Most people immediately take to a song because of its melody. It’s the reason why it’s hard to make a case to not like the Beatles and why it took heavy metal so long to be acknowledged by music critics. That’s the linear take on what “good music” is, but we all know there can be hooks in anything—great songs don’t need to be built on a saccharine chorus repeated at least three times over three minutes.
There’s nothing less epic about classical music despite it not being led by a singer, and the same thing can be said about thousands of instrumental bands. Entire genres are created around eschewing the concept that music needs to be vocal-driven, but that doesn’t mean it’s a simple task to make great music without a lead singer. Without splintering things down into tiny sub-genres, each with their own geniuses, let’s just breakdown some of the most essential instrumental albums ever. Each of these benchmark recordings can poke a small hole into a huge world of new sounds, artists and ideas, and they all have a unique way of grabbing you without saying a word.Click to start the list