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Kevin Forest Moreau's Top 10 Albums of the 1990s

1. Nirvana: Nevermind (Geffen, 1991)
It hot-wired metal riffology to punk ideology and sparked a revolution. "Modern rock" co-opted it, but the shock waves of this disc's shivering, hostile disaffection and sheer cathartic rage are still being felt today.
 
2. Radiohead: OK Computer (Capitol, 1997)
The band first known for the semi-annoying "Creep" takes another incomprehensible leap forward, into a sonic landscape of aliens and alienation. Its stark beauty and icy distance are two sides of the same compelling coin.
3. U2: Achtung Baby (Island, 1991)
What do you do when you've taken earnest, political Irish folk-rock as far as it can go? After a brief detour as troubadours of dustbowl Americana, recast yourselves as plugged-in, leather clad bad boys from Berlin. A brilliant and much-needed reinvention.
 
4. Freedy Johnston: Can You Fly? (Bar/None, 1992)
A consummate singer-songwriter delivers an almost-perfect batch of disturbing character studies and introspective flights of fancy.
5. Mark Lanegan: Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (Sub Pop, 1994)
Lanegan's bourbon-and-cigarettes growl fits perfectly with his brutal, Waits-ian meditations on matters of the heart and spirit. A classic.
 
6. Steve Earle: El Corazon (Warner Bros., 1997)
After crashing and burning for his many excesses, the renegade who was too hot for country music to handle pumped out the most direct, poignant and relevant music of his career. This album remains a watermark.
7. R.E.M.: Out of Time (Warner Bros., 1991)
Begins the fertile second phase of a remarkably consistent and diverse career. Arresting and breathtaking in its simple beauty.
 
8. Soundgarden: Superunknown (A&M, 1994)
The Led Zeppelin II of the so-called "grunge" movement. Raw, leonine grace and surly, testosterone-fueled fury.
9. Matthew Ryan: Mayday (A&M, 1997)
The blue-collar grit of a young Springsteen, the sandpaper rasp of a young Tom Waits and the poeticism of a street-hardened Leonard Cohen. A startlingly blunt and affecting debut.
 
10. Too Much Joy: Cereal Killers (Giant, 1991)
Look past the studied brattiness and sophomoric humor, and you'll find as honest a document of twentysomething life as there is. "William Holden Caulfield" is a classic anthem of being uneasy with your cloak of self-righteous disillusionment.
 
Notable near misses:
 
  • Afghan Whigs: 1965 (Columbia, 1998)
  • DMX: And Then There Was X (Def Jam, 1999)
  • Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind (Columbia, 1997)
  • Guided by Voices: Mag Earwhig! (Matador, 1997)
  • John Hiatt: Perfectly Good Guitar (A&M, 1993)
  • Local H: As Good as Dead (Island, 1996)
  • Buddy Miller: Cruel Moon (High Tone, 1999)
  • My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (Sire, 1991)
  • R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (Warner Brothers, 1996)
  • Radiohead: The Bends (Capitol, 1995)
  • Rush: Roll the Bones (Atlantic, 1991)
  • Screaming Trees: Dust (Epic, 1996)
  • Smashing Pumpkins: Gish (Virgin, 1991)
  • Soundgarden: Down on the Upside (A&M, 1996)
  • Travis: The Man Who (Epic, 1999)
  • Ween: The Mollusk (Elektra, 1997)
  • Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (Mercury, 1998)

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