Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here we've compiled a list of 15 albums that are often times overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Now is the time when retrospective “Best of” lists are popping up trying to summarize the standout albums of the 1990s, which helped in defining the decade. Unfortunately, there are so many deserving LPs that are often underrated by critics and overlooked by many in compiling these lists. For every album by Beck inducted into the “Best of the 90s” canon, deserving records by the Lemonheads and Belly are tossed aside. Moreover, for every obvious choice by a well-established artist, more subtlety brilliant follow-ups are considered superfluous and therefore overlooked. Listed below, ordered by release date, is a collection of albums that are too often underrated and overlooked as the best albums of the '90s.

 
15. Placebo
Without You I'm Nothing, 1998

Placebo has never really been taken as a serious band. Probably because of lead singer Brian Molko’s ridiculously nasal delivery and the group’s propensity to sing about the recreational drug use. Underlying Placebo's focus on drug use is a magnificent loathing and self-pity that oddly results in an ironic self-reflection. Although Placebo has stated that it was disappointed with the outcome of Without You I’m Nothing, the album showcases the band at the height of its concentration on drug abuse and how that can result in a moral panic of sexual and emotional self-loathing. Plus, the lead single “Pure Morning” is magnificently bizarre. Album highlights: “Pure Morning”, “Brick Shithouse”, “Scared of Girls”, and “Without Your I’m Nothing”.

 
14. Hole
Celebrity Skin, 1998

Poor Courtney Love. Poor crazy, train-wreck Courtney. Celebrity Skin was the beginning of her brief upswing as a respectable artist possessing all the talent and charisma she believed she had. This album is often overlooked in favor of Hole's superior sophomore album, Live Through This (1994). However, Celebrity Skin is a stellar album in its own right. Remarkably, Hole managed to update its sound to compete with the increasingly slick recordings permeating throughout the rock scene. And where Live Through This found strength in its sparse and simple yet superbly poetic (and prophetic) lyrics, Celebrity Skin is replete with more intricate and loquacious (but never overbearing) lyrics. Also, this was the first album for Love written after the death of husband Kurt Cobain, resulting in some intense emotional complexities.

 
13. The Smashing Pumpkins
Adore, 1998

The Smashing Pumpkins really shot themselves in the foot when after their over-popularized and overrated double album Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) was done, they announced that their next record would be an “electronic” record. Having just fired drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for being a drug addict involved with the death of their touring keyboardist, Adore ostensibly divided most every fan as the album sold half of its predecessors and became known as the record that became the demise of one of the biggest '90s bands. Hindsight would reveal that Adore is actually a more “acoustic” and delicate offering from a group that up until this point was stuck on teenage-angst alt-rock. Adore showcases a band progressing and maturing like only the best act can, exploring both the Pumpkins' romantic and adventurous sides.

 
12. Liz Phair
Whitechocolatespaceegg, 1998

I’m not entirely sure why when Phair released her third record Whitechocolatespaceegg it was reviled by so many of her die-hard fans. At the time, it was Phair’s most accessible record... at the time. With greater production values and a new-found love of variance in her recordings, spaceegg is a wonderful pop record that shows how versatile Phair can be. Unfortunately, spaceegg is often overlooked for one of two reasons: 1. Fans see it as a indication of Phair moving past the indie/underground roots of her style; 2. Her practically consecrated 1993 debut Exile in Guyville is on every “Best of the '90s” list and God forbid there be any more than one entry from a female artist. Particular album highlights: pretty much every song on the album.

 
11. Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow, 1996

Let’s face it. As good as 1993's Tuesday Night Music Club was, it kind of made Ms. Crow sound like a light-weight country star. Moreover, every album after her sophomore effort just cemented her spot in world of “female-artisits-who-are-super-popular-but-suck” genre. However, just before she started down that slide of suckery, she released this self-titled LP, which to her credit showcased her abilities as a songwriter more so than her debut. What resulted is the coolest album Crow has ever released. Preceded by the mega-hit “If It Makes You Happy”, the album is precisely where country music should have gone. Particular album highlights: “Oh Marie”, “Hard to Make a Stand”, and “Maybe Angels”.

Next Page
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.