Hey everyone, welcome to part two! Let's go!!
10.Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape, 1997
The sophomore album from these legends starts the second half of our countdown at number ten. It's one of their most accessible albums, and among most fans I know it's considered the best. They've made plenty of amazing songs since then, but this one just has something to do it. Everything from massive hits “Monkey Wrench” to “Everlong” still ring with clarity, and the other gems on the album dig deep to hit you. “Hey Johnny Park!” soars, while “My Hero” is a perfect example of what fathers aspire to be. This was the record they reached the first step of domination in rock music, and they've been steadily climbing ever since.
9.Tool, Aenima, 1996
People had been noticing California prog rock sensations Tool for little while before this, but “Aenima” was the record that took on an entirely different type of feeling. It's heavier, more sophistaced and a more non linear type of record. Certain tracks are extremely heavier and rooted in the collapse of the world around us(“Hooker with a Penis,” “Aenima), while other songs are as in your face and unforgiving as anything they've ever done. The song that stands out the most though is the perfect album closer in the shape of the epic winding road that is “Third Eye.” It's an amazing track, and set the stage for what the band would become.
8.Nine Inch Nails, the Downward Spiral, 1994
If there's an album on this list that made the world nearly instantly notice a band that were on the underground, it is without the doubt the pivotal move of Reznor's career, The Downward Spiral.” This music had never been experienced by a large audience, but the brilliance of TR and the tact he used to create a world in which everything is burned and erased stands as a stroke of genius. You'd NEVER hear this record get big radio play if it came out today, but it doesn't matter, because from here on out he could bring his specialized brand of industrial rock to the masses. The record cuts and bites where it needs to, and also can bring heartfelt pain and emotion in places you wouldn't expect it. We've discussed the brilliance of “The Fragile” before, but I leave it off today because of the enormous impact this album had on the shape of the band.
7. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, 1994
The album which changed shoegaze forever, also stands as one of the most important albums ever. What Kevin shields brought to the table with the help of Colm,Debbie and Milinda, not only showed people that a thickly layered wall of noise could work, but the craft of songwriting and effortlessly textured beats stands atop every other album of the genre's heyday. It's still one of the best albums for pure music fans in the way that you can absorb it's heart and soul quite easily while being shown things you may have had no idea existed in the world of music before. The production on the album also has a way on mingling the thick with thr glossy in a way few others can, and that's why the album remains a highlight of the decade.
6.Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine, 1992
Maybe the beginning of a movement? More than likely this triumphant, rebellious album gave us the scope and hope for something better. Behind of the strength of Zack, Tom, Brad and Tim, Rage Against the Machine brought politicized rock music to an era that very much was in need of it. Beyond that though, the execution is pitch perfect, and brings the frustrations of the masses to a single rallying cry that many can live by. Song after song attack the bullshit foundations this country has become, while pointing out the hypocrisy of the privileged few and how it managed to keep down the salt of the earth. It's still a perfect album for a man or woman with a purpose, and brings power to those who need it most. “Know Your Enemy.”
5.Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, 1995
While “Siamese Dreams” stands as the breakout album for the Chicago natives, “Mellon Collie” sees the band rocketing to the brilliance plateau they were destined for. Over the course of nearly two hours, they crush us with heavy riffs, abrasive lyrics, but also can hold with love and patience on other essential tracks. This was voted Time magazine's album of the year in 1995, and even after twenty years it's still the prime example of how good this band actually was. It's sprawling, deep, and executed in a way that only the Pumpkins are capable of. Corgan may have been the driving force and inspiration for the band, but they wouldn't be the Smashing Pumpkins without the other three core members.
An album so distancing and haunting, full of heart and soul only comes around so often, and to this day I've never heard a record so perfectly in tune with mortal sadness and blissful beats. Beth;s voice fills you with a cold sorrow that beautifully painful to witness, but at it's core “Dummy” stands as an album full of openness and balance in a world that is often anything but. Barrows and Gibbons are able to elicit full performances from each other and bring the world of Trip Hop to the masses. It's still one of the most awesome albums I've ever experienced, and it's a gift to music fans everywhere. “Roads” is poignantly full, while other songs emit various feelings perfectly through pain and tolerance.
