10 - 6
Much like Me’Shell NdegéOcello, the mainstream buying public simply don’t like their lead singers as anything other than male, white, and heterosexual. Because of this, this ass-kicking band gets frequently dismissed because of the screeching, bald, black lesbian that fronts this motley crew. Unfortunately, Skunk Anansie’s 1995 debut Paranoid and Sunburnt was fairly uneven, but reeked of what the group was capable of. The ensemble’s follow-up, Stoosh, a softer but more precise effort, proved that it wasn’t like any other band—it was capable of shifting and reinventing its sound. Much more successful in the UK, Skunk Anansie never managed to find its footing in the US, which is a shame, because Stoosh a brilliantly accomplished ‘90s alternative/rock record.
First Band on the Moon, 1996
“Lovefool” was probably the worst thing to happen to the Cardigans. It branded this shockingly versatile band as a “one-hit wonder”, which is a travesty because the remaining 10 tracks from this, their sophomore release, combine to make a surprisingly crafty pop record. First Band on the Moon is a brilliant LP overlooked for being nothing more than Swede-Pop lite. Although it never succeeded in meeting the success of “Lovefool”, First Band on the Moon was a turning point for the Cardigans, who tightened their sound and specialized it for each release. Their previous two records, Emmerdale and Life reeked of immaturity and of a band finding its balance. On First Band, the Cardigans found that balance.
Boys for Pele, 1996
This album is often overlooked simply because Amos’ brilliant Little Earthquakes (1992) is the one record in her catalog that is chosen for inclusion in most “Best of the ‘90s” lists. However, it’s this, her “sonic novel”, that is a truly inspired masterpiece, underrated as well for its often-times inaccessibility. There’s no denying that Amos’ quirky and confusing tendencies have alienated many music fans, but if you just suspend your disbelief for five seconds, you’ll find yourself enveloped in one the most chaotic and emotional rides that ever graced “break-up” music. Boys for Pele begins with the stark “Beauty Queen/Horses” and gallops through various heavy weight themes such as blood sacrifice, suicide, adultery, religion, and the South. There are so many musical shifts and nuances that Boys for Pele is truly we-inspiring and is just as deserving a place in the “Best of the ‘90s” canon as her debut.
There were a number of female alterna-darlings in the mid-‘90s: Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair, Kristen Hersh, and Tanya Donelly. Women were making a big impact, proving that rock wasn’t relegated solely to men. Unfortunately, most of these women get passed over for their more mediocre male counterparts when anyone does a thorough reflection of the best music to come from the decade. Although many fans will argue that Belly’s debut Star is the superior of the two albums, after the occasional sloppiness of the first record Tanya Donelly’s post-Throwing Muses band tightened its act, took some songwriting lessons, and produced this magnificent 11-track rock record. Brimming with shining guitars and Donnelly’s sweet high-pitched voice, King epitomized the Gen X phenomenon, giving it a contemplative voice that was too often dismissed as fatalistic.
Martinis and Bikinis, 1994
Few of you probably even know who Sam Phillips is. Once a Christian rock star, now a superb songwriter, Phillips truly outdid herself with this, the best album of her career. From the darkly comedic record cover of Philips lying on a bed with a row of dead men underneath, to the sparse and affecting cover version of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”, Martinis and Bikinis contains both some of the best conceptual and emotional songs ever to grace the pop scene. Often overlooked by the sheer fact that most people haven’t even heard this album, it’s unfortunate that most people haven’t discovered Philips earlier. Particular album highlights: “I Need Love”, “When I Fall”, and “Black Sky”.