Top 36 Music Albums of the 1990s by NoAlarms (2020)

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Where is the appropriate point of origin? Where does one begin eloquently without bellowing out praise like a music-snobbed elitist hell-bent on hard-headedness of musical appreciation. OK Computer's coronation may send shivers down spines of readers who watch it litter charts all across the platform, a sentiment felt by frontman Thom Yorke, who tries to downplay it's place in music history in an effort of self-conscious humility. Never one to be put in a creative box, Yorke refuses to be defined by one album and he's surely not. However, this list is not one of objective knighting, but rather a reflection of the records that reside the deepest in my heart, regardless if many minds consider this to be the greatest album ever constructed. To this point, this listener wouldn't argue, but still, in the context of this chart, such clearly-defined praise would only cheapen the work.

For me, it's not OK Computer's futuristic motifs, slick guitar lines or harmonic prowess that take the cake. It's the intangible wonder of an album so meticulously crafted to the note. The emotional response that wells up from within during each and every listening experience and the philosophical resonance that never fails to affect me. In an age where resistance to a popular opinion is so prevalent, I'd have every reason in the world to dismiss OK Computer, to liken its listeners to a brand of entry-level beginners to the world of critically acclaimed music and yet the album dazzles each and every listen. In many ways, OK Computer warns against the monotony of modern times and times to come, but still the album comes home every night, reliable as ever.

"This is my final fit, my final bellyache. With no alarms and no surprises..." - No Surprises

Standout Tracks:

1. No Surprises
2. Let Down
3. Paranoid Android

104.5
[First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1997
Appears in:
Rank Score:
107,661
Rank in 1997:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is often a simple album, filled with simple chord progressions and hooks. It's fuzzed out production creates the illusion that it was recorded in a damp basement, waterlogged after a thunderstorm and packed to the brim with insulation subbing for soundproofing. These are all misconceptions, most of all the simplicity. Jeff Magnum subverts the idea of simplicity with his rollicking, depressing, life-affirming piece of indie rock. His lyricism cuts through the haze of intentionally wooly production illustrating an observation of both the beauty of ordinary life and the daunting nature of philosophical thought.

The album's crown jewel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, layers striking metaphorical proclamations in rapid succession, partnering that with dizzying singing saw, creating an indie masterpiece confined within an alien biodome. Communist Daughter eases down the tempo but not the whimsy, as it oozes beauty almost in a whisper as it flutters into Oh Comely. The album closes with the hauntingly reflective Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2 as it whirrs into Magnum's words. He declares, "God is a place where some holy spectacle lies", endlessly waiting for divine intervention, even if he questions its existence in a world that can be so cold.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is partly a horror story of the Nazi Regime, a love letter to the courage of Anne Frank, but mostly its an examination of life's smallest moments and whether it's worth going forward or not. Whatever it is to you, however, is likely the most fitting description. Magnum's poetry on the LP is indicative of a higher consciousness and it's partnered with a cornucopia of musical ingenuity to form one of the finest, most earnest albums ever pressed.

"Now how I remember you,
How I would push my fingers through,
Your mouth to make those muscles move,
That made your voice so smooth and sweet."

-In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Standout Tracks:

1. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
2. Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2
3. Oh Comely


102
[First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1998
Appears in:
Rank Score:
55,718
Rank in 1998:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
Acid Bath were an outfit from the swamps of Louisiana, likely the only place where music of this ilk could be spawned. The sludge metal group only produced two studio albums with a lifespan abridged by the sudden death of bassist Audie Pitre. The introduction to their brief discography is nothing less than a masterwork in the metal genre, an album of intense hate coupled with stunning musical proficiency that many have overlooked or more likely have never experienced. The guitar work is polarizing, often resembling a slithering eel bathing in distortion and feedback. Honestly, what else could suffice for a record that brandishes track titles such as "Cassie Eats Cockroaches", "Dr. Seuss is Dead" and the penultimate "The Bones of Baby Dolls". As horn-rimmed glasses wearing, toffee-nosed onlookers may categorize its content as a slobbering collection of shock rock, the truth is far more personal.

Lead vocalist Dax Riggs likens tracks Tranquilized and Cheap Vodka to drug-triggered, personal anecdotes. The bluesy restraint of Scream of the Butterfly harkens back to the regret of an abortion and the distinctive sound of the woman's grief over said act. Toubabo Koomi is cajun french for Land of the White Cannibals and takes aim at the savagery of the governmental system. Finally, The Bones of Baby Dolls details the unvarnished evil of a child molester. All in all, When the Kite String Pops is not for the faint of heart.

With John Wayne Gacy plastered on the cover, few would gaze upon the album and foresee the intense, brilliant musicianship buried within the catacombs of this striking record. This is partly the appeal. Sometimes it seems like this is something we shouldn't be listening to, like a suicide caught on tape. The dichotomy of the vulgarity and poetry on the album makes it the best kind of rarity. It's a shame that it will likely be restricted to residing in dusty attics, at the bottom of garage sale bins and quiet corners of failing record shops. Listening to When the Kite String Pops is the musical equivalent of watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). A brilliant film no doubt, but one of immense depravity. When the Kite String Pops makes you want to shower once it's over, but you are helpless to the notion of starting it all over again, bathing in its magnificent grime.

"I feel the wetness of her tongue that slides across my skin
The viruses crawl over me and feel for some way in."

-Cassie Eats Cockroaches

Standout Tracks:

1. The Bones of Baby Dolls
2. The Blue
3. Dr. Seuss is Dead

99.1
[First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1994
Appears in:
Rank Score:
324
Rank in 1994:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
Radiohead were an entirely different beast in 1995. Long before they were gray-bearded and critically adored, they were fresh off the heels of an introductory effort that was met with a lukewarm reception, noted only for its lead single to which the last fleeting grunge aficionados clung to with vigor. Pablo Honey has now gone on to gather a cult following in the wake of more complimentary retrospective reviews, but what they would produce next would shape the trajectory of their careers for years to come. The Bends is an easily discernible maturation for the group as the songwriting becomes more poignant and the musicianship undergoes a colossal leap forward. It was in the finest details of The Bends where the band had carved out their sound and, more importantly, their confidence.

While examining the title track, The Bends, the two-headed monster of guitar fury is let loose as Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien flourish their talents all throughout a track named after a sensation caused by gas-infused bubbles in the blood. However, the concepts communicated in the song deal with fair-weather friends riding the band's coattails into stardom and knowing who the true confidants are. The conclusion is drawn by Thom Yorke himself who snarls, "We don't have any real friends". Fourth track Fake Plastic Trees goes down as an early era anthem of rejection for the band, serving as a wiser, more contemplative Creep evolution. Working both as a blistering assessment of consumerism in modern society and as Yorke's own disillusion towards the porcelain nature of his experiences of human interaction, particularly those with the opposite sex. The song delicately unfolds before crashing thunderously with guitar hits subbing for lightning. The track softly recoils as Yorke sorrowfully ponders, "If I could be who you wanted, all the time". This was, for lack of a better term, a "grown up" piece for the band and it was also the moment of discovery for Yorke's own lyrical voice. Closing cut Street Spirit (Fade Out) sculpts out a place alongside other Radiohead classics with an emotional weight not yet produced by the group. Commencing with a guitar hook that could inspire ominous dread within Satan himself, the track explores nihilistic motifs and the chilling-certainty of life's short duration. Yorke has even claimed that "it hurts like hell to play" and likened it to "staring the Devil in the eyes". The backing vocal harmony during the second half beseeches images of wandering souls lost in transit as the frontman begs those who listen to "immerse your soul in love". Street Spirit (Fade Out) serves as a proper creative zenith for the band, acting almost as a baptism into a higher consciousness of musical inspiration for the English quintet.

In May of 1997, Radiohead would go on to release the seminal OK Computer and the rest, as they say, is history. For all of OK Computer's ingenuity and attention to detail, the seeds for the album were really sown two years earlier on The Bends. The 1995 effort often draws the short straw when most recall Radiohead's most polished discography entries. It's easy to overlook the stratospheric ascent in dynamism between the band's first and second LPs. The Bends enjoyed a mostly cordial reception by critics but few could be astute enough to cite the album as the birthing of a modern music legend. The pyramid of what we now know as Radiohead was still being built, and the blocks of stone at the foundation are just as important as the ones that sit atop them.

"Faith, you're driving me away,
You do it every day,
You don't mean it, but it hurts like hell,
My brain says I'm receiving pain,
A lack of oxygen,
From my life support, my iron lung."

-My Iron Lung

Standout Tracks:

1. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
2. Fake Plastic Trees
3. (Nice Dream)

95.7
[First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1995
Appears in:
Rank Score:
46,427
Rank in 1995:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
Fishmans' penultimate album, Long Season, is tricky to recapitulate. The music itself seems beyond the realm of tangibility, reminiscent of a soothing summer daydream, effortlessly invoking the ethereal. Despite not being a Japanese speaker, Shinji Sato's tender coos resonate through the sheer emotion that they delicately channel. Sato's vocals function as an extension of the instrumentation rather than a separate entity, consolidating into a 35 minute cloudburst of dream pop and psychedelia. The record in earnest consists of five parts, all weaving together to manifest the full anatomy of Long Season.

