July 10, 2009

Best of 1995

December 31, 2015 edit: I spent much of this year writing about albums celebrating their 20th Anniversaries. Turns out my affinity for music from 1995 is shared with many people, and led to the Chrindie '95 project on Medium. While I still find the name "Chrindie" to be a little dumb, it is shorter than "Christian indie and underground music". Most everything written in this blog post was back in 2009, but today I have added the links to the Chrindie '95 Medium essays for each album that has one. Many were written by me, but I also included ones from other writers.

Also, for awhile I think I was ashamed that most of the music I listened to in the 90's was from the Christian scene. But not any longer. These albums are legitimately terrific, and I have had countless individuals both in and outside of the scene confirm my feelings. A great example is J. Edward Keyes An Atheist's Guide to Christian Rock.

1995 is my favorite year in the history of music, period. Pretty strange statement, but as I go back and evaluate my life and how music relates to it, this is the pinnacle. People 10 years younger or 10 years older than me would probably find this to be ridiculous, but I think people around my same age might at least see where I am coming from. (One could argue that anyone into underground/indie music would always find their year of high school graduation to be their favorite year in music.)

What you’ll find in this post:
Top 20 albums of 1995
Top 5 EPs
of 1995
Notable compilation albums

Other notable LPs

Top 5 concerts of 1995

Top 20 albums of 1995:

1. Sixpence None the Richer- This Beautiful Mess
Without question, is my favorite album of all time. No music has ever impacted me the way this album has. When it was released in April of 1995 I listened to nothing else but it for weeks. I can still remember walking around with my CD Walkman listening to it wherever I went. This was in the middle of my only high school track season, and I can remember listening to it on the bus traveling to meets, at the meets, etc. I have no real way of describing my taste in music to anyone (in 2009, I most often say “indie rock”). But as far as my favorite style, it would be female-fronted rock (5 of the top 10 albums on this 1995 list fall in this category). That is what this album is, and I think the best example of female-fronted rock that has ever been recorded. As much as I like the rest of Sixpence’s catalog, none of it touches This Beautiful Mess. Sixpence’s line-up was ridiculous for this album also, the best line-up of the dozens they have had in their 15 year existence: Matt Slocum & Leigh Bingham Nash of course, plus Tess Wiley on rhythm guitar and bgv’s, J.J. Plasencio on bass, and Dale Baker on drums. You know a band is good when the three members no longer in the band have their own websites. Best Song: “Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death”

Sixpence None the Richer’s “This Beautiful Mess” turns 20
Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess

2. The Prayer Chain- Mercury
Revolutionary. I have never heard anything remotely like it and probably never will. The first time I listened to it I borrowed the cassette from my friend Jay on some FBC trip, I think choir tour. My first impression was, “I think I like it, but is it just one long, song?” Most of the songs do blend into one another, and the song structures are very different than what the band (or anyone) had been doing previously. My favorite song on the album, “Sky High” is 9 minutes long. Guitar work is incredible, tons of different tones, effects and recording methods.

The Prayer Chain’s Mercury

3. Luxury- Amazing and Thank You
I dreamed for years of having Luxury perform at my wedding. I guess I could have made it happen, but it was kind of silly. I settled for having their song “Solid Gold” played at my wedding reception. This is the first and best of the four Luxury albums. Luxury is meant to be experienced live, and I am thankful I got to see them at least 5 times. They are easily the best band I have ever seen in concert, and I have seen hundreds. They have great stage presence and are high energy. This album is a balance of short, fast songs like “Pink Revenge” and “Flaming Youth” and long, dramatic songs like “Kill the Famous” and the aforementioned “Solid Gold.” One last memory of Luxury and my favorite song of theirs: one time when “Solid Gold” was played on the A-Zone radio show, the deejays, apparently impatient for it to end, cut it off. They stopped playing it before the climax and I will never forgive them! :) The song is long, but every second is important.

Luxury’s Amazing and Thank You

4. The Innocence Mission- Glow
Unlike most of the bands on this list, I cannot remember when I first heard them or where or when I got this album. The best quiet “rock” band ever. Well, at least they were rock, after this album, they lost their drummer and settled into a minimalistic folk band. Another one of the many husband/wife bands, Kerin and Don Peris make beautiful, peaceful music. One of the very few of my favorite bands I have never seen in concert. They are still active, and I almost saw them in Philadelphia two summers ago. Best Song: “That Was Another Country”

