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  • Writer's pictureEvan

My Favourite Album Every Year, 1959-2024

Running Doombox Music for the past two years has expanded my palette for music more than I could have ever imagined. From discovering troves of classic albums that missed my radar to exploring the depths of modern underground music scenes, I have such a vivid understanding of the music world thanks to this website. To celebrate two years, this article will list my favourite album every year, from 1959 to 2024.

 


1959: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis [Modal Jazz]

 

The first jazz album I ever heard, Kind of Blue remains one of my favourites in the genre. Joined by legends like saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Bill Evans, this album is a star-studded classic where every musician works in perfect unison to build its intricate, stunning, melancholic atmosphere. Harbouring some of the best solos and most iconic melodies in jazz history, few albums come close to the heights of Kind of Blue.

 


1960: Giant Steps by John Coltrane [Hard Bop]

 

So many of Coltrane’s classics could have landed the list, but few are as iconic as Giant Steps. The genius of this LP is difficult to articulate, with the seamless chemistry between each band member capturing the improvisational magic that makes jazz so legendary. Every musician has their moment to shine, but they never sound as if they are competing for attention, but rather, they cooperate effortlessly, moving the music one way and then in the other, without a word of direction to guide them.


                                         

1961: Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet by Miles Davis Quintet [Hard Bop]

 

The fourth instalment in a series of sessions from the Miles Davis Quintet, Steamin’ perfectly encapsulates the high energy and creative chemistry that made the group so special. The rhythm section is bright and lively, bringing out a passion in the horn players as they provide meandering solos over the spirals of drum and piano. Although I would take the previous three instalments over Steamin’, there are too many highlights not to list this as my ’61 album of the year.

 


1962: Caravan by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers [Hard Bop]

 

Caravan is up there with Art Blakey’s finest albums, showcasing his prowess as a drummer and effortless ability as a bandleader. Joined by a star-studded group of musicians such as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, the LP is brimming with talent. Every song is a masterful display of what makes hard bop so enthralling, with hypnotic solos, exciting back-and-forth, and unforgettable arrangements from beginning to end.


 

1963: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus [Third Stream]

 

Few jazz albums are as loud, colourful, and impactful as this one. Embracing the sound of the third stream, Black Saint sees Mingus bring together the dramatic boom of big band with the elegance of baroque music, fusing styles new and old to deliver an ever-evolving jazz epic. With constant tempo changes, sporadic drum-work, and stunning horn solos, the listener is given no room to breathe, with every second of the LP crammed full of creativity.


 

1964: Out to Lunch by Eric Dolphy [Post-Bop & Free Jazz]

 

Out to Lunch is one of the messiest jazz albums I’ve ever heard, but equally, one of the most impressive. The players sound as if they are hitting random notes but simultaneously planning for every beat, working together to create a mesmerising haze of improvised passages. With Dolphy on the bass clarinet and Hutcherson on the vibraphone, the LP embodies a glittering, carefree sound quite unlike anything else in the genre. Its unpredictable style cannot be easily described, but that indescribable genius is what makes Out to Lunch so compelling.


 

1965: Pastel Blues by Nina Simone [Vocal Jazz]

 

A graceful crossover of jazz and soul, Pastel Blues sees Simone flex the strength of her vocals over a beautiful backdrop of chirping piano and meticulous double bass. The album is a gentle listen for the most part, comprised of classic soul tunes until the closer, “Sinnerman”, takes the LP in a whole new direction. The outro is a 10-minute build of abrasive jazz instrumentation, with a hypnotic piano melody, unrelenting hi-hats, and raw group vocals culminating in one of the most impactful tracks of the entire decade.

 


1966: Ascension by John Coltrane [Free Jazz]

 

The chaos of Ascension is what makes it so brilliant. There are brief moments of levity where the backing band quieten down for Coltrane to deliver a solo, but for the most part, the LP is an uncompromising dive into free jazz where every player sounds as if they want to sabotage one another’s performance. Screaming horns harmonise then contrast; the drums provide rhythm then actively distract from it. On paper, Ascension reads like a mess, but to the ear, it somehow works. Constantly switching from harmony to anarchy, Coltrane exemplifies everything that makes free jazz so unpalatable, but likewise, so incredible.



