Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. VI, 1997


It Was A Good Decade, Vol. VI (1997)

1. Ocean Colour Scene - Hundred Mile High City
2. Hurricane #1 - Step Into My World
3. Feeder - High
4. Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong
5. Radish - Simple Sincerity
6. That Dog. - Never Say Never
7. Bouncing Souls - I Know You Love Me
8. Homie - American Girls
9. The Honeyrods - Soap Opera
10. Shudder to Think - Red House
11. Swell - Fuck Even Flow
12. Verbow - Holiday
13. Black Lab - Wash It Away
14. Days of the New - Downtown
15. Mighty Joe Plum - Stupid
16. Cravin' Melon - Come Undone
17. Lincoln - Sucker
18. The Pistoleros - My Guardian Angel
19. Farmer Not So John - Rusty Weathervane
20. Forest for the Trees - Dream

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Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. V (1996)

It could be argued that 1995 marked the end of grunge and post-grunge cornering the alternative rock market (though it reared its head in an uglier visage in the form of Creed and Nickleback a few short years later), and in turn, 1996 is a year in search of an identity--in search of the next genre that would dominate the radio waves and take bands playing dive bars in the middle of nowhere to football stadiums. It didn't really happen, but there were some valiant efforts put forth:

Power-pop: no doubt set off by the popularity of Weezer, a slew of similarly styled bands showed up in '96--notably Ash and Nada Surf, who both owed a debt to the Weezer sound (the latter even shared a producer--The Cars' Ric Ocasek--and a record label). Knoxville's Superdrag showed up with a Buzz Bin hit "Sucked Out" which mixed a punk attitude with the melodic sense of Alex Chilton. Fountains of Wayne even threatened to steal Weezer's spot as the kings of mixing clever phrasing with sugary melodies and crunching riffs (that is, if anyone had actually bought their debut). And artists like Super Deluxe and Jason Falkner, both popular with power-pop genre die-hards, made unsuccessful bids at stardom.

Ska-punk: Third-wave ska, to be exact, was a genre that, not unlike grunge, had been around since the '80s (with bands like Operation Ivy and Fishbone making a small splash in the indie scene), but didn't experience any real success until record companies found the ska-punk haven of Southern California. The scene took off with bands like Sublime and No Doubt (both of whom could only be called ska in the loosest sense of the term) making waves on MTV and rock radio. Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish and Mighty Mighty Bosstones (from Boston, but still) followed, gaining a hit or two with varying levels of success. There was a brief period of time when ska was freaking everywhere and kids were learning how to "skank" (a dance, and no it's not something Christina Aguleria created). The scene experienced something of a burnout and petered out in the early '00s as young, SoCal bands turned their interest to other, far worse genres (read: emo).

To a lesser extent:

Britpop -- which never really caught on in the U.S., despite the best efforts of Oasis (who had some success with What's the Story Morning Glory? and then sort of petered out) and Blur (who are essentially one-hit wonders in our country). Here Britpop is represented most characteristically by Kula Shaker, who are sort of like Oasis if they listened to more Deep Purple and Ravi Shankar. Lush and Ash also fit loosely into the Britpop category (though the two bands don't sound anything alike).

We also see the effects of a band like Green Day going platinum seven times (in the words of Kid Rock) with the seminal punk band Bad Religion actually getting some airplay thanks to a slick production also by Ric Ocasek (hey, the guy was hot in '96...not physically "hot," cause that guy is obviously a hideous, skeletal man-lady, but his career was certainly on fire).

There's some other bands too, that don't quite fit into any sort of genre, unless "chick-rock" counts (the similarly named Lush and Luscious Jackson), or maybe if acoustic college rock is its own genre (Jackopierce).

I got nothin' else to say, so: enjoy.


It Was A Good Decade, Vol. V, 1996

1. Birdbrain - Youth of America
2. Kula Shaker - Hey Dude
3. Hayden - Bad As They Seem
4. Ash - Girl From Mars
5. Superdrag - Destination Ursa Major
6. Nada Surf - Treehouse
7. Fountains of Wayne - Radiation Vibe
8. Jason Falkner - Miracle Medicine
9. Super Deluxe - She Came On
10. Imperial Teen - You're One
11. Cowboy Mouth - Jenny Says
12. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
13. Lush - Ladykillers
14. Limblifter - Screwed It Up
15. Bad Religion - A Walk
16. Goldfinger - Here In Your Room
17. Reel Big Fish - Beer
18. The Refreshments - Mekong
19. The Borrowers - Beautiful Struggle
20. Stir - Looking For
21. Thermadore - Amerasian
22. Jackopierce - Vineyard

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Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. IV (1995)

And we continue on with the series. This week: 1995.