The Innocence Mission’s Glow


5. Argyle Park- Misguided
If you have never heard this album, it is terrifying. If I ever need to torture a country or pop music fan, I will put them in my car, turn this album all the way up, and play it in its entirety. It is my favorite industrial album ever and in most years would have ended up much higher than #5 on a list. Extremely diverse for an industrial album, because of wild instrumentation beyond electronics, and because of a rotating cast of lead vocalists including Klay Scott (Scott Albert/Celldweller/Circle of Dust), Jyro (Mortal, Fold Zandura, LCNA) and Mark Salomon (The Crucified, Stavesacre). Best song: “Doomsayer”

Chrindie ’95: The Rest
6. Sunny Day Real Estate- LP2** (The Pink Album)
Probably my least favorite of the four SDRE albums, not because it isn’t good, it is great. It just seems thrown together, which it was. The band broke up during the recording of it, and it wasn’t really ever finished. Some of the songs are outtakes from ‘Diary’. If you are unfamiliar with the rest of the band’s work, you wouldn’t think anything of it, but their other three albums are perfectly cohesive. Guitar and bass riffs are outstanding, especially on my two favorite tracks, “8” and “J’nuh”. I’ve been writing lots about SDRE recently because of their 2009 reunion tour. LP2 and ‘Diary’ will both be re-released in Sept. 2009 on Sub-Pop records with new, extensive liner notes and bonus tracks.

7. Morella's Forest- SuperDeluxe
I don’t listen to this album anywhere near enough. Released during the hay-day of Tooth & Nail, I think I originally bought it because of the cool packaging (Also I am sure I heard it on the A-Zone.) Produced by Chris Colbert, I think this is his masterpiece. He has worked on tons of great albums, including #2 on this list, but most of the time he was working with much more talented musicians. Not to take anything away from the members of MoFo (yes, the band did really have a shirt that said “MoFo” on the back), but it is clear the sound of this album was directed heavily by Colbert. He has been referred to as “The King of Noise”, and that is what you get here with a heavy My Bloody Valentine shoegaze sound. Sydney’s vocals are great, but the wall of guitars and feedback is the focus. The first of four Morella’s Forest LPs, this is the only one that ever really grabbed me. The others are good, but are more in the pop-rock style and not at all shoegaze. Best song: “Fizzlekiss

Morella’s Forest’s Super Deluxe

8. Fleming and John- Delusions of Grandeur
This is the first of many albums that I refer to as “highly anticipated.” In present day, I am always counting down to the release of the next album being put out by one of my favorite artists (my current highly anticipated are the next Fair and Thrice albums). I know actual release dates, and I can generally tell you what the status is of ever artist I follow closely (on tour, in the studio, on hiatus, etc.). In 1995 and before, that was not the case. All of this music was so new to me, when I discovered an artist, chances are they had already released 2 or 3 albums for me to buy and check out.

Well, in 1995, Fleming & John was the exception. Due to their contribution to 1994’s Steve Taylor Tribute ("Harder to Believe than Not to") and their song, “I’m Not Afraid”, I was dying to hear an album by them. However, in 1994, they didn’t have an album. But “I’m Not Afraid” was being played on the radio often, both by the A-Zone and Thunder 94.

In January 1994 my brother and I saw Fleming & John play in the basement of an old fraternity house at Vanderbilt. We spent the night with a college student who volunteered at FBC, I cannot remember his name. Anyway, it was a great show, and my first “real” concert. They said their album was “coming soon”. And then a few weeks later, we got postcards in the mail announcing “Delusions of Grandeur” would be released in March on REX records. For those of who are young; tours, concerts, etc. were all announced via mail, usually a postcard from a band or record label. (Yep, I did keep all those postcards.)

The album is/was great, and “I’m Not Afraid” was my song of the year in 1995. For those of you who know this band and this song, there are actually three versions of it. The radio single that was played prior to March 1995 was a different recording than ended up on the album. The original version had a guitar intro that sounded a little too much like Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”, even though “I’m Not Afraid” was recorded before it, as far as I know. Then in 1996 Universal Records re-released “Delusions of Grandeur” with new artwork. Most assume the two versions are identical musically, but a few songs were re-recorded with minor adjustments, including “I’m Not Afraid.”

Fleming & John’s ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ and Hoi Polloi’s ‘Happy Ever After’

9. Hoi Polloi- Happy Ever After
Hoi Polloi is actually from New Zealand, but all three of their albums were recorded in Nashville where the band lived for at least five years. This is their third and final album, but as far as I know, the only one they were actually proud of. The first two are over-produced, and sound a little too generic and poppy. This one is extremely raw with awesome, powerful guitars. The band was fronted by Jenny Gullen, who had a unique voice and great persona. She actually played a solo show at FBC once, but unfortunately I missed it. I was fortunate enough to see them play live though at least three times. The best song is “Tiptoe”, which actually received some mainstream radio play in Nashville on Thunder 94. You keep hearing me refer to Thunder 94, which as far as I know, was the best mainstream radio station ever. Similar to 99X in Atlanta, but without all the talk and a little more underground. Thunder 94 was the sister station to Lightning 100, which still exists to this day.

