What do you get when you combine great music with a great story? That’s right – a concept album.
This special kind of LP takes immense artistry and dedication, so we’ve created a list to help you venture through some legendary melodic tales.
Check out 14 epic concept albums below…
The Wall – Pink Floyd
In what might be the greatest concept album of all time, The Wall is a remarkable portrayal of one man’s inner turmoil and his defence against the world around him. Pink, the main character is continuously worn down from society as he struggles to deal with isolation, war, parental problems, lust and many other themes in which the brain of Roger Waters has created. This 80-minute rock opera gives you a fully fleshed out story that transcends time, continuing to resonate with people everywhere. It’s no wonder why this album is on the list: The Wall is an experience. It is a masterpiece both musically and narratively.
The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire really hits home on this extraordinary album. The Suburbs is a beautiful reflection of fleeting youth and modern disappointment. With 16 tracks, Arcade Fire manages to capture the human experience in a powerful way. The Suburbs is an honest account of common discontents and disillusionments as you grow older. The album, though tonally melancholic, has an exhilarating sound that is elevating and moving, especially on tracks such as “Ready to Start” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”
The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
This album reeks of emo teenage angst and black eyeliner but we LOVE it. My Chemical Romance gave us absolute heaters on The Black Parade. The LP centers a dying character with cancer known as The Patient. It is about his journey of passing into life after and how death comes to him in the form of his earliest childhood memory: a parade. The song “Welcome to the Black Parade” will forever be an epic group singalong.
Illinois – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens’ critically acclaimed album Illinois is about exactly that – Illinois. Including a vast array of references to historical figures, places and events, this album truly plunges deep into the spirit of the U.S. state. With full orchestral arrangements and a choir, Stevens takes us on a lush musical journey that’s spectacularly painted with enriched imagery that illustrates an entire landscape.
American Idiot – Green Day
This absolutely electric album is about the battle of “rage and love.” It follows the story of Jesus of Suburbia, a lower-middle-class American adolescent anti-hero who is “raised on a diet of soda pop and Ritalin”. Inspired by political events such as 9/11 and the Iraq war, Green Day expresses the disillusioned generation of the time. The band says that they view their songs more as chapters or a feature film, dubbing their own album a “punk rock opera.”
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie
Bowie is known for his alter-egos, but Ziggy Stardust might trump the rest. The album concerns Ziggy, the androgynous, red-headed rock star who is sent to Earth as a savior upon an impending apocalyptic disaster. This album is glam rock and proto-punk at its finest, featuring a number of timeless tracks such as “Starman” and “Moonage Daydream.”
For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
Justin Vernon, creator of Bon Iver, called this album “a place that you get stuck in; a pain you can’t erase.” Written and recorded in a secluded cabin in Wisconsin, this album captures the triumphant pain of heartbreak. For Emma, Forever Ago is an extremely beautiful, sensational ode to an ex-lover and showcases Vernon’s early talent.
Tommy – The Who
The Who’s Tommy is a perfect work of musical fiction. The album follows the rollercoaster journey of a “deaf, dumb, and blind” boy named Tommy. The fascinating tale shows Tommy going through traumatic events, becoming a pinball wizard as well as a powerful religious leader until ultimately he is rejected once again. The remarkable story, created mainly by Pete Townsend, became a feature film in 1975.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino – Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys have always been the epitome of cool, but they took it to the next level for their sixth studio album. This avant-garde composition has mystique, and it’s a radical departure from their earlier music. The album sets a futuristic backdrop where space-age synths, vintage keyboards, and surreal lyricism takes the stage. Written on a piano by frontman Alex Turner in his home, the ultra-smooth album sees various stories told from different characters from a luxury resort on the Moon. The album borrows heavily from science fiction and film, delving into themes like politics, religion and technology.
Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cuties’ ever-so-somber Transatlanticism explores the major theme of long distance romance and addresses the need to be loved. Frontman Ben Gibbard created an equally enchanting and melancholic LP that employs an intelligent use of space and silence within the songs. Touching on other themes such as isolation and sorrow, this album will have you hooked on its bittersweet melodies and gripping lyrics.
Strange Trails – Lord Huron
Though never officially penned as a concept album, it’s hard to ignore the overarching narrative. Strange Trails sees a collection of tracks that tell haunted stories of adventure and survival. Immersed in rich nature imagery, this warm and harmonic album focuses on atmosphere and paints a memorable landscape of wistful melodies.
Demon Days – Gorillaz
Demon Days is a social and political commentary on the issues of the 21st century. It tackles topics like destruction of the environment, overpopulation, false gods, guns, violence, depression, corruption and greed. Demon Days is a loose concept album that made a massive footprint in the industry. It’s not only phenomenal, but it’s timeless.
The Band – The Band
Canadian legends The Band’s self-titled album sees some of their best work of their career. The album involves traditions associated with an older version of Americana. Drawing on historic themes, people and places, The Band gave us absolute classic tunes such as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek.”
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
Last, but certainly not least, are The Beatles. Surrounding the character Sgt. Pepper and his troupe, this album was experimental and cutting-edge. This album in particular advanced roles of sound composition and psychedelic imagery while tying in a large number of different musical styles from avant-garde, music hall, and Indian classical music. The Beatles are the best for a reason.