• Category Archives Top 100 Albums of the 1990’s
  • Best Albums of the 90’s: Intro

    Here are my top 100 albums of the 90’s.  This was a tough list to make and MANY great albums got cut.  The 90’s was a time when myself and likely many of you reading this blog were in college and in our post-collegiate & possibly pre-marriage/kids twenty-something haze.  Now that we are over a decade removed from the 90’s I think a 90’s revival is just around the corner.  Normally a decade’s music is reviled until people become enough removed from it- then the nostalgia factor kicks in for those who were old enough to remember the decade and revisionist interpretation happens with the first generation of people who were too young to appreciate it the first time.  We just witnessed/are witnessing a decades-long 80’s revival in the oughts.


    It will be interesting to see what kind of twists are put on the music of the 90’s- the decade of grunge, brit-pop/shoegaze, the golden era to commercial dominance of rap, boy bands, teen pop, electronica and all of its sub genres including trip-hop, jungle, *IDM (Intelligent dance music), drum n’ bass & big beat.  These are my faves.  What are yours.


    * this has to be the most condescending genre name ever penned.



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 91 – 100

    100. DE LA SOUL- DE LA SOUL IS DEAD (1991)

    de la soul_de la soul is dead

    Buy AmazonDe La Soul Is Dead

    The Long Island Trio figured that killing “The D.A.I.S.Y. Age”- the tag line for their brilliant debut “3 Feet High and Rising” (one of the best Rap releases ever IMO) was the only way they could follow it up. “De La Soul Is Dead” is just as sprawling as “3 Feet High” and certainly has its humorous moments but it’s a much darker album focusing on issues such as incest & drug addiction. Howeve, should be wedding staple (and a contender for happiest song ever written) “A Roller Skating Jam Called ‘Saturdays’” lightens the mood.




     

    “A Roller Skating Jam Called ‘Saturdays’”*Not Available on iTunes
     

    “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” *Not Available on iTunes




    99. THE BEASTIE BOYS- ILL COMMUNICATION (1994)

    beastie boys_ill communication

    BuyBeastie Boys - Ill Communication

    Buy AmazonIll Communication

    This was the first Beastie Boys album that didn’t necessarily change the game- after the white rappers meets Led Zeppelin debut, Paul’s Boutique’s brilliant sample collages and “Check Your Head’s” mix of rap, hardcore & lone stoner jazz jams seemed to influence nearly everything in their wake.. “Ill Communication” is still filled with lots of great moments- funk stoner jams, native-tongues style rap and even great rap-rock (which would increasingly become oxymoronic in the ensuing years). Also one of the best videos of all time with “Sabotage”




    Buy “Get It Together (Feat. Q-Tip)”
    Beastie Boys - Ill Communication - Get It Together

    Buy “Sure Shot”
    Beastie Boys - Ill Communication - Sure Shot



    98. UNCLE TUPELO- ANODYNE (1993)

    uncle tupelo_anodyne

    BuyUncle Tupelo - Anodyne

    Buy AmazonAnodyne

    “Anodyne is the fourth and final release of one of the progenitors of the alternative country movement. Jay Farrar, the prime song writer in Uncle Tupelo, would go on to later form Son Volt, while Jeff Tweedy would start the seminal Wilco. I love every Tupelo album but this is their most hard hitting.






    Buy “Chickamauga”
    Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne - Chickamauga

    Buy “The Long Cut”
    Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne - The Long Cut

     



    97. THE BREEDERS- LAST SPLASH (1993)

    the breeders_last splash

    Buy AmazonLast Splash

    The second release for Kim Deal’s (of Pixies fame) other band. Where Kim was the only woman in the Pixies the drummer, Jim McPherson, is the only man in The Breeders. While this album can be a bit of a mess- many of the songs sound unfinished- it is loads of fun. Kim obviously had a treasure trove of songs that weren’t seeing enough light with her other legendary band and outs them to good use here.. Includes huge pop hit (and best song on the album) “Cannonball”






    Buy “Cannonball”
    The Breeders - Rhino Hi-Five: Modern Rock Blender - EP - Cannonball

    “Divine Hammer” *Not available on iTunes

     




    96. BJORK- DEBUT (1993)

    bjork_debut

    BuyBjörk - Debut

    Buy AmazonDebut

    ”Debut” is the aptly named album from the former co-lead vocalist of Iceland’s stellar late 80’s group “The Sugarcubes”. With her one of a kind voice Bjork combines avant- pop with club music to create her first of many wonderfully weird albums.






    Buy “Human Behavior”

    Björk - Debut - Human Behaviour

    Buy “Big Time Sensuality”
    Björk - Debut - Big Time Sensuality

     




    95. RAEKWON- ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX (1995)

    raekwon_only built for cuban linx

    BuyRaekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
    Buy AmazonOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx

    One of the very best Wu releases (solo or otherwise) from the year they ruled the rap world. The Raekwon the Chef brings a cinematic approach to gangsta rap taking cues from many mafia movies of the past- ala The Godfather, Goodfellas and especially Scarface. Would prove incredibly influential on virtually every gangsta rap release of the 00’s both for better and for worse as rappers would base the content of entire albums and even careers on drug selling.





    Buy “Ice Cream”
    Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - Ice Cream

    Buy “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
    Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - Incarcerated Scarfaces




    94. PRIMAL SCREAM- SCREAMADELICA (1991)

    primal scream_screamdelica

    BuyPrimal Scream - Screamadelica

    Buy AmazonScreamadelica

    Game changing album in Great Britain, which combined house music and rave culture with rock n’ roll & modern psychedelia (its precursor was the first Stone Roses album in ’89 but “Screamadelica” took it much further). “Screamadelica” hold up extremely well for an album that soundtracked and is so tied to an era.





     

    Buy “Movin’ On Up”
    Primal Scream - Screamadelica - Movin' On Up

     Buy “Loaded”
    Primal Scream - Screamadelica - Loaded




    93. PJ HARVEY- DRY (1992)

    pj harvey_dry

    BuyPJ Harvey - Dry

    Buy AmazonDry

    Brilliant debut from the eccentric Brit. PJ would change up her style with each successive album. “Dry” is furious, stark, sexy & lo-fi with heavy guitars. Not for the faint of heart or for those who like their music made for radio





     

    Buy “Sheela-Na-Gig”
    PJ Harvey - Dry - Sheela-Na-Gig

     Buy “Dress”
    PJ Harvey - Dry - Dress

     

     




    92. DAFT PUNK- HOMEWORK (1997)

    daft punk_da funk

    BuyDaft Punk - Homework

    Buy AmazonHomework

    French duo define techno for the next ten years and counting by moving away from the Big Beat moves of Chem Bros, Fatboy Slim & The Prodigy and taking it back to the dance floor.






     

    Buy “Da Funk”
    Daft Punk - Homework - Da Funk

     Buy “Around the World”
    Daft Punk - Homework - Around the World




    91. PEARL JAM- VS. (1993)

    pearl jam_vs.

    BuyPearl Jam - Vs.

    Buy AmazonVs.

    Superstars after the worldwide success of “Ten”, The Seattle grunge five-some release a follow up almost as good as the first one- stretching by going both in more of a punk direction (W.M.A) and acoustic directions (Daughter, Elderly Woman). “Vs.” was released at the height of Pearl Jam-mania which would last through their next album “Vitalogy” and would decrease with each successive release.




    Buy “Rearview Mirror”

    Pearl Jam - Vs. - Rearviewmirror

     Buy “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”
    Pearl Jam - Vs. - Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In a Small Town

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 81 – 90

    90. ELASTICA- ELASTICA (1995)

    elastica_elastica

    BuyElastica - Elastica

    Buy AmazonElastica

    Fast moving album filled with post-punk pop songs sung by the sexy-voiced Brit Justine Frischmann.  Many riffs are copped (mainly from late 70’s post punk minimalists Wire) but Elastica makes them sound fresh anyway by delivering them with strut and attitude as well as hooks.




    Buy “Stutter”
    Elastica - Elastica - Stutter

     Buy “Connection”
    Elastica - Elastica - Connection



    89. YO LA TENGO- PAINFUL (1993)

    yo la tengo_painful

    BuyYo La Tengo - Painful

    Buy AmazonPainful

    Yo La Tengo’s breakthrough album- does what they do best; combining beautiful stripped down ballads (ala Velvet Underground’s self titled album) with lengthy songs filled with feedback. They may have made one better album later in their career but “Painful” is their most concise.




