January 6, 2006

Essential 90's Albums/New Year's Resolution

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 6, 2006 3:54 PM

I'm sure we're all suffering from best-of fatigue by now, and there was certainly no shortage of end-of-year music threads on this blog. Nevertheless, here's a start-of-year music thread related to a New Year's resolution of mine. I recently sorted my iTunes library by year and discovered that there's a serious shortage of music before about 2000. This is unsurprising, since outside of a few specialized genres I only very recently started seriously collecting music. So, I'd like to fill in some of the earlier eras. Rather than taking on all of the music written in the twentieth century (I'm in pretty good shape for music from before 1900) I decided to go by decades, starting with the most recent. Hence, a New Year's resolution: Collect more music that was originally released in 1990-1999. You know, the stuff I would have been listening to in high school, had I been paying attention. The trouble is, I wasn't, so I'll need some recommendations.

So what were the essential albums of the 90's? By "essential" I don't just mean classic or influential, but also personal favorites and obscure gems. To get things started, here are some of the albums I still hear people talking about:

  • U2, The Joshua Tree (1990)
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991)
  • Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
  • Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
  • Belle & Sebastian, If You're Feeling Sinister (1996) [my personal favorite 90's album at the moment]
  • Radiohead, OK Computer (1997)
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

That list is heavy on indie-rock, since that's what I'm most familiar with, but all genres are open! Punk! Metal! Rap! Country! Ok, maybe not country. But if it was good and released in the 90's, please tell me about it.

If this effort is successful, (a) I'll do a post on my favorites at the end of the year—yes! Another best-of list!—and (b) I'll do the 80's next year. (Sorry to make you wait, Mason.)

Tags: Lists, Music

And dream of hooooooooorses.....hooooaooooaorsees!

Great album.

Posted by: NL | January 6, 2006 6:03 PM

Dear You and Orange Rhyming Dictionary by Blake Schwarzenbach.

Posted by: NL | January 6, 2006 6:09 PM

Heh, my list this for year will be shorter than the one next year. :)

Depeche Mode has two awesome 90s albums (90's Violator and 97's Ultra) and one very good one (Songs of Faith and Devotion). You should also pick up their 98 single "Only When I Lose Myself" which is available only as a single or on their collection of songs from 86-98, but that has 80s stuff and kind of violates what you mentioned.

Duran Duran's 1993 self-titled album (the wedding album) is awesome and their 97 album Medazzaland has two really good songs (plus lots of mediocre ones, so I'd recommend just the two songs instead). Actually, there are a lot of individual songs I'd recommend without stressing the whole album. (I bought several albums in the 90s that have one or two awesome songs and then just filler. There are also situations in which I never actually bought the album but just downloaded the songs I like.)

Delerium's Karma has lots of good stuff and two awesome songs.

I like really several of the songs from Garbage, but I think what I would like to do with them is just take half the songs on a given album. I have downloaded versions of full albums, but I don't know precisely which songs go on which albums (though I think I like their first two albums best), so it's hard for me to give a precise recommendation here.

I could also list early 90s stuff by other groups within my paradigm---Pet Shop Boys, etc.

Elemental by Tears for Fears is a great album.

I'd be answering this better if I actually had my album collection in front of me.

I'll let you know when other stuff comes to mind.

Posted by: Mason | January 6, 2006 6:47 PM

More later, but first and foremost: Weezer's blue album. Joshua Tree and OK Computer are also definite wins, just to reaffirm what I guess you already know. Nevermind sure, but not quite so much. It more wins for influence (good, even great, but, yeah).

Oddly enough, Lorian and I were just talking about Spin Doctors and I was lamenting the fact that I haven't been able to find my copy of that album for years. I *know* how much you love that one.

There are two Collective Soul albums from then that are massively uber (and more that are less so). The one with December and the one with Shine are both fantabulous.

I still rant and rave about Aerosmith's Nine Lives--any other Aerosmith fan would shoot me, but I think it may be their best album.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is massively solid, and so is... I don't remember the other one. The one with Rocket and Disarm (I *think* they're the same album...)

Dookie. Insomniac much less so. Dookie was the album that put Green Day in the minds of, well, everyone.

Choose Your Illusion comes to mind, but I'm afraid that may have come out late eighties.

Beastie Boys. They did some great work in that time, including Intergalactic.

Oops, time to run to Salsa class. More later if I remember.

