The 20 Best Albums Not in the Canon: 20-11
See also: The 20 Best Albums Not in the Canon: 10-1
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
A few months back Rolling Stone put out their updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. (Here's a quickly-scannable version; Sgt. Pepper's is number one, Pet Sounds number two, blah blah blah.) It's largely hogwash; one expected it to be heavy on the dinosaur rock, but c'mon, five Elton John albums? Still, people are taking this thing pretty seriously, as they always do these Rolling Stone lists, particularly music newbies. (Hard copies remain on-sale in grocery check-out lines.)
So it's fair to call this the canon, though the omissions are numerous and tragic, and reflect serious biases when it comes to metal, hip-hop, indie rock and other genres that weren't around when Jann Wenner smoked grass for the first time or whatever. And so over the next two days we'll count down the top 20 albums left out, starting today with 20 through 11.
20. Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti's seminal Zombie pissed off Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo regime and started at least two epic riots -- all with horns, drums and guitars. Kuti, as bandleader and songwriter, assembled the album with his acolytes inside of his self-declared independent Kalakuta Republic (actually his Lagos, Nigeria, compound). The apex of afrobeat (a genre that he invented), Zombie's multi-instrumental, rhythmic jazzy highlife could ear-funk the sorrow out of anyone. Kuti's sparsely peppered, but directly confrontational Pidgin English chants (a language used for its pan-African appeal) rail against Obasanjo's shock troops. Revolution never sounded so euphonious. -Paul T. Bradley
19. The Postal Service
Give Up (2003)
There were a number of years in the mid-aughts when literally every lady I wanted to get to know (mostly psychology majors from midwestern liberal arts colleges, but whatever) were obsessed with The Postal Service's Give Up, and even if we don't talk anymore, the album holds up. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard teamed with producer Jimmy Tamborello for a celebration of melancholy, with Jenny Lewis on backup vocals. Full of bleeps, blops and blips but grounded in melody, it's the most dazzling electronic indie pop you'll ever have the pleasure of weeping to.
Version 2.0 (1998)
Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson admits to having been intimidated by her far-more-experienced bandmates when she penned the lyrics for Garbage's self-titled debut in 1995, but on Version 2.0, she came into her own. The hit single "Push It" begins ominously, "I was angry when I met you, think I'm angry still," before erupting into a chorus -- "Push it" -- that's both simple and incredibly naughty-sounding. Super-producer Butch Vig folds unexpected samples into a pop-rock-electronica fusion on this record that underscored Garbage's reputation as one of the most innovative bands of the '90s. -Linda Leseman
17. Justin Timberlake
It's hard to remember now, but there was a time when Justin Timberlake was a joke. Even the first listen of the former N*Sync member's debut solo act, Justified, didn't convince everyone, but two or three did. Timberlake's white boy R&B seemed outlandish in the early 2000s, but he pulled it off and soon got play on black stations. (Timbaland's tracks helped.) JT became not just a pop star but something rarer: a genuinely beloved, artistically respected cultural icon. -Ben Westhoff