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
80 The Fall This Nation's Saving Grace
Gloriously incessant, inscrutable post-punk band the Fall fanned out far and wide on This Nation's Saving Grace, an album that paired their early itchy funk with wide-eyed wanderings into new-wave pop and cosmic rock. Fabled ranter Mark E. Smith was in fine form as an antagonistic frontman: "Playing anti-star to the hilt, [Smith] tends to show the audience more of his back than of his face," we said in 1986. But he was also hitting his peak as the kind of abstract literary songwriter who could make fans stand back and ogle in awe: "There's all these guys with spectacles on... creepin' around," Smith said in the '90s. "I've seen 'em. They're like the CIA. Nobody can tell me I'm wrong about this. I fuckin' know it."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Fall profile (June 1986)
- Fall profile (October, 1993)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
79 The Breeders Last Splash
The Breeders were first greeted as a side project for Pixies bassist Kim Deal, but it wasn't long before they counted as an alt-era hallmark on their own. The group's second album grew big behind the effervescent hit "Cannonball," and also churned through what SPIN called a "tangle of gender politics under Last Splash's sun-fun surface noise." It was an agile, accessible alt-rock album hatched in the mind of a surprise maker who would tell SPIN, two years later, "I know I come off lookin' like a fuckin' haggy housewife compared to all these other women in rock, and that's fine with me, man."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Last Splash review (September 1993)
- Kim Deal cover (July 1995)

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
78 Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Fugees member who breathed new life into "Killing Me Softly With His Song" showed that she could fly solo. "From spirituals to Stevie Wonder to dancehall, Hill harvested the history of black music for an idiosyncratic brew — sing-song melodies, edgy production, enviable rhyme skills, back-to-church vocals — that definitely played to the people, but also challenged them to meet her ambitions halfway," SPIN wrote in 1999 when naming Lauryn Hill Artist of the Year. Miseducation also ended up on the magazine's list of the Greatest Albums of the '90s: "Hill has made hip-hop at home in undreamed-of places."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Artist of the Year (January 1999)
- Greatest 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
77 Boogie Down Productions Criminal Minded
Boogie Down Productions upped the stakes for hip-hop as a pointed, polemical art form, and few LPs from the '80s earn their place at the table next to BDP's debut, Criminal Minded. John Leland celebrated the album's "hard-edged economy" in a 1988 piece, which also happened to be a column in which he wrote about the shooting death, not long before, of BDP producer Scott LaRock. LaRock's tough, evocative work on Criminal Minded would be missed, but rapper KRS One would stay very much alive in service of the burgeoning tradition he helped start — a tradition that SPIN writer Bonz Malone would call "the radical sound of rap."

SPIN Archive on Google
- Singles column (May 1988)
- Boogie Down Productions Boogie Down Productions

125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years - SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985
76 OutKast Aquemini
The Atlanta hip-hop duo's groundbreaking third album got them recognized, respected, and sued by Rosa Parks. "The sound is spacious like a luxury-liner ballroom," SPIN wrote in 1999, "with the MCs tag-teaming on everything from world peace to instant grits." SPIN later situated the album next to Tribe Called Quest's classic Low End Theory. "The record was also distinctly Southern, not just because of its copious 'bounce,' but because its creators seemed so untroubled by the lyrics-versus-music, rap-versus-R&B, or thug-versus-'positive' debates sweated by rap intelligentsia on both coasts. Watching from below, they simply dug it all."

SPIN Archive on Google
- 100 Greatest Albums (September 1999)
- Outkast feature (December 2000)
- Rosa Parks lawsuit (July 1999)

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