A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
The original list from 1994 didn’t even include an extended list. That’s how austere the selections from the year were.
Talitha Mackenzie, Solas
Freedy Johnston, This Perfect World
Wayne Horvitz/Pigpen, V as in Victim
Harry Connick, Jr., She
Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand
Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart
Kronos Quartet, Night Prayers
Jayne Cortez and the Firespitters, Cheerful & Optimistic
John Zorn/Masada, Alef
Madonna, Bedtime Stories
Other favorites from the year:
Prince, The Black Album
Pizzicato Five, Made in USA
Shudder to Think, Pony Express Record
Elliott Goldenthal, Interview with a Vampire
At the time of its limited release, I was actually very curious about The Black Album. Part of it was all the hype surrounding its initial aborted release, but I was still mostly ambivalent about Prince to pass on it. Its underdog status among Prince’s work makes me like it just a bit more.
A top 10 list I would have compiled in 1994 would have listed the Interview with a Vampire soundtrack. It’s actually a really good score. It’s too bad the movie sucked eggs. I watched twice — the first time to evaluate its faithfulness to the novel (somewhat), the second to evaluate it as a film (awful). The only thing that mars the soundtrack is the unfortunate cover of Sympathy for the Devil by Guns N’ Roses.
An analysis of Spotify data in 2015 quantified how listeners stray from popular titles as they age. I don’t know if the music I listened to in my 20s could have ever been called “popular”, but compared to the excitement of discovery in the ’80s, the ’90s were bit of a let-down.
Grunge was conflated to represent all forms of post-punk music, and the major label gold rush to find the next Nirvana eventually dead-ended into Nickelback. In response, I took up Celtic music, downtown New York jazz, modern classical music, Japanese indie rock and country music.
I was at sea.
Shiina Ringo, Shousou Strip
Sure, the loud guitars, infectious melodies and epic production could have won me over, but it was the conclusion of “Gibusu” where the effects go utterly bugfuck that convinced me Shiina Ringo was a keeper.
NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT
I may have eventually found my way to Sonic Youth and Pixies by some other means, but it was NUMBER GIRL that was my gateway to old school punk.
Madonna, Ray of Light
This album arrived when I was exploring the gay bars in Austin after I moved away from home. I still like this album. I cannot say the same for gay bars or Austin.
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Like probably most people who love this album to death, I didn’t discover it till about many, many years after it was released. But it has enough of a late-’90s patina to evoke that period.
The few articles about Cocco translated into English I found on the Internet at the time seemed to credit her for paving the way for Utada Hikaru and Shiina Ringo, and we should all be thankful for that.
Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians (Nonesuch)
I wouldn’t encounter this 1996 Nonesuch recording till it was compiled in a 2005 boxed set. Philip Glass was waning as my favorite minimalist, and this recording pretty much catapulted Reich to the top.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
The only people in Hawaii who listened to country music lived on the military bases. But a interview promo disc of Emmylou Harris talking about Wrecking Ball got me interested in the album. It made my move to Austin, Texas two years later slightly more plausible.
Talitha Mackenzie, Solas
As much I loved Clannad and Enya, Talitha Mackenzie drew the connections between Scottish waulking songs and hip-hop, Bulgarian folk music and techno.
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
It was great seeing people getting back into Duran Duran, but I don’t think my love for this album would have been reinforced without the aid of the Tiger Mailing List, the first Internet community in which I participated.
Smashing Pumpkins, Gish
Nevermind would have been the easy choice, but I would have never picked up the seminal Nirvana album if Butch Vig hadn’t worked with Smashing Pumpkins on Gish beforehand.