Best of 2013

As I brainstormed about writing this post, a tweet appeared in my timeline that summed up my thoughts: "My favorite albums of 2013 were all released before 1997"

I do like a lot of music from this year, and followed music just as closely as I have over the last 5 years, but the albums and songs aren't grabbing me as much. Some of it is just a matter of time--meaning time I don't have. Being married with 3 kids and having a consuming job--all of which are awesome--leaves little time for really investing and giving albums as many spins as I did 10 or 20 years ago. I doubt I will ever like any year of music as much as 1997, or any year in the 90's. (1995 is actually my favorite year musically.)

February 2, 2017 update: Order after top 2 was radically changed, as this list had been organized thematically until now. All comments from late 2013 though, no new text.

Top-20 albums of 2013:
1. Tegan and Sara- Heartthrob** 
In 2005 my wife and I went to a free Cake concert in downtown Nashville. Tegan and Sara opened. Nothing wrong with Cake's performance that night, but it was the opening act that truly impressed. And these twin sisters have been impressing me ever since. On first listen of this album I was a little shocked over the 80's poppy sound. Upon second and third listen, the songs were all so catchy that I fell in love and sang along to ever word. Every song here is a hit, and had they been recorded by any artist in the 1980's they would have appeared on Casey's Top 40.
2. My Epic- Behold* 
I had never even heard of the band My Epic until I read a tweet that compared them to False Cathedrals-era Elliott. That was enough to pique my interest, and I streamed My Epic's Behold on Rdio for a week straight at work. (Also the first time I have used Rdio.) I was so impressed with my first 5-6 listens through this album that I bought My Epic's entire discography (4 CDs for $30 including shipping from MerchNow, which was too good an offer to pass up as I considered buying Behold on double vinyl for $20 plus shipping). While the comparison to Elliott was a good one, My Epic definitely has their own expansive rock sound while reminding me of the music I love so much from 1997.

3. Sleeping at Last- Space**
While not truly an album, Sleeping at Last released FOUR (!) EP's in 2013. With the overall title of Atlas, and then subtitles of Light, Darkness, Space 1, and Space 2. The Space EP's are especially outstanding. The band is using a unique subscription model in which you pay up front and get digital downloads earlier than the actual releases. The model is outstanding, as they have put out about 20 songs per year for 3 years and running.
2016 update: "Space" has since taken on a life of it's own as an album, rather than from a series of EPs, and has been released as a stand-alone beautiful vinyl set.

4. Eisley- Currents** 
Side A of the green- and blue-swirled vinyl record is perfect. Side B is OK. Together it makes up Eisley's best and most complete album. Eisley goes how it's three sisters go. Eisley's last album was full of shallow lyrics, mainly due to negative, broken relationships. Now that all three are happily married (and with babies), the songs are much more mature.. Musically there is also a lot of maturity, but they keep their aggressiveness.
5. Minor Alps- Get There*
This is 1/2 Juliana Hatfield, 1/2 Matthew Caws of Nada Surf. Most of the time both sing together with terrific harmonies. The upbeat songs sound like Nada Surf with female vocals added, but the best part of the album is the slow, quiet numbers. I have followed Nada Surf closely throughout their career and own everything they have done on vinyl. But I know almost nothing about Juliana Hatfield. I really want to explore her immense back catalog (which began in 1987 with her band Blake Babies and her first solo album in 1992), but I don't know where to begin. If you are a fan of hers, post your favorite album of hers in the comments.

6. Chvrches- The Bones of What You Believe* 
I didn't discover this album and band until pretty late in the year, despite being talked about all over the internet. Believe the hype; a terrific electronic rock band.

7. Arcade Fire- Reflektor**
Everything Arcade Fire has done is outstanding and sometimes ground-breaking, and this is no exception. What is different than their past works (and my #1 album of 2010, the Suburbs), is that is hasn't grabbed me. I think it is excellent, and I like everything I hear, but I don't find myself wanting to listen that often. I will say though that many of the lyrics are fascinating and have provoked thought and discussion. Over the next 10 years I expect to listen to this album more than many on here, and I expect my interest in it to rise.

8. Frightened Rabbit- Pedestrian Verse*
When Mumford and Sons rose to popularity, I couldn't understand it. I still don't. Part of that is because the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit already existed and did what Mumford did better. At the time, I called Mumford and Sons a watered-down Frightened Rabbit, as the latter is more intense both musically and lyrically.  I discovered the band in 2008 with their 2nd album, but 2013 was the first year I truly listened to them a lot. The song "Holy" is one of my top tracks of the year.

9. Tess Wiley- Little Secrets 
It is no secret that I am a huge Tess Wiley fan, possibly one of the biggest in the world. I am probably one of only a handful of people who has followed her super-closely for her 18-year career that has had a few full albums (this is her 4th LP; while there are nearly 100 songs by her in my iTunes database). This has a chance to give her more notoriety than anything else she has ever done. The album is a dichotomy as half the songs are about a horrible divorce, and the other half of the songs are tender towards her two boys. It works and you feel both her pain and love. She has come a long way from her first LP, a 1997 covers album. But her voice sounded great then and better now.

10. Haim- Days Are Gone* 
See comment on Chvrches. Got the album for Christmas, so I have listened to it very few times.
11. Patty Griffin- American Kid 
Her last couple albums were very over-produced to my tastes. This album is much more folky and stripped down, which has resulted in her best work in years. It probably bears more resemblance to 1996's Living With Ghosts than anything she has released since. The opening track, "Go Wherever You Wanna Go", is my favorite and was the them of a mix I made in May and distributed to graduating seniors.

12. Toad the Wet Sprocket- New Constellation
I never thought Toad the Wet Sprocket would ever release another album, this one 16 years after the last. They picked up right where they left off, and impressively they have progressed enough to still sound relevant. They put on one of my favorite concerts I have ever been to in 1997, and listening to this album reminds me a lot of it despite none of these songs existing then. The highlight of the album for me is "I'll Be on You," which is a reworking of the 2006 Lapdog song "See You Again."

13. She and Him- Volume 3 
Nothing really new here from the first two volumes, but Zooey and M. keep putting out beautiful albums.
14. Over the Rhine- Meet me at the Edge of the World 
I have been following OTR closely for over 15 years now, and have seen them in concert more than a dozen times (The first and second times were at Cornerstone 1997). My interest in them has waned over the past few years due to a jazz phase. This double-album has woken me back up to their talents, yet I have really only begun to listen to it all. As good as they are, nothing will ever compare to my favorite album from them, 1996's Good Dog Bad Dog.

15. Sandra McCracken- Desire Like Dynamite 
Possibly her best work: most intriguing lyrically with simple yet dynamic production.

