This playlist attempts to give you some idea of the history of art rock proper. By art rock proper, I mean the genre of art rock, as opposed to the supragenre of art rock, which includes stuff like progressive rock and psychedelic rock.
By art rock I mean fairly conventional pop rock songs heavily influenced by both art music and the non-musical arts.
I also want to distinguish art rock from what came after. Arguably, New Wave and Post Punk coopted art rock into punk music. And then Alternative Rock and later Indie Rock took over.
So this playlist is focused on art rock made by pre-punk musicians, even if they made it after punk happened. There are a few non-English language musicians on here who started later but whose music is closer to traditional art rock than what came after, as well.
Essential Art Rock Playlist:
It’s probably a bit too ambitious and broad, but here it is, in chronological order.
1. The Beatles: “In My Life” from Rubber Soul (December, 1965)
This may not be the first art rock song ever, and its’ certainly not the first art pop song ever, but it’s the first case I know of of a rock band recording an explicitly art pop song. Listen to the piano solo, made to sound like a harpsichord, and you have the birth of baroque pop.
2. The Byrds: “Eight Miles High” (March, 1966)
This is not a playlist about psychedelia, but it’s important to include the first ever psychedelic rock single because it was arguably also the first ever art rock single and the first ever jazz rock single, too.
3-15. The Beach Boys: Pete Sounds (May, 1966)
Contrary to what people will tell you, this is not a rock album. (There is like one electric guitar on the entire record.) However, it may be the first complete art pop album. And art pop and art rock mingle and intertwine, as you shall see, and are sometimes indistinguishable from each other. Given the ambition on display here, it’s rather hard to imagine art rock without it.
16-28. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: most of Freak Out! (June, 1966)
The true birth of art rock, as something separate from psychedelic rock or art pop, is on Frank Zappa’s debut album. No popular musician had so aggressively incorporated art music influences into rock music before. Even to this day, it’s still too weird for many people. The tracks that I left out are avant rock/experimental rock explorations.
29-33. The Beatles: five songs from Revolver (August, 1966)
The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece includes a number of tracks that aren’t strictly psychedelic and so I’ve included them here.
34. The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations” (October, 1966)
The most ambitious single yet released by a pop rock group.
35-45. The Doors (January, 1967)
Sometimes bizarrely categorized as psychedelic rock, The Doors’ debut album is arguably the birth of commercial art rock separate from psychedelia. The Doors are far more accessible and far less weird than the Mothers and mostly stick to recognizable pop wrong forms, with two notable exceptions.
46-47. The Beatles: “Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Lane” (February, 1967)
If “Good Vibrations” was the most ambitious a-side yet released, this is the most ambitious single yet released. “Strawberry Fields” is one of the most famous psychedelic songs, “Penny Lane” is psychedelic, sure, but much closer to art pop. For most people, this is the moment when this kind of music connected with their consciousness.
48-58. The Velvet Underground & Nico (March, 1967)
Recorded mostly at the same time (or earlier) than Freak Out! and during the sessions for Pet Sounds, but released way later due to contractual difficulties, I always wonder if this album would have done better commercially had it been released 10 months earlier. Instead, it’s a legendary bomb that helped initiate punk, experimental/avant rock and ’70s art rock.
59. Procol Harum: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (May, 1967)
Though often considered a prog rock band, Procol Harum’s music is mostly far less ambitious than most prog. This song incorporates Bach, which wasn’t really a thing before it was a hit.
60-65. The Beatles: six songs from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (May, 1967)
Yes, I’ve included half of the most famous psychedelic album of all time and the album that kicked off the Summer of Love. These are the least psychedelic songs on the record plus the most ambitious song on the record.
66-76. The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile (September, 1967)
The weird, kind of psychedelic, kind of amateurish record put out when Smile failed to materialize, is arguably their most fun and interesting album.
77-86. The Doors: Strange Days (September, 1967)
Yes, this is basically The Doors 2 but still, nobody else was making theatrical fusions of blues rock, musical theatre and jazz.
87-93. The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed (November, 1967)
Often credited as the first ever progressive rock album, this album has a lot more in common musically with art rock and psychedelia.
