Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nostalgia for 1997

One of my favorite podcasts is Soundcheck from WNYC public radio. The host John Schaefer is amazing in the range of musical topics he can earnestly discuss. Well, last month, he did a show with David Browne of the NYT about the music scene in 1997. Browne recently wrote about the year in an article titled Pop Life ’97: Tunes Were Empty, but the Coffers Were Full.

You can listen to the podcast here.

The gist of their discussion surrounds the success the major labels experienced that year but they also hit on it being a good year for independent music as well. It was the last great hurrah for the major labels because illegal downloading hadn't become widespread and there were a bunch of wildly successful pop acts like the Spice Girls, N'Sync, Hanson and Puff Daddy. Bands like N'Sync were selling two million copies in just a week.

So, it got me thinking about the year and what CDs were released. After looking through my iTunes library, I'd agree that it was a really good year for music. It wasn't as good as 1994 or 2004 but there were a lot of releases that I still find myself listening to today.

Here's a quick rundown of albums I like that came out in 1997:

Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One | Buy
YLT's best album ever. Album of the year for me.
>> One P.M. Again

Will Oldham | Joya | Buy
Like many of Oldham's records, it can be a bit spotty in places but tunes like "O Let It Be", "Bolden Boke Boy" and "Be Still and Know God (Don't Be Shy)" picks up right where the classic Viva La Blues left off.
>> Be Still and Know God (Don't Be Shy)

Smog | Red Apple Falls | Buy
None of Bill Callahan's albums are easy to get into and Red Apple Falls is no exception. However, you're rewarded with repeated listens as you fall for the trumpet peppering in the distant background of "The Morning Paper" and melancholy pedal steel of "I Was a Stranger".
>> I Was a Stranger

Silkworm | Developer | Buy
Yes, there are better Silkworm albums but there isn't a better Silkworm tune than "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like".
>> Never Met a Man I Didn't Like

Pink Martini | Sympathique | Buy
I was introduced to this one only recently which is good because I wouldn't have appreciated it in 1997. Now, it's one of my favorite albums to share with my daughter as we dance around the room.
>> Amado Mio

Luna | Pup Tent | Buy
Luna's first two albums were so good that everything pales in comparison. However, songs like "Beggar's Bliss" and "Bobby Peru" would fit right in on those early albums.
>> Bobby Peru

Lambchop | Thriller | Buy
The album that signaled the transition from Lambchop's country albums to their more diversified sound. Songs like "My Face Your Ass" were mellow melodic vulgar beauties while "Your Fucking Sunny Day" was a rocking melodic vulgar beauty.
>> Your Fucking Sunny Day

Cornelius | Fantasma | Buy
Cornelius' debut album threw pop culture into a blender and spat back a wonderfully crafted electronic pop album.
>> New Music Machine

Calexico | Spoke | Buy
The album that introduced me to the boys from Tuscon. The album confused me at first with all of the non-musical sounds layered throughout the album but I was fully sucked in by its dark intensity.
>> Sanchez

Buena Vista Social Club | Buy
It's on everyone's shelf and many buy it simply because it seemed like the right thing to do. However, those absent minded purchasers don't negate the beauty of the album.
>> Chan Chan

Bob Dylan | Time Out of Mind | Buy
Just when you thought the guy was toast, he snapped back with a dark stormy album of fear and mortality. Despite selling "Love Sick" to Victoria's Secret, it's his best album of the later stage of his career.
>> Not Dark Yet

Apples in Stereo | Tone Soul Evolution | Buy
An often overlooked album in the E6 catalog. A bit more polished than Fun Trick Noisemaker but still packing the heavy pop sing-a-long punch.
>> Seems So

Belle & Sebastian | Three EPs | Buy
If B&S had put all of these EPs on one album rather than spread them out over three EPs, it would have been as good of an album as If You're Feeling Sinister. Dog on Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3..6..9 Seconds of Light are the albums that converted the fans of Sinister into B&S fanatics and groupies.
>> Dog on Wheels
>> Lazy Line Painter Jane
>> Le Pastie de La Bourgeoisie

Yeh, it was a pretty good year.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, made my night.

Herb said...

Pavement's "Brighten the Corners", Super Furry Animals' "Radiator", Radiohead's "OK Computer", Blur's Blur, Suede's "Coming Up", Guided by Voices' "Mag Earwhig!"...

It was indeed a good year.

Flatlander said...

How the hell did I miss Brighten the Corners?

I think what must have happened is that I loaded the Japanese import into iTunes since it has the two bonus tracks "No Tan Lines" and "Wanna Mess Around" and iTunes must have not been able to find a release date for it; or the Japanese import came out in 1998 or 1996.

Regardless, you're right. I should have had that one on the list.

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