7 highlights from Apple Music's 100 Best Albums Of All Time - Features - Mixmag

7 highlights from Apple Music's 100 Best Albums Of All Time

Did your favourite make the cut?

  • In association with Apple Music
  • 23 May 2024

The wait is over. After 10 days of steadily unveiling the list on social media, Apple Music has rounded out its definitive 100 Best Albums Of All Time. Comprising of some of the most celebrated music in recorded history, including many totems of UK music, the list is a run-down of the albums that show artists at their very pinnacle, and have found themselves weaved through the threads of our collective understanding of music as a whole.

The list was curated by Apple Music’s roundtable of experts, all selected for their unsurpassable knowledge of popular music and beyond, the names read like a “who’s who” of recent chart successes: featuring British stars such as Charli XCX and Nia Archives alongside international heavyweights Maren Morris, J Balvin, Pharrell Williams, Honey Dijon, Mark Hoppus and slew of other artists, songwriters and industry icons. To put it simply, they know their stuff. As a result, the 100 Best Albums Of All Time is editorial at its heart, with records selected not only for their wide acclaim from audiences, but also their role in shaping our culture and innovating their respective genres.

The impact of UK music shines brightly on the list, with a couple of entries in the Top 10, and many more across the full 100. A full spectrum of talent is on display, with the choices spanning groups who started as outsider experimentalists and shifted mainstream consciousness with their innovation, such as Portishead, to elusive heroes of the British club music underground, such as Burial, to some of the most popular, best-selling acts of all time, including Adele and The Beatles.

Celebrating the unveiling of the Top 10, Apple Music broadcasters Ebro Darden and Zane Lowe host a special show to reflect on the list, which spans from the ‘60s through to the 21st century and features some of the most iconic LPs in music history. The one-and-only Nile Rodgers and GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers join them to provide some commentary and context on some of these most beloved albums. Did your favourite make the cut? Find out here.

We've honed in on seven albums that made the cut which we feel have most resonated in our world and elaborated on their impact for Mixmag readers. Check out our highlights of Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums Of All Time below:

Burial ‘Untrue’

It could be argued that Burial’s debut album, ‘Untrue’, has left the largest mark on UK dance music in the last two decades, and still reaps the rewards of its success to this day. Following its release in 2007, the elusive South London producer was celebrated for his innovative use of vocal pitching with inspiration from ‘00s video games and films, blending genres like dubstep and UK garage to create something previously unheard. With a deeply UK-focused heritage, ‘Untrue’ has influenced thousands of producers across the globe, acclaimed for its rich emotion, clever compositions, and ingenious use of sampling. In a 2017 article celebrating the record’s landmark 10th anniversary, Mixmag spoke to producers including Powell, Mary Anne Hobbs, and Prayer on the impact of ‘Untrue’, all of whom spoke fondly of its influential sound.

Radiohead ‘Kid A’

‘Kid A’ sounded like a revolution when it landed. The commercial and critical success of its predecessor ‘OK Computer’ had made Radiohead the UK's biggest rock band, but in its wake they felt burnt out and disillusioned by cheap imitations ruining the genre. Deciding to tear up the rule book for their next album, the band moved away from guitar crunch and main stage anthems, leaning into abstract lyricism and experimental electronic sounds influenced by the likes of Warp Records favourites Aphex Twin and Autechre. Releasd in 2000, it sent shockwaves around the UK music industry, rankling with some critics and fans of the day, who labelled it everything from career suicide to pretentious self-indulgence. But many more were beguiled by its strange, inventive and brave approach. The album debuted at top spot in the UK chart and landed Radiohead their first Number One in the US, and by the end of the decade had come to be widely regarded as the best LP of the past 10 years. Music as a culture shouldn’t stay static and there’s value in confounding your fanbase. ‘Kid A’ asserted that taking risks can pay off, and might just end up forming an artist’s most influential work. As radical left turns go, it’s hard to think of many more impactful.

