Arts and Entertainment

In Search of the “Perfect” Album

The Arts & Entertainment Department may not always agree on the most talented artists or most iconic musical masterpieces, but there is one thing we all agree on: a “perfect” album is hard to come by. Here are the works that meet our standard of “perfect.”

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Murder of the Universe (2017)

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Alternative rock

King Gizzard’s heavy rock album Murder of the Universe (2017) is one that stands out not only as a musical piece but as a work of intricate—and frankly bonkers—storytelling. MOTU is a concept album, with its songs divided into three sections, each one telling a different narrative. The first section, The Tale of the Altered Beast, tells of the fated meeting between a mythical beast and a bloodthirsty human wishing to merge with the monster. The second section, The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog, conveys the story of a legendary battle between the personifications of light and darkness themselves. The final section, Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe, is about one lonely cyborg and how he vomits the entire universe out of existence. The tunes throughout MOTU’s three sections are full of crazed energy that induce hardcore headbanging to the electrifying drum beats and guitar riffs. Each section’s music is distinct, yet shares a throughline in its spirited musical compositions. Each song on the album also perfectly transitions into the next, sending the listener on a musical journey through three distinct realms. Another unconventional, and albeit controversial, aspect of MOTU is its usage of spoken narration, often used interchangeably with lead singer Stu Mackenzie’s vocals to further convey MOTU’s stories. Though the use of narration feels out of place at first, it very quickly begins to elevate MOTU’s listening experience rather than bring it down. Supplemented by the concise yet eloquent lyricism of the band, the narration makes listening to MOTU feel like one is not only listening to three really great long songs, but three really great narratives told in the form of song. It is not merely an album, but a musical storybook. And for this reason alone, you should give Murder of the Universe a try. —Luca Adeishvili

The Sound of Music Soundtrack (Original Soundtrack Recording) (1965)

Rodgers and Hammerstein and Julie Andrews


With its whimsical soundtrack and powerfully sweet story of a large family enduring Nazi Austria, The Sound of Music has been a staple for generations of listeners since its release in 1965. The soundtrack itself mirrors the earnest tone of the movie, using Julie Andrews’s pure vocals and a rich orchestral string backing to bring out the wholehearted passion of the tracks. Though the instrumentals remain constant throughout the album, the tunes transition from rich, seraphic symphonies to playful, jumpy chords emanating the childlike exuberance and wonder of the plot. The mixture of cheesy progressions and sugary melodies can paint the album as excessively passé to listeners, but its old-fashioned, sappy quality adds to its charm. Catering to all ages, The Sound of Music Soundtrack is a classic for sing-alongs, long car rides, and even lullabies because of its familial comfort unmatched by songs of this time. —Somerset Seidenberg

Superache (2022)

Conan Gray


While Conan Gray is famously known as a miserablist, no one was prepared for the emotional rollercoaster Superache (2022) takes listeners on. Each of the album’s 13 songs explores a different role in relationships, ultimately conceptualizing key parts of the human condition. His song “Memories” shows the painful process of moving on from an ex, describing the constant choice to prioritize mental wellbeing over emotional attachment. This is starkly contrasted in the track “Family Line,” where Gray describes his absent father and how their strained relationship now impacts his perspective on love. The lyrics reflect his inner monologue, and Gray’s use of symbolism is nothing short of genius; this is perhaps best embodied on the track “Astronomy”:  “You can’t force the stars to align when they’ve already died.” It’s easy to visualize the world he builds, and Gray makes every song a story you can’t help but be invested in. This is aided by the relatable subjects he chooses in tracks such as “People Watching,” which captures the anticipatory longing for falling in love. Gray brings a whole new level of vulnerability to the industry that is translated in the raw emotion he provokes in fans. —Sama Daga

Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014)


Indie rock 

Self-destruction, the struggle to find agency, and the cruel violence of love: indie artist Mitski explores it all in her poignant and iconic 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. The first track on the album, “Texas Reznikoff,” paints an illusion of tranquility as Mitski's lilting, hushed voice croons over a lone acoustic guitar. Yet no more than 77 seconds in, this illusion is abruptly shattered by the wailing screech of the guitar and sudden, smashing percussion. Mitski unleashes her full vocal power, and with that, the listener is yanked into the tumultuous world of Makeout Creek, where perfect romance goes to die and the air reeks of painful defiance. Each song teeters just on the edge of adolescence and maturity, delving into a carefully woven narrative of vulnerability, reflection, and finally, acceptance. The album’s themes of turmoil are underscored by raucous, powerful instrumentals and Mitski's immense gift for lyricism that is both deeply personal to her own experiences and piercingly relatable—unfiltered, blazing emotion. Above all, it is Bury Me at Makeout Creek’s harsh representation of imperfect humanity that makes it the ultimate perfect album. —Dorothy Ha