This was Hoi Polloi’s final album, but they did release a last demo cassette in 1996, “Only Flying,” which contained possibly their best songs ever. It is too bad the band broke up and move backed to New Zealand before completing another LP.




10. Smashing Pumpkins- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness*
My introduction to this album was the “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” music video, which was my introduction to MTV (didn't have cable until college). Best song: "Galapogos". Don’t think I need to say much more about this one.

11. Starflyer 59- Gold Starflyer is probably the most prolific band I am a fan of. They have 11 LPs, not to mention tons of EPs, live albums, compilations, etc. This is their second album, and my favorite. Once again a display of how deep the year of 1995 is in music; there are many years that have Starflyer albums in the top 10 that are not as good as this one. ‘Gold’ is probably the hardest album Starflyer ever released, with the most guitar feedback. Has some of my favorite CD packaging ever, which was recently recycled for last year’s ‘Ghosts of the Future’ 10 x 7” vinyl set (as seen in this photo). Also worth mentioning, Starflyer 59 is not really a band, it is Jason Martin, songwriter/guitarist/vocalist plus whatever friends happen to be nearby. For this album, that happened to be some great musicians, such as Wayne Everett and Gene Eugene. Best song: “When You Feel the Mess”

Starflyer 59's Gold

12. Blenderhead- Muchacho Vivo
I was a big fan of the first Blenderhead album, but nothing could have prepared me for this. The band matured drastically, musically and lyrically, for this, their second LP. Many of these songs I heard for the first time at Blenderhead concert in June of 1995 (see more below in the concerts section). The first Blenderhead album was angry (and the third one also sort of is, for that matter), but this one is more melodic and refined. One interesting thing about this CD, three of the songs are combined into a single track. This was a nightmare as a deejay, which resulted in us playing the wrong song on occasion. Through a quick internet search, I discovered lead singer/songwriter Bill Power has a new band, called the Ted Kennedys. Best song: “Breaking Skin”

Blenderhead’s Muchacho Vivo

13. Raspberry Jam- Oceanic
For a long time I referred to this album as “water-mercury”. Pretty dumb, I know, but it shares some similarities to the Prayer Chain’s ‘Mercury’ released also this year: long songs that blend together with fantastic, interesting guitar tones. Distinctly different that ‘Mercury’ though, most notably with female lead vocals. And the song-writing is much more straight-forward. I am not a fan of the band’s first album ‘Chi-Rho’, but it is worth mentioning that the album sounds like it is from a completely different band. I never got to see them live, and I wonder how they blended songs from both releases. Herb Grimaud was an important part of this band from a song-writing perspective, and Herb later played bass in for the Violet Burning in the best shows I ever saw them do. The Violets have had lots of line-ups, but the best had to be Michael Pritzl with Andy Prickett on lead guitar, Herb on bass, and Chuck Cummings on drums. Back to ‘Oceanic’, best song is “Easter”.


14. The Blamed- Frail
The Blamed released lots of albums, and they all featured different line-ups, the only member that appears on all of them is guitarist Brian Gray. This is their best work, a phenomenal hardcore punk album. When I got it, it was by far the heaviest thing I had ever heard. I found the screaming to be fascinating, especially that they were screaming theologically interesting lyrics. “Breeze” is the best and mellowest song on the album, which I played on my radio show often. Interesting fact: the Blamed’s lead “singer” on this album was Jeremy Moffett, who was Stavesacre’s original drummer. Just did a quick online search and discovered Brian Gray has a new band called The Satire, which originally went by the name “The Blamed is Dead.” The Satire just performed last week at the Cornerstone Festival.