1967: The Doors by The Doors [Psychedelic Rock]

 

One of the grittiest, most explosive rock albums of the ‘60s. Ebbing and flowing from more atmospheric passages to abrasive crescendos, the band display their versatility with a dynamic batch of meticulously produced and passionately performed tracks. On one song, the blaring organs take centre stage; on the next, the thundering guitar takes the spotlight. Every tune has its own strengths, but what makes the LP so incredible is the chemistry between each member, playing furiously to build a wall of dense, harsh, and awe-inspiring sound.

 


1968: Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix [Psychedelic Rock]

 

Nothing can be said about Electric Ladyland that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. It’s perhaps the defining album in rock music; a landmark record where Hendrix fuses the gritty edge of ‘60s rock with the improv of the jazz scene, finding numerous ways to inject enchanting guitar solos and stunning instrumental passages between iconic choruses. Whether a two-minute intro or a 15-minute jam, every moment of Electric Ladyland is rock at its most expressive and captivating.

 


1969: Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes [Soul & Funk]

 

Drawing together elements of funk, rock, and soul, Isaac Hayes made a masterpiece with his sophomore album. Despite being only four tracks, Hayes tackles a range of sounds – and explores them in incredible depth – that most singers could only hope to accomplish across their entire career. The album starts with “Walk On By”, a cinematic 12-minute ballad bookended by some irresistibly funky guitar solos. Just as it starts on a high, the LP ends just as strong with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, a 19-minute storytelling cut with a triumphant climax more powerful than any other song released that decade.

 


1970: Curtis by Curtis Mayfield [Chicago Soul]

 

Acting as lead vocalist, writer, and producer, Curtis Mayfield asserted himself as a soul legend from the very beginning of his career. Curtis is an achievement in soul music, blending together the rich basslines of funk with the summery flair of the Chicago soul scene. Production aside, Mayfield is up there with the best singers of all time, delivering impassioned falsettos with a swagger that makes every note sound effortless and elegant. His smooth, luxurious voice matches perfectly with the warmth of the instrumentation, perfecting his sound on the first try.

 


1971: Hunky Dory by David Bowie [Folk Rock]

 

Far from my favourite Bowie album, Hunky Dory still stands as one of the singer’s most consistent efforts, joining together the poetic songwriting of Ziggy Stardust with the folk-inspired sound of Space Oddity. Unlike his later works which rely more heavily on loud, cinematic sounds, Hunky Dory has a distinctly simple and cheery soundscape, with Bowie often using no more than a piano and guitar as the backdrop for his colourful stories. His light-hearted, youthful vocals are infectious, hooking the listener on every word.

 


1972: Superfly by Curtis Mayfield [Chicago Soul]

 

Only two years after his phenomenal debut, Curtis Mayfield outdid himself on Superfly. Although soundtracks have a reputation for being inconsistent, half-baked efforts with only a few notable highlights, Superfly is an album so good it overshadows the film it was made for. With rich, cinematic strings, booming horns, and the insatiable funk Mayfield is known for, the album is soul at its very best, showing off the strongest performance and most intricate production of the singer’s career.



1973: Innervisions by Stevie Wonder [Soul & Funk]

 

Over fifty years on, Innervisions still sounds ahead of its time. Stevie Wonder is a mastermind in songwriting and production, and there is no better example than this LP – a tight, nine-track voyage into the world of funk and soul, taking the listener through upbeat jams as well as dark, foreboding ballads. Whether it be the strong grooves, the flashy synths, or even Wonder’s voice, every aspect of Innervisions is so masterfully crafted they could be listened in isolation and still leave the listener in awe.

 


1974: Get Up With It by Miles Davis [Jazz-Fusion]

 

Double albums are infamous for being bloated, directionless, and self-indulgent, but Get Up With It justifies every moment of its two-hour runtime. This jazz-fusion classic sees Miles Davis explore every nook and cranny of the genre, dedicating some tracks to ever-evolving solos, and others to crafting vast and vivid musical atmospheres. There are traces of rock, electro, and even ambient throughout, with Davis proving himself the most versatile and forward-thinking artist in jazz history.



