What are your 'perfect albums'?
April 14, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to add some new music to my library, and I am fascinated with 'perfect albums'.

I consider a 'perfect album' one where you can put on track one, hit play, and never feel the need to skip a track.

These are not necessarily concept albums or anything, but albums where there just aren't any real stinkers, and where the songs seem to flow logically and cohesively from one to the next.

As for musical taste, I'll listen to everything except country, so that's not much of an issue, but if it helps the two I have been listening to the most over the last little while have been 'OK Computer' and 'Thirteenth Step'.

The impetus behind this question is a new car with an iPod hookup and a new 32GB iPod touch to go with it. So, what 'perfect album' do you love that I should go buy and load on it?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Media & Arts (116 answers total) 138 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Previously.
posted by John Cohen at 8:09 AM on April 14, 2012

The Beatles - Revolver
Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
Prince - Purple Rain
Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
Radiohead - The Bends
Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
St. Vincent - Marry Me
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
posted by John Cohen at 8:13 AM on April 14, 2012

Decoration Day by the Drive-by Truckers is my perfect album.
posted by essexjan at 8:14 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Kind of Blue - Miles Davis.
Rubber Soul or Revolver - The Beatles.
Look Sharp, Jumpin' Jive, Night and Day - Joe Jackson
Diva - Annie Lennox
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:16 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Previously.
posted by John Cohen at 10:09 AM

Great find, I wasn't able to search for this. Having said that, there has been a lot of music released since September 2009, so hopefully this question can stay...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:16 AM on April 14, 2012

Matisyahu - Live at Stubb's (both volumes 1 & 2)
posted by AMSBoethius at 8:18 AM on April 14, 2012

Tool - Lateralus and 10,000 Days
posted by chrispy108 at 8:19 AM on April 14, 2012

Response by poster: Similarly.

posted by box at 10:13 AM on April 14

Oh I am not so good a searching :/
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:19 AM on April 14, 2012

My list in the previous question is here but I'd add:

Corinne Bailey Rae
Hope for the Hopeless, Brett Dennen
Scarlet's Walk, Tori Amos
posted by The Deej at 8:26 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really think all of Cake's albums are like that. It's a really amazing thing. Usually if I like a band, it means I like some of their songs a lot. In their case, though, I really do like all of them. (This assumes you like Cake, of course, I'm sure some people hate all of them.)

Kraftwerk's album Radio-Activity is also like that. (This getting into the prehistory of electronic dance music. The style is a bit different from their better-known albums, with a lot more emphasis on lyric writing.)
posted by nangar at 8:28 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few more:

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
Tori Amos - Under the Pink
Bjork - Homogenic
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (S/T)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
posted by John Cohen at 8:30 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head:

Weezer - The Blue Album

Steely Dan - Aja

Fiona Apple - When the Pawn....
posted by The Gooch at 8:32 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beatles - Abbey Road
Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy
Pixies - Trompe Le Monde
Jay Z - The Blueprint
Nas - Illmatic
Avail - Dixie, 4AM Friday, Over The James
Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20 1992
The Melvins - Bullhead
UGK - Ridin' Dirty
Richard Buckner - Devotion + Doubt, Since
posted by ndfine at 8:33 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Angelo Badalamenti-- soundtrack to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
posted by BibiRose at 8:37 AM on April 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Not everyone agrees, but for me "Kid A" (Radiohead) is such an album. I can't just dip into it. I have to wallow in the whole thing, from those sublime descending keyboard notes right through to the ethereal shimmer at the end.
posted by Decani at 8:38 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Heat, Dust and Dreams by Johnny Clegg and Savuka
posted by themanwho at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2012

Fiona Apple - When the Pawn
Mother Mother - Touch Up and Oh My Heart
Foxy Shazam - Foxy Shazam
Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's a Blitz
TV On the Radio - Dear Science
Real Tuesday Weld - I, Lucifer
posted by theuninvitedguest at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2012

What a tough question because even the most amazing albums seem to have one or two that I pass over! Its so subjective, but a few that seem to fit the description for me are:

