Liturgy of Canonical Albums

Here are 160 albums that I consider to be important in my own personal music-listening history thus far. <– There is one sentence that was hard to write for some reason. I don’t want to say, “Here are my 160 favorite albums.” I don’t think that would be accurate. Besides, albums have to stand the test of time before they’re canonized.*

There’s a chance that there’s some stuff on my list that you’ve never heard of, because…well, because the albums are just projects by family members or friends; there’s also some stuff that might baffle you. Some of the artists were definitely “pop” at some point; some never were. Some of my selections were initially kind of embarrassing for me to put down (I won’t say which), but, alas, nostalgia and a certain je ne sais quois often commend strange things to one’s affection. Ultimately, I’m not embarrassed by any of my choices. De gustibus non disputandum.

The albums are alphabetized because I don’t want to pick favorites at the moment — this isn’t a bizarre coincidence of my tastes and the alphabet. Maybe later if I’m feeling inspired I will construct a “canon within a canon,” write detailed reviews, etc. In the meantime…these are my jams.

(Nota Bene: I forced myself to pick only one album per artist. For some reason. Whatever. What’s done is done.)

* Special shout-out goes to London Grammar, whose 2014 album If You Wait forced itself into the canon with incredible speed. It really is that good.


  1. ( ) by Sigur Ros
  2. 1 by The Black Heart Procession
  3. 9 Beats by Ratatat
  4. Absolution by Muse
  5. Adore by Smashing Pumpkins
  6. Alas I Cannot Swim by Laura Marling
  7. All Roads Lead To Old Roads by Husqvarna
  8. American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash
  9. Animal Boy by Matt The Electrician
  10. Anybody Out There by Burlap To Cashmere
  11. Ash Wednesday by Elvis Perkins
  12. Asleep In The Back by Elbow
  13. August And Everything After by Counting Crows
  14. Back In Black by AC/DC
  15. The Battle Of Los Angeles by Rage Against The Machine
  16. Befriended by The Innocence Mission
  17. The Bends by Radiohead
  18. Between The Breaks…Live! by Stan Rogers
  19. Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan
  20. Boc Maxima by Boards Of Canada
  21. Body Talk by Robyn
  22. Born In The UK by Badly Drawn Boy
  23. Born To Die by Lana Del Rey
  24. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
  25. Bringing Down The Horse by The Wallflowers
  26. Broken Bells by Broken Bells
  27. The Broken String by Bishop Allen
  28. Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits
  29. California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas
  30. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
  31. Challengers by The New Pornographers
  32. Childish Things by James McMurtry
  33. Comfort Eagle by Cake
  34. Complete Greatest Hits by Gordon Lightfoot
  35. Dangerous And Moving by t.A.T.u.
  36. Dead Ringer by RJD2
  37. Details by Frou Frou
  38. The Dirty Boogie by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
  39. Do You Believe In Magic? by The Lovin’ Spoonful
  40. Down The Road I Go by Travis Tritt
  41. Dummy by Portishead
  42. Early In The Morning by James Vincent McMorrow
  43. Echolocation by The Fruit Bats
  44. Either/Or by Elliot Smith
  45. Everyday by Dave Matthews Band
  46. Everything All The Time by Band Of Horses
  47. Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon
  48. Feeling Strangely Fine by Semisonic
  49. Fever Ray by Fever Ray
  50. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes
  51. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
  52. Ganging Up On The Sun by Guster
  53. Ghosts of the Great Highway by Sun Kil Moon
  54. Girls Can Tell by Spoon
  55. Golden Age Of Radio by Josh Ritter
  56. Grace by Jeff Buckley
  57. Gravity by Our Lady Peace
  58. The Greatest by Cat Power
  59. Grow Up And Blow Away by Metric
  60. Gulag Orkestar by Beirut
  61. Happiness & Disaster by Stabilo
  62. Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams
  63. Hello, Dear Wind by Page France
  64. Her Majesty The Decemberists by The Decemberists
  65. Heretic Pride by The Mountain Goats
  66. Hopes And Fears by Keane
  67. Hot Fuss by The Killers
  68. Hysteria by Def Leppard
  69. If You Wait by London Grammar
  70. If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle & Sebastian
  71. Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
  72. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
  73. In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson
  74. It’s All In Your Head by Eve 6
  75. IV by Led Zeppelin
  76. Joshua Tree by U2
  77. Junior by Röyksopp
  78. Keep Color by The Republic Tigers
  79. The Knot by Wye Oak
  80. Lenny by Lenny Kravitz
