played with a heated melodic enthusiasm — flying clusters of notes — that declared new possibilities for jazz improvisation and predicted the ferocious, harmonically open lyricism that would come with his mid-Sixties records on Impulse. “Mr. P.C.,” “Cousin Mary,” and “Spiral” became Coltrane’s first classics.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, ‘Damn the Torpedoes’

With hair like Jagger’s and a voice like Dylan’s in tune, Tom Petty and his bar band defrilled classic rock: In 1979, he filed for bankruptcy; then Torpedoes took off, mostly because “Here Comes My Girl” seemed to keep the promises those like Jagger et al., forgot they’d made. Perfectly produced by future music-industry megamogul Jimmy Iovine, Torpedoes gave bright jangling Sixties rock a sheen that made pretty much everything else on AOR radio seem lumpy and stiff, while Petty’s obvious authenticity kept the music from ever seeming calculated or overly polished.


Rihanna, ‘Anti’

After dominating the Top 40 for years, Rihanna wanted to make an ambitious album-statement, brilliantly sustaining the tipsy two-in-the-morning vibe of this moody midcareer reinvention. “I just gravitated toward the songs that were … the things I want to listen to,” she said. “The things that I want to smoke to.” On Anti, she recast pop as her own hazy playground, referencing Dido and hair metal, covering Tame Impala, and merging dancehall and torch ballads.


Patsy Cline, ‘The Ultimate Collection’

Her career was cut short when she died in a plane crash at 30, but Patsy Cline made her mark as one of country’s great singers. “Even though her style is considered country, her delivery is more like a classic pop singer,” Lucinda Williams has noted. Her hits “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces” also made it to the pop charts, establishing the template for country crossover that pointed the way forward for generations; her version of “Crazy” was a godsend to the song’s struggling writer, a young Willie Nelson.


De La Soul, ‘De La Soul Is Dead’

The cover of De La Soul’s second album — an overturned flowerpot of dead daisies — was as subtle as a sledgehammer. After the sunny 3 Feet High and Rising, the confrontationally pessismsitic De La Soul Is Dead was a shock; songs dealt with sexual assault (“Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”) and drug abuse (“My Brother’s a Basehead,” based on member Posdnuos’ brother’s crack addiction). But the fun wasn’t totally over (see “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays’”) and producer Prince Paul gave the dense LP a sample-delic flow.


Little Richard, ‘Here’s Little Richard’

“I came from a family where my people didn’t like rhythm and blues,” Little Richard told Rolling Stone in 1970. “Bing Crosby, ‘Pennies From Heaven,’ Ella Fitzgerald was all I heard. And I knew there was something that could be louder than that, but didn’t know where to find it. And I found it was me.” Richard’s raucous debut collected singles such as “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” in which his rollicking boogie-woogie piano and falsetto scream ignited the unfettered possibilities of rock & roll.


Derek and the Dominos, ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’

Eric Clapton was tired of stardom, so he formed a new band where he could be just another one of the lads. But there was no mistaking the blues guitar on “Layla,” as Clapton sang about falling in love with the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. The tortured love songs on Layla get a kick from guest Duane Allman, whose interplay with Clapton in “Key to the Highway” and “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” is both harmonious and fiercely competitive: electric, brotherly love.


Wilco, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’

When Reprise Records refused to release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco posted it for free on the internet. Two-hundred-thousand downloads later, Nonesuch Records (owned by the same company as Reprise) released the album, and it became critical and commercial gold. Its pretty acoustic-guitar melodies battled noise, skidded into dissonance, or got chopped off abruptly. Its lyrics pitted hope against doubt, with all bets off. “You have to learn how to die,” crooned Jeff Tweedy, “if you wanna … be alive.”