94. Buffalo Springfield [Neil Young]: “Broken Arrow” from Buffalo Springfield Again (November, 1967)
Neil Young created this tack on his own with session musicians with basically no help from his bandmates (because they weren’t getting along). It replaces choruses with sound effects. Fairly avant garde.
95-96. The Beatles: “The Fool on the Hill” and “Your Mother Should Know” from Magical Mystery Tour (November, 1967)
The two least psychedelic tracks from the Beatles’ last psychedelic album.
97-101. The Velvet Underground: all but one track from White Light/White Heat (January, 1968)
At times more ambitious and more primitive than the debut. “Sister Ray” isn’t here because, well, it’s a 17 minute noise rock song.
102-111. The United States of America (March, 1968)
Another “LA Psychedelic” album that isn’t very psychedelic. This is a rather bizarre one-off, run by an aspiring high art composer and featuring an electric violinst.
103-122. The Doors: Waiting for the Sun (July, 1968)
The beginning of The Doors’ wilderness period, still embodying the sound of art rock more than just about anyone else.
123-134. The Moody Blues: In Search of the Lost Chord (July, 1968)
Classified as progressive rock by most people, I don’t agree, given where the genre was about to go.
135-140. Procol Harum: All but one track from Shine On Brightly (September, 1968)
Another supposed prog rock band. I’ve left off the actual, landmark prog rock track. The rest of this walks the same line of the Moodies’, between early prog rock and art rock.
141-170. The Beatles (November, 1968)
The Beatles had rejected psychedelia with their 1968 singles but this album, with its plain white cover and music that barely ever resembles psychedelia, signaled the final break. It’s the big art rock statement of 1960s that much art rock references, and was a massive influence on nearly all forms of rock music.
171. The Velvet Underground: “The Murder Mystery” from The Velvet Underground (March, 1969)
John Cale left the Velvets and their music got way, way less arty. But this track from their third album continues their experimentation.
172-184. The Moody Blues: On the Threshold of a Dream (April, 1969)
I continue to include this borderline prog rock because there really wasn’t a lot of art rock being made yet.
185. David Bowie: “Space Oddity” (July, 1969)
If there’s a song that inaugurated the Golden Age of Art Rock, it’s this, the song that launched Bowie’s career.
186-194. The Doors: The Soft Parade (July, 1969)
Another of the weaker Doors records, still pretty emblematic of the state of art rock at the end of the decade.
196-213. The Beatles: Abbey Road (September, 1969)
The Beatles’ final recorded album is both a blueprint for mainstream rock for the 1970s and also a demonstration of how quickly the experimentations of the second half of the ’60s had become incorporated into mainstream music.
214. Crosby, Stills and Nash: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from Crosby, Stills and Nash (September, 1969)
Not rock music, not really art rock, closer to progressive folk. But this is a great example of how quickly the innovations of the previous years got incorporated into mainstream music. Five years earlier, this would have been one of the most radical singles ever released.
215-217. The Moody Blues: To Our Children’s Children’s Children (November, 1969)
Another one of these albums that I think are art rock but most people think it’s progressive rock.
218. The Doors: “The Celebration of the Lizard” (January, 1970)
The Doors’ art rock magnum opus and their last kick at the can. From now on, they were a blues rock band.
219. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: “Whisky Boot Hill/Down Down Down/Country Girl” (March, 1970)
Another example of how ambitious art rock ideas had found their way into mainstream rock music. This is basically the second side of Abbey Road as country rock.
220-230. John Cale: Vintage Violence (March, 1970)
John Cale’s solo debut. The beginning of the career of the one of the great art rock songwriters.
231. King Crimson: “Cat Food” (May, 1970)
The most accessible song this, the definitive prog rock band, recorded in their early incarnation.
232-241. The Moody Blues: A Question of Balance (August, 1970)
More art rock posing as progressive rock.
242-243. Audience: “I Had a Dream” and “Raviole” (May, 1971)
Though some people say this is art rock, it’s quite jazzy. Here are two tracks that are closer to my idea of art rock than the rest of the album.