    Buy “Sudden Organ”
    Yo La Tengo - Painful - Sudden Organ

     Buy “From a Motel 6”
    Yo La Tengo - Painful - From a Motel 6

     




    88. GZA (GENIUS)-LIQUID SWORDS (1995)

    gza_liquid swords

    BuyGZA the Genius - Liquid Swords

    Buy AmazonLiquid Swords

    The Wu’s headiest MC releases his best album- filled with elaborate story raps and including every Wu-Tang member- though GZA remains the focal point.






    Buy “Gold”
    GZA the Genius - Liquid Swords - Gold

     Buy “Shadowboxin’”
    GZA the Genius - Liquid Swords - Shadowboxin'

     

     

    87. THE JAYHAWKS- TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS (1995)

    jayhawks_tomorrow the green grass

    BuyThe Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass

    Buy AmazonTomorrow the Green Grass

    Last album featuring the beautiful harmonies of Gary Louris and Mark Olson before Olson split the band. A striking piece of alt country by this criminally underappreciated band from Minnesota.





    Buy “Blue”
    The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass - Blue

     Buy “I’d Run Away”
    The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass - I'd Run Away

     

    86. BUILT TO SPILL- PERFECT FROM NOW ON (1997)

    built to spill_pefect from now on

    BuyBuilt To Spill - Perfect from Now On

    Buy AmazonPerfect from Now On

    Northwestern band goes from releasing two minute songs on a small indie label to releasing eight monster Neil Young & Crazy Horse style jams on “Perfect From Now On”- their major label debut. No cries of sell out here. Shortest track is 4:52 and Doug Martsch is the latest indie guitar God!




    Buy “I Would Hurt A Fly”
    Built To Spill - Perfect from Now On - I Would Hurt a Fly

     Buy “Stop the Show”
    Built To Spill - Perfect from Now On - Stop the Show

     

     


    85. YO LA TENGO- I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE (1997)

    yo la tengo_i can hear the heart beating as one

    BuyYo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One

    Buy AmazonI Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

    This is arguably the Hoboken, NJ band’s best album- it gives the listener the feeling of a good old fashioned double album from the 70’s- and would have been if not for the 80 minute album length of cd’s. Yo La Tengo embraces every one of their diverse influences on this album and comes up many of their best songs in the process.




    Buy “Autumn Sweater”

    Yo La Tengo - I Can åHear the Heart Beating As One - Autumn Sweater

     Buy “Sugarcube”
    Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One - Sugarcube

     

     

     

     84. JANE’S ADDICTION- RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (1990)

    jane's addiction_ritual de la habitual

    BuyJane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual

    Buy AmazonRitual de lo Habitual

    A precursor of Nirvana and the Seattle grunge movement which would dominate the rock landscape for the ensuing three years, this was Jane’s breakthrough into the mainstream after the underground success of the brilliant “Nothing’s Shocking”. While “Ritual” is more self-indulgent then the former album, it also contains some of their best songs including the sprawling, beautiful (and also self-indulgent) epic “Three Days”.



    Buy “Stop”
    Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual - Stop

     Buy “Ain’t No Right”
    Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual - Ain't No Right

     




    83. THE ROOTS- THINGS FALL APART (1999)

    the roots_things fall apart

    BuyThe Roots - Things Fall Apart

    Buy AmazonThings Fall Apart

    Philadelphia’s greatest rap-jam band truly come into their own on “Things Fall Apart”, paving the way (along with Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jurassic 5) for conscious rap’s 2nd wave- taking the mantle from the Native Tongues (Tribe, De La, Jungle Bros, Black Sheep) of the early-mid 90’s. This is one of the few long rap albums that truly deserve its length. The Roots have the diversity and the dexterity to keep things interesting the whole time.



    Buy “You Got Me (Feat. Erykah Badu)”
    The Roots & Erykah Badu - Things Fall Apart - You Got Me

     Buy “Dynamite!”
    The Roots - Things Fall Apart - Dynamite!

     

     


    82. SLEATER-KINNEY- CALL THE DOCTOR (1996)

    sleater-kinney_call the doctor

    BuySleater-Kinney - Call the Doctor

    Buy AmazonCall the Doctor

    The girls from Olympia, WA release their first great one, along the way to establishing themselves as one of the most consistently great band (along with Radiohead and Wilco) on the late 90’s/early 00’s. The vocal & guitar interplay between Carrie Brownstein and Corinne Tucker is pure magic. You won’t find any bass here!




    Buy “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”
    Sleater-Kinney - Call the Doctor - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

     Buy “Call the Doctor”
    Sleater-Kinney - Call the Doctor - Call the Doctor

     

     

     

    81. STEREOLAB- EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP (1996)

    stereolab_emperor tomato ketchup

    BuyStereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup

    Buy AmazonEmperor Tomato Ketchup

    The French/British self claimed space-age bachelor music playing band delivers both their best and most mainstream album to date- if you can possibly make a claim that a band combining exotica, avant-garde, kraut rock, space-rock, bossa-nova & lounge music with socialist lyrics could be anywhere near the mainstream.




    Buy “The Noise of Carpet”
    Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup - The Noise of Carpet

     Buy “Cybele’s Reverie”
    Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup - Cybele's Reverie

     

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 71 – 80

    80. BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY- I SEE A DARKNESS (1999)

    BONNIE "PRINCE" BILLY_I SEE A DARKNESS

    BuyBonnie "Prince" Billy - I See a Darkness

    Buy AmazonI See a Darkness

    BPB is one of Will Oldham’s many aliases and “I See a Darkness” might just be the best album he’s ever done. Good enough for Johnny Cash to later cover (I See a Darkness), the Louisville, KY bred singer takes his classic Appalachian/old weird America sound to new heights with this stark but beautiful album.




    Buy “I See A Darkness”
    Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I See a Darkness - I See a Darkness

     Buy “Another Day Full of Dread”
    Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I See a Darkness - Another Day Full of Dread



     

    79. THE LEMONHEADS- IT’S A SHAME ABOUT RAY (1992)

    LEMONHEADS_IT'S A SHAME ABOUT RAY

    BuyThe Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (Expanded Edition)

    Buy AmazonIt’s a Shame About Ray

    Evan Dando & co. make crafting hooky alternative pop look so easy. After three punk albums in the 80’s, The Lemonheads make their 2nd album for Atlantic Records & standout album of their career. This album has one wonderful sub-three minute anthem after another. Juliana Hatfield adds her vocals to many of the tracks as well and in excellent fashion.




    Buy “Rudderless”
    The Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (Expanded Edition) - Rudderless (Remastered)

     Buy “It’s A Shame About Ray”
    The Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (Expanded Edition) - It's a Shame About Ray (Remastered)

     



    78. SOUNDGARDEN- BADMOTORFINGER (1991)

    SOUNDGARDEN_BADMOTORFINGER

    BuySoundgarden - Badmotorfinger

    Buy AmazonBadmotorfinger

    This veteran Seattle band perhaps captured the grunge sound (early Metal like Black Sabbath mixed with modern day garage indie-punk) more than any other band save maybe Mudhoney. This, their 3rd album, catapulted them into the mainstream and hit just as Nirvana-mania was ascending. Badmotorfinger was their last album filled with 6+ minute screamers before they would move into tighter, more pop influenced directions with subsequent releases.



    Buy “Outshined”
    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger - Outshined

     Buy “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”
    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger - Searching With My Good Eye Closed

     

     

     


    77. MOTHER LOVE BONE- APPLE (1990)

    MOTHER LOVE BONE_APPLE

    BuyMother Love Bone - Mother Love Bone

    Buy AmazonApple

    Criminally unknown and underappreciated pre-grunge band, featuring pre-Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard as well as Seattle legend and recently deceased charismatic lead vocalist Andrew Wood. MLB was by far the sexiest and most glam (thanks to Wood) of the grunge bands. Wood’s death later inspired tribute band & album Temple of the Dog featuring members of Soundgarden & Pearl Jam.



    Buy “Crown of Thorns”
    Mother Love Bone - Mother Love Bone - Crown of Thorns

     Buy “Stardog Champion”
    Mother Love Bone - Mother Love Bone - Stardog Champion

     

     

    76. SUPERGRASS- I SHOULD COCO (1995)

    SUPERGRASS_I SHOULD COCO

    BuySupergrass - I Should Coco

    Buy AmazonI Should Coco

    Young, energetic pop punkers unleash their debut album in route to creating one of the better run of releases in Britpop. They take their cues from The Kinks, The Jam & The Buzzcocks & certainly know their way around a hook. Their music is pure fun & I imagine envelopes the sound of British adolescence at the time. Supergrass never really made any headway in the U.S. but listen for one of their best tracks “Alright” in the brilliant movie “Clueless”.



