Best three album run by an artist?


Ironically right after I posted, I pulled up some BTMI to listen to it and saw Adults! and was like “aw fuck did that really come out in 2010?” and of course it did because I remember listening to it a shitload while doing my Master’s degree and that was definitely 2010.

But I also think it’s pretty short, even by BTMI standards, so an EP it shall be. Then again, Scrambles, Adults!, and Vacation is also a pretty dang good run (but I really, really like Get Warmer because ‘Baby I Don’t Love You No More’ helped me get over a breakup so whatever, I’m being heck of biased)


I was talking about the start of the album, but since then I can confirm it’s both!

Also, thanks for sharing your research. It’s nice to now have words to be able to explain what I mean when I’m talking about different types of progressive music.

The thing I’d say about getting into hip-hop is to not worry about seeking help. As I mentioned previously, most of my experience will be listening to an artists flow, rhythm, and timbre even though I usually can’t comprehend the actual words they are saying. Then I go look up the lyrics later on for another listen, genius is the best for this as it also gives annotations to clarify lines even further, which I often need cause I couldn’t find most allusion if it were staring me in the face. I often have the experience of listening to an album to only go back and read the lyrics later and realize “oh shit, this is so clever.”

As for artists or albums I’d recommend to get into more mainstreamish hip-hop, I’m not sure. I’m still making that journey myself. But I keep finding myself going back to To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s the cliche answer right now yeah, but I keep finding new reasons to go back musically and lyrically. Also, it was hella acclaimed so there’s a whole ton of writing on the album which I found incredibly useful in learning how to listen to hip-hop and a great way to figure out what I should be looking for when listening.

Anyways, one I’ll probably write about why Seven Swans/Illinois/Age of Adz has one of the best three album arcs, and I will have finally solved music!


Ah yes, the famous Music Problem, proposed by Sir Thomas Music in 1852.

So I think it’s an interesting question of “What makes a good three album run?” because it is essentially the question of “What makes a good album?” asked three times over. I think there’s this mentality, when we talk about albums as “masterpieces”, that there is supposed to be a cohesion to the album. This could be lyrically, but it’s almost always sonically. Albums rarely span genres from song to song without some form of touchstone among them.

I think about the Aristotelian unities: Aristotle said a good play has a unity of place, unity of time, and unity of plot. The story takes place in one room on one day and is about one thing. In a lot of modern music discussion, we expect a sonic unity between albums and, in fact, artist’s entire careers. I saw people get legitimately angry at Esperanza Spalding for “doing rock stuff” on a recent album. (How often do you hear people say “I liked their old stuff better”?) Albums themselves are expected to have an internal unity. Some groups create concept albums focused on one specific story/idea. While early albums used to be more like a collection of singles, they evolved into cohesive sets of songs.

What’s important to remember is that albums a relatively recent invention in music. Albums do not exist without the advent of technology. Recording technology changes the social place of music drastically. Music was no longer constrained by time and place. It was allowed to be preserved and distributed, instead of living within score sheets and memetic dispersion. Recording technology takes what was once an instantaneous event and makes it last (relevant); in this way, albums are snapshots of a moment in music. An album was a document.

So the idea of the album as a cohesive set, as a meaningful collection of songs, is actually pretty new. Like, think about it: before recording technology, there were no records. Music was an idea, not an object. Further, songs did not exist in these sets outside of maybe sheet music books, or perhaps classical music being put together (Beethoven’s late quartets, Well-Tempered Clavier, etc, and you could argue for pieces having movements). A song was an individual piece of music. But as records became an inseparable part of music, so too did the idea of these albums maintaining a unity become part of it. In ways, albums are still documents, but they are more like a collection of poems: representative of a time in the artist’s life, but through the filter of creation, that is, creating a piece.

