100 Greatest Albums of the 90's: 20-1

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This is the final installment, from number 20 down through number 1. Of course, there is no scientific method to this list, just my opinion. But I am almost always right so....here it is:

20. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (1992)

Although Paul's Boutique is still my favorite Beastie's album ever, it was released in '89 and thus does not qualify. Check Your Head is their first time to incorporate punk and funk into their music and not just samples.

Favorite Songs: Pass the Mic, So What'cha Want, Professor Booty

19. Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)

This can be quite a polarizing album. I have heard a friend describe it as the indie-rock version of Sgt. Pepper and another friend describe Jeff Mangum's lyrics as bad high school poetry. Perhaps the best description I have heard is a marching band of an acid trip. Either way it is one of the most breathtaking pieces of music of the decade.

Favorite Songs: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Oh Comely, Untitled (track 10)

18. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

This album, Wu-Tang's debut, captured lightning in a bottle. This is the only Wu album that truly lives up to all the individual talent featured in the group. 36 Chambers also marked the rebirth of the East coast rap scene.

Favorite Songs: Bring Da Ruckus, C.R.E.A.M., Method Man

17. Elliott Smith - either/or (1997)

Even though Elliott expanded his sound quite a bit on his third album, most of it is still very intimate and heartbreakingly beautiful. either/or is probably most famous for spawning a few tracks on the soundtrack to Good Will Hunting (which in turn led to Elliott awkwardly performing at The Grammys alongside Celine Dion, yikes!).

Favorite Songs: Between the Bars, Angeles, Say Yes

16. Nas - Illmatic (1994)

If you have read any press on this album before, most of it is true. This is the only great Nas album and everything that followed his debut was severely lacking. Some of the greatest storytelling lyrics are found of Illmatic along with stellar production from Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier.

Favorite Songs: N.Y. State of Mind, Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park), One Love

15. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream (1993)

One of the most consistent "alt-rock" albums of the decade, Siamese Dream is Billy Corgan's masterpiece. This album strengths lie in the production of Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and a member of Garbage). The legacy of this album is extremely tainted for me because of the royal douchebag that Billy Corgan has become.

Favorite Songs: Cherub Rock, Rocket, Mayonnaise

14. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

My Bloody Valentine's best moment on record has created an odd legacy (apparently recording lasted two years and nearly bankrupted their label in the process) and a cult following of fans that insist that Loveless is the greatest album ever made. Although I don't agree with that sentiment, there aren't any albums that equaled the swirling noise-pop that is found here.

Favorite Songs: Only Shallow, To Here Knows When, When You Sleep

13. Outkast - Aquemini (1998)

Even though Aquemini solidified Outkast as the greatest hip-hop act in the business, listening to it now only makes me sad that they might never again create anything like this again. Regardless of what Outkast is doing now, Aquemini is one of the best rap albums of the decade and maybe of all-time.

Favorite Songs: Aquemini, Da Art of Storytellin' Pt. 1, Spottieottiedopaliscious

12. Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)

Although many will say it's blasphemy that this isn't number one (or even the highest Radiohead album on the list), I stand by it's place on this list. Radiohead delivered what was the second in a string of three nearly flawless albums. More intricate and ambitious than The Bends, but ultimately, not as satisfying.

Favorite Songs: Subterranean Homesick Alien, Let Down, Lucky

11. Tool - Aenima (1996)

After the mesmerizing Undertow, Tool did the obvious next step, which was to release the greatest Prog-Metal album of all time. Every song on this album hits, and even the more abrasive songs fit neatly in place. If you don't like this album you just don't like rock music.

Favorite Songs: Eulogy, Forty-Six & 2, Aenima

10. Pearl Jam - Vs. (1993)

This album may have been so high on the list due to sentimental reasons. Pearl Jam was the first band that I followed I followed from their first album up until today. Not to take anything away from Vs. because it's still a great album and definitely their most consistent and powerful.

Favorite Songs: Go, Rearview Mirror, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

9. Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)

Depeche Mode's Violator almost didn't make this list at all due to the fact that I just assumed it was released in the late 80's. In fact, if this came out in '89 instead of '90 I would still consider it one of the ten best albums of that decade. This is the greatest album ever to come out of the synth-pop genre and nothing even comes close.