Posted by: Lemming | January 6, 2006 7:41 PM

Counting Crow, "August and Everything After."
Santana, "Supernatural."

And just to liven things up a little, Shawn Colvin, "A Few Small Repairs" (one lyric from which was used as the title for my newest Jeremiah Spur adventure).

Posted by: JSpur | January 7, 2006 10:03 AM

I don't have much 90's music either, but here's what I know from my collection and hearsay:

Achtung Baby is another U2 Album that gets a lot of credit from the early nineties.

Also, yes indeed, Use Your Illusion 1&2 came out in early 90's.

In Metal there wasn't much to say. After '93 or so it moved on to the new metal wave and things got pretty lame. Ozzy did some stuff, and AC/DC cut The Razor's Edge, their first #1 for over a decade. But really, if you ask me, all you need of AC/DC is Back in Black and Highway to Hell, 1980 and 1979, respectively. They have other good songs, mind you, but better by individual grab than by album.

As for Ozzy, I don't know. All I have from him is Blizzard of Oz, which while I like it, didn't make me rush out and buy any of his other things.

Now, Metallica came out with their self-titled "Black Album" in '91, and that's considered either their last great album or the start of their bad albums. Since I got into the band after Napster when EVERYONE hated them... (what do you say to brag about that? I didn't like them before they were cool... but I liked them after everyone else became too cool for them?) I generally didn't consider their 90's asshole period to be a betrayal, since hey, it didn't affect me. Musically, the Black Album is much clearer and definite than their previous works which are more thrashy and wild. I like it less than Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice for All, but I still love it.

A lot of people will say that Red Hot Chili Peppers' Bloodsexsugarmagic is a must have, but I've never heard it. Californication, however, I love to death.

Also, Tool's Aenima came out in '96, and is widely considered their best album by the people who don't think Lateralus is Tool's best album. I lie in the second category, but Aenima is definitely worth a listen.

That's all I know. Mostly random information, and since you've heard all that I've recommended already from my iPod most likely, then I just wasted a minute of your time. Like Frankenstein.

Posted by: Josh | January 7, 2006 5:03 PM

A Few Small Repairs is a very good album and I am proud to own it, although I don't consider it quite good enough to be part of the essential 90s collection. A few of the songs do stand out above the others.

A couple others that came to mind are Another Minute and Trip, both of which are by Cause & Effect. C & E's other album from the 90s is very good as well, but the two above are sublime.

Posted by: Mason | January 7, 2006 10:55 PM

I should also add Sarah Brightman's "Time To Say Goodbye." Undoubtedly an Enya album belongs somewhere in the conversation. I'll leave the exact nominee up to Mason though.

Posted by: JSpur | January 8, 2006 11:07 AM

Mentioning the Blue Album and not Pinkerton is a crime against humanity. Both great, both indispensable.

Rivers Cuomo should have gone off and lived in a monastery forever after producing those two. Everything after, much like everything James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich did after 1989, sullies their memory.

Also essential: the Afghan Whigs, particularly Gentlemen and 1965.

Posted by: NL | January 8, 2006 11:57 AM

my Random sugestions:
Greenday - Dookie
Enya - memory of trees
REM - somehting with losing me religion and or End of the world
Wierd Al - Bad Hair Day
Goo Goo Dolls - Dizzy up the girl
Bush - Sixteen Stone
No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom
Cranbeeries - Somethign with Zombie and dreams

I second:
Counting Crows -August and Everything After
Greenday - Dookie

Posted by: shellock | January 8, 2006 12:05 PM

Moxy fruvios
Barenaked Ladies
Genesis - The way we walk (short and longs)
Ace Of base

Posted by: shellock | January 8, 2006 12:14 PM

Ah, Bad Hair Day. Amish Paradise was Weird Al's last truly great song. A parody so good, it ruined Coolio's career.

Posted by: Josh | January 8, 2006 12:38 PM

Re: Cranberries: Zombie and Dreams (both worhy songs) are on different albums unless you go for a greatest hits album.

For Enya, I'd nominate her greatest hits album, but aside from my brief DM excursion (which I mentioned because of the excellent single that appears only on that album and the single CD and not on any other collection), I've actively been trying to shy away from that.

