In the late 90s, my friend Mark Wieman ran a record-review website called Pillowfight. It was the pre-Pitchfork pulse of Indie-rock. I contributed quite a lot of reviews to the site during its end-of-the-millennium reign, and along with reviews, come year-end top ten lists.
This exercise is in no way meant to suggest that 2007 hasn’t been a great year for music, because it has. Great records were released this year by dälek, Sean Price, Jesu, Explosions in the Sky, Band of Horses, Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, Blonde Redhead, Wilco, Justice, High on Fire, Consequence, Pharoahe Monch, El-P, Brother Reade, Hangar 18, Aesop Rock, Prefuse 73, Ghostface Killah, Beanie Sigel, Little Brother, Common, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and of course Radiohead. And I don’t care what anyone says, I’ll be rocking Rihanna’s “Umbrella” well into ’08.
Anyway, against my better judgment, I was watching a VH1 “top songs of the 90s” countdown the other night, and it got me thinking about what I was listening to last decade. So, for something different and just for the heck of it, I got Mark to dig out my 1997 top ten list from his Pillowfight.com archives. The following is said list:
The first five are the best records that actually came out in 1997. The second five are the records that spent the most time in and around the player in 1997.
- Wu-Tang Clan Wu-Tang Forever
- Kiss It Goodbye She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
- Various Artists Deep Concentration
- The Get Up Kids Four Minute Mile
- Rakim The Eighteenth Letter
- De La Soul Stakes Is High
- DJ Shadow Endtroducing…
- Texas Is The Reason Do You Know Who You Are?
- Godflesh Songs of Love and Hate
- Common Sense Resurrection
Most of those still get at least quasi-regular play (though I’ll probably never listen to The Get Up Kids again), and notice how many artists also appear in my rough 2007 list above. The urge to revise is not near as strong as I thought it would be, but with a decade’s perspective and discoveries made that didn’t make the list, I do have a few I’d like to mention in retrospect.
Company Flow Funcrusher Plus — I don’t know how this didn’t make the list. I must’ve hopped the Co-Flow bandwagon not long after. I remember spinning the “Blind” / “8 Steps to Perfection” twelve-inch on a regular when I couldn’t find this full-length. Funcrusher introduced the world to El-P, Bigg Jus, and Mr. Len, and it has heart and grit, a rawness that hadn’t been evident on wax since Enter the Wu-Tang — and, as we all know now, it was only the beginning.
Radiohead OK Computer — I hated this record when I first heard it. In fact, it took a long time and their releasing several more records before I gave it a proper listen. Now I probably listen to it at least once a month. I was wrong, and everyone else was right: This record is truly a classic.
Refused The Shape of Punk to Come — I’m not sure how this one missed the list either. Much like Funcrusher Plus, his is another record that blew me away when I heard it, and that I still listen to on a regular. In 1997, Refused were like Fugazi, if Fugazi were Minor Threat: young, angry, and on a mission. Dig out this record if you haven’t heard it lately, and especially if you haven’t heard it at all. Here’s some evidence (their raucous video for “New Noise”):
Other mentions include Latyrx The Album (kind of a Left Coast answer to Company Flow — not in sound, but in spirit and skills), Foo Fighters The Colour and the Shape (not your father’s classic rock), Hot Water Music Forever and Counting (not your daughter’s emo), Camp Lo Uptown Saturday Night (retro in the best way), and KRS-One I Got Next (raw like Sex and Violence with a surprise Puffy appearance).
Who else did I miss? Who was in your top ten in 1997? Who made your list in 2007?
P.S. Pieces of Pillowfight can still be seen courtesy of the Wayback Machine.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.