Best Albums of the 90's

Tags: 
  1. 9.5/10
  2. In the Aeroplane Over The Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

  3. 9/10
  4. Twin Infinitives-Royal Trux (1990)
  5. Seeds, Visions & Counterpoint-Ivo Perelman (1996)
  6. Lullaby Land-Vampire Rodents (1993)
  7. Slow, Deep & Hard-Type O Negative (1991)
  8. Spiderland-Slint (1991)
  9. Fontanelle-Babes In Toyland (1992)
  10. Even the Sounds Shine-Myra Melford (1994)
  11. Yerself Is Steam-Mercury Rev (1991)

  12. 8.5/10
  13. The Downward Spiral-Nine Inch Nails (1994)
  14. Loveless-My Bloody Valentine (1991)
  15. Well Oiled-Hash Jar Tempo (1997)
  16. Geek the Girl-Lisa Germano (1994)
  17. Laughing Stock - Talk Talk (1991)
  18. Cantos I-IV-Franz Koglmann (1992)
  19. The Good Son-Nick Cave (1990)
  20. Good-Morphine (1992)
  21. Remnants of a Deeper Purity-Black Tape For A Blue Girl (1996)
  22. Cosmic Interception-Von Lmo (1994)
  23. Spiritual Unity-Albert Ayler (1964)
  24. A Picture of Nectar-Phish (1992)

  25. 8/10
  26. Vision Created Newsun - Boredoms (1999)
  27. Perfect From Now On-Built To Spill (1997)
  28. Art & Aviation-Jane Ira Bloom (1992)
  29. Mother of all Saints-Thinking Fellers Union (1992)
  30. Consumer Revolt-Cop Shoot Cop (1990)
  31. Repeater-Fugazi (1991)
  32. Goat-Jesus Lizard (1991)
  33. Boces - Mercury Rev (1993)
  34. Love Poke Here - Ed Hall (1990)
  35. Delete Yourself - Atari Teenage Riot (1995)
  36. Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain-Dogbowl (1991)
  37. Dummy-Portishead (1994)
  38. Millions Now Living Will Never Die-Tortoise (1996)
  39. Mundus Subterraneus-Lightwave (1995)
  40. Bricolage-Amon Tobin (1997)
  41. At Action Park - Shellac (1994)
  42. If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian (1996)
  43. Yes-Morphine (1995)
Author Comments: 

My criteria is basically: how emotionally powerful and/or compelling I consider the album to be from start to finish. By "emotionally" I mean any emotion/experience, from apathy to grief to anger to enthusiasm to spiritual enlightenment -- any emotional content. The rating is the degree in which I felt it was expressed powerfully/compellingly. For the overall rating, all songs/tracks are considered as a whole, for their cumulative impact (or lack thereof).

RATINGS SCALE:

5.0 - AVERAGE
6.0 - GOOD
7.0 - VERY GOOD
7.5 - AMAZING
8.0 - EXTRAORDINARILY AMAZING
8.5 - ASTONISHING
9.0 - ALL TIME MASTERPIECE
9.5 - SUPREME MASTERPIECE
10 - IMPOSSIBLE?

I try to consider my ratings carefully. The ratings are given relative to the greatest works of art in the history of mankind. I am comparing the works to an ideal. For instance, if I am claiming an album is a masterpiece or supreme masterpiece, I am claiming it is a singular, utterly extraordinary achievement in the history of art, as incredible as Beethoven's greatest works, not just a "collection of consistently good songs".

What do you think of Twin Infinitives? I see that it is missing from this list entirely.

I've only heard portions of it, so right now I can't give a definite answer to your question. What I heard was chaos. Almost unlistenable. But it's wierd, I now have no where else to turn but that music. All of a sudden, a few days ago, I desired the sound of Twin Infinitives to an almost insatiable degree. Everything I hear now from an 8.5/10 challenge rating down is easy (see my "greatest albums of all time" list for an explanation of "challenge ratings"). A challenge rating of a 9.0/10 still offers some work. Not to say that I need an album to be challenging to love it, (see In the Aeroplane Over the Sea), but I am totally ready to tackle Royal Trux's swelling monster-piece, so I really can't wait to hear it in full.

What do you think of it?

