Tied to the 90s (Birthday Edition): 30 years, 30 songs–Part II Wednesday, August 29, 2007Posted by Yostal in 90s rock, DeadOn's Resident Pop Culture Historian, Gen X&Y, more indepth than probably need-be, Posts that should have more humor, Reasons why I am single, rock & roll, Things too long to read, Tied to the 90s, Yostal.
Tags: 30 years-30 songs, birthday
Welcome back to “Tied to the 90s“, a not-very complete guide to a decade that was. I’m your host, Yostal, and once more, I’ll be taking you through the pop culture landscape of the 1990s. If you have any suggestions for future columns, please email me at GoinYostal@gmail.com or leave me a comment.
This week’s post continues what is perhaps the most self-indulgent effort I have ever made with Tied to the 90s, which I know is saying something. I warn you again, because, well, it’s what I do. I also want to warn you that after today’s column, I’ll be taking a month off. With school starting back up and college football season, my efforts will be needed elsewhere for a little while. Don’t worry, it’s just a hiatus, and I may still post some random other things as the month goes on. So, with all of that out of the way.
At the end of this month, I will turn 29 years old, meaning that I will have been on this earth for 30 distinct calendar years (OK, technically that happened at the beginning of the year, but just roll with me here.) I was struck by that notion and wanted to look at my favorite songs from each of those 30 years. Now, please note I said “favorite”. Not best, not most significant, not most influential, just my favorites. Why they’re favorites can be as simple as I just really like them to having good memories associated with them to something larger. It doesn’t matter. These are just my favorite songs from each of the last 30 years. Now, as always, I can never make this simple, but I did make the rule that once I had used an artist, I could not use them again. I based “year” off the year that the album from which it came was released, and beyond that, I went to town. There’s going to be some crossover from previous columns as you might expect, but I’m going to write all new material about each song, at least as best I can. I fully expect that you will disagree with many of my choices, but it just gives you something to discuss in the comments. So, with no further ado, part II of 30 Years, 30 Songs.
1993: “A Murder of One” by Counting Crows from the album August and Everything After
Having already waxed rhapsodic about why I love this song a couple of weeks ago, I will instead focus on the difficult decision that 1993 presented to me. There’s a lot of “good” choices for 1993, but nothing really stands out. Pearl Jam would present a number of fine options, but none of them seem stronger than “Alive”, and it’s sort of the same across the board, a lot of strong songs, a lot of well-known and memorable songs, but nothing that says “Pick Me”. That said “A Murder of One” is one of my favorites and I am probably disparaging it as a choice because I just used it in a post a couple of weeks ago.
Runners-up: “Disarm” by Smashing Pumpkins (the guitar part always gets me), “Linger” by the cranberries (It’s Dolores’ voice, gets me every time.), “Laid” by James (there’s a retro charm for me here.)
1994: “Something’s Always Wrong” by Toad the Wet Sprocket from the album Dulcinea
Another easy, fast selection for me as I have always loved this song since the first time I heard it back in high school. There’s essentially several ways to look at it lyrically, but I think that is one of the song’s strengths, in the end, it’s about a relationship that isn’t working. The turn of phrase “Again, It seems we meet in the spaces in between” has always been wonderfully chock full of ambiguity and mystery. I’ll also note that if you can find the acoustic version from Acoustic Dance Party, it’s well worth your time.
Runners-up: Again another one where I didn’t really look at other options, but…”Regulate” by Warren G (any other year, the G-Funk era wins out. I mean, it is my ringtone after all.), “Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston, “Last Goodbye” by Jeff Buckley, “Backwater” by the Meat Puppets (I know, I was as shocked as you are), “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam (could not be purchased in the U.S. until 1994 as a non-import), “Slide Away” by Oasis (there’s going to be something amazing on this list by the end.), “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” by Weezer (which still sounds like it’s from like 2002, not 1994.), “Dissident” by Pearl Jam (seriously, where they hell were all of you in 1993?), “Jimi Thing” by Dave Matthews Band (this is getting annoying, I’m moving on.)
