Here are the 200 Best Albums of the 1990s. Compilations are included but only sparingly. There was no limit for the number of albums per artist, but many albums were left off because the artist was already represented.


200. Various Artists – Artificial Intelligence [1992]

From that beautifully-dated album cover to the inclusion of future IDM stars, Artificial Intelligence is an essential document of the glitchy revolution coming for electronic music in the ’90s.


199. Sebadoh – III [1991]

Made on the cheap, III is Sebadoh’s breakthrough and stands as a testament to the rewarding guitar tones of lo-fi in relation to the bloated hard rock of the early-’90s.


198. Orbital – In Sides [1996]

Orbital’s move from UK rave to ambient techno proved fruitful as they balance immediacy and complexity gracefully.


197. The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic [1990]

The Sundays separated themselves from the dry aesthetics of UK jangle pop by employing circuitous, hazy guitar lines.


196. Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty [1998]

Hello Nasty is not only the last time the Beastie Boys were relevant but the true sonic-hodgepodge sequel to Paul’s Boutique.


195. The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole [1996]

This is the only Chemical Brothers’ album where their trademark Big Beat heavy-handedness produces more gratifying moments than grating.


194. A Guy Called Gerald – Black Secret Technology [1995]

The acid house legend pulled out all the stops for this career-defining Drum and Bass collection.


193. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot [1995]

Along with Good Morning Spider, this album cemented Sparklehorse as a fragile, multifaceted cult indie star.


192. Tindersticks – Tindersticks [1993]

Tindersticks broke through with their first album as the sonically-adventurous yet understated reprieve from Britpop’s nationalist grandiosity.


191. Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle [1993]

Archers of Loaf offered a compact version of late-’80s college rock without losing the intensity or artfulness.


190. Brainiac – Bonsai Superstar [1994]

Zany and abrasive, Brainiac carved out an art punk aesthetic all their own on Bonsai Superstar and their follow-up album.


189. MF DOOM – Operation: Doomsday [1999]

MF Doom’s comic book surrealism would be fully realized on Madvillainy, but Operation: Doomsday also properly displays his acerbic lyrical skills and blunt vocals.


188. Tom Waits – Bone Machine [1992]

Nearly twenty years into his career, Waits offered his most blistering and dismal album and proved he would not becomes a legacy act in the ’90s like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen.


187. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen [1993]

With their major label debut, the Afghan Whigs displayed an open-heart confessional style that was rare in ’90s hard rock.


186. Scott Walker – Tilt [1995]

Walker’s rich vocals glide across an industrial wasteland of post-rock and orchestras in this genuinely-shocking comeback.


185. Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus [1997]

Few rap groups were this in sync and forward-thinking, but the spotlight is certainly on El-P, whose resumé of production chops begins here.


184. Red House Painters – Red House Painters I [1993]

Before Mark Kozelek was the unanimous pick for biggest scumbag in indie music, he was the frontman for these slow-burn folk rock underdogs that peaked with this second release.


183. Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary [1994]

Sunny Day Real Estate are seen as the quintessential emo band with many disciples touting Diary and specifically Jeremy Enigk’s delivery as the touchstone.


182. Scarface – The Diary [1994]

Scarface’s masterpiece was one of the biggest surprise commercial successes of the ’90s considering he sacrificed none of his underground edge from the Geto Boys.


181. Kelis – Kaleidoscope [1999]

Kelis has often been forgotten (commercially and critically) amidst the pop/r&b tsunami of the late-’90s/early-’00s, but her debut album with production from the Neptunes is a definitive classic of the era.


180. Beck – Mutations [1998]

Mutations suffers from being Beck’s least-essential album in his classic run (96-02), but it’s best seen as a happy medium between Beck’s zany and somber sides.


179. Jawbox – For Your Own Special Sweetheart [1994]

For at least one year in the ’90s, the best post-punk band out of D.C. was not Fugazi but their mostly-overlooked Dischord label mate Jawbox.


178. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual [1990]

The grimy white boy funk rock crown has always belonged to Jane’s Addiction rather than the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Ritual De Lo Habitual was their most successful album.


177. Goldie – Timeless [1995]

In the ’90s, Goldie acted in a James Bond movie, dated Björk, and made some impressive breakbeat that is best summarized on Timeless.


