Some of the Best *THIRD* Albums in Modern Music (Part Five)

A much less coveted (yet still important) list than greatest debut albums, these third albums dropped at pivotal moments in these band’s careers.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

No one ever talks about the third album with so much hype usually surrounding a band’s debut work. Even the second release in a band’s catalogue is notable because the pitfalls of writing a new record while touring relentlessly split up more groups then anything. 

But researching this list I realized that many of these entries were the mainstream’s first look at these groups. A kind of ten-year-overnight-success story. Many third albums dropped at huge crossroads in artist’s careers, a masterpiece before a massive hiatus, like Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come or a gigantic comeback record like Jane’s Addiction’s, Strays the magic number three always seems to have some sort of backstory to it either launching its group into superstardom or acting as the final nail in the coffin. 

Here are a hundred and fifteen or so fantastic third albums that I hope you like. Maybe even some will fill you with nostalgia. Again, I am not a musical expert or journalist by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve used a list randomizer as to assure no biased or ranking has been applied to these records. I will be releasing roughly ten at a time periodically.

The Hives – Tyrannosaurus Hives

Release: July 20th 2004

Label: Interscope


Singles: “Walk Idiot Walk” “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” “Abra Cadaver” “A Little More For Little You”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: The stormy Swedes cook up their most furious batch of songs on their third effort, Tyrannosaurus Hives. The music here is simply unbelievably fast and tight. Burning the “Garage” down around their Rock sub genre. With its chainsaw guitars and air tight rhythm section laying cover fire for lead singer, Howlin’ Pete to plant his snot flag and announce his superiority over the globe.

Afterwards: After receiving a slew of Swedish music awards for their work on Ty…Hives the band once again set off on tour until 2007 when they recorded their next work, The Black and White Album. This album would be the bands most commercially successful work to date, with lead single, “Tick Tick… BOOM” securing multiple video game, movie and sports contracts.

Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

Release: November 21st 2006

Label: Interscope


Singles: “Sowing Season” “Jesus Christ”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: For the second time in their (at that point) short careers the boys in Brand New take another monumental leap forward musically and thematically. Upon listening it becomes obvious lead singer Jesse Lacey shook off the last of his adolescence with their previous excellent outing, Deja Entendu and has much larger fish to fry. Existential dread, religion and despair permeate through the entire album making it as chilling to dissect as it is enjoyable to listen to. It’s one of the most relatable albums of the decade but as you relate more and more to its rock bottom themes the more terrifying it all becomes.

Afterwards: Brand New would continue to be an eclectic act throughout the 2000’s releasing two more universally acclaimed albums before disbanding in 2018. They are considered to be one of the most influential rock acts of the 21st century.

Headstones – Smile and Wave

Release: June 15th 1996

Label: MCA


Singles: “Smile and Wave” “Cubically Contained”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Too metal for punk and too Punk for the metalheads, Canada’s Headstones never quite fit in anywhere and their grit and attitude made it obvious they never intended to. By far their strongest album cover to cover, by 1996 Lead singer Hugh Dillon had begun to unravel completely due to his excesses but he was sure to drag his demons down with him in a sarcastic, pissed off blaze of glory.

Afterwards: Following their commercial peak with Smile and Wave the band continued on and released another two albums in 2000 and 2003. Hugh Dillon went on to get treated for his drug addictions and found success acting on Canadian television programs. The band would make a successful comeback in 2011 and are still together today.

Pixies – Bossanova

Release: August 13th 1990

Label: 4AD

US Billboard: 70

Singles: “Velouria” “Dig For Fire”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Arguably the most important band in Alternative Rock music history Pixies’s third effort, Bossanova is their heaviest most straightforward rock album and is the group’s most accessible record. All that said, it’s still Black Francis writing the songs – so it’s still pretty fucking weird.

Afterwards: Following the commercial success of Bossanova the group continued to tour but the long standing rivalry between frontman Black Francis and Bassist/Co-Vocalist Kim Deal was reaching a tipping point. They would release Trompe le Monde and accompany U2 on the lucrative Zoo Tv Tour before going on hiatus until nearly twenty years later.

Dream Theater – Awake

Release: October 4th 2004

Label: East West Records

US Billboard: 32

Singles: “Lie” “The Silent Man”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Pressured by its label following the commercial success of its past album Images and Words, Dream Theater’s label had the band pressed against a wall. While simultaneously pulling the progressive legend’s in two different directions the label asked for what seemed impossible; a darker heavier and more moody album to match the tone of Grunge radio at the time and to also make it much more marketable. DT did make their complicated compositions heavier, darker and even more accessible. The label deemed it a failure however time has not. This is by far one of the lot’s strongest albums cover to cover.

Afterwards: The band was thrown in disarray as Keyboardist Kevin Moore broke the news during the mixing process for Awake that he would be leaving the group. After the release of the album Dream Theater desperately sought to replace Moore to go out and support the record on tour. They would successfully audition later-on-permanent-member, Jordan Rudess at this time yet he would not join on as a full member. They continued on with Derek Sherinian at the helm to tour and work on their next work at the request of their fans, A Change of Seasons.

