125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years
SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985.
95 Soundgarden Superunknown
“Soundgarden Kills Grunge Dead” screamed the cover of SPIN in April 1994, when the Seattle band put out their fourth album and fanned out past the point where punk resists complication. The album’s mix of stoner wandering and tight Led Zeppelin designs was considerably more developed than what Soundgarden had started with: “music that was,” as the magazine put it, “simultaneously hard rock and an ironic commentary on hard rock.” And it all followed behind what SPIN’s 1995 Readers’ Poll called “a bona fide single, ‘Black Hole Sun,’ something that had eluded [Soundgarden’s] riff-rock grasp up till now.”
94 Jane’s Addiction Ritual De Lo Habitual
The boundlessly weird rockers from L.A., led by the outrageous Perry Farrell, came together after a few years in the scene to break out with Ritual De Lo Habitual, a wildly unhinged album that SPIN said “hits like the nighttime shrieking of a boy who suddenly knows the savage power of his own desire and his own poetry.” A cover story from a few months later stays on message, reveling in the way the revved-up post-Ritual band “invites us to swim in the evocative juice of Perry’s poems and in its organic, untraditional metallic presence.”
93 Chemical Brothers Dig Your Own Hole
This album from the “Amyl-sniffing Brit beat junkies,” as SPIN wrote in 1997, aimed to “create a better place for just one night by jamming together all their favorite records” and pushed “drums, drums, drums, until you believe in the revolution of, well, drums.” That meant samples, sure, but also cameos from Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and Beth Orton. The album helped birth a hype machine known as “electronica,” a rock-and-dance hybrid. As the magazine noted in 1999, while the Gallagher-led single “Setting Sun” was popular in the States, “In Britain it all but defined an era.”
92 Jay-Z The Black Album
“I’ve had it with the rap game,” Jay-Z claimed after The Black Album dropped. He may have been posturing, but if he had retreated to a laid-back life of bling and bottle service, this wouldn’t have been a bad place to stop. Partially overshadowed by its aftershocks on remix culture — i.e., Danger Mouse’s seamless meshing of Jay-Z with the Beatles on his download-friendly Grey Album — the source material, from “Moment of Clarity” to “Justify My Thug,” is classic Hova.
91 The Smiths Strangeways, Here We Come
“The Smiths were like a painting. Every month you’d add a little bit here and a little bit there. But it wasn’t quite complete, and it was whipped away.” That’s Morrissey talking to SPIN in 1988, not long after the Smiths broke up and a legacy ended. But for all the mournfulness it invokes for being the Smiths’ last album, Strangeways, Here We Come also happens to be very good, to say the least. Johnny Marr’s arrangements sound almost impossibly perfect in their precise, delicate manner, and Morrissey’s songs are fully developed in the way that would lead SPIN to anoint him, in a 1991 solo profile, “Lyrical King.”