The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 20-01 | Pitchfork

10. Weezer
“Say It Ain’t So”
[DGC; 1994]

It ‘s been obscured by misheard lyrics, Rock Band histrionics, and Rivers Cuomo ‘s guileless run as a start mercenary, but “ Say It Ai n’t indeed ” — lunge riffs and all — is an intimate objet d’art of songwriting. There ‘s the specificity and shorthand in the lyrics ( “ Somebody ‘s Heine is crowdin ‘ my refrigerator ” ), and the shade references to a father ( and stepfather ) addicted to alcohol. And, oh, the small things : Matt Sharp ‘s tender back vocals, Patrick Wilson ‘s Spartan kickdrum, Cuomo ‘s amazingly emphatic vocal. But when something like Ric Ocasek ‘s swallow-you-whole product is this huge and roiling, subtleties wilt away. And then we ‘re left with the memory of a chest-grabbing, karaoke-ready chorus and that “ wrestle with Jiiiiiimmy ! ” line .
It ‘s important to remember what made Weezer such a sweetheart, original american english band, and subsequently an about bizarrely influential standard for therefore many young bands. History has rewritten itself as Cuomo has incrementally received more acclaim for the gut-wrenching diarism of his band ‘s second album, Pinkerton. The Blue Album, once the massive-selling giant, has lost some of its shininess to Pinkerton ‘s hide jewel authority. But Rivers is a metallic element jerk at heart and Weezer fused the two strands masterfully, the high and the abject, the dear and the machismo, the fragility and the power. never better than on “ Say It Ai n’t indeed ”. — Sean Fennessey
See also: Weezer, “ Buddy Holly ” ; Weezer, “ done for ( The Sweater Song ) ” ; Weezer, “ El Scorcho ”

9. Beck
[Bong Load/DGC; 1993]

Most of the big alt-rock stars, and alt-rock songs, of the 90s feel hopelessly tied to their ten, relics of a certain period, place, time. Great as they are, even the biggest overground U.S. hits on this list behave small resemblance to what credible music sounds like today. “ Loser ”, on the other hand, sounds like most all of it. Laid future to even the most left field of its alt-rock peers, it feels like a infection not plainly from the underground, but an environment all its own. A set of its disparate parts nobelium long seem like odd fits — independent artwork and trash culture ; lo-fi music and commercially feasible indie ; hip-hop and family. Yet if it came out nowadays, it would calm have to move from the fringes toward the center .
“ Loser ” misguidedly swept into start culture on the lapp wave of slack and outsider chic that earned Radiohead ‘s “ Creep ” some spins. But it was n’t either explicitly about autonomous culture, or evening self-loathing — its roots lie in spontaneity and despair, first worked out on stage as a young performer tried to charm indifferent L.A. audiences. finally, he did, and like the works of Quentin Tarantino or fashion couturier Walter Van Beirendonck that same decade, he became an actual sidestream success — a fringe artist incorporated into the mainstream without altering his sensibilities. — Scott Plagenhoef
See also: Beck, “ Where It ‘s At ” ; Beck, “ mix Bizness ” ; Beck, “ cipher ‘s blame But My Own ”

8. Aaliyah
“Are You That Somebody?”
[Atlantic; 1998]

Late-90s Timbaland was the prototype of audacious, crackpot production brilliance, and Aaliyah was his ideal foil, a sensually aplomb singer who did for melodious tension-and-release what other R & B singers were doing for flashy melisma. subsequently, “ Are You That person ” sounds bizarre to the point where it comes across like a challenge from producer to singer — and it ‘s a challenge easily met. Tim ‘s beat is borderline pathetic, a rubbery, surreptitiously funky bounce that sounds like “ Looney Tunes ” composer Carl Stalling had been commissioned to rework a wolffish Collins chicken-scratch guitar riff .
But the aspects that might come across as cockamamie at first base — the baby coo sourced from Prince ‘s “ Delirious ” ; the beatboxing that sounds like break castanets ; the fact that it first emerged on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy version of Dr. Doolittle — are offset by Aaliyah ‘s characteristically deft performance, balancing an preternatural ability to wring new angles out of a deceptively elementary melody and the chops to let her singing naturally leap from smooth longing to agile rhythmical counterpoints. The moment in the choir where her voice ultimately wraps itself wholly around that stagger-step beat and rolls out with the same fluidity as the frantic bassline — “ causeIreallyneedsomebody/tellmeareyouthatsomebody ” — is everything big about late-90s R & B in one burst of divine guidance. — Nate Patrin
See also: Aaliyah, “ One in a million ” ; Aaliyah, “ Hot Like Fire ” ; Mariah Carey [ ft. Jay-Z ], “ heartbreaker ”