David Bowie - Station to Station
Paul Simon - Graceland
Pixies - Doolittle and Surfer Rosa
Talking Heads - Talking Heads 77
Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club
Velvet Underground - Loaded (although all of their albums are considered classics, this is the only one I listen to the whole way through)

Also, if you can tolerate something closer to country, there is an amazing folk/roots album that has seemed like a treasure to me for over a decade:

Willie P. Bennett - Heartstrings

Finally, seconding Miles Davis - Kind of Blue.
posted by slopepheasant at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2012

Hmm, let's see:

Stereolab, "Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements"
Kristin Hersh, "Sunny Border Blue"*
Boards of Canada, "Geogaddi"
and more recently ...
Holy Fuck, "Latin"
and, though it's not currently fashionable to say so,
Radiohead, "King of Limbs"

* If I were a better programmer, I'd set up a bot to randomly recommend Kristin Hersh albums on AskMe. Because I seem to do this a lot ...
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:59 AM on April 14, 2012

Active Child-You Are All I See
Florence + The Machine-Ceremonials
Snow Patrol-Eyes Open
The National-Boxer
Lauryn Hill-Unplugged
The Roots-How I Got Over
Jay Z and Linkin Park-Collision Course
The Veils-The Runaway Found
posted by livinglearning at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Brian Eno Here Come the Warm Jets
Brian Eno Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Love - Forever Changes
Alexander "Skip" Spence - Oar
Neil Young - On The Beach; Tonight's the Night; Time Fades Away
Scott Walker - Scott 1 - 4; Tilt; The Drift
posted by porn in the woods at 9:17 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Somehow this wasn't listed in the other thread:

Godspeed You! Black Emperor's record Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven is the ONLY record that has its own playlist on my iPod.
posted by workerant at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

should have previewed!

Seconding the Eno records - also: Music for Airports; Another Green World; Before and After Science

Also: Can - Future Days; Soon Over Babaluma
posted by porn in the woods at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2012

David Bowie, "Diamond Dogs"
Brian Eno, "Another Green World"
The Beatles, "The Beatles' Second Album"
Squeeze, "Argybargy"
Ramones, "Rocket to Russia"
The Damned, "Strawberries"
XTC, "English Settlement"
Robyn Hitchcock, "Black Snake Diamond Role"
The Blasters, "The Blasters"
posted by Devoidoid at 9:29 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Radiohead again! I really like Amnesiac, the Collectors Edition. I will listen through both discs on Spotify, easy.
posted by nrobertson at 9:31 AM on April 14, 2012

Oh, and Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On. "
posted by Devoidoid at 9:32 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Welcome to the Beautiful South by The Beautiful South
posted by dhens at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Massive Attack, Mezzanine
Fiona Apple, When the Pawn...
Radiohead, The Bends
Josh Ritter, The Animal Years
Sarah Harmer, You Were Here
Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love
Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump
Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Wrens, Meadowlands

Sharon Van Etten, Tramp - hasn't been out long enought to determine whether it'll stand the test of time.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane over the Sea

While each song is fantastic in its own right, all I need to do is hear the words "When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers" and the rest is (an hour of) history.

It's revered by some perhaps more than it should be, but I do believe it belongs on a "perfect albums" list.
posted by Never Better at 9:53 AM on April 14, 2012 [15 favorites]

The Rolling Stones - Some Girls - One of the best straight-ahead rock albums ever composed.

Sam Cooke - Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 - In my opinion, one of the greatest live albums ever. They called this guy Mr. Soul for a reason. This was his third performance of the night, which makes it all the more unbelievable.

Fun. - Aim and Ignite - You may be familiar with Fun. from their recent commercial success, and congratulations to 'em, but this first album is where it's at. Some true musicianship on this one.

Cheap Trick - At Budokan (Live, 1978) - Another excellent live album. All the hits are here. Don't miss their version of Ain't That a Shame.

