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
5 Radiohead OK Computer
There are certain records that disrupt the space-time continuum of musical history, issuing a pointed warning to anything that follows. Critics were shocked at Thom Yorke and company's ingenuity, as if Radiohead had simply conjured new aural ingredients from thin air. ("Completely the opposite," bassist Colin Greenwood humbly told SPIN in 1998. "To us, it's rooted in obvious things — what we've listened to, that is.") From "Paranoid Android" to "Karma Police," "Yorke was trying to make each sound like reportage from inside 12 different brains," SPIN wrote in 1998. "Through the speakers of a stereo, OK Computer is 'conceptual,' but in a way that's difficult to quantify; somehow, it manages to sound how the future will feel," Chuck Klosterman said in 2005 of the band's electronically enhanced magnum opus. "No upstart musician hears OK Computer and thinks, 'Wow, I could do this.' It's more likely they think, "Fuck, this is impossible.'"

SPIN Archive on Google
- Q&A with Colin Greenwood (May 1998)
- Radiohead feature (January 1998)
- Chuck Klosterman review (July 2005)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
4 Nirvana Nevermind
No album in the history of modern rock has had such a decisive influence. The Seattle trio's 1991 release woke up MTV, the Billboard charts, and pop culture as a whole. It redefined music A&R, launched Seattle's iconic grunge scene, and canonized Kurt Cobain as the "voice of a generation," a sarcastic, moody black humorist who bitched about his childhood over catchy pop vocals and heavy guitar hooks indebted as much to ABBA and the Beatles as Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols. "There's an old Black Flag lyric that screams, 'I wanna live / I wish I was dead,' and that was Nevermind's eternal tangle," Charles Aaron wrote in SPIN. "Nevermind shakes the walls like a storm...[and] most of all you feel it in Cobain's paper-thin voice, as he stares down the lethal horrors of growing up, and somehow manages to rock a shit-eating grin."

SPIN Archive on Google
- First Nirvana cover (January 1992)
- Posthumous tribute to Cobain (June 1994)
- 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
3 The Smiths The Queen Is Dead
"How about those Smiths, huh?" So goes the start of SPIN's review of the fabled band's best album, and the opinion that follows is decidedly mixed. "If you sift through the early writings of Oscar Wilde," wrote Rich Stim, "you end up with a few gems at best. Ditto for Morrissey on Queen." But then, of course, he issues praise as well for what stands as the high point of the Smiths' discography in terms of both writerly focus and stylistic range: "You gotta admire a guy who can rhyme 'rusty spanner' with 'play pianner' and who can espouse the beauty of a double-decker bus collision." As Morrissey himself told SPIN about his attempts to bring meaning to everyday life: "Music as it stands now has very little to do with human truth and I think that's very sad."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Smiths profile (June 1985)
- Queen is Dead review (August, 1986)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
2 Prince Sign O' the Times
Prince's divinely, defiantly eclectic double-album came out at a time when SPIN was all agog. "I guess you know what the problem with Prince is: he's too good," goes the start of Bart Bull's review. "He's so good he can do anything he wants...and sometimes the dumb stuff he does works out to be the best stuff anybody's ever done. Ever." That even-the-dumb-stuff-works spirit imbued an album as personally pointed and stylistically varied as any ever made, and it's aged well enough that, in a 2005 tribute, SPIN's Michaelangelo Matos called it a "one-stop superstore for the past two decades of pop."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Sign O' the Times review (May 1987)
- 100 Greatest Albums List (July 2005)

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