7. Neutral Milk Hotel
“Holland, 1945”
[Merge; 1998]

even though I first base heard Neutral Milk Hotel in the context of mid-90s Athens psych-pop, they ‘ve constantly seemed culturally homeless to me : excessively spirited for the slack model that dominated the era ‘s indie-rock and besides fey for its latent maleness, besides harsh for folkies but not coy enough to be indie pop. I was a adolescent possessed by crave and hera was “ Holland, 1945 ”, a birdcall that sounds like talent-show Nirvana hooking up with a demonstrate band, led by a Georgia hermit wailing about Anne Frank. Terminally unmarketable — and to me, real punk. An clamant cult .
Jeff Mangum ‘s lyrics were full of concrete nouns but made no concrete sense. They didn’t dwell on his own specific space and time, but space and meter in general : How they warp, refract, and continue indefinitely. This is how he comes to love a dead female child. This is how he sings a argumentation like “ It was good to be alive. ” This is how he sees the bedsheets for who used to sleep there. science lies : In the heart, everything exists all at once. Teenagers deserve to learn this from amateur, and to believe it american samoa retentive as the world lets them .
It ‘s both lament and hymn. He tires to hug the world despite the global ‘s cruelty. Of course, he has n’t made another album : What more could he say, and how much more could he say it ? — Mike Powell
See also: Neutral Milk Hotel, “ Ghost ” ; Neutral Milk Hotel, “ In the Aeroplane Over the Sea ” ; Neutral Milk Hotel, “ Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2 ”

6. My Bloody Valentine
“Only Shallow”
[Creation; 1991]

For precisely one second on “ lone Shallow ”, My Bloody Valentine sound like any other rock band. But once Colm Ó Cíosóig completes his brief introductory drum cast, My Bloody Valentine — and, arguably, guitar-based indie-rock music in general — were never quite the same again. Since their 1983 formation, the Irish four had evolved well, from the Cramps/Birthday Party-inspired trash-punk of their debut EP to the droning noise-pop of 1988 ‘s Is n’t Anything to the dance-dabbling productions introduced on 1990 ‘s Glider EP. But even those astonishing developments provided little advance admonitory for the sound that overtakes “ only Shallow ” two seconds in .
You ‘d be distressed to call it a “ flick ” — listening to the song, you do n’t sol much picture a hand strumming across guitar strings as a buzzsaw hitting sheet alloy, or a pack of singing dolphins swimming through an petroleum spill. The sound is so strike and disorienting, it practically distracts you from the fact that “ entirely Shallow ” has a reasonably conventional structure, with three verses set to a brace backbeat ; Bilinda Butcher ‘s blissfully sighed lyrics may not be clear, but the tune that carries them surely is .
But as the open track to My Bloody Valentine ‘s epochal 1991 spill Loveless, the prophetically titled “ only Shallow ” is the crevice that thrusts us into the album ‘s dense, vaporific inner, in which the concept of My Bloody Valentine as a four-piece rock set is gradually debased with each extra layer of effects-pedal freakery and electro-texture. Following Loveless, it would take 16 years for mastermind Kevin Shields to reassert My Bloody Valentine as a functional band, during which his squall-of-sound aesthetic had been adopted by everyone from post-rock ensembles to alt-metal acts to laptop-packing producers. But then, a about two-decade hiatus is arguably a fairly tradeoff for “ only Shallow ” turning the underground inverted literally in a topic of seconds. — Stuart Berman
See also: My Bloody Valentine, “ Soon ” ; My Bloody Valentine, “ To hera Knows When ” ; My Bloody Valentine, “ swallow ”