Death Cab For Cutie – The Photo Album

Release: October 9th 2001

Label: Barsuk Records

US Billboard: N/A

Singles: “A Movie Script Ending” “I Was A Kaleidoscope” “We Laugh Indoors”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Two very important things took place on The Photo Album that would secure Death Cab For Cutie’s place among indie rock royalty. First and foremost lead singer Ben Gibbard perfected the sauce. The heartfelt poet changed his approach moving away from overly emotional and adopting a more pensive, thoughtful perspective. Thus saving the group from an unfair and untimely grave like indie forefathers, Sunny Day Real Estate. The second of the one-two punch was guitarist and chief songwriter Chris Walla’s growth as not only a musician but as a producer. Gone are the loose organ-heavy jams from the bands earlier works replaced now with grand pianos, shimmering ride cymbals and a golden wall of production that snaps its own photo album of a band just beginning to dominate a decade.

Afterwards: The Photo Album really was the beginning of the group’s ascent into the ranks of the Indie Rock elite. They would follow up Photo with an even bigger album, Transatlanticism. From there they would even find regular radio play after the release of Plans and 2008’s Narrow Stairs.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Release: August 2nd 2010

Label: Merge

US Billboard: 1

Singles: “The Suburbs/ Month of May” “We Used to Wait” “Ready to Start” “City With No Children” “Speaking in Tongues” “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

Awards: Grammy Award Winner


Why it rocked: It’s been compared to O.K. Computer and REM’s, Automatic For The People although singer Win Butler initially stated he wanted it to sound like records he listened to when growing up. A conceptual title based on Butler’s upbringings in a small suburb in Texas – this sprawling record is constantly on the run from both the anxieties and relief it provides. A feeling of unease seeps into every note as simple nostalgia is soon realized to actually be the mourning of a new world that looks the same but has become something much more dreadful.

Afterwards: The band has continued to release records to universal acclaim and commercial success. Every single studio album the band has released since their debut Funeral has been nominated for a Grammy Award.

Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch

Release: May 2nd 2003

Label: Sire

US Billboard: N/A

Singles: “Carbon Monoxide” “Your Honor/ The Flowers” “US”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Named after a Stalinist aesthetic from Milan Kundera’s book, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” Soviet Kitsch is understated in its earnest. Spektor’s collection of songs simply do not exist if not completely created by her unique perspective. A Russian born Jew – she immigrated from Moscow to the Bronx at the age of ten during Perestroika despite her family considering staying in the Soviet Union to continue her excelled Piano studies. Her background shines through each of her stories throughout with her keen sense of storytelling, infectious world view and lovable accent.

Afterwards: Already a darling of New York’s East Village Anti-Folk scene by 2004, Regina would utilize fellow New Yorkers, The Strokes and the social media pioneer, MySpace to launch her career to the next level. On the single for the song, “Reptilia” by The Strokes, Spektor would do a guest spot on the B-Side track, “Modern Women and Old Fashioned Men”. Her next album led by single, “Fidelity” would finally break her through to Adult Alternative radio as she would become a pop fixture of the early to mid 2000’s.

Metallica – Master of Puppets

Release: March 3rd 1986

Label: Elektra Records

US Billboard: 29

Singles: “Master of Puppets”

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Purist Metallica snobs will swear it’s the second to last great album Metallica ever made but all fans of metal music in general will tell you, Master of Puppets is one of the greatest Metal records ever released. The arrangements were deeper and more intricate than ever. The solos faster, Hetfield’s anti-war sentiment even sharper and his vocal attack more controlled, guttural and aggressive. This album changed my life and continues to do so every once in awhile.

Afterwards: Metallica would release another Thrash masterpiece (“…And Justice For All”) and then successfully make one of the most daring musical crossovers of the decade with The Black Album. From there they were on tour for a thousand years, cut their hair, James got sober and this could go on forever.

The Black Crowes – amorica.

Release: November 1st 1994

Label: American

US Billboard: 11

Singles: N/A

Awards: N/A

Why it rocked: Even the last of the booze soaked, leather pants wearing classic rock revivalists couldn’t escape the wave of psychedelica that roared through rock music in the mid nineties. Amorica finds the Crowes at their most lucid. Full to the brim with maraca infused jam sections a la The Rolling Stones, minor chords, Wah-Wahs and some of their dirtiest, heaviest Southern Rock riffs, Amorica, as it’s cover suggests is a strange trip.

Afterwards: Like so many groups in the mid-90’s after the release of Amorica, ceaseless touring ensued and friction increased in the band. They would release their next album, Three Snakes and One Charm in 1996 and then continued on with a much more stripped away , soul-influenced release, By Your Side in 1999. They would go on hiatus in 2002.

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