Here it comes: My five all time favorite albums to be released between 1990 and 2000. Because I listen to so much music, this list is now inaccurate, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the journey. If you’ve been reading this list with your fingers crossed hoping for some Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or Soundgarden, I apologize. These next five albums are some of my personal favorites, all obtaining five stars out of five. What a zany decade.
5. “If You’re Feeling Sinister” by Belle and Sebastian – These ten songs are so charmingly innocent, and I enjoy ever minute of it. On the surface, “If You’re Feeling Sinister” sounds like simple, catchy pop music, but it’s so much more than that. I think it’s about growing up, and how bittersweet life is. This album never fails to cheer me up when I get sad. All the songs are great, but my favorites are “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” “Judy and the Dream of Horses,” and “Me and the Major.” Actually it’s probably more like a nine-way tie for my favorite song.
4. “Spiderland” by Slint – “Spiderland” is indescribably unique. Actually, Spiderland is a good description. Each song follows a similar, basic structure, in that the lyrics are spoken in the beginning, and the mood is calm. Then there’s a build-up that could happen at any moment. I’ve listened to this album about ten times, and the build-ups still surprise me. This is when the guitars get heavier, as if they’re screaming, and the vocalist starts to yell, and it’s so intense. Again, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess my top 3 are “Nosferatu Man,” “Breadcrumb Trail,” and “Don, Aman.”
3. “Roman Candle” by Elliott Smith – I don’t know about other people, but I love to listen to sad music. Elliott Smith was a master at making sad music, and “Roman Candle” may be his saddest album ever. It’s also arguably his folksiest outing. I dig folk music. Four of the songs on this album are called “No Name” and then a number 1-4 after it, which I think is how Elliott Smith saw himself. It’s unfortunate that someone so talented was so sad. My favorite songs are “No Name # 1,” “Last Call,” and “Condor Ave.”
2. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel – I fell in love with this album the first time I heard it. It has been called folk, rock, and many other things, but to me it’s genreless. Jeff Mangum has a unique voice and delivery that really projects what he’s feeling in each song. The subject matter on “Aeroplane” is dark, twisted, and sometimes hopeless, but the lyrics are my favorite on any album. Even the two instrumental tracks are outstanding. What’s really surprising is that Neutral Milk Hotel uses really basic chords in many of their songs, but they found a way to make their songs sound so fresh and timeless. My favorites are “Two-Headed Boy,” “Oh Comely,” and “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One.”
1. “Either/Or” by Elliott Smith – If you haven’t already guessed, I am a huge fan of Elliott Smith. This was the first album of his that I ever heard, and it has been my favorite album pretty much ever since I heard it. Elliott Smith has often been compared to groups like The Beatles and Big Star. There are definitely similarities, but he sounds so uniquely sad with a tinge of hope in there somewhere. And his voice is so fragile. Almost as if he’s about to break down and cry in the middle of the song. My favorite songs off of this album change often. Every time I hear it I discover something new about “Either/Or.” Right now my favorites are “Speed Trials,” “Alameda,” and “2:45 a.m.” Also, “Say Yes” will always have a special place in my heart for being the Elliott Smith song I ever heard. R.I.P.