Introducing Treble 100: A Series on Our All-Time Favorite Albums

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Treble 100 All-Time Favorite Albums

We’ve all been asked and answered some variation of the question at some point or another, at parties or in social media prompts, awkward first dates or possibly even job interviews: What are your desert island albums? In other words, identify the music that you couldn’t leave behind, were you to be exiled to some barren tropical locale with only—by some act of arbitrary benevolence—the limited entertainment of your choosing. Put simply, what are your all-time favorite albums?

The question isn’t meant to be taken literally—it’s just another way of asking someone about their favorite things. (Kind of like a Rorschach test with pop culture.) But one central truth is inescapable: For most of us, there’s no easy answer. In fact, the more music you listen to, the further you get from one. It leaves you to ponder riddles that, from an outside perspective, seem absurd, such as whether there’s a difference between the music you love the most and that which you consider the best? And how do you narrow it down to just the essentials? Or even, in the case of critic Langdon Winner, would you consider choosing an album like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica as your desert island album, not because it’s your favorite, but because the complexity of it means having no choice but to engage with it? It’s a fair point.

As Treble looks ahead to our twentieth anniversary later this year (deep sigh), we’ve been thinking a lot about the music that we, collectively, consider essential. We’ve compiled a lot of lists of the best music of certain eras: the 1970s, the 1980s and so on. But we’ve never made a list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, for reasons you might imagine: Attempting to rank a mere 100 (or 500 or whatever) of the objective best albums ever made in the history of popular music—though let’s be honest, we’re probably talking 70 years at most—is impossible, for far too many reasons to get into here. Not that others haven’t tried. Rolling Stone famously published their own list of the 500 Best Albums of All Time (and Treble’s Virginia Croft made her own journey through all 500 albums). Consequence of Sound ranked their own 100 picks recently as well with some markedly different results. And way back when, for the real heads who remember, Stylus (RIP) ranked the bottom 100 of their top 200 albums of all time and mostly wrote about why those albums didn’t rank higher—a fact that makes me mourn a much more fun era of the Internet that’s sadly long gone.

Instead, we came up with a related, but different concept: Treble 100. All year, we’ll be revealing 100 albums we consider our collective favorites. These are albums we wouldn’t leave behind if we were relocating to a desert island or simply walking to the corner store. These albums shaped how we listen to music—and in many cases, they helped shape who we are in ways that extend beyond simply listening. They’re gateway albums, eye-openers, revelations and comfort spins. Whether they’re the greatest albums of all time is a matter of perspective, but that’s not the point—they’re our 100 favorite albums, and as such we’ll be exploring each one in its own in-depth essay, each album revealed one at a time until we reach number one. It’s going to take a while, but we want each album to get its own space and attention. And I, for one, am excited about both writing and reading about every single one.

Some notes on the process of organizing Treble 100: We each voted on our favorite albums of all time, and compiled and ranked the final results. We ultimately went with one album per artist to allow a somewhat more diverse selection of records. The list is ranked, for the sake of showing where consensus aligns, but the order isn’t really that important—they’re all important, to us anyway, and if you were to be handed crates full of these 100 records, you could start anywhere you wanted. That said, we do love a bit of anticipation and suspense. Also, on that note: Some canonical essentials might end up ranked below recent favorites—don’t worry about that too much. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other, just that certain albums resonated a little bit more deeply with some of us than others. This isn’t an attempt at replacing or correcting a canon at all, really, just a project intended to highlight the records we love most.

There will be surprises. While it’s unlikely anyone’s cross-referencing where any of these sit on our best-of-decade or best-of-year lists (and some of them never have!), the goal here is different, and the hierarchy translates differently. Not to mention there are three generations of writers involved in the project, some whose lists feature items dating back well before they were born, and some whose mostly comprise contemporary favorites. And there are some definite wild cards. But no one era, genre or aesthetic dominates, and that makes it that much more interesting.

The series will kick off next week with number 100, and will keep going every few days or so, until we run out of albums or decide to do another 100 (there’s always more music). Because we didn’t exclude albums we’ve recently written about, a handful of recent features will be republished as part of the series, though the vast majority of these essays will be brand new. We’re also publishing about one per month via our Patreon—so if you aren’t already a subscriber, you’ll want to get in on that. (We also accept tips!) The rest of them will be published right here, and each entry will be linked below, so you can catch up on any that you might have missed. It’s a long process, though, so you take your time.

That said, we can’t wait to begin.

Buy these albums: Turntable Lab | Merchbar | Amazon

Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums included are chosen by our editors and contributors.

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treble 100 converge

100. Converge – Jane Doe

can ege bamyasi

99. Can – Ege Bamyasi

treble 100 little earthquakes

98. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

lonesome crowded west

97. Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West

Songs Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.

96. Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co.

zen arcade

95. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade

(Patreon exclusive)

Soundgarden Badmotorfinger

94. Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger

James Taylor JT

93. James Taylor – JT

arctic monkeys

92. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Thou Summit

91. Thou – Summit

carly rae jepsen emotion

90. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

all-time favorite albums baroness

89. Baroness – Blue Record

Taylor Swift Red

88. Taylor Swift – Red

broadcast haha sound all-time favorite albums

87. Broadcast – Haha Sound

J Dilla Donuts

86. J Dilla – Donuts

all-time favorite albums Dig Me Out

85. Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out

(Patreon exclusive)

talk talk spirit of eden

84. Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

Peter Gabriel So

83. Peter Gabriel – So

all-time favorite albums Jorge Ben Africa Brasil

82. Jorge Ben – África Brasil

squeeze east side story

81. Squeeze – East Side Story

Outkast Stankonia

80. Outkast – Stankonia

Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

79. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

(Patreon exclusive)

Sophie

78. SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Uninsides

PJ Harvey Rid of Me favorite albums of all-time

77. PJ Harvey – Rid of Me

paul simon graceland

76. Paul Simon – Graceland

favorite albums of all-time R.E.M. Automatic for the People

75. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

unknown pleasures

74. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

King Crimson Red

73. King Crimson – Red

Mastodon Blood Mountain

72. Mastodon – Blood Mountain

Portishead dummy

71. Portishead – Dummy

 Imperial Bedroom

70. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Imperial Bedroom

favorite albums of all-time Sonic Youth Daydream Nation

69. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

(Patreon exclusive)

massive attack mezzanine

68. Massive Attack – Mezzanine

67. M83 – Saturdays=Youth

Elliott Smith either or Hall of Fame 20th anniversary

66. Elliott Smith – either/or

george michael listen without prejudice

65. George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1

best hip-hop albums under 30 minutes Earl Sweatshirt

64. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

tom waits Rain Dogs

63. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique review

62. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

(Patreon exclusive)

joshua tree

61. U2 – The Joshua Tree

boards of canada

60. Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children

all-time favorite albums Rumours

59. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

all-time favorite albums John Prine

58. John Prine – John Prine

The National Boxer review

57. The National – Boxer

56. Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album

De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising review

55. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising

Low Double Negative

54. Low – Double Negative

best albums of the 60s Love

53. Love – Forever Changes

sound of silver

52. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

favorite albums of all time Fela Kuti Zombie

51. Fela Kuti – Zombie

all time favorite albums Deafheaven Sunbather

50. Deafheaven – Sunbather

(Patreon exclusive)

favorite all-time albums Black Sabbath Paranoid

49. Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power review

48. Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power

best albums of the 1980s Tears for Fears

47. Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair

all-time favorite albums nine inch nails

46. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Rage Against the Machine

45. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

xiu xiu ignore grief review

44. Scott Walker – The Drift

metallica

43. Metallica – Ride the Lightning

all-time favorite albums Townes Van Zandt

42. Townes Van Zandt – Townes Van Zandt

D'angelo Voodoo

41. D’Angelo – Voodoo

cocteau twins heaven or las vegas review

40. Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

(Patreon exclusive)

39. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?

38. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything?

best side-long tracks Charles Mingus

37. Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

best albums recorded by Steve Albini In Utero

36. Nirvana – In Utero

burial best songs of the 2000s

35. Burial – Untrue

34. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

Treble 100 - Born to Run

33. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run

32. Björk – Post

Southeastern

31. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

essential song pairs Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon

30. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

every Kraftwerk album rated The Man Machine

29. Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine

Nina Simone Pastel Blues

28. Nina Simone – Pastel Blues

Wilco yankee hotel foxtrot anniversary shows

27. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

26. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

(Patreon exclusive)

Joni Mitchell Blue at 50

25. Joni Mitchell – Blue

My Bloody Valentine Loveless review

24. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

young thug punk review

23. Frank Ocean – Blonde

best electronic albums of the 90s Violator

22. Depeche Mode – Violator

Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory review

21. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

best political albums Marvin Gaye

20. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Treble 100 - all-time favorite albums - London Calling

19. The Clash – London Calling

madvillainy

18. Madvillain – Madvillainy

(Patreon exclusive)

dj shadow endtroducing

17. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…

best winter albums Pink Moon

16. Nick Drake – Pink Moon

remain in light

15. Talking Heads – Remain In Light

14. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

best albums of the 1980s public enemy

13. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Kendrick Lamar new album

12. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

miles davis - in a silent way

11. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

10. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love

Wu-Tang Clan 36 Chambers staten island albums

9. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Stevie Wonder Innervisions review

8. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

best albums of the 1960s - Beatles - Revolver

7. The Beatles – Revolver

David Bowie - Low - Treble 100

6. David Bowie – Low

(Patreon Exclusive)


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View Comment (1)
  • 20 years. That’s 107 in music blog years. Congratulations and thank you for all that you have given us to think about and pointed us to listen to. I’m excited for this new series in a deeply irrational and unhealthy way.

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