A Massive 800-Track Playlist of 90s Indie & Alternative Music, in Chronological Order

800 indie tracksIn the time it’s tak­en me to grow out of my way­ward 90s youth and into most­ly sol­id cit­i­zen adult­hood, cul­tur­al mem­o­ries of that decade have crys­tal­ized around a few gen­res that have seen some renew­al of late. I’m more than pleased to find cur­rent musi­cians reviv­ing shoegaze, 90s elec­tron­i­ca, and neo-soul. And with so many artists who peaked twen­ty or so years ago still releas­ing records or get­ting back togeth­er for impres­sive reunions, it often seems like the music I grew up with nev­er left, even if a whole raft of stars I couldn’t pick out of a line­up have emerged in the mean­time.

And yet, though the ven­er­a­tion of 90s music has become a thing in recent years, the per­spec­tive of it by peo­ple per­haps not even born when the decade end­ed tends to be some­what lim­it­ed. Per­haps all of us for­get how strange and eclec­tic 90s music was. Even at the time, pop and alter­na­tive cul­tures were almost instant­ly reduced in films, com­pi­la­tion albums, and more-or-less every show on MTV. It was an era when sub­cul­tures were quick­ly com­mod­i­fied, san­i­tized, and sold back to us in the­aters and on record shelves.

To remind our­selves of just how wide-rang­ing the 90s were, we might turn to the expan­sive “giant 90s alt/indie/etc” playlist here, com­piled by Aroon Korv­na (born in 1982, but pre­co­cious­ly “musi­cal­ly con­scious” dur­ing the decade). The jour­ney begins with the nasal cham­ber pop of They Might Be Giants’ “Bird­house in Your Soul”—a clas­sic of DIY dork-rock—and ends with Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin,” a song herald­ing the tri­umph of radio-ready rap and club hits over the decades’ many quirky rock and hip-hop guis­es.

Hear the playlist in three parts: Part I (1990–94) and II (1995–96) above; Part III (1997–99) below. (If you need Spo­ti­fy’s soft­ware, down­load it here.) Along the way, we run into for­got­ten songs by under-the-radar bands like The Dwarves, Red House Painters, Guid­ed By Voic­es, The Beta Band, and The Micro­phones; left­field choic­es from one-hit won­ders like Ned’s Atom­ic Dust­bin and Infor­ma­tion Soci­ety; the first stir­rings from now-super­stars like Daft Punk and Jack White; and cuts from just about every oth­er artist on col­lege or alter­na­tive radio through­out the decade.

“The inspi­ra­tion for this playlist,” writes Korv­na, “came from see­ing one too many of those nos­tal­gia-bait pieces aimed at my cohort: ‘You total­ly for­got about these 20 amaz­ing hits from the 90’s.… After the 6th or 7th of these arti­cles all list­ing off the same obvi­ous things, you start to think you real­ly have heard every­thing from the 90s. But we all know that’s not true.”

By doing a bit of inter­net research to fill gaps in mem­o­ry, Korv­na com­piled “a mix of things every­one is famil­iar with, and more obscure arti­facts, the sorts of songs you might have only been famil­iar with if you were, say, lis­ten­ing to col­lege rock in 1991.”

If the 90s is to you an unknown coun­try, you’ll find that this three-part Spo­ti­fy playlist offers a com­pre­hen­sive walk-through of the decades’ diverse musi­cal culture—and it does­n’t just play the hits. If you’re a gen­tle­man or lady of a cer­tain age, it will refresh a few mem­o­ries, make you smile and wince with nos­tal­gia, and per­haps fill you with indig­na­tion over all the songs you think need to be on there but aren’t.

Feel free to leave your sug­ges­tions in the comments—or to make your own 90s playlist. And while you’re at it, you might want to take a look at Flavorwire’s sur­pris­ing list of “105 ‘90s Alter­na­tive Bands that Still Exist.”

via Metafil­ter/Medi­um

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,000 Record­ings to Hear Before You Die: Stream a Huge Playlist of Songs Based on the Best­selling Book

62 Psy­che­del­ic Clas­sics: A Free Playlist Cre­at­ed by Sean Lennon

Radio David Byrne: Stream Free Music Playlists Cre­at­ed Every Month by the Front­man of Talk­ing Heads

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (12)
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  • Dicky says:

    William you can use Spo­ti­fy in your web brows­er if you want

  • brett says:

    William Lee you thank­less twat shut the fuck up.

  • chris says:

    I’ve had a ‘one song per band’ alternative/indie playlist going for a few years. It’s a great way to shuf­fle music and not hear the same artists repeat­ed which for some rea­son every music app’s shuf­fle engine tends to do.

    It’s not only 90s but fits in with the same style. Every­thing from late 70s Joy Divi­sion type stuff through today.


  • Karen says:

    Only one Indi­go Girls and it isn’t Galileo? Shame on You would be anoth­er good one for them. Also, zero Toad the Wet Sprock­et? Walk on the Ocean? All I Want? Some­thing’s Always Wrong?

  • Erin says:

    well said brett, you’re such a knob william lee

  • arturo ulises says:

    This arti­cle is mist­i­tled. This are just 90s music playlist, not “indie & alter­na­tive music” as described. I mean, it has Jay‑Z and Daft Punk in it, who are not indie nor alt.

  • Jozee says:

    Natal­ie Imbruglia, Mari­ah Carey, Sav­age Gar­den and Madon­na are even less indie or alt

  • Bill Rowland says:

    It does­n’t cost any thing to install the App. You can play the whole songs. If you don’t sub­scribe you just have to lis­ten to a short com­mer­cial once in a while.

  • mollie says:

    there are a ton of radio hits (mari­ah carey??) on here, not par­tic­u­lar­ly indie. and it has zero lloyd cole, who was matthew sweet­’s coun­ter­part in the ear­ly 90’s.

  • Edward M says:

    Great list! Are you aware of Danielle Dax? She had a cou­ple hits ear­li­er, Big Hol­low Man for one. In 1995 she released an ep called Tim­ber Tongue. Please give it a lis­ten if you haven’t already. It’s from anoth­er plan­et. If you are famil­iar with the work, per­haps you could tell me when in 1995 it was released. I’ve hunt­ed the net for that skin­ny and have come up emp­ty-hand­ed.

  • Music School El Dorado Hills - Mr. D's Music School says:

    That’s real­ly nice post. I appre­ci­ate, Thanks for shar­ing.

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