7.) Sound of Silver-LCD Soundsystem
If David Bowie and David Byrne traveled back to the year 1979 and gave birth to a child, they would have James Murphy. Murphy, LCD's central man, has an extraordinary, god-given ability to fuse dance music, rock, new wave and punk into epic compositions of sound and rhythm. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than on 2007's Sound of Silver, LCD's best album to date and one of modern electronic music's true masterpieces.
What ultimately defines this album is the way Murphy layers his music, creating a sense of progressive build-up during songs and allowing them to remain fresh and exhilarating after multiple listens. The development of "All My Friends" from a simple, uneven piano chord to a massive wall of sound is simply thrilling. And "Someone Great," possibly my favorite song of the new millennium, beautifully balances Murphy's personal lyrics of love and loss with an extraordinary blend of distorted sound and pulsing beats. Speaking of Bowie.....
6.) Station to Station-David Bowie
Picking my favorite David Bowie album is always tough, and for good reason. There are just so many reincarnations of the man that pretty much defines the phrase "musical chameleon." You have your glam Bowie (Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane), your poppy folk Bowie (Hunky Dory), your Philly soul Bowie (Young Americans), and your new wave, Berlin Trilogy Bowie (Low, "Heroes," Lodger).
But if you asked me today, I would pick Station to Station. It's Bowie's single album as the Thin White Duke, the drug-fueled crooner who fused funk and soul with new wave influences that would surface further on his future work. What makes Station to Station so remarkable to me is actually its general ambiguity; you never get a genuine feel for who the man behind the music really is. On upbeat tracks like "Golden Years" and "Stay," Bowie sounds almost robotic or artificial, creating a sharp contrast between the vocals and music. Then, on a track like "Wild Is The Wind," we hear Bowie in his most human state, singing lines like "Give me more than one caress, satisfy this hungriness" with a deeply tragic and mortal tone in his voice. Station to Station may not be Bowie's most celebrated work, but it may be his most representative, epitomizing one of rock's most mysterious figures.
5.) Purple Rain-Prince
Prince seems to get a bad rap from the under-30 crowd today. Today, he produces mediocre albums, on which he tries and fails to emulate Jimi Hendrix. Today, he refuses to allow his videos onto YouTube and criticizes, of all things, the Internet. Today, his apparent fondness for Jehovah's witness has stripped all the fun and authenticity out of his music. But back in the day, Prince was, arguably, the most brilliant musician alive.
And Purple Rain is his magnum opus, a collection of music that sounds both timeless and representative of '80s pop music. Purple Rain revolves around its center point, "When Doves Cry," a song both brilliantly innovative (a dance song with no bass line) and widely popular (top-selling single of 1984). But what makes Purple Rain so special to me is the specific moments that remain as beautiful and powerful as, well, pretty much anything you'll hear anywhere. Prince's haunting screams of "I want you!" in the last minute of "The Beautiful Ones;" the extended guitar solo during the second half of "Purple Rain;" when Prince screams "Niiiikkkkkiiiiiii!!" at the 2:23 point on "Darling Nikki." Front to back, Purple Rain is as emotionally powerful and captivating as any pop album ever produced. As Charlie Murphy once said, "That cat could ball, man."