244-252. The Moody Blues: Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (July, 1971)
And yet more Moodies.
253-262. Family: Fearless (October, 1971)
This is the third album by yet another progressive rock band that is much closer to art rock.
263-270. Kevin Ayers: Whatevershebringswesing (November, 1971)
The most famous solo album by the original lead-singer and bassist of the Soft Machine (the definitive early Canterbury scene band). Another album that some people call prog rock but I don’t agree.
271-281. David Bowie: Hunky Dory (December, 1971)
Bowie’s first proper glam rock album and his first masterpiece; the beginning of an extraordinary run of artistically relevant albums. (I’d say that began with Man Who Sold the World but that’s hard rock, rather than glam rock or alt rock.)
282-294. Todd Rundgren: the first record of Something/Anything? (February, 1972)
The whole thing should be here but, for some reason, only half of it is on YouTube music.
Rundgren’s first proper solo album (as opposed to as “Runt”) is mostly a classic bedroom pop album with some weirdness but not as much weirdness as would come later.
295. Little Feat: “Texas Rose Cafe” from Sailin’ Shoes (May, 1972)
The weirdest song this rock/funk/R&B/country band ever recorded. Another example of how art rock found its way into other genres.
296-306. David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars (June, 1972)
For non fans, this might be Bowie’s most famous album. For our purposes, it’s possibly his least arty and least interesting album on this list.
307-315. Roxy Music (June, 1972)
The debut album from the definitive art rock band of the 1970s is, as the kids say, everything for me. I love this. Particularly “Re-Make/Re-Model,” one of the great opening tracks of an art rock album,
316-323. The Moody Blues: Seven Sojourn (October, 1972)
The last Moodies album on this list.
324-334. Lou Reed: Transformer (November, 1972)
The David Bowie/glam makeover bothers some people but this works for me, and it remains extremely enjoyable.
335-443. John Cale: Paris 1919 (February, 1973)
Reed’s bandmate’s most accessible album is a little closer to art pop but is probably his easiest record.
444-462. Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, a True Star (March, 1973)
This is where he gets considerably weirder (after he got upset that people called him “the male Carole King” after the previous record).
463-470. Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure (March, 1973)
The final Brian Eno Roxy Music album is probably my favourite.
471-480. David Bowie: Aladdin Sane (April, 1973)
One of my 2 or 3 favourite David Bowie albums. Weirder than Ziggy Stardust and fare more interesting.
481-488. Peter Hammill: Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night (May, 1973)
The second official solo album by the lead singer of the progressive rock band Van Der Graaf Generator, he usually saves his less ambitious stuff for his solo albums.
489-497. Roy Wood: Boulders (July, 1973)
The solo debut of the lead singer and songwriter of The Move and the co-founder of Electric Light Orchestra.
498-504. The Mothers: Over-Nite Sensation (September, 1973)
The most commercial and least weird Frank Zappa album to date and the point at which he incorporated all his weirdness into an accessible package.
505-514. Lou Reed: Berlin (October, 1973)
A candidate for The Most Depressing Album of All Time. A dry run for The Wall in the production department.
515. Genesis: “I Know What I Like in Your Wardrobe” (October, 1973)
Genesis’ first minor hit single, possibly more psychedelic than arty, but still basically the only thing on this prog rock record that sort of fits in here. (Released as a single in 1974 but released on an album in October 1973.)
516-523. Roxy Music: Stranded (November, 1973)
The first post Brian Eno Roxy Music album manages to stay weird.
524-533. Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets (January, 1974)
Brian Eno’s solo debut album is one of my favourite records of the 1970s.
534-538. Peter Hammill: All but two tracks from The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (February, 1974)
I took out the two proggiest tracks form Hammill’s third record.
539-555. Todd Rundgren: Todd (February, 1974)
Another weird double album.
556. Wigwam: Being (February, 1974)
Finnish art rock.
557-567. Queen: Queen II (March, 1974)
Queen’s second album is artier than their first.
568-575. Frank Zappa: All but one track from Apostrophe (‘) (March, 1974)
Why this is a solo album and Over-Nite Sensation is a Mothers record – when parts were recorded at the same time. Another example of Zappa taking his weirdness and making it accessible.
