5 Meddle, 1971
Best Tracks: “A Pillow of Winds,” “Fearless,” “Echoes” Like Piper, Meddle and all the other albums that presage Dark Side might not have the sound we’ve come to associate with the Pink Floyd we know and love. On Meddle, however, the material they were working with most closely matches the bands obvious talents. And, indeed, this is the best set of songs that the Roger Water’s lead incarnation would release until Dark Side. The disk also finds Floyd experimenting and expanding the boundaries of their sound, trying out acoustic blues and more delicate folk — something unthinkable on later Floyd albums, except maybe Wish You Were Here. Especially try “Fearless,” the most hopeful and elegiac song Floyd ever cut.
4 The Wall, 1979
Best Tracks: “Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 2),” “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell” Pink Floyd’s second most well known album might be a little rambling for anyone who’s not tripping acid. The album’s a little long on sound effect and dialogue driven interludes, that distract from its core of great hits and classic deep cuts. Don’t let the heavy-handed concept dissuade you, though. There are many classics here that you already love, and might enjoy even more in the flow of the album: “Young Lust” and “Run Like Hell” are the two most obvious examples. And everyone’s first listen to every part of “Another Brick in the Wall” (yes, there’s more than one), is a monumentous Floyd listening experience.
3 Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967
Best Tracks: “Astronomy Domine,” “Lucifer Sam,” “Interstellar Overdrive,” “Bike” Classifying Pink Floyd’s first disc in terms of their later albums is difficult to say the least. First, there’s no David Gilmour yet. So no perfectly timed melodic solos. For another thing, it’s the only album where original bandleader Syd Barrett is the dominant writing force for the songs. Yet, without his decent into schizophrenic delirium, the band wouldn’t have had much of its source material for later classics. If you listen to the album, it does sound like it was composed by someone a bit off — it rivals Captain Beefheart’s subversive records in its manipulation of rock traditions. You’ll also find the most fun Floyd song to sing along to herein: the innocent, whimsical “Bike.”
2 The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973
Best Tracks: “Time,” “The Great Gig in the Sky,” “Money,” “Us and Them” Here it is, you loonies: the album that gets everyone on the Pink Floyd bandwagon and, unfortunately, where most casual fans stop digging. Which is a pity, but we digress. The flowing, non-stop nature of the album’s composition definitely pulls you into the themes at play on this engrossing classic: insanity, alienation, mortality (fun stuff.) But it does have the most hits-per-song of any Floyd album: “Breathe,” “Time,” “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Brain Damage/Eclipse.” And you’ll love re-listening to all of those. But be sure to put your headphones on for “The Great Gig in the Sky,” and try not to wet your bed while listening to Clare Torry’s caterwauling and soulful vocals.
1 Wish You Were Here, 1975
Best Tracks: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (pts. I-V)”, “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here” Yes, yes… you came here expecting to see Dark Side at the top of another list (sigh). Well, sorry to disappoint, but we’re in the business of being right — not predictable. And actually give this record a thorough listen. Every song’s an absolute gem, with Pink Floyd relying on the songwriting more than studio trickery for a rare instance in their career. Of course, the studio-as-an-instrument approach is still on full display, with phase and delay effects perfectly drenching each weeping note Gilmour wrenches out of his guitar. Listen to the indelible and haunting “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts I-V;” every note perfectly placed. The band also revisits their softer acoustic side on the yearning title track.
Animals — Underrated in Floyd’s oeuvre. Some great orchestration on “Dogs.”