Consequence of Sound recently celebrated it’s third birthday. For this momentous occasion we decided to have a momentous article - “Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums Ever”. In order to compile this list, every staffer at CoS had to produce a list of their 30 favorite albums. After that, the CEO, the President, and myself compiled the rest. It was definitely difficult. We considered albums’ influence, lasting relevance, and took into account the lists of the staff. Our goal was to make a list that was interesting and fun, something we could live with, which might be the most difficult part when it comes to these sort of things. No one will ever agree with someone else’s list - we’ve learned that from our past “Top Albums” articles. This list is far from perfect or definitive (there’s no such thing) and there’s not a one of us who wouldn’t change something on it, but it’s ours.
When I was making my top 30 list I was moving albums around on the floor, trying to wrap my head around the task and create an order that was, as I said before, something I “could live with”. In doing this I ended up pushing some of them back past the 30 mark, comparing what came before them, rearranging, etc. In order to really get a perspective on what I was doing and what I was going to submit to CoS as my top 30, a top 50 just sort of happened. Looking back at my own list there’s an awful lot I’d change, some things I forgot, some placement that I could debate with myself about, but I love these albums and I don’t give a damn what order they’re in. If you haven’t ever listened to any of them before, well, I can’t recommend them enough.
Included here are write-ups for the albums I had the opportunity to discuss on the final CoS list. Keeping these concise was a chore, I mean - they’re the best! It’s easy to overdo it. As a result some of the final write-ups had some serious trimming. These are my original write-ups in full.
50) Beck - Midnite Vultures
49) Pink Floyd - The Division Bell
48) George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
47) Power Station - The Power Station
46) Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
45) Robert Palmer - Clues
44) Steely Dan - Katy Lied
43) Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring
42) Yes - 90125
41) Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
40) Kate Bush - The Dreaming
39) Sigur Ros - ( )
38) Talking Heads - Fear of Music
For their first two albums, Talking Heads met with warm reception towards their quirky post modern songwriting, but it was with Fear of Music that they established themselves as art rock masterminds. By staying true to their punk and avant- garde beginnings, while progressing their sound with alternative rhythms and surreal yet accessible lyrics, Talking Heads crafted a powerful collection of songs ranging dramatically in scope and subject matter - paper to heaven, wartime to electric guitars. With the aid of Brian Eno, the band set out to make dark, dystopian disco music; the end result was a landmark collection of intellectual rock songs as cutting edge as anything hanging on a wall in the most revered modern art galleries.
Essential Tracks: “Cities”, “Life During Wartime”, “Air”, “I Zimbra”, “Heaven”
37) ABC - The Lexicon of Love
36) Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy
35) They Might Be Giants - Apollo 18
34) Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
33) Kansas - Kansas
32) Duran Duran - Rio
31) Kate Bush - The Sensual World
30) Genesis - A Trick of the Tail
29) David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
28) Electric Light Orchestra - Time
27) Crash Test Dummies - God Shuffled His Feet
26) The Beatles - Revolver
25) Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
24) Supertramp - Breakfast in America
23) The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
22) Simon & Garfunkle - Bridge Over Troubled Waters
21) The B-52s - Cosmic Thing
20) Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm
19) Yes - Fragile
18) David Bowie - Scary Monsters
17) The Beatles - Abbey Road
16) Radiohead - Kid A
15) The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
14) Devo - Duty Now For the Future
Duty Now For the Future doesn’t feature any songs about whipping, monkey men, or the illusion of a “beautiful world”, but the album is pure Devo. Duty Now is first and foremost a punk rock album, flirting lasciviously with the mysterious force that would become new wave, and was among the first rock albums from a major label to heavily feature synthesizers. Guitars and electronic instruments have never purred so sweetly together before or since. The album set precedents for how raw art house rock ‘n’ roll can be and how surrealist punk rock can get. Everything from the government to burger commercials are touched upon and many songs are steeped in sexual tension and masculine fury. Duty Now harbors the manic sensibilities of every underground comic ever published, with the cartoon horniness of Tex Avery’s Big Bad Wolf – pop art and punk rock’s plastic-wrapped bastard baby, a perfect specimen of devolution.
Essential Tracks: “Smart Patrol/ Mr. DNA”, “Clockout”, “Wiggly World”, “The Day My Baby Gave Me a a Surprize”
13) Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen has been called both the Pet Sounds of the 80s and one of the most perfect pop albums ever made – serious praise that it rightly deserves. The album is an example of incredible songwriting given the gift of likewise incredible and intelligent production, a once every planetary cycle happenstance. The tracks are written in a classical style, derived directly from the high water mark set by George Gershwin and Brian Wilson, but mimicking neither. Frontman and songwriter Paddy McAloon’s unique personality sines through in the lyrics laced with clever cynicism (“I hear you’ve got a new girlfriend. How’s the wife taking it?”) and heartfelt irreverence (“When the Angels’” spite towards Heaven for the murder of Marvin Gaye). Each song was handpicked from McAloon’s back catalog by producer and keyboardist Thomas Dolby, turning simple acoustic tracks into lavishly produced and timeless pop masterpieces.
