Popular Vinyl Records: 30 Essential Albums To Own

Despite popular belief, vinyl sales have been steadily increasing for years–and with good reason. As many audiophiles and music collectors know, most albums simply sound better on vinyl. If you’re looking to expand your vinyl collection, this list contains several essential must-haves for you to consider. 

Here are 30 essential popular vinyl records to own: 

  1. Revolver by The Beatles 
  2. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd 
  3. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac 
  4. Nevermind by Nirvana 
  5. Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division 
  6. The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths 
  7. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie 
  8. IV by Led Zeppelin 
  9. Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan 
  10. Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys
  11. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse 
  12. Thriller by Michael Jackson 
  13. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
  14. Straight Outta Compton by NWA 
  15. Blue by Joni Mitchell 
  16. Sea Change by Beck 
  17. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye 
  18. Bon Iver by Bon Iver
  19. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel 
  20. Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones 
  21. Blonde by Frank Ocean 
  22. Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder  
  23. Thickfreakness by The Black Keys 
  24. Tapestry by Carole King
  25. Lemonade by Beyonce
  26. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill   
  27. Jolene by Dolly Parton 
  28. 1989 by Taylor Swift 
  29. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk 
  30. 21 by Adele 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are thousands of incredible and popular vinyl records to enjoy, but these albums are a great starting point for any music and vinyl lover. So let’s look into why these popular vinyl records are essentials for your music collection. (Note: All suggestions below can be purchased on Amazon.com)

1. Revolver by the Beatles 

The Fab Four were at their prime when they made Revolver, and it certainly shows. The vinyl version has been enhanced and therefore brings out details you may not notice in other versions of the album. The sound you hear reflects the mastery of studio techniques that The Beatles accomplished this time. Additionally, the string octet featured in “Eleanor Rigby” sounds superior on vinyl.  

Revolver

2. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd 

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is a classic rock essential and has one of the most iconic album covers of all time. There are pros and cons to both the U.K. and U.S. vinyl pressings, so you should choose whichever version you can get for a more reasonable price. 

The vinyl version of this album presents all the instruments and sound elements with realism and detail due to the deeper soundstage. Additionally, flipping the record over after “The Great Gig in the Sky” is a great opportunity to reflect on the first half of the album, which is a moment you’d miss out on if just streaming the album or listening to the CD. 

Dark Side of the Moon

3. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac 

Rumours is the fifth-best selling record of all time due to its universal themes of heartbreak and pain and its catchy melodies and incredible harmonies. These harmonies sound better and more human on vinyl, especially in the track “Never Going Back Again.” The guitar picking in this song is also clearer on the vinyl version. 

The layered vocals of Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham sound more delicate and nuanced, and the instrumentals are louder on record, making vinyl the best way to listen to one of the best albums of all time. 

Rumours (Vinyl 33 & 1/3 RPM)

4. Nevermind by Nirvana 

Nirvana’s Nevermind is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and for good reason. Even if you’re not a huge grunge and alternative rock fan, there’s something about this classic album cover in full size that’s sure to appeal to any music collector. 

This is an ideal vinyl because it’s split into two sides: the first side contains mainstream songs you’ve likely heard before, whereas the second side is more introverted and unknown. Having to switch from side one to side two makes for an interesting and thought-provoking listening experience that modern media can’t replicate. 

Nevermind

5. Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division 

One of the draws to owning this title on vinyl is its iconic radio waves cover. Some special edition versions even have an embossed texture to it. But beyond the aesthetics of owning this record, the music itself has been extremely influential within the post-punk genre and modern rock today. Indeed, the angst and heartbreak in Ian Cutis’ vocals are ultimately heard best on vinyl. 

Unknown Pleasures

6. The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths 

Listening to The Queen Is Dead on any modern technology just seems wrong, as the Smiths pay homage to 1980s England on this album. As an added bonus to the amazing music, the sleeve features the lyrics that highlight Morrissey and Marr’s incredible songwriting, so you can sing along as the vinyl turns on the record player. 

You’ll want to read along, too, as The Smiths incorporate some humor and political commentary into this album alongside their typical gloom and melancholy. The opening track even invites listeners to picture Prince Charles in drag. 

Queen Is Dead

7. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie 

David Bowie’s fifth album, based on the fictional character Ziggy Stardust, is theatricality appreciated best on vinyl. 

Side one has Ziggy warning listeners of destruction but holding out for redemption; On side two, Ziggy embodies the modern rock idol who gets destroyed by his success. The two sides of the record suit the “Act One ” and “Act Two ” storytelling of the album, and the orchestration and heavy-metal guitar playing sound better on analog. Any Bowie album is great on vinyl, but if collectors have to choose one, Ziggy is the way to go. 

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (2012 Remaster)

8. IV by Led Zeppelin 

Led Zeppelin’s fourth album is often considered their best, and it’s easy to see why: the LP opens with “Black Dog” and closes with “Stairway to Heaven,” which is seven and half minutes of rock perfection. This record emphasizes acoustic music more than their previous albums, which sounds more authentic on vinyl, and the cover is beautiful in its full-size version. If you’re a classic rock fan, this album is an absolute must to own in your collection. 

Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered Original Vinyl)

9. Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan 

Bob Dylan’s sound lends itself to the vinyl format, but if you’re only going to add one album to your collection, Blonde on Blonde is the way to go. It’s a great record from start to finish, but a clear standout is “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” which was done in just one take at 4:00 am, and all eleven minutes of it sound best on a clean cut of vinyl. Furthermore, the drums and tambourines featured on the album sound more lifelike, and the brass instruments are more focused on the disc format. Voices are talking behind Dylan throughout “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” that are easier to hear on vinyl. And if all that isn’t enough reason to add this record to your collection, it also has a fold-out sleeve that features a portrait of Dylan. 

Blonde On Blonde

10. Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys 

Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys’ follow-up to their first album, Licensed to Ill, is one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. And truly, the vinyl version is the record at its best. The sleeve photo has a fold-out cover, and the sound is remastered on the vinyl version, so it looks and sounds better than ever. Furthermore, Paul’s Boutique is a landmark in sampling and reinvented a group that seemed gimmicky after their debut. 

Paul's Boutique [2 LP]

11. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse 

Back to Black’s jazzy inspiration and sound lends itself to a vinyl format. Not to mention. Winehouse’s deep, sorrowful croon sounds amazing this way. The blend of 1960’s girl groups soul and contemporary R&B is unique and produced well on the album. Her second and final album, Back to Black is considered Winehouse’s legacy

Back To Black - Exclusive Limited Edition Pink Vinyl LP

12. Thriller by Michael Jackson 

With songs like “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It,” there’s little debate over whether or not this is an essential album to own on vinyl. It’s the greatest selling album of all time, and the iconic beats and the King of Pop’s voice sound incredible on disc. Play this at your next party or gathering and you’ll have your guests dancing in no time. 

Thriller

13. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis 

If not in person, jazz music is made to be listened to on vinyl, and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is one of the better choices you could make. The best-selling jazz album of all time, this record blends jazz, rock, and classical music and has collaborations with John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. The Library of Congress even preserves it in the National Recording Registry. Musicians were all given basic outlines of the songs, but Davis ultimately captured the spontaneity considered the heart of jazz–the kind of spontaneity best listened to on vinyl. 

Kind of Blue (Blue Vinyl)

Kind of Blue (Blue Vinyl)

14. Straight Outta Compton by NWA

If you’re trying to have a well-rounded vinyl collection, Straight Outta Compton–AKA the pioneering album of Gangsta Rap and bulldozer for future rappers–is a must for your record shelves. The album lashed against the system, especially the song “F*ck Tha Police,” and ultimately reshaped the hip-hop genre. The action, anger, as well as its moments of tenderness, are best experienced on vinyl. 

Straight Outta Compton [LP][Remastered][Explicit]

15. Blue by Joni Mitchell 

There’s a sentimentality that comes with taking a vinyl record off the shelf and spinning it, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue is the perfect album to experience this. There’s not a dishonest note in her vocals, and Mitchell lets listeners in on all her heartbreak and secrets with her melancholy tone and diary-entry songwriting. Blue feels like poetry, which is best heard on vinyl. 

BLUE [Vinyl]

16. Sea Change by Beck 

Sea Change is a great breakup album–and breakup albums belong on vinyl. Written after splitting with his fiancee after nine years of being together, this album has heartbreaking lyrics and a lush sound that, when listened to on vinyl, almost sounds like Beck’s in the room with you. Additionally, the string arrangements on “Paper Tiger,” “Glass Onion,” and “Lonesome Tears” work better on disc due to the depth of sound the format allows. 

Sea Change [2 LP]

17. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye 

Music fans and critics largely consider this record as one of the best albums of all time, so you would be remiss not to have it in your vinyl collection. It’s considered the perfect record to put on while you lounge-about on a Sunday morning, but it’s so much more than just an “easy listening” album. In What’s Going On, Gaye focuses his groovy tunes on serious political issues, mainly the Vietnam War. The sound is particularly high quality since it came out when vinyl was in its heyday. It was mastered for vinyl by people who had been doing it for their entire lives, which makes for a smooth listening experience. Note: You can buy the 50th-anniversary version of this album on Amazon, but you might be able to find an older version at a thrift store or used record store. 

What's Going On [50th Anniversary 2 LP]

18. Bon Iver by Bon Iver 

You’ll want this self-titled album in your vinyl collection, even just for the full-size version of the gorgeous cover art, which is a painting by Gregory Euclide. The chamber-pop style of Justin Vernon’s sophomore album sounds best on vinyl, as he uses arrangement and dynamics delicately and purposefully. Most notably, the way the song “Perth” builds from total silence to a surprising crash of sound is best experienced on vinyl, as is the bicycle bell that rings in the song “Michicant.” 