1975: Mothership Connection by Parliament [P-Funk]

 

As I said in my beginner’s guide to funk, Mothership Connection is the perfect introduction to the colourful chaos of Parliament. The album plays out like a party wherein every attendant is a musician, with overwhelming layers of synths, bass, and drums drowning the listener in funk. The infectious refrains, iconic basslines, and unpredictable structures make Mothership Connection an otherworldly listen, hypnotising the listener with alien levels of catchiness.

 


1976: Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder [Soul]

 

Although it isn’t quite as tight and cohesive as Innervisions, Songs in the Key of Life remains a musical achievement and a staple in Stevie Wonder’s catalogue. A near-two-hour run of summery soul classics, the LP harbours some of the singer’s most joyous tunes, as well as his most politically-charged tracks. Well over a hundred musicians contributed to the album, and it shows, because few records in music history compare to the scope and intricacy of this soul essential.

 


1977: Low by David Bowie [Art Rock & Ambient]

 

One of many groundbreaking albums in Bowie’s catalogue, Low stands as one of his most ambitious and flawless efforts. The first half of the LP consists of quickfire rock songs with avant-garde production and meandering, conversational vocals from Bowie. After the uplifting instrumental “A New Career In a New Town”, Low takes a dark turn, transitioning out of rock and into ambient territory with a run of detailed and atmospheric highlights. Quick, dynamic, and effortlessly captivating, Low is undeniably my favourite album of ’77.

 


1978: Lanquidity by Sun Ra [Jazz-Fusion]

 

On Lanquidity, Sun Ra strikes a perfect balance between artistry and accessibility, combining elements of jazz-fusion and the avant-garde to create a record as catchy as it is unhinged. Wild, unrelenting solos are delivered over funky basslines and head-bopping rhythm sections, with layers of guitar and horns overwhelming the listener. As heavy as the LP can be, it never sounds messy, with the band cooperating so seamlessly that any section, however loud and layered, feels purposeful.

 


1979: Off the Wall by Michael Jackson [Disco]

 

From the production alone, Off the Wall is Michael Jackson’s best album. The insatiable grooves; the pulsing guitar; the endless layers of funk-laced percussion. Jackson glides over every intricate instrumental with his signature high-pitched, animated vocals, basking in the bright and disco-infused soundscape of the LP. From the slower, romantic cuts to the fast-paced party anthems, every minute of Off the Wall is packed with addictively catchy disco.

 


1980: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) by David Bowie [Art Rock]

 

Released between Bowie’s most experimental and most commercial eras, Scary Monsters holds an odd place in his catalogue, mixing together the eccentricity of Low with the easy-going grooves of Let’s Dance. There are dark, harsh moments like the prog-inspired roar of the title track; likewise, there are bright, uplifting tunes like the epic “Teenage Wildlife”. Bringing together his most harrowing and whimsical ideas, Scary Monsters is as dynamic as Bowie gets. 

 


1981: Discipline by King Crimson [New Wave & Prog Rock]

 

King Crimson have a catalogue full of boundary-pushing rock, but few records come close to the fast-paced excitement of Discipline. A step away from the progressive sound that brought them to fame, on Discipline, the group embrace the new wave, with stuttering electric guitar, animated performances, and electro-infused aesthetics bleeding into the chaotic rock of their style. It’s mesmerising, explosive, and a contender for best rock album of the ‘80s.

 


1982: The Dreaming by Kate Bush [Art Pop]

 

The Dreaming encapsulates everything that makes Kate Bush such a legendary musician. The strange, hyperanimated vocals; the rich, whimsical production; the abstract, deeply poetic writing. In every regard, The Dreaming is a songwriting achievement, packed with emotional ballads, off-the-wall experiments, and countless iconic tracks that show off Bush at her most uncompromisingly bizarre.

