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100 best rock albums of all time, according to critics

  • 100 best rock albums of all time, according to critics

    Driven by the success of the Byrds and the Beatles, the mid-1960s saw rock-and-roll evolve from mere dance music for youth to a bona fide form of art, according to Simon C. W. Reynolds, author of “Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock.” The development of the genre not only helped it to be taken more seriously by music fans—it created the opportunity for critics to share their opinions on albums with the world. Enter the birth of rock criticism. Magazines like Crawdaddy! and Rolling Stone elevated rock singers to the status of “seers and sages” who capture the zeitgeist in their lyrics and melodies.

    Life’s too short to spend time listening to bad music, and rock critics help listeners discover the best of the best. They act as gatekeepers, influencing what gets played on the radio (and nowadays, downloaded from streaming services), while simultaneously solidifying a musician’s “place in music history,” writes Kembrew McLeod in “One and a Half Stars: A Critique of Rock Criticism in North America.” And while critics might not always agree about a particular album, their aggregated reviews can give you a pretty good sense of the cream of the crop when it comes to music. It’s an ideal place to start if you’re looking for, say, fantastic rock albums from the last half-century.

    Stacker did just that when we compiled data from Metacritic on the best rock albums of all time, ranked by Metascore. Only albums with seven or more reviews were eligible. EPs, box sets, and compilations were not considered. Due to the availability of music review data, the list is skewed toward but not limited to the last three decades. Stacker also looked at reviews and musician interviews from Rolling Stone, Spin, Drowned in Sound, Pitchfork, The Guardian, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The A.V. Club, PopMatters, and Now Toronto to learn more about the albums.

    Did your favorite album make the cut? Click through to see the 100 best rock albums of all time, according to the critics.

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  • #100. 'The Futureheads' by The Futureheads

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.7
    - Release date: Oct. 26, 2004

    Even though The Futureheads don’t pay much attention to the typical verse-chorus-verse structure on their namesake album, it still boasts tons of irresistibly catchy songs, according to Sam Ubl of Pitchfork. Fans could play along with two songs from the album (“Hounds of Love” and “Decent Days and Nights”) through the video game Rock Band about six years after the tracks were first released.

  • #99. 'Feast of Wire' by Calexico

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.6
    - Release date: Feb. 18, 2003

    The rugged, mesmerizing desert sounds of the Southwest come alive in Calexico’s “Feast of Wire.” The album draws from a diverse array of musical influences including surf-rock, jazz, mariachi, and even field recordings to create “an exceptionally broad record,” writes Eric Swedlund of The A.V. Club.

  • #98. 'Black Sheep Boy' by Okkervil River

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.8
    - Release date: April 5, 2005

    Okkervil River was nearly at the point of giving up the year before they released “Black Sheep Boy.” Broke and living in a van, the indie-rock band channeled all their challenges into one last album, which was lauded by critics upon its release, according to Nina Corcoran of Consequence of Sound. Leader Will Sheff’s hyperliterary lyrics received particular praise from Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times.

  • #97. 'We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River' by Richmond Fontaine

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: tbd
    - Release date: Sept. 29, 2009

    Willy Vlautin, Richmond Fontaine’s lyricist and singer, uses his skills as a novelist to paint compelling portraits on “We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River.” While the alt-country rock record isn’t necessarily a sustained masterpiece, it has flashes of brilliance, writes David Gassmann of PopMatters.

  • #96. 'LCD Soundsystem' by LCD Soundsystem

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.0
    - Release date: Feb. 15, 2005

    LCD Soundsystem earned a Grammy nomination for their debut studio album. Neumu’s Tom Ridge wrote that the record retained “its maximum coolness” with a sound that can be described as “bare wires, exposed workings, pre-dissected for maximum accessibility.”

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  • #95. 'Sno Angel Like You' by Howe Gelb

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.3
    - Release date: March 21, 2006

    Howe Gelb recruited the help of a Canadian gospel choir Voices of Praise for “‘Sno Angel Like You.” However, it’s not a gospel album—the pop-rock record is “slippery, loose…hummable” with infectious tracks and sounds of gritty, rollicking blues, per Thom Jurek of AllMusic.

  • #94. 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' by The Go! Team

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.7
    - Release date: Sept. 13, 2004

    For their debut album “Thunder, Lightning, Strike,” The Go! Team captured ideas and samples on cassettes with a lo-fi four-track recorder and gave each one a “pretty trippy title,” some of which eventually named the finished track. The effect was like flipping between radio channels, helping the record take the #8 spot on Pitchfork’s list of top albums of 2004.

  • #93. 'You Forgot It in People' by Broken Social Scene

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.9
    - Release date: June 3, 2003

    Broken Social Scene recorded “endlessly replayable, perfect pop” tracks for their second studio album, according to Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork. The album’s airy spaciousness and dense, baroque instrumentation elevate it beyond an otherwise excellent pop album, though.

  • #92. 'Rings Around The World' by Super Furry Animals

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.7
    - Release date: March 19, 2002

    James Moore of Drowned in Sound describes Super Furry Animals’ fifth studio album as “essential,” with its dreamy, experimental, bizarre sound. The eclectic record, which incorporates everything from death metal to techno, was the first ever to be released simultaneously as both an audio album and DVD.

  • #91. 'The Decline of British Sea Power' by British Sea Power

    - Metascore: 86
    - User score: 8.8
    - Release date: Sept. 9, 2003

    While the name of the debut album by British Sea Power may have set low expectations, the unconventional album earned rave reviews from critics. It boasts a “provocative, post-punk sound” with intellectual complexity and inquisitive lyrics about Czech history and Russian literature, according to Rough Trade.

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