Top 20 Steve Albini Recorded Albums

For the Steve Albini fans out there I came across this list posted on

Whether you agree with the list or not it’s still definitely interesting to check it out, so here it is:

20. Mogwai – ‘My Father, My King’
19. The Ex – ‘Turn’
18. High On Fire – ‘Blessed Black Wings’
17. Don Caballero – ‘American Don’
16. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’
15. Superchunk – ‘No Pocky For Kitty’
14. Dirty Three – ‘Ocean Songs’
13. Low – ‘Secret Name’
12. The Wedding Present – ‘Seamonsters’
11. Shellac – ‘At Action Park’
10. Neurosis – ‘Times Of Grace’
09. Palace Music – ‘Viva Last Blues’
08. The Breeders – ‘Pod’
07. Jawbreaker – ’24 Hour Revenge Therapy’
06. Joanna Newsom – ‘Ys’
05. The Jesus Lizard – ‘Goat’

Albini worked with these Chicago-via-Texas angular-stomp masters throughout their surprisingly long career. But their sophomore album is where the team’s drooling, violent attack found its truest expression. Albini knew that the Jesus Lizard’s power lay in the tension between David Yow’s unhinged neanderthal act and the crushing precision of the rhythm section, and he makes sure we feel each garbled screech and bass-thud in the pit of our souls.

04. Big Black – ‘Atomizer’

The debut album from Albini’s first noteworthy band, ‘Atomizer’ sounds like what might happen if the Fall and Motorhead got into a meat-locker rumble. Albini is infamous for making every snare-crack reverberate in your ribs, but Big Black stuck with drum machines, and that somehow made ‘Atomizer’ sound even more brutal. The album’s scraping intensity and Albini’s grim deadpan helped create a blueprint for the next few decades of underground-rock misanthropy.

03. PJ Harvey – ‘Rid Of Me’

Some critics are always after Polly Jean Harvey to pick up a guitar and start wailing ruthlessly again, but she only ever really sounded like a punk rock banshee when Steve Albini was recording her. Harvey’s toughest and most feral LP is her second one, and Albini’s work on the album gives the music a harsh, chaotic edge that mirrors Harvey’s songs and sentiments. And so it would be pretty easy to make the argument that Albini had a hand in 1993’s two finest rock albums.

02. Pixies – ‘Surfer Rosa’

As the recording engineer for the legendary whisper-to-scream band’s debut full-length, Albini made the Pixies sound louder and screechier than they ever would again. He recorded Kim Deal’s “Gigantic” vocals in a studio bathroom, kept studio banter in on certain songs, and generally made the band sound like the biggest, nastiest thing on earth. Albini’s production work on this album was what later convinced people like Kurt Cobain and PJ Harvey to seek him out. And a couple of years later, he called the album “a patchwork pinch loaf from a band who at their top dollar best are blandly entertaining college rock.” He later apologized for the insult, but still!

01. Nirvana – ‘In Utero’

Nirvana’s decision to work with Albini on the all-important ‘Nevermind’ follow-up could be seen as a statement of intent: The newly minted Most Important Band On Earth signing on with one of the major-label system’s most important critics for a destined-to-be-huge record that would smack Nirvana’s huge audience around with their underground aesthetics. And there were rumblings that DGC didn’t consider In Utero fit for release; they eventually brought R.E.M. producer Scott Litt in to sweeten the mix on “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies.” But Albini turned out to be a great musical match for the band. It’s hard to imagine anyone else capturing the visceral urgency of a tracks like “Serve The Servants” and “Very Ape” quite like Albini did, but he also let the beauty shine through on more tender songs like “Dumb” and “Pennyroyal Tea.” It might not have been exactly what DGC wanted, but ‘In Utero’ was still a thorny, wriggling masterpiece, and one that gave Cobain a chance to show the world exactly what he thought Nirvana was before he took his own life.

A very fair list however surprising omissions:

Slint – Tweez (1987)
Low – Things We Lost in the Fire (2001)
McLusky – The Difference Between You and Me is Im not on Fire

Please be sure to check out the stereogum website for the rest of the inclusions.



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