On Celtic-like notes, however, I glaringly omitted Loreena McKennitt. I will nominate every studio album she released in the 90s. :) (Gazebo: You have, of course, heard every song on several of these many times over, so maybe you've decided you don't want to check them out yourself.) In fact, I think her most recent studio album (The Book of Secrets) is still from 1997, although that may be (and hopefully will be!) changing soon. She is working on one, but she often tends to put years and years of work into one album, so I don't know when this will come out.

Posted by: Mason | January 8, 2006 3:17 PM

As to Loreena, to quote Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, I second that emotion. I should have mentioned her too.

Posted by: JSpur | January 8, 2006 3:59 PM

This is a great thread! Thanks for all the suggestions. Maybe once the thread closes I should compile a master list from all the comments and post it.

The only downside is that reading it gets songs stuck in my head, and not necessarily the ones I want: for example, that damn Spin Doctors song. (At one point I was planning to parody the lyrics with a description of my experiment; the result would obviously be "Two Qubits" by the Pseudospin Doctors. Because a qubit is a two-state system, so it behaves like a spin-1/2 particle, and is hence sometimes called a pseudospin... I guess you had to be there. Maybe I can perform it at my March Meeting talk.)

Let me also add another one of my favorite 90's albums: Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 8, 2006 9:48 PM

You should definitely perform that at your March Meeting talk. (Despite the fact that I find the Spin Doctors extremely annoying, I think I'd enjoy this particular parody.) I'll be sure to ask you to do it when the session chair calls for questions...

I also forget We Can't Dance by Genesis. The whole album is solid, and some tracks are awesome (and I typically prefer studio recordings to live ones for my CDs---several of these songs are on a CD mentioned above).

Posted by: Mason | January 9, 2006 12:28 AM

Some more came to mind.

Violent Femmes - Why Do Birds Sing? and New Times came out in 1991 and 1993 respectively. I've always liked this band. Most people know them from either "Blister in the Sun" or when they try to be funny, which is hit and miss. But this is one of the angstiest bands I own, and I love their lyrics and their music, though some of it is a bit out there. Also, the compilation Add it Up came out in 1993, which has, among other things, live versions of my two favorite songs, from their first CD (which was self-titled), "Kiss Off" and "Add it Up".

David Bowie - Earthling is a damn good album. Once again, an artist who's more famous for his earlier work but his music has stayed very strong over the years. Earthling is sort of a mix between experimenting sounds and popular sounds, almost right down the middle. "Dead Man Walking" for example, was almost house music and popular in New York clubs in the mid-90's, but if you forgive it for that it's just a great song to listen to. "Battle For Britain (The Letter)" is just amazing. And of course there's his collaborative song "I'm Afraid of Americans" with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

Muse - Showbiz was 1999, FYI. And you know I love me my Muse.

Posted by: Josh | January 9, 2006 1:42 AM

I totally forgot...

Mindless Self Indulgence - Tight

You actually probably won't like this. Nor will you be able to buy it, since it's selling for like $60 on eBay for its discontinued version. However, you should download and listen to their cover of Method Man's "Bring the Pain". It's fantastic.

Posted by: Josh | January 9, 2006 1:58 AM

It appears the thread just got spammed

I agree with Loreena and Violent Femmes.
Billy Joel - River of Dreams
Lion King sound track
Phill Colins - Various take you pick
The Wall Flowers - Bringing Down the Horse
Smash Mouth - Astro Lounge

Posted by: shellock | January 9, 2006 5:26 AM

Damn. It's rare for my spammers to hit an active thread. I'd gotten used to not getting any comment spam over the last couple weeks... maybe they were on vacation?

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 9, 2006 8:59 AM

Roxette's Joyride is another very good one that recently came to mind. Also, the album has a cool reference to Magical Mystery Tour in the first and last songs. (This is another of the few albums where I've noticed stuff about the song ordering.)

Posted by: Mason | January 9, 2006 10:52 AM

Just skimmed through me ipod and here are some '90s albums that popped out:

Pixies - Death to the Pixies
Beck - Odelay
Faith No More - Angel Dust
Pearl Jam - Ten
Gza - Liquid Swords
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Best of NCATBS
Bjork - Homogenic
Fugazi - End Hits
Guided By Voices - Propeller
Tool - Aenima
Elliot Smith - Either/Or
Primus - Pork Soda
Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
Rage Against The Machine - Self Titled
Maceo Parker - Life in Planet Groove
Sound Garden - A-Sides
Wilco - Summer Teeth

Posted by: me | January 9, 2006 11:08 AM

Ooh, I see some good stuff I forgot to mention.