    Buy “Alright”
    Supergrass - I Should Coco - Alright

     Buy “Caught By the Fuzz”
    Supergrass - I Should Coco - Caught By the Fuzz

     

     

     

    75. SUGAR- COPPER BLUE (1992)

    SUGAR_COPPER BLUE

    BuySugar - Copper Blue

    Buy AmazonCopper Blue

    Sugar is the great Bob Mould’s 3rd act- after the mass-influential post-hardcore band Husker Du & his two much more melancholy solo albums. Taking its cues from The Pixies & Nirvana- Mould & Sugar takes the songcraft of his catchiest Husker & solo tracks and amps up both the guitars and the production values. “Copper Blue” is jam packed with tight alternative rock songs and would be the biggest selling album of Mould’s career.



    Buy “A Good Idea”
    Sugar - Copper Blue - A Good Idea

     Buy “Helpless”
    Sugar - Copper Blue - Helpless

     



    74. UNCLE TUPELO- MARCH 16-20, 1992 (1992)

    UNCLE TUPELO_MARCH 16-20, 1992

    BuyUncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992 Buy <strong>Amazon</strong><a href=

    Buy AmazonMarch 16-20, 1992

    The alt country godfather’s most actual country release. Tupelo turn down the punk almost completely and focus on acoustic folk odes to the workingman. Produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M.





    Buy “Fatal Wound”
    Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992 - Fatal Wound

     Buy “Moonshiner”
    Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992 - Moonshiner

     

     

    73. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- PEOPLE’S INSTINCTIVE TRAVELS AND THE PATHS OF RHYTHM (1990)

    A TRIBE CALLED QUEST_PEOPLE'S INSTINCTIVE TRAVELS

    BuyA Tribe Called Quest - Peoples' Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm

    Buy AmazonPeople’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

    This would be the first release in Tribe’s brilliant trilogy of classic albums. Tribe, to me the best of The Native Tongue’s collective who dominated Hip Hop’s first wave of conscious rap, were always playful even when delivering serious messages. They were also one of the first group’s (along with Gang Starr) to often use jazz samples. The vocal interplay of Tip and Phife would only improve with their even beter follow up releases .



    Buy “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”
    A Tribe Called Quest - Peoples' Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm - I Left My Wallet In El Segundo

     Buy “Bonita Applebaum”
    A Tribe Called Quest - Peoples' Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm - Bonita Applebum

     

     

     

     

     72. ELLIOTT SMITH- XO (1998)

    ELLIOTT SMITH_XO

    BuyElliott Smith - XO

    Buy AmazonXO

    “XO” is Smith’s major label debut after scoring an Oscar nomination with the track “Miss Misery” from Good Will Hunting soundtrack. The prolific Smith delivers a well produced, inward looking set up Beatlesque tunes seeming putting the major label money to good use. “XO” is probably his loveliest album.




    Buy “Amity”
    Elliott Smith - XO - Amity

     Buy “Waltz, #2 (XO)”
    Elliott Smith - XO - Waltz, No. 2 (XO)

     

     

    71. BELLE & SEBASTIAN- TIGERMILK (1996)

    Belle & Sebastian_Tigermilk

    BuyBelle and Sebastian - Tigermilk

    Buy AmazonTigermilk

    Tigermilk, this Glascow, Scotland band’s debut album was made as lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s final project to complete his business school requirements. The album’s original pressing was only 1,000 pieces of vinyl. After Belle & Sebastian hit with the more successful “If You’re Feeling Sinister”, “Tigermilk” became a collector’s item until its reissue in 1999 and helped to establish B&S as a cult sensation. B&S takes its cues from the twee pop of the Sarah Records releases of the mid to late 80’s and ushers in the era of chamber pop music in Britain of the late 90’s.


    Buy “The State I’m In”
    Belle and Sebastian - Tigermilk - The State I'm In

     Buy “Expectations”

    Belle and Sebastian - Tigermilk - Expectations

     

     

     

     

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 61 – 70

    70. MASSIVE ATTACK- MEZZANINE (1998)

    MASSIVE ATTACK_MEZZANINE

    BuyMassive Attack - Mezzanine

    Buy AmazonMezzanine

    The pioneering trip hop group from Bristol’s last album that mattered- perfect for the feeling of paranoia just before the new millennium. “Mezzanine” features great guest vocal performances from Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins as well as Reggae star Horace Andy.





    Buy “Teardrop”
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine - Teardrop

    Buy “Inertia Creeps”
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine - Inertia Creeps

     



    69. OASIS- DEFINITELY MAYBE (1994)

    OASIS_DEFINITELY MAYBE

    BuyOasis - Definitely Maybe

    Buy AmazonDefinitely Maybe

    Snotty, snarling & brash debut from the Gallagher brothers and company. The Brits tend to overrate this album as it often lands in the top ten albums of all time on many of their best of lists. That said “Definitely Maybe” is full of mighty anthems, including first hold-up–your-lighter Brit Pop power ballad “Live Forever”. Oasis would follow this debut with the even better American breakthrough only a year later. Oasis mania was under way!



    Buy “Supersonic”
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe - Supersonic

    Buy “Rock N’ Roll Star”
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe - Rock 'N' Roll Star

     

     

     68. MERCURY REV- DESERTER’S SONGS (1998)

    MERCURY REV_DESERTER'S SONGS

    Buy AmazonDeserter’s Songs

    The only band in the world to sound remotely like the Flaming Lips- the veteran Mercury Rev followed a similar path as the Lips: They formed in the mid 80’s, releasing a series of albums combining noise-rock with psychedelic pop and even befriended the Lips in 1990 when the Rev’s guitarist worked as their guitar technician. They moved on to release the beautiful “Deserter’s Songs” one year before the Lips bettered them with “The Soft Bulletin”- indie rock’s own version of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.





    “Goddess On A Hiway” (Album & tracks not available on iTunes)

    “Holes”

     

     67. R.E.M.- NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI (1996)

    R.E.M._NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI

    BuyR.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi

    Buy AmazonNew Adventures in Hi-Fi

    To my ears R.E.M.’s last great album and also their longest and most experimental. Quite a leftfield turn after the more stripped down and grunge influenced “Monster”. This would be R.E.M.’s last album with drummer Bill Berry. Also contains a beautiful duet with Michael Stipe’s hero Patti Smith in “E-Bow the Letter”





    Buy “E-Bow the Letter”
    R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi - E-Bow the Letter

    Buy “Leave”
    R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi - Leave

     

     66. THE SMASHING PUMPKINS- GISH (1991)

    SMASHING PUMPKINS_GISH

    BuySmashing Pumpkins - Gish

    Buy AmazonGish

    The debut album from one of Chicago’s finest. This arrived a few months before Nirvana’s Nevermind and was only a moderate alternative rock hit. Few could have predicted that the Pumpkins would become one of the biggest bands in the world in a few years time. “Gish” was psychedelic, dreamy & raw compared to their follow up releases which would unveil the Pumpkins biggest influence- 70’s arena rock.



    Buy “Snail”
    Smashing Pumpkins - Gish - Snail

    Buy “Bury Me”
    Smashing Pumpkins - Gish - Bury Me


     

     65. BLUR- MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH (1993)

    BLUR_MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH

    Buyblur - Modern Life Is Rubbish

    Buy AmazonModern Life Is Rubbish

    The album, along with Suede’s debut, said to be the impetus of 90’s Brit Pop, is Blur’s big leap forward after their debut “Leisure”. It was as big a leap forward as Radiohead took with “The Bends” after “Pablo Honey”. Although “Leisure” contains some great singles, it is ultimately beholden to the shoegaze scene of the late 80’s perfected by Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and beaten to death by Jesus Jones, EMF etc… “Modern Life” showed main man Damon Albarn to be a serious writer of social commentary and Blur a band destined to go places.


