40. WEEZER- PINKERTON (1996)
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 “Pink Triangle”
39. WILCO- BEING THERE (1996)
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”
38. THE PIXIES- BOSSANOVA (1990)
“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”.
37. DR. DRE- THE CHRONIC (1992)
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.
36. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.- READY TO DIE (1994)
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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
35. MASSIVE ATTACK- BLUE LINES (1991)
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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.
34. FUGAZI- REPEATER (1990)
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“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”
33. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS (1993)
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.
32. BUILT TO SPILL- KEEP IT LIKE A SECRET (1999)
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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”
31. NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL- IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA (1998)
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”