First, if you look into nothing else I suggest, look into Weezer's blue album. Sure, Pinkerton was good, but... If you only ever buy one Weezer album (or one 90s album), I'd suggest this one. In fact, if you could only ever buy two, I'd almost think it'd be worth it to pick up two copies, just so you'd have a spare.

I meant to mention Rage Against the Machine (I always think of them as RATFM). The self-titled album is excellent, and so is Evil Empire.

I know Faith No More had some GREAT singles, but I don't know about albums. Whoever "me" is noted several bands I meant to mention but forgot, so I'll second: Beck, Faith No More, Pearl Jam (and second Ten in particular), Bjork, Primus, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden.

Mmm, Spoon Man.

The Lion King soundtrack was pretty damn good, not sure if it's your thing or not. It still gives me visions of hunting (and being hunted by) aliens running through cornfields, and rapid-firing incendiary surpressing fire to both illuminate and contain the invaders.

I don't know how I forgot, but August and Everything After is one of my all-time favorite albums.

The Offspring did some great stuff. Smash is an album I've nearly played to death, and the two albums after that are similarly good (though I've listened to them less). A local radio station just recently did a "Top 10 Offspring songs" countdown, which they horribly mangled. Gone Away is, far and away, their best song. Don't miss it.

I'd also recommend A Boy Named Goo to as a good Goo Goo Dolls album (and their first big one, I think).

I just picked up Better than Ezra's greatest hits on iTumes. Also definitely worth a look--they're responsible for some of my favorite songs from High School, like Good and King of New Orleans.

Everclear's Sparkle and Fade is worth listening to. Sure, their stuff all starts to sound the same after a while, but it's a good same, and there's still a bit of variety in that album.

I'm going to ask my brother. His knowledge of almost-mainstream and classic rock rivals your knowledge of indy rock.

Someone mentioned Coolio--the guy did have some good stuff, believe it or not. Fantastic Journey, for example. If you want the barbershop quartet of rap, look into Bone: Thugs in Harmony, who were pretty big mid-nineties. Also check out Tupac. I've been meaning to listen to more of his stuff myself, apparently he was a helluva songwriter at times.

Listen to someone more knowledgable than I to recommmend which REM stuff to listen to--some of it was good. Some, not so much.

Siamese Dream was the Pumpkins' album I was trying to remember. Much asskickery on that one.

I will mention that Surf 'n Turf and Musical BBQ were both released sometime in the 90s.

Stone Temple Pilots - Purple. In particular, Interstate Love Song is one of the musical highlights of the decade.

I'll second whatever whoever it was said about AC/DC - either pick up the singles, or pick up those earlier albums.

If you like Dave Matthews, Crash, Under the Table and Dreaming are both must-buys.

Cake. You must buy Cake. You're still a fool for not liking their cover of I Will Survive. I won't name an album, because you must buy them all. A casual, sparse musical style with an awesomeness-density in their lyrics that's so high it's actually sufficient for the songs to work as they're sung. Guitar is easily my favorite song (that's Guitar, not Guitar Man)--give it a listen. If you don't like it, if it doesn't tug right at they very soul of you--then the only option you really have left is euthanasia.

Posted by: Lemming | January 9, 2006 11:52 AM

Oh yeah, Daft Punk!

Both Homework and Discovery. Faye and Raven (I think) once argued about which album was better over on Questionable Content, so you know they've got some indy cred too!

Posted by: Lemming | January 9, 2006 12:03 PM

You got spammed again.

I don't guess there is any point in bringing up Lyle Lovett's "The Road to Ensenada." But I just had to do it anyway.

Posted by: JSpur | January 9, 2006 12:35 PM

I second Offspring Smash. It's my favorite album of theirs. I can't believe I forgot to mention it.

"Private Conversation" is a great song to download if you want to test the The Road to Ensenada waters and see what you think.

Posted by: Josh | January 9, 2006 1:07 PM

Adding random things...

