The nineties often get forgotten about when it comes to musical decades but a lot of damn good albums came out of those ten years. From pop and Britpop, to grunge and alternative rock, the nineties saw the world get down and dirty with music, getting experimental with sound and genres by mixing them up. They also saw contemporary country music gain popularity outside of America – a genre that’s more popular than ever now. Here the Culturefly writers reveal the top 20 albums of the nineties, as voted by you.
20. Loveless – My Bloody Valentine (1991) – Nathan Tompkins
Who: Seminal Shoegazers from Belfast, Ireland with a persistent contempt for smiling.
For Fans Of: Slowdive, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Spacemen 3
Why I Love This Album: Loveless re-wrote the possibilities of guitar and noise manipulation, dramatising that loud really could be beautiful.
Stand Out Song: To Here Knows When
Where They Are Now: After a break-up that lasted ten whole years before reformation, MBV continued to work on the follow-up to Loveless in and around 2007. The record, simply titled m b v, was finally put out early this year, making it 22 years between studio releases. M b v was met with huge critical acclaim and looks set as a definite contender for ‘Album of the Year’ from many high-profile publications.
19. Spice – Spice Girls (1996) – Amy Salter
Who: The Spice Girls were a cultural phenomenon across the globe, backed by countless merchandise, and a bloody awful pseudo-documentary movie, but a band that nonetheless crafted some infectiously good pop songs and engaged young girls in the idea of ‘girl power’.
For Fans Of: No band has yet managed to match The Spice Girls, but a few have given it a good go: Little Mix, The Saturdays… The Beatles (this might be stretching it, but the girls’ impact was certainly similar in terms of the mania they created).
Why I Love This Album: I played a Spice Girl once in my primary school play, so it’s safe to say I was a hardcore fan from the start. Spice is entertaining, boisterous, and bursting with personality, just like the band’s five members.
Stand Out Song: Wannabe
Where They Are Now: Middle-aged mums living lives of leisure with their millions, still performing occasionally together for their die-hard fans at small events, the Olympic ceremony for example.
18. Forgiven, Not Forgotten – The Corrs (1995) – Sophie Devlin
Who: Blending a classic 90’s pop sound with traditional Irish melodies, The Corrs are a group of four siblings who rose to fame thanks to their raw talent and unique sound.
For Fans Of: Clannad, Enya
Why I Love This Album: Forgiven, Not Forgotten was the band’s 1995 debut, and it set the scene for their later musical development with a balance struck between original ballads and reworkings of Irish folk songs.
Stand Out Song: The title track, Forgiven Not Forgotten.
Where They Are Now: The Corrs have been on hiatus since 2006, after becoming only the second band to hold the top two positions in the UK album chart simultaneously in 1998 and releasing a number of successful records. Andrea and Sharon Corr are now pursuing solo careers, while all four siblings have been awarded MBEs for their philanthropic work.
17. Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks (1998) – Natalie Xenos
Who: An American country band with a contemporary twist, comprising of lead singer Natalie and sisters Emily & Martie, the Dixie Chicks made country cool. Their fun attitude to performing made them an instant favourite.
For Fans Of: Shania Twain, Miranda Lambert, Sugarland
Why I Love This Album: This was the first country album I ever listened to and it solidified my love for the genre. The songs vary from lively country pop to bluesy ballads and have a timeless quality to them – it’s still one of the best country albums out there.
Stand Out Song: Wide Open Spaces is the most listened to but There’s Your Trouble stands out as perhaps the most overlooked song on the album.
Where They Are Now: Following a brief hiatus and then a 2010 tour with The Eagles, the band took some time to focus on other musical projects. They announced in August 2013 that they would be doing their first full-length tour since 2007, with a performance at the C2C festival in London in 2014.
16. The Razors Edge – AC/DC (1990) – Jason Noble
Who: Hard rock behemoths AC/DC, famed for their classic early ‘80s albums returned after several years of sub-par albums with their strongest album since Back In Black.
For Fans Of: Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses and just about any rock band.
Why I Love This Album: It features tunes that rank as some of the best in their canon.
Stand Out Song: The opening Thunderstruck with its badass intro lick and monumental guitar solos is still a staple of their live set today.
Where They Are Now: The band are now one of the biggest bands around selling out arenas and stadiums the world over but after a lengthy comeback tour are enjoying some down time.
15. Dizzy Up The Girl – Goo Goo Dolls (1998) – Natalie Xenos
Who: An American rock-band formed all the way back in 1985, the Goo Goo Dolls have enjoyed commercial success with a number of singles and albums, though they’re probably best known for their 1998 single, Iris. They’ve sold more than 10 million albums worldwide.
For Fans Of: Lifehouse, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, Train, Counting Crows
Why I Love This Album: Having introduced me to American rock at a tender age, the Goo Goo Dolls have always had a knack for making a really good album and Dizzy Up The Girl features many of the band’s best songs. Providing enough variety so that it never gets dull, DUTG has that perfect balance between driving rock and slow, softer tracks.
