475. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, 'Armed Forces'
's third album is all tightly wound paranoia. The concept is personal politics; the original title was Emotional Fascism, and one song is called "Two Little Hitlers." The keyboard-driven sound of "Accidents Will Happen" helped define New Wave.
Manu Chao, 'Pr—xima Estaci—n: Esperanza'
Globally, Chao had long been a Marley-size figure. But this gem gave Americans a taste of his wild-ass greatness. Chao rocks an acoustic guitar over horns and beatboxes while rambling multilingually about crucial topics from politics to pot.
The Smiths, 'The Smiths'
"I recognize that mystical air/It means I'd like to seize your underwear," moans, and rock music was never the same. ' debut is a showcase for Morrissey's morose wit and Johnny Marr's guitar chime, trudging through England's cheerless marshes in "Still Ill" and "This Charming Man."
George Michael, 'Faith'
When left , he signified his new maturity by not shaving. Thankfully, his music was still tasty pop candy – six of these songs hit the Top Five on the singles charts. "I Want Your Sex" is one of the decade's finest imitations, and the best ballad is the spooky, soulful "Father Figure."
Richard and Linda Thompson, 'I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight'
Richard played guitar like a Sufi-mystic ; wife Linda had the voice of a Celtic . This is their great statement of folk-rock dread.
LL Cool J, 'Radio'
Def Jam, 1985
was only 16 when he released his first single, "I Need a Beat." A year later, he had the first hit on the fledgling Def Jam label. The sound he and Rick Rubin found on "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells" was harder and leaner than hip-hop had ever been.
The Fugees, 'The Score'
Led by Wyclef Jean, the created eclectic, politically aware R&B hip-hop, but the breakout was a cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," highlighting Lauryn Hill's amazing pipes.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 'The Paul Butterfield Blues Band'
Where American white kids got the notion they could play the blues. This band had two kiler guitarists: Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop.
Bruce Springsteen, 'Tunnel of Love'
After the big-scale Born in the U.S.A., this came as a shock – an album of stark, intimate, mostly acoustic confessionals. The newly wed superstar gets personal on adult love songs such as "One Step Up" and "Walk Like a Man." The marriage didn't last – but the music does.
Coldplay, 'A Rush of Blood to the Head'
churn out bighearted British guitar rock on their second album – what Chris Martin aptly called "emotion that can make you feel sad while you're moving your legs."
The Magnetic Fields, '69 Love Songs'
The title says it all: three discs of brilliantly turned tunes about pop's signature emotion. Stephin Merritt lived out a Tin Pan Alley fantasy as he spooled his droll bass over synth pop, bubblegum, Afropop, show tunes, country and more. It's irony on steroids, but try to get through "Papa Was a Rodeo" without shedding a tear.
Def Leppard, 'Hysteria'
had a run of bad luck in the Eighties, especially when drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car crash on New Year's Eve 1984. But the lads admirably stuck by their old mate, who learned to play drums using his feet. The band was vindicated when and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" became a smash.
Echo and the Bunnymen, 'Heaven Up Here'
refresh psychedelia for the New Wave era with an arena of foggy guitars and doomy drums, while Ian McCulloch updates the aura of Jim Morrison. Melody meets melodrama on the title track and on "A Promise," where McCulloch sing-sobs a story of love gone wrong.
were trying something new with each album in the Eighties, but this straight-ahead rock move was the one that made them mainstream stars. "The One I Love" was a hit, but the fan favorite is the manic "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."
Public Image Ltd., 'Metal Box'
After the imploded, Johnny Rotten reclaimed his real name – John Lydon – and started a bold new band. PiL played eerie art punk with dub bass and slashing guitar. Metal Box (retitled Second Edition in the U.S.) originally came as three vinyl discs in a metal film canister.
Hole, 'Live Through This'
On 's breakthrough album, Courtney Love wants to be "the girl with the most cake," and she spends the whole album paying for it, in the melodic punk-rock anguish of "Miss World," "Softer, Softest" and "Doll Parts." Her husband 's body was found just days before the album was released.
The Drifters, 'Golden Hits'
By the early 1960s, had evolved into the most suave soul group on the block. Even after Ben E. King went solo (scoring with "Stand By Me"), producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and the Drifters kept coming up with timeless odes to urban romance such as "Up on the Roof" and "Under the Boardwalk."
Elton John, 'Tumbleweed Connection'
has always had a jones for the myth of the American West. Along with lyricist Bernie Taupin, he fully indulges those cowboy fantasies here. "Amoreena" plays unforgettably in the opening scene of the Al Pacino film Dog Day Afternoon.
My Morning Jacket, 'Z'
These Kentucky boys took a giant leap forward on their fourth album – giant enough to take them from a jammy Americana band to awe-inspiring purveyors of interstellar art rock. My Morning Jacket infused Z with both Eno-esque keyboards and sculpted guitars, but also Skynyrd-style riffs and bar-band grooves.
Marvin Gaye, 'Here, My Dear'
It's one of the weirdest Motown records ever. 's divorce settlement required him to make a new album and pay the royalties to his ex-wife – the sister of Motown boss Berry Gordy. So Gaye made this bitterly funny double LP of breakup songs, including "You Can Leave, But It's Going to Cost You."
Los Lobos, 'How Will the Wolf Survive?'
Slash/Warner Bros., 1984
"We were kids with long hair and plaid shirts playing Mexican folk instruments," said ' Louie Perez. But the band from East L.A. was a surprise success, mixing traditional Mexican sounds with blues and rockabilly for rough roots rock.
Alice Cooper, 'Love It to Death'
Warner Bros., 1971
Onstage, was the shock-rock king who decapitated baby dolls, but his early studio albums are smart, razor-sharp attacks of Detroit rock. On , producer Bob Ezrin joins him for the twisted kicks of "Hallowed Be My Name" and the teen-spirit anthem "I'm Eighteen."
EPMD, 'Strictly Business'
In the summer of '88, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith, a.k.a. (Erick and Parrish Making Dollars), rolled out of Long Island with a new style of slow-grooving hip-hop funk. Cut in the era before artists cleared their samples, the title jam even pilfers "I Shot the Sheriff."
John Prine, 'John Prine'
was a mailman-turned-folk-singer, and his debut is unique in how it views American life with generosity, tolerance and wit. Prine sang about smoking dope ("Illegal Smile"), but his empathy for the old folks with "Hello in There" made most hippie songwriters sound smug.
Amy Winehouse, 'Back to Black'
It's sad to think back on how fresh this record sounded at the time – funny and hip, revivalist but forward-looking. Winehouse, a tatted 23-year-old with a beehive crown, matched the spirit of her R&B heroes, cussing, cracking wise and casually breaking your heart. She triggered a new era for brilliantly weird women in pop.