576-584. Phantom’s Divine Comedy Part 1 (March, 1974)
Classified by many as prog rock, I don’t hear that at all. There’s a Jim Morrison imitator leading this group. I guess it might considered closer to psychedelia but I feel like it is arty enough to be here.
585-595. David Bowie: Diamond Dogs (May, 1974)
One of only two inessential David Bowie albums between 1971 and 1980, this record is the ashes of a failed 1984 adaptation so I think it’s still worthwhile to include.
596-603. Marek Grechuta: Magia obłoków (May, 1974)
One track is missing form this Polish art rock record.
604-612. Cockney Rebel: The Psychomodo (June, 1974)
The line between glam rock and art rock is not always clear. I think these guys cross it.
613-618. Robert Wyatt: Rock Bottom (July, 1974)
The former drummer/singer of Soft Machine and Matching mole’s 2nd album. (Wyatt has dismissed his first album.)
619-624. Peter Hammill: All but two tracks from In Camera (July, 1974)
Two aggressively avant tracks have been removed. Other than that, the usual Hammill singer-songwriter stuff.
625-634. Electric Light Orchestra: Eldorado (September, 1974)
ELO are technically a progressive pop group but, much like there is a blurry boundary between art pop and art rock, so too is there a blurry boundary between progressive pop and those genres. I don’t know ELO’s oeuvre very well – I don’t particularly like them – but this is rockier than some of their later music.
635-642. Supertramp: Crime of the Century (September, 1974)
Another progressive pop group – a group that is annoyingly lumped into prog rock too often – this record is their first real hit and where their famous sound crytalized. I can’t emphasize enough that this is not what prog rock sounds like. Which is why they’re here and not on my prog rock playlist.
643-651. John Cale: Fear (October, 1974)
John Cale returns to his rawer side.
652. King Crimson: “Fallen Angel” from Red (October, 1974)
One of my favourite King Crimson songs, an actual song that qualifies as art rock because of its songness, I guess.
653-662. Roxy Music: Country Life (November, 1974)
Another post Brian Eno record that I like a lot. Still weird enough for me.
662-672. Brian Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (November, 1974)
But I like the ex-Roxy Music musician’s second album more. For me, Brian Eno’s first two records are just absolutely essential. Some of my favourite music of the decade.
673-683. Peter Hammill: Nadir’s Big Chance (February, 1975)
Performed by Van Der Graaf Generator, this one jumps genres even more than usual.
684-692. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: The Best Years of Our Lives (March, 1975)
Another artier glam rock record.
693-702. John Cale: Slow Dazzle (March, 1975)
A little rockier and grimier than his usual efforts.
703-710. Electric Light Orchestra: Face the Music (September, 1975)
Again, it’s a fine line between progressive pop and art rock.
711-713. Pink Floyd: three tracks from Wish You Were Here (September, 1975)
There’s probably a bunch of their more accessible stuff that I could have included before, but at least two of these tracks are fairly straight-forward rock songs. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” has been omitted for obvious reasons.
714-722. Roxy Music: Siren (October, 1975)
This is the beginning of the era of the band that I like less. But it’s still rock music at this point.
723-736. Brian Eno: Another Green World (November, 1975)
The first intimations, in his solo work, of ambient music. (He’d been dabbling in these sounds in other places.)
737-748. Queen: A Night at the Opera (November, 1975)
Their artiest album, even featuring some prog rock.
749-752. Sumpertramp: four tracks from Crisis? What Crisis? (November, 1975)
For some reason the entire album isn’t available.
753-758. David Bowie: Station to Station (January, 1976)
After Diamond Dogs, Bowie leaned fully into Philly Soul on Young Americans. This record marks the point where he started reincorporating art rock into his sound.
759-764. The Alan Parsons Project: All but one track from Tales of Mystery and Imagination (May 1976)
Another one of these bands that gets classified as prog rock despite rarely sound like prog rock. I omitted the long instrumental suite, which is much closer to prog (though not great).