176. Daniel Johnston – 1990 [1990]

Daniel Johnston’s greatest attribute is his earnest innocence as he sings as if he is continually finding all the right answers, which he does on 1990.


175. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal [1995]

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony at their prime, as on E. 1999 Eternal, blurred the lines between rap and soul/r&b in a graceful stroke unseen before or since.


174. Mark Hollis – Mark Hollis [1998]

Mark Hollis’ only album after Talk Talk finds a quieter, lonelier beauty than Laughing Stock with an emphasis on his unmatched voice.


173. Robert Hood – Minimal Nation [1994]

Hood’s repetition seems simple but actually builds in tangents that can overwhelm your pleasure centers.


172. Sleater-Kinney – The Hot Rock [1999]

After the immediate classic Dig Me OutThe Hot Rock was the first indication that Sleater-Kinney could just make classic rock records ad infinitum.


171. Jim O’Rourke – Bad Timing [1997]

O’Rourke’s magical Drag City run begins here with John Fahey-tribute instrumentals that stretch into maximalist Americana landscapes.


170. Tortoise – TNT [1998]

With TNT, Tortoise pushed post-rock into uncharted territory with jazzier, exotic rhythms, and it proved to be a natural fit.


169. The Cure – Wish [1992]

Wish is a great cap on the Cure’s legacy (complete with their most-popular song and many way-more riveting tracks) even if it stands in the shadow of their ’80s work.


168. Unrest – Perfect Teeth [1993]

As their name indicates, Unrest play guitar with a rare propulsive energy that will simply carry you throughout Perfect Teeth.


167. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? [1995]

Oasis’ anthemic spirit drives them through all the awkwardness, blatant plastiche, and exaggerated praise from the British music press.


166. Madonna – Ray of Light [1998]

Ray of Light begins Madonna’s last wave of success that would take her into the 21st century by fully embracing the electro-club scene.


165. Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap [1998]

Belle & Sebastian’s third album features more voices and contributors, but they avoid potential bloat or a lack of focus by refining their soft indie pop aesthetic.


164. U2 – Achtung Baby [1991]

If not their best, Achtung Baby is certainly U2’s most exciting and dynamic album as their new direction in aesthetic and production carries them though any weak moments.


163. TLC – Fanmail [1999]

TLC returned five years after Crazysexycool to find a pop/r&b landscape that had caught up with them, but Fanmail certainly lived up to the challenge.


162. Autechre – LP5 [1998]

On LP5, Autechre present a frigid digital landscape whose depth is displayed through sheer technical prowess.


161. Suede – Dog Man Star [1994]

Britpop’s underdog were just as dynamic and grand as the big three on their best album.


160. Soundgarden – Superunknown [1994]

Outside of Nirvana, Soundgarden were the best and most melodic hard rock/grunge band of the ’90s with Superunknown standing as their most lasting document.


159. Sonic Youth – Dirty [1992]

Dirty is Sonic Youth’s mostly-successful attempt at aligning themselves with the more-mainstream bands they influenced that is wrongly derided as lightweight.


158. Souls of Mischief – 93 ’til Infinity [1993]

In the early-90s, the hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics brought a jazzier underground sound to Oakland, and Souls of Mischief’s 93 ’til Infinity was the sound’s peak.


157. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road [1998]

Garth Brooks’ and Shania Twain’s popularity helped create a country-pop landscape that desperately needed alt-country stalwarts like Williams to bring edginess and craftsmanship back.


156. The Verve – Urban Hymns [1997]

With Urban Hymns, the Verve morphed into a band perfectly suited for a UK rock scene that thrived on orchestra arrangements and bold anthems.


155. The Jesus Lizard – Goat [1991]

On Goat and with production help from Steve Albini, the Jesus Lizard was the best post-hardcore band of the ’90s.


154. The Olivia Tremor Control – Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One [1999]

The Olivia Tremor Control managed to perfectly balance indie pop and goofy experimentation in this carnivalesque masterpiece.

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153. Maxwell – Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite [1996]

Maxwell relies on organic instrumentation like his neo-soul contemporaries, but his M.O. is peppier and funkier.


152. Squarepusher – Big Loada [1997]

Squarepusher’s euphoric mix of 8-bit video game sounds and polyrhythms on Big Loada set him apart in the IDM scene.


151. Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped [1991]

With the album cover and “Mind Play Tricks on Me,” the Geto Boys gained notoriety and praise that has mostly not been given to the album responsible.