The 25 Best Indie Pop Albums of the ’90s

The 25 Best Indie Pop Albums of the ’90s

Listen/Buy: Amazon | Apple Music | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal

Black Tambourine: Complete Recordings (1999)

Black Tambourine didn’t need to release a proper album to become iconic. The Silver Spring, Maryland band’s lineup was already a who’s who of ’80s and ’90s indie music: Mike Schulman, head of Slumberland; Pam Berry, co-founding editor of the beloved zine Chickfactor; and Archie Moore and Brian Nelson, who also played in Velocity Girl. Luckily, 1999’s Complete Recordings collects the handful of songs they recorded between 1989 and 1991. One of those tracks, “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge,” would go down in indie pop history as the genre’s premiere diss track, with Berry entreating the Pastels’ Stephen Pastel to toss bandmate (and one-time girlfriend) Annabel “Aggi” Wright into a river (“purely for pro-Stephen crush emphasis purposes,” Berry later clarified). Less sceney but equally invigorating is “For Ex-Lovers Only,” which offers some of the decade’s best blissed-out shoegaze-does-’60s-girl-group dissonance. –Quinn Moreland

Listen/Buy: Spotify

Advantage Lucy: ファンファーレ (Fanfare) (1999)

While the U.S. and UK were experiencing an explosion of cardigan-clad indie pop, Japan was quietly building a world of its own within the genre. Among the scene’s standouts were Advantage Lucy, a Tokyo quartet that fused sunny jangle pop with horns, jazzy drums, and retro vocal harmonies. After ditching their original, Peanuts-inspired moniker Lucy Van Pelt, they released ファンファーレ (Fanfare), their debut album as Advantage Lucy, in 1999. Like the best indie pop of the era, the album welcomes fans to reimagine the humdrum of life with an optimistic curiosity. “カタクリの花” floats through a dreamy guitar melody dotted with glockenspiel and recorder, while fan favorite “Solaris” is the most exuberant ode to milk you’ve ever heard. Decades later, the album is still charming new generations of fans at home and abroad. –Nina Corcoran

Buy/Listen: YouTube

The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (1999)

After Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, but before Sufjan Stevens promised to write an album after every state, the most ambitious music project known to indie heads was 69 Love Songs. The album delivers exactly what the title says, styled as cowboy ballads, folk songs, synth pieces, and countless other genres, all tied together with Stephin Merritt’s devastatingly clever lyrics. Merritt has maintained that it’s not an album about love, but about love songs—devotional, yes, but only to the tropes of the genre. He’s a scholar of pop music, and Love Songs is his thesis. But all of that is easy to forget once immersed in the world of the album itself, which is endlessly generous with its vignettes and listeners alike. They wouldn’t be love songs if they didn’t charm us off our feet, waltz us through familiar scenes which suddenly feel eye-openingly new, and leave us swooning—even when we think we should know better. –NM Mashurov

Listen/Buy: Amazon | Apple Music | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal

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