This is one of my favorite albums just because I think it’s so beautiful in all of its writing. Michael Angelakos in my opinion is one of the greatest alternative musicians of our generation, and his writing and musicality reached great heights on this work. Manners is a more polished version of Chunk of Change, which is an EP he made during his college years. His haunting falsetto is beautifully juxtaposed with his ambitious usage of the synthesizer.
Notable Songs: Eyes as Candles, Sleepyhead, Let Your Love Grow Tall, To Kingdom Come
Here, My Dear
The story behind this album is legendary. Essentially, Marvin Gaye wrote this album during the personal crisis of his divorce from Anna Gordy. One of the conditions was that she would receive half of the royalties from his next record with Motown. That next album was Here, My Dear, which is a profound exploration of the emotional weight Gaye was carrying during this time. This one is especially important because it served as one of the first extensive concept albums of R&B, inspiring many others, most notably Drake’s “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late”.
This is an album I love so much that I have it on vinyl. This is Joel’s fifth album, and in my opinion, demonstrates his strongest writing. On this album, he explores themes such as droning suburban life, the pitfalls of great ambition, and romance.
Notable Songs: Movin’ Out, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Everybody Has a Dream
The construction and writing on this album are so unique that I find myself listening to most of it at least once a week. This is an album with some songs I absolutely hate, but others that I think are pure masterpieces.
NOTABLE SONGS: German Love, Rawnald Gregory, Holly, Pop Song
MGMT is one of the most influential indie bands of the 21st century, and I think their sound can be heard in nearly mainstream indie band. The feel good anthem Time To Pretend, is the centerpiece that rocketed them to mainstream stardom, but I love their ability to capture psychedelic, electropunk indie in such a neat package.
I think this is one of Joel’s more emotional albums. In most of the songs, he’s a young man trying to understand himself, and the effects of fame on his life and legacy. This album in my opinion set the stage for the masterful writing Joel demonstrated on on The Stranger. This album came on the tale of Joel’s massive success Piano Man.
NOTABLE SONGS: Streetlife Serenader, The Great Suburban Showdown, Last of the Big Time Spenders, Souvenir
Early Vampire Weekend EP. Waiting on Mitsubishi Machiato.
The Vault. No 2
This is an album by Starfucker that acts kind of like one long B-Side. There are about 20 short songs on this, which were small musical ideas that never amounted to full songs. The experimental musicianship on this album are really astonishing.
Hands down one of the greatest albums of the last century, and catapulted MJ to near immortality. Also set the stage for his tragic downfall. Packed with hits on hits on hits.
Bridge over Troubled Water
Sensual sounds from Simon and Garfunkel.
Nothing Was the Same
There were so many Drake albums I could have chosen from, but this one is his most cohesive project. It came before he was really the Drake we all listen to today, and captures a very vulnerable individual. The storytelling is so vivid.
NOTABLE SONGS: Too Much, 305 to my city,
Grew up with this one. It’s packed with anthems and very memorable ye-isms. I think this is the Kanye we all really miss.
NOTABLE SONGS: Good Morning, I Wonder, Homecoming, Bittersweet Poetry
The Black Album
This was advertised as Jay’s final album before retiring, and I think this one was his best ever. It came at what was the pinnacle of his fame, and offered reflective musings on fame and money. D’evils is one of the most interesting rap songs I’ve ever heard. In it, Jay talks about how money has poisoned him, and even spurs conspiracy theories by speaking of the Illuminati in the chorus. The cool part about Jay-Z is that he does his takes in the booth with no notes.
The Album About Nothing
This one is for real Wale fans. I love this one because it’s not meant to be packed with hits, but to act as more of a reflective oeuvre. It speaks about being black in America, fame, mental health, and several other important topics. It’s also an album that he recorded with Jerry Seinfeld. Every track opens with a conversation between the two or a snippet from the show.
NOTABLE SONGS: The Intro About Nothing, The Pessimist, The Middle Finger, The Girls on Drugs
Big Sean has never been a great “rapper”. He’s extremely corny, but the idea behind this album is amazing. Essentially, he explores what his life would be like if he didn’t dedicate himself to living his truth and focusing on positivity. It also tells a story. On the opening track, Big Sean is a Detroit resident who never made it past his city and failings, and jumps off a bridge after saying one final prayer. The rest of the album is a promise to himself to never regret things he could have done to fulfill his potential.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Almost every really notable 50 song comes off of this album. The numbers he did on this album are insane. He sold 8.4 million copies and the album was 6x platinum. After being shot 9 times and dropped by his record label, 50 developed a relentlessness that can be heard in each and every bar.
NOTABLE SONGS: 21 Questions, Many Men, P.I.M.P
2014 Forest Hills Drive
A masterful display of storytelling by J Cole, in which he speaks of the men, women and moments who made him. Forest Hills Drive was the road Cole grew up on, and the album is filled with moments that explore his youth, such as when he lost his virginity, his relationship with his mother, and his love hate relationship with “America”
The recluses reintroduction to the real world. Such emotional music. Original name of this album was “Boys Don’t Cry”.
The Life of Pablo
I’ve written extensively about this album, see Rap’s Misunderstood Mastermind”. For all it’s worth, it’s a great album — a masterpiece. But, it’s sad for Ye’ fans, who hate to see the genius in such a dark place.
Chance shows us his true colors on this one! This album is like a baptist church service packed into twelve songs. This album was his first studio one, and demonstrates his transformation from stoner to man of god, preaching the good word with every chance.