1995: “Love Spreads” by the Stone Roses from the album Second Coming
I think in many ways this song remains a favorite of mine not only because I loved it the first time I heard it back in 1995, but also due to the difficulties I had in obtaining a copy of it for so long. Since it didn’t get overplayed on the radio and since I couldn’t overplay it on my CD player for so many years, it still feels like I have found something rare whenever I hear it, even if I have listened to it hundreds of times since I found it back in 2000 on a CD. Oh that and it would totally be my at-bat music if I were a Major League hitter.
Runners-up: “Long Shot” by Aimee Mann (it’s that good, I heard it for the first time less than four months ago, and it’s on the short list.), “Til I Hear It From You” by Gin Blossoms (Empire Records, open ’til Midnight), “Jealousy” by Natalie Merchant (high school crushes die hard), virtually all of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (talk about splitting the vote), “Muzzle” by the Smashing Pumpkins (lyrically one of their strongest efforts), “Good Intentions” by Toad the Wet Sprocket (it’s a really strong entry.), “I Like It, I Love It” by Tim McGraw (I don’t want to talk about it.)
1996: “F.N.T.” by Semisonic from the album Great Divide
You know one of those years in college football where there’s no candidate that sets himself apart from the rest of the field, and so there’s no front runner, no obvious choice and you end up with a vote which comes right down to the last weeks, maybe even down to the ceremony in New York and any of the four guys invited could take the trophy home. But then a few years down the line, you look over the list of winners and you think “How in the world did that guy win?” and you look back at the balloting and you realize, you know what, yeah. You can see where several players from a team split their vote, a couple of the traditional powers had off years, and so in the end, you end up with Gino Toretta or Eric Crouch. Ladies and gentlemen, this is 1996 in music. A lot of interesting candidates, but nothing where you think “Well, yeah, if it were any other year…” That’s how “F.N.T.” ended up being the winner. It’s not a bad song, I certainly enjoy it, but it would lose to a lot of the runners-up on this list. When you consider that this is my HS grad year, it’s even more stunning.
Runners-up: “Desperately Wanting” by Better Than Ezra (always a favorite), “#41” by Dave Matthews Band (a lot of choices from this album), “Criminal” by Fiona Apple (I have issues, let’s move on), “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” by the Lemonheads (I know…), “Love Untold” by Paul Westerberg (one of my favorite songs of the decade, but it can’t overcome the previous Westerberg), “Photograph” by the Verve Pipe (the previously discussed non-obvious choice)
1997: “Lucky Man” by The Verve from the album Urban Hymns
I feel a little guilty about this 1990s portion of the list because I am sure I have discussed any of these choices rather extensively at some previous point in the column and that really wasn’t the essential point of the column. I guess it just comes with the territory as it were. I’ve just always thought that this song so much more richly showcased what the Verve were capable of rather than “Bittersweet Symphony” (which I like, don’t get me wrong), but I think this is another case where with the latter being overplayed, the former was a wonderful change of pace, which in turn, earned it a more favorable spot in my mind. Similarly, there’s not a whole lot of depth on the 1997 roster, so this was a much easier choice than I anticipated it being.
Runners-up: “Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters (thank you GHII for reminding me how much I liked this one), “Everlong” by Foo Fighters (it was a good album, but a split vote), “Step into My World” by Hurricane #1 (as British a song as you are likely to find.), most of Be Here Now (do we notice an issue here?).
1998: “Mother, We Just Can’t Get Enough” by New Radicals from the album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
It’s more love for Wayne County and I know I’ve already trod upon this ground before as well. I think one of the great ironies of this selection is the manner in which it conciously tries to sound like song from the 1970s.