Dixie Chicks, ‘Fly’

Before their criticism of George W. Bush made them Nashville exiles and before they established their legacy as country’s most righteous troublemakers, the Chicks were effortlessly ruffling feathers on their infectious, poppy fifth album, Fly. “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Ready to Run,” and “Goodbye Earl” became defining country hits of the late Nineties, but the rest of the record was hardly filler, from the intense balladry of “Cold Day in July” to the thrash-metal-with-fiddles freakout of “Sin Wagon.”


John Lennon, ‘Imagine’

After the primal-scream therapy of Plastic Ono Band [see No. 85], Lennon softened up on his second solo album. There is still the stinging “Gimme Some Truth” and his evisceration of Paul McCartney, “How Do You Sleep?” — both featuring George Harrison on guitar. But there is also the aching soul of “Jealous Guy” and the irresistible “Oh Yoko!” Imagine is self-consciously luminescent, pointedly embraceable. Lennon said of the title track: “Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey.”


Madonna, ‘Ray of Light’

For her first post-motherhood disc, Madonna and producer William Orbit showed the world that electronica didn’t have to be cold. Songs like the title track and “Nothing Really Matters” are beat-driven but restrained — filled with warmth and wonder. Ray also features Madonna’s best singing ever. “A ray of light to me is hope,” she said, describing her inspiration in making the album. “We are zooming forward, but that doesn’t mean you can lose touch with the spiritual side of things.”


Rage Against the Machine, ‘Rage Against the Machine’

“I believe in this band’s ability to bridge the gap between entertainment and activism,” declared Zack de la Rocha, whose radical politics found sympathetic muscle in Tom Morello’s howling one-guitar army, making a furor unheard since the MC5 and Clash. “Killing in the Name” took on historical racism within U.S. policing, a message that remains sadly prescient, and songs like “Bombtrack” and “Wake Up” were funky fusillades that proved rap rock could change minds as well as roil arena mosh pits.


Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, ‘Déjà Vu’

Neil Young was just getting his solo career underway when he joined his old Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills, ex-Byrd David Crosby, and former Hollie Graham Nash in the first of the West Coast supergroups. Young’s vision and guitar transformed the earlier folk-rock CSN into a rock & roll powerhouse. The CSNY combination was too volatile to last, but on their best album, they offered pop idealism (Nash’s “Teach Your Children”), militant blues (Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair”), and vocal-choir gallop (Stills’ “Carry On”).


Raekwon, ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’

The finest Wu-Tang solo joint stands out due to Raekwon’s understated, eternally unflustered cool and densely woven verses. Abetted by hyperactive sideman Ghostface and hypnotically stark beats courtesy of the RZA, Raekwon crafts breathtaking drug-rap narratives. On “Knowledge God,” an Italian drug dealer with a “hairy chest” and “many minks” meets his colorful demise in just six words: “Sixteen shots in his fish tank.” It’s the rare hip-hop album that rivals the mob movies it celebrates for gripping detail.


TLC, ‘CrazySexyCool’

Things were not well with TLC during the making of CrazySexyCool: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was lighting fires, and the group was in a financial slide that would end in bankruptcy proceedings. But they emerged with the most effervescent and soulful R&B pop anyone had heard since the Supremes. “Creep” is hard-edged but cute, the summery “Diggin’ on You” is almost pastoral in its intimate flow, and the transcendent “Waterfalls” may be the greatest song ever about how it’s not a great idea to go after your dreams.


Oasis, ‘Definitely Maybe’

Oasis didn’t get the memo about how Nineties rockers had to be all angst-y and fame-hating, but the Gallagher brothers’ cockiness would have been hollow without the supersonic songs on their debut. Liam’s insolent snarl and his brother Noel’s dialed-to-11 guitar on working-class anthems like the elevating “Live Forever” and the blaring “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” built off the Beatles and T. Rex to reach for their own glorious future.


