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 published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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