Much like 1995, 1996 is one of my favorite years to write about in this series. It holds a special place in my heart as the year that my music taste began to come into its own, and so much of what I listen to then, I still listen to quite often today. Maybe I’m a hopeless dino at times, but that’s all right. I know what I like, I am unapologetic about those likes, and that’s all one can ask for. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Blood Roses – Tori Amos
Boys for Pele is such a great album, and probably my third favorite Tori Amos album (with slots #1 and #2 belonging to Little Earthquakes and From the Choirgirl Hotel, respectively). She breaks out the harpsichord for this song, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s also further evidence that Tori Amos’ brain does not work like the rest of ours.
Big Bang Baby – Stone Temple Pilots
A few of you, in previous installments of this column, have mentioned your love for Stone Temple Pilots, and so here is my contribution to that conversation. I quite like the low rhythm to “Big Bang Baby,” and Tiny Music… is the only STP album I own. I’m not sure why it’s the one I responded to when the previous singles and albums didn’t do much for me. My only theory is that it must have hit me at just the right time.
Only The Lonely – David Gray
Despite the same title, this is not a Roy Orbison cover. David Gray is terribly boring now, but his second album, Sell Sell Sell, might be my favorite of his. It retains much of his busking/folksy roots, and he’s not yet busy trying to be some sort of pop star/Van Morrison hybrid. Previously, I mentioned my love for “Gutters Full of Rain” from this album, and “Only the Lonely” has a similar hurts-so-good melancholy.
Angel on My Bike – The Wallflowers
I could’ve mentioned the singles that everyone knows like “One Headlight,” but I’m going with “Angel on My Bike” because I neglected to mention it for Alphabet Soup. After “Josephine,” this is one of my favorite songs from Bringing Down the Horse. I never owned the album myself because so many of my friends had it and played it constantly, and now I miss it. For fun though, I’ve embedded an acoustic version of the song. It’s a bit quieter and less soaring than the original, but I dig it.
Ramshackle – Beck
(Sorry about the strange video – this song is not very present on YouTube.)
Oh, Odelay, what a classic album you are. I’ve previously talked about “Lord Only Knows,” and for our purposes here, I could’ve talked about any of the other songs on the album, but I decided to go the quiet route. Though I must be honest about how “Ramshackle” came to lodge itself in my brain – I once had a boyfriend who was (is still, probably) a big Beck fan, and this was “our” song. (I’ve rarely been one to have typical love songs associated with a relationship. My husband and I consider “Cum on Feel the Noize” our song, for example.) For a long time, I couldn’t listen to it without having to mentally dissect everything wrong about that relationship. Now, a decade on, it’s finally back to being just a lovely album closer on an excellent album.
Sleep to Dream – Fiona Apple
Speaking of perfect albums, Tidal is certainly one of them. Previously, I’ve talked about “Never is a Promise,” and I had a hard time deciding between the remaining songs for this column. I know every word, remember every note, and will forever love every song. “Sleep to Dream” is the outstanding opener with such great lines:
You say love is a hell you cannot bear
And I say give me mine back
and then go there for all I care
A Long December – Counting Crows
Hey, the non-Bruce Springsteen Courtney Cox video! Well, okay, this a great song too. I quite like Counting Crows, and I don’t get why people make fun of them sometimes. Adam Duritz can wear his hair however he wants, yo. “A Long December” has both piano and accordion, and it’s full of California-based loneliness and tentative hope.
Never Recover – The Cardigans
Nope, no “Lovefool” here. That’s a fine enough song and all, but First Band on the Moon is so much more than that. Though I was tempted to include their slowed down cover of “Iron Man,” I decided on “Never Recover” because it’s an excellent example of Nina Persson’s purring despair mixed with an upbeat tempo.
Put a Lid on It – Squirrel Nut Zippers
The mid-90s swing revival had some bright spots, and Squirrel Nut Zippers were often lumped into it, despite their sound having more of a cabaret/gypsy style. Andrew Bird used to play with them in the earlier days, and despite a 2000s hiatus, they’re still a band today. Katharine Whelan has a great voice, and my husband has one of her solo albums. Though it doesn’t really matter, exactly, I’m curious if Katharine is a trans-woman? It’s my writerly curiosity that makes me ask, what with my desire to explore experiences different from my own.
Caress Me Down – Sublime
This song is purposely outrageous, and it makes me laugh. I can even sing along to the Spanish portion of the lyrics, and whenever I hear someone cover it (There are a lot of people in my fair city who do Sublime covers), I’m always a bit disappointed they don’t attempt to learn them. Usually, it ends up being a mash-up with some other song, which works too, but I love this part:
tienes que gritar
tienes que bailar
And that’s the lovin’ sound.
Breathe – The Prodigy
I love, love, love this song and The Prodigy in general. They were so out there compared to the other things I listen to in 1996, and in dance class, we did a Prodigy mash-up that was primarily this song. We had crazy hair and makeup, and parents of the small children who were also a part of the recital complained, but bless our teacher, she just let us do our thing. Out of my many years of dance, it’s still my favorite song that we performed.
Psycho! Somatic! Addict-insane!
6 Underground – Sneaker Pimps
’90s trip-hop is one of my favorite things. I never got around to owning a Sneaker Pimps album, though they did pop up on a few mixes and soundtracks I have. This song is pure club-sexybusiness. In 2002, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon in San Francisco, Sneaker Pimps were playing at a club (I think) somewhere in the North Beach area. We considered going ““ tickets were under $20, I remember – and I’m not sure why we changed our mind.
Cosmic Girl – Jamiroquai
In Alphabet Soup: The Letter V, I mentioned “Virtual Insanity,“ but Jamiroquai’s Travelling Without Moving has a lot of other fantastic songs on it, “Cosmic Girl” included. It’s sorta disco, and it is a dance party good time.
Drop Dead Gorgeous – Republica
I loved the singer from Republica’s hair so much that I did a similar version of it in 2002. Black and red and talk about drop dead gorgeous. Yes. But before I was able to do that, 13-year-old Me in 1996 did plenty of dancing and singing along to this whole album. The band were basically two-hit-wonders, but people like me will still remember them.
Distant Voices – Bush
Yep, I get to talk about Bush again. Razorblade Suitcase received awful reviews when it came out, and it annoyed me endlessly. It’s my absolutely favorite Bush album, and one of my all-time favorites of any artist. Perhaps people were still stinging from the loss of Kurt Cobain and didn’t like anything that sounded too similar, especially sung by someone as pretty as Gavin Rossdale. The haters can fuck right off, honestly. (Okay, maybe I’m still annoyed.) Once again, I am picking a quiet album-closer. “Distant Voices” is just gorgeous, especially on headphones.
I’m gonna find my way to the sun
If I destroy myself
I can shine on
Now then, read over the many good albums of 1996 and tell me your favorites.