Runners-up: “At the Stars” by Better Than Ezra (I’m just so happy to have a clean copy of this song now.), “Out of My Head” by Fastball (happy memories, happy happy.), “Break Your Heart” by Natalie Merchant (we’ve been over this already), “She Will Have Her Way” by Neil Finn (90 days is way too long), “Given to Fly” by Pearl Jam (again, the rule hampers me, but it’s for the best.), “Right Here, Right Now” by Fatboy Slim (great intro music into almost anything), “Teardrop” by Massive Attack (yes, I like House, why do you ask?)
1999: “Take a Picture” by Filter from the album Title of Record
Not a whole lot to say that I’ve always found it amazing that when you stack it up, my favorite song of the 1990s barely qualifies for the title as it was released in August 1999 and wasn’t a single until very late in the year, but there it is. Even if it really is just about getting drunk on an airplane, stripping down naked, and getting in a fight with the flight attendants, well, you know, that’s what it is.
Runners-up: “Carry the Zero” by Built to Spill (I cannot thank theyknowwho for turning me on to this one.), “Hold on Hope” by Guided by Voices (Scrubs again…damn..), “For the Love of the Game” by Semisonic (I know it’s from a chick flick, but for a long time, it was the closest that the Tigers were going to come to a perfect game), “Never Let You Go” by Third Eye Blind (I have my reasons), “Writing to Reach You” by Travis (What’s a Wonderwall anyway?), “You’re a God” by Vertical Horizon (I have my reasons), “Porcelain” by Moby (I love the backwards tape looping)
2000: “Bohemian Like You” by The Dandy Warhols from the album Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
I have no idea how this song ended up on here. I mean, I love the goofy lyrics, the peppy up-tempo natured, the woo hoo hoos, and all, but I was just taken aback when I looked over 2000 again and realized, yeah, this is it. It’s not even my favorite Dandy Warhols song, it should never be used in ads for Chevrolet dealerships (which it was. Think about the opening lyric for a moment and you will understand why…) but it wins for 2000.
Runners-up: Anything off Parachutes by Coldplay (yep, vote splitting and later use.), “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” by Fuel (the closest race of any year, this song just lost out, no matter how embarrassing it is to admit.), most of All That You Can’t Leave Behind (U2 shows up a lot, it happens.)
2001: “Edge of the Ocean” by Ivy from the album Long Distance
So many things to love about Ivy (which I cannot recommend enough to people), the lush rhythm lines, the atmospheric, moody chill tracks, the lovely French accent of Dominique Durand, the great way that there’s a hint of a telegraph in the middle of this track, oh yes. This track actually caused me a bit of consternation though, because in picking this, it meant that I couldn’t use Fountains of Wayne because both bands have Adam Schlesinger, so I went back and forth on which one would win out, but in the end, at the edge of the ocean, we can start over again.
Runners-up: “Wrapped Up in You” by Garth Brooks (what? I like Dr Pepper), “Rollout (My Business)” by Ludacris (another song that was such a favorite of mine, it was my ringtone for a while), “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake (It’s a good plan!), “Half Acre” by Hem (thank you Liberty Mutual), “Why Georgia” by John Mayer (because in the end, we all eventually end up questioning “Am I living it right?”), “Just Can’t Last” by Natalie Merchant (that should complete the crush run), “The Rescue Blues” by Ryan Adams (for a while, I was waking up to this song and could not figure out why I was depressed. I’m an idiot more often than not.), “When it’s Over” by Sugar Ray (I have my reasons), “She’s on Fire” by Train (it should be clear to you now I have no shame), “Follow the Light” and “Side” by Travis (the band I have seen more times live than any other), “Never Let You Down” by the Verve Pipe (hardly anyone else remembers this track.), “In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7 (Garden State, yo.),
2002: “Warning Sign” by Coldplay from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head
In doing this, I knew that Coldplay would earn one of the spots on the list, but I wasn’t sure which one. Simply going by my iTunes, “A Message” would win, as it is the most played song in my library at over 230 spins since 2004, but I also think there was a day where I left my iTunes playing while on repeat one track and mute, which artificially raised its total, though it is a really good song. “Swallowed in the Sea” is also quite lovely, but its really just primus inter pares, so I had to go back to A Rush of Blood to the Head, which is still one of my favorite albums (perhaps because it’s been with me longer.) “Clocks” is great, but suffered from overplay, and “A Whisper” is brooding and sort of edgy, but in the end sounds like Coldplay trying to write a U2 song. So that lands us on “Warning Sign”, a lovely little ballad about lost love and the honesty that comes when things are over. We never really know how good things are when they are because we live in perpetual fear of waiting for something to go wrong. If only the insight that the singer has could come sooner, happiness might have ensued…except at the end, “Yes, I crawled back into your open arms…” creates its own sense of ambiguity. Crawling back implies shame, but the open arms imply that she welcomed him back. Ahh well, a wonderful track.