A surprising amount of upbeat music on this installment, possibly as a direct reaction to the down-in-the-dumps ambiance of grunge and post grunge music. '94 birthed Weezer, and here we have at least three Weezer-influenced bands in Wax (who were friends with the guys in Weezer), The Rentals (the former being the solo project of much-missed Weezer bassist Matt Sharp) and Self (no connection, but I think they kinda sound like 'em). Besides The Rentals there are two fantastic side-project bands included: Kim Deal (Pixies, The Breeders) tried her hand at Guided By Voices style lo-fi rock with The Amps, and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains teamed up with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam to make a one-off album under the name Mad Season that sounds, well, a lot like a cross between Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam--but a good one. Beyond that, we've compiled a mixture of jazz rock (Morphine), britpop (which was reaching the states around this time in the form of bands like Supergrass, Cast and Elastica), punk (Jawbreaker) and even Christian rock (Jars of Clay)! We're talking at least half a dozen different strands of alternative rock. Truly something for everybody!

This is in the top 3 contenders for my favorite mix of the series. There was just a ton of great music to cull from this time out. So much good music in fact, that it would maybe even be possible to make a Volume II of this Volume IV. But that sounds complicated. And I'm bad at math.



It Was A Good Decade, Vol. IV, 1995

1. Self - So Low
2. Cast - Alright
3. The Rentals - Waiting
4. Wax - California
5. K's Choice - Not An Addict
6. Morphine - Honey White
7. The Amps - Tipp City
8. Toadies - Tyler
9. Black Grape - Kelly's Heroes
10. Supergrass - Alright
11. Rocket from the Crypt - On A Rope
12. Sparklehorse - Someday I Will Treat You Good
13. Sweet Water - Feed Yourself
14. Jars of Clay - Flood
15. Scarce - Freakshadow
16. Elastica - Stutter
17. Jawbreaker - Fireman
18. Dragmules - Send Away
19. The Mother Hips - Shut The Door
20. For Squirrels - Mighty KC
21. Tripping Daisy - I Got A Girl
22. Mad Season - River of Deceit

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Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. III (1994)

Quick word! I'd like to thank the great Dave Holmes (@DaveHolmes on Twitter) for bringing a lot of people to the site for these mixes. He's a hilarious guy, a fantastic tweeter and everyone should follow him and watch/buy everything he does. ALSO, for those of you who have figured out time travel technology, your first duty should be to go back to 1998 and vote for Dave on MTV's Wanna Be A VJ contest so he doesn't have to do that very gracious "oh, great, the guy who can't think won!" reaction when Jesse Camp is announced as winner.* That contest was so rigged. Seriously, it really was.

Hope everyone enjoys the mixes. More to come soon.

*(Even though it didn't really matter in the end since MTV hired Dave anyway and he had his job a good two years longer than Jesse, who I assume now makes his home with roommate Teck Holmes in a Port-a-John behind a Baja Fresh frequented by John Sencio, but still)


It Was A Good Decade Vol. III, 1994

1. Pete Droge - If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)
2. Better Than Ezra - In the Blood
3. The Connells - Slackjawed
4. Widespread Panic - Can't Get High
5. Jackopierce - Late Shift
6. The Sons feat. Bret Reilly - Too Much of a Good Thing
7. Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies - Shakin' The Blues
8. Giant Sand - Yer Ropes
9. Velvet Crush - Hold Me Up
10. Gigolo Aunts - Where I Find My Heaven
11. Zumpano - The Party Rages On
12. Sugar - Gee Angel
13. Sebadoh - Skull
14. Sponge - Molly (Sixteen Candles)
15. Redd Kross - Yesterday Once More
16. Echobelly - Insomniac
17. Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy
18. Jawbox - Savory
19. Cake Like - Suck
20. Sausage - Riddles Are Abound Tonight

Click album art to download or just click here.


Dionne Farris (formerly of Arrested Development) - "I Know"

Settle down class! Welcome to Hip-Hop 101 for White People.

Now, we're preparing to do one of these hackneyed blog posts where I pretend to be a teacher in a classroom and you are my students. This is an easy (read: lazy) way to try to teach readers about something potentially boring without boring them to death.

Today's topic of discussion is one Dionne Farris.

Student: Sir, is that the athlete?