765-773. Electric Light Orchestra: A New World Record (October, 1976)
Once again walking that line, kind of poppy for art rock but a little too ambitious to just be pop.
774. 801 Live (November 1976)
Unfortunately I could only find the rehearsal by this Roxy Music adjacent super group.
775-784. Queen: A Day at the Races (December, 1976)
I should probably drop a few of these tracks but one of the things that makes Queen so “arty” is the collision of disparate styles.
785-795. David Bowie: Low (January, 1977)
The first Berlin Trilogy album shows Bowie combining the art R&B of his last album with Brian Eno and krautrock.
796-804. Peter Gabriel [Car] (February, 1977)
After quitting Genesis, Gabriel retired for a little while. His debut album still has some proggy elements this is the beginning of the career of one of the central figures of British art rock.
805. Metro (February, 1977)
Somewhere between Roxy Music and New Wave.
806-813. Iggy Pop: The Idiot (March, 1977)
Recorded before Low, this Bowie hijacking of Iggy Pop’s solo debut marks the real start of Bowie’s “Berlin” period, though it was released five months later (and not in Berlin, though much of the “Berlin Trilogy” wasn’t recorded in Berlin either). Much more than with Transformer, which was written entirely by Lou Reed, Bowie really took over the album of another artist. Pop never made another record like it.
814-818. Supertramp: five tracks from Even in the Quietest Moments… (April, 1977)
Google Play doesn’t have the whole album for some reason.
819-826. Peter Hammill: Over (April, 1977)
A candidate for the Greatest Breakup Album of All Time, it’s less aggressively weird than Hammill’s other records but it’s still artier than your average singer-songwriter record.
827-836. The Alan Parsons Project: I Robot (June, 1977)
More music people have confused for prog rock.
837-845. Van der Graaf: The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome (September, 1977)
Hammill’s prog rock band dropped the “Generator” from their name and replaxed their saxophonist with a violin player. They recorded two suites of songs instead of big long prog epics and essentially crossed over into art rock for this, their last studio album until the 21st century.
846-855. David Bowie: “Heroes” (October, 1977)
The second “Berlin Trilogy” record is the one most people know because of the title track. It’s also the beginning of Robert Fripp’s work as a Bowie sideman.
856-865. Brian Eno: Before and After Science (December, 1977)
Eno’s last rock album for a very long time, it was recorded over the last few years, while he collaborated with Bowie and others.
866-876. Peter Gabriel [Scratch] (June, 1978)
Peter Gabriel’s second self-titled album is the point at which his sound begins to crytalized. Produced by Robert Fripp, it’s arguably his weirdest non-soundtrack as well.
877-888. Peter Hammilll: The Future Now (September, 1978)
Some similarities here, I guess, between this and the final VDG(G) record above.
889-900. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (October, 1978)
So I’m still not sure about the decision to the include the Captain on here. Beefheart’s earlier music is far too weird and/or too blues-focused to include on this list. This is the first album in his career, I guess, that sort of flirts (barely) with more mainstream rock music. You might call much of Beefheart’s oeuvre “art blues” or “avant blues.” There will be a few of these and I’m not honestly not 100% sure if they belong. The most famous Beefheart stuff is on my avant/experimental rock playlist.
901-13. Queen: Jazz (November, 1978)
Infamously described as “fascist” when it was released by one particularly enthusiastic music reviewer, this is our second last Queen album. The issue with Queen is always that not all of their music is arty, it’s more the combination of the songs together which is kind of arty. So whole albums often feel like a stretch.
914-927. R. Stevie Moore: Delicate Tension (November, 1978)
You can make a pretty clear argument that Paul McCartney invented “bedroom music,” with an assist from Stevie Wonder. Todd Rundgren also indulged in one-man-band recordings. And Prince would be next on that list for most people. But then there’s R. Stevie Moore, a relative unknown who arguably has more to do with the transition from the polished work of McCartney and Wonder and the somewhat weird music of Rundgren to the aggressively strange music of ’90s and 21st century bedroom music (including various forms of indie music and noise music).
One issue with Moore is that he self-released hundreds of albums and only a few are “official” in that they were released on known labels. These “official” releases are, apparently, compilations of his self-released stuff, sort of like “best ofs” or what have you.