Lol. I sort of consider it a personal accomplishment of mine that I liked it after 2 listens. What your describing sort of happened to me too. I listened to it once, (well, only the first track. I couldn't make it any farther) and then I put it aside for a while, but I had the strange urge to listen to it again. It was way better the 2nd time, and it kept getting better and better after that. To me, it has the strange effect of making almost all other music sound forced and ungenuine (not sure if thats a word) when I listen to it. I would advise you to listen to it while you are doing something else, because it takes at least one go through to even begin to get acclimated to it. The first track, however, is the most challenging one I think, and really makes it hard to listen to the first time, because you can't even get through the first track. It does contain some of the best songs on the album though. (Solid Gold Tooth, RTX-USA, Kool Down Wheels) Just try to be patient with it, it is extremely rewarding in the end. I would rate it even higher than Scaruffi does. In fact, it is probably one of my favorite albums of all time. If you have any questions or problems with it, please ask me.

I will look for you if I have any trouble, but given my intense desire to tackle it now, I doubt if I'll fall on my face. I think I'm in the right mindset to unearth its genius.

I ordered it a couple days ago. Not sure when I'll be getting it, but I will let you know what I think of it as soon as I can.

I'd be really interested to see some lists/artciles/polls by you. Any plans?

Nice! Great to see that you loved it. The world needs more people that enjoy Twin Infinitives. :) I'm guessing you've just heard it once so far since getting it? If so, it will probably be even better with more listens. I think will eventually you will move it up even higher, maybe even past Black Saint, or, possibly, Trout Mask Replica. I would love to hear your interpretation of the album, to me it is one that is open to many. I have a lot more to say about it than I said in the message above, but I wasn't exactly in a good state to remember things at the time.:)

That's correct, just once. I was fortunate to have tackled the majority of Scaruffi's jazz and rock masterpieces prior to experiencing Twin Infinitives, making it far more accessible for me than your everday music listener. I loved it enormously from start to finish. I've rarely been so profoundly affected by an album upon the first listen as I was with this. It very well could move upwards on my list. But, it has a tough haul ahead of it if it's going to jump VU & Nico and on into the 9.4's.

I actually listened to Twin before many other albums on this list, especially the jazz ones, so for you it probably won't improve as much as it did for me with more listens. Maybe I just have a special personal affection for the album, sort of like it seems you have with Astral Weeks.

Yea, Astral Weeks is a very personal album for me. It was #1 on my list for years. It wasn't until about 9 months ago that A Love Supreme finally dethroned it. Then came Rock Bottom and Faust. I wouldn't be surprised if Trout Mask Replica eventually does the same since it's still improving every time I listen to it. Black Saint is a wild card. It's been as high as #2. I go back and forth with myself on its ultimate greatness. But it won't ever drop below 9.4 range. It's clearly the 2nd best jazz album. I wouldn't be surprised if it and TMR jumped Astral Weeks eventually. Looking at each from as un-biased a perspective as possible, I can tell they both have the chops to do it; I just refuse to actually make the move until I actually feel that way.

As for Twin Infinitives, it has a solid shot at advancing. I'll listen to it more and see what I think. I really can't wait to hear it again and I'm sure I'll be listening to it non-stop for awhile. It's the best "new" album I've heard in a long time.

The problem for any album moving up in the top 10 (now only 9.3's and up) is that it's extremely congested, and all the albums are SO incredible that moving one up takes a bit of convincing between me, myself and I. When an album appears to be better than the one ahead of it, I want to be sure my feelings aren't just a flash in the pan before making it official and posting it on my list here on listology.

By the way, that was pretty courageous of you, going for Twin Infinitives so early. It's probably the most challenging masterpiece ever made: rock, jazz, and classical.

Thanks for this very interesting list. I'm trying to be less of an old fogey and catch up with so many things; i've missed out on so much (and also been so disappointed/disenchanted with lots of famous, recommended and chart stuff over the years, i virtually gave up on music completely.) Last month, I almost bought In the Aereoplane over the Sea unheard from Amazon, lured by the cover, concept and comments, then was deterred by hearing snatches, but will give it another go, presume it may be an acquired taste?