16. August Burns Red- Rescue and Restore
I listen to very little metal at this point in my life. Part of that is that it isn't exactly good background music when I am riding in the car with my wife and kids, but a lot of is that I just don't ever hear any metal or hardcore that is any good. There are only two heavy bands I have followed closely since the turn of the millennium, Demon Hunter and the Spirit That Guides Us. And neither one of those are truly metal, as they infuse all kinds of different instrumentation and vocals. August Burns Red is the first true metal band I have appreciated since the 90's. All screaming vocals, yet melodic. The playing is super precise, technical, and impressive.

17. The Appleseed Cast- Illumination Ritual**
As anyone who reads this blog knows, the Appleseed Cast is one of my top bands of all time, and I listen to them a ton. This album is solid, but honestly a huge disappointment. I don't necessarily have a problem with it, but Sagarmatha was SO GOOD (my #1 album of 2009) and this doesn't come close. I think I am in the minority though, as most of the fanbase seems to think this album is better. Either way, no band does post-rock with vocals better than the Appleseed Cast.
18. Aaron Sprinkle- Water and Guns
No album in 2013 shocked me more than this one. I have been listening to Aaron Sprinkle for 20 years, and this was a radical departure. From the guitar rock of his bands Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch, and Fair, to his previous acoustic guitar-based solo albums, no one could have been prepared anyone for his 4th solo album to be essentially electronica. Yes, there are guitars, and the vocals in the forefront and unmistakably Aaron's, but the majority of the instrumentation is programming and keyboards. Also, all the songs are upbeat and catchy. Every time I listen to it I am surprised.
19. Josh Berwanger- Strange Stains**
One of my favorite bands of the early 2000's was the Anniversary. Even at the time, it was fairly obvious that they were unstable and could break up at any time, mainly due to the fact that the band contained so many personalities, songwriters, singers, and all-around outstanding musicians. When the band did break up after a short run, all of the members continued in music, but none of their solo projects or new bands ever grabbed me like the Anniversary did. Until this album. In 2012 Josh Berwanger launched a Kickstarter, and I had no hesitation of pledging some funds to help a fellow high school coach. It was easily successful, and in 2013 he burst back on the scene with this outstanding, brief album of modern songs a classic rock feel.

20. Jars of Clay- Inland
My relationship with Jars of Clay is a strange one. I was probably one of the first couple hundred people to even hear the band when they formed, but at the time I didn't even like them. "Flood", while a good song, was so over-played, and a big turn-off. It really wasn't until their second album in 1997, Much Afraid, that I really appreciated them. And then I had to look past the bad modern rock radio single "Crazy Times" to get in to that album. Jars of Clay is a rock band, but it is their slower numbers when they are at their best. It is the song that followed "Crazy Times", the quiet "Frail" that is probably my favorite song ever by them. In the late 90's though I lost track of them and stopped listening, even though they stayed active. I liked their Christmas album in 2007, and then 2010's Shelter was outstanding. But in 2013 they have released possibly their best album in their 20 year existence, highlighted by more slow, quiet songs, like "Pennsylvania" and "Fall Asleep".

Best EPs of 2013:
Mindy Smith- Snowed In
My wife recently said to me, "I think Mindy Smith's is my favorite Christmas album." That was an understatement.  Mindy's 2007 Christmas album contained 5 original songs, which is unbelievable. It is an achievement to write a single good Christmas song in a lifetime, much less 5. Then this year she followed up that album with a Christmas EP which contains 5 songs, two of which are more GREAT original songs. Combine all these songs with her soothing voice and there is nothing better to listen to in December.
While working on their third spirituals EP, which took a decade to make, the concept changed from covers (like the first two EP's), to all original songs. You would never think of these songs as spirituals on first listen, as they are extremely original and conceptual, both lyrically and musically. It is awesome to hear Pricket et al. releasing new work, because it happens so rarely.
Most disappointing album of 2013:
Jimmy Eat World- Damage
I really hoped and assumed this album would grow in time, but nope. So bad and so boring. Jimmy Eat World has been so consistent for 15 years, even their worst album up until this point, 2007's Chase This Light, is WAY better than Damage. Not a single good song here. Never has an album cover been more appropriate: it looks like a project from one of my 9th grade graphic design students using Illustrator for the first time. The music sounds maybe a little bit better than that.


Steve Taylor and Fleming & John

I can't believe I haven't mentioned Steve Taylor's Kickstarter yet, but I guess that's how busy life is. I have to mention it though, with two days to go. He is WAY over his initial goal of 40K, which he hit in about 36 hours. He is surely to surpass 100K, which is awesome and amazing. I can't wait for the new album, and I will try to catch the 2014 tour.

More than anything I want to see the album release show with Fleming and John opening in Nashville in April. John Mark Painter is playing bass for Steve, but I much prefer the music he records and performs with his wife Fleming. They are opening, and it will be their first concert in over a decade. They have only released a couple songs since their last album in the late 90's. Then a couple of weeks ago they posted this, which is probably my favorite YouTube video of 2013:


Listen to this...


New Tess Wiley song and video

I have now been a Tess Wiley fan for 18 years, which is fairly mind-boggling. I became a fan because she was one of the first few artists I was aware of who had a website and an email address. I emailed her in 1995, she replied, and I have been a big fan ever since. It has been a LONG time since she has had a formal, official, music video.

Tess Wiley - Little Secrets on MUZU.TV.


Stream the full Minor Alps album

Terrific collaboration between Matthew Caws of Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield. Might be a good example of where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Out next week, pre-order from Barsuk.


Everything is normal now...

I know this is blowing up all over the internet now, but it is too important and definitive for me not to post it here. Arcade Fire:


Aaron Sprinkle- new album and debut single

Aaron Sprinkle (Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punh, Fair) is set to release his fourth solo album, and first in more than a decade, on October 1. It is titled "Water and Guns", and has a pretty awesome cover:

Also, a lyric video was released today that give us a first listen:


Luxury Kickstarter

Luxury launched a Kickstarter campaign, and is essential that you back their new album project. I just donated the largest amount I ever have to a Kickstarter project. This the 10th project I have backed on Kickstarter, and thankfully all but one have been successful.

I won't catch you up on Luxury's rich history, except to say they are one of my top 5 favorite bands of all time. Here are some links:
Luxury fansite (extremely well done)
Luxury Facebook (updated frequently, including recent clips of new recordings)
Luxury Bandcamp (all their LPs, plus lots of random obscure songs)


New Dustin Kensrue song!

From Alternative Press:

When former Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue began writing "It's Not Enough" a few years ago, he wasn't sure to which of his creative outlets it would belong. "I originally thought this would end up being a Thrice song," Kensrue tells AP. "But I never got around to finishing it until now."

