The 50 Most NYC Albums Ever

Categories: Best of NYC

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March 7, 2014 Update: We've added more albums that didn't make the cut: "The Most NYC Albums That Didn't Make Our Most NYC Albums List."
For the past week we've been locked in the torch of the Statue of Liberty, subsisting on nothing but Russ & Daughters' lox, listening to the best records about, by, and for New York City through headphones endorsed by Lou Reed. Our mission: to come up with a list of the 50 Most NYC Albums Ever; albums born of the five boroughs that best capture what it's like to live, love, struggle, and exist in the sprawling, unforgiving, culturally dense metropolis we pay too much to call home. The albums we finally agreed upon capture everything from the unaffected cool of the Lower East Side to the horn-spiked salsa of Spanish Harlem and much more. So let's get to it. Here, now, the 50 most quintessential New York records. Apologies in advance for The Muppets Take Manhattan not making the cut.

Contributors: Rae Alexandra, R.C. Baker, Lilledeshan Bose, Jonah Bromwich, Tom Finkel, Kat George, Beca Grimm, Chris Klimek, Brett Koshkin, Nick Lucchesi, Anna Merlan, Phillip Mlynar, Chris Packham, Albert Samaha, Alan Scherstuhl, Elliott Sharp, Brittany Spanos, Tessa Stuart, Eric Sundermann, Katherine Turman

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

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50
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell (2003)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs might not be the hipster band du jour anymore, but Fever to Tell is still a perfect downtown New York record, gritty and artsy and stylish. Karen O has always sounded (and dressed) like the most inaccessibly hip girl at the art school party, but Fever's appeal is also about the genuine substance locked inside layers of noise and attitude and snarl. O's lines here are plaintive and written to cut like diamonds, like when she addresses a string of no-good lovers in "Y Control," rebuking both them and herself: "Well I'm just one poor baby/'Cause well I believe them all/Wish I could buy back the woman you stole..."

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49
Jay Z - The Blueprint (2001)
Jay-Z famously mocked Nas for having a "one hot album every 10-year average." And yet Jay himself has only reached the height of his potential three times in a nearly 30-year career. The highest of those heights was The Blueprint, an imperialistic rap album built upon a New York sound that subsumed whatever else was in its path. Released on September 11, 2001, The Blueprint is a reminder of a New York that still seemed invincible, the city where the American dream was available to anyone with a hustle and the heart to see it through.

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48
Jim Carroll - Catholic Boy (1980)
With his New York drug-drawl and angel-headed hipster-hustler lyrics, poet-turned-musician Jim Carroll spoke-sang with an urgency that belied his drug of choice. "Crow," about muse and friend Patti Smith, is a gift, as is Bobby Keys' sad sax on the spare, mysterious "City Drops into the Night." But it was a litany of especially New York deaths -- by subway, The Tombs (jail), and "heroin in upper Manhattan" -- that made "People Who Died" an unlikely hit. Carroll's perfect phrases and phrasing make his recorded debut both a literary and musical gem.

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47
Lana Del Rey - Born to Die (2012)
Despite her Las Vegas past and L.A. crass, Lana Del Rey is still the queen of Coney Island. The self-appointed "gangsta Nancy Sinatra"'s massive debut stirred discussions of authenticity while delivering a surreally romantic worldview of a futuristic Guys and Dolls New York. Even the male subjects of her songs create a composite of the quintessential young New York hipster, from his blue jeans to his apathy and bad reputation. In her way, this New York singer embraces a dreamier ideal of life in the city.

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46
Ciccone Youth - The Whitey Album (1988)
1988's The Whitey Album is what happens when you take two essential NYC musical icons -- underground masters Sonic Youth and pop queen Madonna (last name: Ciccone) -- add punk legends like Black Flag's Greg Ginn and the Minutemen's Mike Watt, and mash the whole thing together in an avant-garde experiment. Madonna's "Burning Up" and "Get into the Groove" are both covered here, and while the latter is a wall of kaleidoscopic distortion and electronic claps, the former is infused with a distinctly Velvet Underground flavor, to really hammer the inherent New York-ness of Whitey home.