Elliott Smith, ‘Either/Or’

Elliott Smith had ambitions to make records with a Beatlesque sound — but zero interest in Beatlesque fame — when he recorded Either/Or. While he achieved his dreams on several subsequent major-label releases, the Portland, Oregon, indie-folk singer-songwriter’s third album resonates because of his low-fi whisper and gritty, sepia-toned lyrics. His songs struck a nerve well beyond the Northwest music scene — Madonna, of all people, covered the morosely pretty drunk’s lullaby “Between the Bars.”


Grateful Dead, ‘American Beauty’

The Dead never sounded better in the studio than in the down-home stoner country of American Beauty. Released just five months after the folkie classic Workingmans Dead, American Beauty has some of their most beloved songs in “Ripple,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Truckin’.” Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter were on a hot streak, writing the ultimate outlaw credo in “Friend of the Devil.” “Box of Rain” has the Dead’s most emotional harmony vocals, especially in the haunting final lines: “Such a long, long time to be gone/And a short time to be there.”


Tom Petty, ‘Wildflowers’

Petty struggled for two years to make the Rick Rubin-produced follow-up to 1989’s hit Full Moon Fever. He left tons of songs in the can, and the final product stretched to 70 minutes but didn’t have any filler. Petty hit a new songwriting peak, going from intimate, soul-bearing songs like the title track and “Crawling Back to You” to rockers like “You Wreck Me” and “House in the Woods.” “I think it’s maybe my favorite LP that I’ve ever done,” Petty said.


Fiona Apple, ‘The Idler Wheel’

The Idler Wheel continued Fiona Apple’s run as one of modern pop’s most thrilling eccentrics. There’s a single-minded intensity to songs like “Every Single Night” and “Hot Knife,” where she puts an almost shocking amount of feeling into each syllable. Apple can sound like a cabaret singer in one song and a blueswoman in the next, her voice full of sandpaper edges and bestial roars. “I may need a chaperone,” she wonders on “Daredevil,” but this album proves she’s at her very best when left to her own devices.


Nina Simone, ‘Wild Is the Wind’

Aretha was the Queen of Soul, but Nina Simone, as one of her album titles proclaimed, was its high priestess, and this 1966 LP is among her most enthralling and eclectic. With her dusky voice at its most commanding, Simone works her way through roadhouse soul (“I Love Your Lovin’ Ways”) and dramatic set pieces (the melancholic “Lilac Wine,” later covered by Jeff Buckley). It peaks with “Four Women,” an ambitious saga of racially diverse women and their struggles, written by Simone.


Joy Divison, ‘Unknown Pleasures’

Joy Division came from the northern England industrial gloom of Manchester, four blue-collar lads chasing a new kind of goth-punk grandeur. Right from the opening, “Disorder,” Unknown Pleasures sounds like nothing else, with the doomed Ian Curtis yelping his dark poetry (“I got the spirit!”) over Peter Hook’s bass pulse. But for all the despair, there’s something inspiring in the surge of “Interzone” and “New Dawn Fades.” Black-clad young bands have been imitating Joy Division ever since.


Ray Charles, ‘The Birth of Soul’

Ray Charles was just about the first person to perfect that mix of blues and gospel, holy and filthy, that we know as soul music. He was knocking around Seattle when Atlantic bought out his contract in 1952. For the next eight years, he turned out brilliant singles such as “What’d I Say” and “I Got a Woman.” This box collects every R&B side he cut for Atlantic, though his swinging take on “My Bonnie” will have you thinking it covers his Atlantic jazz output as well.


Run-DMC, ‘Raising Hell’

Working for the first time with producer Rick Rubin, the Hollis, Queens, crew of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay made an album so undeniable, it forced the mainstream to cross over to hip-hop. “Peter Piper” kicked the rhymes over a jingling cowbell sampled from an old jazz-fusion record. On “My Adidas,” “It’s Tricky,” and “You Be Illin’,” Run and DMC talked trash while the DJ made their day. They even hit MTV with a vandalistic remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” featuring Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.