Funny you should ask, Dudley. I'm afraid not. That's Deion Sanders aka Neon Deion aka Prime Time. Although he did have a brief career in hip-hop, so I suppose the confusion isn't completely insane, just mildly so.

Student: Oh. My name's Doug, by the way.

Did you just correct me? Do you have brain damage? Get out. Take your books. Don't come back. Insolence will not be tolerated.

Now that that matter is settled. Let us go back to the days when hip-hop was still a means of educating the youth. The days when hip-hop was seen as a way to speak to all races about social issues. Let us go back to the early 1990s.

Around 1992, hip-hop was still finding its place fitting into the mainstream. Gangsta rap was coming in from the coasts in the form of Dr. Dre, Tupac, etc., but it hadn't yet reached the masses on the levels it soon would. We were out of the age of Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash had pop-rappers like MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and co.--guys who had no street cred whatsoever and were basically trading in on a cartoon version of hip-hop. We had party rappers like Naughty By Nature who just wanted to have a good time. But, in the end, white people still weren't quite sure what to make of these tight rhythms and well-spun rhymes. The future of hip-hop was up for grabs, and for a minute there, it could have gone several ways, one of the ways being a slightly groovier, less violent and more socially conscious (albeit less cartoonishly entertaining) type of hip-hop.

Enter Arrested Development.

Student: Arrested Development? I love that show!
No, you fool. Not that Arrested Development (look forward to the movie coming 2035!).

This Arrested Development.

The hip-hop group that was socially and racially conscious while still being catchy and entertaining, they were the musical equivalent to an early Spike Lee or John Singleton "message" movie that were popular around the same time. White people could listen to this group and actually enjoy the music and only feel guilty when the lyrics told them to. Perfect.

The Atlanta, GA based group came along in 1992--a time when socially conscious hip-hop stars dressed in traditional African clothing--instead of baseball caps and hoodies--could still be featured prominently on MTV. They were part of a loose genre dubbed "alternative hip-hop." This was back when anything that contained socially redeeming qualities and didn't appeal to the lowest common denomniator was dubbed "alternative." Alternative hip-hop was a fresh take on the already tired use of heavy drum and bass typically used in hardcore and gangsta rap. The music combined influences from folk, funk, jazz, reggae, and even post-punk. The production was often influenced by DJs, sampling decidedly uncool artists like Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, and Johnny Cash among others, utilizing them more for fills than samples or hooks. Critics have likened the struggle between alternative hip-hop and gangsta rap as vaguely congruous to the rock world's tug-of-war between alternative rock and glam metal--except in this case, the alt. hip-hop community never birthed a Kurt Cobain to save the day from the likes of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Some of these artists experienced momentary success--individuals like De La Soul and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and groups like Digital Underground. However, it should be noted that the success of those groups was (unfortunately) mostly in a novelty capacity with nonsense party songs like "Mistadobalina" and "The Humpty Dance."

Arrested Development, on the other hand, did something Behind the Music would refer to as "sweeping the nation," first with "Tennessee" and then with their follow-up, "Mr. Wendal," a song that had the capacity to at once make you hum along and bob your head while simultaneously making you feel like shit for ignoring that crazy homeless guy yelling at you every time you pass him on the way to work. They were serious artists and tackled serious issues. Spike Lee was so impressed with the group that he asked them to write a song for his 1992 biopic Malcolm X.

"Tennessee," "Mr. Wendal" and a third single, "People Everyday," all hit the top ten and helped their debut 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... sell 4 million copies. Everyone just had to have that cassette, man. Sam Goody sold out of that shit with the quickness. In 1993, AD won multiple Grammys, and were held in high regard as the future of hip-hop--a hip-hop that wasn't appealing to the lowest common denominator and was informing youth, instead of just scaring the shit out of them. Then they made a second album, 1994's Zingalamaduni, but their style of music was already mostly out of fashion, and despite going gold, failed to reach expectations. In 1996, the group broke up.

But not all of them. Dionne Farris--the group's female vocalist--who had made quite a splash with her contributions to AD's album--particularly "Tennessee," left the group before their second album. And despite the mellow vibes present in AD's music, it's interesting to note that she actually left the vibes between Farris and the rest of the group weren't quite so groovy (could I be whiter?).

