The Most NYC Albums That Didn’t Make Our Most NYC Albums List


A couple weeks ago, for our cover story, we attempted the impossible task of ranking the 50 Most NYC Albums Ever. It was a monumental job, much harder than, say, the math problem Matt Damon solves on that MIT chalkboard in Good Will Hunting. But we did it. Though some of you disagreed with our choices, we got it done and — no exaggeration here — the city is a better place for it.

But we had to leave a lot of worthy albums off the list. (That’s how lists work.) So consider the following numbers 51 through whatever. See if your favorite that didn’t make the cut is here. We didn’t try to rank them this time. We learned our lesson.

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (2013)
After Light Up Gold came out early last year, it was hard for those who knew about Parquet Courts to hear the words “Ridgewood, Queens” without cueing up “Stoned and Starving” in their heads (“I was walking through Ridgewood, Queens/ I was so stoned and starving”). For a few guys from Denton, Texas, Parquet Courts thrash fast and loose with punk tropes straight out of the L.E.S. circa 1977, except they crowd-surf at Death by Audio instead of CBGB’s. Like true New Yorkers, they call it like they see it, flatly deadpanning lyrics about the shitty economy, “adults” that don’t know any better, and even those ever-present piles of trash, driving the point home with wiry, eviscerating guitars. — Harley Oliver Brown

Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
In 1975, James Wolcott wrote in our pages that Talking Heads were “one of the most intriguingly off-the-wall bands in New York.'” Five years later, with Remain in Light, they proved committed to spontaneity, moving from their “neo-Velvet” beginnings to an afro-beat disco record, an early fusion of dance and rock music that formed the roots of what we still think of as cosmopolitan sound. Though Remain in Light was ostensibly David Byrne’s attempt to step away from the spotlight, the album revealed his greatest talent: a preference for inclusion, the ability to collect and curate the contributions of disparate artists and to reveal the thin lines between cultures and genres that the city’s density has always helped make irrelevant. — Jonah Bromwich

Frank Sinatra – Only the Lonely (1958)
Old Blue Eyes was 43 and deep into his second act when he and arranger Nelson Riddle recorded Only the Lonely, the best and most somber of his 1950s “concept albums” for Capitol Records. Nicholas Volpe’s painted cover showed a Sinatra in tear-stained clown makeup, which might’ve seemed mawkish if not for the way it cut against his insouciant image, or if the LP hadn’t arrived so hard on the heels of his divorce from Ava Gardner. Come Fly with Me, released only eight months earlier, felt a lifetime removed from this set of closing-time torch songs — “Angel Eyes,” “It’s a Lonesome Old Town” — featuring the most schtick-free, most expressive singing of Sinatra’s career. In later years, he’d cite this album as his favorite. — Chris Klimek

Agnostic Front – Victim in Pain (1984)
The eleven songs on 1984’s Victim in Pain, arguably the best New York hardcore album, are Agnostic Front’s greatest. Picking up where the band’s United Blood EP left off, the lyrics on Victim in Pain by Roger Miret reflect the rather sleazy, transient and dangerous life on the Lower East Side in the early ’80s. The band formed around the A7 Club in the East Village and quickly attracted critics who labeled them fascists and skinheads, lead by punk zine Maximumrocknroll — all claims the band denied. But A-F also fostered the punk scene at clubs like CBGB’s after bands like Blondie had moved on, mentoring new bands and musicians, who cite Victim in Pain as one of the blueprints for the New York hardcore sound. – Nick Lucchesi

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
“The wisdom teeth are out,” Ezra Koenig coos on the third track of Modern Vampires of City, and the words carry weight because Modern Vampires of the City is the last installment in a trilogy. It constitutes a milestone so significant in the lifecycle of the band that they announced its arrival in the “Notices” section of the New York Times. They shed their madras shorts and polo shirts for this album, and instead of campus flings, Koenig and company are concerned with loss (“Hannah Hunt”), death (“Diane Young”), and God (“Ya Hey”). It is a tribute to the city, sure (look no further than the haunting Neal Boenzi photograph on the cover for proof of that), but more so it’s a tribute to the stamp that the city leaves on those lucky enough to spend their formative years here. — Tessa Stuart