So the question of “what is a good three album run?” is essentially asking “what is a good set of sets?” which is kind of buck wild to me. I think it has something to do with unity but like… Is it about sonic unity? Lyrical unity? Social impact? Quality of composition? The consistent ability to innovate? To improve? To subvert? Is it just three good records? I donno man I just like the jams. I don’t even think unity and cohesion are necessary for good art, it’s just something I personally prefer in almost all the art I consume and actively put in the art I myself create.

Again i could be totally full of shit


So what three albums do you choose?


lmao I mean I already put up like 9 different sets of them in other posts


Hey I just wanted to circle back around to this and thank you for the recommendations! I remember there being a lot of buzz around Paradise Gallows when it came out so I’m listening to it now and there’s some really cool things happening here! Those guitar and drum tones are perfect too.


Glad to be of help! Be sure to check out Inter Arma’s “The Cavern” EP, which is probably their strongest work in my own opinion.


I could maybe quibble a bit with elements of this analysis. …So I will.

I think albums have a bit more a historical basis than that.
The idea of albums as literally albums of records bound together dates back to early 1900s vinyl.
The idea of a song cycle which seems to me like a fairly direct ancestor of the album dates to to the mid 1800s.
Symphonies in their current form go from about 1700 onwards
The idea of the musical suite i.e. a series of pieces of music created to be played one after the other dates even further back in baroque

I think the meaningful collection of music as a cohesive set is pretty old. But that said…

I think I’d peel back even further than you when you say it’s difficult to define what a good set of sets is. Often albums that are good DO feel like they are of a piece, and I can’t deny that a lot of my favourite albums fit this pattern. But very often they don’t really fit that pattern, too. Or often, even if they do it’s difficult to define in what sense they are cohesive, even if I think they are. Sometimes I might second guess it. Maybe they’re only cohesive because I’ve heard them next to each other so many times.

Revolver by The Beatles is considered a great album but is it cohesive? The first 5 tracks are:

  • Blues Rock
  • String Quartet Lieder thing
  • Psychedelic Pop
  • Indian influenced drone music
  • Slow Pop Ballad

And there’s no real thematic or instrumental or sonic links between them.

So perhaps the whole cohesion thing is just a red herring from the start. Cohesion is just one way an album can be good. I think that can be said of art in general. Some things are great because they really focus in on a concept or style or idea and execute on it really well and explore that specific thing to a really deep level. Others are great because they excel at an eclectic range of things.

To get back to the original topic, I think all that’s meant by a good 3 album run is a run of albums that all, individually are great in their own way. I don’t think there needs to be cohesion between the albums (heck, as above, I don’t even think there needs to be cohesion within the albums). In fact, I think the best 3 album runs contain albums that are individually great but collectively demonstrate the artist’s range.


As I mentioned, the idea of a set of songs, whether the individual components are movements or what have you, have existed for a long time. What hasn’t existed is the literal recording technology that makes these sets of songs actually concrete. And it’s also worth noting that folk music wasn’t able to maintain these kinds of things prior to recording technology, excepting methods of archival. Recording technology formalized the existence of popular/folk music by saving it and also organizing it into a set. I’m not saying sets of music aren’t old, but I’m saying that the modern idea of the album has only come about in the past century or so

And to clarify, I don’t think cohesion makes art good or what is necessary for something to “be a good three-album-run”. My only argument for it is that the act of creating a set necessarily implies that there is some reason they are all in the same set (even if that set is just “these are good songs!”). Albums are unified by the mere existence of being an album. And being that the album is always so, the aesthetic quality of an album is often judged by it’s overall quality and structure rather than it’s individual components. When we talk about the quality of an album, we necessarily talk about it as a whole. That’s what makes it an album.

But no, cohesion and unity is not necessary for a good album. Albums are, however, judged cohesively.

Also, counterpoint: Revolver is cohesive because it is cohesively eclectic :wink: :wink: :wink:


I have to say, as much as I love Streetlight Manifesto, I completely disagree with this. If we count their core albums as Everything Goes Numb, Somewhere in the Between, and then The Hands That Thieve, we would have 3 of the best albums ever recorded. But I honestly hate their version of Keasbey Nights. I don’t even like Catch 22’s version; to me it’s just uninspired third wave ska (Hey Sergio being the obvious exception). And Streetlight’s versions is just self-plagiarism !