After working as a young singer in New Jersey and Manhattan (and enjoyed a brief stint with the female vocal group Onyx), Farris moved to Atlanta to live with her father in 1990 and started dating Arrested Development's drummer. The group was looking for a female voice for their songs and Farris obliged them. While Farris' role in Arrested Development was a bit of a gray area (she wasn't considered an official member) the attention she got from the press and fans created strife between she and AD front man Speech. Farris, seeing the writing on the wall and an opportunity, left the group and set to work on a solo career.

Though offered a deal with Arrested Development's record label, Farris rejected it in favor of one that might offer her more creative freedom. Wrangling a team of musicians and songwriting partners from the Atlanta-based band Follow For Now, Farris recorded a demo tape. The tape made its way to the desk of Sony executives who then signed her to a deal.

The album, Wild Seed -- Wild Flower was a delightful and serious take on everything that influenced Farris--r&b, soul, folk, blues, rock, and hip-hop. The album was critically acclaimed for its diversity and blending of styles--not to mention Farris's vocal prowess.

The single, "I Know," was a good representative of the album's sound--rootsy but modern, looking back to old styles while looking ahead to new ones, melding rock, folk and blues with soul and hip-hop. The song juxtaposes a dirty blues slide guitar riff with a hip-hop sensibility--at once taking what she learned in Arrested Development and expounding on it.

The song was a massive hit, playing on nearly every station format everywhere in 1995, peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Top 40. It was even a world wide hit, charting high in Australia, New Zealand and France and hitting #41 in the UK. The song was ranked #11 on Billboard's year end Hot 100 list.

Farris appeared on Saturday Night Live and the song was used on that show New York Undercover which was an inexplicable hit for about five minutes. Later, Harris released two more singles from the album, "Don't Ever Touch Me Again" and "Passion," neither of which charted.

"Don't Ever Touch Me Again" is a pretty standard and good choice for a second single, as its one of the poppier tracks on a CD that is heavy on R&B and soul. It's different enough from "I Know" to show that the hit wasn't a fluke, but catchy enough to connect with the same audience. A mid-tempo, moody track, "Touch Me Again" moves along at a clip with wah-wah guitar, percussive strings and a catchy chorus. Granted, it's not as good as "I Know"--the set of verses aren't quite on par with the killer pre-chorus or chorus. It's slightly surprising the track didn't at least chart, as it's a fine slice of mid-'90s R&B pop. But few songs can possess the energy and catchiness of "I Know" without being supremely annoying.

"Passion" (co-written by Harris, unlike "I Know") oscillates between a neo-soul song on the verses and a hard-rocking--Living Colour-style metal, really--song on the chorus. It's an interesting, schizo dynamic, and a unique song, but ultimately lacks the pop hooks to be a mainstream hit like "I Know" or even "Don't Ever Touch Me Again." Ultimately it's a weak second stab at a follow-up.

Unsurprisingly, the album didn't sell as well as the single, and only got up to #57 on the album charts. It's always a revealing statistic when people don't really buy the album--it's like they somehow know that while they really dig the song, the album probably won't tickle their pickle.

Student: Um, sir?

Yes, Sharon?

Student: Did you just say "tickle their pickle"? I think that's sexual harassment.

Why, yes it is, Sharon. Yes it is. Moving on.

Her second and final hit came from a song called "Follow," a track that appeared on the highly popular Love Jones soundtrack in 1997 (Larenz Tate 4ever!).

The track did well on the charts, although there is no concrete information on the information superhighway as to what number it actually reached (her website describes it as "chart-topping"). Sorry. :-(

Student: Is that an emoticon, sir?

And what of it? I would suggest you ignore my stranger proclivities if you know what's good for you, Oliver.

Student: It's Andy.


Let's continue. As the album was quite good and filled with engaging tracks, one naturally wants to look for the fatal flaw that only allowed the singer one hit--albeit one monster hit.

So what was it? Too much political commentary? Not really--the album was more introspective than political. Was Farris not good looking enough? Not showing enough skin? Well, by today's standards, probably not, but this was 1994 when people who didn't get buck naked and bend over for the camera could still be successful. The album had great songs, great production, everything.

The problem? Randy Jackson.

Student: You mean the American Idol judge? He's so nice. I love when he calls people "dawg!"

WRONG. He's evil.

I'm evil, dawg

Jackson served as "Executive Producer" on Wild Seed--Wild Flower. How could he have brought it down, you ask? The answer is, don't ask. You just know. You look at Jackson with his Jackson brand bass painted like a craps table and his casino themes pleather jacket that would look tacky on a Nascar track and that gravity defying two-foot flattop upon his head..you just look at all that and you know nothing but pure evil is pumping through his veins. By aligning herself with such evil, Ms. Farris never had a chance to go beyond wherever Jackson would allow her. If you look closely at the video for "Follow," you can see him sitting there with his bass, laughing like he can't wait to pawn this poor woman's soul.