Jay Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Jay-Z’s debut album could have very well been ripped from the minds of Scorsese or De Palma with its gangster bravado and illicit chaos. As much a protégé of Biggie as he was his contemporary, Jay-Z had an uncanny ability to breathe dimension into gritty rhymes with his quick wit and lyrical dexterity. But real Gs move in silence and unlike his peers, Jay was markedly the quiet hustler, never quite removing the veil even on introspective tracks like “Regrets” and “Can I Live” (“It gets tedious / So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S/ Ya see me stressed right? Can I live?”). Amid a remarkably prolific career that has spanned nearly two decades, Reasonable Doubt is still considered Jay-Z’s magnum opus (and not even bringing the Nets to Brooklyn can top that). — Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)
“New York is like a big ship, and the water’s on fire.” Those are the words of a man who was never quite comfortable in New York; Waits fled the city for his native California less than two years after he arrived. But 1985’s Rain Dogs, which Waits has called an album about “the urban dispossessed,” still smells and tastes like a certain version of the city. It’s about late nights on rattling half-empty trains, the lights dimming wearily over Broadway or flickering in the hallways of seedy, falling-down welfare hotels, passing drowsy, beautiful streetwalkers on the corner and sneaking pulls of whiskey in the back pew of some nameless church. In other words, yeah, it’s about a New York that’s been glitzed over and destroyed, and is no less beautiful for being completely and irretrievably gone. – Anna Merlan

Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded (1987)
Defining rap in the year 2014 is pretty much an impossible task. The genre has evolved into something great–we’ve all found ourselves attempting to speak the great language of Swaghili–and it’s a wonderful world in which we live. But we had to start somewhere–and that somewhere is Boogie Down Productions Criminal Minded. In our own paper, Robert Christgau only gave the record a B+, but from the album cover full of gun imagery and the record’s slippery beats, it went on to define the next decade of rap. Without these dudes, we wouldn’t have Chief Keef. We wouldn’t have Biggy. We wouldn’t have Pusha T. So in short, without this record, we lose a lot. — Eric Sundermann

Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1983)
You know when you see that person walking down the street on a sunny day in New York and they’re cheery and happy and probably skipping and doing some other stuff that will annoy you because if you’re reading about music you probably are live a miserable life? Well, they’re humming a Cyndi Lauper song, and their life is better than yours because of that. This seminal album shaped a genre of pop music, and made it okay to feel happy about your life while listening to music that was also kind of nostalgic and sad. Plus, name a song on She’s So Unusual that wasn’t a hit. I’ll save you some time: you can’t. — ES

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
Conventional wisdom states that Supreme Clientele is far and above the gem of the second wave of Wu-Tang solo albums. And sometimes, conventional wisdom is such for a reason. Supreme Clientele indeed occupies a very specific space in the Wu-Tang discography. The album is front-to-back amazing and as bizarre as you could hope, from Ghost cutting the best song on the thing (“Saturday Nite”) off halfway through, to him copping to fucking his own fans on “Mighty Healthy” to RZA’s beat on “Stroke of Death,” which centers around a single ominous scratch being run continually back. Written largely during an extended trip to Africa by Ghost and Executive Producer RZA, the album was a lyrical turning point for Ghostface, menacing at times, silly and downright psychedelic at others. It was one of last battle cries from a dying empire, proving that even late in the game Wu-Tang still had one undefeated champion. – Drew Millard

GZA – Liquid Swords (1995)
GZA’s always had a way with words, and on 36 Chambers his wit and slurred, somewhat-muted delivery made him stand a bit taller than the other MCs in his Clan. That album served as an amuse bouche for Liquid Swords, GZA’s deft main course, which revealed in one fell swoop that most other rappers, comparatively, had lyrics as weak as clock radio speakers. How good is the album? So good it might even convince you that skits between songs don’t suck. Of course, it helps when said skits include Shoguns being decapitated and a Samurai imparting knowledge to his son while still an infant. (“Chooooose the ball…”) Add to them the unforgettable cover art–DC-Milestone Comics chief Denys Cowan packing every Wu-cliche (martial arts, chess, neck protecting and the lack thereof) into one stunning and brutal illo — and GZA’s always impeccable rhymes, and what you have is an instant classic, one the MC is now paid real American dollars to play live in its entirety. “Liquid Swords,” “Duel of the Iron Mic,” “Living in the World Today,” “Labels,” “Cold World”: The album seldom misses (we could do without “B.I.B.L.E.”), and when it hits, it kills. — Brian McManus