Favorite Songs: World in My Eyes, Personal Jesus, Enjoy the Silence

8. Public Enemy - Fear of A Black Planet (1990)
The greatest hip-hop album of the 90's, without a doubt. If you disagree I am sorry to inform you that you're wrong. Public Enemy continued to be a driving political force (Chuck D called them the black CNN) and Fear of A Black Planet finds the Bomb Squads best production work ever.

Favorite Songs: 911 Is A Joke, Welcome to the Terrordome, Burn Hollywood Burn, Fight the Power

7. Elliott Smith - XO (1998)
Elliott's major label debut finds him continuing to fill out his sound. This time his still perfect melodies are wrapped in a richer sound that has a strong Beatles feel to it. Some of the best tunes Elliott ever penned are here and although his following albums are great too, this was the greatest album he ever released.

Favorite Songs: Sweet Adeline, Waltz #2 (XO), Pitseleh

6. U2 - Achtung Baby (1991)
U2's studio follow-up to one of the greatest albums of the 80's (The Joshua Tree) found them doing the kiss-of-death for most bands: reinventing their sound. Any other band would have failed miserably but U2 instead recorded a masterpiece of an album that had an definite European sound to it rather than the American influenced music they had previously perfected.

Favorite Songs: One, Until the End of the World, The Fly, Ultra Violet (Light My Way)

5. The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (1999)
If you discovered The Flaming Lips after 2002's wonderful, left-field mainstream hit Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and haven't delved into their back catalog, please do so now. If you do you will discover the greatest album they ever made, The Soft Bulletin. The Lips abandoned their own odd brand of guitar rock for a more synth-heavy and almost orchestral sound. The lyrics are still weird yet some of the most intense and personal Wayne Coyne ever wrote. The music is lush, gorgeous, and perfect. An absolutely flawless album.

Favorite Songs: Race For The Prize, The Spark That Bled, Buggin', Waiting For Superman

4. Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)

Some say that Jeff Buckley's early death a few years after the release of his debut (and only proper album), Grace, made this album seem better than it was. It's a moot point though, because it's useless to discuss what might have been if this genius had survived. Jeff Buckley's voice is one of the best in modern music and carries this album the whole way. Couple that with great songwriting and a few amazing covers and you have one of the greatest debuts in history and an artifact of what could have been.

Favorite Songs: Grace, Last Goodbye, Lover You Should've Come Over, Hallelujah

3. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... (1996)
This is another one that scores so high for a couple of reasons. First off, it is a genius record and a one-of-a-kind that is too often poorly imitated. Secondly, this album changed the way I listened to music. Recorded almost completely with samples, DJ Shadow created a tripped out masterpiece with an emphasis in hip-hop. I can't even begin to try and really describe this album so if you have never heard it, do yourself a favor and pick it up as fast as you can. You can thank me later.

Favorite Songs: Building Steam With A Grain of Salt, Stem/Long Stem, Changeling, Midnight in a Perfect World

2. Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991)
When previously showing this list to friends, this was the pick that raised the most eyebrows. Yet I still strongly believe that this is one of the greatest hard-rock albums ever made. The songs are their most consistent and crushing and Chris Cornell's voice is still one of the best in rock music. My favorite quote about Cornell is from Henry Rollins who said, to paraphrase, that when Chris sang you could watch the paint peel off the walls. Unfortunately Soundgarden broke up long before their time and Cornell went to front the incredibly mediocre Audioslave. Fuck a Rage Against the Machine reunion...I want a Soundgarden reunion.

Favorite Songs: Rusty Cage, Outshined, Jesus Christ Pose, Somewhere

1. Radiohead - The Bends (1995)
I know I may be in the minority but I feel this is far and away the best album of Radiohead's career and the greatest album of the 1990's. Every note is perfect, every song is captivating, and every indecipherable line sung by Thom Yorke's is beautiful. The Bends is Radiohead's guitar-rock masterpiece. The songs go from sad ('Fake Plastic Trees') to haunting ('Street Spirit') to just downright pummeling ('Just'). It pains me to think that everything they release ever again will pale in comparison to this, but thus is the tragedy of an album as great as The Bends.

Favorite Songs: Planet Telex, High and Dry, Nice Dream, Just, Black Star, Sulk, Steet Spirit (Fade Out)

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