22 February 2011

TOP FIFTY ALBUMS OF THE '90s: # 50-41

Here's a long-delayed follow-up to my oughties list. 14 years old when the '90s began, I cannot stress enough how important the decade was in cultivating my taste in music. You can read more about that here. For now, here's # 50-41:


50. Mary Lou Lord – GOT NO SHADOW
On this former Boston-area busker’s most endearing album, lush, polished arrangements and melodies cancel out her vocal limitations while preserving her charming naivete. It's a well sequenced set of songs (including a definitive cover of Freedy Johnston’s “The Lucky One”) that nails her amiable persona just as well as her on-the-street performances.


49. Jeff Buckley – GRACE
You may never need to hear his startling but overplayed rendition of “Hallelujah” again, but Buckley’s only real album still seems gloriously out of time: tender, torturous, melodramatic, beguiling—not even a kindred spirit like Rufus Wainwright has come close to topping it.


48. They Might Be Giants – FLOOD
John and John’s third LP transports me back to my 18-year-old Geek Self – despite the bargain-basement soundscapes and bad puns, I can’t deny its abundance of miniaturist triumphs, from the nagging, insistent “Particle Man” to perfectly quirky pop centerpiece “Birdhouse in Your Soul”.


47. Sleater-Kinney – DIG ME OUT
In which a female power trio build on the neat-in-theory concept of riot grrrl rock by displaying real musicianship and enveloping intricate twin guitar lines and vocal parts into hookier-than-fuck songs. During a decade largely absent from energetic, fun stuff of the Violent Femmes/B-52’s variety, this deftly filled a void.


46. Echobelly – ON
As I tire of revisiting certain old favorites, I’m increasingly drawn back to second stringers that never really made it, like these Brit-pop also-rans. Fronted by an enticing female Morrissey impersonator, their tart, crunching guitar rock could’ve been a crack, less fey imitation of The Smiths high on a sugar rush.


45. Tori Amos – BOYS FOR PELE
Initially baffled by this sprawling, double album length set of often angry, crazy songs liberally sprinkled with harpsichord, lyrical non-sequitors and cathartic wailing, it took years to decipher it as a ‘90s equivalent to Kate Bush’s THE DREAMING - it creates a similar mood, even if the landscape sounds a thousand miles away.


44. Beth Orton – TRAILER PARK
A shifting template of acoustic and electronic elements gives Orton’s debut tension and texture, but her voice compels and commands even as she threatens to drift away altogether. She never achieved such a stasis again, and I’m still perplexed and intrigued as to how she pulled it off.


43. The Negro Problem – JOYS AND CONCERNS
Always difficult to pin down, Stew bends and twists disparate genres to fit his unique worldview. A song about a network news anchor morphs into a psychedelic near-freakout, a playful ditty about an iconic toy ponders its homosexuality, and so on, but you never doubt Stew's sincerity toward his subjects.


42. Amy Rigby – DIARY OF A MOD HOUSEWIFE
If rock and roll is youthful by nature, then Rigby, in her late 30s when she cut this solo debut, never had a chance of becoming more than a cult artist. Fortunately, she effortlessly connects with anyone willing to listen, whether she’s wistful and sweet (“Beer and Kisses”) or swaggering and defiant (“20 Questions”).


41. XTC – APPLE VENUS (VOLUME ONE)
Speaking of encroaching middle age, this “mature”, mostly orchestral work from a veteran new wave combo brims with more life than all of the young bands heavily influenced by their earlier work, thanks to often scathing, occasionally poignant, always eloquent ruminations on aging gracefully and honestly.

1 comment:

webpenblog said...

Love Echobelly.