Stand Out Song: The upbeat treat that is Slide.
Where They Are Now: This is one band that seem as if they’ll be around forever, not always at the forefront of rock music but constantly in the background. They released their tenth studio album in June 2013.
14. Odelay – Beck (1996) – Kane Basterrechea
Who: Genre-hopping musical magpie and slacker icon.
For Fans Of: The Beastie Boys, The Flaming Lips, DJ Shadow
Why I Love This Album: Beck sounds effortlessly cool as he lazily raps and rocks his way through this uniquely eccentric record.
Stand Out Song: The shambolic Where It’s At.
Where They Are Now: Keeping busy with production duties, soundtracks and side projects though it’s been 5 years since his last proper album.
13. S Club – S Club 7 (1999) – Sophie Devlin
Who: The UK music scene in the 1990’s was characterised in part by a new wave of manufactured groups creating accessible pop music for a pre-teen demographic. Of these bands, one of the most popular was S Club 7, who between 1998 and 2003 released four albums and starred as themselves in a successful TV show and even a film, Seeing Double.
For Fans Of: Steps, the Spice Girls, B*Witched, Boyzone, Westlife
Why I Love This Album: The band’s debut, S Club, was one of the first albums I ever owned, and its particular brand of catchy bubblegum pop still makes me nostalgic for my childhood.
Stand Out Song: The lead single, Bring It All Back, is still a feel-good staple for S Club fans, most of whom are now in their early 20s.
Where They Are Now: The band split in 2003 after Paul Cattermole’s departure the previous year. Since then, he’s toured briefly with Bradley McIntosh and Jo O’Meara, while Rachel Stevens and Tina Barrett went solo and Hannah Spearrit and Jon Lee pursued acting careers.
12. Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins (1993) – Nathan Tompkins
Who: You know nothing of the Smashing Pumpkins, no? Well then who are you? Ahem… popular grunge band most successful in the heydays of commercial alt rock. This, their second full-length studio release is by many considered their true magnum opus, and by all, certainly their breakthrough record.
For Fans Of: Jane’s Addiction, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Silversun Pickups
Why I Love This Album: How every wailing, tonic cluster of extreme distortion is so perfectly wielded – the solos, every shimmering harmonic, the key and intensity of the feedback from the guitars; With that in mind Corgan knew exactly how he was going to use the benefit of layering to convey the mood and emotion of its songs in the studio, many way before recording even began.
Stand Out Song: In terms of commercial appeal and, well, its success as a radio hit many would claim Today as the most worthy of the title. However let’s face it for anybody who really knows this album Soma is the real heavyweight in the line-up (See 4:28 if you seek an immediate reason).
Where They Are Now: Still kicking around under the Smashing Pumpkins name, releasing LP number nine Oceania in the latter half of 2012. I use the term “still kicking…” loosely. Billy Corgan is the only original member remaining, and whilst being the bands’ founder and lead songwriter continues to serve his reputation well, not so much can be said about the reputation of the Smashing Pumpkins name, which unfortunately has started to dwindle with later releases.
11. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette (1995) – Amy Salter
Who: Canadian 90’s girl Alanis Morissette was a quirky, otherworldly oddity who gave us all a lesson in irony, walked a city naked in a music video, and played God in a Kevin Smith movie.
For Fans Of: Any acoustic, eccentric singers today (think if Birdy and Lorde did a mash-up) – Sarah McLachlan/Fiona Apple/ Regina Spektor/No Doubt’s early albums.
Why I Love This Album: Jagged Little Pill was an awesome album; catchy, fun, but inventively angsty – far removed from the majority of female pop acts today: a proto-hipster who successfully avoided the inevitable cultural backlash.
Stand Out Song: You Oughta Know
Where They Are Now: Although never reaching the same influential cultural heights as Jagged Little Pill, Morissette continues to create music and tour, having released her 8th album in late 2012.
10. OK Computer – Radiohead (1997) – Sushmita Paija Pun
Who: A band of 5 who have led the world by storm with their unique musical style which may be described as alternative rock with essences of experimental rock.
For Fans Of: Pink Floyd and Muse
Why I Love This Album: It gives off a hauntingly honest sound that feels so satisfying to listen to.
Stand Out Song: Airbag
Where They Are Now: Radiohead is still alive and rumour has it that the 9th studio album is planned for spring 2014.
9. Mezzanine – Massive Attack (1998) – Kane Basterrechea
Who: Gloomy Bristol-based trip hoppers.
For Fans Of: Portishead, Tricky, The Knife
Why I Love This Album: It’s just so dark and packed with mesmerising grooves.
Stand Out Song: The beautiful Teardrop.
Where They Are Now: Still around although they’ve only released 2 albums since.
8. Unchained – Johnny Cash (1996) – Jason Noble
Who: The second in his ‘American Series’ saw country legend Johnny Cash team up once again with Rick Rubin (and backed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) for a set of fun, stripped back covers and re-recordings of his finest work.
