Keeping with the reverie of the season, our beloved and bacchanalic 90’s weekend, I’ve got some songs for you: a loose playlist of transatlantic alternative rock and pop; selections from Scotland and England and good ol’ America included.
“Race to the Prize” – The Flaming Lips
The lead single from The Flaming Lips’ 1999 The Soft Bulletin, “Race to the Prize” is a song of cheer and play. The instrumentation is whimsical and frisky, flourished by a harp feature and a theremin leading the melody. It’s so spirited that The Flaming Lips rewrote it as an Oklahoma Thunder fight song named “Thunder Up.”
“Here’s Where the Story Ends” – The Sundays
A personal favorite, and a perfect example of jangle pop from the 1990 record Reading, Writing & Arithmetic. Accompanied by trembling guitars plucked from a Smiths song and a sweet, breezy melody, The Sunday’s leader and vocalist, Harriet Wheeler, leads the pace and emotion of the track with a voice that flips and turns and flutters.
“Sudden Organ” – Yo La Tengo
A jittery, fuzzy thing from Yo La Tengo’s 1993 release Painful, a whole two release before their monumental I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. This song is a frenzy, filled with noise, pulled on by beefy guitarwork, and finished off with a collapsing, screeching organ solo. Hazy and hectic, but still intimate and melodic.
“All My Little Words” – The Magnetic Fields
From The Magnetic Fields’ enormous 1999 triple album 69 Love Songs, “All My Little Words” is a lovely little song. A declaration of affection accompanied by a warbling banjo line, doubling male-female vocals, and halved by a shimmering, echoing electric guitar solo, this track is kinda sappy and twee, but indie pop goodness all the way. Put this on a mixtape for your crush.
“The Plan” – Built To Spill
One of the eminent indie rock voices of the 90s and now, Built to Spill is known for their front-and-center guitar styling and jamming tendencies. From their 1999 Keep It like a Secret, “The Plan” comes on strong with whipping, layered electric guitars frothing over into a mid-song bash before pulling away for a whispered last verse.
“Like Dylan in the Movies” – Belle and Sebastian
From the very beginnings of Scottish band Belle and Sebastian’s long and laborious career, “Like Dylan in the Movies” is a song chock with interesting composition, not limited to layered vocals, cello backing, two instrumental solos and a glockenspiel lead out. It’s bustling and smooth though with lyrics that are quiet, brooding and half-sinister/half-sweet.
“Movin’ On Up” – Primal Scream
Another Scottish band, Primal Scream sounds like they might be a metal outfit, but they just ain’t. Working somewhere within psychedelic rock and alternative dance, “Movin On Up” is a song of celebration and feel-good grit. Leaning heavily on gospel influences, this song grooves to handclaps and soaring chorals. Fun fact: Featured on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
“Bankrupt On Selling” – Modest Mouse
Short and sad, like a slap on the face, “Bankrupt on Selling” is the penultimate track to the 1997 album The Lonesome Crowded West. Lacking percussion, but full of bitterness and bite, something like a bar rant set to guitar, this song will put you down. If you’re looking for something to cry to, this might be it.