The Cars - The Cars - I'm sure there were plenty of others before that I don't know about, but for me, these guys made synth-rock a thing. All really strong tracks with one, maybe two exceptions.

The Submarines - Declare a New State - Delicious, melancholic melodies with a hint of psychedelia sometimes. Good rainy day music.

The Sonics - Here Are The Sonics!!! - HARD classic rock. The beginnings of punk came from guys like these. Do You Love Me

The Who - The Kids Are Alright - A Quick One (Live) Nuff Said. Long Live Rock.

Parliament - Mothership Connection - This album is, as the song says, "uncut funk". You'll understand why groovy used to be synonymous with cool.

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True - A bunch of solid songs from his angry days.

Beck - Odelay/Sea Change - I'm not going to lie. Beck is one of my favorite artists of all time, and these two albums would be my answer as to why. Both very different, but extremely good. Speaks to how versatile he is.

David Bowie - The Platinum Collection - Because you really just need it all.

The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk - New Wave. Rock. Punk. Art.

R.E.M. - Reckoning - Get loose and dance like Stipe.

The Superimposers - The Superimposers - If you like psychedelia, and general late 60's-ness, this is your album.

Bob Marley - Uprising - Some people will point you to Legend, which is a great album too, bu the songs don't seem as connected as they do on this one. Very listenable, and a great way to ring in summer.
posted by Krazor at 9:56 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me it's Arcade Fire's Funeral. I haven't enjoyed their recent albums much, but to me Funeral is perfect.
posted by Pademelon at 9:58 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cornelius - Fantasma
Cornelius - Point
Cornelius - Sensuous
Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante
Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom
Frank Zappa - 200 Motels (the soundtrack)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:01 AM on April 14, 2012

2nd'ing Ruby Vroom! But also Irresistible Bliss!
posted by Krazor at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2012

Peeping Tom -- What Mike Patton calls his "pop" album. Each song is a collaboration with a different artist... Norah Jones, Kook Keith, Dan the Automator, Massive Attack among others.

Duran Duran -- Duran Duran & Rio

Earth, Wind & Fire -- Gratitude

Ween -- 12 Country Golden Greats
posted by waitangi at 10:06 AM on April 14, 2012

Decembrists - The Crane Wife
Dr. John - Goin' Back to New Orleans
ChocQuibTown - Oro
Derek Trucks Band - Songlines
posted by gteffertz at 10:11 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

time (the revelator) by Gillian Welch
posted by runrunrun at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you like confessional pop-folk from the 70s with theatrical flourishes, I don't think there's a single bad track on Dory Previn's "Mystical Kings And Iguanas"
posted by The Whelk at 10:40 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depeche Mode - Violator
posted by germdisco at 10:41 AM on April 14, 2012

(Oh, seconding from the previously and similarly posted questions)
posted by germdisco at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2012

Beatles: A Hard Day's Night
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Weezer: Blue Album
Nirvana: Nevermind
Franz Ferdinand: S/T
Jimmy Eat World: Bleed American
OK Go: Oh No
Michael Jackson: Off the Wall, and more obviously, Thriller
Spinal Tap: This Is Spinal Tap

And maybe the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2012

Led Zeppelin IV - not a bad song on the entire album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer (the album of the same name) has all excellent songs on it, too.
posted by brownrd at 10:51 AM on April 14, 2012

The Incurables' Songs for a Blackout. They opened for the Meat Puppets, and I couldn't stop playing this on an endless loop for months afterward.
posted by limeonaire at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and a few more:

Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Combustible Edison - I, Swinger
Optiganally Yours - Spotlight on Optiganally Yours
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
Outkast - The Love Below
EPMD - Strictly Business
Kool Keith - Black Elvis/Lost in Space
Fantomas - Fantomas
Fantomas - Suspended Animation
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2012

And yeah, I know LegalSounds is kind of shady, but unfortunately, I'm not seeing anywhere else online to download or order The Incurables' amazing album at the moment.
posted by limeonaire at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2012

I always wonder if these albums constitute a no-skip song album to us because we listened to them repeatedly and in our formative years at a time where skipping songs was not as easy as it is today (vinyl, cassette tape, &c).

