125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years

SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985.

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years
WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
30 A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory
"They've got cultural bass in abundance...great taste in old-school breaks, a sly sense of humor that doesn't undermine the seriousness of their mission, and they don't hold their dicks." That's SPIN's assessment from 1990 of a Tribe Called Quest, a boho-weird hip-hop group that soon issued their masterpiece in the form of The Low End Theory. The album trafficked in some brilliant, warped rapping from Q-Tip and bumped through, as the magazine described them, "some of the sweetest, simplest, funkiest jazz riffs evah to be put on hip-hop vinyl."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Singles column (April 1990)
- Tribe Called Quest feature (October 1991)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
29 Pavement Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Pavement showed a lot of temerity to lyrically slag off Smashing Pumpkins on their second album, but they displayed even more audacity in making album No. 2 as good as the majestic debut, Slanted and Enchanted. "Triumphantly trivial," SPIN's review said. "Pavement cares deeply about caring less, and revealing even less than that." But they ended up revealing a good bit, indeed, including a sharp ear for hooks and an easiness with pop forms that was new. All that, plus it was — as the magazine remembered later — "a concept album about ambivalence, a dizzy skateboard ride through indie culture."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain review (March 1994)
- 90 Greatest Albums from the '90s (September 1990)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
28 Radiohead The Bends
Before Thom Yorke's crew jetted off into full-blown art-rock territory, they made this classic pop album. A 1996 story in SPIN explored how the English quintet moved beyond the earlier success of "Creep" — and a hilarious-in-retrospect MTV Beach Party appearance — to hit "just the right combination of guitar crunch, keyboard hush, and rhythm-section push." Radiohead's sophomore release was a slow burner that eventually found the fans tunes like "Fake Plastic Trees" and "High and Dry" deserved. "It's taken people a year to figure [the album] out," Yorke said in '96, "and now they're going 'F***kin' ell!'"

SPIN Archive on Google
- Radiohead feature (May 1996)
- Radiohead profile (Jan 1998)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
27 Nirvana In Utero
The making of In Utero was notoriously knotty, with an aborted attempt at sessions with mechanic-punk maestro Steve Albini and all kinds of drama that attended Nirvana being the most explosive band in the world. The result was gloriously diverting and diverse — a realization of what made Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore call Nirvana, in a SPIN interview the year before, "The element everyone was waiting for, the best of R.E.M. and the best of the Butthole Surfers." Or maybe it was just, as SPIN's Eric Weisbard remembered years later, "The measure of beauty available to someone rolling around on a hotel bed, wavering between pain, spew, and fog."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Thurston Moore talks Nirvana (July 1992)
- 90 Best Albums of the '90s (September 1999)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
26 Guided by Voices Bee Thousand
Beck was on the cover when Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand got reviewed in SPIN, which makes for as good a time-capsule capture as any for the slacker '90s. But: "The band is just too damn old to be lumped in with the slack pack," according to the review in question. "Singer Robert Pollard is 38, a full-time fourth-grade teacher and father of two..." So went the story of a songwriter whose lo-fi songs were positively packed with hooks and melodic allusions to the '60s and '70s, or, as Jon Dolan called them: "...a cavalcade of attention-deficient fuzz-rock anthems about bitter robots and oppressed elves."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Bee Thousand review (July 1994)
- Guide to Essential Indie Rock (March 2003)

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