Music Artist Rankings: 1990s

1. Radiohead
Achieved iconic status with two of the best rock albums of the ’90s, remaining popular despite a more experimental, electronic direction.
Essential Album: OK Computer (1997)

2. Nirvana
Second-generation punk’s most unlikely success story, a rampaging hard rock trio that influenced countless artists but ended in tragedy.
Essential Album: Nevermind (1991)

3. Neutral Milk Hotel
Indie pop band, headed by the reclusive Jeff Mangum, that gained acclaim for their masterpieces of fuzzy, experimental pop.
Essential Album: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)

4. Oasis
Hard-living Manchester rockers who helped return guitar pop to the top of the charts, and stood at the vanguard of the mid-’90s Brit-pop movement.
Essential Album: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

5. Pearl Jam
The prototypical Seattle grunge band, with a driving sound and a long run as one of the most principled and hard-working groups in rock.
Essential Album: Ten (1991)

6. Smashing Pumpkins
One of the biggest alternative bands of the ’90s, deftly mixing guitar-heavy ’70s arena rock with the sullen mope-rock of the ’80s.
Essential Album: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)

7. My Bloody Valentine
Kevin Shields and co. blended ethereal melodies with discordant sounds to become one of the prime influences on the late-’80s indie scene.
Essential Album: Loveless (1991)

8. R.E.M.
Fronted by the charismatic Michael Stipe, one of the first alt-rock bands to make it big, maintaining their integrity and a sense of adventure over three decades.
Essential Album: Automatic For The People (1992)

9. Weezer
Alt-rock dons who matched hook-heavy power pop and doses of melodic metal with themes of awkwardness and geekdom.
Essential Album: Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers
California band that mixed biting rock guitar with funk rhythms to become superstars by the 1990s and inspire legions of imitators.
Essential Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

11. Jeff Buckley
With his elegantly haunting lone album, he created an immense legacy echoing that of his similarly doomed singer/songwriter father, Tim.
Essential Album: Grace (1994)

12. Pavement
Their fractured songwriting and defiant low fidelity made them the most influential and distinctive band in the American underground of the ’90s.
Essential Album: Slanted & Enchanted (1992)

13. U2
Trafficking in big ideas and big sounds, a band that operated on a grander scale than any other from the ’80s and attracted legions of devoted fans.
Essential Album: Achtung Baby (1991)
14. Blur
Innovative, ever-morphing Brit-pop band with punch that nabbed constant critical adulation and the occasional massive hit.
Essential Album: Parklife (1994)

15. The Flaming Lips
Ever-evolving indie band led by Wayne Coyne that became critical darlings for their discordant, psychedelia-tinged garage rock.
Essential Album: The Soft Bulletin (1999)

16. Rage Against The Machine
Fiery, militant rockers who blended metal guitars and hip-hop rhythms with the confrontational, anthemic vocals of Zack de la Rocha.
Essential Album: Rage Against The Machine (1992)

17. Sigur Rós
Icelandic post-rockers whose uniquely dreamlike, slow-motion sound was popular with shoegazers and filmmakers.
Essential Album: Ágætis Byrjun (1999)

18. Portishead
Bristol outfit that popularized trip-hop with liberal doses of cool jazz and spy soundtracks, featuring the angelic vocals of Beth Gibbons.
Essential Album: Dummy (1994)

19. Massive Attack
A Bristol collective whose combination of dark rhythms, reverb-laden guitars, and atmospheric samples helped pioneer the laid-back sound of trip-hop.
Essential Album: Mezzanine (1998)

20. Björk
Iconic Icelander whose unique sonic adventurousness has extended to pop, jazz, electronica, and beyond.
Essential Album: Homogenic (1997)