I understand everything with Victory, but I wish Streetlight would consistently put out good records instead of filler.


As a former middle-school faux rude boy, do I have some words for this.

First, as to uninspired 3rd wave ska charge, the album was released in 1998. I would argue that what they were doing, albeit in the same vein as other 3rd wave bands, was a bit more technical than say a Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Reel Big Fish. Catch’s draw was the intricacies of the horns as well as the tight songwriting/lyrics.

I used to hate Streetlight’s version of Keasbey Nights too. I picked up Catch 22’s version on a family vacation to the Jersey Shore when I was in middle-school and it totally opened up my eyes as to a different, more raw, more punk version of 3rd Wave than I was used to (Before that I was super into the Aquabats and Reel Big Fish, for example). I loved everything about that record, so when Streetlight came out with their version I instantly scoffed at it. It was too produced. It was just Tomas Kalnoky going for a bit of a cash grab. I actually felt offended that he even thought about doing this. I listened to it through once and then instantly deleted it.

After a year or two, I gave it another shot. Maybe I was in a different place mentally, but this go around something just clicked. I was blown away at how extremely tight the band was playing together. Every horn solo was 10x more difficult than on Catch 22’s version. The drumming on that album was so fast, so technical, it made me let out an audible, “Gaht Damn.” All those ideas of self-plagiarism I had (much like yourself) were thrown to the side. I figured out the reason they really did this was because Kalnoky was never happy with the way Catch’s version sounded. It was too rough and too raw for him. And, after giving it some time to marinate, I finally was able to agree.

Point in case? Listen to Catch’s version of Riding the Fourth Wave and then listen to Streetlight’s. Streetlight’s, by any metric, is absolutely better than Catch’s.


I’m not that keen on most of the songs on Suffer, personally, but I might still agree with this run. Now if they hadn’t released that 80-85 compilation after No Control, we’d be looking at No Control / Against The Grain / Generator. THAT would be a hell of a run. Although looking at the full album list, Generator / Recipe For Hate / Stranger Than Fiction is another solid 3 album run…

I just really like this band.


Streetlight’s revisitation of Catch 22 work sounds and feels like rote memorization to me. It’s fast, technically proficient, and flat, like the person at the end of a radio commercial who clearly and rapidly articulates the restrictions and technicalities. It does absolutely nothing for me, personally. On the other hand, I always thought Kaesby Nights was basically good, but not spectacular. I can see how, if that was your introduction to that style of third-wave, it would have sounded like a new world, but in retrospect, it’s not much different from their contemporaries. I will however give them credit for their relative lyrical competence, which stood out from most of their contemporaries.

I won’t disagree with this. Honestly I probably listen to NC/ATG/G more often anyway, but Suffer holds a place in my heart as some of the only 80’s hardcore that I still find interesting. BR’s early knack for harmonies was (and still is) outstanding in a genre that often prided itself on purposeful lack thereof.


A Tribe Called Quest is one of my all time favorite groups, and Low End Theory, Midnight Mauraders, and Beats Rhymes Life is an amazing three album run.


Sung Tongs/Feels/Strawberry Jam


Symphony Nos. 8 & 10 (The Mysteries), Symphony No. 9 (L’Eve Future) and Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes Of An Expanding Hypersphere) - Glenn Branca

(he didn’t release his symphonies in numerical order in case you’re wondering)


I read the thread title and came to say those same three Queen albums! I’d also say Queen, Queen II, and Sheer Heart Attack.


Now That’s What I Call Music 15/Now That’s What I Call Music 16/Now That’s What I Call Music 17


@Murph surely you’re joking, look at Now That’s What I Call Music 3, 4 and 5 and tell me that’s not the choicest run of those compilations that has ever been or will ever be. They overdid it early and haven’t been able to achieve those heights since.


I would agree but 5 had an Aaron Carter song.