I loved Aeroplane from the first note, the first time I heard it. As a matter of fact, if I rated my "greatest albums of all time" according to how I felt about them after just one listen and no further listens, Aeroplane would come in #1. No album affected me so much so instanteously. So, to me, it wasn't an acquired taste at all. But for some it is. Jeff Mangum sings with a forcefulness and style similar (but superior/more emotional) to a young, reckless Bob Dylan. He doesn't really care much about clarity or hitting just the right note. He strives for emotion. He's kind of like a male Joanna Newsom in that respect. In certain ways I think Ys is an answer to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, not so much instrumentally or structurally, but more in terms of emotional conviction and the magical way both artists employ their lyrical ambitions. It may or may not take a couple listens, but stick with it whether it instantaneously grabs you or not and I think Aeroplane is a sure bet to become one of your favorites.

I think the problem was the short amazon samples, certainly not the best way to judge! I'll get it then. My wife can't bear Newsom's voice, by the way.

Better use headphones then! She could be in for a rude awakening with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea!

Please update me when you hear it a few times. Good luck!

there can't be a best of 90s with one mention of oasis..surely!

While I understand your enthusiasm for Oasis, I'm personally not a fan. Like the Beatles, they were quite good at crafting memorable melodic tunes, but I don't find their music to hold as much depth or to be nearly as profound as what I've posted on this list.

I would highly suggest you try In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (#3 above) if you want an example of a how emotionally profound a pop album would have to be to get onto this list.

thats fair enough, though i think, especially their lighter stuff, can be genius.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea- Neutral Milk Hotel is an album i keep hearing about, i've been meaning to check it out for a while, i'll try to get copy of it and report back with my thoughts

Great, I'll be very interested to see what you think!

You could try...

Biosphere - Substrata [1997]

It's an ambient album, and for me possibly the best of that genre out there, tied with Irrlicht, though the albums differ greatly in their content. It is a peaceful, melancholy group of tracks that beautifully flow together. I think you'd give it at least an 8.5, but we'll see.
I'm not sure how easily accessible it is, but if you really can't get hold of it you could always try using a torrent or I could send it via email or msn or whatever's easiest.

Sounds superb. I should check it out, but in due time. I am currently up to my ears in music and film, especially with my sudden renewed dedication towards classical. I'll get to it though, just can't say when.

I understand it'll be hard to find and get hold of if you're busy, but when you do get around to it I think you'll really like their best album (Shenzou, 2002) too so you might want to check that out. It's a blend of classical with deep ambient washes, done in an almost glitchy way, it's fascinating, I've never heard anything like it.

Sounds interesting. Thanks man! I will absolutely get around to those in due time.

Hi there,

by reading up on "Shit and Shine", i stumbled upon the following band, the Strangulated Beatoffs.

The main track from there 1998 album is this
http://www.last.fm/music/Strangulated+Beatoffs/Strangulated+Beatoffs/Dre...

You can alos listen to the whole album on last.fm (free account required)

Cool! It sounds really weird, and by looking at their discography they seem to emulate a modern Frank Zappa/Shit n Shine penis fetish haha. That song on that page is really addictive, which album is that off?

Only one eight?

Until I remember and recover the 7.9's and 7.8's I dropped off a couple months ago. They would round up now to 8's. Also, there's a good number of 90's 8's I haven't heard yet. That decade produced a slew of them.

Have you ever heard OK Computer by Radiohead because i donts see it on your list.

Of course. Great album though.

you dont think its worthy for top 10? i have it in my top 10 of the 90's. I no everyone has their own opinions but I would like to know why it couldn't make your top 20? Thanks

I'd give it a 7/10, maybe a 7.5. For me, it's a masterful piece of production but, aside from Paranoid Android there isn't anything on there to really compare in content to what I've chosen. Twin Infinitives is 10 times more mind-blowing and original. Geek the Girl is 10 times more personal and riveting. Lullaby Land is 10 times more astounding in its' pyrotechnics. Well Oiled is 10 times more overwhelming and awe-inspiring...etc, etc, etc.

Thanks alot!

I see the downward spiral moved here. I think it's like a worse version of Cyberia by Cubanate and Lullaby Land by The Vampire Rodents. I may move it from my top rock albums list.

How come you moved it up, any experience/part of the album stand out for ya?

I see the downward spiral moved here. I think it's like a worse version of Cyberia by Cubanate and Lullaby Land by The Vampire Rodents. I may move it from my top rock albums list.

