Curating your new record collection brings all the anxieties of adolescence back to the surface. What are the right records to buy? Which of the classics should you own and how many new albums should be scattered in there as well? It’s a mix of personal taste and daring to try new bands. It’s easy to fall in a rut of music taste and stay there for a few decades if you’re not intentional about seeking out new albums.
But even trying to find the best new or classic albums can be an overwhelming process for music fans. The Internet is swimming with lists of the best vinyl records to collect but which ones should you listen to on your record player? At Victrola, we live and breathe music, and we have curated the ultimate list of the best vinyl records to own. Below are 15 vinyl records that will make your collection the go-to standard for any dinner party, house party, solo dance party, an afternoon of easy listening, or any dates you bring home. These albums are true pieces of art from beginning to end, no shuffling or song skipping required:
Best Vinyl Records to Collect for Beginners
Graceland by Paul Simon (1986) —This album sets a mood from the opening notes to the final drumbeat. Graceland won Best Album of the Year in 1987 and it’s the kind of classic album that’s meant to hear from start to finish. Paul Simon worked with African artists to create an incredible blend of genres in one album. One track opens with a cappella then transitions into rock music. Another track splits your expectations with the rhythm and blues of zydeco. The tracks have an addictive pop quality that will keep you flipping the disc over and over.
Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes (2011) – This universally acclaimed album asks you one simple question: are you a nostalgic person? And this Seattle based folk group answers with a deafening YES YOU ARE. The notes and melodies of every track feel as though they were plucked from your memories and dreams––making you heartsick for a time you haven't yet lived. The songs are hopeful and sad at once. Spin this record on a rainy day and feel yourself time travel into the past and future.
Rumors by Fleetwood Mac (1976) – Few bands have had as much success (and drama) as Fleetwood Mac, but this classic album makes it all worthwhile. You’ve undoubtedly heard tracks from this classic album throughout your life, they are famously found in movie soundtracks and karaoke bars alike. Boasting a prolific total of 17 studio albums and 62 hit singles, anything Fleetwood Mac is worth listening to. This album is where you should begin.
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (1966) – The Beach Boys perfected their atmospheric sound in this studio album that remains a classic decades after its release. There is something about Pet Sounds that will lift the mood and keep everyone smiling. Making Sunday brunch? Throw on Pet Sounds. Getting ready to go out on a date? Pet Sounds. It’s romance without intensity. Sunshine without shadow. Every track is a crowd favorite.
The Chronic by Dr. Dre (1992) – The artistry of rhythm and poetry (rap) is brought to its zenith in this gangster rap classic. Prophetic lyricists and straight up OG Dr. Dre brought the rawness of the early nineties to the mainstream with this debut album. Snoop Doggy Dog was also instrumental in making this influential album and Snoop’s distinctive style helped make this one of the most highly regarded and influential rap albums of all time.
Thriller by Michael Jackson (1984) – Studded with singles and prickling with danceable beats, this album is perfect for sliding off those shoes and practicing your dancing in front of the mirror. The atmosphere of this album is dark, zesty, electric, and fun. Widely acknowledged as one of the best studio records of all time, if you’re not sure which Michael Jackson album to start with buying, start here.
Horses by Patti Smith (1975) – When you buy this album, do yourself a kindness and pick up a copy of Patti Smith's book Just Kids while you’re at it. Together, the album and record will transport you to the New York City art scene centered around the Chelsea Hotel in the sixties and seventies. You’ll feel the slam of punk music crashing into poetry then asking it to play along. Spend a weekend lost in this youthful narrative and you’ll understand why this dangerous and exciting time created such memorable and long-lasting art.
1989 by Taylor Swift – It’s easy to make fun of pop icons but this Grammy-winning album is anything but two dimensional. While singles from this album litter digital playlists, sitting down with the full album brings a new appreciation for the stories behind the music and Swift’s signature songwriting style. Themes of heartbreak and self-reflection weave throughout the heavily synthesized musical landscape. While this album was born in the digital age, it still shines on vinyl.
The Miseducation of Lauren Hill by Lauren Hill (1999) – Like a Broadway production, Lauren Hill slays with this powerful debut solo album that feels just as fresh twenty years later. Hill took every trouble and success she had in her career with the Fugees and turned it into a powerhouse of rhythm and harmony. Mixing styles of reggae, hip hop, soul, and R&B, this entire album takes you into its own world. Laugh to this album, cry to this album, dance to this album––it is an essential gem in any vinyl collection.
Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette (1996) – This album defied all expectations by winning Album of the Year and remaining a karaoke favorite ever since. A feminist anthem that is beloved by every generation since its inception, it’s little wonder why Alanis Morissette was cast as God in the cult classic Dogma. If you’re going through heartbreak, put this album on. If you’re having a hard week, put this album on. If you breathe oxygen––put this album on.
Remain in Light by Talking Heads (1980) – Every record collection needs a little Talking Heads. Their classic mashup of dance-rock meets post-punk meets new wave art funk is a critical potency in this short but powerful album. The original songs are brave and well executed, bringing the audience into the music as it unfolds. Throw this record on when you’re hosting new friends and you’ll quickly bond over the music.
Back to Back by Amy Winehouse (2007) – One of the greatest musicians, Amy Winehouse brings every ounce of her brilliance and strong femininity to this groundbreaking album. Her voice and presence shine on vinyl in a way that makes her feel alive as the record spins and you experience the audio pouring through the room. The songs are filled with pop R&B beats, lilting vocals, and cussing that somehow feels holy. This album is still hip and relevant years later, an instant and tragic classic.
Give It Up by Bonnie Raitt (1972) – Folksy blues singer Bonnie Raitt delivers an unforgettable album that rings of Woodstock, New York, and the California coast. With the twang of country, the brass and beauty of big band, and the foot-stomping goodness of s solid live performance, this album remains a classic for a reason. This essential good time record hooks and rewards listeners from beginning to end.
White Blood Cells by The White Stripes (2001) – Meg and Jack White released their third album and the mainstream exploded. Their iconic mix of playful lyricism and garage band thunder melts expectations and rebuilds them. The opening song ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’ is everything rock music should be and you will no doubt find yourself listening and relistening to this album when you need a pick-me-up on the weekend.
Catch a Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1973) –If Bob Marley’s image has been tainted for you by college bros wearing puka shell necklaces, it’s time to revisit this icon of reggae. The early albums of Marley will set your heart at ease. His classic mix of social justice stories told through downbeat melodies will have you smiling and swaying in the kitchen for hours. Buck the stereotypes of smoke-filled college dorm rooms and listen to Marley Sunday morning while you sip coffee in bed––it’ll start your day off right.
Choose Albums That Excite You
The albums you choose to populate your collection are ultimately up to you but take some risks. Venture outside of your comfort zone. Give an album a few spins before you make up your mind completely. Music, like kissing, isn’t always glowing sparks and stars align the first time. It can take a few tries to get the hang of it––to learn how to enjoy and appreciate each other properly. The most important thing is to choose music that excites you and helps you grow in your musical education. Building your new vinyl collection is a rite of passage so enjoy the process!