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist[

Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)
The first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and arguably rap’s first full-length masterpiece, Raising Hell changed the way the world heard hip-hop. A mere seven years after the genre’s first single was committed to wax, Run-DMC proved what was still being written off as a “fad” had the potential to truly become the next greatest innovation of 20th century American music. While “Walk This Way” fully bridged the gap between rap and the pop-rock world by making an old standard new and exciting again (revitalizing Aerosmith’s career in the process), it also showed how memorable rapping at its most masterful could be. While rap will likely always remain a single-focused medium, Raising Hell proved not only could album-minded hip-hop be done, but could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the efforts of any genre. — Chaz Kangas

Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
Something’s missing in music today. Sure, we have rappers who deck pretty much every single limb of their body out in gold, but man, KISS were something else. Make-up. Leather. Platform shoes. These bros looked like straight-up CLOWNS, and somehow were the sexiest motherfuckers alive. Destoryer is classic New York. Yeah, yeah. The first song is called “Detroit Rock City,” but god damn, there’s nothing more New York than blending flamboyance and swagger. — ES

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)
During the first half of the 1970s, Stevie Wonder released a handful of records that redefined the Motown sound of that decade. Innervisions epitomizes that era, charting three singles that typified the album and showcased the sweep of the brilliant R&B musician/bard’s sonic and lyrical range: “Higher Ground” (uplifting funk), “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” (love balladry), and “Living for the City” (social commentary). Like every song Stevie Wonder ever recorded, the first two are superbly rendered. With its stunning narrative arc, “Living for the City” is another matter entirely: an eight-minute opera whose pop-hooky first half gives way to a spoken interlude in which the protagonist, “born in hard-time Mississippi,” comes of age and journeys northward (by bus, of course) to the Big City — “Wow…New York…just like I pictured it…skyscrapers and everything…” — a move that can, and does, only end badly. It’s a flat-out masterpiece. — Tom Finkel

Unsane – Scattered, Smothered & Covered (1995)
The skateboarding wipeouts depicted in the music video for the song “Scrape” may have gotten the most notoriety for this noise-rock trio, but everything else on this album is fully worthy of your attention. Unsane’s third album was a caustic, stripped-down affair that was sheer noise punishment. Their label, Amphetamine Reptile, made its name by putting out some of the noisiest affairs in heavy music, and this was no exception. – JR

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
A Tribe Called Quest’s second album closes with “Scenario,” a rambunctious rhyme-for-all that’s powered by a ramped-up rowdy beat, features a show-stealing turn by Leaders Of The New School’s Busta Rhymes, and is in with a decent shout of claiming the spoils as rap’s greatest ever posse cut. Before that though, Q-Tip, Phife and Ali offered up 13 songs that dwell in a dark and dusky zone, with tracks crafted around the pared-down formula of deep bass loops and canny drum breaks. Over Tribe’s most seductive sonic concoction, the raps spew forth with an air of effortlessness: Stream-of-conscious tinged verses from the Abstract interplay lovely with Phife’s peppy sports-referential raps, while both MCs check their egos and personal problems at the door to rhyme back and forth in a voice of unison. And in “Check The Rhime,” Tribe coined a joyful rap anthem guaranteed to leave a perma-smile on the listener’s face, complete with a video that has them coming live from Linden Boulevard. – PM

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist

Helmet – Meantime (1992)
The rhythmic, syncopated guitar riffs and gruff screams of band leader Page Hamilton made Helmet a big hit in the era of grunge. Helmet carved out their niche by eschewing both the over-the-top hysterics of traditional metal acts and tough-guy posturing of traditional hardcore acts. The quintet bridged the gaps between metal, hardcore, and grunge by indulging in a sound that (for better or worse) hugely influenced the nu-metal bands that would be all the rage later in the ’90s. – JR

