Where have I been? Who cares.
What's up today? Nostalgia for the go-go Nineties. Brought to you by Dave at Dave Wrote This.
Because the calendar in my head only works in terms of what I listen to at certain points in time, naturally I've chosen to count down the best of the decade in music. For my personal life, it was college, marriage, babies, Seattle. But for my musical tastes, prepare your ears for some politically correct trip hop madchester shoegaze neo soul grunge. As well as some jargon and description that makes little sense to the uninitiated.
I was out of the country in 1990. Sadly, I didn't hear much music that wasn't church hymns or Brazillian samba, both of which can get a bit repetitive. Thus, this year I will skip.
1991: The Dream Academy, A Different Kind of Weather
No contest here. This was the first album I bought upon my return from my mission to Brazil. The Dream Academy was a brilliant band unfortunately pigeonholed as a one-hit-wonder for the popular 80's tune "Life in a Northern Town." However, every song on their three albums is a near-perfect confection of ear candy. A Different Kind of Weather is their swan song, sending the band out on a poppy high. Listen to "Waterloo." Close your eyes and just listen to it.
1992: Kitchens of Distinction, The Death of Cool
I almost put Catherine Wheel's debut album, Ferment, here. But Kitchens of Distinction's third album brings all the distorted jangle and adds more sing-along friendly politically correct choruses that rival those from the pioneering Bronski Beat. This album came at the tail end of the shoegaze fuzzy rock movement, but it's one of the best.
1993: Cocteau Twins, Four-Calendar Cafe
Not their greatest album, but Four-Calendar Cafe nearly put the Cocteau Twins in the mainstream. Elizabeth Frazier's signature vocals were sometimes intelligible, and Robin Guthrie's otherworldly control over the musical ether created some of the most radio-friendly song structures he would ever write. And for a dream pop song, "Summerhead" kind of rocks out loud.
1994: Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart
Everything But the Girl is one of the best songwriting duos the world has known. With early material that relies on strong jazz and latter stuff verging on techno, Amplified Heart showcases Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn at their happy medium best. You might remember "Missing" from the souped-up dance remix, but the original is still one of their best songs, featuring concise, memorable lyrics coupled with a taut melody and a driving, hipster beat.
1995: The Boo Radleys, Wake Up!
When Billy Corgan announced in 1995 that Oasis were the best songwriters since the Beatles, he apparently hadn't heard The Boo Radleys. Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is a swell record, but it doesn't hold a candle to Wake Up! Early on, The Boo Radleys had developed a signature stop-start, loud-soft-loud kind of shoegaze noise, but with this album, they turned it into a glitsy Britpop gem. Hear "Wake Up Boo!" and just try to not feel better about yourself.
1996: Cibo Matto, Viva! La Woman
Belle and Sebastian released two watershed albums this year, but to be honest, I wasn't up on the indie twee movement yet. I was all about the trip hop. And Cibo Matto brought the beats. Spare, twitchy, with howly japanese-accented vocals mostly about food, they owned the sound. Plus, "Sugar Water," which was later played on stage at the Bronze while Buffy did a sexy dance with Xander. Oh joy.
1997: Swing Out Sister, Shapes and Patterns
Tough year. Portishead, Bjork, even the Sneaker Pimps deserve some respect in 1997. But I'm going with Swing Out Sister's apex of old-school jazz-soul-pop. This album could have been released twenty-five years earlier and it would have sounded right at home. Plus, Corrine Drewery? Hot.
1998: Massive Attack, Mezzanine
This could be the best album ever. A distinct possibility since "Angel" is probably the best song ever, with its provocative, menacing build to a freak-out climax. I don't kid about this stuff, man. And maybe I love this album just because of the guest vocals, but the rest of the album is of equal quality. Since you've heard "Angel" in about a dozen movies and "Teardrop" thanks to the credits of House, here's the seductive "Black Milk" featuring vocalist Liz Frasier at her most dreamy.
1999: The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
I can't even categorize this album. Both melodious and cacophonous, both beautiful and harsh. The Lips's first albums are full of grungy guitars, but with The Soft Bulletin, they pulled their underlying harmonies to the forefront and delivered their frothy, poppy opus. Plus, it's just good fun. Wayne Coyne certainly doesn't have an American Idol voice, but you can tell he sure enjoys himself, and I'd rather listen to his personality than an auto-tuned one any day. Here's "The Spiderbite Song," which Coyne wrote about a bandmate who almost lost life and limb due to a spider bite on his hand. Sweet.
And with the advent of of this indie mentality, grunge is over, trip hop is on it's last breath, as is overtly politically correct lyrics, and in a year or two, irony. Thanks, Mr. Coyne.
And how's that for my bloggy comeback?