1995 – The Year of Indie Alternative Music

indie alternative music 1995

Indie rock hallmarks such as off-key vocals and slacker attitude have become part of mainstream rock albums in a startling way. 1995 marked an iconic year for indie alternative, featuring releases by Radiohead, Oasis, Tricky and others.

Pulp’s class-baiting satire found new life as alt-pop gold on “Common People.” The Chemical Brothers pioneered an entirely new genre by mixing house with hip hop to stunning effect.

The Chemical Brothers

MTV was shifting away from its embrace of mainstream pop music, while major labels were signing more traditional indie rock acts; independently-run labels began exploring more alternative styles of music – in 1995 this meant artists who had never visited a major label were getting contracts and releasing albums and CDs of their music.

This was the year in which The Chemical Brothers first gained significant notice with their experimental electronic dance music. Though DJing for some time prior, their release of Loops Of Fury EP on Virgin in October brought them to the top spot in UK charts and was an iconic combination of synths with hard hitting beats that caused controversy with The Beatles who hired an expert witness to confirm whether or not The Chemical Brothers sampled Tomorrow Never Knows (they didn’t) while catalyzing alternative dance into what is today known as electronica music.

Push the Button was another milestone release that further propelled them into mainstream consciousness, featuring collaborations with Tim Burgess, Kele Okereke and Meat Beat Manifesto – not to mention world tours featuring Glastonbury festival appearances! In addition, they released “It Began in Afrika” as part of their Electronic Battle Weapon series on vinyl for sale.

This album allowed DJs to experience new Chemical Brothers tracks while also listening to remixes by influential artists who shaped their sound. Once complete, this track would later be released on an album as part of their career arc – cementing their status as household names.


Leftfield, pioneers of dub techno from the UK, pioneered an emerging subgenre between indie and electronic music with their 1995 debut album Leftism. Blending dub, breakbeat and house, this groundbreaking record is considered an essential classic – even being named one of the best albums from this decade by Q magazine!

Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, launched indie rock into mainstream America and proved bands could achieve mainstream success without compromising their vision or sound. Alice in Chains’ heroin ballad River of Deceit became another highlight, featuring Layne Staley’s haunting plea “I choose to be sick” over an emotively bombastic acoustic guitar line.

1995 marked a revitalization of UK indie scene, led by Pulp and its class-conscious, alt-pop hits “Common People” and ‘Disco 2000″. Oasis released their exciting, guitar-driven second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and made waves.

Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West album featured more grittier sounds while still maintaining a soothing atmosphere with its instrumentally intricate pop tunes. Australian band Silverchair took an unconventional route with their post-grunge sound but kept things under control to deliver hooky rock songs like ‘Space Shanty’ that were highly captivating.

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill demonstrated that confessional lyrics and biting commentary could reach the top of the charts while simultaneously showing indie bands could achieve incredible success with their efforts. Even today, this landmark record remains relevant and one of the year’s most significant releases.

Smashing Pumpkins

In the 1990s, many bands experimented with changing their sound. Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville marked an unexpected departure from her previous pop work; its lyrics focused on more profound narratives. It was an audacious move that advanced the feminist movement and cemented her as one of the leading female artists in alternative music history. Sigur Ros’ 1997 debut album lafur was an abrupt shift away from their Visual Kei metal roots, marking them as an experimental rock act with international appeal. Additionally, The Fugees made waves within their genre with Lauryn Hill at its core; their contribution was vital in creating modern alternative hip-hop scene and led the way for acts like Gym Class Heroes and twenty one pilots.

The Smashing Pumpkins were another band to innovate within their genre. After making waves with their 1992 debut Gish, and gaining even greater acclaim with 1993 follow-up Siamese Dream; Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness proved itself to be a masterwork of epic proportions from its eye-popping pun title to its sprawling dimensions – an album truly worthy of epic proportions!

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was an enormously popular alternative band, helping launch many others’ careers as well. Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes capitalised on this trend with critically-acclaimed albums while Death Cab for Cutie found mainstream success with their introspective folk rock. Garbage brought together Goodbye Mr Mackenzie singer Shirley Manson and Nirvana producer Butch Vig to produce its unique brand of canny pop-grunge; songs such as ‘Queer’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and Vow’ all made it onto charts on both sides of the Atlantic.


Garbage first found success with their 1995 debut self-titled album, making a splash with its danceable yet grungy alt-rock sound. Genre-defying Garbage helped push rock music forward; their songs continue to influence artists even today. Formed in 1993 in Madison, Wisconsin by Shirley Manson along with Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig, their unique sound combines shimmering electronic pop with Manson’s powerful vocals creating an unforgettable alternative rock experience.

1. Only Happy When It Rains

Garbage first made waves on the music scene with their 1995 debut album “Beautiful Garbage,” featuring their hit single, “Only Happy When It Rains”. This anthem quickly became one of the defining songs from alternative rock’s golden age; with lyrics that encourage listeners to live their lives their own way and a catchy chorus and energetic beat making this must-listen for any fan of alternative rock music.

2. “Stupid Girl”, released by American rock band Garbage in 1996, has become an iconic song. Notable features of “Stupid Girl” are its use of distorted guitars and synth hooks as well as Manson’s powerful vocals; its purpose being an ode to women who don’t conform to social norms while inspiring listeners to speak up for what they believe in.

Garbage released their fifth studio album, “Not Your Kind of People,” in 2012. Their lead single, “Blood for Poppies,” is an upbeat and energetic track with an infectious beat and memorable melody. The song touches upon addiction and cravings while its combination of instrumentation and vocals makes an emotionally impactful statement about them both modernity as well as recall of their ’90s alternative rock roots.


Pavement managed to remain independent through their refusal of major label contracts and sticking with an experimental sound; 1995’s “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” represented their departure from their initial vaguely indie sound with songs like the guitar-driven ‘My Iron Lung”, plus more dark, brooding instrumental pieces such as “Serpentine Pad” and ‘Father To A Sister Of Thought”.

While in the United States, bands like R.E.M, The Replacements and Husker Du were pioneering a harder, punk-influenced sound. Meanwhile, British artists like Tricky, Alanis Morissette and Stone Roses were shifting units with confessional lyrics that combined confessional honesty with sharp criticism.

Each album made an important step forward for indie music while simultaneously showing that one didn’t need to be an over-the-top pop star to become successful in alternative music. But Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette truly stole the show with her powerful, raw, yet honest 1995 smash “Jagged Little Pill”.

These albums that have celebrated 25 years since their release are just some of those turning 25 this year; there are dozens more to discover! For a deeper dive into what made these notable records so essential, check out the 33 1/3 series where writers examine notable albums in depth while unearthing new details along the way – featuring Stephen Malkmus, Paul Weller and the Joy Division reunion among many more notable musicians and groups – a fantastic place to discover some of history’s most essential alternative albums!