10 of Music’s Best Late-Career Albums

Yesterday, we finally got to hear the first single from Lou Reed and Metallica’s forthcoming album. And it was just as bad as we feared it would be, coming off as little more than an ill-conceived vanity project by two very different acts that are both past their prime. Late-career albums like this one are often the target of disappointment and criticism, partially because the music industry is such a transitory place — audiences and record companies alike are always on the lookout for the next big thing, on whom attention is focused for a couple of years before the spotlight shifts away. This isn’t always entirely unwise, mind you: artists often make their best work at the start of their careers, when their ideas are fresh and their minds are relatively clear. But this isn’t always the case, and there have been some fine albums made long after the hype machine has upped and moved onto the next Next Big Thing. Here’s a selection of our favorite late-career flourishes. There must be loads more, so let us know who else you reckon should be included.

Ween — Quebec

A decade after “Push the Little Daisies” and nearly 20 years after they first met in an eighth-grade classroom, Dean and Gene Ween released what remains arguably the best album of their career in the form of 2003’s Quebec. It struck a fine balance between Ween’s madcap tendencies and a new… well, we hate to call it “maturity,” but there’s certainly a reflective and restrained air on Quebec that was largely lacking on their earlier albums, and the record’s all the better for it. More’s the pity, then, that this album seems to remain a hidden gem (the songs are all on YouTube, and all have about 1,000-6,000 plays each). It really deserves a wider audience.