50 of the best non-grunge alternative ’90s rock albums

Courtesy BBC

The ’90s is often associated with grunge music. Sometimes it even overshadows its overarching umbrella genre, “alternative rock.” This was a time when this writer began authoring album reviews for Florida International University’s student newspaper and spinning records at its radio station while discovering many sub-genres of popular alt-rock, which saw the rise of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. We rock music writers used terms like slow-core, shoegaze, sad-core, dream pop, post-rock, noise pop, lounge, lo-fi, noise pop, among others, to distinguish between certain groups of musicians. There were also some legends of earlier eras of the alternative music scene who released some of their more interesting work in a while, including John Cale, Brain Eno, Tom Waits, R.E.M. and lets not forget David Bowie. Also on this list is one local from the Miami music scene who I will always exalt as having produced an album that deserves to be among this company, Xela Zaid. There’s a link to his record as Ho Chi Minh on Bandcamp, as it’s not an album that’s easy to find but worth discovering. But mostly this list is about new discoveries and bands reaching some piques in their careers. Below is and as best as I could rank them are the greatest albums I discovered during that decade. Note: some band names that are bolded link to interviews, news or reviews on this site.

  1. SpiritualizedLazer Guided Melodies
  2. Stereolab – Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements
  3. Red House Painters – “Rollercoaster” album
  4. SwansLove of Life
  5. Tortoise ‎- Millions Now Living Will Never Die
  6. Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers
  7. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
  8. Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
  9. David Bowie – The Buddha of Suburbia
  10. Yo La Tengo – Painful
  11. Verve – A Storm in Heaven
  12. Tom Waits – Bone Machine
  13. Arab Strap – Philophobia
  14. His Name is Alive – Mouth by Mouth
  15. Mogwai ‎- Come On Die Young
  16. Swell – …Well?
  17. Brian Eno and John Cale – Wrong Way Up
  18. R.E.M. – Automatic For the People
  19. Sebadoh ‎- Weed Forestin
  20. Ho Chi Minh (aka Alex Diaz aka Xela Zaid) – Motorama
  21. The Sea and Cake – The Fawn
  22. Radiohead ‎- OK Computer
  23. Spacemen 3 – Recurring
  24. Air – Moon Safari
  25. My Bloody Valentine ‎- Loveless
  26. Björk – Homogenic
  27. Ween – Pure Guava
  28. Portishead – Portishead
  29. Sigur Rós ‎- Ágætis Byrjun
  30. The Clean ‎- Unknown Country
  31. Aphex Twin – Richard D. James
  32. Galaxie 500 – This Is Our Music
  33. Majesty Crush – Love 15
  34. Hum – You’d Prefer An Astronaut
  35. The Magnetic Fields – Get Lost
  36. Blur – Parklife
  37. Cranes – Forever
  38. The Kitchens of Distinction – Strange Free World
  39. Rollerskate Skinny – Shoulder Voices
  40. Lush – Spooky
  41. Unrest – Perfect Teeth
  42. Slowdive – Souvlaki
  43. Electronic – Electronic
  44. The Field Mice – Coastal
  45. Macha – Macha
  46. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Stoned and Dethroned
  47. Komeda – What Makes It Go?
  48. Possum Dixon – Possum Dixon
  49. St. Johnny – Speed Is Dreaming
  50. The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa – “…fluidtrance centauri…” (EP)

Hans Morgenstern

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