    Buy “Pop Scene” *(included in American version only)
    blur - Midlife: a Beginner's Guide to Blur

     Buy “Chemical World”
    blur - Midlife: a Beginner's Guide to Blur - Chemical World

     

     64. THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS- BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAJIK (1991)

    RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS_BLOOD SUGAR

    BuyRed Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Bonus Track Version)

    Buy AmazonBlood Sugar Sex Magik

    Overly long and perhaps at least partially responsible for ushering in the annoying area of meat-head rap rock of the late 90’s, time has not been very kind to this album. Back in ’91 & ’92 it was everywhere and was one of the dominating sounds on college campuses. Contains hit after hit- many of which still have recurrent airplay today. Some of the best songs are non-hit album cuts like “I Could Have Lied”, “If You Have to Ask” and “My Lovely Man”. “Blood Sugar” is the Chili’s best album by a long shot. I just wish it wasn’t quite so long.


    Buy “Under the Bridge”
    Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Bonus Track Version) - Under the Bridge

     Buy “Suck My Kiss”
    Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Suck My Kiss


     

    63. SPIRITUALIZED- LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE (1997)

    SPIRITUALIZED_LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

    BuySpiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Deluxe Version)

    Buy AmazonLadies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

    “Ladies and Gentlemen” is a totally album by a totally unique band which combines psychedelic and gospel….drugs and God! The result is predictably both f**ked up and beautiful. Jason Pierce (AKA Jason Spaceman) unapologetically seeks redemption and transcendence through chemicals to overcome his experiences of love and loss. The album art itself is designed like a pharmaceutical package!




    Buy “Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space”
    Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Deluxe Version) - Ladies and Gentlemen

     Buy “Come Together”
    Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space - Come Together


     

     

    62. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE- RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (1992)

    RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

    BuyRage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine

    Buy AmazonRage Against the Machine

    Rage is another band who unfortunately has much to apologize for only because of all of the inferior bands who came in their wake (including Audioslave by the way which contained ¾ of the band). Rage was the first band to successfully combine rap and metal for a whole full length album. Vocalist Zach de la Rocha ferociously spat his socialist anti- Emperial (American) lyrics while guitarist Tom Morello played every effect under the sun and the rhythm section bashed away behind them. Nothing sounded like Rage when they debuted in ’92. One of the great mosh albums of all time and includes perhaps their signature song “Killing in the Name”.

    Buy “Freedom”
    Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine - Freedom

     Buy “Bullet in the Head”
    Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine - Bullet In the Head


     

     

    61. MISSY ELLIOTT- SUPA DUPA FLY (1997)

    MISSY ELLIOTT_SUPA DUPA FLY

    BuyMissy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly

    Buy AmazonSupa Dupa Fly

    Straight outta Virginia Beach, Va, perhaps the best album by the most important female rapper of all time. “Supa Dupa Fly” is also the debut album of producer Timbaland, one of the two most influential producers in hip hop of the last decade and a half. Missy co-wrote, sung & rapped over every track inviting guest like Busta Rhymes, Da Brat & Lil’ Kim appear alongside her. Missy & Tim, along with fellow Va. Beach producers The Neptunes and Atlanta’s Outkast would be THE most influential artists on Rap/R&B/Pop music in the next decade.


    Buy “Sock It 2 Me” (Feat. Da Brat)
    Missy Elliott & Da Brat - Supa Dupa Fly - Sock It 2 Me

     Buy “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
    Missy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly - The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)


     

     

     





  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 51 – 60

    60. GREEN DAY- DOOKIE (1994)

    Green Day_Dookie

    BuyGreen Day - Dookie

    Buy AmazonDookie

    “Dookie” was the album that catapulted punk music into the American mainstream. What Green Day lacked in originality they made up for in attitude and great pop punk songwriting by lead singer Billie Joe. “Dookie” would have many imitators and would eventually lead to the further mainstreaming of punk where it would begin to take up much of the top forty by the beginning of the next century with bands like Blink 182 & Simple Plan.



    Buy “Chump”
    Green Day - Dookie - Chump

     Buy “Longview”
    Green Day - Dookie - Longview



    59. LL COOL J- MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OUT (1990)

    LL Cool J_Mama Said Knock You Out

    BuyLL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out

    Buy AmazonMama Said Knock You Out

    LL’s answer record to the unfair calls of sellout from his critics regarding his last not- really-bad at all album “Walking With A Panther”. “Mama Said” runs the gamut between hard old school rap (i.e. the title cut- one of rap’s all time great singles), sexy funk jams (i.e. Jingling Baby, Around the Way Girl) and slow jams for the ladies (i.e. 6 Minutes of Pleasure). LL’s most fully formed and best album.



    Buy “Mama Said Knock You Out”

    LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out - Mama Said Knock You Out

     Buy “Around the Way Girl”
    LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out - Around the Way Girl


     


    58. PULP- DIFFERENT CLASS (1995)

    Pulp_Different Class

    BuyPulp - Different Class

    Buy AmazonDifferent Class

    One of the highlights and true classics of Brit-pop, this album and band are still underappreciated in America. Like The Kinks and The Jam before them, Pulp (namely lead singer Jarvis Cocker) focuses on issues and narratives that are specific to Britain- however his 2 main themes of sex & class are much more universal. Huge British hit single “Common People” is one of the best singles of the 90’s- an absolutely biting satire about a rich girl dating and hanging out with people below her status.


    Buy “Common People”
    Pulp - Different Class - Common People (Full Length Version)

     Buy “Mis-Shapes”
    Pulp - Different Class - Mis-Shapes


     

    57. U2- ACHTUNG BABY! (1991)

    U2_Achting Baby

    BuyU2 - Achtung Baby

    Buy AmazonAchtung Baby

    U2’s most radical musical and stylistic reinvention of themselves- they had earlier moved from post punk inspired progressive rockers to earnest roots (American) rockers. With “Achtung Baby” they take their cues from the last 80’s Manchester club scene- incorporating dance beats and psychedelic guitars (ala Primal Scream and Stone Roses). This was U2’s last fully successful reinvention so far- the songs were unique & challenging while being wildly commercially viable as well. “Even Better Than the Real Thing”, “Mysterious Ways”, “The Fly”, “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” & their biggest ballad to date “One” were all huge hits around the world.

    Buy “Until the End of the World”
    U2 - Achtung Baby - Until the End of the World

     Buy “The Fly”
    U2 - Achtung Baby - The Fly


     

     

     56. ALICE IN CHAINS- DIRT (1992)

    Alice in Chains_Dirt

    BuyAlice In Chains - Dirt

    Buy AmazonDirt

    Alice’s brilliant second album about drug addiction, self loathing & despair is as gloomy as a Black Sabbath album and rocks about as hard as well. This was the Seattle grunge band’s masterpiece with a far reaching influence for better for worse on the gloomy rock of the late 90’s/early 21st century of band’s like Staind, Puddle Of Mudd etc… Contains alt rock hits like “The Rooster”, “Them Bones” & “Would”- originally found on the great Singles soundtrack.

    Buy “Hate to Feel”
    Alice In Chains - Dirt - Hate to Feel

     Buy “Angry Chair”
    Alice In Chains - Dirt - Angry Chair


     

     

     55. MAGNETIC FIELDS- 69 LOVE SONGS (1999)

    Magnetic Fields_69 Love Songs

    BuyThe Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

    Buy Amazon69 Love Songs

    Stephen Merritt’s 3 disc concept album dedicated to songs about love. Some songs are admittedly tossed off and Merritt seems to explore every possible genre in the musical spectrum but many of the tracks are brilliantly crafted pop gems. You have to admire his sheer audacity to create such an opus!




    Buy “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side”
    The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs - The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side

     Buy “Washington, D.C.”
    The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs - Washington, D.C.


     

     

     

     

     54. GUIDED BY VOICES- ALIEN LANES (1995)

    Guided By Voices_Alien Lanes

    BuyGuided By Voices - Alien Lanes

    Buy AmazonAlien Lanes

    GBV’s first album since they became more than a blip on the cultural radar with the previous year’s “Bee Thousand”. “Alien Lanes” is almost “Bee Thousand” ‘s equal. It’s a tighter album in that the best songs may not equal the best of “Bee Thousand” but no songs drop to the sloppy lows of “Thousand” either. This scrappy band of thirty-somethings from Dayton, Ohio had finally come into their own and by the time they were done would amass one of the best discographies in indie rock.


