SPIN hit a milestone this year: Our 30th birthday. To celebrate, we caught up with some of the artists behind our past picks for Album of the Year, held a readers’ poll, reminisced with former staffers, and now, we’ve ranked the 300 best albums of the past 30 years.
5. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead (Sire, 1986)
Despite their hard-earned reputation of being sad-sack mopes at best and virulent, purposefully anti-social misanthropes at worst, what people always forget when discussing the Smiths was how funny they were. Oasis ringleader Noel Gallagher has talked about pissing himself laughing listening to the ‘80s underground heroes and, listening to The Queen Is Dead, well, yeah. This is an album where the narrator assassinates Her Majesty while cracking wise about his lack of piano-playing skills; where the most emotional vocal in the excoriating “Frankly Mr. Shankly” is reserved for Moz calling the titular character “a fuh-laaaa-tu-lent paaaaiiiin in the arrrrrrrse!!!”; where the climactic “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” — only one of the ten most beautiful songs ever written — is undermined by the true closing statement, the not-misleadingly titled “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.”
4. Daft Punk, Discovery (Virgin, 2001)
Little-known fact: In the summer of 2001, in a sweaty bar in Boston, it was possible to hear guitar-pop smoothie John Mayer singing a bit of “One More Time” during a pre-fame live set. That was a year before LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” wherein another J.M. — James Murphy — self-mockingly boasts of being “the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids.” And this perhaps unlikely seeming pair of examples illustrates the strange alchemy Daft Punk performed with their sophomore album, Discovery: This was electronic dance music for the biggest of tents, not for rock kids or pop kids or even exclusively house or disco kids but rather, calling all kids, of all ages. And pop music — as seen in the dance-y trajectory of the Top 40 in the years since Daft Punk’s triumphant 2006 return to the public eye at Coachella — has been unshakably altered as a result.