3.Weezer, the Blue Album, 1994
With this first record, Weezer was able to bring pop sensibilities to rock audiences, and thus deliver one of the best records of the decade. The Blue Album as it's called is nearly everything a nerdy teenage boy could want from a band, even to this day. It has nods to amazing X-Men characters, frustrating moments with female counterparts, and it's also bitterly full of anger and resentment on songs like the forever classic “Say It Ain't So,” while the fun and buoyant “Buddy Holly” brings us back to the good old days of being Happy. Even album opener “My Name is Jonas” is a rocking song even after two decades. The album is immaculate, and always will be. Never forget how important a piece of art is, even if the band hasn't delivered something this amazing in years.
2.Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
This might be a stretch for some, but this record is one of the best of the decade, and because of that, it lands the number two spot on the best records of the 1990’s. Loosely based on the tortuous story of Anne Frank, we see Jeff Mangum and his fellow Louisiana natives dive into a world of horns, folk legends, and indie rock all at once. It all works in a wonderful conglomeration of verse, and his unique voice gives a sense of honesty and depth you don’t get all the time. At this point the whole album is a classic, and most hardcore fans know all of the words and nuances, but songs like the fast paced “Holland,1945” give strength while a song like “Oh Comely” and the “Two-Headed Boy”saga are so enraptured with tentative feelings of need and hopefulness that it’s difficult to properly understand how important these concepts must of been to the band, but that’s why this album is a landmark achievement and worthy of everyone’s time, even if it’s only for one listen.
1. Radiohead, OK Computer, 1997
While it might not seem like it at the time, this album took the world by shock and awe, and catapulted the band to the upper echelon of rock music. To this day, there’s no band more adventurous, and painfully perfect as the brothers Greenwood, Phil Selway, Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien, more commonly known as Radiohead. During the early 90’s though, it was nothing like that at all. Initially thought of as one hit wonders, it’s this magnum opus that secured the future of the band for the rest of their careers. Since then it’s been a string of brilliantly popular albums, and they’ve shaped modern alternative indie music in a way no other single band is even capable of. From the creepy warnings of health in intermission track “Fitter Happier,” to the potency of “Paranoid Android,” and harbinger of doom that is “Electioneering,” this record has it all. As it approaches its twentieth birthday, the band is still going strong making thought provoking music for the masses, and it doesn’t seem like it’s even close to stopping. This doesn't happen often in this world, but these five souls should be doing exactly what they’re doing, and nothing else. They were meant to gift us with transcendent music, and I for one will be listening as long as they appear willing to grace us with it.
Thanks for reading, see you Friday
What was it that was so special about the 90’s? For me, perhaps it was that this decade was when new, exciting and different forms of music entered my life. I could decide what I liked, what I didn’t and go crazy exploring all the various sounds I never knew were out there just a few years earlier. Today’s first half of the list consists of all around excellent albums, and you’ve likely heard of most of them. I tried to give a varied list of albums that cover multiple terrains, and all found unique audiences. Enjoy!
20. Massive Attack, Mezzanine, 1998
By now most ambient electronic music fans are very much aware of these Trip Hop legends, and if truth be told, its mostly because of this record. “Mezzanine” came to us during the Nu Metal years, and somehow found an audience that was more open than the typical Korn fan. The songs, and effects, blend into each other to build a slow, melty sound that radiates groove after groove. Tracks like album opener “Angel,” stubbornly find their way with slow precise beats, while “Teardrop” is a song loved far and wide, even if the band isn’t.
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, F#A#, 1998
Not for a casual music listener, but this debut album is one of the most striking and monstrously strong records of the decade. With only three songs making up the duration, you’d think it might be hard to get sucked in, but you’d be dead wrong. It’s full of dark energy, visions of dusty roads after the sun has left us, and more orchestral instrumentation than nearly all of this list combined. There’s a reason this band has been able to do what they want for years, and it’s brilliant, soul moving records like this that continue to make it possible.
