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12 Best Experimental Albums

Some of the most groundbreaking and influential albums in music history have been those that pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable. These so-called avant-garde or experimental albums were often met with skepticism and even hostility by the mainstream music establishment, but they went on to change the course of popular music. Unlike a symphonic orchestra, which relies on a shared musical language and a clear structure, experimental artists often break the rules in order to create something new. 

From the eerie soundscapes of The Velvet Underground & Nico to the industrial noise of Nine Inch Nails, these albums challenged listeners and expanded the possibilities of what music could be. In the process, they redefined what it means to be popular and took their place as some of the most groundbreaking albums of all time.

The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground & Nico is often hailed as one of the most influential albums of all time, despite its lack of commercial success upon its initial release. The album’s experimental sound and explicit lyrics were a radical departure from the pop music of the time, and it would go on to inspire generations of musicians.

David Bowie – Low (1977)

David Bowie’s eleventh studio album, Low, is a groundbreaking work of avant-garde pop music. Featuring Brian Eno’s iconic “ambient” production, the album is a dark and atmospheric journey through the innermost recesses of Bowie’s mind. Low would go on to inspire generations of musicians and cement Bowie’s place as one of the most innovative and experimental artists of all time.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)

Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports is a groundbreaking work of ambient music. Featuring Eno’s signature mix of electronics and environmental sounds, the album is a relaxing and transportive experience that remains as relevant today as it did upon its initial release.

Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)

Pink Floyd’s eleventh studio album, The Wall, is a concept album about mental illness, isolation, and societal alienation. Featuring the band’s signature mix of psychedelic rock and progressive symphonism, the album is a dark and atmospheric journey into the darkness of the human psyche.

Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979)

Talking Heads’ third studio album, Fear of Music, is a post-punk classic that helped pioneer the genre. Featuring the band’s signature mix of new wave and avant-garde sensibilities, the album is a dark and atmospheric journey into the paranoia and anxiety of modern life. 

Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977)

Kraftwerk’s sixth studio album, Trans-Europe Express, is a groundbreaking work of electronic music. Featuring the band’s signature mix of robotics and pop melodies, the album is a timeless classic that remains as fresh and relevant today as it did upon its initial release.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Joy Division’s debut studio album, Unknown Pleasures, is a post-punk classic that helped pioneer the genre. Featuring the band’s signature mix of dark and atmospheric soundscapes, the album is a journey into the depths of human despair and loneliness.

Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

Public Enemy’s third studio album, Fear of a Black Planet, is a hip-hop classic that helped define the genre. Featuring the group’s signature mix of politics, social commentary, and bass-heavy beats, the album is a timeless masterpiece that remains as relevant today as it did upon its initial release.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

My Bloody Valentine’s second studio album, Loveless, is a shoegaze classic that helped define the genre. Featuring the band’s signature mix of ethereal soundscapes and walls of distortion, the album is a journey into the outer limits of sound and consciousness. 

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)

Sonic Youth’s fifth studio album, Daydream Nation, is a post-punk classic that helped define the genre. Featuring the band’s signature mix of noise rock and avant-garde sensibilities, the album is a dark and atmospheric journey into the Radiohead – Kid A nt Works 85-92 (1992)

Aphex Twin’s debut studio album, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, is a groundbreaking work of electronic music. Featuring the artist’s signature mix of IDM and ambient sounds, the album is a transportive and relaxing experience that remains as relevant today as it did upon its initial release.

Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

Radiohead’s fourth studio album, Kid A, is a post-rock classic that helped define the genre. Featuring the band’s signature mix of experimental sounds and pop melodies, the album is a dark and atmospheric journey into the outer limits of sound and consciousness.

Over the years, there have been many experimental albums that have pushed the boundaries of what music can be. These albums are often characterized by their unique and innovative approach to sound, structure, and form.