Maybe some of that is true, maybe none of that is true (editor's note: none of it is true), but let's just agree that Dionne Farris could have done a duty for one Ruben Studdard and warned him about the true evil that lurked behind those glasses.

Following a twelve year hiatus, during which Farris gave birth and took time off to raise a child, she released a new album in 2007, For Truth If Not Love, which unfortunately seems to have stayed under the radar.

Dionne, if you're reading. You know who's responsible.

Yo. Class dismissed, dawgs.

Student: Did you call us "dawgs"?

Yes. And not one of you vomited. You all fail. Get out of my sight, cretins.

The First Single: Dionne Farris - I Know
The Second (er...Fourth?) Single: Dionne Farris - Hopeless


Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. II (1993)


It Was a Good Decade, Vol. II (1993)
1. The Connells - '74-'75
2. BoDeans - Feed the Fire
3. Dillon Fence - Poor Poor Lonely
4. The Freddy Jones Band - In a Daydream
5. The Samples - Feel Us Shaking
6. James - Laid
7. Redd Kross - Lady in a Front Row
8. Jellyfish - The Ghost at Number One
9. Archers of Loaf - Web in Front
10. Suede - Metal Mickey
11. Urge Overkill - Sister Havana
12. Dig - Believe
13. Catherine Wheel - Crank
14. Seaweed - Losing Skin
15. Cop Shoot Cop - $10 Bill
16. Best Kissers in the World - Miss Teen USA
17. Pond - Young Splendor
18. Paw - Jessie
19. Bivouac - The Bell Foundry
20. The Spinanes - Manos
21. Swervedriver - Dual

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Download: It Was A Good Decade, Vol. 1 (1990-1992) - The Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda-been Hits of the '90s

Don't let the name set you off.

This isn't a mix tape of a bunch of nobodies. These are talented groups. Some could be called one-hit wonders (if you wanted to use such obnoxious nomenclature--perish the thought), but most are no-hit wonders. Some experienced success through live shows and word of mouth, but only a few experienced any real radio play.

But what they all have in common is being victims of a collective cultural amnesia. That is to say that, while The Sundays may be remembered by you and me, they don't get a ton of airplay on Jack FM (though, admittedly, this song was on Sirius/XM the other day). But they don't get the same nostalgic attention as even most of the one-hit wonders featured here.

And unlike some of the one-hit wonders we've covered, pretty much all of these bands have a lot of talent. Most all of them could have and should have taken off. Pretty much every song featured in this series was a single. Many of these bands were on majors. The bands gave it a shot. They weren't afraid of success. These artists had more than one song in them, and often more than one or two albums in them. In another time (which usually means the '70s in these type of discussions), they would have been nurtured and cultivated by a caring A&R man at a record label who cared about making art--or at least that's how the myth goes. I dunno. Maybe they would have tanked in any time period. No matter. This series (7-discs!) will span from 1990-1998 and try to compile the best music that either you never heard (and if you did hear it, you probably forgot all about it after you sold it to Blockbuster Music or Media Play for a buck back in '99).

(a special shout-out to my friends at AltCountryTab.ca for helping me compile the playlists. As someone who was still very young for most of the '90s, I needed lots of help from people who actually sought out cool music in the '90s.)


It Was A Good Decade, Vol. 1 (1990-1992)

1. The Posies - Golden Blunders
2. Drivin' N Cryin' - Fly Me Courageous
3. The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends
4. The Charlatans - The Only One I Know
5. Inspiral Carpets - This Is How It Feels
6. Soup Dragons - I'm Free
7. Ride - Taste
8. Chapterhouse - Pearl
9. Concrete Blonde - Joey
10. Ned's Atomic Dust Bin - Gray Cell Green
11. School of Fish - 3 Strange Days
12. Reverend Horton Heat - Bad Reputation
13. Material Issue - Valarie Loves Me
14. Flop - Hello
15. Miracle Legion - Snacks and Candy
16. Screaming Trees - Nearly Lost You
17. Sloan - Underwhelmed
18. Eugenius - Flame On
19. Sugar - Helpless
20. Bettie Serveert - Tom Boy
21. Buffalo Tom - Mineral

Click album art to download or just click here.

Check back next week for Volume 2!