Top 20 Albums of the 90s
This originally was supposed to be a Top 10 list, but as I kept coming up with new albums, I knew there was no way the list could be kept to just 10 albums. I've included the year of the album's release as well as the year that I purchased the album. I will be adding explanations for each album, so this post will gradually be updated. So without further ado, here is the list (subject to change):
1) Radiohead – OK Computer (released 1997, purchased 1997) - This is the one album that I can point back to and say that it changed my entire musical life. In 1997, I was listening to a mix of punk, ska and post-grunge when I heard "Paranoid Android" on the radio and immediately knew it was something different. It wasn't until "Karma Police" was released as a single however, that I finally got around to buying the album. It became a favorite immediately and I listened to it nonstop for the first six months after I purchased it. It started to slip away, but when I saw Radiohead live in 2000, it jumped back into heavy rotation in my CD player and has never left. 2000 is also when I started to discover a whole new world of music, and I thank Radiohead for opening my eyes to that world.
2) Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album) (released 1994, purchased 1994) - How often can an album remind you of both sitting on the bus in 7th grade and your sophomore year of college? Well, in my case only one, and this is it. This album is truly timeless, made up of ten of the best pop songs every assembled. Of course, everyone knows the hits, "Buddy Holly," "Say It Ain't So," and "Undone (The Sweater Song)," but the real standout is "Only In Dreams," by far Weezer's most ambitious song clocking in right at 8 minutes, nearly twice the length of any other song they've ever written. And feel free to call me a dork, but I swear "In The Garage" is about me when I was 12.
3) Radiohead – The Bends (released 1995, purchased 1997) - It took OK Computer to open my eyes to Radiohead, but once that happened, I immersed myself in them. I purchased The Bends mere weeks later, and loved it just as much. These albums have flip-flopped atop my favorite albums list for years, but OK Computer has withstood the test of time just slightly better. Still, this is an incredible album, and a bit more straightforward and accessible than its follow-up. If I was ever asked where to start with Radiohead, this is the album I'd recommend listening to.
4) Beck – Odelay (released 1996, purchased 1996) - This is yet another album that really changed my views on music. I distinctly remember hearing "Where It's At" for the first time when I returned to New Jersey the summer before my freshman year of high school and being blown away. I think I actually may have bought this album the day it was released, and I haven't ever really stopped listening to it. In the mid-90s, American music was struggling to find an identity in the aftermath of grunge, and though Beck did not start a trend with this album, he broke away from the post-grunge malaise and created something truly original.
5) Bjork – Homogenic (released 1997, purchased 2004) - Oddly enough, I discovered Bjork through Radiohead's Kid A because her 2001 album Vespertine was constantly being compared to it, turns out it didn't really sound anything like it, but that's beside the point. My Bjork discovery process was a slow one, and I bought her Greatest Hits album when it came out in 2003, but the real turning point came when I saw her live at Red Rocks in August of 2003. She was flat out incredible, and I finally got around to buying her other albums shortly thereafter. Homogenic is a little more laid back than her previous efforts, but every song is amazing, and it slowly builds towards a climax which explodes in "Pluto." Singles "Joga," "Hunter," "Bachelorette" and "All Is Full of Love" are all mind-blowing songs, but they don't overshadow some of her best non-single tracks like "Alarm Call" and "Unravel."
6) Air – Moon Safari (released 1998, purchased 2000) - I discovered Air through the soundtrack to the movie Virgin Suicides, and when I told a friend of mine that I'd been listening to it, he forced me to sit down and listen to Moon Safari, which completely blew me away. This is the ultimate make-out album, and changes tempos in all the right places if you know what I mean. It also works as an excellent album to listen to if you just feel like chilling out and drinking a glass of wine or zoning out. And even more importantly, there's something about this album that seems distinctly French, which keeps you from taking it too seriously, because, I mean, can we ever take the French seriously? They wear berets, BERETS!!!
7) Bjork – Post (released 1995, purchased 2003) - This album contains my favorite Bjork song, "Hyper-Ballad," and one of the best songs ever to sing along to in "It's Oh So Quiet," but as an album, it just doesn't gel in quite the same way that Homogenic does. That's not to knock this album at all however, because it is a masterpiece in its own right. From the driving opener, "Army of Me," to the gorgeous finale, "Headphones," Bjork takes us on a journey that covers a wide variety of musical styles all with her own personal touch. This is the album that established her as a bonafide star.
8) Wilco – Summerteeth (released 1999, purchased 2003)
9) R.E.M. – Automatic For The People (released 1992, purchased 2001)
10) The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (released 1999, purchased 2002)
11) Oasis – Definitely Maybe (released 1994, purchased 1996)
12) Pearl Jam – Ten (released 1991, purchased 1993)
13) The Dismemberment Plan – The Emergency & I (released 1999, purchased 2004)
14) Built to Spill – Keep It Like A Secret (released 1999, purchased 2004)
15) The Verve – Urban Hymns (released 1997, purchased 2000)
16) Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (released 1993, purchased 1995)
17) Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (released 1995, purchased 1995)
18) Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind (released 1997, purchased 1997)
19) The Roots – Things Fall Apart (released 1999, purchased 2001)
20) Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas (released 1990, purchased 2005)