The song will now be released on Kensrue's upcoming solo album, The Water And The Blood, set for release October 1 via BEC Recordings/Mars Hill Music.

"It's probably one of my favorite songs I've ever written and stoked for it to finally be done and seeing the light of day."

And here are the lyrics as posted on Dustin's twitter account:

Though all the wealth of men was mine to squander
And towers of ivory rose beneath my feet
Were palaces of pleasure mine to wander
The sum of it would leave me incomplete

Though every soul would hold my name in honor
And truest love was always by my side
My praises sung by grateful sons and daughters
My soul would never still be satisfied

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

Though I could live for all to lift them higher
Or spend the centuries seeking light within
Though I indulged my every dark desire
Exhausting every avenue of sin

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

To make me whole
It’s not enough, it never was
Awake my soul
It’s not enough, it never was

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
Though all would bow to me
Till I could drink my fill of fear and love
It’s not enough, it’s not enough



For years I had been thinking about making a mix about California. When I made a mix about the United States in general a few years ago, it because apparent quickly that more songs have been written about California than any other state. Ironically, California is one of the 13 states I have yet to visit.

That mix I made 5 years ago, LA to NYC, I blogged about at the time, and it has become one my favorite mixes I have ever done. Even my wife will ask to listen to it.

Anyway, I knew eventually I would make a mix strictly about California, I just didn't think it would take 5 years! It is a pretty interesting thing to listen to now that it is finished, because California is a dichotomy. Everyone initially loves it in concept, but many people HATE it when they truly spend time there.

Tracks 2 and 3, both titled "California Girls", sum up this mix perfectly:

The Beach Boys:

The Magnetic Fields:

And so here is the mix, and the 20 tracks will fit on a standard CD:

1. Pacific / Sleeping At Last 2:49
2. California Girls / The Beach Boys 2:38
3. California Girls / The Magnetic Fields 3:01
4. California Dreaming / Mamas and the Papas 2:41
5. California / Mates Of State 2:32
6. California / Low 3:23
7. California / Copeland 5:26
8. California Wasted / Toad the Wet Sprocket 3:50
9. Why You'd Want To Live Here / Death Cab For Cutie 4:45
10. Earthquakes And Sharks / Brandtson 2:57
11. Money Money / The Lassie Foundation 4:40
12. Malibu / Hole 3:50
13. Going To California / Led Zeppelin 3:36
14. I Remember California / R.E.M. 5:04
15. California Brown And Blue / Denison Witmer 5:04
16. San Andreas Fault / Natalie Merchant 3:59
17. In California / Neko Case 3:29
18. Not California / Hem 4:11
19. San Pedro / Mogwai 3:27
20. Hollywood / P.O.D. 5:22


Steve Taylor is back playing MUSIC

Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil (his new band) played Creation Fest three days ago. This is crazy and so hard to comprehend; wish I could have been there!

This was his first live show since the mid-90's, and not only that, he will be releasing a new album this Fall. His new bandmates are John Mark Painter, Jimmy Abegg, and Peter Furler. If those names don't mean anything to you, Google them, as they are all terrific and prolific. John Mark Painter is one of my all-time favorite musicians; who has put out so little of his own stuff (most notably with his wife Fleming).

Hard to find much information about Steve Taylor's recent music online, but Sock Heaven is by far the best place.


Toad the Wet Sprocket's first new song in 16 years

I was going to embed it here, but apparently it is only streaming on the Rolling Stone website. They are on tour this summer and will be releasing a new Toad album in September!

What I will embed is a 2011 'greatest hits' album the band put out. It does not contain any new songs; as the band says on their website, "Like most bands who recorded for major labels, we didn t actually own many of the recordings we did during that time. ‘All You Want’ is us reclaiming our past for ourselves. While making this album, we got to look under the hood at the parts we’d written so long ago, pull apart some of the magic of the originals, and in some cases, update arrangements, tempos or attitudes that we thought we could improve upon with the benefit of a little hindsight."

New Jimmy Eat World album "Damage" streaming

Release date is June 11, but it has been streaming since yesterday. I hate to say it, but my first impression is BORING.


Tooth & Nail Records "rejected" Thrice in 1998

I saw this Twitter dialogue when I woke up this morning:

If you don't know, Dustin Kensrue is the lead singer of Thrice, and Brandon Ebel is the president of Tooth and Nail Records. And this the the picture:

Very funny that one of my favorite record labels had the chance to sign one of my favorite bands and didn't. Not that Thrice showed much potential with their first EP. I guess everything worked out in the end, at least for Thrice.


The Giant Mechanical Man (movie & soundtrack)

My wife and I watched The Giant Mechanical Man last night, a movie we had never heard of and found randomly on Amazon Prime because it is streaming for free. First of all, the movie is excellent, and here is a Huffingon Post interview and article where you can learn more about it, the director, and the actors.

Secondly, the soundtrack is terrific. I knew we were in for a treat with the film opened with a Mogwai song, and I couldn't have felt better about the ending when a Pinback song played during the credits. And in between there were half a dozen great tunes, many of which I knew. One of the songs I didn't know is by the band Great Northern, who I had heard of, but never heard. I immediately ordered one of the band's albums though, and then this morning I found this new, unreleased song from Great Northern's next album: Go watch The Giant Mechanical Man, and listen to Great Northern.

Most of the songs from the movie:
Mogwai- Kids Will be Skeletons
Great Northern- Our Bleeding Hearts
El Ten Eleven- I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They are Cool
Dios Malos- You Got Me All Wrong & Meeting People
Explosions in the Sky- Remember Me as a Time of Day
Pompeii- Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads
Pinback- Non Photo Blue


New CUSH EP out now, free for 3 days!

Cush's first release in a decade, SP3 (the third spirituals EP, but this time all original songs); enjoy!


Pre-order new Eisley album 'Currents' and stream new song now

Pre-order the album on vinyl and CD here. What excites me most about this album is that it is Eisley's first that has had no influence from a record label; it is exactly the album they want to release.


New She & Him song; "Volume 3" out May 7

I don't typically comment when I post new tracks, but I must say, as much as I love Zooey Deschanel's voice, and what her and M.Ward have been doing with She & Him, it is time to try something new. I like the song, but it is just more of the same. I think Zooey would honestly benefit from a different musical partner and a shift in style of production. Maybe I'll change my mind when I hear the full new album.


Forget Cassettes- Lady Lazarus (new song and video)

"Lady Lazarus" - Forget Cassettes - O Cursa (Official Video) from Forget Cassettes on Vimeo.

Listen to all of Forget Cassettes music here. If you look closely, you'll see Roy Ira playing keyboards.