    Buy “Watch Me Jumpstart”
    Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes - Watch Me Jumpstart

     Buy “Motor Away”
    Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes - Motor Away


     

     

     

     53. WEEZER- WEEZER (BLUE ALBUM) (1994)

    Weezer_Blue Album

    BuyWeezer - Weezer

    Buy AmazonWeezer (Blue Album)

    Weezer’s debut married grunge, 80’s cheese metal & power pop with emotional nerd lyrics creating a gigantic hit album in the process. This was a hookier version of The Pixies or Nirvana which appealed to fans of both pop & alternative- an album that sensitive males and females could rock out to. Features the huge hits “Undone (Sweater Song) & “Buddy Holly”.




    Buy “Say It Ain’t So”
    Weezer - Weezer - Say It Ain't So

     Buy “In the Garage”
    Weezer - Weezer - In The Garage


     

     

     

     52. BJORK- POST (1995)

    Bjork_Post

    BuyBjörk - Post

    Buy AmazonPost

    Bjork ups the ante with her second album- creating an even stranger, more unique, more varied and plain better album than “Debut”. She incorporates industrial and trip-hop beats into her oeuvre and takes her biggest left turn with Broadway influenced “It’s Oh So Quiet”- also one of the best videos ever made.





    Buy “Army of Me”
    Björk - Post - Army of Me

     Buy “Possibly Maybe”
    Björk - Post - Possibly Maybe

     

     

     

     51. SUPERGRASS- IN IT FOR THE MONEY (1997)

    Supergrass_In It for the Money

    Buy AmazonIn It for the Money

    Album #2 for Supergrass- better but less celebrated than their first. “Coco” went by in a punk rush, while “In It for the Money” focuses more on psychedelia & musicianship. Where they sacrifice in big hits they make up for in deep cuts as “Money” is solid from start to finish. Supergrass would prove to be one of the most consistently good British band of the mid 90’s and on.


    *Album Not available on iTunes


    Buy “Richard III”
    Supergrass - Supergrass Is 10: Best of 94-04 - Richard III

     Buy “Late in the Day”
    Supergrass - Supergrass Is 10: Best of 94-04 - Late In the Day


     

     

     

     

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 41 – 50

    50. THE SMASHING PUMPKINS- MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS (1995)

    SMASHING PUMPKINS_MELLON COLLIE

    BuySmashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

    Buy AmazonMellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

    Over long, overblown and self-indulgent? Without a doubt! But this album, the last great one of the Pumpkins’ career, also has a plethora of great moments. If you pared this down to a single disc it could even give “Siamese Dream” a run for its money. 5 singles strong with some awesome deep cuts as well. Over 2 hours and 28 songs. Wow!




    Buy “1979”
    Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - 1979

     Buy “Thirty-Three”
    Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - Thirty-Three



     

    49. JEFF BUCKLEY- GRACE (1994)

    jeff buckley_grace

    BuyJeff Buckley - Grace

    Buy AmazonGrace

    “Grace” is the only full length release from this honey throated singer songwriter before his pre-mature death from drowning in the Mississippi River at age 30. The son of cult hero singer songwriter, Tim Buckley (also an early death casualty), Jeff Buckley’s voice simply defies logic. He was unafraid of bombast and grand gestures in a time when most of modern alternative rock frowned on both. His haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has become a modern day classic- even sound tracking the final episode of the hit teen show “The O.C.’


    Buy “Hallelujah”
    Jeff Buckley - Grace - Hallelujah

     Buy “Last Goodbye”
    Jeff Buckley - Grace - Last Goodbye

     



    48. PEARL JAM- TEN (1991)

    PEARL JAM_TEN

    BuyPearl Jam - Ten

    Buy AmazonTen

    An even bigger record (sales-wise at least) than “Nevermind”, “Ten” was the album that truly took Seattle-based grunge music into the stratosphere in early 1992. This was Pearl Jam’s first and best record with alternative rock staples “Alive”, “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” and plenty of deep album cuts as well. Not a bad song on it really.




    Buy “Black”
    Pearl Jam - Ten - Black

     Buy “Alive”
    Pearl Jam - Ten - Alive

     

     

     



    47. GUIDED BY VOICES- BEE THOUSAND (1994)

    GUIDED BY VOICES_BEE THOUSAND

    BuyGuided By Voices - Bee Thousand

    Buy AmazonBee Thousand

    GBV seem to carry the spirit of the early Who & Kinks more than any other 90’s band. Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout and company deal out passion and hooks in equal measure-keeping all songs under 3 minutes and most of them under 2. There are many misses on this album but they are over and done with so quickly that you will pay them no mind. And the great songs do more than make up for them.




    Buy “Tractor Rape Chain”
    Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand - Tractor Rape Chain

     Buy “I Am A Scientist”
    Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand - I Am a Scientist

     

     



    46. PORTISHEAD- DUMMY (1994)

    PORTISHEAD_DUMMY

    BuyPortishead - Dummy

    Buy AmazonDummy

    Massive Attack created trip hop with 1991’s “Blue Lines”, but Bristol, England’s Portishead furthered the genre with this release by substituting MA’s dance oriented grooves with beats that seem to come from an imaginary film noir soundtrack. As experimental is this music is it was also an unexpected hit and catapulted the trip hop genre into the mainstream thereby creating a ton of imitators who would go on to soundtrack many a yuppie dinner party in the late 90’s and early 00’s.



    Buy “Sour Times”
    Portishead - Dummy - Sour Times

     Buy “Glory Box”
    Portishead - Dummy - Glory Box



     

    45. OUTKAST- AQUEMINI (1998)

    OUTKAST_AQUEMINI

    BuyOutKast - Aquemini

    Buy AmazonAquemini

    The bridge album between the crazy space funk of ”ATLiens” of 1996 and the world conquering “Stankonia” in the first year of the new century. “Aquemini” is a masterpiece in its own right. The album thrives on diversity as Outkast and production team Organized Noize bring in elements of hard rock, psychedelia, live orchestration and reggae into the hard hitting funky Atlanta rap beats.




    Buy “Rosa Parks”
    OutKast - Aquemini - Rosa Parks

     Buy “Aquemini”
    OutKast - Aquemini - Aquemini

     




    44. SLEATER-KINNEY- DIG ME OUT (1997)

    SLEATER-KINNEY_DIG ME OUT

    BuySleater-Kinney - Dig Me åOut

    Buy AmazonDig Me Out

    SK’s best album of the 90’s, “Dig Me Out” takes the hard charging feminist punk of the previous year’s “Call the Doctor” to greater levels- more consistency, better and more creative musicianship and more classic songs. All told more bounce per ounce.





    Buy “Dig Me Out”
    Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out - Dig Me Out

     Buy “Words and Guitar”
    Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out - Words and Guitar

     




    43. SOUNDGARDEN- SUPERUNKNOWN (1994)

    SOUNDGARDEN_SUPERUNKNOWN

    BuySoundgarden - Superunknown

    Buy AmazonSuperunknown

    “Superunkown” is probably the last great grunge album. Soundgarden moves further into the mainstream by writing tighter and more accessible songs than on previous albums. “Spoonman”, “Black Hole Sun” and “Fell on Black Days” were all over the radio airwaves and MTV throughout the whole year and into 1995. And those weren’t even the best songs. Soundgarden would have a few more great songs in them after this, but “Superunknown” was their last great statement. It’s a shame that Chris Cornell’s amazing yowl of a voice has been wasted on such sub-par bands since Soundgarden’s demise.

    Buy “My Wave”
    Soundgarden - Superunknown - My Wave

     Buy “The Day I Tried to Live”
    Soundgarden - Superunknown - The Day I Tried to Live

     



    42. PJ HARVEY- RID OF ME (1993)

    PJ HARVEY_RID OF ME

    BuyPJ Harvey - Rid of Me

    Buy AmazonRid of Me

    An album just as raw as her “Dry” debut a year earlier, but also better produced (you don’t have to strain your ears to hear the songs!) and all around better. PJ makes her mark here with her best album of one of the best musical legacies of the 90’s/00’s.





    Buy “Dry”
    PJ Harvey - Rid of Me - Dry

     Buy “50ft Queenie”
    PJ Harvey - Rid of Me - 50ft Queenie

     

     

     




    41. OASIS- (WHAT’S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY (1995)

    Oasis_What's the Story

    BuyOasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory

    Buy Amazon(What’s The Story) Morning Glory

    Oasis’s celebratory album of itself! ‘What’s The Story’ explores what happens to a working class band after it becomes successful. Although this theme has certainly been done before in rock n’ roll, Oasis crafts their songs to sound like the best night of your life. And this album certainly did sound track many a night out in the mid 90’s in Britain, America and all over the world.



