After reading a solid month of “decade’s best” lists, I couldn’t help but think back to my “Best Album of the ‘90s” pick, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I occasionally have pangs of regret not choosing Radiohead’s OK Computer because technically, I believe it’s a superior album. But in general, I have no qualms about letting this pick stand because while other albums may have defined their specific genres like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Guyville perfectly encapsulated not one but two major defining trends of that decade: the rise of a new generation of female singer/songwriters and the do-it-yourself ethos of indie rock, which took on a whole new life this past decade.
When Phair’s album came out (and several years after), most people I talked to readily brought up one of two songs: “Flower” and “Divorce Song”. For many, “Flower” was often-quoted because of the brazen, graphic lyrics, which was one of the first major elements of the album that made critics take notice. At one party, a fellow student talked about how she quoted the lyrics to her boyfriend whom she didn’t think knew the artist or album, and the boyfriend said “Can you say something to me that did not come from a Liz Phair song?”