Peter Gabriel’s two albums before So, both called Peter Gabriel, were landmark prog rock albums. On those albums, Gabriel used the latest music hardware to compose with sampled sounds as well as music and rhythms from cultures who’d never before been integrated into Western music. Gabriel was breaking breathtaking new ground, and with So he brought his sonic discoveries to the mainstream. So is a revolutionary pop album that overwhelms listeners with emotional and rhythmic songs drawing from the heart of the human experience. Case in point, the #1 song to play outside someone’s window, “In Your Eyes”. Gabriel’s voice and lyrics are raw and passionate with simple but overwhelmingly powerful imagery. African rhythms keep the song alive and away from the sappy path so many love songs tread, and the soaring vocals of Senegalese singer, Youssou N’Dour transcend language with pure celebration.
This theme of emotional, boundary-breaking, human communication permeates all of Gabriel’s works and is strongest in So, where it continues to touch the most people. When Gabriel screams “only love can make love” in “That Voice Again” even the most cynical listener can’t help but feel some tingle of truth. Tracks like “Red Rain”, “Mercy Street”, and “Don’t Give Up” (a duet with Kate Bush) operate on the opposite end of the spectrum, discussing vulnerability, weakness, and the chance to carry on. So even accommodates a couple avant-garde tracks such as the unnerving “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)” and the moody “This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)” written and performed with Laurie Anderson. And of course, everybody knows “Sledgehammer” and its outstanding music video. No heady concept there, just pure fun and a brilliant renvisioning of Motown soul. Depending on your state of mind when you listen to it, So will either leave you charged or worn-out. Either way, it’s a good feeling.
Essential Tracks: “Sledgehammer”, “Red Rain”, “This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)”, “In Your Eyes”
11) Genesis - Genesis
As both a prog rock band and a pop rock band, Genesis never produced anything short of incredible albums, but it’s when they straddle both genres equally that the band shows its greatest strengths. Genesis’ cusp period is the very definition of art-pop and no album evokes this more clearly than their 1983 self-titled album. Genesis is a tour de force of the Collins-era band at their most creative. Every facet of the band is represented - dark pulpy narratives like “Mama” and “Home by the Sea”, goofy but brilliant tracks like “Illegal Alien” and “Silver Rainbow”, and masculine pop hits “That’s All” and “Just a Job to Do”. The production is crisp and inspired, from the opening sound collage of “Illegal Alien”, to the mystical synth noises of “Silver Rainbow”, and the funky breakdowns of “Just a Job to Do”, every track is simple, honest, brilliance. In this day and age where every new act gets hung up on who they’re taking inspiration from and hope to sound like, it’s albums like this that listeners can turn to, to remind themselves what a truly original art pop album sounds like.
Essential Tracks: “Mama”, “Home by the Sea”, “Just a Job to Do”, “That’s All”
10) Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless
9) Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
8) The Pixies - Doolittle
7) The Beatles - The Beatles (The White Album)
6) Pink Floyd -The Wall
5) Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
4) Talking Heads - Remain In Light
3) The Who - Who’s Next?
2) Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
Before Hounds of Love, Kate Bush’s previous albums suggested that she was a brilliant and daring songwriter. Hounds revealed her to be a musical prophetess. A friend once asked me, “is it weird that I feel like Kate Bush is some sort of mystical being from another place - that she’s come here to teach us something?” I told him I’d always felt the same way. I think a lot of people do. Hounds is a musical achievement and a testament to Bush’s unprecedented dedication to crafting an album until it’s ready. It was entirely self-produced and composed in her own private studio space. Her seclusion caused rabid tabloid speculation and rumors only to be quickly silenced by Hounds release, knocking Madonna’s Like a Virgin out of the #1 slot in the UK charts.
Hounds of Love is an exaltation to light and darkness. It’s a practice in walking the tightrope between pop and experimental music. Just look at the titular track: the music and Bush’s passionate voice are wild with trembling beauty, amidst dark beats, threatening strings and lyrics that are both affectionate and sinister, with a chorus backed by vocals that mimic baying hounds. The song shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s perfect. One listen and you’re running through the woods, terrified but exhilarated, chased by a passion that leaves your heart soaring. Side A features five outstanding stand-alone songs, among them the landmark single “Running Up that Hill (A Deal With God)”, the heart-breaking “Cloudbusting”, and the chilling “Mother Stands for Comfort”. Side B is a mini concept album, called “The Ninth Wave”, which over seven songs, forms a seamless narrative depicting a shipwrecked woman’s dreams and hallucinations on a night adrift at sea. It is entirely possible that no one side of an album has ever been so singularly powerful. The complexity of “The Ninth Wave”’s production is staggering. “Waking the Witch” is a centerpiece to Bush’s brilliance at sound arrangement, with it’s strobing voices, and complex layering, it’s like witnessing an exorcism from the inside out. “Hello Earth” is backed by a haunting Georgian folk song and “Jig of Life” combines furious Celtic music with spoken words and fading voices. It’s an experience to say the least and it’s no wonder that Hounds of Love has inspired an expansive breadth of modern artists, everyone from Coldplay to Big Boi. From the opening, haunting chord of “Running Up That Hill” to the last hopeful string pluck of “Morning Fog”, Hounds of Love is a musical tapestry and a visionary album
Essential Tracks: “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, “Hounds of Love”, “Cloudbusting”, “The Ninth Wave”