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Born in 1996 25 Albums That Turn 25 in 2021. Do they hold up?

Born in 1996

25 Albums That Turn 25 in 2021. Do they hold up?

by Alarcon, Founder / Managing Editor
first published: January, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

1996 and all that... Do they still stand up for you?

Remember midway into 2020 when the internet, (which was already under duress due to a global pandemic), was inundated with think-pieces about Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill turning 25 years old? The first article hit on June 11th when some plucky young music blogger mentioned the silver anniversary of Morissette’s third album, never assuming what kind of news cycle she had just launched.

Soon Twitter was abuzz with first-person experiences about Jagged Little Pill and its significance in the annals of history. Words like anthem, anger, angst were bandied about, and those were just the As. 

Looking back now, it’s not surprising why Jagged Little Pill represented the best of 1995 -- it was an off year. Val Kilmer was Batman, the world was weary from a lengthy OJ Simpson trial, and the “Macarena” was considered cultural art. The bar was low that year.

Now 1996 -- that was an important year for music -- some call it the fillet of the decade. For proof, you don’t have to look any further than this list of 25 albums that turn 25 in 2021. They deserve at least as much, if not more attention than Jagged Little Pill.

Music bloggers, take notes.

Cibo Matto
Viva! La Woman
25-Year Anniversary: January 16

Cibo Matto’s debut album still gives me a thrill 25 years later. For light, experimental post-trip-hop, it wasn’t bad -- they were no Morcheeba, but they weren’t the Sneaker Pimps either. An album worthy of love after all these years. There will be no think-piece written for Viva! La Woman, and that’s a shame.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Murder Ballads
25-Year Anniversary: February 5

Nick Cave’s collection of traditional and contemporary murder ballads would make for a weighty and well-recieved reissue for its 25th. While many of Cave’s LPs are essential, I’d call Murder Ballads a little more essential than most. It was a well-tailored collection, and worthy of reexamination.

All Eyez on Me
25-Year Anniversary: February 13

2Pac at his peak: He just got out of jail, the Feds were shadowing him, he was getting hit with lawsuits from every direction, and he was under Suge Knight’s thumb. For all the pressure he was under, All Eyez on Me was his best moment.

25-Year Anniversary: March 12

Remember when Kiss realized their casual fans didn’t care about them without Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, or their makeup? Sensing career stagnation, Gene Simmons (the marketing genius that he is) scheduled an appearance on MTV’s wildly-popular Unplugged concerts, bringing out Criss and Frehley for a few tunes. Simmons realized a Kiss reunion was good for business and the original four reformed a few months after this performance. Together again for the first time since 1979, and they’ve been on their farewell tour ever since.

Unplugged a boring album, but it offers a nostalgic tip of the cap to the band’s rebirth, so sure, I can envision a think piece written by Chuck Klosterman for The Ringer about Unplugged’s relevance in a post-Trump world or something introspective like that. It’s also easy to envision Gene Simmons calculating the highest price point possible on a deluxe Unplugged re-release.

MMMBop (Demo)
25-Year Anniversary: March 17

I never got this one. Yes, “MMMBop” was a catchy tune, but the way “alternative” media outlets like SPIN and MTV gushed about the Hansons made for confusing times. There was even talk of Hanson becoming the next Nirvana of pop music amongst those with their finger on the pulse such as Kurt Loder. Hanson would eventually age like a pair of 60-inch JNCOs, but make no mistake -- for at least four months in 1996 this band was as big as The Beatles.

Stone Temple Pilots
Tiny Music... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop
25-Year Anniversary: March 26

Is Stone Temple Pilots’ foray from puedo grunge to pop worthy of a 2,000-word walk down memory lane from Pitchfork? I’d say so. STP were a pop band in the true definition of the term. They were like The Doors of the ‘90s: Catchy singles, flaky singers, and you either love both bands or you hate them, there is no in-between.

Rage Against the Machine
Evil Empire
25-Year Anniversary: April 16

I wasn’t an enthusiast of Rage Against the Machine then, but on relistening to Evil Empire now, you have to give the album its due for over-delivering. I remember feeling like this was the album that sent their fans into overdrive. When I saw RATM later this year at Irvine Meadows in Irvine, California, it was as chaotic as any Black Flag concert I’d seen.

No Knife
Drunk on the Moon
25-Year Anniversary: April 30

What was No Knife? Math rock? Emo? Post-grunge? (There were lots of unnecessary labels in the ‘90s.) Will anyone care about the 25-year anniversary of Drunk on the Moon? Probably not, I just mentioned this one because my high school friend was the founding drummer of the band and played on this album. Ike Zurumba, but we called him Eric. Good guy, he works for SpaceX now.

Backstreet Boys
Backstreet Boys
25-Year Anniversary: May 6

If any album on this list deserves to trend on Twitter, it’s the Backstreet Boys’ debut album. It was the LP that reignited the boy band torch which was snuffed out by New Kids on the Block’s disappointing Face the Music in 1994. While the Backstreet Boys never received the ironic adulation that Hanson received from music journalists, maybe 25 years of hindsight will change one millennial blogger’s mind.

The It Girl
25-Year Anniversary: May 6

It wasn’t Smart, but that doesn’t mean The It Girl doesn’t… OK, even I can’t convince myself that this one is vital. On to Metallica...