ANYWAY my all-time no-skip will always be Paul's Boutique, with Appetite for Destruction as the first runner-up.
posted by elizardbits at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I always wonder if these albums constitute a no-skip song album to us because we listened to them repeatedly and in our formative years at a time where skipping songs was not as easy as it is today (vinyl, cassette tape, &c).

Entirely possible, but I still think that good albums will shine no matter what. This is just my way of finding new ones.

Thanks to everyone for the answers so far, keep them coming!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:15 AM on April 14, 2012

Wilco- Summerteeth
Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Neutral Milk Hotel- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
The Black Keys- Brothers
The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin
Elliott Smith- This is sort of cheating, but really, any of his albums. There are only maybe 2 songs of his that I consistently skip.
Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Radiohead- OK Computer
The Rosewood Thieves- From the Decker House
Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Fever to Tell
posted by quiet coyote at 11:20 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

William Parker Quartet - Petit Oiseau
posted by box at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2012

the clash - london calling
posted by radiosilents at 11:50 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Kyler England - Electric Hum

I can not stop listening at all...
posted by Zarya at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2012

Cursive - The Ugly Organ
posted by krakenattack at 12:58 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Deltron 3030
posted by milk white peacock at 1:39 PM on April 14, 2012

The Mothers - Overnight Sensation
Procol Harum - A Salty Dog
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2012

None of these have been mentioned yet:
REM - Automatic For The People
Grateful Dead - American Beauty
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - All The Roadrunning
Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album
Girl Talk - everything

Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Beatles - Abbey Road
Ween - Chocolate And Cheese
Weezer - blue album
posted by knile at 4:05 PM on April 14, 2012

Janis Joplin - Pearl
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:34 PM on April 14, 2012

Arcade Fire again, but for me The Suburbs is the perfect album. Gets better every time I listen to it.
posted by arha at 5:43 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
posted by Twicketface at 6:07 PM on April 14, 2012

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake. An amazing, epic, thing of beauty.

Goddamn Europeans
Take me back to beautiful England
And the grey, damp filthiness of ages

You Am I - Hi Fi Way (straight Aussie rock, this is my favourite album of theirs but Hourly, Daily is also good and has a distinct feel).
Tim Rogers - The Luxury of Hysteria (solo from the aforementioned - contemplative record from an aging rockstar)
Pixies - Doolittle
Jason Webley - The Cost of Living
kd lang - ingenue (included for posterity, could be a bit country-ish for your particular taste).

Seconding Arcade Fire - The Suburbs; it's amazing and definitely an album.
Someone mentioned St Vincent - Marry Me, but I feel that her second album Actor has more of that cohesive feel you might be looking for.
posted by chiquitita at 7:10 PM on April 14, 2012

Beulah's Handsome Western States, but sadly none of their other albums.

Very, Very Powerful Motor by the Fastbacks.
posted by snoe at 7:15 PM on April 14, 2012

Gogol Bordello's Trans-Continental Shuffle.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:21 PM on April 14, 2012

Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:04 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aimee Mann. Lost in Space.

Any album by PJ Harvey.
posted by gentian at 10:44 PM on April 14, 2012

The Kinks - Muswell Hillbillies
Flamin' Groovies - Supersnazz & Shake Some Action
The Doors - The Doors & LA Woman
The Rolling Stones - Beggar's Banquet & Let It Bleed
Blondie - Parallel Lines
Television - Marquee Moon
The Who - The Who Sell Out & Who's Next
Nick Lowe - Pure Pop For Now People
The Move - Shazam
posted by rfs at 11:45 PM on April 14, 2012

The National, Alligator. (Give it a few listens--it's what they call a "grower." Actually, all their albums are, but Alligator's the best and most cohesive. I've listened to it an average of twice a day for the last eight months and haven't tired of it yet.)
posted by désoeuvrée at 12:40 AM on April 15, 2012