 


1983: Speaking In Tongues by Talking Heads [New Wave]

 

Across its nine tracks, Speaking In Tongues explores every avenue of new wave, from the funk-inspired grooves of “Burning Down the House” to the synth-laden glory of “This Must Be the Place”. Bringing together funk, rock, punk, and dance, the album is a melting pot of musical ideas glued together by David Byrne’s wild and impassioned performance. Every song is so catchy that, whenever the LP ends, I can’t help but rewind to the beginning again.



1984: Purple Rain by Prince [Pop Rock]

 

Prince’s most commercially successful album is also his best. Purple Rain is everything a soundtrack should be: cinematic in scale, grand in production, and breathtaking in its performances. The blend of Prince’s synth-laden R&B with more orchestral elements works perfectly, with the singer’s raw, emotive vocals made even more powerful by the waves of strings and guitar he sings over. Like Superfly, Purple Rain is a soundtrack so brilliant it’s easy to forget it was even made for a film.

 


1985: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush [Art Pop]

 

Unlike The Dreaming which basked in the darkest, most abstract elements of Kate Bush’s style, Hounds of Love is bright and whimsical. The elegant, baroque production complements the singer’s storybook-style lyricism, pulling the listener into a dazzling world of folklore and mythos where spiralling string sections and punching percussion parade the ears. Whether it be “Cloudbusting”, “The Big Sky”, or “Waking the Witch”, no song on Hounds of Love is less than perfect.



1986: The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths [Jangle Pop]

 

The opening track to The Queen Is Dead sums up everything brilliant about the album. The harrowing, moody singing from Morrissey; the driving grooves of jangling guitar; the rich wall of instrumentation, with elements ebbing and flowing in and out of earshot. The band create such a grim, downtrodden atmosphere, but within that deliver some of the catchiest tunes of the ‘80s, finding clever ways to turn their morbid thoughts and pessimism into hypnotic indie classics.

 


1987: Sign O the Times by Prince [Synth-Funk]

 

There are too many things to love about Sign O the Times to explain in a single paragraph. A love letter to funk and the culmination of everything up to that point in Prince’s career, the LP is a glamorous amalgamation of rock, soul, and dance. Prince’s vocals are as soulful as ever, shouting his way through every bass-heavy instrumental, fully embracing the danceable madness of Minneapolis sound.



1988: Follow the Leader by Eric B. & Rakim [East Coast Hip Hop]

 

Follow the Leader is the pinnacle of ‘80s hip hop. After perfecting the art of rhyme on Paid In Full, this album sees Rakim go even harder on the mic, with an onslaught of ferocious flows, complex rhyme schemes, and quotable bars in every tune. Delivering one of the best rapping performances of all time, no list of greatest rappers is complete without Rakim, in part due to the masterful verses he offers on this timeless classic.



1989: 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul [Jazz Rap]

 

More than anything, what makes 3 Feet High and Rising stand out is simply how fun it sounds. Plug 1 and Plug 2 bounce off each other with such natural chemistry, delivering feel-good performances that encourage the listener to zone out and bask in the childlike joy of the LP. Hundreds of samples are cut up and stitched together for the production, with layers of nuance hidden in every jazz-infused highlight.

 


1990: Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins [Dream Pop]

 

The sound of Heaven or Las Vegas is as undefined and ethereal as its album cover suggests. The whole record is a haze of sparkling guitar and deep bass, with Liz Fraser’s angelic vocals weaving in and out of the gorgeous instrumentals. Rarely does she sing in English – or in any language, for that matter – opting instead to hum and vocalise at random, following the emotion of the soundscape with her dreamy performance.

 


1991: The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest [Jazz Rap]

 

Countless hip hop classics dropped throughout the ‘90s, but for me, none can beat the jazz rap perfection of The Low End Theory. Chopping up vintage jazz and soul songs, Q-Tip and Ali inject rhythm into every sample-laden tune with some hard-hitting boom bap drums. Tip and Phife dominate every single beat, trading rhymes with a carefree energy that demands the listener bob their head and chant the words. Bringing together the liveliness of jazz, the colour of soul, and the punch of hip hop, The Low End Theory is the definition of a landmark album.