Poor Old Lu's first song in over a decade is OUT NOW

The song is absolutely incredible, and the work of a band that sounds tighter than ever, not one that has been "inactive" since 2002. Here's hoping that the momentum created by this track leads to the band recording together more. It won't be easy, since the four band members live in three different states (WA, NY, TN), but modern technology at least makes writing and recording music with others from a distance possible.


New Appleseed Cast song

The Appleseed Cast, set to release their 8th LP in 15 years on April 23, posted this song today:

You can order the new album, Illumination Ritual, from Graveface Records. There are three different vinyl versions, cassette (!), CD, and digital.


CUSH- All My Eyes Knew

Cush continues to release one song a month from their upcoming SP3 EP. This is track 3 of 7, but they have actually released four so far.



Everything you could ever want to know about the band Luxury can be found here. If you've never listened, now's the time.

The recent news is they are back in the studio recording a new album.

And the backstory...

My #3 album of the year:

My #7 album of the year:

My #4 album of the year:

I was at this show (and I saw them play at least a dozen times from 1995-2002):

Paying tribute to another one of my favorite bands:

My #4 album of the year:

From LeeBozeman.com:

Monday, October 22... I am writing songs again. working with the fellas on seeing if a new Luxury record is possible. sorting through a lot of ideas and desires but not very good words yet. for me, it is all about the language. I hope it comes together. I hope it means something. you just never know how these things will go. or at least, I never do. see you soon...

From LeeBozeman.com:

Tuesday, February 12... spent the last week in Atlanta with a dual purpose: playing some new Luxury songs and attending a clergy conference. hard to push those worlds together at times but we managed. three days, more of less, of loud music and then the quiet and simplicity of liturgical services. I have written and worked out five songs for what might be a new Luxury record, if it gets funded. "Parallel Love", "The War on Women", "Courage, Courage", "Don't Feel Bad If You Don't Feel Better Right Away", and "You Must Change Your Life". came together remarkably quickly. wrote these in more or less a month and hope to push on toward five or six more soon. writing mostly about memory and understanding of the past, the problems of repeating the past, etc. surprisingly, very little about faith so far or at least explicit faith and belief...

The present:

Luxury's Facebook
Luxury's Bandcamp
Insanely detailed Luxury fansite


Bronzspondi, Twin Sister, Portland's 90's underground, & Bandcamp

I published my Top 50 albums of the 1990's last week, and it's been a popular post. One of the comments I got today mentioned the Bronzspondi compilation, and how it was relevant to my list.

I had to Google "Bronzspondi", as it seemed familiar, but I couldn't place it. The search quickly led me to this page, which has the entire Bronzspondi compilation streaming or you can download all 14 songs for 99 cents. I think maybe I owned this comp at some point, but it has been 15 years since I have seen or heard it.

Not only is the Bronzspondi compilation online, that Bandcamp page has dozens of obscure releases from the 1990's Portland underground scene. The tracks most intriguing to me are from Twin Sister, and the entire Twin Sister album (which I couldn't even find myself in the 90's) is also streaming or downloadable for 99 cents (and I am about to buy it):

As you can see, Twin Sister is a Star Wars band. Not only are all the lyrics inspired by Star Wars, the band members (many of whom were also in Sometime Sunday) dressed as Star Wars characters for every show.

I was fortunate enough to see Twin Sister in concert twice in 1996, once at the Crush Warehouse in Birmingham, and once at the Ace of Clubs in Nashville. The Ace of Clubs show is notable because that same night at the same location I saw Poor Old Lu, Mortal, Seven Day Jesus, Dimestore Prophets, PlankEye and Black Eyed Sceva. I took pictures of this show but the quality is pretty poor (someday I'll scan them anyway).

On this same Bandcamp page you can listen to or download a ton of music that only previously was available on cassette. Bands include Sometime Sunday, the Clergy, Pep Squad, The Five O'Clock People, and another compilation called Songs from the Rain Factory that has songs from Poor Old Lu, Don't Know, and others. The Sometime Sunday demo cassette is essential if you are familiar with that band.

Lastly, let me just say that Bandcamp is tremendous. I am having trouble keeping track of all the great old stuff I am finding on there. Just this week I found that Michael Knott and his band L.S.Underground has much of their back catalog up. Then of course there was that amazing Kerith Ravine find a couple weeks ago.

New single from Phoenix: Entertainment

Phoenix's new album, Bankrupt!, releases April 23.


Top 50 albums of the 1990's

After finally publishing my Best of 1999 list a couple weeks ago, this list was fairly easy to put together (well, except the order, which is impossible and changes by the minute).

As originally mentioned in my best of the 2000's post, here are the rules:
"When I decided to make a list of my 50 favorite albums of this decade, I needed some way to narrow the field. So I made a rule than an artist can only have one album in the top 50. This way more great albums are mentioned, and my favorite artists don’t dominate the list." 

50. Raspberry Jam- Oceanic (1995) Best song: Easter

49. Rage Against the Machine- The Battle of Los Angeles* (1999) Best song: Guerrilla Radio

48. The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin* (1999) Best song: Race for the Prize

47. Brandtson- Fallen Star Collection (1999) Best song: Summer in St. Claire

46. No Knife- Fire in the City of Automatons* (1999) Best song: Minus 1

45. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1999) Best song: Freestyle

44. Elliott- U.S. Songs** (1999) Best song: Dionysus Burning

43. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream* (1999) Best song: For Evangeline

42. Model Engine- The Lean Year’s Tradition (1997) Best song: Scarred but Smarter

41. Common Children- Delicate Fade (1997) Best song: Strange Rain

40. The Blamed- Frail (1995) Best song: No Difference

39. Velour 100- Of Color Bright** (1997) Best song: Dolphin Grey

38. Blenderhead- Muchacho Vivo (1995)

37. My Little Dog China- The Velvis Carnival (1994) Best song: Listen

36. Lost Dogs- Little Red Riding Hood (1993) Best song: Imagine That

35. The Connells- One Simple Word** (1990) Best song: Speak to Me

34. Toad the Wet Sprocket- Fear* (1991) Best song: All I Want

33. Fiona Apple- When the Pawn...* (1999) Best song: Fast as You Can

32. Dakoda Motor Co.- Into the Son (1993) Best song: Sondancer

31. Built to Spill- Keep it Like a Secret** (1999) Best song: The Plan

30. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh (1999) Best song: Starry Eyed

29. Hoi Polloi- Happy Ever After (1995) Best song: Tiptoe

28. Morella’s Forest- SuperDeluxe (1995) The best song is Fizzle Kiss, but the only one I can find streaming on line is Wonderboy