The Blamed’s ‘Frail’


15. Vigilantes of Love- Blister Soul
The first time I ever saw Vigilantes of Love in concert was on the ‘Blister Soul’ tour at Zydeco in Birmingham in 1996. Up until that point I had been curious about VOL, but didn’t care for Bill Mallonee’s voice. The show blew me away though, and I became a big fan; it would become the first of at least 15 times I have seen VOL or Bill live. This is one of the best albums Bill & VOL ever released. He has released around 20 full-length albums, and I would put ‘Audible Sigh’ #1 and ‘Blister Soul’ #2. This album is the closest Bill ever flirted with fame, as “Real Down Town” received some mainstream airplay in Atlanta and Nashville. Best song: “Skin”

Blister Soul


16. Adam Again- Perfecta
This was the unfortunately the final Adam Again album, due the premature death of band leader Gene Eugene. Eugene left his stamp all over the Christian underground music scene, as a songwriter, singer, producer, etc. “Stone”, the first song on the album, is one of my favorite songs of all time. Adam Again was always kind of a funky rock band, but they were at their best with slow, mellow songs, like this album’s “Every Mother’s Way.” Heard for the first time on the A-Zone, of course.

Adam Again’s Perfecta
17. and 18. Michael Knott- Strip Cycle and Fluid
1995 was near the end of the prolific, outstanding Knott era. ‘Strip Cycle’ contains my favorite Knott song ever, “Tattoo.” The album has a logical name, as it is very stripped down, mostly just an out-of-tune guitar. ‘Fluid’ is the polar opposite, a full-out rock album with Andrew Carter on lead guitar. ‘Fluid’ was the precursor for Knott’s band, the Aunt Bettys, releasing their debut in 1996. Some seem to think ‘Fluid ‘ released in 1996, but the date on the back of my copy says 1995 and I am almost positive I bought it that year. Knott also released the Lifesavers album “Huntington Beach” in 1995. For an extensive, complete Knott discography, click here.


19. Radiohead- The Bends*
I hated Radiohead in 1995. Pretty funny to say that now, but I saw them open for REM in the fall of that year, and I despised every minute of their show. The only memory I have of it is the insane number of f-words Thom Yorke said during their short set. The only Radiohead song I knew at the time was “Creep”, which I still think is terrible. It wasn’t until ‘OK Computer’ came out until I ever went back to check out this album, which is now my 2nd favorite Radiohead release.



20. MxPx- Teenage Politics**- My favorite MxPx album, the only one I still listen to with any regularity. At the time, it was probably in my top 5 albums of this year. Vinyl is clear-blue.

MxPx’s ‘Teenage Politics’ (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Question Authority)

Top 5 EPs:

1. Poor Old Lu- Straight Six
If not for being an EP, this would challenge to be Lu’s best album. A dramatic shift from ‘Sin’, this EP is much mellower and diverse. Instrumentation broadened significantly, but also includes some of the band’s best songs. If Lu had ever had a radio single, “For the Love of My Country” would have been it. Also features Jeremy Enigk singing a duet with Scott on the song “Digging Deep” and the EP concludes with a cover of the Swoon’s “Speak Soft.”

Poor Old Lu’s Straight Six EP

2. Splendora (Tess Wiley)- Bootleg Pre-release version
Tess Wiley’s first release, released soon after she left Sixpence. Contains the original version of my favorite Tess song, “Rainy Day Assembly”, recorded during Sixpence’s ‘This Beautiful Mess’ sessions. It is acoustic, but the rest of the EP is full of distorted guitars with lots of feedback. This EP also concludes with a great cover, Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face.” Tess dropped Splendora for the moniker Phantasmic, and these songs were re-released the following year on the Fluffy vs. Phantasmic CD. And with the exception of the Billy Idol cover, all of the other songs on this EP have since been re-recorded (with drastic changes) and placed onto Tess’ solo albums.


3. Starflyer 59- Le Vainqueur
Contains my favorite Starflyer song, the title track. Radio edit version of song is worthless, make sure you listen to the full version.

Le Vainqueur
4. Morella’s Forest- Hang-Out
Companion disc for ‘Super-Deluxe’, including a cover of Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry.”


5. Joy Electric- Five Stars for Failure
The only Joy Electric release I have ever listened to with any consistency. My favorite Joy Electric song can be found here, the original version of “The Girl From Rosewood Lane.” Overall has a much darker feel than most of Joy Electric’s “happy” music.

Compilations:
Artcore Volume 1- An unbelievable sampler from Tooth & Nail, unique because it is all exclusive tracks: debut song from Rose Blossom Punch, also Joy Electric, Havalina, MxPx, Starflyer 2000 (Jason Martin with Leigh Nash on vocals).

Tooth & Nail Records’ @rt©ore Volume I

Noel- My favorite Christmas album ever released, collaborators include Steve Hindalong, Derri Daugherty, Michael Pritzl, Jenny Gullen, and Buddy and Julie Miller.

