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The 10 Best Albums of 1995 | Feature | Slant Magazine

Stephane Sednaoui

The 10 Best Albums of 1995

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


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In my introduction to Slant’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1990s, I described nostalgia for the decade as “an idealized vision of a time when Bill Clinton was the fresh, young Democrat on the block, beepers were the hottest new tech items, and every major record label and Top 40 radio station was scrambling to discover the next big alternative to run-of-the-mill pop.” I went on to lament: “It’s human nature to look back on things with irrational fondness and nostalgia, overlooking the bad and romanticizing the good. But while the ’90s had its fair share of ’crap,’ it’s hard to deny that the ’good’ was exceptionally good.” So good, in fact, that we decided to dust off our lovingly curated list of over 400 albums to compile individual Top 10s for each year of the ’90s. Many of these titles are already widely—and rightfully—celebrated, but these lists also give us the opportunity to honor some typically overlooked gems. Sal Cinquemani

Honorable Mention: Vanessa Daou, Zipless; Leftfield, Leftism; Ani Difranco, Not a Pretty Girl; Moby, Everything Is Wrong; Goodie Mob, Soul Food; The Chemical Brothers, Exit Planet Dust; No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom; D’Angelo, Brown Sugar; Kim Richey, Kim Richey; Goldie, Timeless

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? is an album of such astonishing hubris it would be shocking if it had come from practically anyone else other than Liam and Noel Gallagher. Oasis’s 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe, may have been wildly aspirational, but their sophomore effort saw the Gallaghers making a sincere and concerted effort to be the biggest rock band in the universe. Their goal seemed to be to out-rock the Beatles themselves, adding screaming distortion and massive, anthemic choruses on top of Noel’s Lennon-esque melodies. This approach would have easier to dismiss as hot air if those hooks weren’t so damn good, but ultimately, it’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’s audacity that makes it as fun as it is. Liam’s cocky Manchester brogue is a perfect avatar for the band’s public persona at the time, whether he’s hyping up raging vamps like “Some Might Say” and “Morning Glory” or adding cheek to the natural sensitivity of “Wonderwall.” By the time the band gets to the closing “Champagne Supernova,” they sound at once brawling and beautiful and big enough to actually justify their egos. Jeremy Winograd

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill

To paraphrase my blurb for Alanis Morissette’s breakthrough hit, “You Oughta Know,” for our list of the 100 Best Singles of the 1990s: In a seething, hypocritical letter to Spin in 1996, then-closeted Madonna fan Courtney Love called Alanis, who was signed to the queen of pop’s Maverick label at the time, “a Product of Madonnas [sic] Fatal Flaw, contrivance at every level.” What with Alanis being a former pop tart and with Wilson Phillips producer Glen Ballard on board as songwriting partner, it isn’t hard to see Love’s point. But Alanis was able to harness the rage of a movement that had already sold itself out and record a pop album that captured the zeitgeist, chewed it up whole, and spit it back out. That Love, who turned down a deal with Maverick, was never able to sell 16 million must have been a jagged little pill to swallow indeed. Cinquemani

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


Pulp, Different Class

Jarvis Cocker may have found an updated role as one of pop’s most urbane dirty old men, but Pulp’s appeal was always more wholesome than raunchy, working off the juxtaposition between his willowy cocksman character and the sympathetic sweetness of his lyrical sketches. These songs use sex as a blurry lens for character elaboration, best shown on a track like “Live Bed Show,” whose surface vulgarity is all cover for a forlorn tale of lost love. The band grants the same depth to blackout drug use (“Sorted for E’s & Wizz”) and social exile scene (“Mis-Shapes”), establishing new depth in the most tired examples of rock n’ roll excess. Jesse Cataldo

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

The grungy art rock of Smashing Pumpkins’s Siamese Dream laid the groundwork for the baroque opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness—perhaps not their most concise work, but one in which the band fully realized the potential of their darkly romantic sound. The ambitious concept album is notable for its contributions to the increasingly angsty, emo-ish direction of alternative music in the mid-’90s, but its real heart lies in the beautifully peculiar pieces that meld turn-of-the-century art-nouveau visuals with Billy Corgan’s hot-and-cold emotions. Full of moments where abrupt emotional swings are the norm (the archaic, harp-driven ode that is “Cupid De Locke” next to the children’s book tale of “Stumbleine” next to the relentless machine gun riffs of “Fuck You,” for example), Mellon Collie is a graceful, wonderfully moody rock symphony. Kevin Liedel

The 10 Best Albums of 1995


Tricky, Maxinquaye

Tricky’s breakthrough album remains a uniquely evocative experience at once chill and chilling. According to Martine, the government is sending her letters, but does the government even exist? In a time that’s seemingly gone, where uncertainty reigns supreme, armies are recruiting and the landscape of Earth—and mind—is riddled with schisms. Having given up on a civilization that sounds as if it’s barely survived an apocalypse (nuclear warfare, perhaps, maybe even zombies—it’s all the same), Tricky Kid and Martine trudge through industrial playgrounds, not only lost in thought, but suffocated by it, victims of resentment and regret, banging their feet against pipes and bopping their heads as they turn corners, afraid of the danger that awaits them. These sad sacks fear the planet’s perils, from heartache to racism, but they refuse to let you see them sweat. They funk their way through an aftermath of discontent, and though they’re angry and cynical, they always seem to see a light at the end of their rusted memories and nightmares. Ed Gonzalez