Friday, 14 October 2011

Top 5 Albums of the 1990s

I was recently inspired by @Alex_Berwick on Twitter to re-listen to my favourite albums of the nineties. Alex published his top ten and I thought I'd do the same. Alex also writes a rather brilliant blog called The Kids Are Coming which you should definitely check out.

For continuity purposes this is still a top five, but for completeness sake the rest of my top ten is included as well.

1. Radiohead "O.K. Computer" (1997) - This is the album that rekindled my interest in new music after several years in the wilderness. A huge step forward for the band but the album that, for me, found the perfect balance between tune and experimental. There are the big "name" songs (Karma Police, No Surprises and the epic Paranoid Android) but it's the little bridging songs such as Fitter Happier & Exit Music (For A Film) that help tie it together and give the album contrast.

2. Nirvana "Nevermind" (1991) - Nevermind has so far made both attempts at my all time top 5 albums which I probably need to revist now seeing as O.K Computer didn't. It's an album I love as much for what it meant to me in 1991 as for what I think of it now. Like Radiohead's magnum opus it changed my view of music. Now I struggle to decide if I like it more than In Utero (also a nineties contender) or Bleach but history keeps it high in my list.

3. R.E.M. "Out Of Time" (1991) - As I mentioned a few weeks back, Out Of Time soundtracked my summer that year. Like Nevermind, it is an album rooted in a time and place. This was the same year I started to see Mrs Top 5. A happy year. A turning point. The start of something great.

4. Fugazi "Repeater" (1990) - I have only recently properly got into Fugazi. This was their debut full length release and it's a corker. Joe Lally & Brendan Canty are the rhythm section from heaven. Producer Ted Nicely manages to get a drum sound as crisp as Steve Albini (the highest accolade I can give). The album bludgeons you into submission but never feels overbearing. How I wish I'd discovered them sooner.

5. The Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin" (1999) - My first contact with the lips came in 1997 when I read about their previous album Zaireeka. That album consisted of four seperate CDs that needed to be played simultaneously on four different machines. The process meant you'd never quite hear the same music twice. They followed this with a tour in which members of the audience were given boom boxes to play music on different tapes conducted by the band. It's those sort of ideas that make a band appeal to me. Soft Bulletin was a more conventional release but took the style the band had developed during the Zaireeka period and turned it into a more accessible format.

... and the rest ...

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor "F♯ A♯ ∞" (1997) - Post-rock year zero. Godspeed brought the mystery back into rock, though as Efrim recently explained "It's not hard – all you need is four chords and a really long runway".

7. Jeff Buckley "Grace" (1994) - The mid-nineties are poorly represented here but Buckley's only proper full length album was an early sign that great music was still there if you looked hard enough. Achingly beautiful vocals.

8. Cornershop "When I Was Born For The 7th Time" (1997) - An really eclectic mix from Pop - Brimful of Asha, to hip-hop - Butter The Soul, to Country - Good to Be on the Road Back Home all tied together by an Indian influence and rounded off by a cover of Norwegian Wood in Punjabi.

9. Mogwai "Come On Die Young" (1999) - More post-rock but with a Glaswegian flavour and a passionate rant from Iggy Pop about Punk Rock. Genius.

10. Detroit Cobras "Mink, Rat or Rabbit" (1998) - Detroit garage-rock band with album of obscure R&B covers that could soundtrack the wildest of parties. You need to see this band live.


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