Alternative rock, as you'll see in this list of 1986's Best Albums, was on the cusp of wide mainstream success when the decade passed its mid point.

Bands like R.E.M. and Husker Du, who up until this point had been two of the era's underground darlings, were in the midst of a transition to major labels. XTC, Talk Talk and Ministry would release career-shifting albums, too. And even well-known artists from earlier eras like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Iggy Pop were making waves on college playlists.

In between, we find a slew of acts who bubbled just beneath the surface – treasured among those in the know, but perhaps less well known in a world where Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me," Survivor's "Burning Heart" and Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" were among the Top 20 singles of the year. Further down the dial, however, fans were celebrating a stirring comeback album by the Feelies, and turning-point releases by the likes of Sonic Youth and the Smiths.

Meanwhile, debut albums arrived from the the Beastie Boys, They Might Be Giants, Pet Shop Boys and Crowded House, while groups like Public Image Ltd and Big Audio Dynamite – both featuring veterans of the previous decade's initial wave of punk rockers – tried to beat the sophomore slump.

But which reached the top of our list of 1986's Best Albums? Click through the above gallery to find out.

You Think You Know R.E.M.?

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