Noel

Other notable albums from 1995 in random order:
Circle of Dust- s/t- This Klay Scott masterpiece was released at least twice, so it is confusing what year it was actually released. 2015 brings news of new Circle of Dust.
Circle of Dust’s Circle of Dust

Joe Christmas- Upstairs, Overlooking- Best radio single never played on the radio: “Coupleskate”

Dime Store Prophets- Love is Against the Grain- Perry of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers called this his favorite album of all time that year
Dime Store Prophets’ Love is Against the Grain

No Doubt- Tragic Kingdom

Black Eyed Sceva- Way Before the Flood- please record more music, Jeremy Post, you must be out there somewhere!
Black Eyed Sceva’s Way Before the Flood

Fold Zandura- s/t- also known as 'Dark Divine', new band from Jyro and Jerome of Mortal
Fold Zandura’s Fold Zandura

Mortal- Pura- strangest of all the Mortal releases, as it is almost entirely instrumental with a completely different sound. Two songs are “old” Mortal and one song has female vocals

Sometime Sunday- Drain- Can still remember my brother talking about how he loved it when Mikee’s voice cracked

Sometime Sunday’s Drain
77s- Tom Tom Blues- Best song: “Don’t Leave Me Long”

Michael Roe- Safe as Milk- make sure you get the full, 12-song version

Johnny Q. Public- Extra-Ordinary- Best song: “Big Top”

Focused- The Hope That Lies Within

Plankeye- The Spark -was top-5 at the time, didn't age well

Plankeye’s The Spark
Jars of Clay- s/t- I think the band improved dramatically over the years, but this was probably their peak in popularity due to “Flood.” Best song is “World’s Apart”
Jars of Clay’s Jars of Clay

Collective Soul- s/t- you must watch the video for “The World I Know”

311- s/t- “Don’t Stay Home”!

Top 5 concerts attended in 1995 (this was the year I began attending shows):

1. Dakoda Motor Co., Hoi Polloi & Johnny Q. Public at Rocketown in Franklin, TN. In March, went with Jay (& Bethany?), Larissa and Keith. Must have been one other person, because we had three people squeezed into the front seat of the Bonneville. Davia had already left Dakoda Motor Co. at the time, but the show was still great with Melissa. DMC is still in the process of recording a new album, although it is taking them years. They did play a show as recent as Memorial Day 2009. Track their progress on Twitter.

2. The Prayer Chain & The Throes at the Crush Warehouse in Birmingham, AL. In September, went with Phil and we got there early to work the merch tables. I did the Prayer Chain’s, Phil did the Throes. Got some free merch along with meeting the Prayer Chain guys. Phil and I promoted this along with all the Crush shows on our radio show, the B.A.Zone. The following photo I took at that show:









3. Luxury, Starflyer 59, Morella’s Forest and Joe Christmas at the Pteradactyl in Marietta, GA. In October, went with David, Mark and Phil I think. We had seen the Birmingham show the night before that was just SF59 and MoFo. Luxury made a surprise appearance and played ‘Solid Gold’, their first performance after the horrific van wreck. The following photo I took at the Birmingham show:
















4. MxPx and Blenderhead at some hole in the wall called the Metro in Chattanooga, TN. In June, this was the first road trip my brother Keith and I took by ourselves, the summer after I graduated. We were pumped to say the least. We got there really early and ended up helping the bands unload their gear through the front door (only door in the club). At one point I can remember sitting in the van with MxPx guys and showing them where Chattanooga was on a map. They had just graduated from high school (like me) and had never been out of the Northwest. We put an "MxPx & Blenderhead" or bust sign in our car, sounds like something two teenagers would do. On the way back Keith got pulled over for speeding, but he wasn't really going that fast, and he did not get a ticket. I had been pulled over less than a month before, also going less than 10 over, and also did not get a ticket.

5. Sixpence None the Richer at Park South Hall in Birmingham, AL. In November, I had to borrow a car to get to the show. My friends went early, but I was unwilling to go because I was watching the second half of the Iron Bowl (War Eagle!) in my dorm room. After the game ended I scrambled to find a car and got some guy I barely knew to drive me over to Park South Hall. Afterwards there was a signing with the band at LifeWay, so I got to meet all the members of my favorite band.

I made a cassette mix in 1995, which lists my top 11 favorite bands at the time:
1. Dakoda Motor Co., 2. Sixpence None the Richer, 3. Poor Old Lu, 4. The Prayer Chain, 5. Mortal, 6. MxPx, 7. Fleming & John, 8. Hoi Polloi, 9. Morella's Forest, 10. Plankeye, 11. Starflyer 59. Four of those bands are still in my top 10 today.

Reactions: