Top 40 – A Retrospective -1996

I stopped writing a while back. I didn’t make a conscious choice, but I became needed elsewhere is the easiest way to explain it without talking about cancer and death and love and life changes. Besides, you’re not here for my melancholy meanderings, you’re here for the music. I’d just started college in 1996. I had also just gotten married, and was also playing music myself at the time — I played a few shows as the band Speaking Sanskrit and no… you’ve never heard us. But you may have heard some of these… or you will now.

Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go

This is the first Manics album after the disappearance of Richey Edwards (one of the strange mysteries of Rock and Roll….) and is probably the last album of theirs I really LOVED until Journal for Plague Lovers many years later.

Wallflowers – Bringing Down the Horse

So long ago I don’t remember when…. the Son of Dylan who doesn’t want to be known as the Son of Dylan nevertheless looks and sounds just like the Son of Dylan. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this song in 1996.

Ani Difranco – Dilate

Ani Difranco plays a mean guitar, and pulls hard on the strings. And the heartstrings. The title track of this album makes me cry every time I hear it — it’s like a punch in the gut.

“You know you always disappoint me.
It’s kinda like our running joke & it’s really not funny.
I just want you to live up to the image of you I create.
I see you & I’m so unsatisfied. I see you & I dilate.”

The Cure – Wild Mood Swings

Many people don’t like this album. I love it. Critics complain that it’s not as focused as other Cure albums — um, it’s called Wild Mood Swings. It’s all over the place. This is a Lie is one of my favourite Cure songs — great strings, heartwrenching lyrics.

Belle & Sebastian – Tigermilk

Out of nowhere, a bunch of Scots joined together in Glasgow and recorded the first album of their career in a fortnight, performing much of the album live, with no re-takes. This album is classic, their second album, If You’re Feeling Sinister, is one of the best indie albums ever. You may remember this one from the JUNO soundtrack (yes, I’m a hipster couche tard).

Beck – Odelay

If you’ve got two turntables and a microphone, you can make some groovy fucking music. Side note — my favourite Saturday Night Live episode of all time has Kevin Spacey as host and Beck as musical guest, playing Devil’s Haircut and Where it’s At.

Fiona Apple – Tidal

Now, I’m not going to put the much-maligned Criminal video here, because I’m with Fiona — it kind of ruined her career and artistic credibility. She’s often thought of as a one-hit wonder, but she had so much more going on with this album.

Eels – Beautiful Freak

Life is hard. And so am I.

Thus begins the career of the Eels… a weird little band that writes some truly endearing songs for Shrek movies. Okay, they weren’t written for Shrek… but still.

Cake – Fashion Nugget

If you haven’t heard this album, (and I understand that you may not have) then you need to stop whatever you’re doing and get this album. From “Frank Sinatra” right through to their cover of Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes” this album is pure perfection. You may think I’m going to post their cover of “I Will Survive” but instead, I’m going with Nugget. Why? Because shut the fuck up.

Counting Crows – Recovering the Satellites

Counting Crows scored big again on their sophomore album — thought they took long enough to put it out! Adam Duritz was busy sleeping with the cast of Friends, I suppose. But they knocked it out of the park again with songs like A Long December, Goodnight Elizabeth, and the title track. The whole album sounds like a “spot the influence” from The Eagles to Gram Parsons to The Beatles…

Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister

What would it sound like if the Velvet Underground and The Smiths joined forces? I highly recommend this whole album, but here’s two tracks to whet your appetite.

The Philosopher Kings

Lastly, a Canadian band that was sadly ahead of its time when it came to the ’70s funk/R&B/jazz revival that Maroon 5 capitalized on in the early 2000s. I saw them live in a small club in ’97 and the lead singer was sexy as fuck. Part Marvin Gaye, part Prince, part Otis Redding. Fucking brilliant debut album.


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