Monday, March 29, 2010

Revisiting My Favorite Albums of The 1990s

Hey, it's that time of year again. Every year (starting--and probably ending--in 2010) I've kicked off Spring by revisiting my favorite albums of the decade lists. As I did before, I'll count down my favorites from the '90s then the '80s then the '70s then the '60s then, finally and counterintuitively, the '00s. Why? you ask. Because not only are my tastes constantly changing a little--I'm getting more or less mature (not sure which), more or less knowledgeable, etc.--but also I'm always hearing new (old) music.

The lists will be presented in one serving (a.k.a. post) and counted down from #90 to #1. When compared to the original lists, albums that are completely new to the lists will be listed in blue. Albums that have moved up ten or more spots will be in green, and albums that have moved down ten or more will be in red. I will choose to write blurbs about random albums that are listed in these colored fonts. The write-ups will be in grey. It will be awesome. Hopefully. It might be confusing.

This installment--the first of five--will count down my 90 favorite albums of the 1990s. The '90s were a wonderful decade full of grunge, lo-fi, Furbies, six Bulls championships, and, best of all: me! Kidding. Sort of. Anyhow, we'll be looking at the music of this particular decade, which was largely defined by the first two of the examples I just gave (grunge, lo-fi), but was also shaped by the continuing evolution of hip-hop, electronic music, and shoegaze plus the advent of post-rock and freak-folk. So basically, it was a great decade. If you want to see my original list, it's here, here, and here.

So without further ado, here are my 90 favorite albums of the '90s as of right now:

90. Pixies--Trompe Le Monde
I hate to knock the Pixies, but after listening to Trompe more since the first incarnation of this list, I've realized that it's noticeably less inspired than their other albums. That said, it's still quite good.
89. Smog--Knock Knock
88. Fennesz--Hotel Paral.lel
87. Jeff Buckley--Grace
86. Shellac--At Action Park
85. Arthur Russell--Another Thought
84. Built To Spill--There's Nothing Wrong With Love
83. A Tribe Called Quest--Midnight Marauders
82. Bardo Pond--Amanita
81. De La Soul--De La Soul Is Dead

80. The Olivia Tremor Control--Dusk At Cubist Castle
79. Sonic Youth--Washing Machine
There are still some albums in the SY canon that I haven't heard. This was one of them until a couple months ago, and I soon realized that, while not as visionary and spectacular as some of their '80s albums are, Washing Machine is entirely worth listening to.
78. Tortoise--TNT
77. The Melvins--Houdini
76. Smashing Pumpkins--Siamese Dream
75. Mouse On Mars--Iaora Tahiti
74. The Breeders--Last Splash
73. Slowdive--Souvlaki
I think this batch of very good albums was just hurt by all the new additions to the list.
72. Gas--Konigsforst
71. K.M.D.--Mr. Hood

70. Massive Attack--Mezzanine
69. Boredoms--Pop Tatari
68. Beastie Boys--Ill Communication
67. Nirvana--About A Girl
66. Primal Scream--Screamadelica
65. Mogwai--Young Team
64. Unwound--Repetition
63. Beck--Midnite Vultures
62. The Notorious B.I.G.--Ready To Die
61. Bjork--Debut

60. The Beta Band--The Three EP's
59. Jawbox--For Your Own Special Sweetheart
58. Squarepusher--Music Is Rotted One Note
Music Is Rotted One Note is a weird and surprising listen; it juxtaposes drum n' bass/IDM with fusion/free jazz. It's an interesting concept, and it's executed quite well. In a world where a lot of IDM sounds the same, it's cool and impressive that Squarepusher is so distinctive.
57. Tom Waits--Mule Variations
56. A Tribe Called Quest--The Low End Theory
55. Weezer--Pinkerton
54. Aphex Twin--Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II
53. Pavement--Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Sorry. I just can't love this album like the rest of you do. I'm not sure why.
52. Tortoise--Millions Now Living Will Never Die
51. The Orb--The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld

50. The Jesus Lizard--Liar
49. TLC--Crazysexycool
Maybe nostalgia is playing a role in this choice, but I'm not so sure. While I of course owned this album like everyone else in the mid- to late-'90s, it didn't find its way into my library until more recently. When I first listened to it for the first time in a decade or so, I was a little shocked at how good it was. It's a pop/R&B album, yes, but it's a brilliantly produced, pretty weird, very unique pop/R&B album with Andre 3000 on it. And it's truly great.
48. Raekwon--Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
47. Sonic Youth--Goo
46. Nas--Illmatic
45. Oval--94 Diskont
44. Radiohead--The Bends
43. Company Flow--Funcrusher Plus
You maybe have started to notice (and should continue to notice) that I've added some more hip-hop albums to the list, and also treated most of the existing ones kindly in my rankings. I guess I like more hip-hop now. But it's still not my expertise by any means.
42. Boredoms--Super Ae
41. Palace Music--Viva Last Blues

40. Radiohead--OK Computer
39. Scott Walker--Tilt
38. Beastie Boys--Check Your Head
37. Brainiac--Hissing Prigs In Static Couture
36. Built To Spill--Perfect From Now On
35. Guided By Voices--Propeller
34. Massive Attack--Blue Lines
33. Godspeed You! Black Emperor--F#A# (Infinity)
32. The Jesus Lizard--Goat
31. Tom Waits--Bone Machine

30. Dr. Octagon--Dr. Octagonecologyst
29. Wu-Tang Clan--Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
28. Spiritualized--Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space
27. Yo La Tengo--Painful
26. Outkast--Aquemini
It's too bad that I didn't have this sooner. As you gathered by me putting Stankonia at #2 on my Favorite Albums of The '00s list, I love Outkast. I think they're arguably the greatest hip-hop group of all time. Aquemini just helps to prove my point.
25. Fugazi--Red Medicine
24. Tricky--Maxinquaye
Hip-hop is better represented on this list than on the original, and so is trip-hop. I'm not sure why, but I started listening to the classic trip-hop albums (this, Blue Lines, Dummy, etc.) more and more a few months ago, and I realized that they are all absolutely amazing and cool and everything good. Maxinquaye is such a thick and heavy album that its beauty is shocking and extremely refreshing.
23. Bjork--Post
22. Aphex Twin--Richard D. James Album
21. Ride--Nowhere

20. Nirvana--In Utero
Hip-hop, trip-hop, and Nirvana, too. Nirvana was my favorite band ever in the world ever for several years of my young life, but when I got all indie and snobby during mid-adolescence, I kind of put them on the back-burner. I still liked them of course, but not as much as I used to. Well, I think I pretty much like them now as much as I used to. They were completely brilliant.
19. Boards Of Canada--Music Has The Right To Children
18. Pixies--Bossanova
17. Talk Talk--Laughing Stock
16. Public Enemy--Fear Of A Black Planet
15. Bonnie "Prince" Billy--I See A Darkness
14. Yo La Tengo--I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
13. Bjork--Homogenic
12. Beck--Odelay
11. Weezer--Weezer (Blue Album)

10. Guided By Voices--Bee Thousand
9. Portishead--Dummy
8. Pavement--Slanted & Enchanted
7. DJ Shadow--Endtroducing...
6. Slint--Spiderland
5. Guided By Voices--Alien Lanes
4. Modest Mouse--The Lonesome Crowded West
3. Nirvana--Nevermind
2. Neutral Milk Hotel--In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
1. My Bloody Valentine--Loveless
The top twenty is pretty much the same. Nevermind jumped up a bit, as did Dummy and Weezer. But these are the albums that I have cherished throughout my life as the sound of my first decade. The dirty, fuzzy, feedback-y sound of my birth. (That was totally weird to say.)

That's what I think--for now at least. The most noticeable changes are understandably at the bottom of the list, but there was some big tinkering towards the top, too. Stay tuned for my retuned '80s list.

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