From Beck, Built To Spill, Buena Vista to Photek, Screaming Trees and Primal Scream - My 40 Favourite Albums of the 80s/90s

By Quartin18 Quartin18
updated about 1 month ago

An alphabetical list of my favourite albums from 80s/90s.

This is for anyone with wider taste of music who maybe wants to argue about/recommend stuff - and hey if you happen to be in Scotland, maybe we might see each at a gig!

  1. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head

    Don't believe the hype about 'Paul's Boutique'. It had it's moments - but was really a stepping-stone to this awesome, fun and funky masterpiece. Beasties were never the greatest rappers - but who cares when there is this sense of over-whelming joy, excitement and funky 60s/70s samples and loops. In many ways, it's quieter moments are just as compelling.

  2. Beck - Mellow Gold

    Mixing hip-hop, pop, country, and bluesy influences with laid-back, half-rapping - this quirky album still sounds fresh. Contains the classic 'Loser'. For me, the dark country of 'Pay No Mind' and 'Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997' are the most interesting tracks.

  3. The Blue Aeroplanes - Swagger

    Influenced by the Velvets, the focal point was the often half-sung introspective poetry, underscored by sweet melodies and chiming guitars. They released another great album the next year 'Beatsongs'.

  4. Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children

    A brooding, understated masterpiece for the 'haunted generation' - intertwined moments of beauty, dread, nostalgia, and hazy quiet of industrial noise with an oddly pastoral feel.

  5. Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club

    A lovely warm record, where you hear older musicians coming together for sessions of Cuban music. You hear the craft and almost effortless loose rhythms, sparkling piano, and lived-in vocals, which spawned many imitators.

  6. Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret

    They streamlined their sound from the previous album to more cutting, precise indie nuggets and affecting music (vocally reminiscent of Neil Young). Every track is a winner.

  7. Julian Cope - Peggy Suicide

    Expanding his sound with a trusted band into a more funky and psychedelic rock direction, more eco and political out-rage - it's reach and ambition make this his best album. It is closely followed by the also excellent 'Jehovahkill'.

  8. Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain

    Very rich, sometimes dramatic/sweeping, occasionally baroque pop, mixed in with 80s lyricism and a charismatic vocal turn. Less is definitely more in this case, and every track is great. Definitely one of the best albums of the 80s, if not of all time.

  9. The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express

    In my opinion their best album - full of pop hooks and surprising cheer (at least on the surface), as well as interesting lyrics and understated melodies. Perhaps they were a bit ahead of their time.

  10. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Bwyd Time

    At the time I first heard this, I was looking for something different and bought this off the back of a review without listening to it. I was not disappointed. This is a psychedelic brew of pin-point Beach Boys inspired tunes, the off-handedness of Kevin Ayers, the gaucheness of the Incredible String Band, and sweetness and goofy humour of the academic school-boy (that is a compliment!). In short, it made me laugh, it drew me in with its use of Welsh, and English lyrics, that referred to folklore, teenage angst, and fired the imagination. There aren't many records as interesting and fantastic as this one.

  11. Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade

    A monster, double album of heavy riffs and angst - nodding to their hardcore roots and the more melodic direction they would take from 'Metal Circus' onwards. Almost all first-takes, the first half is an adrenaline feast and particularly great, including one of my fav' riffs and chanting on 'Hare Krsna'. A lot of their early material was spoiled by terrible, brittle production by Spot. But they got away with it on 'Zen' due to their shear ferocity and charisma.

  12. Hüsker Dü - Warehouse: Songs And Stories

    A double album that could have done with some trimming - but is mostly great. There is more focus on the lyrics and melodies - that knocks the flat and frankly dull previous album out of the box. Hart in particular wears his 60s, psychedelic influences on his sleeve, and there is definitely a sense of songwriters trying to out-do each other with hooks and riffs.

  13. Kraftwerk - Computerwelt

    Their best, most consistent album for me. It crunches along with their using industrial beats and retro-futuristic style - but it is also is their most memorably melodic effort, notably 'Computer Love', which was ripped-off by Coldplay.

  14. Mark Lanegan - Whiskey For The Holy Ghost

    Having left Screaming Trees behind, Lanegan explored his love of Lead Belly and the darker side of Americana. There is a kind of haunted beauty in these sound-scapes of mostly acoustic blues-ish melodies, and a lot of living in his voice, that takes centre stage.

  15. Lemonheads* - It's A Shame About Ray

    So many under-stated, melodic moments, and reflective interest. This album is super-short but crams in much sweetness, goofy charm, and genuinely moving songs. But don't be fooled by the easy-charm - writing this good ain't easy!

  16. The Lemonheads - Come On Feel The Lemonheads

    OK, we could all have done without the 'Jello Fund' or the half-formed hidden tracks - but this has album some of their greatest tunes and melodic turns, only slightly behind 'Ray' in their canon. 'Into Your Arms' is a simple, romantic classic.

  17. Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs

    One for the ages this one - a strange mix of Disney-sweet, tin-pan alley, Americana, heart-rippingly good instrumentals, and euphoric, anthemic triumph. Another album I hated at first - but became one of my favourites.

  18. Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime

    Another double-album that could have done with some trimming; though to be fair 3/4 of it is fantastic. They have a very tight, bass driven sound with socio-political commentary in direct response to 'Zen Arcade'.

  19. Nirvana - Nevermind

    A shiny, grungy nugget - possibly even two polished for some. But with monster, Black Sabbath/Melvin's inspired riffs, Kurt's ragged voice and tunes like this, it's hard to complain.

  20. Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York

    More often than not, great songs can be played in many varied styles and/or stripped back to their essentials. This is what happens here. Kurt's voice is a bit ragged, but mostly this adds to the nervous vulnerability of the songs, that really stand out here for their melodic brilliance.

  21. The Olivia Tremor Control - Music From The Unrealized Film Script "Dusk At Cubist Castle"

    More than a little Beatles influenced, this take the psychedelic 60s and it's harmonies as it's template - but then stretches it out into a sonic exploration that never forgets the tunes. A hidden gem!

  22. Optiganally Yours - Presents: Exclusively Talentmaker!

    Although there is a certain novelty and nostalgia in using a largely defunct and unpopular proto-type keyboard/synthesizer to help craft your tunes - the fact is the creakiness of the machine adds to the atmosphere and charm of what for the most part are excellent, memorable pop-ish/indie songs. By turns sweet, funny, moving and goofy - this album deserves to be listened to more widely.

  23. Pixies - Surfer Rosa

    Pixies were true originals - full of bass hooks, massive riffola - but more than that, often disturbing and primal lyrics, sometimes sung in a falsetto voice. It's amazing how many bands have tried (and usually failed) to emulate them.

  24. Pixies - Doolittle

    Perhaps even tighter than 'Surfa Rosa' - to the usual great riffs, vocal tics and kicking bass, there was added more melodic elements and simplicity in this record. Still terrifying in places though! Amazing.

  25. Photek - Modus Operandi

    The track 'The Hidden Camera' is a classic of the genre of darker drum n' bass - with haunted textures, expansive Jazz, and layered beats. It is a highlight here - but the whole album has a memorable, skeletal under-tow, rhythmic brilliance and complexity.