 


1992: Love Deluxe by Sade [Smooth Soul]

 

No one has a voice like Sade Adu. Her soft, silky vocals are the perfect fit for the delicate production on Love Deluxe, building on the jazz and soul of the band’s past ventures with some of their most dense and atmospheric production yet. Every song feels so languid and serene, made more peaceful by the gentle signing from Sade herself, whose elegant vocal-work elevates Love Deluxe to an essential of the genre.

 


1993: Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest [Jazz Rap]

 

On Midnight Marauders, the Tribe take the vibrance and energy that made The Low End Theory so magical, and amplify it. Every bassline is impossibly funky; every sample chop is sharp and precise; every verse is filled with witty quotables. This jazz rap classic is as good as hip hop gets, with each song acting as a perfect example of what rap music should be. With memorable verses and gorgeous production front to back, Midnight Marauders is yet another jazz rap masterpiece from Tribe.



1994: Illmatic by Nas [Boom Bap]

 

Illmatic is the hip hop equivalent to Electric Ladyland or Kind of Blue; the type of landmark album so core to the genre and so heavily revered that it feels redundant trying to describe what makes it so good. Illmatic has everything – iconic verses, booming beats, a tight 10-track runtime. On his first try, Nas crafted an album few rappers have ever come close to matching. From his flows to his rhymes to his ear for incredible beats, Illmatic is unimpeachable.

 


1995: Liquid Swords by GZA [Boom Bap]

 

So many Wu-Tang albums could have made this list, but above all others, Liquid Swords is my absolute favourite. Among the grittiest rap albums ever made, the production from RZA is otherworldly, with the beatmaker crafting such an icy, desolate atmosphere for GZA to unleash a plethora of wordplay-laden verses. GZA is in the upper echelon of lyricists, juggling metaphors, alliteration, and all other kinds of poetic technique to complement his complex rhymes.

 


1996: Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z [East Coast Hip Hop]

 

Rivalling the likes of Nas and Biggie Smalls for the best debut in rap history, Reasonable Doubt is the perfect introduction to the braggadocious glamour of Jay-Z’s music. Rapping about opulence and status in the East Coast, the luxurious production matches the rapper’s lyrics, with elegant piano samples and gorgeous jazz chops glued together as the dazzling foundation for this New York classic.

 


1997: The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson [R&B & Neo-Soul]

 

The Velvet Rope is a mishmash of clashing ideas that should not work together, but somehow, coalesce to form an eclectic masterclass in R&B. There are more standard R&B cuts here and there, but between them are flickers of neo-soul, dance, and even trip hop, with Janet gracing every tune with her intimate, whispery performance. She hops across a dozen genres and masters every one, giving the album a strong sense of cohesion thanks to her consistent vocals and the unwavering quality of every track.



1998: Is This Real by Sunship [2-Step Garage]

 

Electronic music is difficult to get wrong, but rarely is it as addictive as Is This Real. An underrated classic in 2-Step garage, Sunship takes the fast-paced rhythms that define garage and injects them with soul, weaving hypnotic R&B samples into every danceable drum pattern. Elements are gently added and removed from the mix, teasing the listener with a powerful crescendo then stripping the beat back just to build it up again. As soon as it ends, it feels wrong not to play it again immediately.

 


1999: Prima Edizione by Todd Edwards [UK Garage]

 

Dance music does not get better than Prima Edizione. A lengthy exercise in UK garage, the album sees sample-flipping pioneer Todd Edwards flex his talents as a DJ, cutting up vocals and rearranging the pieces to flow over every mesmerising drumbeat. Dissecting old songs and gluing together clips from unrelated artists, Prima Edizione is a masterclass in sample-work where Edwards packs overwhelming levels of detail into every cut, while never sacrificing the danceability.



2000: Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu [Neo-Soul]

 

Released at the height of the neo-soul movement, Mama’s Gun is the greatest album the genre has to offer. Erykah Badu is an incredible singer whose silky, playful presence on the mic adds so much depth and emotion to the music. Although the production can be understated, there is an incredible level of nuance buried underneath, with seamless transitions and subtle recurring motifs making every moment feel cohesive and purposeful.

