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I’m not a fan of the “Best of” terminology, because what’s “best” in my eyes probably isn’t “best” in yours. Plus, “best” implies that an album (or EP) matches some pre-defined set of criteria, which usually aren’t even articulated. So I’m going with my “favorite” records of 1999… no justifications, no quabbles. You can’t argue with me, so there! So here goes:


First Team:



Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, I See A Darkness (Palace) Spare and brooding and intense (and almost paradoxiaclly uplifting), Will Oldham, who in multiple incarnations has been for years playing musical variations of the young appalachian preacher character he played in John Sayles’ Matewan, finally concentrates on melody for the span of an entire record. The results are glorious.


Marine Research, Sounds From the Gulf Stream (K) A perfect independent pop record, the likes of which I haven’t heard in years. Heavenly taken to a full three dimensions.


Superchunk, Come Pick Me Up (Merge) My favorite band of the last three years doesn’t know how to make a bad record. Intelligent lyrics, pop hooks, and just enough evolution with each release to keep things from going sour. I hope they never break up.


Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs (Merge) Merge Records is on a super-roll. My favorite release for 1998 was Neutral Milk Hotel, and now the ‘Chunk and the Magnetic Fields are right there for ‘99. True Experimental [pop] Music Love.


The Dismemberment Plan, Emergency and I (DeSoto) “Like every ‘new wave’, ‘alternative’ and ‘punk rock’ band you’ve ever heard, but so NOT like any of them”. That’s about the only way I can describe this record. I’m blown away.


Second Team:


  • Les Savy Fav, The Cat and the Cobra (Frenchkiss)
  • Built to Spill, Keep It Like A Secret (Warner Bros.)
  • The Promise Ring, Very Emergency (Jade Tree)
  • Pedro the Lion, The Only Reason I Feel Secure EP (Made In Mexico)
  • Burning Airlines, Mission: Control! (DeSoto)
  • Rainer Maria, Look Now Look Again (Polyvinyl)
  • Rocket From The Crypt, Cut Carefully and Play Loud 12” EP (Flapping Jet)

Honorable Mention:


  • Fugazi, Instrument soundtrack
  • Pinhead Gunpowder, Shoot the Moon EP (Adeline)
  • Quasi, Field Studies (Up)
  • Jawbreaker, Live 4/30/96 (Blackball)
  • Sunny Day Real Estate, Live (Sub Pop)
  • Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin (Warner Bros.)
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