When the term "alternative" first came into widespread use in the 1980s, it initially stood for music that wasn't easy to assign to one of the existing sections at your local record store. Much like how "punk" originally encompassed acts as disparate as the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie – the next generation of artists who were breaking rules faster than the rest of the world could keep up were all relegated to the margins of the mainstream under one umbrella. If the music industry was a lunchroom, the alternative table would've been the place where misfit outcasts and cool kids both hung out, and it would've been hard to tell the difference between the them.

Over time, of course, the meaning of "alternative music" shifted to indicate a specific '90s sound and aesthetic. Here are 50 albums spanning the entire breadth of the era that you must own on vinyl. Wherever you stand on the analog-vs-digital debate, you'll likely agree that holding these actual records in your hands makes for a more tactile experience. Not to mention that listening to them on vinyl accentuates sonic qualities that are essential to each. Several of these titles were originally released on cd with sub-optimal mastering anyway, so owning them on vinyl should get you closer to hearing them as they were originally intended to be heard.

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