Great Albums of the 90s

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately as I prep for my end-of-the-year music list. (And a lot of great music has been released this year.) But I’ve also been looking back on some of the best music from the past decade given that the 2010s are about to draw to a close. (I know that, strictly speaking, the decade ends with the “tenth” year — so 2010 or 2020 actually closes out the decade — but, come on. Who thinks this way?)

To that end, I give you my best albums of the 90s playlist. So many of these albums still hold up. To wit, my 15 year old son LOVES What’s the Story (Morning Glory) by Oasis. It’s probably his favorite album. And I listened to a LOT of Cracked Rear View leading up to seeing Hootie in concert back in September. It’s tremendous.

90s music is pretty nostalgic for me. It takes me back to when I first fell in love with rock music and when I developed my own musical sensibilities. For instance, when I listen to “Black” by Pearl Jam, I immediately go back to quiet evenings shooting basketball outside my house, ruminating on things menial (homework, friendships) and morose (my father’s death, my mother’s remarriage and my subsequent interior retreat into my head). If you want to know what 90s teen angst sounded like, look no further than Pearl Jam’s debut album.

Or take The Bends and OK Computer by Radiohead, the pinnacle of artful, “message” guitar rock. I love Radiohead’s avant-garde stuff as much as the next guy, but before they were rock innovators playing with form and structure and the concepts of songs, they were perfecters of the ubiquitous post-grunge alt sound. “Let Down” and “No Surprises” are some of the most beautiful guitar songs ever. Listening to OK Computer is both joyous and depressing; you appreciate the elegant craftsmanship while simultaneously bemoaning the fact that nothing else could ever top it.

If I had to select my favorite album of the 90s — at this point, 20+ years later — I would probably select OK Computer. It’s just beautiful music and it perfectly captures the particular late decade ethos. Morning Glory would be in the discussion as well; as I said, it holds up big time. And Ten is on this Mount Rushmore, too; it was truly a gamechanger.

This is some of my favorite music. Love these albums from the 90s.

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