Spin – The 90 Greatest Albums of the ’90s (September 1999)

Spin magazine. God I miss Spin magazine. Not the online one; the print one. The ’90s one. I was an avid reader ’96-2000. I would start reading it in the bathroom, beginning with the reviews in the back (obviously), and moving article by article to the front. I’d sit so long my legs would go numb. The best.

Print issues are available digitally through Google Books. Dig out this list and you’ll find excellent write-ups by the best music critics, plus gorgeous pictures and a clean, hip, and functional layout. Worth it. But me, I’m a text guy. So find reprinted below the main list, two essential supplementary lists for reissues and singles, and additional goodies marked “See also” scattered throughout. To die for.

Taken in sum, you get the ’90s according to Spin and, by extension, the dominant critical community c.1999. This is also my ’90s–not a list of my favorite albums, but a list that conceptualizes the decade as I remember it. Virtues of the sum include representation and inclusion, a demonstration of plenty rather than scarcity, and Biggie not 2Pac. Plus, Sonic Youth in the fine print, and the greatest music release ever, presented here as merely the top reissue of its time. If only!


The 90 Greatest Albums of the ’90s by Charles Aaron, Lorraine Ali, Chairman Mao, Windy Chien, Joshua Clover, Cheo Hodari Coker, Jon Dolan, Richard Gehr, Andy Gensler, Tony Green, Josh Kun, Jessica Letkemann, Robert Levine, Alan Light, Evelyn McDonnell, Suzanne McElfresh, Sia Michel, Greg Milner, Chris Norris, Simon Reynolds, James Rotondi, Mike Rubin, Jeff Salamon, Mark Schone, Craig Seymour, RJ Smith, Marc Spitz, D. Strauss, Kate Sullivan, Rob Tannenbaum, Sarah Vowell, Barry Walters, Eric Weisbard and Douglas Wolk

