Do you agree that some albums just sound better playing straight into your ears? (That isn’t to say that a nice home stereo setup doesn’t have it’s place.) People like us turn to headphones when we want to go into our own world and tune out our surroundings.
That sensation you get when a chill-inducing song enters your ear and tickles your stereocilia is irreplaceable. That feeling is exactly why we’ve decided to gather 10 of the absolute Best Headphone Albums in one place for you to browse through.
10 Of The Absolute Best Headphone Albums
Each of the 10 picks we included here are listed in no specific order so feel free to jump around as you see fit. We recommend that you listen to at least one or two songs from each album before jumping to conclusions and counting them out completely.
If you can relate to the undeniable sensation that occurs when you’re wearing your headphones and listening to a newly discovered album – you came to the right place. Few things can compete with the feeling you get when you discover a new band, album, or artist to listen to.
Here are the ten albums we chose to include:
- Porcupine Tree – The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)
- Hallucinogen – In Dub mixed by Ott (2002)
- Lou Reed – Street Hassle (1978)
- Pearl Jam – Binaural (2000)
- Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
- The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
- Roger Waters – Amused To Death (1992)
- Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
- Can – Flow Motion (1976)
- Infected Mushroom – Vicious Delicious (2007)
We think you’ll enjoy at least one (and hopefully more) of the albums we’ve included on our list. Here’s to the hunt for good music and widening your musical taste!
1. Porcupine Tree – The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)
The Sky Moves Sideways is a sonic journey that will keep your ears intently listening for what’s waiting around the next corner. The opening track titled “The Sky Moves Sideways Phase 1” has a play time of over 18 minutes. Despite it’s longer duration, there’s enough going on in this track to keep your ears happily entertained until it drifts lazily into the next track.
Being able to successfully pull of extremely long-winded musical passages is a feat that most bands never accomplish. Porcupine Tree captures your interest instantly and the diverse array of musical styles and subtle notes will let you know how well your headphones perform.
The Sky Moves Sideways is an enjoyable listen if you’re a fan of setting aside some time to listen to a record from start to finish. Allowing the waves of audio to grab the wheel of your mind and steer the ship towards an unknown destination is an essential part of digesting the musical spread here.
Stand out tracks include: “The Sky Moves Sideways Phase 1”, “Dislocated”, “Stars Die”, and “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder”.
2. Hallucinogen – In Dub mixed by Ott (2002)
In Dub mixed by Ott is a collection of psychedelic dub tracks remixed by Ott who is extremely well-versed in the genre. He is a record producer that has worked with Shpongle, The Orb, and many others (which should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect).
This record is a prime example for demonstrating how some albums just sound better on headphones. It’s the perfect way to fully experience every purposefully-placed and nuanced detail travelling into your ear canal.
Whether you want to kick back and relax or use In Dub as the backdrop for getting some important work done – it works both ways. The longer play times for each of the 6 songs is perfect for gaining extra focus, getting into the zone, or just enjoying the ride.
You’ll definitely want to check this one out if you’re a fan of Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, or any of Ott’s solo releases.
Stand out tracks include: “Solstice (‘Warwick Bassmonkey’ Mix)”, “Gamma Goblins (‘It’s Turtles All The Way Down’ Mix)”, and “Angelic Particles (‘Buckminster Fullerine’ Mix).
3. Lou Reed – Street Hassle (1978)
Street Hassle is attached to an important piece of recording history. It’s the first album ever recorded using the binaural recording process. Binaural recording is used to create a 3-D sonic sensation that makes it sound like you’re in the same room as the musicians playing the songs.
(If possible, we recommend listening with a pair of quality open back headphones.) This record was specifically recorded for headphone listening, in order to get the best possible audio playback. A stereo setup won’t be able to properly reproduce the audio in the way that it’s intended to be listened to.
Throughout the album, you’ll also hear live concert applause which makes the 3-D binaural experience that much closer to a true-to-live sound. You’ll love this album if you enjoy going to live shows or getting as close to the actual experience as possible (without actually being there in person).