18. Jeff Buckley, Grace, 1994
Such a true gift lost. That’s all I can ever think about when I listen to this record. It’s compelling, haunting, and beautiful. It’s also a fleeting moment, although there was no way to know this at the time. The guitar quietly whispering under the sweet serenade of Buckley’s voice, it’s hard not get emotional just listening to a few songs. That’s the power of this album. It had everything you could want from an sullen debut album, but sadly it’s his only one. There’s a testament to the fact that this album is still mentioned among the greatest folk rock albums ever, and every time you experience it, you get to share in a spceial moment.
17. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication, 1994
By this point, the Boys were well known, but this record throws down in a way that the other ones don’t. I always imagined this as their victory lap after the brilliance of “Check Yo Head” and “Paul’s Boutique,” and i guess in some ways you can say that, but this album brought them to gigantic audiences, and showed them tearing up stages far and wide. Let’s also not forget the juggernaut that is “Sabotage.” Song after song delivers everything from straight forward hip hop, to groove rock, to punk, and everything in between.
16. Daft Punk, Homework, 1996
How is an album nearing its twentieth birthday still light years ahead of the genre it helped to invent and popularize? Well that’s easy: It’s Daft Punk. They’ve long been gods in many many eyes, and it’s easy to see why. If you don’t, then god bless your soul. The beats are rhythmically perfect, and effects cascade from one brilliant exit to the next, and constantly there’s new arrangements to go crazy over. The two French powerhouse may have not invented electronic music, but this album, and subsequent releases have kept them miles ahead of their “contemporaries,” and I don’t expect it to stop. They just need to tour. //////△\\\\\\
15. Michael Jackson, Dangerous, 1991
At that moment in time, the “King of Pop” was without a doubt the biggest entertainer in the world. He had it all. Amazing sensibilities, a great voice that could’ve come from the heavens, and more skill than any other well known star. This album, of course, was a huge hit, and the lead single “Black or White,” was a marvel for video at the time. The music is where it’s really focused on. Many of the songs convey his brilliance and understanding of various genre’s, and if you’re a fan of MJ, you’re more than likely familiar with this massively popular record.
14. Mr. Bungle, California,1999
This is probably the least well known album on the list of twenty, but it’s a rare gem found in deserted valley. It’s alternative music for the truly alternatively inclined music listener. It has everything that makes up weird music, but Mike Patton and company are able to compound it into one wondrous train of sound. Records like this aren’t really a thing anymore, and there’s a reason for it. These types of albums have so much going on in them that many people can’t handle the back and forth and variations between tracks though.
13. Nirvana, In Utero, 1993
After a life changing album like “Nevermind,” where do you go? If you're the three members of seminal grunge band Nirvana, you make an album even heavier and in your face then your previous efforts. Cobains difficulty during this time is obviously well documented, but for me this is easily the band's best record. It showcases slower, heart felt songs, while piercing through the bullshit that they seemed to want nothing to do with. It’s an angry, fear inducing record, and to this day, it remains a severe case of what comes next. We’ll never know.
12. Beck, Odelay, 1996
Before “Odelay,” he was that one hit wonder who sang that “Loser” song, but after this miraculous record threw itself into the hemisphere, he was “Beck.” This record still blows me away with ease, and he’s still at the game of reinventing himself with each subsequent release. “Devil’s Haircut,” still swirls with sinister disco beats, while “Where It’s At” comes slowly onto you in 60’s soul then turns itself into a one man beat boxing machine. This is where the world took notice of the brilliant Mr. Hansen, and thankfully he still wants to give his gift to us.
11. Bjork, Homogenic, 1997
“Homogenic,” the 1997 album from Iceland crown jewel Bjork, wasn’t just a great album, it’s her greatest album,and the bounty of love and effects bestowed upon the listener are are wide ranging and heartfelt as her voice. “Bachelorette” is a mountain of power, while “Hunter” slowly winds its way through our subconscious This album is largely electronic, but it’s not the typical type that was prevalent during this time, but that’s maybe why it works so well. It’s like seeing a painting with familiar themes for the first time.
We’ll have part two for you Wednesday of the next week, with a different post on Monday. See you then!
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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