Sophomore Slump? The best 2nd albums of all time

Some pretentious wanker once said that you have your whole life to write your first album, and six months to write the second. Certainly, there are many examples of brilliant first efforts that were followed by total duds. Fortunately, it sometimes works the other way. Some bands manage to put out second albums that make the first seem like a rough draft. The second album comes, well, closer to that to which the first aspired.

Joy Division: Closer
Released in July 1980, it is easily the best rock album of that lamentable decade. Closer improved upon Joy Division’s excellent first album; and, unfortunately, inspired countless incompetent imitations.

Ramones: Leave Home
This wasn’t the epochal event that their first album was, but I like the production better on this one. There’s not a bad track on here. This is everything that hard rock album should be.

Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure
I love this record. In fact, everybody can love this record. It doesn’t matter if you are a highly educated onetime punk rocker who spent his youth engaged in bloody fist fights against gangs of Nazi skinheads outside of Black Flag gigs, or if you are a pathetic baseball cap wearing whitebread prog rock loser who spent his youth holding up a lighter at concerts by such luminaries as Gentle Giant. Nope, it doesn’t matter.
lots of good picks above, but the ones that really register as showing the most evolutionary growth from the debut are nirvana/nevermind, meat puppets II and van morrison/astral weeks.
Neutral Milk Hotel, Oasis, Nirvana, Jane's Addiction, Ray Charles, Al Green, The Doors, The Pretenders, Jackson Browne, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, REM, Daft Punk, AIR, The Faces
Even though you can't really call me a huge fan, but by any measure the Fleet Foxes second album is awesome. And it's awesome in the dimension that's hardest for bands to achieve: by doing an even better job of the exact same thing that the first album did.