27. Rose Blossom Punch- Ephemere (1997) Best song: Hot Rod Horse

26. U2- Achtung Baby* (1991) Best song: Mysterious Ways

25. R.E.M.- Up** (1998) Best song: Walk Unafraid

24. Pearl Jam- Ten** (1991) Best song: Jeremy (also one of the greatest music videos of all time)

23. Weezer- Weezer* (The Blue Album) (1994) Best song: The World Has Turned and left me Here

22. Starflyer 59- Silver** (1994) Best song: 2nd Space Song

21. Pedro the Lion- It’s Hard to Find a Friend** (1998) Best song: Of Minor Prophets and Their Prostitute Wives

20. L.S.U.- Graceshaker (1994) Best song: Blame

19. The 77’s- Drowning With Land in Sight (1994) Best song: Alone Together

18. Fleming and John- Delusions of Grandeur (1995) Best song: I’m Not Afraid

17. Argyle Park- Misguided (1995) Best song: Doomsayer

16. The Innocence Mission- Glow (1995) Best song: That Was Another Country

15. Adam Again- Dig** (1992) Best song: River on Fire

14. Over the Rhine- Good Dog Bad Dog (1996) Best song: Latter Days

13. My Bloody Valentine- Loveless* (1991) Best song: Only Shallow

12. The Violet Burning- The Violet Burning (1996) Best song: Low

11. Luxury- Amazing and Thank You (1995) Best song: Solid Gold

10. Mortal- Fathom (1993) Best song: Bright Wings

9. Radiohead- OK Computer** (1997) Best song: Paranoid Android

8. Stavesacre- Absolutes (1997) Best song: Wither/Ascend

7. Mineral- The Power of Failing** (1997) Best song: If I Could

6. Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream** (1993) Best song: Mayonaise

5. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity** (1999) Best song: For Me This is Heaven

4. Sunny Day Real Estate- Diary** (1994) Best song: Song About an Angel

3. The Prayer Chain- Mercury** (1995) Best song: Sky High

2. Poor Old Lu- Sin (1994) Best song: My World Falls Down

1. Sixpence None the Richer- This Beautiful Mess (1995) Best song: Love, Salvation, Fear of Death
Best video: Angeltread

Update on 2/18/13: This post is getting so many hits I've decided to revisit it myself. I curious which albums I "left out". There are lots of different places I looked, but I decided to settle on Rolling Stone's top 100 albums of the 1990's.

Rolling Stone probably should have used my rule about an artist only being allowed one album, because there are only 86 artists for 100 albums. You can't tell me Jay Z's 2nd-best album of the 90's is better than so many other artists' best. If you are curious, my list and Rolling Stone's only share 10 albums.

Anyway, I narrowed Rolling Stone's list down, and came up with the top 10 albums of theirs that didn't make my list. So I guess these are my honorable mentions:
1. Nirvana- Nevermind
2. Metallica- Metallica (The Black Album)
3. Counting Crows- August and Everything After
4. Oasis- (What's the Story) Morning Glory?
5. Beastie Boys- Ill Communication
6. Pavement- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
7. Soundgarden- Superunknown
8. Beck- Odelay
9. Belle and Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
10. The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs

Lastly, their is one more album I feel I must mention that did not make my list nor Rolling Stone's, and is definitely one of the best albums of the 1990's:
Foo Fighters- The Colour and the Shape

To give you a little insight on this album and how it connects to the number 4 album on my list, I'll share an excerpt from Wikipedia's page on the Foo Fighters:

Grohl formed a band to support the [first Foo Fighters] album. Initially, he talked to former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic about joining the group, but both decided against it. "For Krist and I, it would have felt really natural and really great", Grohl explained. "But for everyone else, it would have been weird, and it would have left me in a really bad position. Then I really would have been under the microscope." Having heard about the disbanding of Seattle-based rock band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl drafted the group's bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith...

Foo Fighters made its live public debut on February 23, 1995 at the Jambalaya Club in Arcata, California and then March 3 at The Satyricon in Portland...

After touring through the spring of 1996, Foo Fighters entered Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Washington with producer Gil Norton to record its second album. While Grohl once again wrote all the songs, the rest of the band collaborated on the arrangements. With the sessions nearly complete, Grohl took the rough mixes with him to Los Angeles, intending to finish up his vocal and guitar parts. While there, Grohl realized that he was not happy with how the mixes were turning out, and the band "basically re-recorded almost everything".

During the L.A. sessions, Grohl had played drums on the songs. Unhappy with Goldsmith's drumming, Grohl removed it from the recordings and re-recorded the drum tracks. As Goldsmith was about to come down to L.A to find out why he wasn't being called upon to re-record his parts, he called Mendel from Seattle inquiring if he should make the trip. Grohl then called Goldsmith saying, "Dude, don't come down here, I'm recording some of the drum tracks." Shocked by this, Goldsmith met up with Mendel in Seattle and repeated Grohl's claim to be re-recording "some" of the tracks. Mendel asked, "Is that what he told you?" Goldsmith affirmed it, and Mendel stated, "No, man -- he did them all."

Grohl explained that he'd wanted the drums to sound a certain way on the album. He wanted Goldsmith to play for the tour even though it would not be his drumming but Grohl's on the album. Feeling betrayed, Goldsmith left the band. To this day Grohl still feels guilty for his decision, saying "I was an immature kid at the time."


Velour 100 and the Shoegaze Movement

While working on yet-to-be-published blog post, I uploaded the Velour 100 song "Dolphin Grey" to YouTube. There is very little about this terrific band online, and they didn't last very long. Even in their short existence of two LPs and two EPs multi-instrumentalist Trey Many used  six different lead vocalists: Amon Krist (daughter of Jan), Tess Wiley (significant solo career and former guitarist for Sixpence None the Richer), Sydney Rentz (Morella's Forest), Karen Oliver (His Name is Alive), Alicia Luma, and finally Rosie Thomas.

Uploading this track to YouTube led me to discover a great article about the shoegaze movement, which couldn't have been published at a more opportune (and probably intentional) time with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album since 1991. You can read the article by Chuck Hicks here, but here is the part about Velour 100:

While Slowdive was relinquishing the gazing muse, another obscure stateside band was taking it up.  Trey Many (pr. “may’-nee”), the drummer for Warren Defever’s His Name is Alive, was developing a side project at Eastern Michigan University.   Together with art student Amon Krist (daughter of folk singer Jan Krist) he formed Velour 100 and signed with Seattle’s alternative label, Tooth & Nail.

