15 Of The Best Albums To Listen To On Headphones
So, you have a little extra time on your hands? You also, one presumes, have a decent record collection, and maybe you’ve been delving into it during the lockdown, perhaps finally putting it in alphabetical order. But have you tried headphones yet? It might seem like a stupid question, but before the ‘rona it seemed like we were all too busy for such indulgences; the lost art of listening, undistracted, to a full album. We’ve got shit to do, right? Well, not anymore! Here then, are 15 albums that deserve the full treatment: headphones on, eyes closed, volume up… Enjoy.
Monster Magnet – Spine Of God (1991)
Along with the mighty Powertrip, this is arguably Monster Magnet’s finest album, and sheer perfection when it comes to headphone listening – not least because you’ll notice all the subtleties in production that might otherwise get lost. For subtleties, read ‘weird trippy shit’. But you get the idea. It’s an absolute masterpiece!
Clutch – Clutch (1995)
It’s pretty much impossible to pick the ultimate Clutch album, since they’ve yet to make a bad one. But for the purposes of headphone listening, let’s go out on a limb and pick their self-titled second album and their first foray into ‘stoner rock’. ‘Law low, watch the universe expand!’
Queens Of The Stone Age – Rated R (2000)
For every album on this list, it’s just as much about picking up on the nuances you’ll miss if just casually listening to the album as it about getting lost in the music. And like all Queens Of The Stone Age albums, the classic Rated R if full of them. Layered vocals, whispered words… And even Nick Oliveri singing in Dutch!
Kyuss – Welcome To Sky Valley (1994)
The best way to practice social distancing while listening to this epic Kyuss offering is to head out into the desert, miles away from anyone. Which, alas, will prove rather difficult at the moment. Maybe turn the heating up full blast and crank up the headphones instead. Like it says on the liner notes, ‘Listen without distraction.’
Sleep – Dopesmoker (2003)
The opening line says it all: ‘Drop out of life with bong in hand, follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land.’ Normally you might not have time for an album that’s over an hour long and has just one track, but given that there are now at least 72 hours in a day, why not indulge yourself? Colossal!
AC/DC – If You Want Blood You've Got It (1978)
We get it, we miss gigs too. And as much as we’re enjoying having mosh on our sofa with a couple of cans, no matter how much bands try to make it better by doing the whole live stream thing and playing to empty rooms, it just isn’t the same. Instead, why not immerse yourself in this classic AC/DC set from 1978? You can almost – almost – smell the beer and sweat!
Mastodon – Leviathan (2004)
Kerrang!‘s 2004 album of the year, which, in itself, should be a good enough reason to dig this one out and give it a blast. A concept album loosely based on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick, it is heavier than the whale from whence the inspiration came, and, some would argue, Mastodon’s finest work to date.
Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)
Speaking of classic albums that you may not have given your full attention for a while… Of course, we wouldn’t think for a second that you don’t know this one like the back of your hand, but sometimes the joy is in revisiting an old favourite and playing it so loud that your teeth vibrate. Hence the need for headphones, in case the police show up thinking you’re having a party.
Danzig – Danzig (1988)
And speaking of Metallica… Did you know that James Hetfield provided backing vocals on two songs – Twist Of Cain and Possession – for Danzig’s debut album? Due to contractual reasons, he wasn’t credited, but the use of headphones will enable you to hear them much better. Not to mention it’s a cracking album.
Gallows – Grey Britain (2009)
No-one would suggest that the ‘rona is a good thing, but it may be worth remembering that if everything was perfect before it came along, then raging albums like this would never have been made. Play it loud and yearn for the bad old days when you were just generally pissed off.
Neurosis – Enemy Of The Sun (1993)
‘Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well…’ Serious goosebumps! And that’s just the first track, the aptly named Lost, after which you will hear an hour of the heaviest, bleakest music ever made – all the more so if you play it through headphones, with the lights off. Approach with caution.
Motörhead – Overkill (1979)
With 22 studio albums in their arsenal and God knows how many rarities and bootlegs, you could literally listen to Motörhead until this whole virus thing is over and they’d still be playing. Which may not be such a bad idea, and the mighty Overkill seems like as good a starting place as any. The track Stay Clean is particularly apt: wash your hands!
Sepultura – Roots (1996)
Metal fans will argue until the end of time about which is the best Sepultura album, but thanks to Ross Robinson’s incredible production job, none of them are as good through headphones as Roots. Listen, in particular, for the guest vocals on Lookaway from Mike Patton, Jonathan Davis and DJ Lethal. And for the haunting hidden track Canyon Jam!
earthtone9 – Arc'tan'gent (2000)
In a 2005 Kerrang! poll of the greatest British rock albums ever made, Arc’tan’gent came in at number 79 of 100. Given that this little band from Nottingham were up against… well, every British rock album ever, this is pretty spectacular. As is the album. All killer, no filler, and proof, if ever it were needed, that earthtone9 should have been massive.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
In case you wondered what was number one in the aforementioned poll… Fifty years since it’s release, Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut remains a go-to for the full-on headphone experience. The tolling bells and pissing rain of the opening track, Ozzy’s harmonica on The Wizard, the bass at the start of N.I.B … We need say no more. Recorded in 12 hours, with us forever.
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