Chris Whitley - Living with the Law
You Am I - #4 Record

and I’ll second;
Cheap Trick - At Budokan
Beastie Boys - Paul’s Boutique
Fleetwood Mac - Rumors
posted by bongo_x at 4:20 AM on April 15, 2012

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning - Frank Sinatra
Paul's Boutique - Beastie Boys
To the Five Boroughs - Beastie Boys
posted by chazlarson at 5:28 AM on April 15, 2012

Built to Spill -- Perfect From Now On
John Frusciante -- Shadows Collide with People
John Frusciante -- Curtains
John Frusciante -- The Empyrean
posted by fancyoats at 5:50 AM on April 15, 2012

Drastic Plastic- Be Bop Deluxe
posted by Splunge at 6:22 AM on April 15, 2012

East Side Story - Squeeze
posted by pracowity at 6:23 AM on April 15, 2012

Guided by Voices — Alien Lanes

Dr Dog — Easy Beat

Animal Collective — Merriweather Post Pavilion

These are perfect.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:59 AM on April 15, 2012

Finley Quaye - Maverick A Strike
The xx - The xx
D'Angelo - Voodoo
Fat Freddy's Drop - Based on a True Story
posted by elphTeq at 2:42 PM on April 15, 2012

Def Leppard - Pyromania and Hysteria
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
posted by SisterHavana at 2:53 PM on April 15, 2012

Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca. I sometimes put it on intending to just listen to one song and then listen to the whole album because I don't want to turn it off. It is outstanding.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:10 PM on April 15, 2012

Late to the party but I'd have to nominate a record I've been listening to a lot lately: 'Underslept' by Systems Officer. Yep, it's the "solo" album from the genius Three Mile Pilot/Pinback bassist. Not a dud track on the whole thing, and it's so lousy with hooks that you'll be humming the thing in your head for days.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:57 PM on April 15, 2012

Neil Young—After the Gold Rush
Joni Mitchell—Blue
posted by waldo at 8:59 PM on April 15, 2012

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
Fleetwood Mac - The Dance
Adele - 21
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
Cat Stevens - Tea for Tillerman
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.
posted by Jaie at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I compiled this list from the same question asked on Plastic in 2005. A little dated, but still lots of great finds on it.
posted by philosophistry at 12:25 AM on April 16, 2012

The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, 1967. One of the greatest British chamber-folk bands that ever existed, and they were broken up before their one single in the us, "Time Of The Season" ("What's your name... who's your daddy...") became a hit. The first track from the album, "Care of Cell 44," is better though; it's an awesome tune about getting out of prison and coming home, and is one of the happiest songs I've ever heard. However, every single song is a jewel of absolute perfection.

And since the albums people are mentioning here skew heavily toward indie and rock...

Daft Punk, Discovery, 2001. A perfect record from beginning to end, with so many incredibly beautiful tracks; it's really the Sgt Pepper's of my generation, although (as one friend of mine put it) "unlike Sgt Pepper's, you never get tired of listening to Discovery."

Ricardo Villalobos' Thé Au Harem D'Archimède from 2004 is sort of a landmark of electronica over the past ten years. Seriously, that record changed the way rhythm feels to me, and it has so many crystalline moments, if that makes sense. Highly recommended.

Kenny Dorham is probably the most criminally underappreciated trumpet player in the history of jazz. Lots of people talk about Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue – I see it's listed here twice, and rightly so. But since that record is so popular, even among people who aren't normally that into jazz, I think people sometimes get the impression that Miles Davis' tone is the tone for jazz trumpet. But Kenny Dorham is completely different: soaring and searing, sometimes with incredible speed, often incorporating latin rhythms and long, wandering solos. His masterwork is a perfect album that ought to be much more well-known: Trompeta Toccata from 1964, his final album as bandleader. It's worth hearing the title track just to know what heights Kenny was capable of: intense beauty, gorgeous, keening tone, and this almost classical structure that spoke of both sadness and bright light. This is one record I believe even casual listeners to jazz ought to hear, because it's so good.
posted by koeselitz at 7:22 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's some of my favourite albums that I can listen to and enjoy every song.
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Adem - Covers
Four Tet - There's love in you
Leftfield - Leftism
posted by directnine at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pitchfork's Perfect 10s: note that early Pitchfork is different than current Pitchfork, and there were some early 10.0s that have since been purged from their list of perfect albums. Also note that the modern perfect 10s are largely re-issues.

