Top 10 Non-Rock Albums

Forget all that rock 'n' roll for a moment, and enjoy an impressive collection of albums voted by Ultimate Guitar readers which you wouldn't expect.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
30

What are the best albums from the rest of the music world?

This week we asked Ultimate Guitar readers to look outwards, past all the rock and metal that we usually cover, and pick out their favourite albums from the pop, hip-hop, electronic worlds and beyond. 

The resulting list is a refreshing change from our usual output, and better than we ever expected. It's a fantastic playlist to enjoy and discuss over the weekend, so let us know what you love and share other album tips in the comments below. Enjoy!

10. Justice "Cross"

The greatest French dance duo since Daft Punk. It takes a special kind of dance album to impress Ultimate Guitar readers, and this effort to produce an "opera-dance" record is it. Believe it or not, the album is peppered with samples of everything from Slipknot and 50 Cent to Queen.

YouTube preview picture

9. Moby "Play"

Moby started life living in the ghettos and visiting hardcore punk shows alongside the likes of Dave Grohl and the Beastie Boys. So how did he end up making some of the most commercially successful records of all time? Every track on this, his fifth album, was incensed for commercial use. So he's technically a sell out - but perhaps Moby earned it.

YouTube preview picture

8. Massive Attack "Mezzanine"

British music is about more than the Beatles. Massive Attack hail from Bristol, which is the equivalent of a rural dystopia and home to graffiti artists including Banksy. So when you hit play on this absolutely stunning record, you're about to take a trip into the real Britain you never see in the media. Magnificent.

YouTube preview picture

7. Daft Punk "Discovery"

Dance music used to be repetitive in a bad way. It was rarely catchy, it was produced with little intellect, and couldn't muster a beat of emotion. Then Daft Punk came along, and gave the genre a huge dose of credibility which has been emulated thousands of times ever since, making the electronic scene far richer for it. This album marks their tipping point into the mainstream.

YouTube preview picture

6. Wu-Tang Clan "36 Chambers"

Aggressive vocals, drive and distortion on every track, and a lasting influence on decades of music? If that sounds like a classic rock album, you'd be wrong. Wu-Tang Clan's debut emerged with a distinctive sound, where each of their nine rappers literally battled for the right to feature on each song. The resulting determination and attitude helped them crash into the Billboard chart in 1993.

YouTube preview picture

5. The Prodigy "The Fat of the Land"

Rooted in dance but firmly influenced by punk rock ... ah, what's the point in trying to define this beast? It sounds like nothing else, and has never been truly rivalled since - even by the Prodigy, who have struggled to achieve their own lofty heights by this album which broke records as the fastest selling British release of all time.

YouTube preview picture

4. Eminem "The Marshall Mathers LP"

Eminem has become one of the biggest artists of all time (and still battles Rihanna for the record for most Facebook fans in the world). This wasn't his first album, but in many ways his career started here - his quirky singles and refreshing rap style caught the attention of the world, and his ultra-aggressive album content captivated an adolescent generation.

YouTube preview picture

3. Gorillaz "Gorillaz"

A band of cartoon characters? Led by the singer of a defunct 90s Britpop band? Featuring many of the best-loved artists in the world, from a wealth of genres, and the illest production in years? What a formula, and how it worked. Gorillaz were a phenomenon, and Ultimate Guitar readers constantly cite this album as an alternative fave.

YouTube preview picture

2. Michael Jackson "Thriller"

After his previous album "Off the Wall," critics didn't think Jackson would come back with as much style. It was a great record, he did a great job of coming back from years as a child star, and that would be it. But then "Thriller" was released, and he showed up the critics by shaking the foundations of pop for all time. Quincy Jones' recording still sounds as fresh as it did in 1982.

YouTube preview picture

1. Miles Davis "Kind of Blue"

This is so much more than the greatest jazz album. It's a definitive turning point in the history of improvisation, and for musicians, that's a concept that will just never die - and that's why "Kind of Blue" is so influential. When it comes to freeform emotion and performance, musicians in every decade turn to it for inspiration, including Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright who says it influenced the opening chords on "Breathe" from "Dark Side of the Moon."

YouTube preview picture

What a great list! Thanks to everyone who made a nomination and voted for a winner, because we're proud of this playlist.

Enjoy listening to every one of these classics of the weekend, and let us know which ones you love or have newly discovered and why. And if you like the list, hit 'Like' to share to your friends too.

