4 of the Best Alternative Rock Albums From the 1980s

The 1980s were a big era for rock music, especially alternative rock. Indie labels and alt-rock outfits were popping up everywhere, and they paved the way for a major decade in rock music. These four alt-rock albums are just a handful of great pieces of work that defined a generation. Let’s explore four of the best alternative rock albums of the 1980s!

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1. ‘Daydream Nation’ by Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth is often associated with grunge music, but at their core, they were an alternative rock outfit composed of some seriously brilliant musicians. David Bowie even once called Daydream Nation “extraordinary”. And extraordinary it really is. The record inspired a new generation of alt-rock bands in the 1990s and beyond.

4. ‘Doolittle’ by Pixies

Doolittle is by far one of the best alternative rock albums of the 1980s, if not all time. Pixies really showcased their talents on this record, in part because they weren’t bogged down by the needs of radio, rabid fans, or major labels. It was Pixies at their most free, and it has major listening power decades later.

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2. ‘Remain In Light’ by Talking Heads

Remain In Light is often described as new wave, and it definitely is. But it’s also the kind of album that can’t be shackled to one label. It’s undeniably alt-rock in many ways, and it pushed boundaries in ways other bands weren’t really doing yet. The record bounced from new wave to alt-rock to afrobeat to funk to dance. 

3. ‘The Queen Is Dead’ by The Smiths

The Queen Is Dead was The Smiths’ third album, and it’s still considered one of their very best. It influenced countless indie rock albums after its release in the late 1980s. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again” are essential listening.

Photo by Clare Muller

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