Velour 100′s first full-length recording was Fall Sounds (1996) with Many on all instruments and Krist on lead vocals (and occasional acoustic guitar).  Right away the listener finds the music here focused and thematically linked — a concept album based on the pair’s experiences of loss and renewal informed by their Christian faith.  The same dense, hypnotic atmospherics present with Slowdive are found here; but Many keeps the listening interesting with changes and unusual time signatures.  ”Dub Space” is a sparkling eight and half minute tone poem that could have emerged from the waterfall at the end of “Close to the Edge.”  The strongest track on the album — and, in my view, among the best three and a half minutes of the ’90s — is “Flourish”:

Velour 100 never received a bad critical review.  As Krist departed to complete her studies and launch a teaching career, the duo’s first demo recording was re-recorded and released as Songs From the Rainwater EP to high praise.  Many produced one more LP, Of Color Bright (1997) that featured three female lead vocalists, including ex-Sixpence None the Richer guitarist Tess Wiley.  Wiley co-wrote “Dolphin Grey,” which showcases her distinctive alto against a splash of jangling guitars:

Many recorded a final four-song EP, For An Open Sky (1999), with soon-to-breakout vocalist Rosie Thomas.  He now lends his formidable production skills to projects for other bands.

Finally, I'll add that Velour 100 resurfaced in another form  as Half-Life Souvenir, which toured briefly but never released any music.



Jimmy Eat World's "Best Song Never Released"

From the blog of Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind:

"In my mind, even though we never released this tune ("Jen"), I think it’s one of my favorite Jimmy Eat World songs of all time. We recorded this song during the Futures session but took it off the album because it just didn’t really fit the vibe with the other tunes and after that, the timing never really felt that good to release it. Maybe because the song had already leaked and we never felt that motivated to officially release the tune.

But looking back on this song, we busted our ass getting it to the point of where it ended up. It sounds like a simple song but we recorded it many different times with several different arrangements, tempos, keys, etc… It was nuts. Gil Norton was the producer and we were having the album mixed by Rich Costey at Cello Studios in Hollywood. While Rich was mixing, we were tracking Jen in studio 3 at Cello which was famous for recording Pet Sounds and some Mammas and Pappas albums. We didn’t have any of our gear in town so I rented a kit and ended up using a ludwig acrolite that Chris Testa (grammy winning engineer who ended up engineering Chase This Light) had in studio A when he was tracking the band Gratitude (who coincidentally were friends of ours and ended up opening up for us on tour). While we were tracking Jen, Brian Wilson was in studio 2 working on a project and at one point, poked his head into the door of the control room of studio 3. “Holy shit!! Brian Wilson just walked into our control room!” That was incredible."

Anyway, that’s the basic story of Jen. We nearly killed ourselves recording a song we never released.

I couldn't agree with him more. I was able to find and download Futures a few months before it was  released in 2004 (and yes I later bought it on CD and vinyl), and the original track-listing had 12 songs (official release has 11), with "Jen" being number 6.

The song and album were released the year I got married. My then fiance and I listened to this album A TON on our many road trips, and this was our favorite song from it. "Jen" also ended up being on our wedding mix CD.

Jimmy Eat World's new album has been completed, and now we are just waiting on a title and release date. I am guessing Summer.


Cush debut another new song today: Hands of Fire

Track 2 of 7 from their upcoming SP3 EP. Track 1 was released  very intentionally on Christmas Day 2012.

New My Bloody Valentine: mbv album stream

I am not going to rehash the craziness of a few nights ago, but by now everyone knows My Bloody Valentine released their first album in 22 years, titled simply "mbv", exclusively through their website. In case you are not yet ready to pay $16 for a digital download or $41 for the vinyl (includes shipping cost), an official stream of the album is now online, provided by the band and Consequence of Sound. This is going to be the only way I listen to the album probably until it's on Amazon for a more reasonable price.


Best of 1999

My favorite albums of 1999 as written in early 2000:
1. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream
2. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh
3. Fleming & John- The Way We Are
4. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity**
5. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown
6. Stavesacre- Speakeasy
7. Luxury- Luxury
8. The Innocence Mission- Birds of my Neighborhood
9. Lost Dogs- Gift Horse
10. Starflyer 59- Everybody Makes Mistakes*

While 1998 might have been a down year for music, 1999 was AMAZING. It is almost impossible for me to arrange my top 20. Only one of my original top 10 has dropped off the list entirely (Lost Dogs), and my original #1 has not stood the test of time too well. The rest is fairly accurate. After going 2+ years between 1990's best-of lists, I am publishing 1999 only two days after 1998. Be impressed! Next up will be my top-50 albums of the decade (1990's).

Top 20 of 1999:

1. Jimmy Eat World- Clarity** Less than a week ago someone I follow on Twitter said, “This is your regular reminder that the album Clarity by Jimmy Eat World exists, and you should be listening to it.” I remember the first time I heard the album, I went to my friend JMK’s dorm room and he put it on. We both freaked out over the guitar riff at the 45 second mark in “Your New Aesthetic.” That song is significant because that is how I named my blog. Despite really enjoying the listening experience in his dorm room, it took me a few months before I actually got the album. How I acquired it is unbelievably ridiculous. I had recently purchased The Waterdeep album Everyone’s Beautiful. I was incredibly disappointed by it. Well, my friend MS wanted it, so he traded me Clarity for it. Crazy. Clarity has grown to be one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time, and I never heard that Waterdeep album ever again.

Another funny memory about this album: In 2001 myself and a roommate of a girl I was dating drove from Birmingham to Atlanta to see Death Cab for Cutie (yes, the Photo Album tour!). On the way back from the show, very late at night on I-20, I put Clarity in the CD player. I thought the girl in my passenger seat was asleep, but when the first line of “Table for Glasses” began, she started singing along. Needless to say over the next hour I developed a huge crush on this girl and forgot about her roommate who I was dating.

Here is a terrific live video of my favorite song from the album:

2. Stavesacre- Speakeasy The last great full-length from this band, although they would remain mostly active for the following decade. Jeff Bellew co-wrote almost the entire album, but after leaving the band following its recording, was inexplicably only credited with “additional guitars” in the liner notes. While Stavesacre is one of my favorite bands, I have very mixed feelings of their works in the 5 years following this album, and was incredibly critical of them from 2000-2003. The peak of my criticism came when I saw them in concert at OneFest in Memphis in 2001. For one, they released their first post-Speakeasy songs on a split EP with Denison Marrs. The songs were very weak compared to their three LPs. Secondly, the concert featured only one original member of the band (Mark). It bothered me a lot at the time, and it begs the question how much does a band’s line-up really matter.

