My friend Chad is as fanatical about music as I am, and he and I recently began a tradition where every time we meet, we bring an album from our own collection that we think the other person should give a listen. Then the next time we're together we talk about what we heard, how we felt about it, and exchange a new CD. [EDITOR'S NOTE: If you were born in the last decade or so, a "CD" or "compact disc" is something on which old people bought music before the Internet made purchasing tangible objects uncool.] Swapping music allows us to introduce each other to certain artists or albums that might be of interest to the other, and sometimes it offers insight into our own personal experiences. Often it sparks great discussions about particular eras of music, as it did recently when we each began trying to assemble a list of the best albums of the 1990s. [EDITOR'S NOTE: If you recently learned what a "compact disc" is, then you'll probably need to know that the "1990s" was a decade that happened a reeeeally long time ago. Just Google "Hammer pants."]
The 90s was a big decade for Chad and I - it's when we "came of age." [EDITOR'S NOTE: "Coming of age" means the period of time during which a person matures from being a child into young adult. Often this involves going off into the woods with your childhood friends to find a dead body and poke it with a stick.] It was the halcyon days of Gen-X, witness to the birth of grunge, and it introduced to the world to the term "alternative" as a genre (which very quickly became a misnomer). Music is a crucial part of both our lives, and while I don't have a completed list to show - I'm still working on it - I thought I'd reveal some of the albums that will be making my list. Perhaps if any of them are ones with which you're not familiar, you could check them out, give 'em a few spins, and let me know what you think.
To start, you can't talk about the 90s without mentioning the highly influential artists who shaped the grunge and alternative scenes. Of course the poster boys for grunge were Nirvana; Nevermind will definitely hold a high spot on my list, and In Utero will probably be on there somewhere as well. Pearl Jam were also alt-rock trailblazers; Ten will likely rank higher than its name and Vs. will probably crack the top twenty. Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream will be highly ranked; Chad's also fond of Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness. Live's Throwing Copper is a classic, as is Stone Temple Pilots' Purple. I have a hard time choosing whether I like Alice in Chains' Facelift or Dirt more.
Other popular rock albums that are likely to make my best-of list are Radiohead's OK Computer, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, Blues Traveler's Four, U2's Achtung Baby, Collective Soul's Dosage, and the Indigo Girls' Rites of Passage. Jeff Buckley's Grace blows my mind every time I hear it. On the heavier side, there's Metallica's self-titled "black" album, Megadeth's Rust in Peace, Queensryche's Empire, and Monster Magnet's Powertrip.
Some of my favorite artists had their best albums in the 90s. Tori Amos gave us Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink; Our Lady Peace put out Naveed and Clumsy; Toad the Wet Sprocket had Fear and Dulcinea. Let's not forget the Counting Crows, who had the one-two punch of August and Everything After and Recovering the Satellites. I can't even begin to figure out how to rank the Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets. And, of course, giving them all competition for a top slot is the genius that is Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral.
There are plenty more I haven't mentioned, but if you're not familiar with any of them, I suggest checking them out. They will be a good starting point for either a trip down memory lane or a music history lesson-depending on whether or not you're from the generation that was born attached to a smartphone. [EDITOR'S NOTE: If you don't know what a "smartphone" is, chances are you've wandered away from the home and the nurses are worried sick because you're overdue for your medicine. How on Earth did you figure out how to use this computer?] Meanwhile, please use the comments section below to share some of your favorite albums from the 90s. Chad and I are always looking for exciting music to discuss.