I suppose there are some parallels. For me Lullaby Land is more like a shapeshifting circus-like gallery of cartoonish freaks and nightmares. Downward Spiral is a much more personal odyssey, and for that, it has an entirely different type of emotional significance. Lullaby Land gains in accumulated power due mostly to the astounding, nearly unparalleled execution of its expansion of content. Downward Spiral, while no slouch in that department itself, does it more from the angle of extreme, awe-inspiring personal conviction. It is masterful in many ways, all the way through to its conclusion, but reaches its absolute emotional peak during the series of tracks 8 through 11 where the protagonist becomes immersed in total catharsis of the deepest recesses of his soul, screaming so loud and rhythms pounding so harshly that he seems to enter a state of unforgiving, relentless purge and exorcism. Combined with the heartbreaking beauty of "A Warm Place" the work reaches a supernatural level of overwhelm and thoroughly devastating atonement. The aftermath is felt in the tentative, exhausted ambience of Hurt.

What's your opinion on Hip-Hop from the early 90's? There's some really good albums from that period. I highly suggest Illmatic by Nas. It's Hip-Hop's masterpeice and it's one of the greatest album length lyric performences I've heard.

I'm not much of a fan of hip hop but this is only because I've never found an album in the genre that was even close to a 9/10. Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation... is the closest and that was a 7.5/10 to me, Eminem's first 2 albums are superb, The Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique is a 7 or possibly 7.5/10. OutKast has some great stuff as well. I've heard lots of hip hop from the 90's, though little of it bowled me over. I like The Chronic by Dr Dre and some Snoop Doggy Dogg as well. There are miscellaneous others: 2Pac and Notorious BIG aren't bad. I like Cloudead from this decade (though haven't heard a full album of theirs yet). I've heard various songs by Nas. I don't remember thinking any of them were masterpieces though, but I'm sure somewhere along the line I'll get a listen of the entirety of Illmatic. I have friends who love hip hop so it's not hard to get ahold of. Thanks.

i dont think hip-hop has produced a widely accepted 9/10 album.

but i guess clouddead will you give you the most pleasure. also the debut of the wu-tang clan is very densely arranged and worth a listen.

i also really like some of the el-p productions, particularly, Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein.

also worth mentioning here is Dalek.Clouddead and Dalek are probably closest to creating a truly unique musical language, though not quite there yet.

dont get me wrong, i suppose there is a way for the wider hip-hop aesthetic (for lack of a better word) to produce a 9/10. i just think that a conceptually thick album that gives weight to both the lyrics AND the music was not yet really on the mind of anybody yet.

Yep, it's possible. A 9/10 could be done but it would have to be way way more significant than anything else in the genre I've heard. I think it would have to be intensely personal with a vocal performance that is very theatrical, as if torn from real life. The album could come across as the sound of street life, an audio-documentary, but not just snippets. The documentary would literally be unfolding while the rap performance was occuring and the vocal performance would play out theatrically, free form, as the bullets were flying, as the flesh was tearing, as the blood was pouring, as the bodies were piling up, with terrified screams and police sirens and men and women crying, dogs barking, footsteps, screeching tires, smoke billowing--all of these things would sound real, happening real-time. Something like that. That could be a masterpiece.

The dude above has the right idea -- check out some of the heavy hitters in the Definitive Jux catalog. You want personal, check out he two El-P full-lengths. They are, IMO, unassailable. Also, Absence by Dalek or Audition by P.O.S. might be your thing.

i dont know if you listen to hip hop but you should listen to Illmatic by Nas.

sorry didnt read above

great hip hop albums you should listen to

nas- illmatic (the greatest)
Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full
Big L - Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Black Moon - Enta da Stage
Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded
Common - Resurrection
Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing.....
Heltah Skeltah - Noturnal
Dr. Octagon - Dr. Octagonecologyst
GZA / Genius - Liquid Swords
Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt
Jedi Mind Tricks - Violent by Design
Jeru the Damaja - The Sun Rises in the East
Madvillain - Madvillainy
Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer
MF DOOM - Operation: Doomsday
Mobb Deep - The Infamous...
Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
O.C. - Word...Life
The Pharcyde - Labcabincalifornia
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
Redman - Muddy Waters
Royce da 5'9" - Death Is Certain
Smif-N-Wessun - Dah Shinin'
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

and i can keep going ... these are really great hip hop albums, if your interested. i listen to alot of hip hop!