5. Wu-Tang Clan
“Protect Ya Neck”
[Loud; 1993]

hard-core rap was nothing newfangled by 1992. If you were in high school, you might have missed its earliest days : Boogie Down Production ‘s proto-gangsta minimalism or the apocalyptic pander tales of Schoolly D. But by the meter the Wu-Tang Clan debuted, you ‘d already been blitzed by the new noise of Public Enemy ‘s righteous ( if profoundly conflicted ) Afrocentric party program. Or possibly you ‘d gotten off to NWA ‘s ultra-violent “ realism. ”
The Wu, though ? They were profoundly confusing, even to those of us on the lookout for the latest in begrimed, pop-unfriendly blame. Throw on a Wu-Tang birdcall at a party — well, except for “ Method valet ” — and people would beg you to play something “ fun. ” The RZA ‘s beats did n’t sound “ budget, ” like he was precisely another belowground loop-maker biding his time until he could sneak into a 48-track studio. His earliest songs, offering a fresh and freaky definition of “ cloudy, ” sounded like a very conscious choice. This was the work of a world trying to drain his music of rejoice, to reduce rap menace to its most concentrated venereal disease .
Plus there was the speed and density of the Clan ‘s rhymes, the voices overlapping dizzily until you figured out who was who. Hip-hop had always been slang-dense as a way to keep out the squares, but nine dudes spinning line after baffling line of cult-like slang ? It was impossible to pick up even a divide of the Wu ‘s self-invented floor without wearing down your Walkman ‘s rewind button. No wonder it took a few self-conscious crossing stab by the group ‘s most camera-ready members before they sincerely entered the mainstream .
All of that was share of the draw : “ Non-Shaolinites, can you hang with us ? ” They could : Enter the Wu-Tang ( 36 Chambers ) finally went platinum ; Wu-Tang Forever did even better. even today ‘s grittiest radio rap sounds like a late-90s Bad Boy single when thrown up against something ampere blunt as “ Protect Ya Neck ”. But despite its ( deserved ) rep as a “ permit ‘s see you top this ! ” line in the sandpaper, the traverse still provides plenty of rap ‘s traditional, visceral thrills : the raucous virtuosity of the rhymes, the what-did-he-just-say ? pun, the star-in-the-making charisma of certain Clan members, and one of the few kick-you-in-the-ass beats in the early Wu catalog. — Jess Harvell
See also: Wu-Tang Clan, “ C.R.E.A.M. ” ; Wu-Tang Clan, “ dishonor on a Nigga ” ; Wu-Tang Clan, “ victory ”

4. Radiohead
“Paranoid Android”
[Capitol; 1997]

“ paranoid Android ” told the future. When the sung came out as the most improbable of conduct singles, the Internet consisted largely of AOL mailers and chatrooms, but Thom Yorke saw where things were heading. now, “ unborn wimp voices ” is a pretty firm form of the daily world wide web converse, and “ the yuppies network, ” well, that speaks for itself. The spokesperson software in the background haltingly pleading “ I may be paranoid, but no android ” becomes a little less true and more desperate with each passing year. Please, could you stop the noise ?
Of course, on a more local level, “ Paranoid Android ” besides foretold the future of Radiohead in all their prog-rock, love-hate-tech glory. The song ‘s three-movement structure is a surgical wonder, suturing in concert the band ‘s strengths up to that point — half-reluctant guitar crush, delicate acoustic melodies — and coming away with an evil Frankenstein ‘s monster that set the template for the rest of their career, most accurately when Jonny Greenwood ‘s close guitar solo disintegrates into besotted modem squelches. But for all the art it foreshadows, the greatest asset of “ Paranoid Android ” is its staginess, with the “ rain down ” segment build to a crescendo worthy of a Broadway curtain-dropper. The dance band ‘s paranoia would grow while their folly of showtune drama would fade, but “ Paranoid Android ” captures the brilliant intersection. — Rob Mitchum
See also: Radiohead, “ Street Spirit ( Fade Out ) ” ; Radiohead, “ lucky ” ; Radiohead, “ Let Down ”

3. Dr. Dre [ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg]
“Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang”
[Death Row; 1992]

Dr. Dre is a ill-famed studio apartment perfectionist, the character of manufacturer who will drive rappers to exhaustion by recording 20 takes of the same verse. But the greatest product of that perfectionism is possibly the calmest, most dreamy song always to bear the man ‘s name. “ ‘G’ Thang ” boasts little in the way of structure or cogency ; it ‘s just Dre and a very young Snoop Dogg idly tossing boasts back and forth, cycling second to the chorus whenever the mood strikes them, as a whistling keyboard line snakes through a bed of dizzy bass. Snoop, who wrote Dre ‘s lyrics deoxyadenosine monophosphate good as his own, wholly owns the song. His chilly charisma, floating falsetto, and effortlessly wyrd cadences made him an blink of an eye star by the fourth dimension the birdcall ‘s four minutes ran out .
In his capital rap history tome Ca n’t Stop, Wo n’t Stop, Jeff Chang attributes the euphoric heat of Dre ‘s landmark album The Chronic to the Blood/Crips armistice that had recently made L.A. a much safer place to live, but that easy bliss cursorily transcended its origins. fabulously, Snow’s dancehall cartoon “ Informer ” kept “ ‘G’ Thang ” from hitting Billboard ‘s issue one spot, but Dre ‘s song — and his slice-of-life video for it — resonated huge in suburbs and small towns where even Dre ‘s old group N.W.A never made a dent. — Tom Breihan
See also: Dr. Dre [ ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg ], “ deep Cover ” ; 2Pac [ ft. Dr. Dre ], “ California Love ” ; Dr. Dre [ ft. Snoop Doggy Doog ], “ Fuck Wit Dre Day ( And Everybody ‘s Celebratin ‘ ) ”