143 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Machineflame
    Good list, good Music, I guess I discovered a few gems today
    bangbang!!
    It IS a good list, isn't it! Usually these UG lists end up being really polarizing and everyone gets butthurt. But this is just a nice, refreshing one. More stuff like this!
    ElviDo
    There's no reggae. "Exodus" (1977) is one of the best album of all time (many others of course), not here. So I suppose this list ain't that good.
    THE ROZERS
    Lets not kid ourselves, all blues is awful. I haven't heard the rest of the album, but techncalify doesn't make up for a piece sounding bad.
    Abacus11
    That's literally one of the dumbest music related comment I may have ever heard.
    TheJiveTurkey
    I'm pretty sure he means all blues, the song from kind of blue. If so you three are the idiots not him
    ETID666
    thank you for noticing that, rozers clearly said "the rest of the album" and he gets down votes for his opinion and the three people who have no idea what they are talking about get up votes....the people that visit this site and vote on comments are clueless sometimes Kind of blue is a masterpeice and is one the few jazz albums I enjoy listening but I don't know about it being number one
    Metallidethium
    I don't think there is a flaw in that album at all but you're entitled to your opinion. Capitalization is key to being succinct in what you mean though and your statement was clearly misconstrued as meaning the genre of blues. I even had to consider what you said at first... I was ready to explode lol.
    rcanders
    Romantic Warrior - Return To Forever
    peachesenregali
    Such a cheesy album
    Iommianity
    The synth sounds definitely date Romantic Warrior, but if we're talking about fusion, it's hard to avoid cheese. But Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and Where Have I Known You Before are awesome albums. Lenny White tears that shit up. I definitely prefer the Return albums that are the most guitar heavy.
    ProgFripp74
    This so much, such an underrated band, Al di meola is spectacular and Return to Forever are probably one of, if not the best jazz fusion bands to ever exist.
    robo37
    IMO the list needs Gotye's Like Drawing Blood, Coil's Musick to Play in the Dark, Aphex Twin's ...I Care Because You Do and Radiohead's Kid A, but I guess it's an okay list.
    azrael667
    Would've loved to see Portishead on the list but oh well...
    N-D
    Portishead's "Dummy" almost made this list by user's votes - also there are a lot of great suggestions in comments - personally I'm glad to see UG readers are open-minded enough! Thank you!
    guitarpro15
    Dummy is such a fantastic album, but all of these albums are equally as good. Awesome list.
    RealUnrealRob
    Is there any chance we could get a list of runner-ups along with these lists? I know I'd love to see what else got lots of suggestions. And I know I can just go to the old post but that requires effort
    N-D
    Unfortunately now we have only top 10 remaining - so just checking votes in previous post would be the best way)
    CurlOfTheBurl
    Great list; top 10 is silly to say though. Should just be "ten great non-rock/metal albums. Mezzanine and Kind of Blue are particularly amazing still.
    theclassicrock
    I'm glad we got a question that aknowledges that other genres exist, but this was extremely broad. Maybe we could have more questions like this but rather than non-rock it would be jazz, or techno, or funk, or any other genre.
    pwninator123
    This site's top 10 Hip-Hop would be hilariously ignorant and definitely worth the laugh.
    Basti95
    Personally I'd like Mezzanine and Play to be higher up. Good list though!
    TreyR666
    Glad to see that is Miles Davis - Kind of Blue on the 1 place. I am not a big fan of jazz, but this record is just amazing.
    sklaiss24
    I think that's what makes Miles Davis so awesome. He's obviously a great jazz player, but he's also very digestible and very easy to listen to. When I listen to jazz, a lot of it just goes over my head, but not Miles. Plus the man's a badass.
    third(-)eye
    And he pioneered like 3 different jazz styles, at LEAST. He was constantly reinventing himself.
    UniformRecon
    Daft Punk is probably the artist that turn a majority of rock devotees onto dance music, so I'm really happy to see them here.
    third(-)eye
    Yeah it's official, I'm gonna get over my anti-EDM bullshit and give those guys a REAL listen.
    Skyvalve2012
    Please do. There is much more than bass drops and one-note leads in EDM, Daft Punk, Justice, and Digitalism seem to lead the "weird" state of electronic music these days.
    ruipalmeira
    Daft punk really deserves a good listening from anyone, really The album on the list it their best (IMO), but the latest one (R.A.M.) is a great album as well
    Playtodie
    The "french touch" in general is great dance music. With Daft Punk and Justice, there is also Kavinsky, Yuksek, Else, L'Ordre and also Miami Horror (not french but still great)
    kiba56
    Ray Charles....
    roguesanchez1
