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11 Best Forgotten 1990's Albums

Ashley Hawkins |
December 3, 2014 | 4:41 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

 Phil Wallis/NME)
Phil Wallis/NME)
Somehow, certain bands from the nineties are STILL making headlines and have not lost their cultural relevance. Seriously, is there a single person who does not know Nirvana’s “Nevermind?” With the band’s recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the newly commissioned HBO documentary about Kurt Cobain, (executive produced by his daughter) Nirvana is still in the spotlight even though the band has not existed for over 20 years. 

Sure, “Nevermind” is a masterpiece, and Nirvana deserves all the recognition it continues to receive, but the nineties produced a ton of incredible music, not all of which our culture remembers. Here are 11 albums that, although they were popular and influential in the last millennium, have been neglected by modern audiences:

 “Peoples’ Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm” by A Tribe Called Quest (1990)

Maybe the most popular underground rap group of all time, A Tribe Called Quest created a masterpiece with 1990’s “Peoples’ Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm.”  Known for its incredible production, some of the best samples in all of hip-hop and some of the smoothest delivery ever from Q-Tip, this album is a gem that should be more popular than it is. Case in point: is there any song sexier than “Bonita Applebum?”

“Ritual De Lo Habitual” by Jane’s Addiction (1990) 

Jane’s Addiction, in many ways, laid the groundwork for alternative music to blow up in the 1990s, bringing together punk, funk, and metal with folk and jazz elements along with the energy and unique vocals of front man Perry Farrell for an entirely new sound. “Ritual De Lo Habitual” made Jane’s Addiction a leading force in the music world – especially in Los Angeles. But because the group split in 1991, the band did not last long enough to solidify their legendary status.

“Manic Compression” by Quicksand (1995)

Evolving from 1980s hardcore punk, Quicksand was simultaneously heavier and more melodic than other bands with the same influences, including grunge acts like Soundgarden or Nirvana and alt-metal bands like Helmet. On “Manic Compression,” Quicksand oscillates between totally aggressive, powerful, crunchy, metal-inspired guitar riffs and almost alternative, melodic post-hardcore grooves with unequaled smoothness, developing a diversity of sound that no other band at that time could offer.

“High/Low” by Nada Surf (1996)

Falling in the same brand of alt-rock as Weezer, Nada Surf’s debut album was ultimately overshadowed by the former’s 1996 masterpiece, “Pinkerton.” However, although “High/Low” could not compete with the vulnerability of Weezer’s “Pinkerton,” its mastery of blending upbeat guitar melodies with mellow alt-rock grooves is unparalleled.

“The Score” by Fugees (1996)

Sure, Lauryn Hill is an R&B legend by now, and everyone knows the soulful song “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” but somehow “The Score” – Fugees’ best album and a hip-hop classic - has faded into obscurity. Combining jazz, R&B, reggae, and rap, Fugees are one of the most versatile hip-hop groups of all time, and “The Score” is essentially flawless. How this album is not still popular is beyond me.

“Becoming X” by Sneaker Pimps (1996)

Heavy yet hypnotic, “Becoming X” stretched the trip-hop genre popularized by Portishead and was successful in both the UK and America. Pairing Kelli Dayton’s mesmerizing, high vocals over dark electronic beats and guitar melodies, Sneaker Pimps created a sound that was simultaneously groovy and eerie with “Becoming X.”

“The Fat of the Land” by The Prodigy (1997)

Amid the increasingly popular electronica scene in the 1990s, no other group (except Aphex Twin) was as experimental or unique as The Prodigy – mixing metal chords, reggae samples, and the unmistakable vocals of Keith Flint with rave music, specifically drum’n’bass techno. With “The Fat of the Land,” The Prodigy redefined the alternative dance scene and brought a sort of “rock star” aesthetic to the electronica genre.

“Blur” by Blur (1997) 

 Blur’s fifth album, “Blur” combined Brit-pop a la The Smiths with a more American-inspired indie rock sound and was the band’s first album to succeed in America. Of course, when Brit-pop began to decline in popularity, Damon Albarn went on to create the Gorillaz in 2000, who more or less totally eclipsed Blur with its innovative cartoon hip-hop format and left “Blur” in its wake.  However, while Blur may not be Albarn’s most popular group anymore, “Blur” is a solid album that has undoubtedly influenced many modern alternative bands (have you listened to Gerard Way’s new album?) and that has avoided sounding dated.

“Dig Me Out” by Sleater-Kinney (1997)

Influenced by the riot grrrl movement in the Pacific Northwest, Sleater-Kinney’s “Dig Me Out” combined the dynamism of punk rock with the more melodious, tuneful alternative genre. Although Sleater-Kinney had less staying power than other all-girl or female-fronted bands like Bikini Kill or Hole, “Dig Me Out” exhibits complex melodies and impassioned vocals that were unmatched by other bands in the same scene.

“Moon Pix” by Cat Power (1998)

The nineties produced a slew of successful singer-songwriters including Liz Phair and Fiona Apple, but Cat Power – with her extremely personal lyrics and very unique vocal style – is perhaps the supreme indie-rock solo female artist of the nineties. Although all of her early albums are fantastic in terms of the emotion they convey, “Moon Pix” is more polished than her first three albums and allows Cat Power’s skills to shine.

“Midnite Vultures” by Beck (1999)

Beck is famous, but not for “Midnite Vultures” – maybe his best album as a whole. Yes, “Loser” is a great song and is a hit for a reason, but “Midnite Vultures” showed a funkier, groovier side of Beck absent on his more popular, earlier releases. Simply put, “Midnite Vultures” is weird in the best way imaginable.

Reach Staff Reporter Ashley Hawkins here.



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