    Buy “Wonderwall”
    Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory - Wonderwall

     Buy “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
    Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory - Don't Look Back In Anger

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 31 – 40

    40. WEEZER- PINKERTON (1996)

    WEEZER_PINKERTON

    BuyWeezer - Pinkerton

    Buy AmazonPinkerton

    The highly anticipated follow up to their self-titled debut, “Pinkerton” was a poorly reviewed and commercial bomb upon its release. It is a much darker then their self titled debut and alienated much of the band’s younger and more pop oriented crowd. The flip side of that alienation brought a cult of admirers which seemed to grow with each passing year until the band became a parody of itself midway through the 2000’s. This album often gets mislabeled as one of the progenitors of the Emo sound. To me it doesn’t have much in common with the often insincere screaming of 21st century Emo. Time has been very kind to most of its tracks and it’s difficult to see why some of them didn’t even achieve radio airplay at the time.

    Buy “The Good Life”
    Weezer - Pinkerton - The Good Life

    Buy “Pink Triangle”

    Weezer - Pinkerton - Pink Triangle



    39. WILCO- BEING THERE (1996)
    WILCO_BEING THERE


    BuyWilco - Being There

    Buy AmazonBeing There

    “Being There” is Wilco’s experimental, sprawling double album, after the straight forward alt-country rock of their debut “A.M.” a year earlier. Each side begins with a 6+ minute anthem (Misunderstood & Sunken Treasure respectively) and follows with beautiful ballads, rock n’ roll jams & splotches of psychedelia & experimental music- pointing the way toward the more experimental music of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” six years later.


    Buy “Sunken Treasure”

    Wilco - Being There - Sunken Treasure

     Buy “Red-Eyed and Blue”
    Wilco - Being There - Red-Eyed and Blue

     

     

     

     38. THE PIXIES- BOSSANOVA (1990)

    THE PIXIES_BOSSANOVA

    BuyPixies - Bossanova

    Buy AmazonBossanova

    “Bossanova” is the first Pixies album to feature zero songs written by Kim Deal. Frontman Frank Black dominates the album focusing on quirky Sci-Fi lyrics and surf rock guitar. “Bossanova” is probably my least favorite Pixies album since their initial EP “Come On Pilgrim” but it’s still full of great moments, and is delivered by one of the very best bands of the late 80’s/early 90’s era. Black Francis would continue to take more and more control of the band until their eventual breakup after the following year’s “Trompe Le Monde”.


    Buy “Dig For Fire”
    Pixies - Bossanova - Dig for Fire

     Buy “All Over the World”
    Pixies - Bossanova - All Over the World

     

     


    37. DR. DRE- THE CHRONIC (1992)

    DR. DRE_THE CHRONIC

    BuyDr. Dre - The Chronic

    Buy AmazonThe Chronic

    Dr. Dre & “The Chronic” almost single handedly took L.A. rap to the mainstream after the groundwork was laid by Ice T., Dr. Dre’s former band N.W.A. and a few others. Dre, a genius producer and an average rapper, also introduced the world to both his G-Funk sound (which took the basslines of Parliament as its template rather than the starker funk of James Brown) & the previously unknown rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg. With “The Chronic” Dre & Snoop, through both their lyrics and Dre’s ridiculously phat beats, focused away from the political gangsta rap of N.W.A., Ice T etc…and toward the celebration of weed, women and the hedonistic lifestyle in general. Oakland’s Too Short was a precursor to this sound in the late 80’s but he never reached near the same commercial success or musical sophistication as Dre. “The Chronic” would influence nearly every gangsta rap, and rap album in general for years to come.

    Buy “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”
    Dr. Dre - The Chronic - Nuthin' but a "G" Thang

     Buy “Let Me Ride”
    Dr. Dre - The Chronic - Let Me Ride

     



    36. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.- READY TO DIE (1994)

    THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G._READY TO DIE

    BuyThe Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die - The Remaster

    Buy AmazonReady to Die

    The East Coast’s answer to the newly dominate gangsta rap of Dr. Dre and the West Coast. B.I.G. (AKA Biggie Smalls) was one of the very best lyricists and rappers in hip hop history. While he celebrated hedonism and the gangsta lifestyle, much of his lyrics and the album’s beats brought forth a sense of doom and paranoia with the album’s narrator always looking over his shoulder ready for the metaphorical axe to fall. “Ready to Die” is a concept album about the rise and eventual fall of a gangsta ending with his death, which would eerily foreshadow Biggie’s tragic end in gun violence 3 year’s later


    Buy “Juicy”

    The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die - The Remaster - Juicy

     Buy “Big Poppa”
    The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die - The Remaster - Big Poppa

     

     


    35. MASSIVE ATTACK- BLUE LINES (1991)

    MASSIVE ATTACK_BLUE LINES

    BuyMassive Attack - Blue Lines

    Buy AmazonBlue Lines

    This album marked the beginning of trip hop, which is a combination of British club music and American hip hop & one of the most influential sounds of the 90’s. “Blue Lines” takes its cues from the earlier grooves of Soul II Soul and Brand New Heavies but puts a much bigger influence on Jamaican dub and features the vocal interplay of both male and female vocals with British rap. It’s a chill-out masterpiece and also the debut of the rapper Tricky who would
    go on to produce the masterpiece “Maxinquaye” later in 1996.


    Buy “Unfinished Sympathy”
    Massive Attack - Blue Lines - Unfinished Sympathy

     Buy “Safe From Harm”
    Massive Attack - Blue Lines - Safe from Harm

     



    34. FUGAZI- REPEATER (1990)

    FUGAZI_REPEATER

    BuyFugazi - Repeater & 3 Songs

    Buy AmazonRepeater + 3 Songs

    “Repeater” was this D.C. post-hardcore band’s first album and a classic after the two brilliant EP’s “Fugazi” and “Margin Walker” which they put out the two previous years. Although Fugazi was known as much for their staunch anti-materialistic and P.C. lyrical stances, “Repeater” was a full on electric guitar force of nature as well. Fugazi was one of the best bands out there and would continue to put out fantastic releases into the next decade.




    Buy “Sieve-Fisted Find”

    Fugazi - Repeater & 3 Songs - Sieve-Fisted Find

     Buy “Merchandise”
    Fugazi - Repeater & 3 Songs - Merchandise

     

     



    33. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS (1993)A Tribe Called Quest_Midnight Marauders

    BuyA Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders

    Buy AmazonMidnight Marauders

    Tribe’s third and last classic album- they moved to a slightly more commercial and funky sound after “Low End Theory’s” jazzier and heavier vibe. Q-Tip and Phife were also operating at the height of their powers. This album doesn’t have a weak track on it.





    Buy “Electric Relaxation”
    A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders - Electric Relaxation

     Buy “Sucka N**ga”
    A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders - Sucka Nigga

     

     

    32. BUILT TO SPILL- KEEP IT LIKE A SECRET (1999)

    BuyBuilt To Spill - Keep It Like a Secret

    Buy AmazonKeep It Like a Secret

    Doug Martsch and Built to Spill follow up the epic “Perfect From Now On” with the much poppier “Keep It Like a Secret”. Where “Perfect” was filled with lengthy Neil Young & Crazy Horse inspired jams, “Secret’s” songs are much shorter (except for the 8+ minute closer) and all together tighter. While “Perfect” gets most of the critical accolades in my opinion “Secret” is their best album to date.




    Buy “You Were Right”

    Built To Spill - Keep It Like a Secret - You Were Right

     Buy “The Plan”
    Built To Spill - Keep It Like a Secret - The Plan

     

     

    31. NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL- IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA (1998)Neutral Milk Hotel_In the Aeroplane

    BuyNeutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

    Buy AmazonIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea

    An outgrowth of the southern based Elephant 6 collective (including Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal), leader Jeff Mangum comes out of nowhere (after 1996’s little heard at the time “On Avery Island”) with this enigmatic concept album about childhood, sex & death- with multiple references to Anne Frank. After this release Mangum would retire the band and go off into seclusion. This album would eventually reign as one of the best and most influential indie-releases of the 90’s.


    Buy “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”

    Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

     Buy “Holland, 1945”
    Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Holland, 1945

     

     



  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 21 – 30

    30. WILCO- SUMMERTEETH (1999)

    Wilco_Summerteeth

    BuyWilco - Summerteeth

    Buy AmazonSummerteeth

    Wilco at their most power pop- this was the Chicago band’s 2nd great album in route to their masterpiece in 2002. “Summer Teeth” was the perfect middle ground between the alt country of their earlier records and the experimental music to come. Their sunny melodies are sharply contrasted by their darkest, bleakest lyrics to date.




