125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years
SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985.
105 Massive Attack Mezzanine
“Massive Attack’s mix of influences — rock, hip-hop, house, dub, techno, etc. — constituted what was later dubbed trip-hop and laid the foundations for drum’n’bass,” SPIN wrote in 2002. “The definitive Massive vocalists — Shara Nelson, Horace Andy — are world-weary griots who’ve suffered for our sins,” noted Charles Aaron in 1998 when reviewing the album’s single, “but on ‘Teardrop,’ ex-Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser floats her guileless soprano through an ominous, womblike dubscape.” Groundbreaking and gloomy, this album’s effect on music’s recent history is hard to overstate.
104 The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs Vol. 1, 2 & 3
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Three discs, three hours, 69 songs. Lovelorn Stephen Merritt proved here that you don’t always have to choose between quantity and quality. A glowing SPIN review explored Merritt’s mission: to crawl inside every “love-song genre he can think of: the civic-pride anthem, the giddy cabaret number, the gospel paean that’s practically a come-on, the Motown/ABBA pocket symphony,” and a few dozen others. The sprawling result is both “grand gesture and a brilliant joke; art about the most personal emotion stamped out in bulk; and a love offering in its own right.”
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– 69 Love Songs review (October 1999)
103 M.I.A. Arular
Who knew that a diminutive firebrand with a revolutionary Sri Lankan family, impeccable taste in samples, and “jump-rope raps” could combine into such a perfect storm? “M.I.A.’s beats scream grimy dancehall party,” SPIN wrote in a March 2005 review. “Origami polyrhythms, electro-current sounds, and slinky squelches populate songs about child prostitution (‘Ten Dollar’) and political prisoners (‘Amazon’).” In naming Arular the second-best album of 2005, the magazine fondly categorized the new sound as a “homemade version of Missy Elliott’s life-affirming, dance-floor-scattering sex-funk gibberish.”
102 Queen Latifah All Hail the Queen
You could name yourself Queen Latifah and choose not to call your debut All Hail the Queen, but it’s not clear why you would want to. And especially if that debut happens to actually be hailable, as Latifah’s was. The sassy rapper was greeted “as a trailblazer for integrating singing with rapping, and for sneaking tastes of R&B, jazz, house, reggae, and soul into her hip-hop soufflé,” wrote SPIN’s Dimitri Ehrlich in 1991. And after Hail had time to settle, there weren’t many other prospective candidates to overtake her as the era’s “top female MC.”
101 Blur Parklife
Tales of the storied ’90s Britpop rivalry between Oasis and Blur tend to obscure just how singular a band Blur was in its prime. And when it comes to finding that prime, it’s hard to do better than Parklife. “Blur speaks earnestly in interviews about living in a post-rockist age of information and media simulacra,” SPIN’s initial review said, “but their art-school pedigrees, impeccably tailored keyboards, and sense of teenage pathos are all in a grand rock ‘n’ roll tradition.” Then, one month later, SPIN was ready to concede that Blur might actually be “the best British band since the Smiths.”