I decided long ago that this is an impossible question to answer. It immediately divides itself into several small categories and specific situations. Which would I rather have on while driving? To fall asleep to? As background music while I work? Even more difficult, how do you compare bands with one album against bands with ten?
So I came up with a system. And you can tell it’s old, because I call it “The Tape System”.
If I had to fill up a single 60 minute cassette, The Smiths are my favorite band. Hands down. Take all their best songs and, to my ear, you have a perfect 60 minutes of music. But on a 90 minute cassette, you’d have to include some of the 2nd rate tracks. Suddenly “Hand in Glove” comes on and you just aren’t as excited.
My favorite 90 minute cassette would be The Clash. Keep the punk stuff, lose almost all of the dub/reggae. (but definitely include “Bankrobber”)
After that it gets harder. My next stop would be Depeche Mode and U2. In their respective heydays, they both put out a lot of great music.
And that brings us to my long-play favorite: The Cure. They have no shortage of bad songs (albums) but from 1979-1990(ish) they had a huge catalog of great songs.