(On My Recommended Albums through the Decades) Part Four: 1990s
I started this series with my top favorite albums from the 1960s, the 1970s, and then the 1980s. Now we continue on to the next decade.
Having developed the fancy for elaborate music genres like Art Rock and Baroque Pop of the 1960s (the likes of The Beatles, David Bowie, and The Moody Blues), Progressive Rock and Post-punk of the 1970s (Caravan, Rush, Television), and New Wave of the 1980s (Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears), in the 1990s I naturally gravitated to bands/artists regarded as Alternative Rock or Britpop—which may be considered offshoots or extensions of such genres.
I was always looking for that trademark sound—angular rhythm guitars, melodic bass lines and lead-guitar lines, synthesizers and keyboards, structured drum patterns, and low-register or brooding vocal styles. The following albums are the top 13 representatives from the 1990s of the kind of music that became my most favorite.
Toad the Wet Sprocket (USA) – fear (1991)
This album was what catapulted the band to commercial popularity. This was one of the albums that soundtracked many of my memories from that decade. Recommended songs: “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean,” “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted.”
Gin Blossoms (USA) – New Miserable Experience (1992)
Each of the albums of this band may be regarded as a no-filler killer, and this was where it started. “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Found Out about You.”
The Lemonheads (USA) – It’s a Shame about Ray (1992)
If all the albums of this band were bags of candies, then this one would be full of gummies and jelly beans. “Confetti,” “Rudderless,” “Kitchen.”
Shelleyan Orphan (England) – Humroot (1992)
A must-have for serious Alternative Rock enthusiasts, featuring orchestral elements and former members of The Cure. “Muddied-Up,” “Burst,” “Little Death.”
Sloan (Canada) – Smeared (1992)
The first album of one of Canada’s best contributions to the Alternative Rock scene. “I Am the Cancer,” “500 Up,” “Underwhelmed.”
Spent Poets (USA) – Spent Poets (1992)
Another must-have obscurity that harked to the Baroque Pop and Art Rock of the previous decades. “My Useless Heart,” “Your Existential Past,” “Walt Whitman’s Beard.”
Vanilla Trainwreck (USA) – Sounding to Try like You (1992)
An obscurity that focused on angular and spiral guitar rhythms and melodies. “Waint,” “Yellow,” “Jet.”
The Posies (USA) – Frosting on the Beater (1993)
Almost Grunge, but the melodic quality of the guitar tracks and the songs themselves made it more New Wave–sounding. “Dream All Day,” “Solar Sister,” “Flavor of the Month.”
Barenaked Ladies (Canada) – Maybe You Should Drive (1994)
The second album of another Canadian Alternative Rock gem. “Alternative Girlfriend,” “Jane,” “Everything Old Is New Again.”
The Lightning Seeds (England) – Jollification (1994)
The strawberry-sweet third album of one of the purveyors of English New Wave in the 1990s. “Lucky You,” “Marvellous,” “Perfect.”
Blur (England) – The Great Escape (1995)
The flag waver of Britpop in the 1990s. “Country House,” “Charmless Man,” “The Universal.”
The Boo Radleys (England) – Wake Up! (1995)
Britpop at its most complex-structured, multi-instrumented, and well-orchestrated. “Wake Up Boo!”, “It’s Lulu,” “Find the Answer Within.”
Popsicle (Sweden) – Popsicle (1996)
Who said that New Wave bands may be found only in the U.K. and the USA? “Good with Us,” “Not Forever,” “Please Don’t Ask.“
I don’t buy the claim that this or that decade was the best time in music. As a passionate music enthusiast, I could easily pick great bands and albums from different genres from any given decade. Luckily, I could extend my being an openminded person even to music. I enjoy listening to it without prejudice, but this does not mean that my musical taste is bland or undiscerning. I know if a band or a song is simple or complex, if the members are virtuosic or mediocre, or if a song is well-written or not; but these factors don’t really matter anyway, for different songs evoke different reactions or emotions from different listeners. For that, I could see the beauty in every piece of music regardless if it’s a challenging one-and-a-half-hour symphony or a typical three-minute Pop song.