Songs -
Eve 6 - Inside Out: one of my favorites, dunno much about the album it was one (self-titled, 1998).
OMD - Walking on the Milky Way

Albums -
Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
Eels - any album in the right time period. My favorite is probably Daisies in the Galaxy (from 2000, thus it doesn't count), but Beautiful Freak and Electro-shock Blues are both good too.
Enya - Paint the Sky With Stars: the compilation album mentioned above, also has 1(2?) new songs on it. Best concentration of good Enya songs.
They Might Be Giants - Flood, Factory Showroom, and "Why Does The Sun Shine?": I like TMBG.

I also second the Wallflowers album, along with too many others on the list to name.

Posted by: Zifnab | January 9, 2006 4:20 PM

For OMD, there is a very nice compilation album (which is probably from 99 but might be from 00---I could walk 10 feet and check, but I'll be lazy instead). (I know, I said I'd try to avoid suggesting those.) Walking on the Milky Way is one of it's key tracks, as is fellow 90s song Pandora's Box. Erasure's first album from the 90s has some excellent tracks, but the ones that come to mind are all on their greatest hits album from 92 (which, it should be noted, came out before the superb song "Always").

Another great 90s album I neglected earlier is the 10000 Maniacs MTV unplugged, which includes their version of "Because the Night" and extremely good live renditions of their hits. This one I am specifically recommending (i.e., it doesn't fall under the greatest hits clause I've discussed) because somehow Natalie Merchant's voice sounds incredible live, so one is really gaining something in this case over the various studio albums.

Posted by: Mason | January 9, 2006 8:08 PM

Ooh, I'd meant to mention Natalie Merchant/10k Maniacs myself, but had forgotten. Good catch Mason.

I thought the TMBG stuff was older than that, but yeah, choice!

The rest of the Eve 6 album is actually fairly good, but that was easily the best song. We had some crrrrrazy shenanigans once listening to that CD while driving north on the 5... Something in the lyrics about "as I hit 80~~~~~ on the open road," and the car we were driving had the hardest time getting up to that speed. Wee needed to time it by forcing a space in the traffic and then using a hill for speed.

By the way--is this the first time there's been a non-loathing post that got nearly this many comments?

Posted by: Lemming | January 9, 2006 8:30 PM

Awesome. This is a much better response than I had anticipated. Lemming: Actually this thread currently has the third most comments, behind the shyness and serotonin thread (which wasn't especially self-loathing except possibly in the comments) and the Halloween thread from last year.

And did I really not like Cake's "I Will Survive"? I definitely warmed up to it at some point. Also "Never There".

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 9, 2006 11:27 PM

I second Eve 6 good CD
For more random sugestions:
Hootie and the Blowfish
Paul Simon - Rythem of the Saints

Posted by: shellock | January 10, 2006 7:35 AM

Lemming insisted I post, so I figured I'd fill in a few holes for you guys:

Guns N Roses - Appetite for Destruction (btw Tim, it's Use Your Illusion not choose)
Nirvana - Live Unplugged in New York
Soundgarden - Superunknown and Batmotofinger
Prodigy - Fat of the Land
Crystal Method - Vegas
Oasis - What's the Story Morning Glory
Eric Clapton - Live Unplugged
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral (I'd say Pretty Hate Machine, but I think it came out late 89)
Foo Fighters - self titled
Bloodhound Gang - Hooray for Boobies
Tom Petty - Wildflowers
Sublime - self titled
Smash - Offspring (you really dropped the ball on this one Tim)
Alanis Morrisette- Jagged Little Pill
Buena Vista Social Club

Shall I go on?.........

Posted by: JohnnyRaygun | January 10, 2006 10:03 AM

I actually already mentioned Smash, so suckit, whore.

You nailed a few others I meant to mention but forgot, see, that's why I asked you though. Pretty Hate Machine was that early? Shame. Downward Spiral is also good, especially if you're only comparing the best songs, but as an album...

Posted by: Lemming | January 10, 2006 10:32 AM

For other big albums you may or may not want:
Savage Garden - Savage Garden
Vertical horizon - Everything You Want
Third Eye Blind
Eagle Eyed Cherry
Eagles - Hell Freezes Over

Posted by: shellock | January 10, 2006 12:54 PM

Damn spam likes this thread

Posted by: shellock | January 13, 2006 5:35 AM

Sometimes spammers lock on to individual threads for mysterious reasons. This is the only thread that's been spammed all week, and it's been hit four or five times.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 13, 2006 1:26 PM

pixies - doolittle ?
oh yes, and ok computer.

pavement's "crooked rain, crooked rain" would be up there.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2007 3:44 AM
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