Stand out tracks include: “I Wanna Be Black”, “Street Hassle”, “Gimme Some Good Times”, and “Leave Me Alone”.
4. Pearl Jam – Binaural (2000)
Binaural is Pearl Jam’s sixth release and also features tracks recorded using binaural recording techniques. On the few tracks (out of 13 total) that were recorded using that technique – you can hear a pretty distinct difference.
On tracks like “Nothing As It Seems”, the music seems to come alive and the audio in your ‘phones starts to open up and expand in a way that’s similar to watching a movie with surround sound. Binaural is a truly unforgettable sonic experience that can be appreciated by new listeners and old fans alike.
Pearl Jam has stated that they like to push the envelope and create records that push the limits of fan’s expectations and musical tastes. The ups, downs, and in-betweens throughout this record definitely achieve that goal.
You’ll want to make sure you listen all the way til the end in order to catch a hidden track giving you an inside look into one of the stumbling blocks during the recording process.
Stand out tracks include: “Light Years”, “Nothing As It Seems”, “Grievance”, and “Parting Ways”.
5. Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
Tales From A Topographic Ocean is noted as being an important progressive rock concept album that deserves some extra attention from the listener.
You might be able to tell just from the album title that Yes didn’t create this with the intention of it being received as a surface level collection of songs. There is a detailed message embedded in each song and it might be a good idea to follow along with the lyrics as you listen.
Each of the 4 songs represents one of the 4 bodies of Hindu texts that inspired the concept for the entire record. From the album artwork, to the concept driving the train, to the varied musical styles, Tales From A Topographic Ocean is one of those records that deserves your undivided attention.
If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, other Yes releases, Rush, or The Moody Blues – you’ll be able to appreciate the sonic journey and attention to detail.
Stand out tracks include: “The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn” and “The Remembering/High The Memory”.
6. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
The Cure has been making songs built for the big screen since their inception. Disintegration features multiple tracks that have been used on the soundtrack for movies and TV series such as Ant-Man, Mr. Robot, and American Horror Story. Watching movies isn’t only visually pleasing, but it’s also a sure fire way to discover new music.
This record is filled with extremely cinematic compositions that fit perfectly into the context of a movie, but also work just as well being stand-alone tracks. Although Disintegration was most likely intended to be listened to from track 1 to the end, you could also jump around and listen out of order if you choose.
This is one of those records that has extremely high replay value. As you listen, you might even realize that you’ve heard one or two of the tracks before. Don’t be surprised if you catch subtle musical hints that remind you of another band that was clearly inspired by The Cure.
Fans of My Chemical Romance, Dashboard Confessional, Joy Division, David Bowie, Radiohead, and Smashing Pumpkins will be able to appreciate Disintegration from start to finish – over and over again.
Stand out tracks include: “Plainsong”, “Pictures Of You”, “Lovesong”, and “Lullaby”.
7. Roger Waters – Amused To Death (1992)
Roger Waters (co-founder and vocalist of Pink Floyd) has released 5 solo albums and Amused To Death is his first to feature production mixed in QSound. This was done to enhance the songs and create a 3-D atmospheric ambiance that makes certain sound effects sound as though they’re happening around you.
It creates an effect that’s similar to the binaural recording process, but works on headphones as well as bookshelf speakers or studio monitors. The album’s title offers a subtle jab at being mindlessly entertained by meaningless entertainment consumed by the masses at the time of its release.
The concept was inspired by a book called Amusing Ourselves To Death, written by Neil Postman. The loosely based concepts written in to the songs are still relevant today and provide a societal commentary that’s often missing from many of the albums released today.
If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, or The Alan Parsons Project – Amused To Death is an essential listen.
Stand out tracks include: “What God Wants, Pt. 1”, “Amused To Death”, “The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range”, and “Perfect Sense, Pt. 1”.
8. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
You’d be hard pressed to find a list like this that’s missing at least one Radiohead album. Kid A is a record that deviates from the norm and isn’t afraid to branch out and explore multiple styles of production and instrumentation.
It was awarded a Grammy for Best Alternative Album and is a popular choice for both critics and casual fans. It’s no small feat when a band is able to construct an album that’s able to remain relevant nearly two decades after its release.
Kid A can be enjoyed on speakers, but sounds even better when listened to on a pair of your favorite headphones. The mood alternates between dreary, melancholic tones and more upbeat, chaotic but calculated compositions.
Next time you have a day off and it’s pouring rain outside – throw this on and really absorb the sonic waves streaming into your ears. This record is a must for fans of Muse, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, and Nirvana.
Stand out tracks include: “Everything In Its Right Place”, “Idioteque”, “Motion Picture Soundtrack”, and “Kid A”.
9. Can – Flow Motion (1976)
At times Flow Motion ventures into the abstract and might test the limits of your normal listening perception. You might be surprised to learn that you’ve been harboring a previously undiscovered thirst for experimental rock music.
On tracks like “Cascade Waltz”, the vibe sways back and forth as minimal electronic elements are sprinkled on top of an almost reggae-feeling foundation. One thing that’s for sure is you never know what you’re gonna get as each song slides into existence.
If you really want to broaden your sonic horizons, Flow Motion will help nudge you out of your comfort zone and open your mind to new possibilities. There are certain passages that have a country feel that’s supplemented by an electric violin and slide guitar.
Fans of The Orb, Faust, and Tangerine Dream will have a great time sitting back and digesting Can’s eighth studio release.
Stand out tracks include: “I Want More”, “Cascade Waltz”, “…And More”, and “Flow Motion”.
10. Infected Mushroom – Vicious Delicious (2007)
If you’re not already a fan of electronica-infused psychedelic music, Infected Mushroom is the best point of entry. Vicious Delicious is their sixth release and right from the start you know you’re in for a treat. Some might find the artwork a bit disturbing but it is titled Vicious Delicious after all, right?
For long time fans of Infected Mushroom, this record can be pretty divisive – you’ll either love it or hate it. If you haven’t ever given their music a listen, you should be pleasantly surprised. One thing you won’t be able to deny is the magnitude of musicality displayed on this record.
Make sure you listen on your favorite pair of headphones for EDM, hip-hop, and/or electronica. You won’t want to miss out on the minute detail of the crunchy bass, distorted vocals, and perfectly-placed guitar riffs.
One of the most notable features of this record is the extremely diverse palette of sounds combined and used to create a sense of urgent exploration. You might have a hard time trying not to skip around and browse tracks further into the album with your fingers crossed hoping that the rest of the album is as good as the first few songs.
If you find yourself in that position, don’t worry – it is. You’ll get a strong taste of how Infected Mushroom has earned themselves their position as pioneers and an extremely powerful force in the psychedelic genre. Vicious Delicious is highly recommended for fans of Knife Party, Shpongle, and The Glitch Mob.
Stand out tracks include: “Becoming Insane”, “Heavyweight”, “In Front Of Me”, and “Suliman”.
Which Album Was Your Favorite?
What do you think? Which one of the 10 absolute best headphone albums was your favorite? Did you discover a new gem to add to your playlist or music library?
We hope you love listening to new music as much as we do (and if you made it to the end it’s pretty likely that you do). What are some of your favorites that you might add to the list? Leave a comment below and let us know!
If you have any questions about any of the music here or why we didn’t add one of your favorites, go ahead and ask away using the comment section below. It’s helpful to have your feedback and we’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you enjoyed our list, and you’d like to support us, take a look at our custom-made coffee mug for music lovers. You can grab one for yourself or give it as a gift to a friend that also loves music. (What music lover do you know who doesn’t like a nice gift?)
Thanks for taking the time out of your day to browse through our selection and find some new music to listen to! We hope to see you here again!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.