1. Self-Titled by Le Tigre
To say that Le Tigre’s self-titled debut album was an important record of my youth would be an understatement; it seriously revolutionized my life. I discovered it during my junior year of high school and was blown away by the band’s interesting marriage of political lyrics and infectious dance beats. When I wasn’t busy getting drunk to “Deceptacon” at high school dance parties, I was actually paying attention to the messages in tracks like “What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes?” and “Slideshow At Free University” and actually trying to care about stuff. Not to mention that when I came out of the closet, Le Tigre’s music became a source of empowerment and strength. I was that gay guy talking about Kathleen Hanna in high school and telling everyone to KEEP ON LIVING. This is your time, this is your life.
2. Becoming X by Sneaker Pimps
Most people only know the trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps from their big hit “6 Underground”, which is a shame because their whole album is spectacular. Kelli Dayton’s poppy vocals served as a nice contrast to the band’s somewhat intense musical beats, making the entire album sound like this weird tension between light and dark. I used to listen to the record in my room when I was feeling particularly angsty and my parents would just be like, “Why is our ten-year-old listening to heavy trip-hop? Let’s give him some Janet Jackson or something.” # 1 CHILDHOOD FREAK RIGHT HERE.
3. Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette tore through the nineties like a bat out of hell. I was either nine or ten when Jagged Little Pill was released and I remember it being played wherever I went, including once in my teacher’s car on a fourth grade field trip. She ended up being my very first concert. My mom took me and I sang along to the lyrics about her ex-boyfriend screwing other chicks and felt very adult. Besides being a brilliant alternative rock record, the album totally captures that nineties sound with the bass-heavy guitars and that unmistakable Glen Ballard polish. People loved it because it was relatable; it was about a twenty-something woman who wasn’t going to take it anymore. I wish pop records were still as honest as this one.
4. Version 2.0 by Garbage
Some people might be pissed that I didn’t choose Garbage’s debut record to be on this list. While that album is amazing and quintessential nineties, I fell in love with their follow-up even more. It signaled the beginning of a new trend by ditching the guitars in favor of a more techno sound (Madonna and others had begun to embrace this trend as well). Songs like “Push It” and “When I Grow up” seemed more anthemic and expansive than their previous efforts and the band seemed to produce more interesting sounds because of it. Garbage’s music was clearly special from the beginning but it was hard to distinguish from all of the other bratty girl rock out at the time. Version 2.0 gave them a new platform and took their shit to the next level.
5. Crazysexycool by TLC
I mean, I couldn’t not include TLC on this list. Crazysexycool, in particular, helped define the R & B sound of the nineties. Their first album, Ooooh…On The TLC Tip, was solid but it felt too immature and gimmicky at times. For their second effort, they decided to use Left Eye’s rap as an added spice rather than the main dish and hired hitmakers Babyface and Prince to give them a more mature and sexy sound. Boy, did they get it. Songs like “Creep” and “Red Light Special” showcase T-Boz’s slinky vocals and could make you blush with its explicit content. Simply put, the album is just a smooth and sexy pop record.