Apple Music 100 Best Albums

This is an image of the album cover for “@@album_name@@” by @@artist_name@@.


Steely Dan


At their most direct, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker delivered a masterpiece, full of tragic romanticism.

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s approach to recording had evolved from a fixed group of people playing a set of songs from start to finish to a piecemeal process in which they tried out multiple players for the same part until they found a satisfactory combination—all before doing it all over again on the next song. As sophisticated as the process was, Steely Dan never sounded as direct as they do on Aja. There’s the R&B of “Josie,” the bounce of “Black Cow,” and the fact that “Peg” felt like actual dance music rather than a dissertation on it.

“Steely Dan is the band that every song that you love that you don’t know who it is, it’s them.”

Mayer Hawthorne

In the coastal fog of 1970s California pop, Fagen and Becker had always appeared like bookish New York hipsters raised on R&B and jazz. But Aja was the first time that identity had come through so clearly in the music. And while there are plenty of close seconds, no character captured Steely Dan’s tragic romanticism like the suburban guy on “Deacon Blues,” who fantasizes about becoming a saxophone player—only to get drunk and die in a car wreck. Yeah, he’s a misfit. But least he believed in something.