25-Year Anniversary: June 4

For Load, Metallica cut their hair, wore makeup, used a photo of semen for its cover art (load, get it?), and French kissed each other in front of music journalists during the album’s promotional tour. (What would Cliff Burton have said?) Most Metallica fans pretend this album didn’t happen, but I bet Lars Ulrich is itching for a remastered 5-disc deluxe box set so don’t be surprised with a special release.

Belle & Sebastian
25-Year Anniversary: June 6

Does the debut album of Belle & Sebastian earn nostalgic internet praise? The twee Scottish band that still elicits worship from proto-hipsters who predate the Williamsburg-Echo Park hipster takeover of the early ‘90s.

25-Year Anniversary: June 18

Beck was always just a well-connected one-hit wonder, but Odelay is when he went legit. Before that, he could still be found breakdancing at Raji’s with a leaf blower strapped to his back. (We called it art back then.) As popular as you think “Loser” is, Odelay is Beck’s real breakthrough and certainly worth a few retrospective essays from SPIN.

Fiona Apple
25-Year Anniversary: July 23

Tidal is the sexy, in-charge woman who’s seen a few things to Jagged Little Pills’ immature freshman who got her heart broken for the first time. I said what I said.

25-Year Anniversary: July 30

While I believe Sublime’s third and final LP deserves some ink, maybe my perception is altered due to the fact that I lived in the eye of the storm Bradley Nowell created in the mid-’90s. All around me, young men in Long Beach and Orange County, California started dressing like they were in Sublime. You could also hear "Santeria" or “What I Got” literally any time of the day on local radio. Maybe they were only really huge in California.

The Cardigans
First Band on the Moon
25-Year Anniversary: August 12

Although “Lovefool” isn’t even one of The Cardigans’ best 100 songs, it’s the song that prevented them from becoming the next Sundays, loved but forgotten. Instead, “Lovefool” put them in the number one slot on Billboard’s National Top 40 charts. The single also begs the question, “If the song wasn’t on a Leo DeCaprio soundtrack (who was considered God at the time), would The Cardigans have become as big as they did?”

25-Year Anniversary: August 27

Outkast fans think Stankonia is their best album, but ATLiens is the pivotal release that launched their skyward trajectory.

Traveling Without Moving
25-Year Anniversary: August 28

During the last half of 1996, it was impossible to go a day without hearing something off Traveling Without Moving. It was the year America discovered Jay Kay’s voice earning the band platinum sales in American, Europe, and Asia. Alas, the 25th anniversary of Traveling Without Moving will come and go without a mention.

Coming Up
25-Year Anniversary: September 2

When Bernard Butler left Suede, I never thought the band would return to the gothic heights and lows of their debut and Dog Man Star, and for the most part, I was correct. Instead, Coming Up was crisp and bright, sounding more optimistic and upbeat than atmospheric and introspective. Breathing new life into a band that should’ve broken up two years earlier.

25-Year Anniversary: September 16 

The 25th anniversary of Space’s self-titled debut will come and go for the obvious reasons. It was unfocused, lacked cohesion, and their record company did a horrible job in promoting them. (Can anyone produce just the first name of any member of the band?) Still, Spiders was a noteworthy LP for 1996, and exactly what pop music should be: fun, catchy, and memorable yet disposable. 

DJ Shadow
25-Year Anniversary: September 16

A landmark work in trip hop, and the genre’s crowning achievement. Expect lengthy essays from SPIN, the NME, and Time magazine of all publications. Time was on top of Endtroducing… back in the late ‘90s calling it one of the top 100 greatest albums of all time… all time!

Spice Girls
25-Year Anniversary: September 19

Has it already been 25 years? Spicemania swept throughout the world so fast and hard, we didn’t have time to engage in Twitter wars and Instagram Stories, debating whether or not the Spice Girls were legit or just another All Saints knock off. In the end, Girl Power made feminism far more powerful than caterwauling about giving Dave Coulier oral sex in public. Plus, the songs sounded great on the dance floor.

25-Year Anniversary: September 24

I have a friend who really likes Weezer and he’s gone on record on more than one occasion, stating that Pinkerton is an important work in the Weezer canon. “Maybe more important than the blue album,” he once excitedly insisted. 

Marilyn Manson
Antichrist Superstar
25-Year Anniversary: October 8

Don’t expect a primetime feature about the cultural significance of Antichrist Superstar on the BBC anytime soon. Marilyn Manson’s second album didn’t impress many people in Europe, this sort of subtle Florida sludge could only be appreciated by North Americans in 1996. That said, American and Canadian teens loved Brian Werner’s alter ego, a demented Jack Skellington for Millennials. Not Manson’s best work, but certainly worthy of Rolling Stone repurposing an old cover story on their homepage. Afterall, they did name him their 1996 Artist of the Year.

Belle & Sebastian
If You're Feeling Sinister
25-Year Anniversary: November 18

Belle & Sebastian released their debut and this album in 1996, yet they sounded like they’d been around forever. If You're Feeling Sinister also felt like it gave off a small seismic shift in the indie landscape. If you’re still questioning If You're Feeling Sinister’s importance, consider that Pitchfork produced a documentary about the album. Pitchfork!


Founder / Managing Editor

Alarcon co-founded outsideleft with lamontpaul (the Tony Wilson to his Rob Gretton) in 2004. His work for OL has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers, oh and probably the FBI, too.

about Alarcon »»

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