21 albums all music lovers should own on vinyl

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21 albums all music lovers should own on vinyl

Words by Tammy Walters

Considering starting or extending your vinyl collection? 

With our friends at Discrepancy Records we’ve made the art of awe-inspiring wax curation a breeze. From genre-defining groundwork to the modern classic, here are 21 albums that must be owned on vinyl:

1. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

Amy Winehouse was an old soul drawn to the warmth, complexity and passion of Big Band, jazz and soul foundations possessed by the likes of Tony Bennett. In 2006, Winehouse resurrected the sound and charm of yesteryear with her sophomore album, Back To Black. Pressed in wax, this album and her voice truly come alive.

2. Aretha Franklin – Aretha

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s self-titled album, with cover image by Andy Warhol, extends her intersection of gospel and rock‘n’roll while introducing R&B for what she cites as one of her favourite albums. She serenades and mesmerises with her powerful vocals across tracks like ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, and ‘If You Need My Love Tonight’.

3. The Beatles – Abbey Road

From near break-up to boundary-pushing genius, Abbey Road is a faultless songwriting, production, arrangement and mixing masterclass that is indisputably one of the greatest albums ever written. The Fab Four’s experimentation with composition and harmony is a celebration of The Beatles’ range and of the non-existent parameters of their music.

4. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars made way for introduction to a sci-fi rock opera universe and the eponymous character, David Bowie’s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. Opening discussions around identity, sexuality, drug use and political propaganda, the ’72 concept album is heralded for being bold and unapologetic.

5. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

‘Dreams’, ‘Go Your Own Way’, ‘The Chain’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Don’t Stop’ – that’s just half of the monumental eleventh studio album by Fleetwood Mac. Turmoil, hurt and betrayal seep from the album’s seams, weaving through glorious highs and shattering lows. The six-best-selling album of all time has recently had a resurgence thanks to TikTok.

6. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Endearing, invigorating, masterful – Blonde offers an understanding of the enigmatic Frank Ocean through honest, intense emotions and inescapable storytelling depths. Adopting minimalism between shape-shifting structures and artful experimentation, Blonde breaks expectations of racial pigeonholing in music in a hauntingly beautiful showcase of raw talent.    

7. Harry Styles – Fine Line

One Direction who?! Harry Styles further sheds his boy band image with his second solo album, Fine Line. Styles exudes confidence through clever lyricism and careful handling, projecting both a rockstar and gentlemanly image as he contests toxic masculinity. With nods to a ‘60s sound, Styles surprises with this sophisticated body of work.

9. Carol King – Tapestry

Carol King unveils herself as the decade-long pop-writing extraordinaire behind then-husband Gerry Goffin and an unparalleled powerhouse to boot with her debut LP, Tapestry. Stripping any doubt of her ability, King charges with emotion on Shirelles cover ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’, the melancholic ‘It’s Too Late’ and the fiery ‘I Feel The Earth Move’.

9. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The evidence for the ego – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an instant classic and a defining album for 21st century hip hop. Kanye West delved into uncharted territory for this collaborative buffet, which features Elton John and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), serving up a restrained, refined and unreachable work of art.

10. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV 

Abandoning great for legendary, Led Zeppelin defy and conquer on their fourth album with bolt-tight production and arrangement from Jimmy Page and vocal gymnastics from Robert Plant, delivering diversity with celebrated ballad ‘Stairway To Heaven’, belters ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and blues beauty ‘When the Levee Breaks’.

11. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Topping the Rolling Stone 500 Best Albums of All Time, Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece, What’s Going On, is a boundary-pushing body of work that embeds social and political commentary upon sophisticated soul, jazz and Motown groove. With its polished production and refined arrangement, the ongoing dialogue sparked from this 1971 album has spanned five decades.

12. Nirvana – Nevermind

The definition of ‘90s grunge is Nirvana’s Nevermind. Representing an era and generation of misfits, the Seattle group capture angst and self-loathing, blending delicate restraint and forceful assault in a brilliantly authentic art form. The production from Butch Vig is the icing on top, translating impeccably to wax.

13. Patti Smith – Horses

Patti Smith is a visionary and on her debut album Horses, she captures the attitude of rock‘n’roll through poetic lyrics and her unbridled, punk-grit delivery which echoes from the opening line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”, on ‘Gloria: In Excelsis Deo’.

14. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is not an album, it is an immersive experience that transcends space and time, where music takes on colour form. Considering mental health and the pressures of their tumultuous lifestyle, Floyd’s eighth album is rich in capacity both lyrically and sonically.

15. Queen – Greatest Hits

Queen are royalty and their greatest hits collection wraps all of their mega-anthems into a neat little package of both power and play. Flying from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to ‘We Are The Champions’, there is no fluff and no filler, just the best from the best.

16. Radiohead – OK Computer

OK Computer was a turning point for Radiohead as they ditched the rock script, embracing experimental euphoria for a haunting, yet stunning, 12-song story. Poetic, poignant and potent, OK Computer is responsible for the unforgettable and extraordinary ‘Karma Police’, ‘No Surprises’, ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’, ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Let Down’.

17. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

Raw and rough, The Rolling Stones’ 1972 LP Exile On Main Street was built for vinyl – the gritty basement blues scratching through speakers and enhancing Keith Richards’ untamed riffs and the animalistic roars of Mick Jagger. It’s dirty and it’s rock‘n’roll in its finest form!

18. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

A generous and ambitious rock album for the ‘90s, Smashing Pumpkins’ double-album format for their third studio album was made for the teenagers, though it permeated far greater than its intended audience with exquisite production, mystifying compositions for the rock arena and all-encompassing lyrical inquisition.

19. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

Double album and EP, Songs in the Key of Life, is a glorious reel of life experiences viewed on a sultry bed of multi-genre-infused rhythm and blues. The gospel highs in the opener, the classical strings on poverty poem ‘Village Ghetto Land’ and baby-cry sampling on ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ sees Wonder explore the wide spectrum of life and music.

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

Having just celebrated its 15th anniversary, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not holds up as one of the best rock albums of this century. With quick wit, English charm and eccentric description, Alex Turner’s songwriting shines on Arctic Monkeys’ debut, defining a generation of wry youth and offering dancefloor belters.

21. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

A newer addition to the music pool, the 2020 fourth album for Tame Impala moves from their signature psychedelic-rock core and into a breezy disco funk fusion. Kevin Parker ponders the meaning of happiness and considers his relevance and career longevity, serving up the glittery ‘Borderline’ and ‘Lost In Yesterday’.

All of these must-have masterpieces are available at discrepancy-records.com.au.