 


2001: Discovery by Daft Punk [French House]

 

One of my all-time favourites, Discovery deserves every modicum of praise it receives. Like Prima Edizione, the LP is a sample-chopping achievement where songs are cut up, rearranged, and remixed until they are unrecognisable. All these complex samples are then woven together into a batch of groovy French house tracks, combining the driving grooves of disco with the thudding repetition of classic dance music. From iconic pop songs like “One More Time” to more standard French house cuts like “Superheroes”, every song is its own masterwork.

 


2002: Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age [Stoner Rock]

 

A brutal adventure into the world of stoner rock, Queens of the Stone Age defined themselves as rock legends with this monumental release. The guitar riffs are heavy and raw, leaning into grunge territory; the soundscapes can be dreamy or nightmarish, mesmerising the listener in a ripple of psychedelic aesthetics. On top of all that, Josh Homme provides a brilliantly moody performance, whose grim vocals fit right in with the despairing instrumentation.

 


2003: Vaudeville Villain by Viktor Vaughn [Abstract Hip Hop]

 

Storytelling has always been a fundamental aspect of hip hop, but no album does it better than Vaudeville Villain. Having previously dropped albums under the maniacal persona MF DOOM, this album sees the rapper adopt a new name, transforming into the villainous hoodlum Viktor Vaughn. From his brash, childish lyrics to his youthful delivery, DOOM allows the character to take over his performance, rapping over the icy production with the most dynamic flows and most animated verses of his career.

 


2004: Madvillainy by Madvillain [Abstract Hip Hop]

 

A one-of-a-kind collaboration and another landmark in rap music, Madvillainy has earned its reputation as a hip hop essential. DOOM is a natural lyricist, cramming dozens of rhymes into every verse while maintaining a strong sense of wordplay and humour. His husky-voiced verses match well to the gloomy, gritty soundscape created by producer Madlib, whose sample-chopping talents rival that of DJ Premier and Daft Punk.

 


2005: Illinois by Sufjan Stevens [Folk]

 

Perhaps the most beautiful album I have ever heard, Illinois is equal parts uplifting and despairing. The instrumentation is grandiose and graceful; gorgeous strings swell into awe-inspiring crescendos, building a cinematic backdrop to contrast Sufjan’s fragile, melancholic vocals. His writing works in stark contrast to the production, telling tragic tales of loss and pain with the heavenly music to lessen the blow of his poignant words.

 


2006: Donuts by J Dilla [Instrumental Hip Hop]

 

Every producer in hip hop history knows how to sample, but no producer has come close to what J Dilla achieved on Donuts. On the album, Dilla dices up samples and mixes them together into a misshapen jigsaw of sounds, finding clever ways to link unrelated vocal chops together with a drum pattern that makes every beat sound smooth and natural. With slick transitions between tracks, an abundance of energetic highlights, and some of the sharpest sample-work in music history, Donuts is an essential for any kind of music fan.

 


2007: Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem [Dance-Punk]

 

Sound of Silver is an entrancing fusion of generations of music. The animated, barking vocals draw from early punk; the prominent synth-work borrows from the world of electronica; the intricate percussion takes the grooves of dance music and injects them with the punch of rock. Few bands are as dynamic as LCD Soundsystem, who use Sound of Silver to show off the inhuman levels of detail and vibrance they can pack into a single song. Whether it’s the electro-driven banger “North American Scum” or the subtle progression of ambient sounds on the title track, each song is filled with little details you might not pick up on until the hundredth listen.

 


2008: Third by Portishead [Electronic]

 

Most electronic music is groovy, danceable, and energetic, but Portishead strip all of that away on Third. What remains is a stark and desolate album where Beth Gibbons’s haunting vocals drift through ethereal synth passages and disjointed drum patterns. Between the more relaxed cuts are violent eruptions of electronic noise where harsh synths and brutal percussion break through, but Gibbons’s performance remains eerily subdued, allowing the hectic buzz of sounds to wash over her voice.