    I'm surprised that the Chemical Brothers didnt make the list? Or for that matter Aphex Twin, Crystal Method, The Avalanches, Amon Tobin etc. Good list though, if a little predictable for the most part.
    MaXiMuse
    Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works got some votes but Amon Tobin got almost none. Flying Lotus did however with Cosmogramma. Chemical Brothers was also mentioned, don't know about the votes on that one.
    wylde1994
    Nice list...completely forgot about Justice they would've gotten my vote, absolutely amazing live.
    Eirien
    I've never heard of them before but I pressed play and really don't see myself stopping it soon.
    wylde1994
    If you ever get an opportunity to see them live, i'd urge you to go a see them. I saw them at Reading instead of the Foo Fighters...best choice i've ever made imo.
    Kueller917
    I missed them last tour, would love to see them live next time around. Hopefully their next album is more up to par with Cross.
    travislausch
    Was hoping to see some Kraftwerk up here, but I am not dissatisfied to see Kind Of Blue, especially at #1. Tight musicianship and John Coltrane's freaky sax.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Kraftwerk got a ton of votes, they really should have considering that pretty much every rock band with any electronic elements to their sound wouldn't exist if Kraftwerk hadn't paved the way.
    LaughingWater2
    I love the list apart from the description of daft punks discovery "Dance music used to be repetitive in a bad way. It was rarely catchy, it was produced with little intellect, and couldn't muster a beat of emotion. Then Daft Punk came along, and gave the genre a huge dose of credibility" Erm what? Little interllect? try telling that to Aphex twin and the hundreds of others.
    bunnyh0pz
    I love how they put Discovery at #7 and said that dance music was bad and repetitive before it. Then they put Fat of the Land (which came out years before discovery) at #4.
    Chickendirt
    Prodigy isn't dance music though...you could maybe use it for a rave but it's more electro-punk than dance
    rmack4341
    Gorillaz above Eminem is hilariously disgraceful. Also, the ommission of Dre's 'Chronic' is insane.
    pwninator123
    It's true, Eminem has shitty beats and his lyrics are largely pointless: he may have talent, but he's HIp-Hop for people who don't listen to Hip-Hop and it shows. And yeah, Chronic and 2001 both deserve a place.
    ItMightGetQuiet
    I don't see why people hate "selling out" so much, i think that if more rock bands "sold out" and let their music be used on adverts then more people would hear it and would enjoy it and rock would be a lot more rooted in the mainstream media
    shlepy
    Here are some albums to consider listening Redman's - What Thee Album Reakwon - Not Built for Cuban Lynx... EPMD - Strictly Business The Skatalites - Ball of Fire Bad Manners - Ska N' B Sublime - 40 oz To Freedom or self title The Band - Music from Big Pink The Beastie Boys - Aglio e Olio Breakbot - By Your Side Jay Dilla - Donuts anything from MF DOOM Johnny Thunders and the Heart Breakers - LAMF the lost 77' mixes
    Skinny91
    Great list, glad to see 'Dummy' by Portishead mentioned in the comments as well. I think 'Demon Days' by Gorillaz is a better album than the self titled but also nice to see them on the list. I'm looking forward to listening to all these albums I haven't heard yet.
    Rimfrost
    Nice list, but wouldn't have minded if The Knife or Royksopp had been present, in my taste they are both better than Daft Punk. But to each their own.
    Chickendirt
    I think some UG readers need to learn that there is a massive difference between electronic music and dance music. Aphex Twin, Prodigy, DJ Shadow, Massive Attack etc. are not dance, they are electronic. Daft Punk, Justice, Digitilism etc. are EDM (Electronic DANCE Music). Seriously you have so many sub genres of metal but you can't grasp the concept of dance
    Iommianity
    Kind of Blue is an undisputed classic, but anyone who says it stands out a 'listenable' jazz album compared to the rest of the genre is just lazy at exploring music.
    acglee
    Good list but surprised no Beastie Boys - Check Your Head and Ill Communication are masterpieces! Glad to see Mezzanine on there - one of my all time favourites :
    swave75
    1. Anything by Depeche Mode 2. Anything by Public Image Ltd. 3. Anything by Captain Beefheart
    rabidgoon
    except all 3 of those artists, with the possible exception of Depeche (and that's a stretch) are rock bands. Unless of course your definition of 'rock' is absurdly narrow.
    Anjohl
    Problem is, #5 and on down are not music. People make music, with instruments, not computers.
    third(-)eye
    Yo grandpa. Music is just coordinated noise. Last I checked, it is quite possible to do that with a computer.
    Anjohl
    No sir. Music is about collaboration, sonic space, improvisation, and virtuosity. Some kid with a torrented fruity loops and a load of "bass drop" plugins isn't a musician, and neitherare any,of the techno acts on this list. "you're too old it's over, nobody listens to techno"