    Buy “Via Chicago”
    Wilco - Summerteeth - Via Chicago

    Buy “A Shot in the Arm”
    Wilco - Summerteeth - A Shot In the Arm

     

     

    29. PAVEMENT- CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN (1994)


    BuyPavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

    Buy AmazonCrooked Rain, Crooked Rain

    “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” was Pavement’s second masterpiece in as many albums. With “Crooked” Pavement cleaned up their sound, ditching the lo-fi tape hiss, firing their original drummer and going for a bigger and better mastering job all around. Left is their esoteric, yet intelligent lyrics and slacker vibe but with a decidedly more accessible sound. They even had a big college radio hit with “Cut My Hair”. There is hardly a miss on the whole album.


    Buy “Cut Your Hair”

    Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Cut Your Hair

    Buy “Range Life”
    Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Range Life


     

     28. SONIC YOUTH- DIRTY (1992)

    Sonic Youth_Dirty

    BuySonic Youth - Dirty

    Buy AmazonDirty

    The closest the Youth ever got to mainstream success. “Dirty” came out right during the grunge/alternative rock explosion that the Youth helped implement. “Dirty” is unfairly maligned as a grab for mainstream bucks. It’s severely underrated and I believe, stands as one of their very best releases to date. “100%” and “Sugar Kane” are two of their biggest singles and anthems and they also hit hard at social issues with tracks like “Youth Against Facism” (Clarence Thomas & Anita Hill) and “Swimsuit Issue”.


    Buy “Sugar Kane”

    Sonic Youth - Dirty - Sugar Kane

    Buy “100%”
    Sonic Youth - Dirty - 100%


     

     27. NIRVANA- IN UTERO (1993)

    Nirvana_In Utero

    BuyNirvana - In Utero

    Buy AmazonIn Utero

    Nirvana followed up their Butch Vig produced, world changing, smash hit by tapping Chicago post hardcore indie-producer Steve Albini and making the least accessible album they possibly could. Despite that, Kurt & co. couldn’t help but write brilliant and catchy tunes and they ended up finding commercial success with “In Utero” anyway. It was, however, a much more abrasive album than “Nevermind” and cemented the band’s status as an uncompromising and challenging band. Sadly this would be their last studio album before Cobain’s death in 1994 which ended the band for good.

     

    Buy “Serve the Servants”

    Nirvana - In Utero - Serve the Servants

    Buy “All Apologies”
    Nirvana - In Utero - All Apologies


     

    26. THE PIXIES- TROMPE LE MONDE (1991)

    Pixies_Trompe Le Monde

    BuyPixies - Trompe le Monde

    Buy AmazonTrompe le Monde

    The Pixies swan song, which was considered a de-facto Black Francis solo album as bassist Kim Deal did barely any singing and no song writing whatsoever. Francis takes the band out with a bang as this is one of The Pixies most hard hitting albums. He focuses his writing on subjects such as outer space, the ocean & mathematics. Though he would have some critical solo success in the coming years he would never better this album.



    Buy “Palace of the Brine/Letter to Memphis”
    Pixies - Trompe le Monde - Palace of the Brine
    Pixies - Trompe le Monde - Letter to Memphis

    Buy “U-Mass”
    Pixies - Trompe le Monde - U-Mass


     

    25. BLUR- PARKLIFE (1994)

    Blue_Parklife

    BuyBlur - Parklife

    Buy AmazonParklife

    “Parklife”, along with the Oasis debut “Definitely Maybe” ushered in the British Brit-pop era. “Parklife” was the far superior album- running through practically the entire history of British music since the late 60’s and launching Blur from a great to a classic band. “Parklife” the album was probably Blur’s greatest triumph and was also seen as the defining album in describing Tony Blair’s hopeful and forward-looking England in the mid 90’s before he was brought down at least in part for his ties with American president W. Bush.

     

     Buy “Parklife”

    Blur - Parklife - Parklife

     Buy “Girls & Boys”
    Blur - Parklife - Girls & Boys

     

     

    24. JAY-Z- REASONABLE DOUBT (1996)

    Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt

    BuyJay-Z - Reasonable Doubt

    Buy AmazonReasonable Doubt

    The debut release for what would eventually become one of the longest and most successful careers in rap history. Jay creates the template that he would follow throughout the next decade and a half- he raps about growing up in the projects and finding his way out of the ghetto through street hustling and then rapping. Through his lyrics he is able to show the similarities between the two. Rather than focusing on the bleak and violent side of hustling, he celebrates leaving the projects and entering a life of superstardom. Jay-Z is a true ghetto capitalist with some of the best lyrics writing and rhyme flow in the rap game.

     Buy “Brooklyn’s Finest (with The Notorious B.I.G.)”
    Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt - Brooklyn's Finest (feat. The Notorious B.I.G.)

     Buy “D’Evils”
    Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt - D'evils


     

     23. LIZ PHAIR- EXILE IN GUYVILLE (1993)

    Liz Phair_Exile in Guyville

    BuyLiz Phair - Exile In Guyville

    Buy AmazonExile in Guyville

    The Chicago singer singwriter’s debut came out of nowhere to become one of the most influential and best female debuts (and album’s period) in the history of rock n’ roll. The songs that make up “Exile” were initially recorded on Phair’s home cassettes and Phair had been perfecting them over the course of several years. The music runs the gamut from stripped down acoustic folk, to experimental art rock to power pop, to harder hitting indie-rock. The lyrics are extremely sexually frank and from a feminist perspective- a rarity for a female musician- particularly in the male dominated landscape of indie rock. Phair would go on to make one really good and one pretty good record before failing miserably (critically more than commercially) at various stabs of mainstream pop success.

     Buy “F**k and Run”
    Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville - Fuck and Run

     Buy “Divorce Song”
    Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville - Divorce Song


     

    22. HOLE- LIVE THROUGH THIS (1994)
    Hole_Live Through This
    BuyHole - Live Through This

    Buy AmazonLive Through This

    Hole’s second album was a gigantic leap forward after their anti-commercial debut “Pretty On the Inside” several years earlier. Many thought it was lead singer Courtney Love’s attempt to compete critically and commercially with her husband’s (Kurt Cobain) band Nirvana. “Live Through This” eerily came out exactly a week after Cobain’s suicide on April 5th. Love’s pained lyrics seem to predict Cobain’s death. The album’s hooks are undeniable and no matter how reviled Love is as a person, it’s tough not to recognize “Live Through This” as a grunge era classic.


    Buy “Miss World”
    Hole - Live Through This - Miss World

     Buy “Doll Parts”
    Hole - Live Through This - Doll Parts


     

     21. PUBLIC ENEMY- FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET (1990)Public Enemy_Fear of a Black Planet

    BuyPublic Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet

    Buy AmazonFear of a Black Planet

    PE’s 2nd straight out masterpiece in a row. The groundbreaking rap debuted several of rap’s all time great singles before the album release of “Planet” with “Fight the Power” the centerpiece of the brilliant and incendiary Spike Lee joint “Do the Right Thing” a year earlier. They almost matched it with lead single “Welcome to the Terrordome”. Though “Planet” may not match the peaks of 1988’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”- to my mind the greatest rap album ever recorded- it still was great in its own right and the Bomb Squad (PE’s production crew) soared to new heights with “Planet” being their most sonically innovative release to date. The beginning of the 90’s was the tail end of an era where music samples could be used at a producer’s leisure. Once clearing samples became big business rap would have trouble matching the era’s creative highs- at least musically.

    Buy “Fight the Power”
    Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet - Fight the Power

     Buy “Welcome to the Terrordome”
    Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet - Welcome to the Terrordome


     

     

     

     







  • Best Albums of the 90’s: 11 – 20

    20. THE BEASTIE BOYS- CHECK YOUR HEAD (1992)
    Beastie Boys_Check Your head

    BuyBeastie Boys - Check Your Head

    Buy AmazonCheck Your Head

    The Beastie’s took another left turn with their third album- a blend of rap, spaced out jazzy jams and the straight up hardcore of their early 80’s New York City roots. As a result “Check Your Head” sounded like nothing before it and foreshadowed the great blending of music in the new millennium to come. After the slept on, but later massively influential “Paul’s Boutique” in 1989, “Head” was the Beastie’s return to commercial success and solidified them as a cultural force for the entirety of the 90’s.


