Portishead - Dummy

There are few debuts as fully realized as that of Portishead’s 1994 release, Dummy. With an unflinching adherence to a jarring, introspective aesthetic, the potency of the album is no less muted by the passage of time, as Dummy remains as indefinable now as it did then. It’s not necessarily a ‘90’s’ album, but it is clearly one of that decade’s most important releases.

Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

A coworker of mine once approached my cubicle – this was a while back – and held up a copy of the Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine and uttered the line “Sometimes it’s just a Pretty Hate Machine day.” We shared a laugh, and it became apparent that her day was filled with frustration, and the only aphrodisiac was Trent Reznor’s most volatile work. This stuck with me for quite some time, and for her anniversary a few years later I presented her with the only album that I went to when I was feeling frustrated – Microcastle which to this day is still packaged with its companion piece Weird Era Cont.

Tim Sentz
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See

Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See

Some albums, great and forgotten, are cut from the blood of hardships, some from the sweat of non-stop touring, some from the tears of break-ups and disappointments; and then there are those cut straight from the bands own pure talents, refined, polished and left to shine in refracted light off their glorious surfaces. Miners dig for stones to uncover and cutters in workshops sculpt to shape rocks into shining jewels. Occasionally works of pure art are born.

Warwick Stubbs
X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents
X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents

X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents

It’s been 40 years since ‘The World Turned Day-Glo’ and Poly Styrene & Co. sliced through the ‘Art-I-Ficial’ world of consumerism. Germfree Adolescents is a brutally honest broadside against ‘Genetic Engineering’, poseurs, ‘Warriors in Woolworths’, bandwagon-jumpers searching for their ‘Identity’ in the weeklies and fashion magazines, frustrated about living on the dole because ‘I Can’t Do Anything’.

Jeff Penczak
A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

Like the other Native Tongues acts, A Tribe Called Quest made a name for themselves by blurring genre lines and even artistic media in order to create a diverse, flourishing ecosystem of aesthetic variance. They began to gain a devoted following with their moderately successful debut, 1990’s People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which found the group preaching the gospel of positivity through Afrocentric lyrics and spitting witty verses over a minimalist jazz groove. Their signature sound was built around an efficient production that worked as a cultural bridge between generations.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

What’s there to say? Dark Side of the Moon is to classic rock what In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is to Indie: ubiquitous. Essential, but still ubiquitous all the same. It exists in the same pop culture sphere as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Nevermind. Everything’s already been said about it by pretty much every publication on the face of the earth. In order to have any new insights at this point, you would had to have either been at the Abbey Road studio while it was being recorded or caught Roger Waters one too many drinks in at a local pub.

Kyle Kersey
Lambchop - What Another Man Spills
Lambchop - What Another Man Spills

Lambchop - What Another Man Spills

Mark Moody
The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk
The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk

The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk

Jeff Penczak
Neil Young - Weld
Neil Young - Weld

Neil Young - Weld

In a career where each artistic step has felt like a reaction to the one before it, Neil Young’s 1991 Weld/Arc release is perhaps best summed up as the live document that captures Young and his live band at the peak of their collective abilities.  A record so sonically dense that Young claims the mixing sessions permanently damaged his hearing, Weld documents the 1991 tour in support of the critically acclaimed Ragged Glory, an album regarded by many (this reviewer included) as one of the best from Young’s mid-period ‘grunge’ years.

R.E.M. - Out Of Time
R.E.M. - Out Of Time

R.E.M. - Out Of Time

It’s nearly impossible to discuss R.E.M.’s ascent from enigmatic indie-rockers to stadium-filling pop stars without mentioning the band’s seventh album, Out Of Time, and the brooding, minor-key anthem “Losing My Religion.”  By 1991, the band had already conquered the college-rock landscape, but thanks to the universal embracing of the unconventional single by radio (as well as round-the-clock play on MTV), R.E.M. finally crossed over into pop-culture consciousness.  And while its political significance has long since been relegated to mere footnote status*, Out Of Time managed to open the kind of doors for R.E.M. that only a few years earlier would have seemed like an impossibility.

Swervedriver - Raise
Swervedriver - Raise

Swervedriver - Raise

There are three tiers to shoegaze. The top tier universally consists of only three bands – My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride – usually in that order of importance. Most shoegaze addicts list those three bands as the pioneers of the genre, even if the Jesus & Mary Chain created the genre unexpectedly with Psychocandy, these purveyors of style created the first official wave of the gaze. The third tier is largely composed of imitators and revivalists capitalizing on a very niche genre – Nothing, A Place to Bury Strangers, etc. The largest section is Tier 2, the bands that came after the holy trinity hit big – Lush, Chapterhouse, Catherine Wheel, Swirlies, and Swervedriver (among several others).

Tim Sentz
Pulp - Different Class
Pulp - Different Class

Pulp - Different Class

Pulp’s 1995 album, Different Class is remarkable for several reasons. For one, it’s whip-smart Pop. For another, it's deft satire. It’s also the breakthrough for a band that had been flitting about for seventeen years. While they often get associated with the Britpop movement that catapulted Blur and Oasis, they were never really part of that scene. Which might explain why they stood apart. Regardless, after the highly acclaimed, His ‘n Hers, they suddenly shot out into the spotlight with Different Class. With a vengeance.

Kevin Orton