1996: One Was Magenta, The Other Was Blue

In 1996, music meant more to me than it ever had before. I remember stopping at a record store that September for the first time in weeks, about to burst at the seams with joy upon seeing the new releases I wanted to buy. I selected six of that year’s albums for this project, and just as easily could’ve picked at least four more (Diary of A Mod Housewife, Endtroducing…, Viva! La Woman and Nine Objects of Desire, for starters) if I didn’t feel weird about including ten for one year (especially as the average number-per-year will drop off soon).

My age obviously factored into this. Everything at 21 still seemed so new and limitless to me where music was concerned. While the alt-rock bubble of 1992-94 had long since burst, it had not yet fully soured into the dubious mutations (nu-metal, mook rock and Smashmouth) that overtook it in the late ‘90s. Like any other year, ’96 had its share of pedestrian (311), overplayed (oh, I don’t know, “Marcarena”?) and just plain godawful (hello, Bush!) hits. But look at Primitive Radio Gods topping the modern rock airplay chart for six weeks! Or agreeable novelty hits from Fountains of Wayne, Beck and Geggy Tah! Not to mention all the wonderful stuff not on your radio, from Sloan’s Chicago-gone-alt-pop gem to an improbable but divine duet between Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue!

The relative lack of obscurities here (even Cibo Matto got on MTV!) either suggests indie’s infiltration of the mainstream was at its peak, or that I was then most attuned to the latter. Moving forward, entries and playlists in the project may seem less familiar at times (not that Eric Matthews and Morcheeba or indeed, half of the selections below are household names) as this balance shifts back towards the opposite pole. It’s not that my interest in music starts to wane—it just increasingly burrows down other paths less taken.

Click here to listen to my 1996 playlist on Spotify:

Beck, “Devil’s Haircut”
Aimee Mann, “Choice In The Matter”
Belle and Sebastian, “Seeing Other People”
Fountains of Wayne, “Radiation Vibe”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Kylie Minogue, “Where The Wild Roses Grow”
Morcheeba, “Howling”
Pet Shop Boys, “Se a Vida E (That’s The Way Life Is)”
Cowboy Junkies, “Something More Besides You”
Jason Falkner, “I Live”
Suzanne Vega, “World Before Columbus”
Amy Rigby, “20 Questions”
Fiona Apple, “Sleep To Dream”
Sam Phillips, “Animals on Wheels”
Gillian Welch, “Pass You By”
Cibo Matto, “Know Your Chicken”
Sloan, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”
R.E.M., “Binky the Doormat”
Luscious Jackson, “Naked Eye”
The Divine Comedy, “Becoming More Like Alfie”
DJ Shadow, “Stem/Long Stem”
Stereolab, “Percolator”
Sheryl Crow, “Home”
Ani DiFranco, “Adam and Eve”
Tori Amos, “Hey Jupiter”
Pulp, “Mile End”
Sleater-Kinney, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”
Geggy Tah, “Whoever You Are”
Steve Wynn, “Shelly’s Blues (Pt. 2)”
Primitive Radio Gods, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand”
Everything But The Girl, “Mirrorball”
Soul Coughing, “Super Bon Bon”

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