    Buy “Gratitude”

    Beastie Boys - Check Your Head - Gratitude

    Buy “Pass the Mic”
    Beastie Boys - Check Your Head - Pass the Mic



    19. DIGABLE PLANETS- REACHIN’ (A NEW REFUTATION OF TIME AND SPACE) (1993)Digable Planets_A New Refutation

    BuyDigable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time & Space)

    Buy AmazonReachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

    My vote for the most underrated and underappreciated album of the 90’s. Digable is unfairly dismissed as a one hit wonder after “Cool Like Dat” rode the short lived jazz rap wave to the top 20 in 1993. It’s a great song, for sure, but not even one of the three or four best songs on the album. Digable (made up on Doodlebug, Ladybug & Butterfly) brought a unique image and sound to alternative rap. “Reachin’” is full of chilled out jazz samples, and a free flowing hipster jazz influenced delivery and socially conscious lyrics. Their description of a day in New York City in “Pacifics” (NEW YORK IS RED HOT!!) gets me excited to hang in NYC like no other song.

    Buy “It’s Good to be Here”
    Digable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time & Space) - It's Good to Be Here

     Buy “Pacifics”
    Digable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time & Space) - Pacifics (From the Soundtrack to the Motion Picture 'N.Y. Is Red Hot')


     

    18. R.E.M.- AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE (1992)

    R.E.M._Automatic for the People

    BuyR.E.M. - Automatic for the People

    Buy AmazonAutomatic for the People

    After its most commercially successful album to date (Out of Time) a year earlier R.E.M. moved in a darker, more acoustic direction with their music, creating their last full blown masterpiece to date. The majority of the songs on the album seem to be about death, loss & despair with only “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” brightening the mood, but there is a deep beauty to the album and the songs flow together impeccably. The album ironically (for such a dark album) is 5 singles deep- including “Everybody Hurts”- one of the epic videos of all time & “Man on the Moon” which inspired the movie title for the biopic on Andy Kaufman, a hero of singer Michael Stipe.


    Buy “Find a River”
    R.E.M. - Automatic for the People - Find the River

     Buy “Nightswimming”
    R.E.M. - Automatic for the People - Nightswimming

     



    17. LUCINDA WILLIAMS- CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD (1998)Lucinda Williams_Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

    BuyLucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

    Buy AmazonCar Wheels on a Gravel Road

    “Car Wheels” is Lucinda’s breakthrough album in that no one outside of music critics and alt country nerds knew who she was before its release. She still may not be a platinum seller but “Car Wheels” grew her fan base substantially. She even landed a performance on Saturday Night Live which is precisely when I became a fan. “Car Wheels” is also likely her best album- six years in the making after the commercial failure, yet damn great “Sweet Old World” in 1992. She focuses her writing on her rootless upbringing & longing, lust & loss she has experienced in the Deep South throughout her life. She has such a brilliant eye for the smallest of details and you can hear the heartache in her voice in every syllable she utters.

    Buy “Right in Time”
    Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Right in Time

     Buy “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”
    Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road



    16. THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN- EMERGENCY AND I (1999)Dismemberment Plan_Emergency and I

    BuyThe Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I

    Buy AmazonEmergency & I

    This D.C. band’s third and best album. I slept on The Plan, even though they played basement parties at my college and included fellow MWC alumnus and brilliant bassist Eric Axelson- not seeing the light until I turned 30. The Plan combines “good!” emo- think Rites of Spring & Sunny Day Real Estate (not the later stuff) with post hardcore and a twitchy danceable beat influenced by the Talking Heads. The band blends their main influences with touches of New Wave, Soul & even Rap as well. “Emergency and I” though still only a cult classic, was a perfect signifier for the decade to come when an increasing number of bands would break out of their genres and allow for more freedom and variety in their overall sound.

     Buy “You Are Invited”
    The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I - You Are Invited

     Buy “What Do You Want Me to Say?”
    The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I - What Do You Want Me to Say?

     



    15. LAURYN HILL- THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL (1998)Lauryn Hill_Miseducation

    BuyLauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Buy AmazonThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Lauryn, 1/3 of the mega successful Newark, NJ rap group The Fugees is a quadruple threat- writer, singer, rapper & producer. With “Miseducation”, she proved to be THE most talented member of her former group by frankly bettering the 6X platinum “The Score” and all of her former members solo records in every way. Her rap flow is impeccable, the album’s beats are jammin’, her lyrics are intelligent and socially conscious & her singing is beautiful. If I have one complaint it’s that the album runs a bit too long but it is certainly one of the best rap releases and overall albums of the decade.


    Buy “Doo Wop (That Thing)”
    Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Doo Wop (That Thing)

     Buy “Lost Ones”
    Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Lost Ones



     

    14. TRICKY- MAXINQUAYE (1995)

    TRICKY_MAXINQUAYE

    BuyTricky - Maxinquaye

    Buy AmazonMaxinquaye

    Tricky, a veteran of trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, saved trip-hop from becoming nothing more than middle of the road cocktail music for yuppies with this stunning debut- an album of challenging, experimental noise along with lyrics filled with angst & paranoia. Tricky’s next album would even be titled “Pre-Millenium Tension”. He’s not joking around! “Maxinquaye” also features a cover of spiritual cousin’s Public Enemy’s “Black Steel” sung rapped by a female – Martine. It’s not to be missed.


    Buy “Black Steel”
    Tricky - Maxinquaye - Black Steel

     Buy “Brand New, You’re Retro”
    Tricky - Maxinquaye - Brand New You're Retro


     

    13. THE FLAMING LIPS- THE SOFT BULLETIN (1999)

    The Flaming Lips_the Soft Bulletin

    BuyThe Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin

    Buy AmazonThe Soft Bulletin

    “The Soft Bulletin” was a brilliant right turn by the Lips after a decade of wackiness from Okalahoma’s finest experimental psychedelic rock crazies. This was the Lips most accessible album to date and by a large margin. They dialed down the shriek & sprawl of their past released and created a symphonic pop masterpiece filled with beautiful melodies and harmonies and songs about humanity- focusing on life and death itself both from personal and from societal perspectives. Although their sound changed rather drastically “The Soft Bulletin” is still unmistakably the Lips.


    Buy “Race for the Prize”

    The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin - Race for the Prize

     Buy “Waitin’ for A Superman”
    The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin - Waitin' for a Superman


     

    12. MY BLOODY VALENTINE- LOVELESS (1991)

    My Bloody Valentine_Loveless

    BuyMy Bloody Valentine - Loveless

    Buy AmazonLoveless

    A groundbreaking noise-pop classic brought to you by notable perfectionist and recluse Kevin Shields. “Loveless” was the culmination of the shoegaze movement that MBV helped spawn with the1988’s album “Isn’t Anything”. “Loveless” is a game changing release that many bands tried to copy but none was ever able to replicate. The music seems to suggest a sex & drug haze with many layers of psychedelia and light airy and sometimes barely audible female vocals. The songs range from lush & ethereal to violent & noisy but always remain beautiful and completely unique. Shields has yet to record a follow up album as My Bloody Valentine justifiably feeling that he could never better it.

    Buy “Only Shallow”
    My Bloody Valentine - Loveless - Only Shallow

     Buy “To Here Knows When”
    My Bloody Valentine - Loveless - To Here Knows When


     

    11. DJ SHADOW- ENTRODUCING (1996)
    DJ Shadow_Entroducing

    BuyDJ Shadow - Endtroducing...

    Buy AmazonEndtroducing…

    Josh Davis (AKA DJ Shadow) is a white crate-digging suburban California hipster who had made his name in the underground rap & techno scenes with a series of brilliant singles. His debut album, the aptly titled “Entroducing” is a mostly instrumental album made up entirely of samples, largely from old, forgotten vinyl only releases- most of which were never part of the public consciousness. Whereas earlier sample classics like “Paul’s Boutique” by The Beasties or “3 Feet High and Rising” by De La Soul used familiar samples from unlikely genres of music, don’t even bother trying to spot the samples on “Entroducing”. Often it is even hard to tell which genre he is sampling from. The overall album has a very chilled out, dream like vibe- the listener can get absolutely lost inside of it.

    Buy “Midnight In A Perfect World”
    DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... - Midnight In a Perfect World

     Buy “Building Steam With A Grain of Salt”
    DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... - Building Steam With a Grain of Salt