30 Albums That Define Cool

Any album “list” is going to be incomplete. It’s going to be filled with albums you agree with, artists you hate and some sort of commentary that you probably disagree with. This list is no different. However, rather than ranking these in order of importance or influence, we decided to pick 30 Albums that Define Cool. It’s not a “Best of XXXX” list by any stretch of the imagination (because honestly, that would be presumptuous), just thirty albums that we think are cool. These things tend to spark huge debates, so feel free to let us have it in the comments.

London Calling – The Clash

Long before Punk Rock was about frosted tips and dudes wearing eyeliner, there was The Clash. Anti-establishment, without being destructive, you only need to put on “London Calling” or Google Image search “The Clash” to figure out why they’re definitively cool. Amazon | iTunes


Legend – Bob Marley & The Wailers

The likelihood of anyone reading this having heard of Reggae music without Bob Marley is unlikely. More than just a man with a positive message, Marley was a poster boy for positive change in the world. Amazon | iTunes


The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Four words: The Wizard of Oz. Or, maybe, Best Space Rock Ever. Floyd’s been on the cutting edge of music for longer than most of us have been alive, and they helped birth a good portion of the music on your phone today. Amazon | iTunes


OK Computer / Kid A – Radiohead

Debating OK Computer and Kid A is like discussing religion or politics in public, so we’re not going to. Radiohead gets a twofer because we love both these cool albums like the children we don’t have—equally but differently.

OK Computer: Amazon | iTunes
Kid A: Amazon | iTunes


Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys

9 million copies sold. First hip hop LP to top Billboard. Columbia’s fastest-selling debut record. Includes “Girls,” “Fight For Your Right,” “No Sleep til Brooklyn,” and, scratch the track listing. Every song on this album is awesome. RIP MCA. Amazon | iTunes


American Recordings – Johnny Cash

The Man in Black’s place on this list needs no explanation, but we will say this: To this day, Cash is the only person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. The name is fitting because this album is the epitome of ‘Merica. Amazon


The Black Album – Metallica

Don’t even pretend like you don’t know the chorus to “Enter Sandman” word for word. Overzealous legal lawsuits aside, The Black Album is one of the few metal records of the 80s early 90s that you can put on today and listen to front to back without snickering. Amazon | iTunes


Live at Wembley ‘86 – Queen

You can’t talk about cool musical albums and not mention Freddie Mercury’s Queen. It’s too late to experience Mercury’s on-stage antics at a live concert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back in time with this album. Amazon | iTunes


Stankonia – Outkast

Even if you remove André 3000’s considerable style from the equation, he and Big Boi are two cool dudes. Stankonia blended dirty south with catchy lyrics and even more groove worthy melodies and beats. Amazon | iTunes


Rocket to Russia – Ramones

Punk rock is cool. The Ramones are punk rock. Therefore, the Ramones are cool. Amazon | iTunes


Ready to Die -The Notorious B.I.G.

There are plenty of reasons to call him big poppa, but they all started with this album. It’s time to give it another listen remember why. Amazon | iTunes


Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers

We’re not going to get into the current state of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but we will definitely go back and revisit what made them one of the coolest bands of the 90s with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Amazon | iTunes


Unplugged in New York – Nirvana

You could easily make a case for this Nirvana spot being occupied by Nevermind, but that’s a little too main stream for our tastes. We never got to see Nirvana live, so we choose to revisit the legacy with this unplugged album. Amazon | iTunes


The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan essentially invented modern rock music. This particular album ended up on our list because a) it’s cool and b) it was one of the first 50 recordings to be added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Yeah, that’s right, even Congress thinks this album is cool. Amazon | iTunes


IV – Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham walk into a recording studio. Magic happens. IV (or ZoSo, Four Symbols, The Fourth Album, etc., etc.) is a testament to four guys throwing a big middle finger to the industry, and it also includes that one song that all drunk people request, well, everywhere there is live music. Amazon | iTunes


Discovery – Daft Punk

If you’ve never danced to this album, you’re doing it wrong. Two awesomely dressed French Robot DJs bringing acid house and techno to the masses in the form of songs that will be stuck in your head for days. Amazon | iTunes


Abbey Road – The Beatles

No explanation required. Amazon | iTunes


The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails

Somehow, Trent Reznor made industrial goth rock cool. Lighter and more refined than Pretty Hate Machine (and featured in Rock Band!), The Downward Spiral takes you right to the edge without going over. Amazon | iTunes


The Queen is Dead – The Smiths

Without Morrissey and Marr’s work as The Smiths, it’s unlikely alternative rock would exist today. If, somehow, it still managed to limp along (these things happen), it wouldn’t sound anything like the emotional odyssey that is The Queen is Dead. Amazon | iTunes


Is This It – The Strokes

No shit, we could listen to this album on repeat for hours in the office and never want to steal back control of the Grooveshark account. Groovy without being sleepy, catchy without being annoying and effected without being affected, this is it. Amazon | iTunes


Appetite For Destruction – Guns N’ Roses

For us, Guns N’ Roses albums are like Matrix movies—we pretend like the first one is the only one that exists. Bandanas, Slash, top hats, Axl, gravelly vocals and a wicked strut are just a few of the reasons that make Appetite for Destruction cool… and a necessity in your karaoke repertoire. Amazon | iTunes


Under a Blood Red Sky – U2

We’re not going to get into the current state of U2, but the guys have, in the past, put out some pretty great tunes. They also made skullcaps and giant sunglasses (kind of) cool again. We dare you not to be moved by “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “The Electric Co.” live. Amazon | iTunes


Oracular Spectacular – MGMT

At least partially responsible for making “indie” music what it is today, the seminal release from MGMT will make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Oh yeah, and sweet vintage keyboards. Amazon | iTunes


Elephant – The White Stripes

The White Stripes made stripped down rock and roll cool again. Percussion, plus guitar and vocals, mixed with an excellently monochromatic color scheme make The White Stripes a force to be reckoned with. For our money, it doesn’t get better than Elephant. Amazon | iTunes


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

Glam rock is David Bowie. David Bowie is glam rock. Without Bowie, music would never have brought space back to Earth. Ziggy Stardust gave birth to the rock persona. Amazon | iTunes


Run-DMC – Run-DMC

Three dudes from Queens put a new breed of hip-hop on the pop culture map with this album. The C in DMC stands for cool. Seriously. Amazon | iTunes


The Chronic – Dr. Dre

Dre left N.W.A. and released a solo album. Not only is The Chronic one of the best hip hop albums of all time, it also launched Snoop’s solo career. Need we say more? Amazon


Back in Black – AC/DC

If you can listen to this album without wanting to break shit, be a rock star and sing along, we will pick up your next bar tab. No one needs a description why AC/DC is cool. Amazon


Up Your Alley – Joan Jett

Hot chicks in leather with guitars playing pure rock and roll. Thanks, Joan Jett. Amazon | iTunes


Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.

Eazy-E, Arabian Prince, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Ice Cube and MC Ren are undeniably cool. This album made N.W.A., and gangsta rap, a certifiably cool force to be reckoned with. Amazon | iTunes



So that’s our list. What would be on yours? Tell us in the comments.



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  • Bayardo Alvarez

    raw power, enter the wutang, illmatic

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    violent femmes self titled

  • http://milano.bbakeka.net/ BBakeca

    Amazing list!

  • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com/ The Sanity Inspector

    Who’s Next is the greatest rock album ever made–but this list is for cool albums, and The Who were much too sincere to be cool.