We are in the last year of the 90s – after this year, dressing like you’re a cast member of Saved By the Bell was no longer acceptable. 1999 was a break out year for many acts, who would go on to impact the indie scene in a big way. It was also a year where one band said farewell, and release their final record. These albums are in no particular order and are just a few the great albums from 1999.
Wilco – Summerteeth
Released on March 9th, 1999, this is the third studio album to come from Chicago rockers Wilco. The band started using a different recording process for this record than what they were used to. They used to lay down the tracks all at once with live takes, but Summerteeth was heavily overdubbed using Pro Tools. Most of this album was created in the studio, and a lot of it was inspired by both 20th century literature and frontman Jeff Tweedy’s marital problems. The album was well received by critics but only sold 200,000 copies. The album landed at #31 on Pitchfork’s list of the Best Albums of the 90s.
Built to Spill – Keep It Like a Secret
Keep It Like a Secret was the 4th record to come from Built to Spill and was recorded in Woodinville, WA, but mixed in Seattle. The band found their core group on their last album and kept the line-up of Doug Martsch, Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf for this LP as well. The album spawned two EPs for both Carry the Zero and Center of the Universe. Pitchfork ranked it #41 on their Best Albums of the 90s and reviewed it with a favourable 9.3 out of 10.
Beck – Midnite Vultures
This was the 7th studio album to come from Beck, it was released on November 16th 1999 through Geffen Records. The album didn’t achieve the same success that his previous work had but it was received well both critically and commercially. Early titles for the record were “Zatyricon”, which was a b-side from the Beck EP, and “I Can Smell the V.D. in the Club Tonight”, a line from his song “Milk & Honey”. Beck’s influences on the record included the Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk and the Prince song “Raspberry Beret”. Midnite Ventures managed to score a 2001 Grammy nomination for Album of the Year and has sold 734,000 copies in the US alone.
The White Stripes – The White Stripes
This self titled release was the debut record to come from the duo and was the LP that started making a name for Jack White. Johnny Walker of the Soledad Brothers plays slide guitar on both “Suzy Lee” and “I Fought Piranhas”. White invited Walker to his home to do some recording on his 4 track and in return Walker taught him how to play slide guitar. The album was recorded in Detroit at Ghetto Recorders and Third Man Studios, and was mainly produced by Jack White. The album wasn’t a huge commercial success for the two but it laid the groundwork for things to come.
Foo Fighters – There is Nothing Left to Lose
This was the third studio album to come from the ‘foos’ and it again brought a line up change. Guitarist Frank Stahl was fired from the group because frontman Dave Grohl thought he hadn’t really found his place with the band. For this LP, Grohl decided the group would simply be a trio of himself, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer Taylor Hawkins. They left their previous label, Capitol Records, and decided to record the album themselves in Grohl’s Virginia home’s basement studio. Once the new record was ready to go they signed with RCA records for distribution and promotion. The album was well received, and it managed to reach platinum status in both the US and Canada. It also picked up a Grammy in 2000 for Best Rock Album.
Mogwai – Come On Die Young
This is the sophomore album from Scottish indie rockers Mogwai, released March 29th, 1999. This record is looked at as a change of pace compared to their other work, focusing on slower, quieter numbers that tend to be more drum oriented. There are a few tracks however that are an exception, one of them being “Christmas Steps”, a distortion heavy song that goes back to their roots. Come On Die Young had a lot of hype surrounding it due to their successful debut record and critics tend to think it didn’t live up to it.
Pavement – Terror Twilight
This was the 5th and final record to come from Pavement. The LP’s original name was “Farewell Horizontal” until percussionist Bob Nastanovich complained and came up with “Terror Twilight”. Bob explained the meaning behind the title: “Terror Twilight is the short span between sunset and dusk; this is considered the most dangerous time in traffic, because half of the people switch on the headlights, and the other half doesn’t. It’s when most accidents happen.” Every song on the album was written by frontman Stephen Malkmus and most were premiered at solo concerts before the album’s release. The album was received very well by critics; Pitchfork reviewed it as a 9.2/10 and Rolling Stone gave it 4/5 stars.
Sigur Ros – Ágætis Byrjun
This was the second album to come from Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, hitting stores June 12th, 1999. This would turn out to be the breakthrough record for the group, both commercially and critically. The way the group constructed their music shifted on this LP – they moved away from the dream pop sound on their previous album Von, and worked in full sounding orchestral elements like Jonsi Birgission’s cello-bowed guitar work. The album spent the summer climbing the charts in Iceland and won them a 2001 Shortlist Music Prize. Pitchfork gave the record the #2 slot on their list of the best albums of 2000s.
Moby – Play
The fifth studio album to come from Moby found a wealth of unexpected success. Play was released on May 17th, 1999 and songs from the LP appeared in numerous commercials, TV shows and movies, helping it dominate the charts for almost 2 years. The album has sold over 12 million copies worldwide with help coming from album singles “South Side”, “Honey” , “Find My Baby”, and “Natural Blues”. Moby also received a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album.
The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin Only
It’s 1999 and The Soft Bulletin is already the 9th studio record to come from The Flaming Lips. This album marked a shift from their previous more guitar driven work, honing in on a more psychedelic, experimental sound. While the album only sold 38,000 copies, it was accepted extremely well by both critics and fans. The record helped pave the way for more interesting Flaming Lips LPs to come and scored a rare 10/10 from Pitchfork.