For Fans Of: Dylan and Neil Young
Why I Love This Album: It showed just why Cash was revered so much in his career, but was the last truly upbeat album he recorded before his death in 2003.
Stand Out Song: I’ve Been Everywhere
Where They Are Now: Having died in 2003, Cash is ranked alongside the all-time greats as a pioneer of country music, with the last of his American albums having been released posthumously 3 years ago.
7. The Bends – Radiohead 1995) – Kane Basterrechea
Who: The kings of introspective alternative rock.
For Fans Of: Coldplay, Jeff Buckley, Arcade Fire
Why I Love This Album: No-one does arena-sized sensitivity quite like Radiohead but here they balance the ballads with face-shredding rockers.
Stand Out Song: The haunting finale Street Spirit (Fade Out).
Where They Are Now: Still one of the biggest bands on the planet, despite repeatedly wrong-footing their fans with increasingly abstract material.
6. Parklife – Blur (1994) – Natalie Xenos
Who: An English alt-rock band from London, who helped make the Britpop genre popular to the mass market.
For Fans Of: Pulp and The Charlatans.
Why I Love This Album: After the disappointment of their previous album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife came as a breath of fresh air to UK listeners. It sounds like the definitive alt-rock album of the 90’s, with it’s Cool Britannia feel.
Stand Out Song: Without a doubt the title track, Parklife. Everyone knows it.
Where They Are Now: Still on fine form today, Blur received a Brit award in 2012 for Outstanding Contribution to Music and they headlined a show at Hyde Park for the Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony. 2013 has seen them headline numerous festivals and no doubt 2014 will too.
5. Ten – Pearl Jam (1991) – Sushmita Paija Pun
Who: Pearl Jam is an American band that exudes excellence and relative consistency in their music, which is a blend of grunge and alternative rock.
For Fans Of: Candlebox, Neil Young, Stone Temple.
Why I Love This Album: Every song on the album is another reason for the band to put out a certain emotion, story or event.
Stand Out Song: Alive
Where They Are Now: The illuminating talent of Pearl Jam has not been put to waste as they’ve continued touring and as we speak are on their Lightning Bolt tour. It has recently been announced that Pearl Jam are headlining Big Day Out 2014.
4. Grace – Jeff Buckley (1994) – Kim Evans
Who: A sensitive, soulful singer whose talent was cut short far too early.
For Fans Of: Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Ryan Adams
Why I Love This Album: If you’re only going to make one album in your life, it might as well be as good as this. While Buckley’s own songwriting is strong, as wide ranging in style and influence as any musician would hope to achieve over decades of album making, what really stands out is the sensitivity and depth he gives the songs he covers on this album, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Nina Simone’s Lilac Wine.
Stand Out Song: Lilac Wine
Where They Are Now: Sadly, long dead after accidentally drowning in the Wolf River Harbour in Memphis, aged 30.
3. Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991) – Jason Noble
Who: The 90’s hardest rocking p-funk band Red Hot Chili Peppers hit their peak with Blood Sugar Sex Magik a record full of face-gurning funk licks and sweltering bass lines wrapped up in an orgy of charismatic cool which saw the Chilis hit the big time.
For Fans Of: The Meters and Parliament-Funkadelic
Why I Love This Album: Blood Sugar was a record where they honed the jams into chart busting rock tunes in the face of emerging grunge artists.
Stand Out Song: Under the Bridge and Give It Away.
Where They Are Now: This record launched the RHCP careers for life and they haven’t had a better album since. They still continue to be one of the most adored bands around.
2. Nevermind – Nirvana (1991) – Amy Salter
Who: The band that didn’t just define the 90’s, or alternative rock, but defined a generation, and will be remembered for this frank, raw, and seminal album.
For Fans Of: Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, the insolence of The Sex Pistols and the mellower work of Pixies.
Why I Love This Album: It’s challenging, game-changing music that still sparks with you upon listening to it today, with vocals that can be quiet, barely audible like drowning, as well as powerful, haunting and loud.
Stand Out Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Where They Are Now: Lead singer Kurt Cobain died young but shall be forever immortalised by his music, whilst Dave Grohl has forged an eclectic career for himself post-Nirvana, being the drummer for Queens of the Stone Age and lead singer for Foo Fighters, amongst other projects.
1. What’s The Story Morning Glory – Oasis (1995) – Kim Evans
Who: Arsey Northern brothers that managed to redefine British music.
For Fans Of: Stereophonics, Ride, The Beatles, Supergrass
Why I Love This Album: A more mature record than Definitely Maybe in terms of songwriting and musicality and it’s the home of all busker’s favourite, Wonderwall.
Stand Out Song: Some Might Say
Where They Are Now: Sibling rivalry is being stretched to the limit, with Noel and his High Flying Birds soaring above Liam’s Beady Eye, who sadly can only reach the level of a poor man’s John Lennon solo album.