I’ve included his highest rated stuff here because I certainly don’t have time to wade through such a massive discography.
928-941. Frank Zappa: fourteen tracks from Sheik Yerbouti (March, 1979)
Arguably Zappa’s most aggressively dirty record, this is a really weird one. I think it might be his most commercially successful album. It mostly features live performances overdubbed in the studio and it also features one of his biggest hits. I omitted the most jazz rock stuff.
942-951. Roxy Music: Manifesto (March, 1979)
Our last Roxy Music album before they went completely into the synthpop/new romantic thing.
952-959. Supertramp: 8 tracks from Breakfast in America (March, 1979)
Again, the whole album isn’t available for some reason.
960. Se: …ja me tehtiin rakkautta (March, 1979)
Finnish art rock. It might be prog. Maybe it should be on another list.
961-970. David Bowie: Lodger (May, 1979)
The final “Berlin Trilogy” record (recorded in Switzerland and New York, naturally), it is also the least famous.
971. Robert Fripp: Exposure (June, 1979)
Robert Fripp’s one foray into mainstream music, featuring both art rock Peters (Gabriel and Hammill) as well as Brian Eno and Darryl Hall (seriously).
972. Frank Zappa: “Joe’s Garage” from Joe’s Garage (September, 1979)
The title track to this particular Zappa rock opera is a pretty good example of this ability to condense a whole bunch of musical ideas into one song. The rest of the album is not worth your time.
973-998. Pink Floyd: The Wall (November, 1979)
The preeminent space rock band’s not very spacey rock opera is actually much closer to art rock most of the time than it is to the prog rock they made before it.
999-1007. Jacques Higelin: Champagne pour tout le monde (1979)
A rather arty chanson record. I worry we could go down a rabbit hole including too much of this stuff under the English-language “art rock” banner.
1008-1016. Peter Gabriel [Melt] (May, 1980)
Peter Gabriel’s third self-titled album was his first big commercial hit.
1017-1028. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Doc at the Radar Station (August, 1980)
Some people believe this is his second best album.
1029-1035. Peter Hammill: all but one track from A Black Box (August, 1980)
Another Hammill record where one track is outright prog and the rest fits within our art rock confines.
1036-1045. David Bowie: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (September, 1980)
One of my couple favourite Bowie albums – perhaps my favourite – this finds him making slightly more mainstream rock music incorporating the ideas from the weirder albums of the “Berlin Trilogy.”
1046-1057. Serú Girán: Peperina (1981)
Brazilian art rock!
1058-1084. R. Stevie Moore: Swing and a Miss (???, 1982)
Another album of his I’ve included based on the ratings.
1085-1094. Lou Reed: The Blue Mask (February, 1982)
Robert Quine of the Voidoids adds a dose of artiness to this otherwise relatively straight-forward singer-songwriter record.
1095-1105. Vasilis Papakonstantinou: Fovame (March, 1982)
Greek art rock.
1106-1113. Peter Gabriel [Security] (September, 1982)
Gabriel’s final self-titled album is the most commercial to date, producing his first US hit. I’ve made a controversial decision about his next non-soundtrack studio record because it’s significantly more poppy than this.
1114-1124. John Cale: Music for a New Society (September, 1982)
Though it was a commercial failure, some people think of this as one of Cale’s best records. Stay tuned, though.
1125-1136. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Ice Cream for Crow (September, 1982)
The Captain’s final record.
1137-1168. R. Stevie Moore: Games / Groceries (???, 1982)
The last one we’re including. Again, I really have no idea how many of his records should be on this list because he just produced too much music.
1169-1182. Aquarium: Radio Afrika (1983)
Russian art rock.
1183-1191. Fred Frith: nine tracks from Cheap at Half the Price (1983)
Nine tracks from the Henry Cow guitarist’s most accessible album because YouTube Music doesn’t have the whole thing for some reason.
1192-1199. Scott Walker: Climate of Hunter (March, 1984)
The weirdest Walker Brother’s comeback is still at least recognizable as rock music unlike his ’90s and 21st century albums.
