Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1998

1. Soul Coughing - White Girl (live) - Rolling single (limited edition bonus disc)
This live Soul Coughing set has the band at its absolute best - and just about to call it quits. No other song I know uses the word "discombobulated." Doughty and Co. should just go ahead and release this live set as some sort of 10th anniversary deluxe edition and create a whole new fandom.

2. Tricky Luz - Trace - Tricky Luz
I picked up this his four-song EP (on a CDR) from a local band I used to go see. My buddy Aaron played bass, and Tricky Luz had a pretty good run for a few years around the university area. The songwriting was top notch and the musicianship was way better than you'd expect from a college group that played mostly acoustic rock tunes. For more on the singer's current projects, go here.

3. Gillian Welch - Rock of Ages - Hell Among the Yearlings
Welch is an amazing talent and has somehow crafted an absolutely unique sound out of the most basic elements. David Rawlings guitar playing is always standout and Welch's voice has the perfect timelessness for her Americana lyrics, rooted in religion, family, tall tales and the endless restlessness of this country's youth.

4. Semisonic - DND - Feeling Strangely Fine
I'd have written Semisonic off completely as "Closing Time" saturated the radio in those days, except for my friend Courtney threw this song on a mix she made. Dan Wilson has an great sense of good pop music, and no matter how sick of his hit I am, I'll always like this bittersweet also-ran.

5. Portishead - Half Day Closing - Roseland NYC Live
My friend Jared brought this video over right after he bought it, and with the lights off and everybody staring silent and slightly on edge at the screen, you might of thought we were all gathered to watch a horror film. Such is the intensity of Portishead, captured live in all their spooky and mesmerizing glory.

6. Cake - Let Me Go - Prolonging The Magic
I remember this album hit late in the year, and was the Christmas break soundtrack around my old house on 8th Street. The crew gathered nightly, and for nearly two weeks we didn't bother to clear the beer bottles off the old coffee table. And we played Cake over and over, tying the nights together with the quirky confidence that was at the band's core. I've hardly listened to this album since (save "Mexico," which wound up on a couple mixes), but it all just rushes back.

7. Golden Smog - Keys - Weird Tales
The funky bassline and electric piano make this song seem a bit of out of place on this alt-country supergroup record. But why would a bunch of musicians get together for a project so clearly rooted in fun above all else and not try messing around a bit? A South Florida murder ballad, this tune represents exactly what's so great about the Golden Smog records - something you wouldn't expect to hear if you on any of these musicians' "regular" albums.

8. Pearl Jam - Off He Goes - Live On Two Legs
I saw Pearl Jam the summer of 1998 at Veterans' Memorial Collesium in Phoenix and it still ranks among the best shows I've seen. Nearly 30 songs stretching into almost three hours, and I couldn't have been higher on the band at the time. Those first five Pearl Jam albums yielded so many excellent songs that the band could pick and choose night by night and never fail to offer a great show. This No Code single gets some extra guitar licks and an even more passionate delivery from Eddie Vedder.

9. James - Destiny Calling - Best Of
One of two new singles on the Manchester band's 1998 hits collection, "Destiny Calling" has one of the greatest opening lines I've ever heard: "So we may be gorgeous, so we may be famous, come back when we're getting old." Tongue-in-cheek 1990s humor at its best. James closed an amazing decade long run of great singles with this one, almost a sly look back on the whole thing, with their trademark chiming guitar, strong rhythm and Tim Booth's soaring vocals.

10. Dan Bern - Cure For AIDS - Fifty Eggs
This album was in regular rotation around my friends for years - most for the brilliantly hilarious "Tiger Woods," but this song got plenty of attention too: "They day they found a cure for AIDS, everybody took one little pill and was OK." Bern's fantasy tale spins and spins as you might expect it to ("For three solid weeks everyone I met was nude"), but somehow never manages to lose an element of sweetness at its core.

Soul Coughing - White Girl (live)
Tricky Luz - Trace
Dan Bern - Cure For AIDS

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