I recently read that 1999 was the worst year in the history of music.
It’s not just with the benefit of hindsight that people are saying this. Even at the time, people were proclaiming it to be a forgettable year. And I have to admit, when you look at a list of the top-selling albums of 1999, you get the feeling you’re also looking at a list of albums most commonly found in boxes on the street outside people’s houses in 2003.
The proliferation of musical mediocrity from that year probably has to do with sheer numbers. These were the last days of an era when people were willing to pay $20 for a CD that had one good song on it. The Internet hadn’t yet become the giant musical quality-control machine that it is today, so record labels could still afford to over-charge and under-deliver. The result was the watered-down quality bemoaned in the articles linked above.
But of course, there were some great albums released in 1999. (Including the album that produced the song featured in this blog’s very first week.)
“The Three EPs” is one of my favourites. Along with DJ Shadow’s “Entroducing”, I listened to it constantly in 1999, and it’s the perfect end-of-century album. Recorded in 1997 and 1998, and finally released in the US in 1999, this album pulls together influences from previous decades in a way that makes it seem to float above other music of the time. It’s definitely…90s-ish, but it’s connected to that sound by a very thin thread, and it has aged much better than, say, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The combination of samples and live instruments on this album that nobody (except maybe Beck) has ever done so seamlessly.
2. The slide guitar makes me think of a yawning cat.
3. There’s a really nice laid-back feeling to the whole thing, from the vocals to the bass line to the not-quite-in-tune horns that bring the song to its peak.
Recommended listening activity:
Walking past an empty storefront that used to be a Blockbuster Video.