What makes an album stand out? Mostly it’s plain old talent and the knowledge to expel that talent. I mention this because of all the bands I’ll be covering today, they all have two things in common. One: They make damn fine music very consistently, but two, they also have great records that don’t get nearly as much attention as their best known works. Today we are discussing not only a band’s best known work, but also the albums that are arguably better than their biggest albums. Now, some of these are tough to call, and arguments could certainly be made, but among this list are ten all around great albums, and some are better than others, in my opinion. I hope you enjoy!
BEST KNOWN ALBUM: The Love Below/ Speakerboxxx
BEST ALBUM: Stankonia
While “The Love Below” and “Stankonia” are both very well known records, the big difference is transcendence. What I mean, is that while “Stank” was a huge success for the band, once the hooks of “Hey Ya” invaded our nation, the OutKast fever had surely taken off. Both are great, and while Stankonia has huge influences in hip hop, the best part of the record is the tendency to go above and beyond what normal rap music is. It’s varied, uplifting and fun to jam out to. The Love Below may have a few huge hits and high points, but it doesn’t have anything on “B.O.B.” and “Ms. Jackson.”
BEST KNOWN ALBUM: the Blue Album
BEST ALBUM: Pinkerton
Let me first just state that these two albums are pillars of my music loving mind. Both are excellent, albeit in different ways. The self titled record has all the hooks, random nerd mentions and full out surf rock you want from the band, but it’s there that the two records shift in sound. “Pinkerton” is far more dark and introspective than it’s predecessor, but for me at least it just has more feeling and emotion. It’s a record that tells the story of a real difficult time for someone, and when I get into albums, it’s those types of records that have a longer lasting impact. My advice would be to go for the Blue Album and all it’s joy and fun sprinkled with sadness, but stay for the autobiographical experience you get when you dive into “Pinkerton.”
BEST KNOWN ALBUM: Turn on the Bright Lights
BEST ALBUM: Antics
“Bright Lights” is such a good album that shocked everyone that the band could’ve went on making not so great albums after that and they would’ve been able to still live off their success. In some ways that’s exactly what Interpol has done, except of course for their amazingly solid second record “Antics.” That record is more focused and more rocking, but what gets me is the fact that everyone essentially discounted them after one truly great album, when in fact, it’s the first two records that deserve to be placed at the top of the band's best.
Nine Inch Nails
BEST KNOWN ALBUM:the Downward Spiral
BEST ALBUM: the Fragile
To put it bluntly, the success of “TDS” is the reason Reznor was able to take his time and create an immersive, nearly perfect listening experience. “Spiral” is chaotic, masochistic and violent in all the ways we’ve come to love the band, but “The Fragile” is something different entirely. Not only is it Reznor showcasing the world of nin in all its varied beauty and complexity, but at nearly two hours we are able to see nin really stretch their muscles and give us not only nin’s best all around work, but one of the more passed over and overlooked records of the late 90’s.
BEST KNOWN ALBUM:Nevermind
BEST ALBUM: In Utero
There’s a long shot that any band will catapult to the top of the heap with a single record again like Nirvana did with the insanely popular “Nevermind,” but by and large the subsequent, proper follow up actually does more for the overall essence of the band. Over the course of twelve richly crafted songs featuring themes of abandonment, settling for the wrong things, and corruption, Cobain, Grohl and Novoselic are able to take everything they learned from the previous record and make use it to make a record that’s angry, honest,and ultimately the last incredible record from a dying star.
Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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