Amon Tobin - Bricolage is fantastic. More jazzy than later works. Supermodified is pretty stellar, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2012

I’m adding;

Mott the Hoople - Mott
posted by bongo_x at 11:23 PM on April 16, 2012

livinglearning: "The National-Boxer"

To be fair, I could say this about The National's entire discography. They're simply one of the most consistently-fantastic bands that I've ever heard.

Ted Leo/Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, are You the Destroyer? (Has a few "weaker" tracks, but is consistently great throughout)
Patrick Wolf - Wind in the Wires and Lycanthropy
Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Also, +1 to
Daft Punk - Discovery
Arcade Fire - Funeral & The Suburbs
NMH - In the Aeroplane over the Sea
posted by schmod at 11:41 AM on April 17, 2012

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
Cat Power - The Covers Record
posted by superior julie at 2:14 PM on April 17, 2012

The Kossoy Sisters - Bowling Green
posted by superior julie at 2:23 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Radiohead - Pablo Honey
posted by knile at 7:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Roots - Undun. I've listened to Hip Hop music since around 1984, and I think it's the best album ever made in the genre. Intelligent and musically amazing.
posted by cnc at 4:38 PM on April 18, 2012

Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
posted by benzenedream at 11:13 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicane - Far from the Maddening Crowds
posted by gen at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2012

Slint - Spiderland
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:36 PM on April 21, 2012

Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche à Bamako
Beth Orton - Central Reservation
Sigur Rós - Ágætis byrjun
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
U2 - Live from the Point Depot
Broken Social Scene - Feel Good Lost
The Avalanches - Since I Left You
Lost In Translation soundtrack
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:10 PM on April 24, 2012

Sufjan Stevens - Come On, Feel the Illiniose
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
posted by hepta at 7:15 PM on April 24, 2012

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
posted by box at 8:30 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cecil Taylor - Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come
posted by box at 8:31 PM on April 24, 2012

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
posted by box at 8:32 PM on April 24, 2012

Dadawah - Peace and Love
posted by box at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2012

Oooooh: I only listen to albums and I want to second so much listed above...

I'll add Dismemberment Plan : Change
Neko Case : Middle Cyclone
Modest Mouse : The Moon & Antarctica
microphones : the glow part 2
Mountain Goats : The Sunset Tree
Bjork : Post
Archers of Loaf : Icky Mettle
Magnolia Electric Company : Songs : Ohio
Sufjan - Age of Adz
Silver Jews : Bright Flight
posted by stratastar at 8:48 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Truth by Jeff Beck.

Fear of Music by Talking Heads.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie. (Also Aladdin Sane and The Man Who Sold the World).
posted by marxchivist at 4:59 AM on April 25, 2012

Swell - 41
posted by Vhanudux at 9:26 AM on April 25, 2012

Radiohead: Kid A & Amnesiac.
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue.
Kings of Convenience: Riot on an Empty Street.
Oscar Brown Jr.: Sin and Soul ... and Then Some.
Paul Simon: Graceland.
Portishead: Third.
Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge over Troubled Water.
U2: The Joshua Tree.
Beck: Sea Change.
Cee Lo Green: The Lady Killer.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon.
Talking Heads: Remain in Light.
Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair.
Depeche Mode: Violator.
Jackson Browne: Running on Empty.
The Beatles: Abbey Road.