1200. Frank Zappa: “Be in My Video” from Them or Us (October, 1984)
A doo wop song making fun of the video for “Let’s Dance” qualifies as art rock in my opinion.
1201-1210. Aquarium: Дети декабря (1986)
More from the Russian art rock band.
1211-1221. Paul Roland: Duel (1989)
Certainly the gothiest thing on here, this guy was active far before goth rock came into existence so I figure it sort of fits in.
1222-1236. Lou Reed, John Cale: Songs for Drella (April, 1990)
The reunion of the two most famous and successful Velvets on the occasion of Any Warhol’s death is a drumless but fairly arty singer-songwriter record.
1237-1246. Brian Eno, John Cale: Wrong Way Up (October, 1990)
Eno’s first mainstream album in years and his first album-length collaboration with Cale (whom he had worked with briefly in the ’70s).
1247-1258. Queen: Innuendo (February, 1991)
The final Queen album The final Queen album while Freddie Mercury was alive is the artiest thing that had made in a decade. For some reason (Wayne’s World, actually), I grew up with this one so I have irrational fondness for what is not one of their best records.
1259. Psí Vojáci: Leitmotiv (December, 1991)
Czech art rock and jazz rock. Could only find the whole album.
1260-1269. Peter Gabriel: Us (September, 1992)
A little bit weirder than his biggest hit.
1270-1288. David Bowie: 1. Outside (September, 1995)
David Bowie’s “novel” never materialized but this “first chapter” is the artiest album he’d made in well over a decade, likely at least partially to do with reconnecting with some of his ’70s collaborators like Brian Eno and Mike Garson.
1289-1299. Kip Winger: This Conversation Seems Like a Dream (1996)
The leader of the infamous Winger’s debut solo album is actually pretty arty.
1300-1311. Robert Wyatt: Shleep (November, 1997)
I guess I could have more Wyatt albums here but this is a later one that is well regarded.
1312-1321. Peter Gabriel: Up (September, 2002)
Maintained his quality of work arguably more than many of his contemporaries. Perhaps because he rarely puts out albums.
1322-1328. Steve Hackett: To Watch the Storms (June, 2003)
The former Genesis guitarist is associated with prog rock but much of his solo music doesn’t fit in that genre. His later albums are better regarded than his earlier albums for some reason. (I have not listed to most of his solo music.)
1329-1337. Nine Horses: Snow Borne Sorrow (October, 2005)
This collaboration between Japan frontman David Sylvian, his brother Steve Jansen and German musician Bernd “Burnt” Friedmann produced some pretty classic art rock.
1338-1354. Steve Hackett: Wild Orchids (September, 2006)
It might be overkill to have so much Steve Hackett this late in the playlist but he’s arguably one of the few people still making what we would describe as “classic” art rock.
1355-1364. Lindsey Buckingham: Gift of Screws (September, 2008)
I don’t know if this is the artiest album by the Fleetwood Mac guitarist but not all his records get tagged as art rock.
1365-1378. Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back (February, 2010)
Gabriel’s cover album is one of my favourites.
1379-1392. Peter Gabriel: New Blood (October, 2011)
Gabriel takes his approach from Scratch My Back and applies it to his own songs and the results are even better.
1393-1402. Boris Grebenshikov: Соль (November, 2014)
A solo album from the Aquarium leader.
1403-1415. Bent Knee: Shiny Eyed Babies (November, 2014)
So this was a bit of a tough one because this a group of young people. However, a little bit like the Mars Volta reviving prog rock for the 21st century, it feels a little like Bent Knee are trying to revive art rock for the 21st century (with some prog thrown in).
1416-1422. David Bowie: ★ [Blackstar] (January, 2016)
Bowie’s final album is his artiest and best in two decades.
1423-1434. John Cale: M:Fans (January, 2016)
Cale re-recorded Music for a New Society (see back around track 1114) and it’s quite different.
1435-1444. Robe: Destrozares. Canciones para el final de los tiempos (November, 2016)
A solo album from the vocalist for the Spanish rock band Extremoduro. It’s a weird way to end it, I know.