Modern Classic Albums Part 1: 100-91
What makes an album a “classic”? Does it have to be a certain number of years old? Does it have to have sold millions of copies? Are certain genres more likely to produce “classic” albums? Does it have to not be a Nickelback album? Well yes…yes it does.
For all the other questions though there isn’t really a definitive answer but here at Isolated Nation we’ve had a shot at our own definition. The album must be universally accepted as a great album by critics and the music listeners alike. And it must have been groundbreaking or outstanding from its genre.
Music lists are really dime a dozen. It seems that Rolling Stone and various other music mags release new lists of some sort every couple of weeks. It seems they get more and more specific with every list as well. “The 100 Best Bass Guitarists in Bands starting with the letter G who also have no hair and are over the age of 35 but not older than 45.”….or some shit like that. So we’ve kind of gone the other way. We’re going to present a list of the 100 greatest “Classic” albums of the last 23 years (since 1990), from any popular genre. No frills, no hidden subtitles and no further ado. I present the first part of Isolated Nation’s Modern Classic Albums list.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - FUTURESEX/LOVESOUNDS
Genre: Pop, Contemporary R n B
Description: Justin Timberlake is an undoubted A-list celebrity. Leading man material actor, a good dancer and performer and as this album showed, a much better than average pop artist. Not only did the album sell over 10 million copies but it actually contained some pretty impressive sounds and sublime production (thanks largely to hit maker Timberland). It may not be a patch on some of the albums higher up in this list but for an ex-*N SYNC member it’s pretty damn good.
Key Track: “Sexy Back” may have been the megahit from the album but it’s the smooth “What Goes Around…Comes Around” that stands out as pure pop genius.
MUSE – ABSOLUTION
Genre: Alternative Rock
Description: Muse are undoubtedly one of the biggest rock bands in the world. In 2007 they became the first band to sell out the massive Wembley Stadium. That was largely due to the huge success of sophomore album “Origin of Symmetry”, 2006’s “Black Holes and Revelations” and this 2003 cracker, “Absolution”. Centred on Matt Bellamy’s powerhouse voice and killer guitar talents they produced an album of bombastic proportions. Songs like “Stockholm Syndrome”, “Time is Running Out”, “Hysteria” and “Sing for Absolution” made this one of the biggest and most thrilling stadium rock albums of the new millennium.
Key Track: Possibly Muse’s heaviest ever single, “Stockholm Syndrome” showed off Muse at their absolute (pun intended) peak. Furious guitar and one catchy-ass melody made this song one of their best.
THE BLACK KEYS –EL CAMINO
Genre: Garage Rock, Blues Rock
Description: The Black Keys have been one of the most consistent rock bands since the turn of the millennium. Stellar albums such as 2004’s “Rubber Factory” and 2010’s “Brothers” were loved amongst fans and keen music listeners but it wasn’t until the release of this belter at the end of 2011 and the terrific hit single “Lonely Boy” that The Black Keys really blew up. Full of catchy riffs and choruses and wonderfully produced, its one of the finest rock albums of the 20teens.
Key Track: “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” may have been the songs that connected with the masses but the semi acoustic/semi rocker “Little Black Submarines” is a slice of blues rock heaven.
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – THE ’59 SOUND
Genre: Punk Rock
Description: The Gaslight Anthem are much better than your average 2000s punk band. Showcasing lyrics dripped in nostalgia, deceptively intricate instrumentation and Brian Fallon’s instantly recognisable croon, this album is the certainly the jewel in the band’s four album crown. “The ’59 Sound” is an album that feels like a throwback from the past. It sounds too sincere and too organic to be a modern punk rock record. And that’s exactly why it’s so fantastic.
Key Track: It’s incredibly difficult to pick a standout track from this amazingly consistent LP. The title track, “Great Expectations”, “Old White Lincoln” and “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” are all live favourites but it’s the hammering closer “The Backseat” that will stick with you long after the final chords are strum.