Runners-up: “Little by Little” by Oasis (would have made it in at least two dozen other years), “Caught in the Sun” by Course of Nature (I’m pretty sure my fondness for this song comes from it being used in promos for USMNT games during the improbable run during the 2002 World Cup.), “Grace is Gone” by Dave Matthews Band (“new” to me as of last fall, but growing on me rapidly), “Where Do We Go From Here?” by Filter (no way it could supplant the other Filter choice, but..), “You Know You’re Right” by Nirvana (there is something very wrong with me that I am pretty sure this is my favorite Nirvana song), “I Am Mine” by Pearl Jam (needs to be heard in concert to truly be appreciated.), “Our Love” by Rhett Miller (wonderfully geeky love song), “Come Around” by Rhett Miller (just a wonderful love song, period), “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos (really struck by this when I first heard it and it stuck with me.), “Everybody Out of the Water (New Frontier)” by the Wallflowers (would have won either year before or hence.), “Daybreaker” by Beth Orton (love this one), “Breathe” by Telepopmusik (I watched a lot of CSI. Wait, wrong tense.), “Extreme Ways” by Moby (I’ve been Bourne back by this one.)
2003: “Wonderwall” as covered by Ryan Adams from the album Love is Hell, Pt. 1
My own vote for most controversial inclusion on the list for three reasons.
a). It supplanted “No Better Place” by Fountains of Wayne, which is one of my favorite tracks by far. I’m still torn whether under my rules FoW had to be eliminated by choosing Ivy, but there it is.
b). It’s a cover.
c). I have an Oasis song, but no Oasis, a band whose music for which last month I professed an extreme fondness.
And yet, here we are…I think what draws me into this track is that it’s the bluesy recasting of the song. It captures the essential essence of the words so much more fully than even the original arrangement did. Which would be weird, except that Noel started playing it in the Adams style in concert after the release. (Oh, and I found the “original” 2001 live version where Adams is clearly just going to goof around with it, and then figures out he likes what he’s doing. I like this one actually even more than the polished one from the album)
Runners-up: The aforementioned Fountains of Wayne track, “We Used to Be Friends” by The Dandy Warhols (I wasn’t even a VM fan, but it’s a great track), “Danger! High Voltage!” by Electric Six (no, I cannot explain it!), “I’ve Got a Feeling” by Ivy (if you haven’t picked up on my love of Ivy yet…), “All for Swinging You Around” by The New Pornographers (I’m sure I lose cool points for this being my favorite NP song), “World on Fire” by Sarah McLachlan (one of the single most underrated songs of the decade), “Burning Down the House (cover)” by Tom Jones and the Cardigans (If you haven’t heard this, you really need to)
2004: “Rebellion (Lies)” by Arcade Fire from the album Funeral
Oh! Canada! I’m not cool enough to expound as to why this is one of my favorite songs, but it is. I thank Geoff for introducing it to me via The Bad Donnellys. I mean, The Black Donnellys. But it’s great, and an easy choice.
