Mercury Rev - Deserter’s Songs
1998 - V2
Of all the exclusions on Treble’s lists the lack of Deserter’s Songs and Uncle Tupelo are most glaring to me. The lush orchestral production of David Fridmann, who went on to helm The Flaming Lips’ classic The Soft Bulletin soon after, provides the foundation for a huge musical departure from the band’s earlier psyche-rock. Deserter’s Songs is a dark and druggy song cycle that bleeds earnesty without ever sounding sentimental. On any given day this is one of my favorite albums. Period.
The Lemonheads - It’s A Shame About Ray
1992 - Atlantic
Though Evan Dando’s emergence as the heartthrob of the alternative nation damaged his street cred, there’s no denying what It’s A Shame About Ray is - an endlessly melodic batch of folk-pop nuggets that was all over modern rock radio during the height of grunge.
Silver Jews - American Water
1998 - Drag City
Quite simply, American Water may be the lyrical highpoint of the decade. David Berman tosses off line after line of “did he just say that?” poetry that sits atop his band’s (which features Stephen Malkmus) meandering folk-rock. “Random Rules” is unforgettable - and just the tip of the iceberg.
American Music Club - Mercury
1993 - Reprise
I bought Mercury without ever hearing a note after reading a review. I know, that’s practically unheard of in 2008. In 1993 I did this with some degree of frequency, and Mercury was one of a few big payoffs. Though the eclectic music and brooding baritone of Mark Eitzel were a challenging first listen, in short order it became a favorite, and remains an album I go to often on long, lonely nights.
The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
1992 - Def American
Though Shake Your Money Maker made them stars, it was their sophomore album where the Crowes really impressed. This is a dirty slab of Southern fried blues-rock with a batch of songs that surpasses those of their debut. “Sometimes Salvation” in particular is the sound of a band reaching their potential and tearing it to shreds.
The Tragically Hip - Fully Completely
1993 - MCA
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include an album from the Hip on this list - they were my favorite band from about age 19 to 25. Fully Completely is their 4th album, and it’s a tense song cycle that brings to life singer Gordon Downie's take on Canadian myth. With a full on rock band blazing away behind him.
Sinead O’Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
1990 - Chrysalis
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an album as harrowingly personal as this. O’Connor lays her soul bare, and though “Nothing Compares 2 U” was the monster hit, songs like “Black Boys On Mopeds”, “Three Babies”, “The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance” and others are equally as powerful. O’Connor demonstrates a mastery over multiple styles, as the songs veer from a cappela and trip hop to folk rock to dream pop.