Bon Iver

19. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel 

There’s a reason this album continues to rank among the top sellers in vinyl, even as we move further and further away from its 1998 release date. The indie rock band uses organ, accordion, brass, and pipes for a dreamy, unique sound, and the music addresses trauma, shame, and joy. Jeff Mangum stated in an interview that the album was inspired by Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, but the perspective spans centuries. The vinyl is a cult classic, one that has a well-deserved place in any record collection. 

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

20. Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones 

Any album by the Stones has a place in a record collection, but Exile on Main St. is the best choice, as it’s grown to become the Rolling Stones’ most universally acclaimed record. Written and recorded in the basement of a villa in France, the album has every rock and roll theme you can ask for: rebellion, drugs, and love. The band was in its most fractured state at this point, but you’d never know based on this killer album. This vinyl is priced higher than other Stones’ titles, but it’s well worth the extra dough for any true rock and roll fan. 

Exile On Main Street [2 LP]

21. Blonde by Frank Ocean 

Blonde is Frank Ocean at his storytelling best and is much more minimalist than Channel Orange, making for a unique and reflective record-listening experience. 

The songs are intimate, and listening to a record is intimate and physical in a way streaming albums isn’t, as you have to physically remove the disc from its sleeve, set it up on your player, and be close to it to hear. Blonde is sorrowful and nostalgic, and you’ll find yourself lost in the music when you listen to this masterpiece on vinyl. 

Songs in the Key of Life is two LPs plus another four-song EP considered to be Wonder’s magnum opus. It’s a multi-genre experience that displays a reel of life experiences. The variety of sounds found throughout the album include gospel highs, string instruments, and a baby’s cries. And you’d be missing out if you listened to this album in any other media, as these sounds are heard best on vinyl. 

22. Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder 

Songs in the Key of Life is two LPs plus another four-song EP considered to be Wonder’s magnum opus. It’s a multi-genre experience that displays a reel of life experiences. The variety of sounds found throughout the album include gospel highs, string instruments, and a baby’s cries. And you’d be missing out if you listened to this album in any other media, as these sounds are heard best on vinyl. 

Songs in the Key of Life

23. Thickfreakness by The Black Keys 

Thickfreakness by The Black Keys was recorded in a nonstop 14-hour session using old analog recording equipment in drummer Patrick Carney’s basement. The result was an album full of unique details that are best heard on vinyl. The garage-rock blues album features the Akron duo stripped to their core, and Dan Auerbach’s voice has never sounded better. 

Thickfreakness [Vinyl]

24. Tapestry by Carole King 

Carole King’s lyricism is conversational and uncluttered, and the album itself is intimate, as it sounds like the demos she recorded while writing songs for other artists. Her voice breaks add a layer of authenticity, and her songwriting is simple but not overly sentimental. Listening to this record on a lazy afternoon will make it feel like King is playing the piano and singing in the room with you, and who wouldn’t want that? 

Tapestry

25. Lemonade by Beyonce 

Lemonade is a visual album, but there’s something to say about just experiencing it auditorily. The songwriting has cinematic scenes on their own, so you can imagine the characters (namely, Beyonce and her cheating husband, Jay-Z) living them on their own, without any accompanying visuals. The album’s first half features mostly rage songs about infidelity, with the latter half focusing on her refusal to give up on her marriage, despite the cheating. This clear side A and side B distinction makes the vinyl listening experience particularly interesting. 

Lemonade (Limited Edition Yellow Colored Double LP)

27. Jolene by Dolly Parton 

You already know “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You,” but this album also has other incredible songs, including “Randy,” “Lonely Comin’ Down,” and “River of Happiness.” The blend of country, folk, gospel, and pop sounds best on disc, so pick up your copy today. 

Jolene


28. 1989 by Taylor Swift 

One of the most iconic records by one of the most iconic women in the country, this album is a must-have on vinyl. At this point, Parton had severed ties with her musical partner Porter Wagoner and was moving on to her solo career; Jolene was the incredible result. Out of all Swift’s albums, 1989 has the most vinyl-ready cover art and its songs, which largely tell the story of an on-again, off-again romance, are great to play on your record player and dance around your living room, particularly the synth-pop track “Style.” Be sure to get a deluxe version so you don’t miss out on “New Romantics,” which features synth and drums that sound great on the vinyl format. 

1989 [2 LP]

29. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk 

The French duo put a lot of effort and production into their fourth album, even flying out musicians like Nile Rodgers, Panda Bear, and Pharell from worldwide to perform live instrumentation. This is a shockingly analog approach for an electronic album that pays off. These grooves feature every sound vinyl is meant to capture, so this is one not to miss. 

Random Access Memories

30. 21 by Adele 

Adele’s gritty, growled voice is made to be heard on vinyl, especially when it’s accompanied by jazzy piano, as it so often is, so you can’t go wrong with any albums from Adele’s discography. However, Adele’s signature heartbreak album 21 features timeless and gorgeous tracks, and it deserves a place on any music collector’s vinyl shelf. 

21

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