125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years
SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985.
110 Spiritualized Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
In 2003, SPIN dubbed this psych-inflected classic as an “Album You’re Most Likely to Hear at a Laser Show,” alongside Pink Floyd, Rush, and Radiohead. That wasn’t meant to be an insult. Spiritualized’s mind-expanding pharmaceutical rock is a layered, swirling mass of guitar worship — in other words, perfect for the planetarium. Band frontman Jason Pierce would later be savaged by the magazine as guilty of “navel-gazing to make music to navel-gaze at,” but Ladies and Gentleman still stands as a lushly produced, over-the-top record of its times.
109 The Chills Submarine Bells
A swelling wave of swell indiepop from New Zealand reached a peak of sorts in Submarine Bells, an album that layered precise and wordy “folk-punk” songs with allusions to varied things that SPIN described as “television, Swamp Thing comics, and the Byrds.” (“I never knew deliquesce was a word,” reviewer Evelyn McDonnell wrote in response to the Chills’ thesaurus-like lyrical vocabulary.) In another piece that called the NZ indie label Flying Nun “the Sun Records of New Zealand,” the magazine adored the way the Chills “soak gloomy, even bleak songs in a cold rain of piano and pale keyboards” — all in service of a sound that proved both elemental and exploratory.
108 Fugees The Score
From their cover of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” to “Ready or Not,” the Fugees’ breakout album flipped the script of modern hip-hop. As SPIN reported in 1997 — after following the trio to Trinidad, where they performed for 15,000, scoffed at surly cops, and hosted a spelling bee — the group did everything a bit differently. The Score was positivity and hope, the idea that “hip-hop was pop music with the power to open up and change the world…Marshalling R&B’s intimate, vocal yearning and reggae’s boundless spiritual pulse, the Fugees liberated hip-hop from its scowling project exile.”
107 Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head
These British romantics resurrected sincerity, giving other musicians the right to wear their hearts on their sleeves — and accompany it with strings. “Unless you consider sighing a form of aerobic exercise, Coldplay aren’t really about body-moving,” SPIN wrote in 2002. “They’re about ballads. And the best ones here have a stately, spacy grace, like what Bono might come up with after a couple weeks on an iceberg with Nordic warblers Sigur Ros.” John Mayer explained the thrill of songs like “Clocks” to the magazine in 2004: “Coldplay makes everyone feel like as if they are the stars of their own movie.”
106 Fiona Apple When the Pawn Hits…
Many remember her half-naked in the video for debut single “Criminal,” but Fiona Apple went on to make serious music, much of it on her sophomore album with the 90-word moniker. These tracks earned her unexpected admirers — Missy Elliott, for instance, and Kanye West, who snagged her producer for his second album. Always honest, Apple worked her issues out in the studio. “I still have problems with people,” she confided to SPIN in a February 2000 cover story. “I still need to write the songs. If I didn’t need to, they just wouldn’t be that good. It wouldn’t be worth doing.”