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100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005

Each album on the list finds a sweet spot between artistic brilliance, stylistic innovation, and cultural relevance. You could listen to the Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead hiding under a pillow fort in your bedroom (as Morrissey would no doubt prefer), or it could blow your mind in a crowded bar. Why? Because it pushes a unique vision from the margins to the mainstream (or the margins of the mainstream), reshaping both. Until someone new (a Wu-Tang Clan or White Stripes) emerges to redraw the margins all over again. These records tell us something different with every listen; even at their tiniest, they make private epiphanies feel like public events.

This explains why we picked Radiohead’s OK Computer as our No. 1 album over Nirvana’s Nevermind and Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Between Thom Yorke’s orange-alert worldview and the band’s meld of epic guitar rock and electronic glitch, it not only forcast a decade of music but uncannily predicted our global culture of communal distress. Nevermind and Nation of Millions, while changing their moments irrevocably, seem less open-ended now, a little more “resolved.” In a similar sense, some recent works of seeming genius, like M.I.A’s Arular or Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut, are too open-ended — we wonder how they’ll sound when Spin turns 30, just as we pray we won’t be the ones who’ll have to weigh their significance. One month of dodging furniture is enough, thanks.

For the next few weeks, we’ll reveal the entire list, a few albums at a time, right here on Too anxious? You can peruse the complete list of the 100 Greatest Albums 1985-2005, in Spin‘s July issue on newsstands, or click here to subscribe. The July issue has commentary on each entry in the countdown, plus interviews with many of the artists behind these essential records.

We also know lots of you have your own ideas about the best albums released during Spin‘s 20-year existence. Visit our message boards and post your own top 10; clicking here will take you right to that thread. Have thoughts about our own list? Express those here.

Chuck Klosterman’s July column is a companion to the 100 Greatest Albums list (read more).

Spin‘s Kyle Anderson addresses the list’s omissions on his Alterna-Detritus blog (read more).

And now, the list:

100. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA, 2001)
99. Afghan Whigs, Gentlemen (Elektra, 1993)
98. Cornershop, When I Was Born for the 7th Time (Luaka Bop, 1997)
97. Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge, 1998)
96. The Pogues, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash (Stiff/WEA, 1985)
95. Elastica, Elastica (DGC, 1995)
94. Slint, Spiderland (Touch and Go, 1991)
93. Pearl Jam, Ten (Epic, 1991)
92. Big Black, Atomizer (Homestead, 1986)
91. XTC, Skylarking (Geffen, 1986)
90. Sonic Youth, Sister (DGC, 1987)
89. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (Interscope, 2003)
88. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Elektra, 1996)
87. Blur, Parklife (Food, 1994)
86. Meat Puppets, Up on the Sun (SST, 1985)
85. R.E.M, Automatic for the People (Warner Bros., 1992)
84. Soundgarden, Superunknown (A&M, 1994)
83. At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command (Grand Royal, 2000)
82. Jeff Buckley, Grace (Columbia 1994)
81. Beck, Mellow Gold (Geffen, 1994)
80. D’Angelo, Voodoo (Virgin, 2000)
79. Moby, Everything Is Wrong (Elektra, 1995)
78. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (Silvertone, 1989)
77. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002)
76. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister (The Enclave, 1997)
75. Le Tigre, Le Tigre (Mr. Lady, 1999)
74. Portishead, Dummy (Go! Discs/London, 1994)
73. Pulp, Different Class (Island, 1995)
72. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud/RCA, 1995)
71. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy (Blanco Y Negro/ Warner Bros., 1985)
70. Jay-Z, The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella, 2001)
69. DJ Shadow, Entroducing DJ Shadow (Mowax/A&M, 1996)
68. Tricky, Maxiquaye (Island, 1995)
67. Slayer, Reign in Blood (American, 1986)
66. Outkast, Aquemini (LaFace, 1995)
65. Basement Jaxx, Remedy (Astralwerks, 1999)
64. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope, 2000)
63. Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Matador 1994)
62. Missy Elliot, Supa Dupa Fly (Elektra, 1997)
61. Weezer, Pinkerton (Geffen, 1996)
60. De La Soul, Del La Soul Is Dead (Tommy Boy, 1991)
59. Modest Mouse, The Lonesome Crowded West (Up, 1997)
58. Metallica, Master of Puppets (Elektra, 1986)
57. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 2001)
56. PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Island, 1995)
55. The Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks, 1997)
54. The Breeders, Last Splash (4AD/Elektra, 1993)
53. Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles (Epic, 1999)
52. Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (Def Jam, 1986)
51. Nirvana, In Utero (DGC, 1993)
50. New Order, Low-Life (Qwest, 1985)