I've been procrastinating by looking at Facebook and someone on the Mid-90's page posted some excellent videos of a band called Lincoln. The Mid-90's page is more or less devoted to punk/hardcore/emo/indie/underground/whatever music from, duh, the mid-90's. And since that's what I was mostly listening to back then, it's pretty great to follow.
It made me go back and look at the albums that my Windows Media Player tells me came out in 1996. Here are, in my opinion, the stand outs:
The Crownhate Ruin -- "Until the Eagle Grins"
Jawbox -- "Jawbox"
June of '44 -- "Tropics and Meridians"
Karate -- "Karate"
R.E.M. -- "New Adventures in Hi-Fi"
Team Dresch -- "Captain My Captain"
Texas is the Reason -- "Texas is the Reason"
Universal Order of Armageddon -- "Universal Order of Armageddon"
Unwound -- "Repetition"
Weezer -- Pinkerton
That's pretty impressive for just one year, and I left some good ones off in an effort to keep it at 10. The R.E.M. album stands out from the rest in terms of style of music, but it was probably the last R.E.M. album that I would consider great, and it was coming on the heels of one or two mediocre attempts.
Weezer's also a bit of a sore thumb, although Weezer always had this bizarre "street cred" about them so "indie" kids didn't really care that they were on MTV a lot.
Unwound, UOM, and The Crownhate Ruin were are probably the most "punk rock" of the albums on this list, although I suppose Team Dresch could give them a run for their money.
June of '44 and Karate were both math/jazz/smart rock. I never really embraced math rock to the extent that I thought I would, given my own propensity towards overly complicated art.
Jawbox's self-titled, final album was an instant classic for me. While lacking the raw sound of their previous major label release, the song writing overall is stronger on this one.
Top 3 for me? I'd have to R.E.M., Weezer, and Jawbox, in that order.
What a great year for music.