  81. Let Go by Nada Surf
  82. Let It Die by Feist
  83. Life For Rent by Dido
  84. The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit
  85. Living With Ghosts by Patti Griffin
  86. Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround by The Kinks
  87. The Man Who by Travis
  88. March 16–20, 1992 by Uncle Tupelo
  89. Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg & Wilco
  90. The Moon And Antarctica by Modest Mouse
  91. Musicforthemorningafter by Pete Yorn
  92. Myth by Beach House
  93. My One And Only Thrill by Melody Gardot
  94. Nasty Little Thoughts by Stroke 9
  95. Na Na Ni by Fredrik
  96. Nia by Blackalicious
  97. Noble Beast by Andrew Bird
  98. Odd Blood by Yeasayer
  99. Oh, Inverted World by The Shins
  100. Old Crow Medicine Show by Old Crow Medicine Show
  101. Ongiara by The Great Lake Swimmers
  102. Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
  103. Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron & Wine
  104. Out From The Darkness by Tyler Blanski
  105. Out Of The Vein by Third Eye Blind
  106. Parachutes by Coldplay
  107. Part II by Brad Paisley
  108. Pieces In A Modern Style by William Orbit
  109. Places For Breathing by Revis
  110. Plans by Death Cab For Cutie
  111. Plastic Beach by Gorillaz
  112. The Private Press by DJ Shadow
  113. Quiet Is The New Loud by Kings Of Convenience
  114. Rockin’ The Suburbs by Ben Folds
  115. Rodrigo y Gabriela by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  116. Room On Fire by The Strokes
  117. Rum, Sodomy, And The Lash by The Pogues
  118. Santogold by Santogold
  119. Say I Am You by The Weepies
  120. Science And Faith by The Script
  121. Sea Change by Beck
  122. Sidewalks by Matt & Kim
  123. Silent Shout by The Knife
  124. Slow Motion by David Gray
  125. Small Change by Tom Waits
  126. Some Cities by The Doves
  127. Songs From An American Movie, Vol. I: Learning How To Smile by Everclear
  128. Soul Journey by Gillian Welch
  129. Speak For Yourself by Imogen Heap
  130. The Stage Names by Okkervil River
  131. The Story by Brandi Carlile
  132. The Sun And The Moon by The Bravery
  133. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by The Byrds
  134. Take Offs And Landings by Rilo Kiley
  135. Talkie Walkie by Air
  136. Ten by Pearl Jam
  137. This Empty Northern Hemisphere by Gregory Alan Isakov
  138. Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt
  139. Travel Is Dangerous by Mogwai
  140. Trouble by Ray LaMontagne
  141. Urban Hymns by The Verve
  142. Use Your Voice by Mason Jennings
  143. Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
  144. Victory For The Comic Muse by The Divine Comedy
  145. Waiting For My Rocket To Come by Jason Mraz
  146. Waking Up by One Republic
  147. Walls by Apparat
  148. We Started Nothing by The Ting Tings
  149. Weezer (Blue) by Weezer
  150. Welcome To The Monkey House by The Dandy Warhols
  151. (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis
  152. The Will To Live by Ben Harper
  153. Winners Never Quit by Pedro The Lion
  154. Within And Without by Washed Out
  155. Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li
  156. Year Of Meteors by Laura Veirs
  157. The Yeomen by The Yeomen
  158. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips
  159. You Are All I See by Active Child
  160. Z by My Morning Jacket




  1. I have exactly 4 of these albums (if you give me 4 guesses, 2 of them will probably be right). I am somewhat familiar with about a dozen more. I am definitely the wrong Phillips brother to be commenting on this list.

  2. Oh wait, I guess I have five, thanks to Gareth.

  3. Eric has me beat. I used to have only one album, Bridge Over Troubled Water; an LP which I bought when I was in college. I’ve only heard of a few of the artists listed. Boy, do I lead a very restricted life! My CD collection is very eclectic but not much rock. I have a lot of original recordings from the Jazz Age and the Big Band era. I have two Rudy Vallee albums! In addition, I have Desi Arnaz and his orchestra as well as Chico Marx and, you may be surprised, Ozzie Nelson. And several Benny Goodman albums, whom (Goodman, not the albums, though that too) I had the privilege of meeting once back in the late 70’s. I too hesitate to call such “my favorites”. There was a time when music kept me alive, but not so much now. Most of the music I listen to today is in church. Though I sometimes get the bug to listen to Disco! Not that it’s all that great, mostly nostalgic. This is much more than you want to know, I’m sure. Don’t worry, I have an appointment with a neurologist who will subject me to examinations and probes to determine if I am experiencing the onset of senile dementia, or something like it.

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