The year that marked a new millennium and new possibilities
The year 1999 will go down in history as one of the most underappreciated years in music. As overlooked as the year is, though, it also stands as the most transformative. With a slew of albums that literally changed the course of some genres, 1999 is bound to stand the test of time.
The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I
The Dismemberment Plan’s third album is a firework of passionate songwriting, wrapped tightly in a sheen of indie rock bombast and emotion. The D.C. quartet left little-to-no breathing room in these compositions, packing every song with a hard-to-pin-down genre. The band wore their influences proudly, flexing their knowledge in everything from old-school soul to hip hop and especially techno. The final mix is a brilliantly catchy and thrilling look at what the future sounded like in 1999. Yet, it’s a sound that’s so effortlessly executed you could make the argument that it’s the very future manifested in song.
Wilco – Summerteeth
Jeff Tweedy’s project, Wilco, is known for melding alt-country elements with the heart of indie rock. On his most accomplished album to date, Wilco decided to strip all of those old-school elements in exchange for a more synth-heavy sound. What resulted was an album of classic pop and sheer ambitious musical breadth never before heard from the band. Summerteeth blazes with sharp insight. If Tweedy still isn’t considered the next Bob Dylan, Summerteeth could be his calling card. The album is chock-full of lyrics that are so beautifully relatable and sentimentally simple they could take a jab at your heartstrings with nearly every listen. “Over and over and over again I say that we’re just friends / Forget the implications / Infatuations end / If love’s so easy, why is it hard.”
Number Girl – School Girl Distortional Addict
If given enough time and an international following, Japanese cult favourite Number Girl could have taken over the world. School Girl Distortional Addict is a record marked by pure teenage emotion, and the band couldn’t make those influences more obvious. With songs named after The Pixies, and a sound reminiscent of 90s noise bands, Number Girl was a band by and for the kids. Don’t let that sway you, though. These songs are jagged and include emotional twists and turns that navigate the very centre of teenage heartache. The vocals are buried among the mix, but lock into a core that’s riveting when at its most climactic.
The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
In typical Flaming Lips fashion, The Soft Bulletin points towards a band teetering on the edge between gonzo experimental pop and straightforward rock catchiness. As the follow-up to their ambitious four-disc album, Zaireeka, The Soft Bulletin marked the band’s most daring and emotionally complex work. The compositions are loaded to the gills with lush orchestral pop. Atop that, there’s an otherworldly undertone gliding along these songs, clearly reflecting the band’s more refined sonic palette. The sound is like a multi-layered cake, rich in texture and expansive in its beautiful grandiosity.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin