The 1990s was an exciting decade. We experienced President Bill “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” Clinton, the first cloned sheep, Dolly, and O.J Simpson’s murder trial. While these events made breaking news, ’90s music put a new spin on things, transforming those classic ’80s beats to what we know of as today’s modern music. From Nirvana to Radiohead, these five albums stand out as the decade’s best.
5. Alanis Morissette — “Jagged Little Pill”
In 1995, Canadian songwriter Alanis Morissette released her third studio LP, “Jagged Little Pill.” The album quickly became a commercial and critical success. It won six Grammy Awards in 1996, including Best Album. The album is ranked No. 45 on Rolling Stone’s “Best Albums of the ’90s” list and features the singles “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know.”
“Jagged Little Pill” stands out for more than just its musical success, as Morissette set some high standards in the process. She recorded every track in one or two takes, which is almost unheard of in the music business.
According to Rolling Stone, the album’s acclaim paved the way for other female acts. Singers like Pink and Avril Lavigne have said that they were influenced by Morissette.
Since the album, Morissette has basically faded into oblivion. She was last seen giving a tour of her Buddhist den on “MTV Cribs.”
Song to remember: “Ironic”
4. Nirvana — “Nevermind”
In September 1991, Seattle’s Nirvana released its second studio album, “Nevermind.” Since then, it has become one of the most influential records ever recorded. It even scored the No. 1 spot on Rolling Stone’s top-10 releases of the ‘90s.
This landmark album, which opens with the hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The record blends pop, punk, metal and a ton of other stuff to develop its unique sound — a genre of music better known as grunge.
“Nevermind” is to ’90s music what Dave Matthews Band is to crappy music — everything.
And it came out at the perfect time. Hair metal was over and people were looking for rock music that had meaning. It doesn’t matter if “Nevermind” isn’t the best of its kind; it was the first. Nirvana became the voice of a new generation, and “Nevermind” is probably the last rock album to change popular music.
Song to remember: “Come as You Are”
3. The Flaming Lips — “The Soft Bulletin”
The Flaming Lips’ ninth album, “The Soft Bulletin,” was released in May 1999. While the LP wasn’t a commercial smash, it’s hailed as a masterpiece by many music experts. “The Soft Bulletin” was ranked by www.pitchfork.com as the third-best album of the 1990s and gave it a 10.0 review. Getting a perfect 10 from Pitchfork is rare — only 12 records have ever received this score. And no, Bon Iver didn’t make the cut.
“The Soft Bulletin” is one of the most creative, beautiful albums around. The lush orchestrations sound like something Radiohead or The Shins would’ve written if they had smoked too much crack. The record doesn’t have any particularly huge singles. It’s more of a consistent, sum-is-greater-than-parts type of release.
The Flaming Lips are better known for “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” but this album has more to offer. It’s a seriously interesting piece of music.
Song to remember: “Race For The Prize”
2. Radiohead — “OK Computer”
The ’90s was a great time to be British. Britrock bands like Oasis were doing well, so naturally when the English group Radiohead released “OK Computer,” people were expecting more of the same. And that’s not what they got. The 12 art-pop tracks that comprise “OK Computer” make up one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time.
The album features the singles “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police.” It’s widely considered the decade’s best piece of music. Released in 1997, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead sang about political dissatisfaction and cultural identity while everyone else was writing about love and other boring stuff.
The progressive, futuristic music — let alone the subject matter — was way before its time. Bands like Coldplay and Keane have cited the album as a major influence. The record is amazing, but don’t take some overprivileged white kid’s word for it. Go buy it.
Song to remember: “No Surprises”
1. Neutral Milk Hotel — “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
Neutral Milk Hotel’s second and final album, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” is a myth more than a record. In 1998, Jeff Magnum, the frontman of what was then a very underground band, was so affected by his reading of Anne Frank’s diary that he decided to write an album about it. This 11-track LP wasn’t very popular upon release, but has since become an indie rock legend.
The album has a pretty impressive track record. It was ranked No. 2 by www.Amazon.com on its list of best indie rock albums of all time. Pitchfork gave it a perfect 10. Q Magazine rated it No. 16 out of the top 30 albums of the last 25 years. And it was the sixth-best selling vinyl album in 2008.
What’s even weirder is that after its release, lead singer, guitarist and lyricist Jeff Magnum disappeared. He’s only recently come out of J.D. Salinger-esque hiding to perform for protesters during Occupy Wall Street protests. For quality, legacy and sheer originality, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” gets the No. 1 spot. Better luck next time, Vanilla Ice.
Song to remember: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”