Find out about National Album Day events happening near you here, catch up with this week's cover star Jess Glynne's views on the album format here and find out how this weekend's event could help record sales here.
Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam (2006)
At various times in my life I have proudly proclaimed all of the following albums as The Best Album Ever™: Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia, 2Pac/Makaveli’s The Don Killuminati – The 7 Day Theory, Deftones’ White Pony, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Neil Young’s Harvest, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time (or Live After Death, if I’m permitted live albums, and in which case I’m throwing Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Weld into the mix). I reserve the right to reinstate one of them at any time. Call me Captain Caveat. With that said, however, the album I’ve been firmly sticking with for the past half-decade is Pearl Jam’s self-titled 2006 record – affectionately known as Avocado. It’s not just because it came out on my birthday, either. The best artists, for me, are the ones that make bodies of work that can cater to everything life can throw at you: the ones equipped to soundtrack the best day of your life and the worst. For every moment, a song. There isn’t a Pearl Jam album that doesn’t have this for me – and in the past I have leaned more towards Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy – but Avocado stands out the most. Contained within its tracklisting are heart-bursting moments of romance and heartbreak (Come Back), grief (Life Wasted), unbridled joy (Big Wave), indignation (Worldwide Suicide), self-help (Inside Job), protest (Army Reserve), and more besides. It’s an album equipped to tackle life head on-with you.
George Garner, Deputy editor
Craig David – Born To Do It
A fresh-faced Craig David, headphones on, eyes closed, seemingly lost in music (I always liked to think he had his own album on) shot against a soft caramel background. Oh, the simple sleeve of the Southampton singer’s 2000 debut. How enjoyable it is when a record sounds exactly like it looks. This album gets the nod here because of how obsessively I consumed it as soon as it came out and for years afterwards. It rubbed up awkwardly against everything else I liked at the time, save for Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s On The Wall, which came out a year earlier. But Born To Do It is a classic, the first airing of a great modern pop voice. The big songs are widely known, but I go back for the vocals on Follow Me, Can’t Be Messing Around, Time To Party… The way he sings the words ‘bus stop’ on You Know What is ludicrous. Sure, it’s cheesy in places, but that’s Craig David. These songs were written largely in a tiny bedroom in a Southampton council estate, they have come to symbolise an opulent pop era, and mark the start of a rollercoaster career. Craig David has moved on, but this is where it started.
Ben Homewood, senior staff writer
David Bowie – Low (1977)
The mid-1970s were a golden period of creativity for David Bowie, particularly when he quit cocaine, moved to Berlin and got weird. Hanging out with Iggy Pop and hooking up with Brian Eno, Bowie made a strange synthesizer-based album that showed his genius for collaboration and soaking up new influences, in this case experimental German electronic music and krautrock. The ambient-sounding second half of the album was so ahead of its time, 40-year-old soundscapes such as Subterraneans have barely aged. The LP sleeve, taken from The Man Who Fell To Earth, hints at the otherworldly music within. Yet Low also included a brace of brilliant singles: the futuristic crooning of Sound & Vision and the woozy urgency of Be My Wife, which somehow failed to chart. It was a period when Bowie was constantly taking risks in the studio, which is why he's still on the covers of heritage music magazines to this day. At the time, RCA were so unimpressed with its commercial potential they sent Bowie a rejection letter, which he ignored. Although most of its songs are not greatest hits material, Low shows the possibilities of the album and will easily endure for another four decades.
Andre Paine, news editor
The Specials - The Specials (1979)
Despite what Brexiteers might claim, Britain in 1979 was a grim place: a toxic mess of violence, social disaffection and governmental incompetence/downright hostility. Indeed, about the only thing the year had going for it was that that unpalatable cocktail fired The Specials’ debut album into existence. Straight outta unfashionable Coventry, Terry Hall, Jerry Dammers, Neville Staple, Lynval Golding, Roddy Radiation, Horace Gentleman and John Bradbury made music that, uniquely, sounded like the exact point in time that it was conceived. They brought with them the edge and raw excitement of punk, but broadened the sonic palate to include ska and reggae. They issued a unifying call to arms at a time when divide-and-rule was the name of the game. And the album’s mix of thrilling originals and punked-up covers of Jamaican classics meant it was stacked with full-on bangers from A Message To You Rudy to Too Much Too Young. By rights, all this should mean it sounds horribly dated in the UK of 2018. In fact, much of it seems more pertinent than ever. Special indeed.
Mark Sutherland, editor