Favorite Albums of the 1990s

  1. 1.
    Until the End of the World - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1991)
    The best motion picture soundtrack album ever released. It's the definitive musical document of its time.
  2. 2.
    XTC - Apple Venus, Vol. 1 (1999)
    Together with its follow up volume Wasp Star (2000). completes an astonishing 23-year creative arc. Perfection.
  3. 3.
    Drink Me - Drink Me (1992)
    Drink Me was a band whose pleasures at first seem almost too modest for revisitation. Yet, almost twenty years after discovering them, I'm still listening to 'em, perennial comfort food that never grows stale. A band out of time, lyrically and musically undatable -- they marry sophisticated wordplay with a Depression-era porch music sound (and they never seem less than wholly sincere) -- it's unsurprising they didn't find an audience.
  4. 4.
    Suede - Dog Man Star (1994)
    Though Suede are closely linked to the 90s glam revival and Britpop scene, their early work (prior to the departure of guitarist Bernard Butler) is closer in feel (for me) to the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s -- conveying the ache of longing against a chilly, impersonal industrialized backdrop. This, their only truly great album, broods in the best way. This music is, for the lack of a tonier word, sexy.
  5. 5.
    Richard Davies - There's Never Been a Crowd Like This (1996)
  6. 6.
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads (1996)
  7. 7.
    Drink Me - Sleep (1995)
  8. 8.
    Crime & the City Solution - Paradise Discotheque (1990)
  9. 9.
    XTC - Nonsuch (1991)
  10. 10.
    Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas (1990)
  11. 11.
    The Sugarplastic - Bang, the Earth is Round (1996)
    I picked this up in a used CD store in the late 90s, for 75¢. It was languishing in a milk crate beneath the official bargain bin, along with the other rejects the shop owners had given up on. I was determined to make at least one blind buy, and the album art sold me. I can't explain why it was such a slow grower, but it's remained a go-to for at least a decade.
  12. 12.
    Broadcast - Work and Non Work (1997)
    Not a proper album, but rather anthology of the EPs released by Broadcast up to this point -- this was my introduction to them. Moody; evokes 60s futurism more assuredly than any other release that comes to mind.
  13. 13.
    Tom Waits - Bone Machine (1992)
  14. 14.
    Sam Phillips - Omnipop (It's Only a Flesh Wound Lambchop) (1996)
  15. 15.
    Future Bible Heroes - Memories of Love (1997)
  16. 16.
    Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)
  17. 17.
    Pram - Sargasso Sea (1995)
    I feel like the band's 1998 album 'North Pole Radio Station' could just as well have leased a spot on this list. I default to 'Sargasso Sea' because it was the first Pram LP I acquired, and it's the one that's remained the freshest sounding over countless listens.
  18. 18.
    Julee Cruise - The Voice of Love (1993)
  19. 19.
    The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990)
  20. 20.
    Piano Magic - Low Birth Weight (1999)
  21. 21.
    The Divine Comedy - Casanova (1996)
  22. 22.
    U2 - Zooropa (1993)
  23. 23.
    Baby Bird - Ugly Beautiful (1996)
  24. 24.
    Pram - Helium (1994)
  25. 25.
    The Mekons - I ❤️ Mekons (1993)
  26. 26.
    Irmin Schmidt - Impossible Holidays (1991)
    The solo output of Can's various members is as good as the output of the band itself, and often more fun.
  27. 27.
    Barry Adamson - Oedipus Schmoedipus (1996)
  28. 28.
    Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart (1994)
  29. 29.
    The Parachute Men - Earth, Dogs & Eggshells (1990)
  30. 30.
    Pixies - Trompe le Monde (1991)
  31. 31.
    They Might Be Giants - Flood (1990)
  32. 32.
    The Auteurs - Now I'm a Cowboy (1994)
  33. 33.
    The Pogues - Hell's Ditch (1990)
    Shane MacGowan was pretty fucked up throughout most of these sessions, but I think that works to their advantage.
  34. 34.
    Swans - Love of Life (1992)
  35. 35.
    Zap Mama - Adventures in Afropea (1993)
  36. 36.
    Shiny Gnomes - Orange (1993)
    There's a kind of urgency that seems specific to some music from circa the late 80s through the mid-1990s -- which probably reflects (or at least in my imagination it does) a global culture in rapid transition. Even the excellent prior output from this little-known German band does little to suggest the degree to which that urgency would be evident throughout this rousing and beautiful record.
  37. 37.
    Momus - The Philosophy of Momus (1995)
  38. 38.
    Komeda - What Makes it Go? (1995)
  39. 39.
    Tricky - Maxinquaye (1995)
  40. 40.
    Concrete Blonde - Bloodletting (1990)
  41. 41.
    The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs (1999)
  42. 42.
    Pram - The Stars Are So Big, the Earth is So Small... Stay As You Are (1993)
  43. 43.
    Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)
  44. 44.
    Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - The Good Son (1990)
  45. 45.
    My Favorite - Love at Absolute Zero (1999)
  46. 46.
    R.E.M - Automatic for the People (1992)
  47. 47.
    Dead Can Dance - Into the Labyrinth (1993)
  48. 48.
    The Heads - No Talking, Just Head (1996)
    One of the most unjustly maligned albums perhaps ever. Yes, it's not perfect, and there's a track or two I always skip, but perhaps the failing of most reviewers was the expectation of another Talking Heads record. This is best approached as a compilation, or as a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist. Recontextualized in that way, it's really quite good.
  49. 49.
    Brian Eno - Nerve Net (1992)
  50. 50.
    Geneva - Further (1997)
    This release hasn't aged super well, but its personal significance to me keeps it circulation -- more so in memory than on my turntable.