David Johansen – David Johansen (1978)
For one fabulous, multicolored moment, David Johansen was the rockin’ Mayor of Manhattan. He lead the deliciously disreputable New York Dolls and dated sexy scenemaker Cyrinda Foxe. Both unions ended faster than a great forty-five. Johansen, seriously banged up, then made a record that captured every moment. From being crowned King to being beheaded. Whether strutting his skinny butt on “Funky But Chic,” waiting for work, on “Lonely Tenement,” or lamenting lost love in “Donna,” Johansen made maybe the most muscular, uncontrived “concept” albums ever. He calls to Levi Stubbs. He cries out to The Ronettes. He wonders what the fuck happened? Still, King David elicits emotion without a scintilla of self pity. Hey, he’s a Noo Yawka, baybee! — Peter Gerstenzang

EPMD – Strictly Business (1988)
Eric Sermon raps like he looks, half asleep. Parrish too: smooth, but with palpable hints of undeniable anger. And it was often that odd combo that made EPMD (Eric and Parrish Makin’ Dollars) such a unique and exciting duo, the two finishing one another’s sentences in the Beastie mold, but with a finesse the trio lacked. On their 1988 debut, Strictly Business, they managed many a miracle, not the least of which was turning a sample of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” into the backbone of a viable rap track on “You’re a Customer.” But the whole album soars, and on top of the aforementioned “Customer,” “Strictly Business,” “You Gots To Chill,” and “Let the Funk Flow” are all break out songs. Even the silly would-be dance craze that never was, “The Steve Martin,” was unabashed fun, laying down the law for how Otis Redding samples should be utilized in hip-hop. “Time keeps on slippin’,” but Strictly Business remains vital. — BMc

Type O Negative – Bloody Kisses (1993)
When former Carnivore frontman Peter Steele formed his next project, he decided to slow it down and ended up putting out one of the finest pieces of Goth-oriented metal ever laid to tape. While a few traces of his hardcore background would pop up here and there, Steele mainly embraced wrist-cutting dirges on fan favorite songs such as “Black No. 1” and “Christian Woman.” His deep booming vocals and thunderous bass ended up resulting in one of the most enduring sounds of that era. – JR

Mink DeVille – Cabretta (1977)
Could Lou Reed, Van Morrison, The Drifters, John Lee Hooker and Doc Pomus all hang in the same room without killing each other? For one crazy moment in Manhattan they did-kinda. They were really different guys, lead by a pompadoured poet named Willy DeVille. While his CBGB compatriots were playing faster than light, Willy and his band, reminded everyone that our town could encompass the sweet soul of Mixed-Up, Shook Up Girl, the chooglin’ boogie of Cadillac Walk and The Velvet Underground-if they were Latin. Mink DeVille steal every note in New York that isn’t nailed down. But damn, this town is full of thieves. No reason they can’t make records. — PG

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist

Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle (1973)
Before Bruce became Rock’s most adored religious icon (The Pope in skinny jeans), he was ours. And when not bopping down the boardwalk, he gave listeners the most striking images of New York in decades. On Incident On 57th Street, Bruce shot tenements, churches, gangs and guns, in ways Warner Brothers would’ve killed for. But Bruce really sealed the deal, though, with New York City Serenade. Swathed in strings, decorated with Doo Wop, he filmed indelible scenes of corner boys, trashmen, jazzmen and hookers. Meaning, he gave Manhattan a gorgeous, much-needed Rock ‘N’ Roll makeover. If Jimmy Cagney wrote songs and had a band? It might’ve sounded just like this. — PG