... and Funkadelic's Cosmic Slop would be there if not for "Nappy Dugout." Not everyone's favorite, by any means, but for some reason I love that album so much more than their others, including Maggot Brain and Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.
posted by johnofjack at 7:08 PM on April 25, 2012

DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
Aceyalone - A Book of Human Language
Outkast - Aquemini
posted by AceRock at 7:17 AM on April 26, 2012

Main Source - Breaking Atoms
posted by box at 8:07 PM on April 26, 2012

Steely Dan - Aja
posted by box at 8:08 PM on April 26, 2012

Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth - Funky Technician
posted by box at 9:06 PM on April 28, 2012

Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul
posted by box at 9:07 PM on April 28, 2012

Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle.

Song for song this is about as good as a rap album gets, and it's got to be a contender for greatest rap record ever.

I also think that Ice Cube's first two albums, Amerikka's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, should get an honorable mention here.
posted by kensington314 at 3:27 PM on April 29, 2012

I said Innervisions before, but, really, I meant to say basically Stevie Wonder's '70s, from Where I'm Coming From to Secret Life of Plants.
posted by box at 5:41 PM on May 5, 2012

First: do you listen to classical or jazz? In my experience, the most famous albums/compositions in these genres will be close to perfect, especially in terms of composition and instrumental virtuosity. It always amazes me just how intricate and complicated these works are. You can listen to them over and over again and discover new things every time. If that's not perfect, I don't know what is. (But I realize it's not to everyone's liking, and in fact I listen to far more rock music nowadays.)

In terms of rock, I mostly listen to individual tracks, and the albums I've kept have stood up to my brand of scrutiny over the years. Here's a few I would consider close to "perfect":

* Buena Vista Social Club by Buena Vista Social Club — When I haven't listened to this album in a while, I find myself pining for it, again and again. Beautiful Cuban music interspersed with excellent guitar playing by Ry Cooder. It really never gets old.
* Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz & João Gilberto — Another perfect album with music from another country. Infinitely replayable. Made bossa nova popular in the US.
* Still Life (Talking) by Pat Metheny Group — When my dad's friend gave me this album, I was shocked that light jazz could be this beautiful, moving, and addictive. Pat Metheny's sound is like no other.
* The Beatles — I'm not going to bother picking a favorite album. I'm sure you'll find plenty of good recommendations in the previous answers. (Out of all the music in my collection, the Beatles have the most consistently "perfect" albums, even though they're not my favorite band ever. Not sure how that works!)
* Machine Head by Deep Purple — A pinnacle of hard rock, with beautiful songwriting and soloing throughout. (Why hasn't this been mentioned yet?! All of the songs here except for "Pictures of Home" — which I still like a lot — have been featured numerous times in critics' top lists.)
* Breakfast in America by Supertramp — I got sucked into listening to the whole album as soon as I heard the first song, many years ago. Cool, mellow, beautifully composed and produced.
* Dummy by Portishead — I had no idea electronic music could touch me before discovering this album. Melancholy and beautiful.
* Surfing With the Alien by Joe Satriani — I admit I haven't listened to this album as much as the others on my list, but it's a tour-de-force in instrumental rock. I don't know of any other rock music that sounds like this.

Most recently, I've been listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn's Texas Flood and The Sky is Crying, which both sound pretty close to perfect to me. But I guess time will tell.

And here's a few bonus Soviet rock albums, in case you want to dig them up. (It's worth it!)
* Gruppa Krovi (Группа Крови) by Kino (Кино) (huge hit in the Soviet Union)
* Den Serebra (День Серебра) by Akvarium (Аквариум) (another huge hit)
* Sesetra Haos (Сестра Хаос) by Akvarium (Аквариум)
posted by archagon at 12:12 AM on May 23, 2012

abbey road, exile on main street, hejira, the bends, english settlement, right place wrong time, waiting for columbus, wasp star, rhythm of the saints, kind of blue
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:30 PM on May 27, 2012

dark side of the moon, animals, led zeppelin II
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:31 PM on May 27, 2012

blood on the tracks, highway 61 revisited
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:32 PM on May 27, 2012

born to run
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:33 PM on May 27, 2012

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels soundtrack.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:19 PM on February 10, 2013

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