Like many music scribes, I am loath to call an album “perfect” in print; even the most iconic albums contain flaws that are easily picked apart. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1967 breakthrough by the Beatles that has dominated Best Albums Ever lists since their inception, is a concept album whose concept falls apart at the third song; the clean, thudding lumber of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols obscures its insurrectionary spirit; the big hits on Michael Jackson’s Thriller overshadow the lesser songs by too wide of a stretch. And Radiohead’s OK Computer—which has become, in a sense, the Sgt. Pepper of the alt-rock era—doesn’t quite sustain its elegant tension, succumbing to a bit of a dull stretch on the back end.
This is all nitpicking. It’s also a bit disingenuous; the above list is (deliberately) made up of albums that, no matter their reputation, do have notable, but by no means crippling, flaws. But I truly believe there is such a thing as perfect music—at least according to my own not-so-exacting standards, which are not like baseball’s concrete rules for a “perfect game” in any way.
In pop music, “perfection” measures pleasure. Calling an album or song “perfect” is usually a sign that music has resulted in a system shock, whether because it landed directly on one’s soul, jolted a person’s nervous system, or caused the body to physically react.
Some active listeners recognize this experience as the rush they get from discovering brand-new music. [...]