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) (1975)

Richard O’Brien, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon & Barry Bostwick 


The Rocky Horror Picture Show is accompanied by a soundtrack that fully encompasses all the campiness and absurdity present in the 1975 cult classic film. Countless references to pop culture, along with callbacks to classic films like Frankenstein (1931), King Kong (1933), and Forbidden Planet (1956) create the perfect atmosphere for the “late night Double Feature Picture Show.” The music is integral to the film and manages to craft the same narrative using only audio in less than half the time of its visual counterpart. Each song is unique, complete with lyrical genius on behalf of Richard O’Brien, who fabulously showers every personality in rich character development. Reenactments have become tradition within the fandom in the decades since the musical’s original release; the film’s cult following is largely aided by the enjoyability of its soundtrack. Audience participation is crucial, especially so in musical numbers like “Time Warp,” which came with an entire dance sequence for fans to follow along to. Everyone remembers the first time they see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it is the soundtrack that makes the experience so memorable. —Konstantina Tsahalis

Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Led Zeppelin


Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, released in 1971, represents both a key moment in the development of the band’s music style and in the history of the rock genre as a whole. The fourth track, “Stairway to Heaven,” is considered one of the most iconic rock songs of all time, achieving immense worldwide fame. The album combines the folk style of their previous works with hard rock, blues, and heavy metal, defining their sound and acting as a landmark for the music of the ‘70s. Featuring the band’s signature lyrical variety, Led Zeppelin IV has both straightforward, catchy tunes, like “Rock and Roll,” and songs that employ fantastical imagery to explore themes of mythology and the individual search for meaning, such as “The Battle of Evermore.” “When the Levee Breaks” stands apart from the rest of the album because of its darker tone compared to the upbeat nature of most tracks, reinforced by its sampling of a 1929 blues song of the same name by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. Overall, this album marked a turning point in Led Zeppelin’s path to achieving unimaginable commercial and critical success and has gone down in history as a cornerstone of rock and roll. —Sofia Thornley

Either/Or (1997)

Elliott Smith


Elliott Smith’s self-titled album (1995) is perfect in its own right, but Either/Or (1997) builds upon the simple formula of double-tracked Simon and Garfunkel-esque melodies; hushed, pleading lyrics; vacant nihilism; and technical fingerpicking by incorporating layered Beatles-influence multiphasic song structures. “Alameda” sees Smith center a punchy snare in the mix, while “Angeles” hangs a lingering ambience in the backdrop. These elements add a new dimension to Smith’s haunting compositions, enhancing their re-listenability. Some of his sharpest songwriting lands in Either/Or as well: “Between the Bars” and “Ballad of Big Nothing” are all-time classic anthems for the emotionally downtrodden. —Levi Simon

Arthur Verocai (1972)

Arthur Verocai

Latin jazz

Arthur Verocai’s 1972 self-titled album is a sonic masterpiece of Brazilian music that effortlessly blends different musical styles to create a sound that is both distinct and timeless. The album features a range of tracks that showcase Verocai’s exceptional musicianship and talent, from the soulful and grandiose “Na Boca do Sol,” with its lush strings and cinematic horn arrangements, to the intricate and dynamic “Sylvia,” a tour-de-force of Verocai’s arranging skill that utilizes a variety of percussion, strings, and brass to create a sense of movement and tension. Verocai’s contributions to the world of Brazilian music are immeasurable, and his debut album stands as a testament to his talent and vision. It’s a perfect example of how music can connect people across different cultures and languages. Verocai’s self-titled album is a magnum opus that has rightfully earned its place in the pantheon of Brazilian classics. —Santino Suarez

In Between Dreams (2005)

Jack Johnson

Folk pop 

A prolific songwriter, Jack Jackson has produced 12 studio albums since 2001. But his fourth album, In Between Dreams, is arguably the most classic example of the feel-good music that Johnson is known for. In Between Dreams combines Johnson’s signature guitar and textured vocals across 14 songs, creating the ideal road trip or campfire mix with hints of reggae and folk. While the acoustic feel of the album gives it a nostalgic touch, it revolves mainly around the idea of the joy that it is to love and be loved. Namely, the leadoff track, “Better Together,” tells the story of two people enjoying life in each other’s company. Johnson then ends the album with “Constellations,” telling a similar tale; he sings: “To give us just enough light to lay down underneath the stars / Listen to all the translations of the stories across the sky / We drew our own constellations.” The way that Johnson paints the picture of a “perfect” love story ultimately makes In Between Dreams the perfect album as well. —Sofia Hernandez

Bottomless Pit (2016)

Death Grips

Alternative rock/rhythmic noise 

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Writing about Death Grips is like typing with hands doused in hydrofluoric acid. The music is disabling; it is the only genre (yes, it’s its own genre) unable to be background by definition. Anything done with its pounding bass, vitriolic ad-libs, and MC Ride’s caterwaul is only remembered by the death grip Death Grips has over peace. The trio’s discography tosses no ropes to listeners stuck at the bottom of their sonically accelerationist milieu. Death Grips is best when the audience accepts that there is no escape, that their only choice is to enjoy the darkness within the Bottomless Pit (2016). The album first speaks through its cover, where some googly-eyed, buck-toothed Death Grips fan sits between two celestial buttocks. It then distinguishes itself from all other angry music because the listener never gets the impression that Death Grips is angry at them. Like real anger, the album glides without a distinguishable impetus; lyrics flow because they must, not because there is anything to say. One gets the impression that the music has been discovered, not created. Chaos is alive in Bottomless Pit. —Zoë Feigelson

alex (2022)

gabby start


gabby start is a 20-year-old emerging American heartthrob with a knack for worldbuilding. Their 2022 EP luca gave listeners five diverse tracks, including teenage angst anthem “rock music” and the falsetto r&b slow jam “mid.” The closing indie-rock “rainbow bridge,” stands out, as start tells a story of a town in distress with the claim that we should all be “allowed to die.” Their latest EP, alex, leans further into this style of musical lore, with start placing themself in a world of technologists, boy scouts, and flying machines as they cope with the woes of adolescence. The explosive opening “report back” puts the titular hero techwhiz of the EP in a predicament, as they return to a family reunion after an uneventful quest. Our nerdy protagonist continues to try and figure it out; in “gizmo,” start loathes how they “feel like the wrong guy for the job,” and in the flagship “welcome to the plant cell bath,” they are forced to “take the leap.” start’s dynamic voice is perfect for the character they play, frequently oscillating and jumping with their meticulously wild production. At just under 20 minutes, this project is short, but start’s universe is endlessly entertaining and full of promise. —Alexander Hinchliffe

Piazzolla Tangos 6 (1995)

Astor Piazzolla


The album Piazzolla Tangos 6, composed and performed by foremost bandoneist Astor Piazzolla, is a dazzling and compelling collection of 10 eccentric songs. Piazzolla was an Argentine tango composer who revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style called nuevo tango, incorporating different elements from jazz and classical music. The album prominently features the bandoneón, an accordion-like instrument that can produce sounds ranging from church organs to blatant, mundane blares. One of the standout tracks, “Llueve Sobre Santiago,” features the viola, piano, and bandoneón played in conjunction to create a melancholy narrative. The song explores distinct moods created by the different instruments; the bandoneón provides a dubious and static momentum, while the viola adds a harmonious aspect to the song. Another track, “Oblivion,” maintains Piazzolla’s skeptical tone when using the bandoneón, but also portrays moments of impulse and empowerment. All of Piazzolla’s songs feature gradual escalations to the climax, keeping listeners on their toes as they listen. —Grace Rhee

Dawn FM (2022)

The Weeknd


What makes an album lyrically and musically genius is its ability to shroud themes of love, loneliness, and regret with songs so full of energy that anyone from an avid fan to a drunken party-goer couldn’t miss it. The Weeknd’s (Abel Tesfaye) fifth studio album, Dawn FM, released January 2022, encapsulates such beauty; I’ll be the first to admit that upon an initial listen, I had only given attention to tracks like “Out of Time” for its rosy R&B/pop-ballad type feel and “Is there Someone Else?” for The Weeknd’s iconic synth-pop style. It’s through spoken-word tracks narrated by Jim Carrey, such as “Phantom Regret by Jim,” that this concept album feels even more complete and allows for an understanding of the story The Weeknd is telling. Carrey shows up as a mysterious guide of sorts in various parts of the album, creating an almost euphoric/afterlife-like experience; The Weeknd has confirmed in numerous interviews that the basis of the album is that of a contemporary radio station playing in the car of a person in tunnel traffic—only the tunnel is symbolic of the transition to the afterlife, and the tunnel itself is purgatory. On the last track, Carrey fittingly yet eerily narrates, “God knows life is chaos / But He made one thing true / You gotta unwind your mind / Train your soul to align.” Through a combination of tracks that aim to evoke a sense of transcendence, the addictive beats of songs like “Sacrifice,” and unique collaborations with Swedish House Mafia; Tyler, the Creator; and Lil Wayne, The Weeknd makes Dawn FM a must listen. —Gordon Tsang