 


2009: Axe to Fall by Converge [Metalcore]

 

To call Axe to Fall a brutal album would be a severe understatement, because the rage captured on this LP is something no written word can do justice. Converge bombard the ears with some battering drums, growling guitars, and ear-shattering, screamed vocals. Prominent guitar riffs run through multiple tracks, mutating in shape and sound to fit the shifting emotion in Jacob’s furious performance. Whenever there is a moment of silence, the band trick you into thinking it’s a chance to breathe, only to ambush the listener with another onslaught of unrelenting noise.

 


2010: This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem [Dance-Punk]

 

This Is Happening is an electro-infused evolution of Sound of Silver, relishing in the slow-burn, delicate builds of instrumentation that made their last LP so memorable. There are a few standard indie bangers here and there, but the lengthy electronic cuts are where the album truly shines, with James Murphy delivering a moody performance as layers of bass and synths slowly swell beneath his voice. It may not be as instantly gratifying as the band’s former efforts, but the patient song structure makes the climaxes all the more satisfying.

 


2011: XXX by Danny Brown [Hardcore Hip Hop]

 

Danny Brown’s style might turn away a lot of rap fans, but he offers everything I want in hip hop. His voice is manic and unhinged, dominating every bombastic instrumental with gruesome bars and hilarious one-liners. But behind the party-centric persona are hints of sadness and tragedy, with Brown’s emotion bleeding through on more laidback cuts like “Party All the Time” and “Die Like a Rockstar”. Some songs play out like crowd-moving anthems while others are almost a cry for help, making XXX an equally catchy and devastating listen.

 


2012: The Money Store by Death Grips [Industrial Hip Hop]

 

The first time I heard The Money Store, I could not tolerate it; a hundred listens later, it stands as one of my favourite albums of the past decade. Death Grips have such a talent for fusing genres, using hip hop as the record’s foundation and tossing in elements of industrial, punk, and rock. Through the blaring synths and earthquaking drums, Ride permeates through every dense instrumental with an aggressive flow, a demanding presence, and some mesmerizingly cryptic lyrics.

 


2013: …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age [Alternative Rock]

 

There are thousands of albums centred around death, but none feel quite as devastating as this one. Lead singer Josh Homme died on the operating table but somehow made a recovery, with his closeness to death bringing on feelings of purposelessness, isolation, and depression. Those horrid feelings are reflected in the music – a melancholic selection of alt rock bangers where Homme wades through his darkest memories to find purpose in life again.

 


2014: Black Messiah by D’Angelo [Neo-Soul]

 

Fourteen years after his last album, D’Angelo made his triumphant return with a modern-day soul masterpiece. Unlike his previous efforts which lean into a more laidback, smooth brand of soul, Black Messiah is as maximalist as can be, with a booming brass band, distorted vocals, and thundering percussion throughout. Harbouring some of his most political and personal writing ever, D’Angelo outdid himself on all fronts for Black Messiah.

 


2015: To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar [Jazz Rap]

 

To Pimp a Butterfly has been overanalysed to the point that nothing new can be said about it. From its lively funk production to Kendrick’s deeply poetic writing, every aspect of the LP has been praised to death, making any review seem redundant since the album’s quality is viewed more as common knowledge than a matter of opinion. That being said, I will never tire of praising To Pimp a Butterfly, because every time I listen, I discover new reasons to adore it. The production is delicately layered, drawing inspiration from the dense jams of Parliament and the driving grooves of James Brown. In his performance, K-Dot floats over every instrumental, offering a limitless supply of flows and some of the best written verses in rap history.

 


2016: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service by A Tribe Called Quest [Jazz Rap]

 

For a long time, I considered this my favourite album, and it still ranks among the best I’ve ever heard. On the final Tribe record, the group revive that classic brand of jazz rap that brought them to fame, bringing in a host of hip hop legends to share the mic and bask in the vintage sound. The group bring in old friends as well as new faces, using the LP as a tribute to Phife, a celebration of hip hop, and a passing of the torch to the next generation of MCs.  

