Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
THE BEST 1,000 ALBUM EVER.
Here’s what it’s not
It’s NOT a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. I’m not qualified to do that. I’m not sure that anyone is.
This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my best 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style.
Speaking of, this is one of my favorite moments in that brilliant movie.
And while “ranking” stuff is an artificial construct, it’s also fun and from my perspective it’s entirely meant to:
Promote extraordinary music that you may not have heard before.
Or, maybe revisit stuff that you haven’t listened to in a long time. OR, and I know this happened to me countless times during this process: this list will compel you to get into the deeper cuts on albums where you’re familiar with some songs but not others.
Take “The Look,” by Roxette. Love or hate that song (and I dig it, for the record), many people of a certain age are familiar with the hookiest of hooks and she’s got the look. But have you listened to Look Sharp!, the album it’s from? It’s got… well, that’s the kind of thing I’ll get into with this project. And the hope is that you’ll get into it too, and if not perhaps you’ll get motivated to discover music that blows your mind as well.
Provoke discussion and debate.
“Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine is number X? I say balderdash and call shenanigans in equal measure!”
But seriously, lists are fun because they help prompt great discussions about the subjective nature of art. And while I approached creating and ranking this list with a near lethal degree of seriousness, it’s critical to note that this is simply MY list of what’s most important, most best-est if you will, to me.
And a huge part of the reason why I’m doing this is because I want to hear from YOU, about you agree with or – more importantly – what you don’t agree with. I’m wildly open to your opinions and, greedily(!), I hope that you blow my mind with new music and suggestions that I couldn’t come up with myself.
In a word: it’s about discovery.
How this here thing got started
In the midst of covid quarantine in the gloomy wilds of the pacific northwest (actually a very charming, sleepy neighborhood in Seattle, but I like the way “gloomy wilds” reads), I checked out Rolling Stone’s updated Greatest 500 Albums of All Time.
As I read through each entry, I started listening to the corresponding album on Spotify, making playlists as I went. And that got me to start thinking how I would re-rank that list if was granted some Benevolent Pop Cultural Dictatorship to do so.
When I finished reading the list, I started over again, and this time I took on consideration of whether each album would “qualify” for what I started to think of as “my list” at all.
Without thinking much about why or what the purpose was, I started jotting down notes on a Google spreadsheet about what I felt about each album. And that evolved into developing my own internal ranking system. And then that morphed into going deeper into the catalog of the artists that made that list. And, finally, I found myself digging, sifting, unearthing, and unpacking thousands of albums by artists across the musical spectrum.
The hunt was on for my best albums ever list, and at some point I realized that the number 500 wasn’t nearly enough.
Perhaps a tiny bit like Nigel Tufnel famously needed to go to 11 in This Is Spinal Tap, I needed to turn this thing up.
To 1,000, y’all.
How the Best 1,000 Albums Ever list evolved into its current form
As satisfying as coming up with a ranked list of my personal best 1,000 albums ever is – which took over nine months to put together, by the way – it wasn’t nearly enough.
First, I decided that each entry deserved its own full-blown article. To my knowledge, this has never been done before in a digital format.
But I also didn’t want to make each article a “straight” album review. There’s plenty of that out there already, for one, but more importantly I decided that I wanted to focus more on why each album is important to me. What does it make me feel, why is it exciting or compelling or moving?
And then equally important to me is the ability to pivot and write about things connected to each album, which could wildly range from the time and place I was when I first heard a particular album for the first time, to how a song’s usage in a TV show or movie was significant to me in some way, to further afield connection points to pop culture and the world at large. And wherever possible I’ll add personal anecdotes and memories.
To whit, this is literally an insanely unique, colossally ambitious project. I hope you enjoy the (rollercoaster) ride!
To get even nerdier, I became obsessed with newspaper opinion writing at an early age. Jimmy Breslin, Marvin Kitman, and especially Mike Lupica.
I particularly revered Lupica’s Sunday column (which he still writes to this day!). There would be one or two major topics relating to sports in his uniquely conversational and greatly enjoyable style, and then he would pivot into opinions about other things going on in the world, ranging from TV to politics to celebrating a birthday with his dad. This guy writes about more than the thing he’s “supposed” to write about, what’s up with that? Young me was floored by such a concept.
More about me
In addition to being a digital product manager by trade, I’ve written, edited, and published thousands of pop culture articles over the years, many of which focused on music and television. I helped run pop culture-centric blogging community Blogcritics back in the day, and more recently have written about pop culture, politics, and post-pandemic life in my newsletter, The Berlin Files.
In writing hundreds of thousands of words over many months for my newsletter, I realized that I’m most excited and most passionate when I’m able to use writing to pivot from something in the world – and music is particularly great for this – and make it personal and meaningful.
I hope that excitement shows in this project, and I truly hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.
If it gets you to revisit an album you haven’t listened to in a long time (maybe exploring some of the deeper cuts while you’re at it) or check out an artist that you haven’t heard of or has been on your “I should really get around to…” list, then I’ve done my job.
Bias and stuff I’m into
In a list of the best 1,000 albums ever written by one person, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of bias and personal proclivities, tastes, idiosyncrasies baked into the cake, so to speak.
I truly believe that great music can come out of any genre, and I think that this list reflects that. That being said, there’s absolutely a tilt toward the genres I deeply love and have been steeped in for decades – rock, punk, and hip hop, for example – versus those I’m not as innately gaga for (country, Top 40, reggaeton).
Tell me what you think!
As I mention above, this project is designed to provoke discovery in addition to entertaining you with words that I think up and then throw down in a specific order.
I want to know what you think, what should be on the list that’s not, and what you think should be higher and lower for reasons that will surely be absolutely valid and worth discussing. Hit me up anytime here.
Finally, this list by its very nature will need to EVOLVE
Even with the list of best 1,000 albums ever “completed,” I’m still discovering music all the time that is inevitably worthy of consideration. Which leads to the absolute need to do a revision of the list one day. And when I get there, part of the fun will be seeing how things land in the “revised” version (or versions!) versus the original.
But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the journey of going through (my version of!) the best 1,000 albums ever.