Runners-up: “10 A.M. Automatic” by the Black Keys (if it’s good enough for Shawn White…), “All These Things I’ve Done” by the Killers (The Matador was pretty good…), “Woman” by Maroon 5 (excellent track that did not get played to death. It’s win win. Sorry about the fan video), “Portions for Foxes” by Rilo Kiley (admittedly, I am easily charmed by redheads), “Pride” by Syntax (impossible to find, but thank you CSI, or in this case CI), “Original of the Species” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” by U2 (Bono wears his heart on his sleeve, and it looks great).
2005: “Go Tell the World” by Joy Zipper from the album The Heartlight Set
Ahh the joys of being an American soccer dork. Featured in a Nike ad, it was ONLY available on a British CD and was impossible to find, and yet, here it is. Behold the awesome powers of the internets. It’s peppy as all hell, it’s rocking the hand claps, and yeah, as once said, they’re basically ‘a candy apple with a razor blade inside’.
Runners-up: “E-Pro” by Beck (very tight race, I think the struggle to get the song pushed the winner ahead.), “Landed” by Ben Folds (especially the Strings version), “Cold Hands (Warm Heart)” by Brendan Benson (I like this way more than I expected to), “The World Turned Upside Down” by Coldplay (an exceptionally obscure B-side, but well worth the effort), virtually anything on X&Y, “Keep Moving” by Ivy (really a lot of good stuff on In the Clear), “Do What You Want” by OK Go (one of the true heirs of the power pop mantle).
2006: “Read My Mind” by The Killers from the album Sam’s Town
To go on about what I like about the Killers is to do what almost every mainstream rock journalist has done over the last year. But allow me to say that of the songs of the decade thus far, the line “So I don’t mind if you don’t mind, because I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” Nothing profound there, but just in the way it flows has always caught me when I hear this song. Brandon Flowers has said he thinks it’s the best song the band had ever written, and I am loathe to disagree.
Runners-up: “Star Witness” by Neko Case (on a different day, I could have just as easily picked this as 2006’s representative. Both are worth candidates. ), “Unemployable” by Pearl Jam (underheard I’m sure, but worth your time), “This is Us” by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris (an awesome duet), “Number 1” by Goldfrapp (just because I know someone who will appreciate the choice…)
2007: “The Golden State” by John Doe (f. Kathleen Edwards) from the album A Year in the Wilderness
I think there’s a danger of picking my favorite song from a year not yet completed, and in looking back upon the difficulty I had in making the selection, I’m fairly certain my caution was well warranted. But it is “30 Years, 30 Songs”, and so here we are. The notion of picking a love song by the guy who was once the lead singer of seminal American punk outfit X paired with a Canadian singer/songwriter 24 years his junior is almost absurd, but maybe that’s what I like about it. It captures all of the wonderful little things about true love without feeling cliche. I’d never really equated California with love before, but you can almost see how it makes sense. A better song may come along this year, but this one is going to be tough to beat. Thank you to Victoria for her obsessive reading of Salon and her insistence that I nab this one. Well done my friend.
Runners-up: “Plus Ones” by Okkervil River (made a really strong push in the last two weeks.), “Either Way” by Wilco (it’s the first Wilco song I’ve liked. I’m stunned, and a sucker for VW ads apparently, right Pink Moon by Nick Drake.), “The Part Where You Let Go” by Hem (more goodness from the Liberty Mutual people), “Signal Fire” by Snow Patrol (it may end up being the only thing I remember from Spider-man 3), “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John (I’m a sucker for whistling and for some reason, this songs makes me want to go buy furniture from IKEA), “Someone to Love” by Fountains of Wayne (damn this is catchy and the video features Demetri Martin. Ladies…).
So, I think what we’ve learned here is that I am living proof that if you feature your song on a television show or in an advertisement, I’ll end up really liking it. Also, again, I apologize for the use of fan videos, but sometimes, they were my only option to get you the song.
That’s all I have for this week. I genuinely hoped you enjoyed it, and please come back soon for another edition of “Tied to the 90s”. Until the next time, this has been Subcommandante Yostal, logging off.