 


2017: Antisocialites by Alvvays [Indie Pop]

 

The music industry is saturated with indie bands who blend together without a unique sound, but Alvvays are a fantastic exception. Their style is bright and colourful, with whimsical synth passages weaving through layers of upbeat guitar and head-bopping drums. As lead singer, Molly Rankin feeds into the feel-good atmosphere with some eccentric lyrics and a playful flair to her performance. Antisocialites may not be groundbreaking for the genre, but the album sees Alvvays embrace and perfect their summery brand of indie pop.

 


2018: Be the Cowboy by Mitski [Art Pop]

 

On Be the Cowboy, Mitski blends together the blare of electronica with the roar of rock music – a pairing that seems questionable in principle but sounds phenomenal in practice. Proving herself a modern songwriting legend, she sings poetic stanzas over a mishmash of synths, horns, and guitar riffs, with her calm, understated tone creating a sense of order for the listener, despite the chaos of the ever-evolving production.

 


2019: Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood [Art Pop]

 

Weyes Blood has a voice so soothing that, if Titanic Rising were an acapella record, it would still be my favourite of 2019. Her deep, powerful voice pairs well with the baroque production, harmonising with violins which swell to match every beautiful note she hits. The lyricism is deeply poetic, dissecting all the joy and despair that comes with love, embracing the melancholy with a set of songs as beautiful as they can be dejected. Motifs echo from track to track; songs transition seamlessly; the intro foreshadows the outro, tying together the album as a cohesive masterpiece.

 


2020: What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware [Dance-Pop]

 

I have always loved pop music, but never has an album blown me away like What’s Your Pleasure? did back in 2020. Jessie Ware is a mastermind when it comes to crafting catchy tunes, turning every love song into a fresh experience thanks to her natural prowess for mesmerising melodies and earworm choruses. Her presence is soft and seductive, whispering her lines with an intimacy that adds passion and depth to every romantic highlight. The production resurrects the insatiable grooves of ‘80s disco and embellishes them with flashes of dance and R&B, making every instrumental as catchy and alluring as her vocals.

 


2021: Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay [Synthpop]

 

My very first article on Doombox Music was a review for Mercurial World, and two years later, I still obsess over the synth-laden beauty of this modern pop classic. On vocals, Mica offers a gentle and laidback performance, whispering her colourful lyrics while the production blossoms around her. In charge of the instrumentation is Matthew, who carefully pieces together booming basslines and prominent synth-lines to add vibrance to every track and power to each word Mica utters. The duo complement each other so well, with the bombastic synthpop production working in stark contrast to Mica’s performance, striking a fine balance between sounds minimalist and maximalist.

 


2022: Aethiopes by billy woods [Abstract Hip Hop]

 

As Aethiopes begins, a distorted piano melody pulls the listener in before woods delivers his first verse: a lengthy stanza loaded with vivid imagery and despairing introspection. The intro serves as a teaser for the entire LP, exploring themes of African culture and societal dissonance over a backing of eerie piano, tribal drums, and screaming horns. No hip hop album is as immersive as Aethiopes, a modern masterwork where woods brings you into his mind and bombards you with every loose thought and looming worry that plagues him.

 


2023: That! Feels Good! by Jessie Ware [Dance-Pop]

 

Building on the disco revival of What’s Your Pleasure?, the latest effort from Jessie Ware is even more groovy, danceable, and sensual than her last. Rather than whispering intimately into the mic, she belts her voice through waves of horns, bass, and strings, shouting about every sexual desire and begging the listener to dance along. In 10 tight tracks, she delivers a batch of songs even catchier than the last, with that added charisma making every verse and chorus addictive to the ear. Of all the fantastic albums to release in 2023, from the moment I heard it, I knew nothing would top That! Feels Good!

 


2024: Prelude to Ecstasy by The Last Dinner Party [Pop Rock]

 

So far, no album in 2024 has amazed me like the debut record from The Last Dinner Party. The band seamlessly weave together traditional rock elements with an orchestral flair, building on the foundations of glam rock pioneered by Bowie in the ’70s. The themes of empowerment and societal disillusionment are made more impactful by the roar of guitar and crash of drums under Abigail’s operatic vocals. There are showstopping ballads as well as playful bangers, with the band searching every avenue of the genre to define their brash, cinematic style.

 

Thank you for supporting Doombox Music for two whole years!

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