Two of my favorite bands of all-time, Poor Old Lu and the Prayer Chain, only existed as four-pieces in which all four members remained constant and all four contributed to the writing of all of their songs. Countless other bands obviously have been able to remain successful and creative while frequently replacing drummers, bass players, guitarists, etc. Well, for some reason with Stavesacre it bothered me more than other cases. Not that it was their fault, as band members come and go and have more important things in their lives than recording music. But the quality suffered greatly. The three songs from the split EP reappeared on their self-titled album in 2002, and the LP was absolutely horrible. I couldn’t even believe it was the same band. Thankfully Stavesacre did recover and release the solid Bull Takes Fighter EP in 2004 and How to Live With a Curse LP in 2006. And then Jeff rejoined the band for a final amazing, aggressive EP in 2010, Against the Silence. When is someone going to start putting these Stavesacre masterpieces out on vinyl?

3. Vigilantes of Love- Audible Sigh Speaking of line-ups... Well, VOL was never really a band per se, it was just Bill Mallonee and his players. This is the best Vigilantes of Love album, and as I mentioned in my 1998 post, you can give a lot of credit to Bill’s help: fantastic multi-instrumentalist Kenny Hutson, producer Buddy Miller, and vocalists Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris. It is also some of the best songs Bill has ever written. This was the album that should have put this band on the map, but record label issues unfortunately prevented that from happening. There are actually three different CD versions of this album, and I bought all three just to get all the songs. I didn't want anyone else to have to do that though, so anyone I knew who bought any single version I gave my "Definitive Audible Sigh", which was my own personal sequence of all of the songs from all three versions, with unique artwork. And what I didn't remember until grabbing a JPEG to post the album cover is that the 2nd and 3rd album cover versions added "Bill Mallonee and" to the beginning. How tacky. Although at least 2 of the 3 album covers feature this terrific train photo; the third is just a black & white photo of Bill himself. Sometimes marketing people really confuse me.

4. Luxury- Luxury Every time I write or talk of Luxury, I have to mention how amazing they were in concert. If you have read my blog since the beginning you are probably tired of me calling them “the greatest live rock band of all time”, which myself and my fellow deejays of the B.A.Zone (WVSU 91.1) dubbed them in the late 90’s. Luxury’s first album, Amazing and Thank You, is one of my top 20 albums of all time. Their second album never quite impacted me the same way. This third album absolutely blew my mind the first time I heard it (and on many repeated listens). I saw them play the album release show at the EARL (East Atlanta Restaurant and Lounge in Atlanta) and a band called Annie opened who was also very good.

5. Fleming and John- The Way We Are Thirteen years later I am still waiting for the follow-up to this album. John Mark Painter has remained heavily involved in the music scene as an instrumentalist and producer, but unfortunately has not recorded another album with his wife Fleming. I saw them perform half a dozen terrific shows between 1995 and 1999, and their concert in the basement of a Vanderbilt frat house in February of 1995 (with Hoi Polloi) was my first “real” rock show.

6. Built to Spill- Keep it Like a Secret** I was aware of Built to Spill in 1999, but barely. I had a few compilation albums and mix tapes with their songs, but it really wasn’t until 2004 that I grew to love them. I have slowly purchased almost everything in their discography, but this is the one that always stands out to me as the most interesting. They are probably the only band in the world from Idaho.

7. The Juliana Theory- Understand This is a Dream* I don’t know when the first mp3 was created and uploaded to the web, but I still remember the first one I downloaded. It was “August in Bethany” from this album. I liked that song enough that I purchased the CD the first time I saw it in May of 1999. The timing was significant, because May and June of that year were some of the best and most emotionally traumatic times of my life. This album was the perfect soundtrack. The week following the acquisition of this album I was driving all over the Southeast between Atlanta, Birmingham, and Nashville. This CD never left the player. I remember one day I listened to it 4 or 5 times in a row. I don’t do that. But it just hit me. If you have never heard this album, you are probably assuming it is spiritually profound or something. It is not. It is pretty shallow and silly actually with the exception of one song (“For Evangeline”). But I was obsessed with it for years.

8. The Innocence Mission- Birds of My Neighborhood I have my vinyl records organized on shelves alphabetically, but also in two groups. The first group is 1989 and earlier, the second group is 1990 and later. I mention this because The Innocence Mission and R.E.M. are the only bands that would be in both groups (although I keep all the R.E.M. in the first one and all the Innocence Mission in the second one). I unfortunately don’t have this album on vinyl, and I don’t think it exists. One of the quietest, most peaceful albums I own. And behind Glow, the band's next-best work.

9. Fiona Apple- When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right I was a casual listener of Fiona Apple before I met my wife. Which essentially meant I had only heard one or two songs. Well, right after we got married the original version of Extraordinary Machine leaked online. My wife and I listened to it non-stop, and it also led to me really listening to for the first time Fiona’s first two albums. This is probably her best album, but because of the intense, dark, and offensive lyrics, I probably listen to it the least. Based on my one Fiona Apple concert experience, I think this album sounds the most like her live show.

10. Aaron Sprinkle- Moontraveler Really the only thing that made Poor Old Lu’s break-up tolerable was that Aaron Sprinkle remained prolific for the next five years. His band Rose Blossom Punch released an album the year following Poor Old Lu’s last, and then after RBP dissolved he started putting out solo albums. This is the first of his three solo albums he put out in three straight years, and the one I come back to the most. Unfortunately the prolific-ness ended after his final solo album in 2001 and then the reunited Poor Old Lu’s The Waiting Room in 2002. The only things we have heard from him since are the two outstanding Fair albums in 2006 and 2010. I expect his next release to be another solo album, but unfortunately he has spent way too much time producing and not enough time working on his own songs. I guess you have to do what pays the bills.

11. P.O.D.- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown Most people became aware of P.O.D. in 1999 with the release of this album and the rise to MTV fame. They had been around for more than 5 years before though, constantly touring the underground. Their first two albums suffered from some pretty terrible production, so it was hard to appreciate the songs. They finally got some money behind them though and that resulted in this, their first properly recorded music.

12. Brandtson- Fallen Star Collection The difference between this album and the band’s first couldn't have been more drastic; hard to tell it is the same band (all in positive ways). While Letterbox is drenched in muddy reverb, with this album it is like the guitars got a bath and everything sounds nice and clean. Brandtson was still somewhat developing their sound at this point, and as good as this album it is, it pales in comparison to what they would accomplish in the years to come.

13. No Knife- Fire in the City of Automatons* Still can’t believe I knew nothing of No Knife until 2009. They could have easily been one of my favorite bands in the 90’s, but someone forgot to tell me they existed. This is arguably their best album.

14. The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin* As much as I like the Flaming Lips, I honestly still don’t think I really appreciate them like their biggest fans do. Their catalog is so immense, and I only have a fraction of it. Not sure I necessarily like this album the best, but it is probably the most focused album they have ever released.

15. Rage Against the Machine- The Battle of Los Angeles In the late 90’s, there was Rage Against the Machine, and then a dozen other bands trying to copy their sound. Listening to them makes me want to become a political activist.

