Nine Albums Everyone Should Listen To

Music is a wide spectrum.  Breaking break free of our usual tastes, or even get started listening at all, can certainly be difficult.  But now, we all have time on our hands.  So here, in my opinion, are the ten most essential albums to begin with across many genres.

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse – Pop

Amy Winehouse’s tragic death in 2011 destroyed the course of what could’ve been the most successful and game-changing artist of modern times. In the short 27 years she graced the Earth, she left behind a legacy unlike any other. Back to Black is one of the best selling albums in UK history. She didn’t shy away from her troubles with addiction and showed off her incredible voice in a masterpiece of popular music.

Nevermind by Nirvana – Grunge

Although many people know the hits off this album, such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Lithium,” the rest of the album is a terrific experience. The grunge bubble has since popped, leaving the genre practically dead, but this remains a timeless and very important album that deserves a listen.

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan – Folk Rock

Bob Dylan’s influence on music can be found everywhere. His music led to the further development of many genres, including rock and popular music as a whole, as well as a few he pioneered on his own, like folk pop. It’s hard to talk about music without bringing up one of the most influential artists of all time. My personal favorite album of his, Highway explores different genres such as the blues, rock’n’roll, and Dylan’s own folk rock, and serves as a good introduction to a great musician.

A Night At The Opera by Queen – Prog Rock

Opera isn’t my favorite album by supergroup Queen (that would be Queen II) but it is certainly their most definitive. It’s where “Bohemian Rhapsody” originated, as well another big hit, “You’re My Best Friend.” It’s a fun album that helped get Queen more mainstream, and provided 12 timeless songs.

Battle of Los Angeles by Rage Against The Machine – Alternative Metal

While this might not be the best summary of Rage (their self-titled debut likely holds that title) it is without a doubt an incredible achievement. It blends the metal of the group’s first album with a new, alternative take, mixing in elements of hip hop and rap as well. The fiery music and classic riffs showcase the great amount of talent contained in the group. 

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd – Psychedelic Rock

I personally enjoy The Wall a bit more, but given the length and story behind it, new listeners will likely favor DSOTM — it’s overall a better introduction, as well as a very good album. Pink Floyd is another giant of the industry, and making a list of important albums and not including them would simply be a crime.

At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash – Country

I usually prefer the studio version of just about any song, which makes live albums a rarity for me. But one must acknowledge perhaps the greatest live album ever conceived: Cash’s performance at Folsom Prison. Don’t be scared away from the “country” label, as Johnny Cash is a good portal between worlds, providing some of the best songs of the genre without the tropes that make it disliked by many. Some of the famous cheers were added in post-production, but the great music isn’t canned, it’s all there. 

The Stranger by Billy Joel – Classic Rock

It’s hard to believe that so many of Joel’s hits originated from just one album, but alas, The Stranger contains “Only The Good Die Young,” “Just The Way You Are,” “Movin’ Out,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” and many more. Even the songs that weren’t released as singles — such as “The Stranger” or “Vienna” — are still incredible, and it’s peak Billy Joel performance.

good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar – Rap

Growing up surrounded by drugs, violence, and police brutality, Kendrick Lamar didn’t have an easy childhood. But the young Compton resident rose to success through his love, rap, and ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 2016 album Damn. Here, on his major label debut, he crafts a terrifying picture of life on the streets in 12 songs, capturing the essence of a life many can’t relate to and putting it in a chilling but understandable form. It’s a long, dark listen, but well worth the time spent.