    iommi600
    Music is about expressing yourself. It is an art. It doesn't matter if you use guitars, computers or cats' arses to make music. If you're producing rhythms, coordinating sounds of any kind and truly putting your heart into it, then you're making music. And by the way, I'm willing to bet that you have never tried to make music with a "computer". Otherwise, you'd probably know how hard it is to produce a simple beat with it, let alone a melody. But hey, I'm gonna go with the flow: please, explain to me how sound desks and music programs work, and how to even produce music with them. I'll wait for your answer, oh masta. But I do admire the magnificent straw man you've used. Not that it matters so much, of course. After all, music isn't about virtuosity. Also... there isn't a single techno album in the list. Are you retarded, or just a bad troll?
    Iommianity
    It's funny how you can describe some of my favourite aspects of music, and art, and still lose the plot completely. That's the point at which your opinion boils over into being malignantly stupid instead of being a simple difference in preferences. All you did was describe aspects of music you happen to like, while being completely oblivious to the fact that people make and enjoy music for different reasons than you, making you both arrogant and ignorant to boot. The fact that you exclude 'collaboration, sonic space, or improvisation' from electronic music shows that you could fill a block of warehouses with what you don't know know about music.
    Kueller917
    Early days of electronic music had huge amounts of collaboration. Maybe not in a "band" setting but through the sharing of ideas. Sonic space? Any music in modern times cares way more about the sonic aspects of the music more than any other time in history. Improv/virtuosity: I'd say being able to craft sounds from scratch in a synthesizer, or put together hundreds of tiny samples like JUstice and make a track out of it counts as some level of skill. Someone making drops with Massive is just as much of a musician as a someone just playing generic power chords on his guitar. They may not be the most creative but they are making music nevertheless. I'm willing to bet the amount you've actually looked into electronic music and its history is negligible.
    MaggaraMarine
    You don't need collaboration, improvisation or virtuosity to make music. There's a lot of solo stuff that is music. By your definition Steve Vai's Bad Horsie wouldn't be music because he played all instruments by himself and wrote all parts by himself - no collaboration. Punk wouldn't be music either because there's really no virtuosity in punk. And there's not a lot of improvisation in any music other than jazz/jazz influenced music. Classical would definitely not be music. When you write an electronic song, you write it. You have sounds in your head but instead of using "real" instruments you use a computer to generate the sounds. Writing an electronic song is the same as writing a rock song. I use programmed drums in my songs. Does that make my music not music? And what if I programmed all instruments but it would still sound the same? Would it not be music?
    third(-)eye
    So if making music requires instruments, then are the Blue Man Group and Stomp not musicians either? They don't use conventional instruments.
    peachesenregali
    Nostalgic feelings about music. People made proper music back in my day, not like now when it's all made of wires and electricity. Seriously though, why do you have an account on a site dedicated to music when you clearly have no knowledge of what actually forms it?
    Dyn101
    I have to say I agree, to some extent, with what he said there needs to be a human element in the music and when you put so much tech between the musician and the speaker it lessens the influence you have over things imo, still I am willing to concede that there are "Computer made" tracks which i listen to and enjoy, its quite easy to tell whether its an actual musician behind the keyboard/mouse or a kid with a torrented fruity loops...
    MaggaraMarine
    Computer generated music is written by humans. The computer doesn't write the music so it has the human element you are talking about.
    MaggaraMarine
    So when you write a song by using a software like Guitar Pro or Sibelius, you are not making music. But when you record exactly the same meloides and rhythms with real instruments, it becomes music? What if the programmed instruments were so good that they would sound exactly the same as real instruments but there were actually no real instruments used? Would it be music?
    iommi600
    Love all the albums here, with the exception of "Thriller" (yeah, sorry). I think that Kraftwerk deserved a mention, though.
    BUTCHY13
    There's music out there that isn't rock??? I don't believe it, it can't be true. And if it is true there isn't a top 10 just equal last!
    Emperor's Child
    Interesting list but a few others that I'd like to mention for those that are interested: Dead Can Dance - Anywhere Out of this World White Moth Black Butterfly - A Thousand Wings Hybrid - Wide Angle