Portishead ‘Dummy’

The release of Portishead’s debut album ‘Dummy’ in 1994 was musical alchemy realised. Everything about it felt unprecedented: three members from different musical backgrounds, spanning a 17-year age gap between them, got together in the studio and made a sound that changed the face of UK music. Geoff Barrow, the youngest member at 22 who named the group after the small Somerset town where he grew up, was mainly interested in turntable techniques and sampling. Adrian Utley, the senior head at 37, was a jazz guitarist who also brought the otherworldly sounds of theremins and cimbalons to the table, evoking strange atmospheres that contrasted with Barrow’s crunchy breakbeats and dub influence. The voice of Beth Gibbons, who was raised on a West Country farm and hadn’t had much in the way of professional singing experience, was more than the cherry on top — able to darkly mutter and soar like a soprano in the same line, she brought a sense of mystery and deeply expressive melancholy that elevated the record to something that felt so distinctive as to be world-changing. The band were relative unknowns at the time of release, having never even played a gig, and its release took them to a stratosphere akin to its pretarnatural sound. It gripped British audiences, helping to popularise the nascent trip hop movement, coined by Mixmag in the same year ‘Dummy’ was released, and winning the Mercury Prize, arguably the UK’s paramount music award, in 1995.

Björk ‘Homogenic’

There’s a reason we hailed Björk an “electronic superpower” for our Mixmag cover in 2017. Yes, it is because she manages to combine melancholy and euphoria in that cathartic manner that has come to define electronic music, and yes, it is because she’s widely regarded as an innovator of ambient, and yes, there is part of it that is because she’s also a wicked DJ. But It’s also because Björk demonstrated to us how we can funnel our environment, our thoughts and feelings into the depths of an electronic track — and on no record does she demonstrate this more thoroughly than on 1997s ‘Homogenic’. Pulling producers from varying backgrounds, such as LFO’s Mark Bell and former Wu-Tang Clan collaborator Howie B, ‘Homogenic’ utilises a plethora of fragmented genre markers to create a whole, fully realised soundscape — using her voice as another instrument to dance above the arrangements. Björk’s own inspiration for the album was from a vision of a “techno future”, a utopia that allowed artificial intelligence and nature to live side by side. Beyond the expansive list of accolades Björk has received for ‘Homogenic’ - which include GRAMMY nominations, a BRIT win and being named widely as one of the greatest albums of all time - the record has also inspired a number of seminal LPs, including Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ and Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’. What we’re saying is: Music wouldn’t sound the same if not for ‘Homogenic’.

Kraftwerk ‘Trans-Europe Express’

There’s no doubt about the legacy that Kraftwerk left on electronic music in the UK and Europe after their breakout in the 1970s. Their sixth studio album, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, marked a change in direction for the pioneering German group, shaping their previously melodic sound to add hardware-heavy synthwork and a much more contemporary and intuitive use of sampling and vocal manipulation. The record climbed the UK charts after its release, peaking at number 49 in the Official Albums Chart and went silver after selling 60,000 copies in the UK. Famously influencing the likes of Joy Division, specifically frontman Ian Curtis, as well as British rock groups like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Radiohead, you can still hear the remaining influence of Kraftwerk’s sixth record to this day in modern music.

Massive Attack 'Blue Lines'

Talk to any trip hop fan, or anyone who was simultaneously immersed within the worlds of hip hop and British dance music in the '90s, and they’ll surely have an expression painted with reverence as they describe their first listen to Massive Attack’s seminal ‘Blue Lines’. Widely regarded as the “first trip hop record”, a term coined in the pages of Mixmag, ‘Blue Lines’ saw the Bristol-hailing band combine the sounds of US hip hop with Bristol’s dub-heavy electronic scene — daring to go against the grain with a slowed-down, meditative record that rarely pushed above the 90 BPM mark. While the record itself has earned wide acclaim, landing on a plethora of best album of all time lists between its 1991 release and the present day, its lead single ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ has had an indisputable impact on UK music — primarily due to its combination of rough-edged breakbeat, delicate piano keys and Shara Nelson’s sombre-yet-uplifting vocals. Critics would probably say’ Blue Lines’ laid the blueprint for trip hop, as well as the potential for dub and electronic to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings — but we’d add that with this album Massive Attack created something even more poignant, more beautiful, more groundbreaking: The perfect afters album.

Lauryn Hill ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’

A critically acclaimed album that might just be the best record of all time... it takes top spot in Apple Music’s list. Lauryn Hill’s only solo record ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ has proved a seminal feat since it first landed in 1998. Just two years ahead of its release, Mixmag tapped into the talent of hip hop trio the Fugees when Wyclef Jean, Pras Michel and Lauryn Hill appeared on the magazine cover before Ms. Hill reached even higher successes in her solo career. Lending her shape-shifting styles of R&B and soul, the influence that ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ had on the wider school of hip hop grew beyond its US origins and permeated in the UK, famously influencing the next generation of female rappers. In 2024, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ still stands as a cornerstone of hip hop excellence.

To check out Apple Music's 100 Best Albums Of All Time, click here

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