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

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192 comments
wylddave
wylddave

A good list of "NY" albums but you're missing one of the most important of all...

LOU REED'S "New York" from 1989. Not only is it an essential NY album, it's Lou Reed's masterpiece!

Stephen Marchese
Stephen Marchese

#1 George Gershwin-RiB #2 the Velvet Underground#3 West Side Story#4 John Coltrane-Blue Train#5Jimi Hendrix-Electric Lady Land

Nahlej Monroe
Nahlej Monroe

How many times am I gonna like this article?

Jean Spurvey
Jean Spurvey

No one is more NYC than Lou Reed and The Ramones

Steve Bergkamp
Steve Bergkamp

How the hell did you leave off Kevin Federline's "playing with fire"?!

Art Leibowitz
Art Leibowitz

Left out Lou Reed's New York album. Cut me a break

Paul Felix
Paul Felix

mr. Jorge Hernandez i was thinking the same damn thing

hybridjose
hybridjose

This list says more about the VV staff then it does about NYC albums.

I didn't see any Boogie Down Production? Run DMC? LL Cool J? MC Shan on this list? The Bridge was an anthem! I didn't see Lou Reed on there either. Is he in there somewhere? Grand Master Flash, White Line! And this gem back in the day. . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DeTR8n7eTU

hybridjose
hybridjose

This list says more about the VV staff then it does about NY.

smitty9812
smitty9812

This list Is Horrible hardly represents the black music ny scene which is huge such as a 

tribe called quest low end theory


The FUgees even though they come from NJ thats still NY music


How are you gonna do Lana del rey but not JOEY BADASS thats as new york as today gets


Pete Gregory
Pete Gregory

I enjoyed reading the list of albums that didn't make it just as much as this one.

ezrapolo
ezrapolo

Great List! Correction...#21 says "Wu Tang Clan: Return of the 36 Chambers (1993)", however the album art shows: "Wu Tang Clan: Enter the Wu Tang 36 Chambers" (1993). The actual "Wu Tang Clan: Return of the 36 Chambers" Is a solo album from Ol' Dirty Bastard from 1995. #canitbesosimple

juwah94
juwah94

where's Roy Ayer's Ubiquity  and Black on Both Sides or The New Danger by Mos Def. those are some those albums are the epitome of Brooklyn

rilic57
rilic57

NAS, as NYC as subways, parking meters, street cart hot dogs, pizza, street vendors, yellow cabs, street hustlers and after hour bars! The rhymes and verses strong, real and all so true! Born and raised in NYC, I've seen many shows starting in the early 70's! Great NYC artists from then were Lou Reed, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Ramones!    

Rocker75
Rocker75

@juracraveiro lista legal Jura mas como eles esquecem do Breakfast in America do Supertramp e sua capa genial NYC versao American Diner?

brittala21
brittala21

YOU'RE ALL DAFT! NOTHING ABOUT HALF OF THE GREAT BANDS FROM NYC LIKE TYPE O NEGATIVE OR ANTHRAX?? AND NO STREISAND??? NO HENDRIX?? NO CYNDI LAUPER??? NO RUN DMC??   THIS SHOULD BE A LIST OF 'HEY WE'RE HALF-ASSING THIS..LETS JUST THROW NAS AT #1!" ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME?????????????????


THIS IS WORSE THAN ROLLING STONE! AND WHY THE HELL ISN'T DOUBLE FANTASY AT LEAST IN THE TOP 10??? I MEAN THE MAN DID LIVE, RECORD, AND DIE IN NYC....HE WAS A NEW YORKER! I MEAN ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS PICTURES OF HIM IS WITH A NEW YORK CITY TEE SHIRT ON AND IN BLUE DENIM! HOW MUCH MORE AMERICAN/NEW YORKER CAN YOU FRIGGEN GET!?!?!