The Top 20 Reissues by Will Hermes

The Top 20 Singles by Charles Aaron

The 90 Greatest Albums of the ’90s

  1. Nirvana, Nevermind (DGC, 1991)
  2. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam, 1990)
  3. PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Island, 1995)
  4. Beck, Odelay (DGC, 1996)
  5. Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted (Matador, 1992)
    • See also: Bettie Serveert, Palomine
  6. Hole, Live Through This (DGC, 1994)
  7. Björk, Post (Elektra, 1995)
    • See also: Björk, Homogenic
  8. Dr. Dre, The Chronic (Death Row/Interscope, 1992)
  9. Radiohead, OK Computer (Capitol, 1997)
    • See also: Talk Talk, Laughing Stock
  10. The Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks, 1997)
    • See also: Live at the Heavenly Social Vol. 1 (Heavenly UK)
  11. Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (Nothing/Interscope, 1994)
  12. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head (Grand Royal/Capitol, 1992)
  13. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (Matador, 1993)
  14. Tricky, Maxinquaye (Island, 1995)
  15. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing… (Mo’ Wax/FFRR, 1996)
    • See also: Headz and Headz 2 (Mo’ Wax)
  16. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (Sire, 1991)
  17. Fugees, The Score (Columbia, 1996)
  18. Nirvana, In Utero (DGC, 1993)
  19. U2, Achtung Baby (Island, 1991)
  20. Moby, Play (V2, 1999)
    • See also: Josh Wink, “Higher State of Consciousness”
  21. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out (Kill Rock Stars, 1997)
  22. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (Loud/RCA, 1993)
  23. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream (Virgin, 1993)
  24. Massive Attack, Blue Lines (Virgin, 1991)
  25. Various Artists, Return of the DJ, Vols. 1&2 (Bomb Hip-Hop, 1996, 1997)
  26. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine (Epic, 1992)
  27. The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die (Bad Boy/Arista, 1994)
  28. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998)
  29. Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind (Columbia, 1997)
  30. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Supreme Collection Volume 1 (Caroline, 1997)
    • See also: Untouchable Outcaste Beats (Tommy Boy)
  31. Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes (Atlantic, 1992)
    • See also: Fiona Apple, Tidal
  32. A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (Jive, 1991)
    • See also: The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  33. Pearl Jam, Ten (Epic, 1991)
  34. Cornershop, When I Was Born for the 7th Time (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., 1997)
  35. OutKast, Aquemini (LaFace/Arista, 1998)
  36. Fugazi, Repeater (Dischord, 1990)
    • See also: Jawbox, Grippe
  37. PJ Harvey, Rid of Me (Island, 1993)
  38. Roni Size/Reprazent, New Forms (Talkin’ Loud/Mercury, 1997)
  39. The Breeders, Last Splash (4AD/Elektra, 1993)
  40. R.E.M., Automatic for the People (Warner Bros., 1992)
    • See also: Vic Chesnutt, Is the Actor Happy?
  41. Sebadoh, Sebadoh III (Homestead, 1991)
  42. Portishead, Dummy (Go Discs!/London, 1994)
  43. Pulp, Different Class (Island, 1995)
  44. Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Ensign, 1990)
  45. Basement Jaxx, Remedy (Astralwerks, 1999)
  46. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Elektra, 1996)
  47. L.L. Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out (Def Jam, 1990)
  48. Sublime, Sublime (Gasoline Alley/MCA, 1996)
    • See also: No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom
  49. Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio, El Circo (BMG Mexico, 1991)
    • See also: Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Rey Azucar
  50. Air, Moon Safari (Source/Caroline, 1998)
  51. TLC, CrazySexyCool (LaFace, 1994)
  52. Metallica, Metallica (Elektra, 1991)
  53. Green Day, Dookie (Reprise, 1994)
    • See also: Rancid, …And Out Come the Wolves
  54. Bikini Kill, Bikini Kill EP (Kill Rock Stars, 1992)
    • See also: Bratmobile, Pottymouth
  55. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Ragged Glory (Warner Bros., 1990)
  56. Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S, 1992); Selected Ambient Works Volume II (Warp/Sire, 1994)
    • See also: Autechre, Tri Repetae++
  57. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill (Columbia, 1991)
  58. Red Hot Chili Peppers, BloodSugarSexMagik (Warner Bros., 1991)
  59. Sonny Sharrock, Ask the Ages (Axiom, 1991)
    • See also: Sonic Youth, A Thousand Leaves
  60. The Prodigy, Music for the Jilted Generation (XL/Mute, 1994)
  61. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury, 1998)
  62. Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Matador, 1994)
  63. Uncle Tupelo, No Depression (Rockville, 1990)
    • See also: The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall
  64. Built to Spill, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love (Up, 1995)
    • See also: Modest Mouse, The Lonesome Crowded West
  65. Basehead, Play With Toys (Imago, 1992)
  66. Missy Elliott, Supa Dupa Fly (EastWest, 1997)
    • See also: Timbaland and Magoo, Welcome to Our World
  67. Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die (Thrill Jockey, 1996)
  68. Fatboy Slim, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (Astralwerks, 1998)
  69. Slint, Spiderland (Touch and Go, 1991)
  70. Soundgarden, Superunknown (A&M, 1994)
  71. Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch, 1997)
  72. Mary J. Blige, My Life (Uptown, 1994)
    • See also: Erykah Badu, Baduizm
  73. Elliott Smith, Either/Or (Kill Rock Stars, 1997)
    • See also: Richard Buckner, Devotion+Doubt
  74. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead (Tommy Boy, 1991)
    • See also: De La Soul, Buhloone Mindstate
  75. Steve Earle, I Feel Alright (Warner Bros., 1996)
  76. Daft Punk, Homework (Virgin, 1997)
  77. Boredoms, Super Æ (Birdman, 1998)
  78. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador, 1997)
  79. Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Epic, 1995)
    • See also: Blur, The Great Escape
  80. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (Priority, 1990)
  81. Kristin Hersh, Hips and Makers (Sire/Reprise, 1994)
  82. The Orb, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (Island, 1991)
  83. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud, 1995)
  84. Lisa Germano, Geek the Girl (4AD, 1994)
  85. Various Artists, Macro Dub Infection Volume 1 (Caroline/Virgin, 1995)
    • See also: Mad Professor, No Protection
  86. Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagon (Bulk, 1996/Dreamworks, 1997)
  87. Everything but the Girl, Walking Wounded (Atlantic, 1996)
  88. Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge, 1998)
  89. Prince Paul, A Prince Among Thieves (Tommy Boy, 1999)
  90. Cibo Matto, Viva! La Woman (Warner Bros., 1996)

The Top 20 Reissues

  1. James Brown, Star Time (Polydor)
  2. Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (Mango)
    • See also: Linton Kwesi Johnson, Independant Intavenshan (Island)
  3. Miles Davis, Dark Magus/Live Evil/At Fillmore/Black Beauty/In Concert (Columbia)
    • See also: Miles Davis, Bitches Brew; Agharta; Pangaea (Columbia)
  4. Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian Folkways)
  5. Tropicalia: 30 Años (Polygram Brazil)
    • See also: Os Mutantes, Everything Is Possible! (Luaka Bop); The Best of Tom Zé (Luaka Bop)
  6. Martin Denny, Exotica (Rhino)
    • See also: Esquivel, Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (Bar/None); Incredibly Strange Music, Vols. 1 and 2 (Asphodel)
  7. Ennio Morricone, A Fistful of Film Music (Rhino)
    • See also: The Carl Stalling Project, Vols. 1 and 2 (Warner Bros.); John Barry, The EMI Years, Vols. 1-3 (Scamp/Caroline)
  8. Serge Gainsbourg, Comic Strip (Polygram/Mercury)
    • See also: Françoise Hardy, Comment Te Dire Adieu (Virgin France)
  9. Louvin Brothers, Satan Is Real (Capitol)
    • See also: Complete Hank Williams (Mercury); The Essential Johnny Cash (Columbia)
  10. Derrick May, Innovator (Transmat)
    • See also: Model 500 (Juan Atkins), Classics (R&S Austria)
  11. Orchestre Baobab, Bamba (Stern’s)
    • See also: 30 Ans de Musique Africaine (Africa No. 1/Sonodisc UK); Africa Never Stand Still (Ellipsis Arts)
  12. The Perfect Beats (Tommy Boy)
    • See also: Street Jams: Electric Funk, Pts. 1-4 (Rhino)
  13. The Congos, Heart of the Congos (Blood & Fire)
    • See also: Lee “Scratch” Perry: Arkology (Island); The Wailers, The Complete Wailers 1969-1972 (JAD)
  14. Yoko Ono, Ono Box (Rykodisc)
    • See also: The Raincoats, The Raincoats; Odyshape (Geffen)
  15. History of Our World Parts 1&2 (Sm:)e)
    • See also: Toasted: Massive Ragga Jungle (Mutant Sound System)
  16. Fela Kuti, Original Sufferhead/I.T.T. (Universal France)
    • See also: Fela Kuti, Shakara/Fela’s London Scene (Universal France)
  17. Wild Style: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Rhino)
  18. Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 8: Binghamton, NY 5/2/70 (Grateful Dead)
    • See also: Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 4: Fillmore East 5/13/70-5/14/70 (Grateful Dead)
  19. Bob Dylan, Live 1966 (Columbia)
    • See also: Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3 (Columbia)
  20. Nuggets (Rhino)

The Top 20 Singles

  1. Dr. Dre, “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” (Death Row/Priority, 1992)
  2. PJ Harvey, “Sheela-Na-Gig” (Island, 1992)
  3. TLC, “Creep” (LaFace, 1994)
  4. Beastie Boys, “Sabotage” (Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994)
  5. Arrested Development, “Tennessee” (Chrysalis, 1992)
  6. Beck, “Loser” (Bong Load/DGC, 1994)
  7. Pavement, “Summer Babe” (Drag City, 1991)
  8. Joey Beltram, “Energy Flash” (R&S/Transmat, 1991)
  9. Goldie, “Timeless” (FFRR, 1995)
  10. Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” (Elektra, 1992)
  11. Deee-Lite, “Groove Is in the Heart” (Elektra, 1990)
  12. Geto Boys, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” (Rap-A-Lot, 1992)
  13. Orbital, “Chime” (FFRR, 1990)
  14. Quad City DJ’s, “C’Mon N’ Ride It (The Train)” (Big Beat/Atlantic, 1996)
  15. (tie) D’Angelo, “Brown Sugar” (EMI, 1995); Erykah Badu, “On and On” (Universal, 1997)
  16. Prodigy, “Firestarter” (Maverick, 1997)
  17. Digital Underground, “The Humpty Dance” (Tommy Boy, 1990)
  18. Aaliyah, “Are You That Somebody?” (Atlantic, 1998)
  19. Superchunk, “Slack Motherfucker” (Merge, 1990)
  20. (tie) Hanson, “MMMBop” (Mercury, 1997); Naughty by Nature, “O.P.P.” (Tommy Boy, 1991)

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