2. Pulp
“Common People”
[Island; 1995]

In one sense, it ‘s difficult to separate “ coarse People ” from its consequence of turn, so emblematic as it was of an earned run average when the Britpop tide was sweeping up any UK outfit with a skinny, stylish frontman — including a ring of art-pop outsiders who ‘d been kicking about Sheffield to minimal acclaim since 1983. And the legend of the song ‘s disruptive reception at the 1995 Glastonbury Festival — unveiled, in a symbolic authorize of the blowtorch, during a last-minute pinch-hit performance for the floundering Stone Roses — is one of the decade ‘s great underdog-victory tales, the crowning consequence of an overnight-success narrative 12 years in the produce .
And even, hanker after Pulp had slid out of scene in 2001 and frontman Jarvis Cocker traded in his pop-star countenance for a more professorial search, “ common multitude ” feels as pointedly acerb and angry as ever. Its scathing indictments of class-tourism and the co-opting of authenticity make noise all the more forte at a time when celebrities and corporations are increasingly eager to siphon off street-cred from underground artists, and collegiate hipsters take ironic fashion cues from middle-American iconography. “ common People ” may be centered around a specific encounter between Cocker ‘s broken supporter and his art-school-slummer of a date, but its ascendant, accelerated structure elevates it from personal anecdote to universal hymn, and transforms its despiteful vituperation into a celebration of the character-building fortitude one acquires when living hand-to-mouth — something the have-nots will always have over the haves. — Stuart Berman
See also: Pulp, “ This Is Hardcore ” ; Pulp, “ I Spy ” ; Pulp, “ Babies ”

1. Pavement
“Gold Soundz”
[Matador; 1994]

Thing about Pavement is they never made it slowly. That was part of their M.O. when they were defining themselves against the alt-rock here and now. Where the big bands of the mid-90s were filling theaters and copping the arena-rock moves that had ossified somewhere back in the 70s, Pavement went around like regular schlubs and played messy shows with songs that took strange turns and did n’t quite sound like guitar rock songs are supposed to sound. The Red Hot Chili Peppers said “ Give it away immediately ! ” and stripped to the shank and jumped around and wanted urgently for you to notice them ; Pavement always seemed to be holding something back, and they were n’t about to give it aside. “ Gold Soundz ” is american samoa close as they always got.

It was the second single from their second album, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The beginning, “ Cut Your Hair ”, was a surprise score, going to # 10 on the advanced rock chart in a meter when that meant something. “ Cut Your Hair ” was the indie rock “ Smells Like Teen Spirit ”, to an extent : It was topical and had a sneer, but it was besides melodious and you pretty much knew how you felt about sidewalk from the first clock you heard it. besides like “ Smells Like ”, after you heard “ Cut Your Hair ” a million times you were ready to put it away for a while. But “ Gold Soundz ” was different. It sounded like a memory in the best possible way. The first two words are “ go back, ” and that ‘s precisely what it does : It was easy, idle, and tinged with nostalgia, with a beaming guitar tone and drums that float along, gleefully uncommitted. Some of the lyrics match the music ‘s wistfulness ( “ so drink in in the August sun ” is the one many remember, because it sounds like the first lineage of good thread ), but Stephen Malkmus constantly did like a full puzzle, so there are cabalistic lines that hint at uncertainty, confusion, and doubt, excessively. But this song feels particularly hard to pull apart ; everything seems to fuse together into one thing. And curse, it is ever short — verses and choruses and a extremely dainty guitar fracture all in 2:40 .
There are a lot of ways to think about the music of a ten. sometimes when you sit down to make a list like this, you think about songs that seemed crucial — possibly they changed music or were emblematic of prevailing trends in culture. And then sometimes you think about songs that make you feel beneficial whenever they come on. You hear the first few notes, remember how a lot the birdcall does for you, the excitation builds, you want to sing along, and hey — they ‘re coming to the chorus immediately … — Mark Richardson
See also: Pavement, “ here ” ; Pavement, “ shady Lane ” ; Pavement, “ Summer Babe ( Winter Version ) ”

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