16. Chevelle- Point #1 This, Chevelle’s debut, probably sounds a little too much like Tool. In fact, I think I read years later that the band was upset with the production and the possible similarities. However, if it weren’t for sounding like Tool, I probably would have never discovered them. I remember listening to some late night radio show in Birmingham and hearing Chevelle for the first time. The following week, without being able to remember the name of the band or the song, I called up the same radio show and asked, “Could you play that new song that sounds like Tool?” Thankfully with their next and best album, 2002's Wonder What's Next, they developed their own style. I just visited their website for the first time in ages, and the band doesn't even acknowledge the fact that Point #1 exists. Silly.

17. Lassie Foundation- Pacifico* It took me years to really get into the Lassie Foundation, as a big part of me kept hoping Wayne (lead vocals) and Eric (guitars) would go back to playing their old instruments in their old band (drums and bass, respectively, in the Prayer Chain). The Lassie Foundation would remain an active band much longer with a much larger catalog though than their first band. While all their albums are outstanding, this is probably their best work. In later years, with the exception of their final EP, their sound got a little too polished. Random fact: The other guitarist in the Lassie Foundation is Jeff Schroeder. Jeff has been the lead guitarist in the Smashing Pumpkins since 2007. Jeff also played guitar on the Violet Burning’s self-titled album, one of my top-20 all-time favorites.

18. Starflyer 59- Everybody Makes Mistakes* As I work on these lists through the years, there is one band that seems like they are on every single one. Can you believe Starflyer 59 has 13 studio albums in 20 years?! That is crazy! Not to mention 8 EPs, a few live albums, and two box sets. With that many releases, you would think they would all start to blend together. I guess maybe if you discovered them somewhere along the way, that might be true. But since I have been fortunate enough to be aware of them since “Starflier 59” (misprint on the first pressing of the Silver CD), all the different albums and eras are distinct.

19. Fountains of Wayne- Utopia Parkway It’s funny how long sometimes it takes you to appreciate an artist. With Fountains of Wayne, I was aware of them from the beginning (1996). I loved “Radiation Vibe” when it was on the radio, but for some reason it took me 7 years to actually buy an album of theirs. I don’t actually know what led me to order 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers while living in Zambia, but I am glad I did, because it became my 2003 album of the year. These guys are some of the most clever songwriters in the industry, and can write songs that make you laugh (most of the time) and sometimes even cry (“Troubled Times” on this album).

20. Plumb- Candycoatedwaterdrops Plumb has been pretty hit-and-miss over her career (yes it is a she, Tiffany Arbuckle, not a band), but she hit it right down the middle on this one. Strange fact is that many of these songs have been used in movies over the years, most notably “God-shaped Hole.”

Top 5 EP’s of 1999:

I didn’t even rank EPs in 1998, but there are too many good ones in 1999 not to comment.

1. Kerith Ravine- The Drafting Sessions Chances are that you have heard of Lovedrug, who released their fourth album, Wild Blood, last year. Also a pretty good chance that you didn’t know Lovedrug started out as Kerith Ravine. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Shepard fronts both bands. While the current Lovedrug sounds absolutely nothing like Kerith Ravine, Lovedrug’s first and best album, 2004’s Pretend You’re Alive, sounded extremely similar to the end of Kerith Ravine (aided by the work of awesome bassist Adam Ladd in both bands). Well, this EP was Kerith Ravine’s debut: equal parts Sunny Day Real Estate, My Bloody Valentine, and the Smashing Pumpkins, but while staying original. Just like Jimmy Eat World, this band was introduced to me by my friend JMK. The production of this EP is sadly terrible, but the songs are great. With a quick Google search, I actually just discovered a Kerith Ravine interview I have never read before. And crazily, in that interview they hint that they were planning to tour with No Knife. Oh man, where is my time machine?
UPDATE: Holy crap, what Google uncovers. Turns out Kerith Ravine recorded another song I have never heard! That is going to result in a new blog post of it’s own, RIGHT NOW.

2. Tess Wiley- The Energy You Keep** Tess released a bunch of EPs, and this was the best one. It was a LONG wait for her to release her first LP, but thankfully she put out an EP often enough to keep me paying attention. The highlight of this 4-song release is “My Favorite One.” The song would reappear years later, but this version and it’s explosion of guitars is so much better. This EP is also a 10” vinyl record, which is only only one of a few of 10”s I own. Apparently this EP is so rare that the only image of it on the web is only 120 x 120 pixels, which looks pretty terrible. I'll have to scan my own!

3. Pedro the Lion- The Only Reason I Feel Secure* David Bazan had stayed pretty conservative until this release, but after you listened to “Criticism as Inspiration” the first time you knew his music would never be the same. A shocking as the lyrics to that song were, it now seems very mild compared to the lyrics he would write in the years to come.

4. Rainer Maria- Atlantic Not much to say about this one, except the title track is my favorite song from the band. I didn't discover Rainer Maria until pretty late, and I have never listened to them enough.

5. Rose Blossom Punch- So Sorry to Disappoint You This EP sort of got lost in oblivion for awhile. Strangely enough it was released by MP3.com. The cover is unique artwork, but the rest of the jewel case is a generic print-out that must have been the same for everything the website did. Unfortunately the end of this Aaron Sprinkle band, alhtough he could have easily chose to use the same moniker for Fair years later.

Other 1999 albums I own and enjoy:

Aleixa- Disfigured
Caedmon’s Call- 40 Acres
Collective Soul- Dosage
The Cranberries- Bury The Hatchet
Elliott- If They Do EP
Embodyment- The Narrow Scope of Things
Evanescence- Sound Asleep EP
Julie Miller- Broken Things
Miss Angie- Triumphantine
Stretch Arm Strong- Rituals of Life
Sufjan Steves- A Sun Came
Velour 100- For An Open Sky EP (Rosie Thomas on lead vocals!)
Waterdeep and 100 Portraits- Enter the Worship Circle

Notable 1999 albums I don’t own but would like to:

Alison Krauss- Forget About It   
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire- Oh! The Grandeur
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals- Burn to Shine
Counting Crows- This Desert Life
Feist- Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down)   
Foo Fighters- There Is Nothing Left To Lose 
The Get Up Kids- Something To Write Home About  
Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada EP
Gomez - Liquid Skin
The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs
Mogwai- Come on Die Young
Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile
Pavement- Terror Twilight
Sigur Rós- Ágætis byrjun
Sleater-Kinney- The Hot Rock 
Underøath- Act of Depression
The White Stripes- The White Stripes 
Wilco- Summerteeth      
Zao- Liberate Te Ex Inferis