10 Best Albums From 1995
All hell broke loose in 1994. All of those bands that were signed in the wake of Nirvana's 'Nevermind' success were finally starting to release records that justified their major-label paychecks. Not since 1967's rush of psychedelic pop art and Wild West studio explorations had a year been so fruitful for rock music. It was inevitable that 1995 would be the hangover after the big party. Kurt Cobain was dead, the indie bands were growing tired of their major expectations and the mainstream was getting bored with all the angst. The year's greatest records -- which you'll find on our list of the 10 Best Albums From 1995 -- found inspiration in other, more expansive, places.
The third album by this dream-weaving indie-pop band led by former Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham peaks with waves of luscious guitar and delicate melodies. Luna would kick up their sound on other albums, and eventually fold back into the hazy dream-pop found here. But they never sounded as sharp and as focused.
'Play,' Moby's breakthrough album from 1999, is better, but its seeds were planted in this electronic epic, which spans Sunday-morning ambiance ('Hymn') to Saturday-night revelry ('Feeling So Real') and a half-dozen other moods in between. 'Everything Is Wrong' is one of the key albums of the mid-'90s movement to make electronica the next big thing. It's one of the few that still matters.
Pulp would be on this list even if 'Common People,' 'Different Class'' hit single, was repeated a dozen times on the album. Almost everything else on the Britpop group's fifth LP comes together as a slightly skewed portrait of social-class unrest. But it's 'Common People,' a slumming-with-the-poor-folks anthem that transcends eras, that paints it most vividly.
In the tradition of U2's 'The Unforgettable Fire' and other albums in which U.K. artists uncovered their American roots, PJ Harvey's third record finds inspiration in swampy blues. In a way, 'To Bring You My Love' is Harvey's solo debut. Her original trio had broken up, giving her the liberty to pursue rootsier and more organic music. The result is grimy, dirty blues stretched to its breaking point by a British indie rocker with a thing for loud guitars.
Tricky had appeared on Massive Attack's 1991 trip-hop milestone 'Blue Lines.' But he digs even deeper into the fog-encrusted underground on his solo debut, a ghostly, and oftentimes frightening, version of trip-hop's future. 'Maxinquaye' still stands as one of the '90s' most inventive albums, a playground of sounds washed over by dirty needles and layers of fossilized dirt.
Morissette edged in on the sausage fest that was alternative rock in the early '90s by proving she could play just as hard, as talk as much trash, as any of her male counterparts. 'Jagged Little Pill' went to No. 1 and spawned six hit singles, three of which dominated modern-rock radio, going all the way to the top.
The Smashing Pumpkins followed 1993's breakthrough album 'Siamese Dream' with a sprawling, double-record epic that made room for some hooky pop, metallic crunch and electronic music along with Billy Corgan's indie-rock guitar heroics. It's an ambitious set -- the most focused and coherent of the Pumpkins' various excursions that would fill out the rest of the decade.
The Icelandic weirdo's most accessible album is stuffed with deep beats, rumbling bass, jittery electronica and an adventurous streak that puts most of her forward-thinking contemporaries to shame. 'Post' is an intense listen -- all skittering techno screeches and hazy trip-hop. There's a personal journey going on in the lyrics, but it's the music that grabs you.
Along with Blur, Oasis spearheaded the '90s' Britpop movement. But Oasis was the only band to make much of a dent on the U.S. charts. It probably had something to do with their big, anthem-sized songs that stole inspiration (and then some) from the Beatles. But it also probably had something to do with the band's oversized egos. Oasis were rock stars, and they played, carried on and made music like rock stars.
Radiohead's 1993 debut, 'Pablo Honey,' was mostly regurgitated indie rock with a side of angsty grunge. It yielded one great single, 'Creep' (which fans dismiss), and a handful of songs that hinted at something more ambitious. Those ambitions reveal themselves on the band's second album, an art-rock classic that sounds like it was made by a different group than the one that charted with 'Creep' only two years earlier. From the futuristic 'Planet Telex' to the sweeping 'Street Spirit (Fade Out),' 'The Bends' feeds the roots of one of the best bands of the past 20 years.