1998: I Am Not Jesus, Though I Have the Same Initials

Pulp’s This is Hardcore was a hangover of a follow-up to their celebrated LP Different Class from two years before, and it’s emblematic of the time it came out in. Although never a single, “Dishes” instantly made an impression, and not just for its indelible opening lyric quoted above (only Jarvis Cocker would dare to make such a comparison). Later, he sings, “A man once told me, beware of 33 / He said, “It was a not an easy time for me.” I was 23 in 1998, but I could still relate—it was my first full year in Boston and I spent all of it in the graduate student interzone, where my life almost entirely focused towards academia. Apart from my classes, I was alone most of the time.

As a film studies student, movies admittedly supplanted music as an art form to obsess over, although the latter barely diminished as a presence in my life. Not having cable and deliberately avoiding the top 40, I relied on Boston’s WFNX (by far the more diverse of the city’s two alt-rock stations) to discover some new music—I first heard “History Repeating” and “Lights are Changing” there. Otherwise, I was off on my own, feverishly awaiting new recordings from artists I already adored (Pulp, PJ Harvey, Morcheeba, Tori Amos) and looking beyond commercial radio for new-to-me sounds from the past in the guise of college radio stations like WERS (an entirely different animal from what it is today) and WMBR.

Looking over this list now, I can’t find any rhyme or reason to it. I’ve gone on about alt-rock entering a rapid decline in the late ’90s, but this might be the last great year for top 40 pop as well: REM, Seal and Sheryl Crow won’t make any more appearances on these yearly lists (possibly Madonna as well). The fact that only one 1998 album shows up in this project (not on Spotify, so nothing from it on this playlist) also suggests anomaly; at one time or another, I could’ve made a case for Whitechocolatespaceegg, From the Choirgirl Hotel, The Globe Sessions or Mermaid Avenue, but none of them made the cut on this go-around (although Mezzanine came pretty close).

Go here to listen to my favorite tracks of 1998 on Spotify:

  1. Propellerheads feat. Miss Shirley Bassey, “History Repeating”
  2. Emm Gryner, “Summerlong”
  3. Rufus Wainwright, “April Fools”
  4. Pernice Brothers, “Clear Spot”
  5. Mary Lou Lord, “Lights are Changing”
  6. Pulp, “Dishes”
  7. Calexico, “Stray”
  8. Lucinda Williams, “Right in Time”
  9. PJ Harvey, “A Perfect Day Elise”
  10. Depeche Mode, “Only When I Lose Myself”
  11. Grant Lee Buffalo, “The Whole Shebang”
  12. Billy Bragg and Wilco, “California Stars”
  13. Air, “You Make It Easy”
  14. Morcheeba, “Part of the Process”
  15. Komeda, “It’s Alright, Baby”
  16. Black Box Recorder, “Child Psychology”
  17. Tori Amos, “Black-Dove (January)”
  18. Massive Attack, “Man Next Door”
  19. Madonna, “Ray of Light”
  20. Liz Phair, “Polyester Bride”
  21. Belle & Sebastian, “Slow Graffiti”
  22. Seal, “Lost My Faith”
  23. New Radicals, “Gotta Stay High”
  24. R.E.M., “At My Most Beautiful”
  25. Sheryl Crow, “My Favorite Mistake”