Lil Wayne, ‘Tha Carter III’

By 2008, Lil Wayne contained multitudes: Best Rapper Alive, Pussy Monster, Martian, Weezy F. Baby (and the “F” is for, well, pretty much any word starting with “F”). Tha Carter III was a monument to this multiple-personality menagerie. “A Milli,” a glorified freestyle, fully crossed over to the mainstream, while “Lollipop,” a robotic R&B jam, rightly bet that an audience was ready to invest in Wayne’s croaky, syrup-addled singing voice. More than a decade later, even Wayne’s most outré personalities are still birthing musical descendants.


Eagles, ‘Eagles’

This debut created a new template for laid-back L.A. country-rock style. Behind the band’s mellow message — “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” — was a relentless drive. “Everybody had to look good, sing good, play good, and write good,” Glenn Frey told Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone. Beyond the album’s three hit singles, songs like the somber waltz “Most of Us Are Sad,” the pickin’ and grinnin’ “Earlybird,” and the down-home rocker “Nightingale” showed a band that had perfected a sound right out of the gate.


David Bowie, ‘Low’

David Bowie fled to Berlin to kick cocaine — not to mention his other drug of choice, stardom. He moved into a flat above a hardware store and restarted his music from scratch, teaming up with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Low was split between electronic instrumentals and quirky funk like “Sound and Vision.” It began his famous “Berlin trilogy” — though it was cut mostly in France — topped off by Heroes and Lodger. In 1977, Bowie also produced Iggy Pop’s two finest solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life.


Cat Stevens, ‘Tea for the Tillerman’

With its chamber-pop arrangements, Tea for the Tillerman is one of the British folkie’s most ambitious albums (to take one example of Cat Stevens’ thinking at the time, the LP’s gentle, advice-dispensing “Father and Son” began as a song for a musical he wanted to write about the Russian Revolution). It soothed countless living rooms in the Seventies, but the album is deceptively angst-y. Both the hit single “Wild World” and the bleak ballad “Hard-Headed Woman” find him condemning his ex Patti D’Arbanville — who later shacked up with Mick Jagger.


Kanye West, ‘Graduation’

“I’m doin’ pretty good as far as geniuses go,” Kanye West rapped on Graduation’s “Barry Bonds.” At the time, no one could argue with that. For his third album, West pared down the ornate production for a new kind of sleek stadium rap, deftly expanding his sampling palette to include Steely Dan, Daft Punk, and even Krautrockers Can, while giving his fame-sucks brags and gripes an introspect that points toward emo rap.


Nick Drake, ‘Pink Moon’

Nick Drake recorded his last album in a couple of nights, mailed the tapes to Island Records, and checked himself into a psychiatric ward. If the music were as dark as the lyrics, it might be unlistenable. But Drake’s soothing vocals and unadorned acoustic picking unfold with supernatural tenderness. Few heard Pink Moon when it was released, but its stark beauty has touched the intimate bedroom folk of Cat Power, Elliott Smith, and many others.


Björk, ‘Homogenic’

Björk’s third album was a departure from the fun, playful electronics of her mid-Nineties solo sets Debut and Post, adopting a more uniform, chilly, and distinctly Icelandic sound in its fusion of trip-hop with neo-classical strings. “Jóga,” with its stratosphere-high vocals and beats inspired by volcanic eruptions, may be Björk’s signature song, but it’s only one sample of the album’s palette, jagged and luminescent like broken stained glass. The sheer beauty underneath its boldness and abrasion has enraptured countless artists, from Thom Yorke to Arca, in the years since its release.


A Tribe Called Quest, ‘Midnight Marauders’

Tribe had a lot to live up to on the follow-up to The Low End Theory, but they kept the boho rap groove going. Q-Tip and co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad layered the LP with vintage jazz samples and intentionally doubled-up drums to retain the spirit of New York boom-bap, as Q-Tip and Phife Dawg deepened their rhymes on tracks like “Electric Relaxation.” In a historic moment of New York hip-hop synergy, Midnight Marauders was released the same day as the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang.