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100 best albums of the '90s

  • 100 best albums of the '90s

    The decade of the 1990s was a really unique and exciting time in music. It’s a period that gave us (and our ears) a little bit of everything from all around the globe, with hundreds of artists in various genres peaking in their careers and experiencing both critical and commercial success with their records.

    We saw alternative rock gain huge amounts of mainstream traction with bands like Oasis, U2, and Green Day. The U.K. also had a Britpop boom, with Pulp, Blur, and Suede leading the way in this cultural and musical movement.

    Additionally, grunge music really came into its own, with Nirvana and Pearl Jam sailing to the top of the charts with their bold guitar riffs and gritty sounds. Heavy metal, which first came to popularity in the 1970s, continued its aggressive momentum with “thrasher” bands like Metallica and "industrial" acts including Nine Inch Nails. Hip-hop and rap music also experienced a major renaissance, with Notorious B.I.G. and Dr. Dre closing the gap between West Coast and East Coast hip-hop.

    Electronic music also had a major moment, with downtempo, ambient, shoegazing, and synth-pop being subgenres; musicians like Bjork, Moby, and Fishmans showed us all we could enjoy electronica whether you were at a dance club or chilling out in your living room.

    And we can’t forget about the decade’s solo artists—many of whom are female, like Lauryn Hill and Alanis Morrissette—giving us the emotional ballads and empowering hits we still belt out to this day.

    Stacker compiled data on the top 100 albums of the ’90s according to Best Ever Albums, which ranks albums according to their appearance and performance on 40,000 editorial and data-based charts (e.g., Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard, etc.). The Best Ever Albums score is derived from a formula that weighs how many charts an album has appeared on and how high it was on each of those charts, and awards points accordingly. For a more in-depth methodology, click here.

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  • #100. 'Throwing Copper' by Live

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,514
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 74
    - Rank in year: #18
    - Rank all-time: #549
    - Year: 1994
    - Country: US

    The American alternative rock band Live put out their second studio album in 1994, which was subsequently certified eight times platinum by the RIAA. All five singles released off of “Throwing Copper” were considered chart-topping successes. Fun fact: the album’s cover art, painted by a Scottish artist, sold for $186,000 in 2005.

  • #99. 'August and Everything After' by Counting Crows

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,516
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 73
    - Rank in year: #8
    - Rank all-time: #548
    - Year: 1993
    - Country: US

    The Counting Crows first broke onto the scene as rock legends of the ’90s with their debut album “August and Everything After. The album achieved multi-platinum status in many countries and its top single, “Mr. Jones,” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  • #98. 'Little Earthquakes' by Tori Amos

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,539
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
    - Rank in year: #8
    - Rank all-time: #542
    - Year: 1992
    - Country: US

    This debut album began as a 10-track demo tape that was first rejected by Atlantic Records. In response, Amos’s boyfriend rerecorded some of her songs (plus some new ones) in his home studio, and finally released her 13-track album “Little Earthquakes” in the U.K. Amos is credited as songwriter, acoustic and electric pianos, and lead vocals on every track.

  • #97. 'The Fat of the Land' by The Prodigy

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,551
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 76
    - Rank in year: #13
    - Rank all-time: #536
    - Year: 1997
    - Country: UK

    “The Fat of the Land” is the third studio album of The Prodigy, an English electronic music group. As of 2019, the album has sold an impressive 10 million copies around the world, but not without some controversy—feminist groups like The National Organization for Women criticized the track “Smack My Bitch Up” for being misogynistic, but the band stressed that the lyrics were used for their sounds instead of their meanings.

  • #96. 'Repeater' by Fugazi

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,568
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 81
    - Rank in year: #8
    - Rank all-time: #535
    - Year: 1990
    - Country: US

    “Repeater” is revered as a beacon in the history of post-hardcore music, a genre that mixes the “anger” of hardcore punk with the avante-garde creativity of post-punk and rock. As Fugazi’s first studio album, it was well-received by critics and has sold over two million copies worldwide.

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  • #95. 'Vitalogy' by Pearl Jam

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,664
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
    - Rank in year: #17
    - Rank all-time: #523
    - Year: 1994
    - Country: US

    "Vitalogy" was a bit of a stylistic departure for Pearl Jam, containing more bellicose rock songs and experimental sounds. Behind the scenes when creating their third album, the band admits things were a bit chaotic—guitarist Mike McCready entered rehab and drummer Dave Abbruzzese got his tonsils removed. But despite these hardships, the fast-selling record was eventually certified five times platinum in the U.S.

  • #94. 'To Bring You My Love' by PJ Harvey

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,665
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
    - Rank in year: #8
    - Rank all-time: #522
    - Year: 1995
    - Country: UK

    While “To Bring You My Love” is PJ Harvey’s third studio album, it’s thought to be her most groundbreaking. The English alternative rock record pulled a lot of influence from American blues music and focused more heavily than prior releases from the artist on the subjects of love, loss, and longing in relationships. It was well-praised by critics everywhere and garnered two Grammy nominations.

  • #93. 'Angel Dust' by Faith No More

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,827
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 79
    - Rank in year: #7
    - Rank all-time: #504
    - Year: 1992
    - Country: US

    Though this was Faith No More’s fourth studio album, it’s the first record in which the band’s vocalist, Mike Patton, wrote most of the lyrics; interestingly, he garnered inspiration from unlikely places including fortune cookies, states of sleep deprivation, and people-watching in rough areas. “Angel Dust” sold over 2.5 million copies and was named “Album of the Year” in 1992 by seven different publications.

  • #92. 'Ritual de lo Habitual' by Jane's Addiction

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,828
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 77
    - Rank in year: #7
    - Rank all-time: #503
    - Year: 1990
    - Country: US

    This alternative-metal-slash-funk record was both the second and final studio album put out by Jane’s Addiction, which drew a lot of its inspiration from the dark and bizarre underbelly of 1980s Los Angeles. Though the band broke up in 1991 after its release, the album sold half a million copies just one month after its release and was eventually certified twice platinum in the U.S.

  • #91. 'Let Love In' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

    - Best Ever Albums score: 3,831
    - Best Ever Albums user rating: 82
    - Rank in year: #16
    - Rank all-time: #501
    - Year: 1994
    - Country: Australia

    This Australian rock band experienced great success with their eighth studio album, which sold 60,000 records in the U.K. as of 1995 and was certified silver by British Phonographic Industry. Multiple songs on the album were widely covered by other artists including Metallica, PJ Harvey, GIant Sand, and Arctic Monkeys.

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