Sunday, March 8, 2015

My 100 Favorite Albums By Statistical Analysis


A co-worker asked for some album recommendations since he knows I'm a big metal fan, and it got me thinking. What are my favorite albums? Sure I can probably pick my top 5 or so off the top of my head. But beyond that? I really can't say whether Metallica - Ride The Lightning is my 7th favorite album or 15th, I know is's somewhere around there. Being a nerd, I'm always looking for reasons to make a new spreadsheet to answer some questions for me, so I decided to set up a spreadsheet to answer what my favorite albums are, ranked 1 to 100.

Ranking Method

To rank my favorite albums requires lots of data. Fortunately I've got it all already - my huge library in Winamp. For the past 7+ years I've been hoarding albums (almost up to 1,200) and rating each song in Winamp (1 to 5 stars). These ratings, and the played last time, allow me to create an awesome smart playlist that I can just let play and never skip anything.

To reconcile my ratings for consistency I took a quick look at every album in my list and adjusted some ratings. I didn't change much though, I've found my ratings to really hold up. Even though Limp Bizkit has really fallen out of favor since 1999, I do still put Nookie as a 5 star!

Winamp shows an average star rating for each album, but this isn't good enough. It doesn't show decimals just 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 (rounded up). Plus, this rating weighs each track the same regardless of length. So the 2 minute interlude track Patterns In The Ivy counts the same as the 11 minute masterpiece The Drapery Falls on Blackwater Park by Opeth. Unacceptable!

To get a true album average that is the average rating for a single second of an album, I created a formula that sums up the number of "star seconds" for each track on an album divided by the length of the album in seconds. A track's star second value is the star rating times the track's length in seconds. This end result is a true rating for the album! I'm calling this a Time Rating.

As an example, this is the data for Opeth - Blackwater Park:
Track #NameLengthRating
1The Leper Affinity10:234
4The Drapery Falls10:535
5Dirge For November7:533
6The Funeral Portrait8:444
7Patterns In The Ivy1:521
8Blackwater Park12:084

If you add up the ratings and divide by the number of tracks, you get an average rating of 3.625. But look at the times of the highest and lowest rated tracks - the lower rated ones are short (especially the 1 star track 7), and the highest rated ones are the longest. To get a better average, take the seconds times rating for each track, add them up, and divide by the total seconds of the album:
(623*4+555*5+361*3+653*5+473*3+524*4+112*1+728*4) / 4029 = 4.009

So the true average rating of this album is 4.009, not 3.625, which is a huge difference!

Data Collection

To collect this I had to manually enter the rating and length for each track for what I thought were my favorite top 100+ albums. I just went through all albums and picked out ones I thought might make my top 100. No data export from Winamp so I had to type all this in by hand.



So, these are my personal favorites. I am in no way saying that these are the best 100 albums of all time in all of rock music for anyone. These are the ones I like best. So yeah, get ready for lots of Metallica, Opeth, nu metal, and 2000's hard rock. If you disagree with my rankings, well, I don't really care. Although I would love to hear recommendations for other albums you think I'd like.


Data Exceptions

One note to the data. A lot of albums have long instrumentals at the end, meant more as filler and not a normal song, I did not count these. Examples are Days Of The New - Cling - a 13 minute track at the end that is mostly ambient nature sounds. This doesn't really detract from the album for me because I never listen to it. And Korn - My Gift To You - a good 4 minute song with a 5+ minute long gap of silence and then an "extra" hidden song. I only counted the 4 minutes of My Gift To You. Several other ending tracks are like this as well, and I only counted the length of the first song. Fortunately bands don't seem to be doing this any more, that was a gimmicky thing before digital album sales. Also I don't include bonus/extra tracks, these are only the tracks on the original album.

Reality Check

So, this is all good and analytical and all, but how does it compare to what I think my favorite albums actually are?  Pretty good it turns out. #1 through #6 are definitely what I would consider my top 6, in that order. Although, before I saw this data, I wouldn't have been able to pick a favorite between The Black Album and And Justice For All. #7 - #25 are just about right, even in that order. Beyond that, while the data certainly isn't a perfect ranking of my favorites, it's very close. If I pick two albums randomly, the ranking matches my opinion for which is better in almost all cases.

Bands You May Never Have Heard Of

If you've made it this far, you probably already know most of the bands in the list. There are a few though that you might not have heard of that I would highly recommend:

  • Opeth - If you're in to metal a little but not a die hard metalhead, you might not have heard of Opeth. They are an excellent progressive death metal band that I love, and are really unlike any other band and type of music. Check out their albums on this list (don't bother with their newer albums). Their stretch from 1997 through 2008 was amazing, 7 albums in this list (tied with Metallica for most for me!)
  • Sevendust - They've got their own sound with elements of nu metal, thrash metal, and post grunge hard rock, and it all comes together so well. 4 albums in my top 100 is well deserved.
  • Clutch - a great bluesy hard rock and a little metal band. One thing I love about them is each album has a really distinct sound, and like Opeth, there really is nothing else that sounds like Clutch. They've got 3 albums in the list, and a few more of theirs would be just a little under #100
  • Iced Earth - power, speed, and thrash metal combined with some theatrical elements. Great rhythm guitar and vocal work.  Most of their albums tell a really interesting sci-fi or horror story, like Framing Armageddon and Crucible Of Man. 
  • Kyng - my top album of the 2010's is their debut Trampled Sun at #66, Awesome 3 piece hard rock band with a very distinct sound. Not much is happening this decade in my opinion, they are one bright spot
  • Seventh Void - a doom metal supergroup with just one album so far, at #74 for me.
  • Ghost - a pretty new band to the 2010's with a 70's metal sound. The band is a bit of an act, with most of the songs about Satan in some way, and the lead singer dressed up as an evil pope, but the music is great - catchy and heavy. Their debut, Opus Eponymous, comes in at #81.
  • King Giant - unless you live in the Washington DC area I'm pretty sure you have never heard of them. A local band that has a dark and gritty doom/sludge metal and southern rock sound. Their best album, Southern Darkness, comes in at #93


For Me

There was nothing too surprising to me in this data. A few things do stand out though. Bands that I've gotten in to more so in the past 6 years, like Clutch, Lamb Of God, and Judas Priest (yeah, I was never really that in to Judas Priest until 6 years ago), ranked lower than what I would have expected. And, bands that I've been in to for longer that that, who are past their peak and their albums in the past 6+ years haven't been as good, like Sevendust and Opeth, rank a little higher than what I would have thought. This makes sense. And when I think back, yeah, I would rank Sevendust and Opeth's best over Clutch and Lamb Of God's best.

For Others

If you're a big metal fan and know me well, some albums and bands here might be a surprise. Yes, I really would rank Staind - Dysfunction at #12. Yes, I really would rate Alice In Chains that highly. And yes, despite Creed being known more now as a joke because of Scott Stapp and the overly dramatic more pop friendly songs, I think Creed in their prime was still a great rock band, and I still love listening to them. Part of this might be because I was in my formative years in the late 90's, but there was some amazing hard rock and metal in that era. Despite the fact that hard rock and metal had more mainstream success at that time than any other time, and it was all new bands (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Creed, Linkin Park, etc), a lot of people want to forget about that era.


I collected some stats on averages, and decade by decade results:

Yeah, not much going on this decade for me. Some bands have to step it up in the latter half of this decade!

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