Eric B & Rakim- Paid in Full (1987)
Paid in Full is hip-hop’s essential document, the reason the rappers you already love began rapping in the first place, and rapped the way they did. It’s also the source of some of the most frequently quoted lyrics in all of hip-hop. With Eric. B providing a brilliantly sourced backdrop, Rakim transformed Paid in Full into a collection of indelible songs, with the most versatile rhymes ever spit, including what is still, arguably, the greatest line ever written in rap, on “My Melody.” Rap it with us: “I take seven MC’s put ’em in a line/ Add seven more brothers who think they can rhyme/ It’ll take seven more before I go for mine/ Now that’s 21 MC’s ate up at the same time.” From the snarling opener “I Ain’t No Joke” to the iconic opening lines and scratching tutorial of the title track, Paid in Full was the first golden age album that sounded fully formed, containing all the essential ingredients that came to define rap. — JB

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Chuck D once famously said rap music is “CNN for black people.” He just happens to be the guy who made the album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, that proved it. Nation of Millions is like graduate level course in black history, black nationalism and black revolution: Farrakhan, Chesimard, Garvey, and a host of other leaders (Barkley!) get name-checked from Chuck’s podium at the head of the class, over Hank Shocklee and Carl Ryder’s bold and innovative production. The album won our Pazz & Jop poll in ’88, and in the issue that year Robert Christgau wrote it’s “the bravest and most righteous experimental pop of the decade.” Turns out, that remains 100-percent correct. — BMc

Garland Jeffreys – Ghost Writer (1977)
Escape Artist would finally find Garland Jeffreys a wider audience four years later, but Ghost Writer gets the nod on this list as the pride of Brooklyn’s New Yorkest disc, from the self-baring title cut to the vivid “35-Millimeter Dreams” to the anthemic “Wild in the Streets” and the West Side Story-esque ballad “Spanish Town.” Despite moderate acclaim, this funky pop singer-songwriter has never received his due. And that’s our loss, because Jeffreys is every bit as hooky and infectious as, say, Graham Parker, his pub-rock peer from across the pond. “I used to live down on Ludlow Street, 1964,” sings the “Ghost Writer.” “Then I was so innocent, but now I know the score.” And you believe in your soul he did and he was and he does. — TF

LL Cool J Radio (1985)
Bursting onto the scene like a guy who knew he was poised to become a hip-hop legend, Kangol-hat wearing, Queens native James Todd Smith (better known as Ladies Love Cool James) rocked every kind of bell when he dropped his debut album Radio on Def Jam in 1985. Using minimal beats and scratches that were infamously “reduced” by future producing guru Rick Rubin, the callow yet utterly confident Smith (who was just 17 at the time of the album’s release) injected the rap world with swag way before anyone knew what the hell that meant. Radio is littered with boombox anthems — “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” “Rock the Bells,” “I Can Give You More” – that showcased LL’s knack for witty, simplistic and effective rhymes. Ushering both Def Jam’s reign as the premier hip-hop label and Smith’s eternal rep as the genre’s studliest b-boy, Radio gave ghettoblasters all over this great land their own signature soundtrack. — Craig D. Lindsey

Listen to selected songs from most of these 50 albums with our Spotify playlist

Anthrax- Among The Living (1987)
Bay Area acts Metallica, Megadeth, and Exodus all put out seminal works in the thrash genre. Anthrax proved the East Coast could thrash just as hard and heavy. The intense double-bass drumming of Charlie Benante backed tasty riffs put together by the guitar duo of Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, with vocalist Joey Belladonna having the finest vocal performances of his career. While the aura around their brand of metal wasn’t as dour and serious as Metallica and Megadeth, these thrashers proved they could get just as much of a vicious mosh pit going with classic tracks such as “Caught in a Mosh” and “I Am the Law.” – JR

Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly (Original Soundtrack) (1972)
We lost Curtis Mayfield far too soon, but we’ll always have Super Fly. If this were a list of Most New York Films, Shaft would get the nod over its little blaxploitation brother. But whereas Isaac Hayes’s soundtrack for the former was merely a perfect match for the celluloid, Mayfield’s musical accompaniment far outshone the movie to which it was matched. Fronted by the Chicago soul crooner’s unparalleled falsetto and backed by fearsomely funky arrangements, “Freddie’s Dead,” “Pusherman,” “Superfly,” et al. comprise a ’70s soul collection for the ages, as the album’s endurance through the years has borne out. —TF