20 Essential 90s Albums

In its ongoing bid to have more sub-brands than any other media owner, Absolute Radio recently launched a new niche-station, this time one tailor-made for those of us currently experiencing the dizzying pangs that come with realising nostalgia isn’t just something that happens to your parents: Absolute 90s. And, as part of the ongoing celebrations of the launch, they’re compiling a list of the Essential 90s Albums.

Now, anyone who has ever read this blog before (Hi Mum!) will know that I love a good list and so, taking Absolute 90s compilation of such a list as a challenge, I thought I’d have a go myself. And here, after much thought, is my 20 essential albums of the 90s. It was hard enough keeping it to 20 (and they’re likely to change) so they’re in no-order other than chronological. I’ll happily admit that it tends to skew towards British music & hip-hop, but it’s not my fault that most grunge was shite.

Anyway, for anyone that cares (Hi Mum!), here’s my 20 essential albums of the 90s.

Now, the observant amongst you will have noticed that the list above only has 19 entries.So, I want you to make suggestions as to which album should fill that space and I’ll choose one of the suggestions and add it to the final list of the 20 Essential Albums Of The 90s.

I should probably warn you now that it’s very unlikely that I’ll add any album that had a picture of a baby chasing a dollar bill on the cover. Just thought I’d mention it.


  1. Excellent list Ciaran, it’s made me feel the pangs for the soundtrack of my youth once again. It’s really too hard to pick just one album to fill the void left at the end of your list, so could I be so bold as to suggest my own list of albums I personally would like to see in there, and I’ll let you decide the most appropriate (alphabetically):

    Air – Moon Safari
    The first Air album I heard and the one that made me fall in love with them.

    Cast – All Change
    I don’t care what you say, I like Cast! This was a great (and somewhat overlooked) brit pop album that was full of charm for those willing to give it a go.

    Gomez – Bring It On
    The debut album (after a limited edition EP) of (IMO) one of the UKs most underrated bands.

    The Las – The Las
    Cursed to live under the shadow of *that* single, this is a spectacular album in it’s own right and well worth five of anyone’s hard earned notes.

    Orbital – Insides
    A defining moment for me and my love of electronica – this is one of the finest albums ever recorded by the Hartnoll brothers.

    Why have I linked to Amazon you might be asking? Because if you don’t own these already you should rectify that problem right now.

  2. P.S. Sh*t I should have dated those:

    Air – Moon Safari (1998)
    Cast – All Change (1995)
    Gomez – Bring It On (1998)
    The Las – The Las (1990)
    Orbital – Insides (1996)

  3. Cheers Stuart, some good stuff there.

    I did think about Air, but decided it wasn’t quite strong enough (for me).

    Cast – sorry, I can’t.

    Gomez – amazing band, great album. They made it into my albums of the 00s, for the 90s I’m not sure if I’d have Bring It On or Liquid SKin.

    I felt I ought to put in some more house, but I just never bought that many house albums. Orbital or Underworld are the ones I feel I’m doing a disservice too.

  4. I can forgive your lack of love for Cast, they were a love/hate kind of band…

    Liquid Skin was excellent as well, if you haven’t heard it Gomez released a great b sides and rarities album called Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline which has some really good stuff on (but it was 2000 otherwise it would have been in there):


    I do love Underworld as well, I’d highly recommend getting either Everything Everything, an absolutely storming live album or their Singles collection, both of which are a great introduction to material spanning most of their career. For me they tailed off a bit from 100 Days Off but of course it’s just my opinion.

    I was also tempted to slip my favourite Ocean Colour Scene album on there, B Sides, Seasides and Freerides but I’m not sure it quite made it.

    I totally forgot one of my still all time favourite albums actually, Masun – Six (1998). Brilliant album.

    Oh yes, and one final one:

  5. Too many to choose from, but possible answers:

    My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
    Underworld – Second Toughest In The Infants
    Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
    KLF – White Room
    PJ Harvey – Rid of Me
    Pulp – Different Class
    Leftfield – Leftism
    Orbital – Insides
    Goldie – Timeless

    All tremendous in their own way.

  6. Another vote for Leftism by Leftfield, the Kind Of Blue of 90’s dance.

    UF Orb by The Orb still stands up today as a fabulous album of dub, beats and ambience.

    Dummy by Portishead – still sounds like it’s come from another world. Took me a long time to get into it, but it’s fabulous. Genre defining.

  7. I have to say that Leftism is one that now seems glaring in its omission from the original list.

    I love Dummy, but think that with Blue Lines & Maxinquaye on their already, it doesn’t quite stand up.

    Goldie’s Timeless is an amazing feat, but something I think works slightly better in theory than practice.

    And Loveless is an album I really ought to know better!

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