YOU PEOPLE SUCK, AND HAVE GREATLY DISAPPOINTED ME-IVE SAID MY PEACE
IM DONE!

DeeJayStrip
DeeJayStrip

This list must have been compiled by a mentally retarded pair of tone deaf conjoined twins who parents owner a music store in backwoods Ohio that catered to people that know as much about music than a sack of horse shit on a hot summers day.

DeeJayStrip
DeeJayStrip

This list must have been compiled by a pair of 20 year old conjoined mentally retarded twins who's patents owned a music store in back woods Ohio catering to people who know less about music than a sack of flour.

djuridalal
djuridalal

The Village Voice is obviously looking for a much younger, dumber version of me. Did they move the Voice offices to Brooklyn when they fired Michael Musto? This is why I fucking hate this generation. None of you know ANYTHING! NAS at #1? On the list for sure but #1? Oh, and that's NUMBER ONE, not hashtag one for anyone under 30. Wrong Public Enemy album right Wu-Tang Clan album but somehow you guys writing a music article apparently don't know the title? Where is Run DMC? And that's just hip hop. Where are The Dictators? Johnny Thunders and the heartbreakers? Honestly I think either Patti Smith or The Ramones or even Bob Dylan should hold the #1 spot - No LGBT contributions... and no comprehension how Jenny from the block comes on this list before #300, honestly! I'm done. If I want to read crap by people who have no idea what's going on I'll read fucking Rolling Stone.

Frank Carroll
Frank Carroll

Are you really going to repost this every fucking day?

rufus_red
rufus_red

Theses lists always sway towards heterosexual men and ignore the gay's contribution to musical artists popularity. Do you feel gays don't listen to rock and roll? You at least included ONE Broadway soundtrack and with that in mind, here's my short list of grossly overlooked New York records. 


Barbra Streisand 'A Happening In Central Park'. The Brooklyn born Babs made history with the biggest free concert of it's day. 

Judy Garland, 'Live At Carnegie Hall'. Needs no introduction. 

Liza Minnelli, 'Live At Carnegie Hall', Duh

Laura Nyro, 'Eli And The Thirteenth Confession'. 

Bette Midler, 'The Divine Miss M'.

Cyndi Lauper, 'She's So Unusual'. Just for once I'd like to see Madonna left off of a list and Cyndi included. 



hybridjose
hybridjose

@DeeJayStrip No freestyle music? No House?? Shannon, Let the Music Play was a club anthem.  Grand Master Flash, The Message? wow. Just wow.

djuridalal
djuridalal

I also love how you morons still completely ignore 80s and 90s House Music and electronic stuff - Why isn't that 'Elements' or Tourism album by Danny Tenaglia on this list or Junior Vasquez's Arena compilation - but I guarantee if those Swedish jerks did something here it would be your quintessential New York electronic record - god you people suck.

djuridalal
djuridalal

@rufus_red  EXACTLY - they left off Deee-Lite too which is mind boggling to me how they always just skip important lgbt releases 

connerton4
connerton4

They may not have picked older hip hop because there's arguably weren't any "concept" albums being made back then. Raising Hell is a classic but I think of it more as a collection of songs than an album, actually.

Rocker75
Rocker75

@juracraveiro não sei se entendo, mas eles esqueceram tbdo lendário Physical Graffiti do Led Zep e a capa na St Marks Place !

djuridalal
djuridalal

Kraftwerk's COMPUTER WORLD is more New York than 50% of what you put on this list - The Clash's Sandinista! - my god you couldn't escape that album in NYC that one summer it was like how you can't escape lady GaGa in the present. The best bit of information I got from this article is now I know why I've always hated her - she comes from that preppie wannabe bar scene full of wealthy white college herbs from Connecticut that get drunk at places like Merchants on the upper east side. No doubt they'll all be living in Brooklyn soon.

rufus_red
rufus_red

@djuridalal @rufus_red  Dee-LIte, of course. They made such an impact with only, what 1 record. This list is so dark and dreary, junkie and drunk heavy, ugh!


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