SLOWDIVE – SOUVLAKI
Genre: Shoegaze, Dream Pop
Description: My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” may be the most celebrated Shoegaze album of all time but this ethereal masterpiece is definitely a serious contender for second place. Slowdive’s second album is full of dreamy instrumentation and entrancing vocals. Isolated Nation doesn’t condone drug use but if we did, Souvlaki would be in the top five albums to listen to whilst spaced out of your brain.
Key Track: “When the Sun Hits” is an absolutely stunning track. Glorious intertwined guitar lines cascade into probably the most memorable chorus on the album. A must listen.
TIM HECKER – HARMONY IN ULTRAVIOLET
Genre: Ambient, Drone, Electronic
Description: The first album in our list from a slightly more unusual genre. Tim Hecker is a Canadian electronic artist that is held in extremely high regard in that field of music. This album is a major reason why. Confronting and frightening at times, unbelievably beautiful and soothing at others. It is amazing how noise can be moulded into something as moving and deep as this. A very different but wonderful listen. Good headphones are a must.
Key Track: Very difficult to single out a particular track as this album has its greatest impact as a full piece of work. “Chimeras” though is a particularly affecting.
NEUROSIS – THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD
Genre: Sludge Metal, Post-Metal
Description: Californian outfit Neurosis have had a long and successful career dealing in all things heavy. Starting out as a Hardcore band in the 80s they developed into a Sludge Metal (or so called Post-Metal) band after a couple of albums. Impossibly heavy and with more than a few industrial flavoured flourishes, “Through Silver in Blood” is one of their greatest albums in a back catalogue filled with great albums. Definitely one of metal’s most forward thinking and inventive bands of the last few decades.
Key Track: “Purify” is one of the most crushingly heavy songs on a crushingly heavy album. That makes it pretty damn heavy. However, they do find time to fit in some bagpipes towards the end of the track. That’s the magic of Neurosis.
THE ROOTS – THINGS FALL APART
Genre: East Coast Hip Hop, Conscious Hip Hop
Description: The Roots are one of the most respected and consistent hip hop collectives of the last 20 years. “Things Fall Apart” is a stunning hip-hop record. Dealing heavily with racism and a multitude of other issues, it comes across as an intelligent and meticulously planned piece of work. The quality of the vocal delivery is complemented brilliantly by the backing music; played almost entirely by real instruments. A landmark album in the genre.
Track Pick: “Adrenaline!” is the perfect example of what this album is all about. Catchy instrumentation (that piano…..DAMN!), razor sharp lyrics and excellent production. Well worth your time.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND – VAMPIRE WEEKEND
Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Rock
Description: Vampire Weekend are one of the most loved indie pop bands plying their trade today. Their self titled debut was greeted with very positive reviews and quickly attracted a legion of adoring fans. And it’s easy to see why. It’s filled with catchy and deceptively layered instrumentation, slightly quirky lyrics and pitch perfect pop styling.
Key Track: “A-Punk”, “Mansard Roof” and “Oxford
Comma” may have been the big singles off “Vampire Weekend” but it’s the extra
instrumental input on “M79” that
make it one of the tastiest tracks on the album.
MELVINS – HOUDINI
Genre: Sludge Rock, Stoner Rock, Grunge
Description: Melvins were one of the bands that got caught up in the grunge tidal wave at the beginning of the 90s. They were also probably the heaviest to be lumped into that category. Owing more to sludge and stoner rock than grunge this hard hitting but slightly uneven record showcased some of Melvins’ finest work. Songs like “Night Goat”, “Lizzy” and “Honey Bucket” rock hard. Oh so monstrously hard!
Key Track: “Night Goat” runs a very close second but the memorable “Goin’ Blind” takes the cake. It provides some of Melvins’ trademark humour mixed in with a sing-a-long chorus and fantastic guitars and drums.