Wow, you do listen to a lot of hip hop!

yea these are just some great albums

Co-sign on all those albums that Instrumental named, but if you're gonna listen to just one...Illmatic all the way. Quite possibly the greatest hip hop album of all time, both musically and lyrically. Nas has made quite a bit of quality material since then, but nothing else of his has ever (and probably never will) match the intensity of Illmatic.

Interestingly enough, one of the best verses (maybe even THE best verse) on the album isn't even by Nas, but by guest emcee AZ on "Life's A Bitch" (the only guest appearance on the album). AZ's verse is often dubbed by fans as the greatest verse in hip hop period. They might be right.

Thanks! I'll look into it.

Have you heard Excerpts From a Love Circus by Lisa Germano? The next album after Geek the Girl, quite possibly an 8.

Yes, it's amazing. My last rating of it was 7.5/10, but 8 is certainly not out of the question.

Hey, I know you're busy with other things these days, but have you heard Hex by Bark Psychosis? It's Scaruffi 8 and one of the best I've heard from the 90s. Also, Niandre Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt by John Frusciante is surprisingly good.

Yep you were right I was and still am very busy...haven't heard those though but they seem like they'd be really great

The only 9/10 i can think of from the 90´s are Spiderland and Millions now living will never die. MNLWND is still 14 years later the most advanced rock album i know of. I feel Scaruffi´s 9/10 from the 90´s are some of his most overrated 9/10.

How do you define advanced? Where does 2nd era Autechre fit into your definition of it?

Advanced... like the best example of how far rock music has evolved since Chuck Berry.

I don´t look at Authecre as a rock band

Yea, Millions is amazing...Spiderland is indeed a masterpiece...I suppose your definition of advanced may be different than mine but I find Faust's debut is much more advanced than Millions, though I would say Millions is among the most advanced of the last 2 decades

Faust´s debut is of course amazing album... maybe my favourite krautrock album after Tago mago.

I'm gonna leave this here http://www.reddit.com/tb/l19of

Jeff Mangum playing live on Wall Street yesterday..

Wow thanks! That is amazing that he'd just show up there and play like that! His performance sheds light on how little studio touch-ups/editing were applied to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

LOL Reading the discussion above, I guess I wasn't the only one who asked about hip-hop.

Hey, anyway, I think Twin Infinitives is a solid choice for #1, it's certainly my fave too. It was great seeing Loveless, Lullaby Land, Spiderland and The Downward Spiral up there too.

Anyway, regarding hip-hop, one underrated hip-hop album (it's even slightly underrated by Scaruffi) is Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde by The Pharcyde. It's really great.

Also, have you listened to some Pakistani music? Not the qawwali stuff, though I find some of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's albums are pretty good, but you know, like modern rock? Example: Junoon, a rock band that also incorporates eastern elements in their music of course. Azadi is a great album by them. I'd suggest you listen to some of their stuff on Youtube. You could start with Sayonee, which is the most popular track, and also one of their best?

Also, what is your opinion on Nirvana and Green Day? Which albums of theirs were great, how would rate those albums, did they deserve the hype and all, etc.

What about 1990 by Daniel Johnston?

Or Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized?

Or Stereolab's masterpieces?

Or Music Has the Right to Children by Boards of Canada?

Or Aphex Twin's two albums Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Volume II?

Or Bob Dylan's third best album Time Out of Mind?

The Pharcyde album sounds interesting. I don't think I've heard any of the Pakistani music you're mentioning.

Re: Green Day... Dookie is their best (7, maybe 7.5), American Idiot, Kerplunk are good too.

Re: Nirvana... Nevermind and In Utero are both 7/10, each possibly 7.5 - not sure which one I favor - it alternates... Bleach is quite good too (6.5, nearly 7/10).

Re: deserving of hype... well, I don't think either are two of the greatest bands ever, but they're much more deserving than many other best sellers.

Haven't heard 1990, or either of those Aphex Twin albums in their entirety, and I also haven't heard an entire Stereolab album. Music Has a Right to Children (6.5), Ladies & Gentlemen (probably 7/10), Time Out of Mind (probably 6.5-7) are all quite good.

I've tried, but I still can't see the appeal in Vampire Rodents. Why place them so high on your list?

Its constantly shape-shifting compositional structures and emotions, and the overall scope of it, are the main reasons. If you listen attentively enough and actively observe/follow/note each shift as it is happening (or try your best to - many times it goes so quickly from one to the next...), it might come around for you. If you're already doing that, it could come around for you after a few more times.