Towards the late 60’s and early 70’s, a new wave of music rose to popularity. Alternative music took the world by storm, taking underground and independent artists to the charts. To this day, there are a handful of alternative albums that reflect the core of this genre. Here are 12 alternative vinyl records to add to your collection to make it complete:
The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground (1967)
One of the first and most influential alternative albums of all time is The Velvet Underground’s debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico. With an innovative sound that was unique for it’s time, this album used the tactic of relatability through home-crafted sounds that were different from classic rock and roll. Sounding like a live garage performance, The Velvet Underground and Nico rose to fame through the discussion of taboo subjects such as sex and drugs, which arguably started the alternative genre itself. These taboo themes later became a prominent and defining characteristic of alternative music. In addition to this, a fun fact for this album is that artist Andy Warhol was not only a strong supporter of the band, but also produced the cover art and helped aid in the making of the album itself.
Dark Side of The Moon - Pink Floyd (1973)
Whether you know Dark Side of The Moon by name or by the iconic artwork for this classic alternative album, this work of art is undeniably a key piece of the alternative groundbreaking era. The tracklist speaks to a rebellious youth, making topics such as war and growing up relatable to those who needed something to connect with at the time. The greatest album lives on as a timeless classic, as generations long after still feel the relatability and connection of growing up even through a previous time period.
Heroes - David Bowie (1977)
Written and produced during a highly political time in West Berlin, Heroes by David Bowie highlights the essence of the alternative genre in a different way than prior artists at the time. In contrast to the aggressive nature of bands and artists releasing alternative music during this time, Bowie took a slightly different approach by exploring issues of alcoholism and mortality from an existential standpoint. More so, Heroes was created in the midst of a chaotic period which allowed Bowie to explore human struggles and essentially break out of the mold that society and pop culture had created at the time. In this album, it is clear that the lyrics seek to address issues from an emotional and raw perspective, in a way that had not been done before.
Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division (1979)
The UK-based band Joy Division released the punk rock album Unknown Pleasures in the late 70’s. Another vinyl album cover with well-known artwork, Unknown Pleasures pushed the boundaries of alternative, punk music at the time. In this sense, the album created what sounded like futuristic tunes filled with melancholy lyrics. While Unknown Pleasures did not reach the charts during or shortly after its release, years later, it finally rose to fame and since has been considered one of the best alternative albums of all time.
The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths (1986)
Perhaps one of the most obviously rebellious bands, The Smiths rose to fame in part due to their lack of a filter within their lyrics and appearance. The Queen Is Dead, not only demonstrates the unruly nature of the band within the title, but more so within the composition of the album itself. Here, the album is filled with ideas of loneliness and controversial topics addressing their perspective on the world in a very blunt and aggressive manner. While the band and the album received some backlash because of the level of bluntness and aggressiveness, it persisted nevertheless and received even more critical acclaim as an outcome.
Disintegration - The Cure (1989)
An album heavily influenced by hallucinogens and an interesting perspective on life, Disintegration by The Cure is a deeply emotional album among the alternative genre. With a dreary and melancholy feel, this album embraces the core of alternative music by discussing love and suffering in a way that highlights loneliness and internal battles. The alternative nature of this vinyl album stems from raw lyricism allowing people to feel and connect with the message of the music.
Nevermind - Nirvana (1991)
Another alternative album that had a significant influence on bands and artists in years to come is Nevermind by Nirvana. With arguably one of the most famous album covers of all time, Nevermind spoke to rebellious youth as well in a number of ways. This album rejected labels set out by society and pop culture through heavy, loud, and emotionally-charged lyricism. The first song on the album, and perhaps the most iconic, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a prime example of the albums overall theme of non-conforming teenage youth. Not only did this album act as a means of relatability for young rebels across the US, but it also was the album that made American punk music commercially profitable.
Weezer (The Blue Album) - Weezer (1994)
Moving into the mid 90’s, Weezer (The Blue Album) took an innovative approach as an alternative band in comparison to those that came before. Weezer appealed to a younger audience in the 90’s by addressing outsiderness and the awkward nature of youth through what was claimed to be “geek rock.” In comparison to alternative bands at the time, Weezer expanded the genre of alternative music by taking an innovative and new approach to reach their audience through making the idea of being “uncool” the new cool. In essence, this album broke mainstream ideals while discussing notions of familiar everyday struggles felt by teenage youth.
Hybrid Theory - Linkin Park (2000)
Linkin Park's debut album Hybrid Theory was the beginning of a legendary presence for the band. The tracklist for this album reflected much of lead singer Chester Bennington’s struggles growing up, from drugs to familial issues. Much of the messages in this album reflected that of an angry and rebellious teen, which appealed to a wide audience at the time, and even more so in years to come. With this album, the alternative genre was slightly reinvented with a less grunge, yet still relatable and edgy feel.
Is This It - The Strokes (2001)
Influenced by The Velvet Underground, The Strokes released Is This It at the beginning of the 2000’s. Although the Strokes are relatively more recent, the sound is similar to that of classic alternative beginnings in the early 70’s. Is This It sought to recreate alternative sounds that were less studio-based and rather non-filtered, giving the songs a “garage-made” feel. In fact, Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of The Strokes, typically recorded each song only once in the album making process to create a more raw and unfiltered sound. In doing so, the classic feel along with the unconventional nature of the album pushed it to be one of the best of the early 2000’s.
American Idiot - Green Day (2004)
In response to the political climate of America post-September 11th attacks, Green Day released American Idiot as an act of musical protest. This album, written through the lens of a rebellious and angry teen discusses notions of disapproval and revolt through the use of highly explicit language. With American Idiot, Green Day extended the alternative genre in a way that was extremely direct and intentional. This continued to reinforce the core ideals behind alternative music by portraying defiant messages with no filter or shame, resonating with a large audience in society. To this day, American Idiot is seen as a modern day alternative classic.
AM - Arctic Monkeys (2013)
A more recent and final album you should have in your alternative vinyl collection is AM by the Arctic Monkeys. Written and produced in the UK, AM was the album that brought The Arctic Monkeys overseas and further recognized in the US, and for good reason. AM is a more recent take on alternative music, yet still holds a garage-made sound in its composition. This album takes obvious inspiration from prior alternative classics such as Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, which can be seen in the album artwork. Further, the Arctic Monkeys have claimed that this album was inspired in part by The Velvet Underground as well. AM demonstrates how far alternative music has come over the years and how far it has yet to evolve. It’s no doubt that this vinyl record will go down in history just as the albums that have come prior.
Enjoying Your Alternative Vinyl Records
Alternative vinyl records are filled with emotion and relatable life lessons that are embedded into beautifully composed guitar riffs, bass and drums. The best way to appreciate the top vinyl records of 2020 in detail is to play them from your vinyl record player. If you happen to be on the market for a new record player or if you’re looking to start a record collection, Victrola offers a great selection of top quality vinyl record players that will bring each of these albums to life. With a number of styles to choose from, you can be sure to find a record player with unmatched audio that takes listening to music at home to a whole new level.