As Long Season (Part 1) surfaces, a spacey, smoky atmosphere comes into focus, bubbling with an alien strut. The track evolves into a cascading keyboard loop which is majestically serene while carrying an ever-present promise of combustibility. This is when Sato's first declarations are audible, "At dusk we drove, calling the wind and calling you, we ran from one end of Tokyo to the other, halfway dreaming." The track shimmers during its climax as Honzi's violin and accordion join the fray with exuberant grace. The track seamlessly drifts into Long Season (Part 2) as the keyboard loop is adorned with percussive twinkles and Sato's own protuberant guitar solo. As Kin-ichi Motegi's drums cushion the final moments of Long Season (Part 2), (Part 3) introduces itself with a decidedly ambient complexion. Commencing with a damp, distant quality, (Part 3) is notably restrained when compared to the previous two movements. The track blossoms with Motegi's second drum flourish, a solo that lasts the length of the track serving as a distinct bridge between both boundaries of the record. (Part 4) comes into view with relaxed, remote guitar strikes. Whistling is interwoven throughout the DNA of (Part 4) betwixt a duplicated vocal melody and a swirling, ominous backing whirl. (Part 5) is a different shade of (Part 1), reintroducing the hypnotic keyboard riff with heightened immediacy and scope. The track builds to Sato's own haunting falsetto, broadcasting a billowing a sense of catharsis and rebirth amidst the sonic revisitation. (Part 5) is as majestic as the LP gets and is among the most gorgeous movements in recent memory.

Long Season (Part 5) sounds suspiciously like a swan song in many distinct manners. It recounts the past and treats a movement only 25 minutes removed to be one of complete nostalgia. Sato's own vocals at the finale are so undeniably vulnerable that one would be inclined to think of it more in terms of a finale for him rather than the LP, like a final championing of life and its wonders. The backing vocals stand to up the ante as intrinsic collateral for such a moment. Eerily enough, this movement would be the final piece of music Sato would play live. Long Season in its entirety would be played in Fishmans' final performance which was featured on the beloved live album, 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare. Sato died suddenly of a heart attack three months after the band's final gig. These days, the outfit has reached an entirely new audience far from their native Japan. Long Season has been instrumental in moving the needle and has been retrospectively lauded as a masterpiece, one that graces the ears of new listeners each and every day. It's a testament to the band and the music they were producing. The record outdistanced its own release and becomes more inviting with age. Aligned with the recurring nature of its content like a persistent dream, Long Season is a crisp Spring day that will never end and more importantly, will never wither at the hand of a cruel Winter.

"What is the song are you humming,
What things can you remember,
We are half in a dream."

-Long Season (Part 1)

Standout Tracks:

1. Long Season (Part 5)
2. Long Season (Part 1)
3. Long Season (Part 4)

94.7
[First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1996
Appears in:
Rank Score:
5,690
Rank in 1996:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
92.7 [First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1997
Appears in:
Rank Score:
15,263
Rank in 1997:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
91.5 [First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1999
Appears in:
Rank Score:
15,822
Rank in 1999:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
90.3 [First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1994
Appears in:
Rank Score:
23,643
Rank in 1994:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
90 [First added to this chart: 04/25/2020]
Year of Release:
1996
Appears in:
Rank Score:
2,831
Rank in 1996:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
10. (=)
89.5 [First added to this chart: 04/27/2020]
Year of Release:
1995
Appears in:
Rank Score:
7,108
Rank in 1995:
Rank in 1990s:
Overall Rank:
Average Rating:
Comments:
Total albums: 36. Page 1 of 4

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Top 36 Music Albums of the 1990s composition

Year Albums %


1990 0 0%
1991 4 11%
1992 3 8%
1993 3 8%
1994 5 14%
1995 6 17%
1996 4 11%
1997 5 14%
1998 1 3%
1999 5 14%
Artist Albums %


Aphex Twin 4 11%
Swans 4 11%
Radiohead 3 8%
Björk 3 8%
Misfits 2 6%
Tom Waits 2 6%
Acid Bath 2 6%
Show all
Country Albums %


United States 15 42%
United Kingdom 12 33%
Iceland 4 11%
Ireland 1 3%
Mixed Nationality 1 3%
Germany 1 3%
Canada 1 3%
Show all

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