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Shape Created with Sketch. The 40 best albums to listen to before you die Show all Chris Harvey. When Jerry Wexler signed the daughter of a violent, philandering preacher to Atlantic records, he "took her to church, sat her down at the piano, and let her be herself". The Queen of Soul gave herself the same space. Helen Brown.
Propulsive polyrhythms drive against the lyrical pleas for us to stop and take stock. Same as it ever was. The album that carried reggae music to the four corners of the Earth and made Bob Marley an international superstar also set the political tone for many artists to follow. Released outside of Jamaica by Island Records with guitar overdubs and ornamentation, the original Jamaican version is a stripped-down masterpiece. An unprecedented hours of studio experimentation saw George Martin and The Beatles looping, speeding, slowing and spooling tapes backwards to create a terrifically trippy new sound.
The album was also about an artist taking control over her own narrative, after releasing records that asked the audience — and the press — to like her. Millennials coming at this album can end up feeling like the guy who saw Hamlet and complained it was all quotations. Oh no. Oh no no no no no, no one ever did teen heartbreak quite like the Shangri-Las.
But the Shangri-Las sang with an ardour that was so streetwise, passionate and raw that it still reaches across more than half a century without losing any of its power. This compilation captures them at their early Sixties peak.
He may have come to rue his Ziggy Stardust character, but with it, Bowie transcended artists seeking authenticity via more mundane means. It was his most ambitious album — musically and thematically — that, like Prince, saw him unite his greatest strengths from previous works and pull off one of the great rock and roll albums without losing his sense of humour, or the wish to continue entertaining his fans. In their brief career, ended by the suicide of year-old singer Ian Curtis, Joy Division created two candidates for the best album by anyone ever.
Closer may be a final flowering, but Unknown Pleasures is more tonally consistent, utterly unlike anything before or since. The mood is an all-pervading ink-black darkness, but there is a spiritual force coming out of the grooves that is so far beyond pop or rock, it feels almost Dostoevskyan. Though her album, Blue, is usually chosen for these kinds of lists, Mitchell surpassed its silvery, heartbroken folk five years later with a record that found her confidently questioning its culturally conditioned expectations of womanhood.
The answer to whether Robyn could follow up the brilliance of her self-titled album came in a burst of releases in , the EPs Body Talk Pt 1, Pt 2 and Pt3, and this track effort, essentially a compilation album. Body Talk is simply jammed with great songs. Produced by Quincy Jones, the sophisticated disco funk nails the balance between tight, tendon-twanging grooves and liberated euphoria. Glitter ball magic. How good can rap get? This good. There are albums where the myth can transcend the music — not on Illmatic, where Nas vaulted himself into the ranks of the greatest MCs in , with an album that countless artists since have tried — and failed — to emulate.
Nas used the sounds of the densely-populated New York streets he grew up on. This is the album that changes everything. All electronic dance music starts here. Kind of Blue is unrepeatably cool. Recorded in just two eight-hour sessions, in which Morrison first played the songs to the assembled musicians then told them to do their own thing, Astral Weeks still feels as if it was made yesterday.
An unanswered prayer for a united and forgiving USA. It is the greatest articulation of his alchemic experiments with musical fusion — the sum of several projects Prince was working on during his most creatively fruitful year. Stitched together with the utmost care, as if he were writing a play with a beginning, a middle and an end, the album is a landmark in both pop and in art.
Caught in the psychological undertow of family trauma and all those commercial surf songs, year-old Brian Wilson had a panic attack and retreated to the studio to write this dreamlike series of songs whose structural tides washed them way beyond the preppy formulas of drugstore jukeboxes. Notes pinged from vibraphones and coke cans gleam in the strange, sad waves of bittersweet melody.
Weave a circle round her thrice… Joanna Newsom is dismissed by some as kookily faux-naif, but her second album, before she trained out the childlike quality from her voice, may be the most enchanted record ever made. This feels like the umpteenth episode of "Black Mirror" in which someone's digital soul becomes trapped outside his or her body.
This time the victim is pop star Ashley Miley Cyrus!
We like her , who ends up inside a robot toy owned by one of her adoring fans. A caper to reunite mind and body ensues, making this one of the funniest episodes of "Black Mirror. We recommend this episode, and all the ones that follow, with zero reservations. This episode has the best setup of any "Black Mirror," and seems poised to launch a savage critique of over-parenting. But it doesn't escalate as much as we expected it to, and can't quite live up to its brilliant concept. We think about this episode every time we ride an exercise bike, which probably isn't often enough.
This mean little story feels all the meaner because it's so easy to imagine it happening in real life. It's a perfect first episode, because there's no better test of whether "Black Mirror" is for you. Letitia Wright and Douglas Hodge counter the ugliness with some beautiful acting. Hey, Alexa: Is this episode just a stripped-down survival story?
Just asking. If Alfred Hitchcock had done a "Black Mirror" episode, it would go pretty much like this. A frosty blonde antihero Andrea Riseborough tries to outsmart a relentless insurance adjuster. A rodent gets involved. Sentiment-free, it's the most "Black Mirror" episode of "Black Mirror. No episode of "Black Mirror" will leave you feeling worse about humanity than this one. The ultimate prank is on you.
Oh, also? It could happen.
Similar things have already happened. And it's one of many episodes that remind us to never let anyone make a digital copy of your soul. By far the most ambitious "Black Mirror," "Bandersnatch" does something never before attempted in serious drama, using the "Choose Your Own Adventure" format to ask provocative questions about free will and power.
Part film, part video game, it's incredibly impressive, and builds a complicated, stunning alternate-reality that we're still navigating. The one flaw is that the lack of a consistent narrative makes it hard to completely engage with the characters. This is the episode that probably hits closest to home: We think about it every time we get in a Lyft or consider writing a negative Yelp review. As soon as it ended we tweeted how much we loved it, then waited to see if anyone would retweet us, and What's wrong with them?
What's wrong with us? What's wrong is very hard to explain, but it revolves around a video game obsession shared by her husband Anthony Mackie and his former roommate Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
This is one of the scariest episodes of "Black Mirror," because the fear of a relationship disintegrating is so well-grounded.