Here's February, a fierce competition between albums released in 1982 and 1984:
Gold Medal: Murmur by REM
This was not a difficult choice. I've written a review on this album but I'll try to summarize. This album sounds totally fresh every time I listen. Every guitar hook, snare back beat, bass meandering and vocal snarl fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Every song is crafted perfectly. They're catchy but not remotely cliche—something very difficult to pull off consistently. REM would continue to have a great career but their debut will always be their best effort.
Silver Medal: War by U2
Popularity has turned U2 into a sort of an institutional ego. With their extravagant stages at concerts and songs that try to change the world with every chord, it's hard for me to dish out many compliments. For that reason, I often forget how great War is. As a bunch of twenty-somethings, this quartet made one of the great albums of the 1980s with their third album. Not only are the songs genuinely powerful and honest, there is a sound on this album quite unlike anything released before or after. I'd call it a post-punk with a twist of chamber pop and gospel. Not to mention, the recurring thread of protest and activism never sounded so desperate.
Bronze Medal: Thriller by Michael Jackson
For being the best selling album of all time, I finally acquired this much later than I should have. But now I fully understand the hype. Sure, it is about as a poppy as they come but is that really a bad thing? This record is a testament to the collaboration of a great performer, great producer and perfect timing. Michael and Quincy Jones sculpted an album that really can't possibly be improved. The execution of these, the most danceable songs ever recorded, is perfect. It's a huge part of our culture for good reason. But it's not on the podium for being the soundtrack to a generation. It's here because it's a fantastic album.
Coming soon, 1992 through 1994.