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Methodology - Top 100 Greatest Alternative Albums of All Time

Updated: May 20, 2023

This article will describe the methodology, criteria, and scoring for our ranked list of the Top 100 Greatest Alternative Albums of All Time.

Album Selection

  • Albums to be included are considered primarily alternative rock, jangle-pop, new wave, post-punk, indie rock, college rock or shoegaze.

  • Albums NOT to be included are primarily considered punk rock, grunge, metal, britpop or pop-rock.

    • The Seattle-Inspired Grunge Scene of the 1990's has been excluded as that is a much more clearly defined genre, and a ranking of grunge bands will be a project for another day.

    • Artists considered jazz-fusion or Jazz Pop (Fiona Apple, Norah Jones) have been excluded.

    • Bands/Artists primarily considered punk rock (The Clash, Patti Smith, The Ramones, New York Dolls, Dead Kennedy's) but may have also crossed genres have been excluded.

    • Pop-rock and Britpop bands of the 90's who are only loosely considered "Alternative Rock"(Matchbox Twenty, Blur, Oasis, Goo Goo Dolls, The Wallflowers) have been excluded as their vast mainstream appeal would skew the results.

  • For our criteria, alternative albums started appearing in the mid 70's as a mix of garage rock, new-wave and post-punk acting as a creative outlet for those with sounds notably outside of the mainstream. That does not necessarily mean that albums that also had commercial success are outside of our criteria, as plenty of alternative albums crossed over in mainstream airplay, and even more so gained a reputation and following as time went on. With that being said, the vast majority of these albums received little mainstream success at the level of mainstream pop and rock records.

  • Predominantly experimental and art-rock bands/artists of the 60's & 70's (Frank Zappa, David Bowie) have been excluded as they fit in much more clearly defined genres although their early influence on alternative music is still noted and appreciated. The Velvet Underground has been included as their sound was much more in line with later alternative rock music, it was just very ahead of it's time. Additionally, later experimental bands such as Butthole Surfers and Ween have also been included as they can be easily classified as alternative rock.

These criteria have been established to keep the intent and spirit of the list celebratory for artists considered part of the Alternative Music Scene.

Scoring Spreadsheet of the Top 150 Albums

100 Greatest Alternative Albums
Download XLSX • 32KB

Massively Influential Albums Outside Our Criteria

  1. Nevermind - Nirvana

  2. Ten - Pearl Jam

  3. Hunky Dory - David Bowie

  4. Superunknown - Soundgarden

  5. London Calling - The Clash

  6. We're Only in It for the Money - Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention

  7. Horses - Patti Smith

  8. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

  9. Fun House - The Stooges

  10. When The Pawn... - Fiona Apple

2000's alternative & indie rock playlist cover 2.JPEG
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