There are people who like music. They turn on the radio, every now and then it grabs their attention at bars, and they sing along to the lyrics of whatever Top 40 song happens to be playing.
A gentleman, however, does not like music. A gentleman knows music — what’s good, what’s bad, what just is … and why.
That said: Not all people grew up exposed to sounds beyond their stereo, so we put together a list of must-know albums that you may have missed while fist-pumping to Journey in your college dorm room.
On this list you’ll find everything from indie rock to hip hop, dance music to funk. You’ll find some No. 1 hits, but more importantly, you’ll find music that has stood the test of time — or is definitely about to.
Pavement is one of the godfather bands of indie rock music, and Brighten the Corners, the band's fourth work, might just be its best album. The sound is polished, ranging from gritty to dreamy, but always staying singularly rock and roll. Pay attention to the lyrics. They're brilliant.
Release: Feb. 11, 1997
A gentleman should know some jazz, and John Coltrane's A Love Supreme is about the simplest way to start. It just barely dips the listener's toe into Coltrane's later sound -- a more abstract sound -- without losing the melody and coherent story that makes this album so memorable.
Played by Coltrane's quartet, the album is broken down into four movements -- 'Acknowledgment,' 'Resolution,' 'Pursuance,' and 'Psalm.'
Release: February 1965
Many know this as the album where The Beatles invented hard rock with 'Helter Skelter,' but The White Album also shows the Beatles' effortless talent. Seemingly tossed-off tunes like 'Savoy Truffle' and 'Sexy Sadie,' also contain some of the best musical moments of all time.
Release: November 22, 1968
When Sound of Silver came out in 2007, it didn't produce a single hit, but it didn't have to. It was critically acclaimed all the same. Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone ranked it the 7th best album of the year, and it was nominated for a Grammy. What's more important, though, is that it cemented frontman James Murphy and his record label DFA as a game changer, flying just below the radar, and instrumental in the popularization of dance music.
Try hard not to get emotional when you listen to track 4, 'Someone Great' -- at least not in public.
Release: March 12, 2007
Another band from DFA Records, Hot Chip specialised in getting indie rock fans on the dance floor with their electro pop fused sound. The Warning is the band's second album -- they're still going to this day -- and includes the song 'Over and Over.' You'll dance to it over and over.
Release: May 22, 2006
French electro duo Daft Punk got a ton of attention for their 2013 album, Random Access Memories, but it's important to know your roots. Discovery, their second album, is where the classic dance tune 'One More Time' comes from.
That's enough to put the album on this list, but there's even more. Daft Punk teamed up with Leiji Matsumoto and Toei Animation to turn the album into an anime movie called Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Release: March 3, 2001
Three days before he died of an incurable blood disease, producer/rapper J Dilla made Doughnuts and no other album has touched it since. Basically, it's a collection of flawless, weird, funky beats.
As a sidenote: If you've never heard of Dilla, maybe you've heard of the record label he was on Stones Throw Records. Based in Oakland, Stones Throw has been holding it down for underground hip hop since 1996. Kanye West and other explain that in a recent documentary about the label, 'Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton.'
Release: February 7, 2006
Deltron 3o30 is a collaboration between two artists, producer Dan the Automater and rapper Del the Funky Homosapien (you'll recognise Del's voice from his other project, Gorillaz). The album itself is an incredible story -- the journey of a rap warrior who battles an evil hegemonic structure of lesser rappers governing the planets. All the songs flow together like an opera.
Release: May 23, 2000
The best songs Dylan and the Band ever wrote almost weren't released. Author Greil Marcus says the songs on The Basement Tapes describe a bygone 'Old, Weird America,' songs you might have heard a century before the tunes themselves were written.
Release: January 20, 1975
Hercules and Love Affair's self-titled album is unapologetically disco, unapologetically dance, and unapologetically awesome. The timing for this work's release was perfect. It came out in a year when dance music really broke through. Pitchfork Media named the album's first single, 'Blind', the best song of 2008.
And yes, this is yet another album from DFA Records.
Release: March 10, 2008
Fin makes the list as one of the most interesting albums to come out in the last five years.
Talabot is a musician and DJ from Spain, but this album could be from anywhere. It epitomizes a global sound that has been developing for years -- a pop/house infused type of sophisticated dance music. Fin's haunting vocals, complex mixes, and mid-tempo melodies are dreamy and luxurious. Talabot has managed to make an album that sounds futuristic and soulful at the same time.
Just try the first track -- 'Destiny'.
Release: February 14, 2012
The Wu-Tang Clan's debut album is undoubtedly one of the monster rap albums of the 1990s -- and became a major influence for others like Jay-Z and Nas. The album was raw and original.The title of 36 Chambers derives its name from a martial arts movie, and many lyrics contain martial arts metaphors.
Release: November 9, 1993
The James Brown of Nigeria, Fela addressed the injustices occurring in his homeland with funk and fury . The Best Best has all of Kuti's greatest cuts.
Although Rodriguez's 1970 debut album never hit it big in the United States, it was 'as big as Abbey Road or Bridge Over Troubled Water' in South Africa.
The album captures an inner-city stream of consciousness -- gritter than folk, but more velvety than rock. And definitely check out 'I Wonder,' 'Hate Street Dialogue', and 'Forget it'.
Release: March 1970
Nas could've made Illmatic, his debut album, walked away forever, and still remained a legend. The lyrics seem to spill breathlessly out of his mouth in a perfect stream, painting clear pictures of his experience in Queensbridge, New York.
In NY State of Mind he raps:
'The city never sleeps, full of villains and creeps
That's where I learned to do my hustle, had to scuffle with freaks'
Release: April 19, 1994
It would have been almost impossible to for Lauryn Hill to match her first solo effort, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, if she had made another studio album. The way things played out, though -- with her career dropping off a cliff -- that didn't have to happen either.
Still, this album remains a monument to her incredible ability to sing, rap, and write anything from soaring R&B ballads to funky hip hop.
Release: August 25, 1998
No less than the aforementioned Miles Davis called Paul's Boutique one of the greatest albums of all time shortly before his death. This is the disc that launched 1,000 lawsuits for having sampled seemingly half the songs ever written, but is also considered one of the founding documents of hip-hop.
Release: July 25, 1989
What would hip hop be without Outkast -- without Big Boi and Andre 3000? In Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the duo's first album, they introduced an East and West Coast dominated genre to the flamboyant, pimped out credo that's become associated with Southern rap in general. This was when the world met -- and fell in love with -- the Atlanta sound.
Release: April 26, 1994
Somehow 'Stairway to Heaven' always gets all the attention here when 'When The Levee Breaks' is one of the top-3 rock songs of all time. Also one of the greatest guitar performances ever on 'Rock n' Roll.'
Release: February 24, 1975
Kids listen to Thriller, adults listen to Off The Wall. This was the album where Michael Jackson shed his Motown image and threw down some seriously funky, sometimes disco-leaning dance tunes -- like the title track, 'Get On The Floor', 'Rock With You', and 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough.'
Release: August 10, 1979
Songs in The Key of Life is Stevie Wonder's 18th album. 18th!
More than that this album includes some of Wonder's most iconic tracks -- like 'Sir Duke' and 'Isn't She Lovely' -- and some of his most stunning arrangements, like 'Another Star'. You'll also hear some legendary musicians here, like George Benson (on 'Another Star'), Herbie Hancock (on 'As') and Minnie Ripperton (on 'Ordinary Pain').
Release: September 28, 1976
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.