Depending what age you were in 1995, the year left a different impression on you. For me, the only thing I recall is going to see Toy Story and mildly enjoying it, I guess. Being an average four-year-old, I didn’t have much exposure to quality music at the time, aside from the occasional Fred Penner cassette the parents would put on in the car.
But In 1995, what Fred Penner was to me, Radiohead was for someone else. Or Pulp. Or Blur, etc. It turns out that while there already exists an abundance of these nostalgic “looking back” lists on thousands of blogs, 1995 was simply a good year for music, A damn good year, and I just can’t resist. Specifically, the summertime brought forth a number of tasty releases. Looking at the period starting at the beginning of June and lasting through the end of September, I found at least 20 records that remain close to my heart.
Of course, nobody has time to stomach that much of my mediocre musings in one sitting, so lucky for you, I narrowed the list down to 10.
First off, It needs to be said that at least three iconic records are missing from this list due to untimely Autumn releases (Oasis’s …Morning Glory narrowly misses the cut with an October 3rd release date). Second, I apologize for the lack of hip-hop from the list. It’s not a question of personal taste, it just happened to be that way, OK?
Now, without further ado, here’s a selection of hand picked records that are celebrating a 20th anniversary this summer.
Somewhat of a departure from the politically charged post-hardcore of their earlier work, the members of Fugazi were granted more creative control over the production of their fourth LP. The end result was a looser, more patient series of arrangements that echoed noise-rock and psychedelic.
Little was compromised, and Red Medicine still provides the trademarked educated angst that defines Fugazi.
The record was well received upon release, and while often buried by more prolific releases from their contemporaries, Red Medicine has its place among the best independent albums of the decade.
Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette (released June 13, 1995)
Probably the biggest commercial success on this list, pundits often underestimate the importance of Jagged Little Pill in favour of its karaoke-friendliness for years to come.
Not only a career breakthrough for Morissette, Jagged Little Pill was the long-awaited album that brought angsty female alternative to the mainstream. Morissette’s shrill voice echoes emotional wreckage surrounding breakups, paternal pressure and the frustration of just getting by in life. Five Grammy Awards and over 33 million copies sold worldwide, it’s apparent that Morissette found the winning formula to boost her career tenfold.
Post – Bjork (released June 13, 1995)
Boasting one of the most eclectic careers in modern music, Bjork’s third LP Post is a beautiful documentation of someone realizing their true potential.
A down-tempo successor to the deep-house dance of 1993’s Debut, the record is a majestic, ethereal trip-hop adventure, occasionally interrupted by quirky big-band ballads. While Bjork would eventually perfect the art of balancing electronic beats and string arrangements later on her career, Post is a gateway record to her more atmospheric later work and is simply magnificent. Post is regarded as one of the best albums of the nineties, along with her 1997 follow-up Homogenic.
1995 is commonly documented as the height of the Brit-pop rock phenomenon. While contemporary heavyweights Oasis and Blur were engaged in intense chart battles throughout the year, a four-piece from Wigan (just a stone’s throw away from Oasis’ native Manchester) was matching them stride-for-stride with sky-high arena rock that grabbed the attention of the masses.
A Northern Soul is chock-full of swirling guitar jams that cradle the introspective lyrics of Richard Ashcroft. While the title track is a tasty homage to their Psychedelic roots, the rest of the album is an alternative masterpiece that (maybe) wouldn’t sound (too) awkward if Eddie Vedder was providing the vocals. A Northern Soul has aged well, and receives critical acclaim to this day.
Exit Planet Dust – The Chemical Brothers (released June 26, 1995)
Emerging from the waning years of the “Madchester” rave scene, it was almost perfect timing for Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons to put out the next electronic banger in a year desperately needing one. Exit Planet Dust was the debut LP of the duo, and the beginning of a reign on European rave culture.
Lead-heavy break-beats, adrenalized Roland 100 synth riffs, and exotic percussion samples make the Brothers revered both by Ibiza ravers and experimental rock fans.
Not quite disco and not quite acid house, Exit…was unlike any other album at the time. It’s regarded as a top candidate for best electronic album ever, and continued to chart in sales five years after it’s release.
Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters (released July 4, 1995)
If Kurt Cobain’s suicide was the death of Grunge, then the Foo Fighter’s debut album is the Eulogy. From the ashes came Foo Fighters. Compared to the band’s later releases, the sound is considered primal and gritty. Everything traditional Pacific Northwest alternative embodied.
However, the fact that 99% of it is completely written and performed by Dave Grohl makes any imperfections more than justified. One of the few tender moments on the album, “Big Me” is a manifest of everything Grohl was feeling Post-Nirvana – cathartic yet uninspired.
The end result provided a spark at an otherwise gloomy time in alternative rock. Music fans didn’t know it at the time, but Grohl and Foo Fighters would go on to become modern rock legends.
Despite the tragic conclusion to his career in 2003, Elliot Smith was for a period in the late 20th century one of the best at crafting delicate guitar melodies, complimented by equally delicate vocals.
On his sophomore self-titled release, he laid his emotions as bare as the instrumentation on the record. With a subject matter largely based around drug abuse (notably the heroin anthem “Needle In The Hay”), Smith was already well acquainted with melancholy and frustration over personal experiences.
What made Smith special was how he was able to channel ugly feelings into beautiful, tender melodies. Something few modern artists have been able to replicate, let alone master. Elliot Smith is the first of a magnificent series of releases from Smith.
Garbage – Garbage (released August 15, 1995)
Much like the Foo Fighter’s album on this list, Garbage’s innovative debut signaled a new phase for Alternative rock following the surge of grunge in the early part of the decade.
Originally a studio project spearheaded by iconic alternative rock producer Butch Vig, Garbage utilized heavy overdubbing and sampling of guitar riffs and bass grooves. Garbage is essentially a melting pot of genres: There’s rock, electronica, trip-hop and pop blended into a sonic concoction. Through the experienced ear of Vig, the soupy mess of hooks and noise is layered carefully through a diligent production process.
Shirley Manson’s dark, yet undeniably sexy lyrics are the perfect match for such an unconventional creation. It’s no surprise that Garbage was a major critical and commercial success upon release, arguably the high point of the band’s existence.
The Great Escape – Blur (released September 11, 1995)
Blur had much to live up to following the release of their Britpop gem Parklife the year before.
The Great Escape was seen initially as a satisfying response. Speaking in commercial terms, Blur outsold the rest of the competition by scores, even beating out their heated rivals Oasis by reaching the top of the charts with lead single “Country House”. In only 15 months, Blur transformed into Britpop royalty.
What people may not know, is the band was somewhat indifferent to the album, and it signaled a shift in hierarchy between Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon in controlling the musical direction of the group.
In essence, The Great Escape is a charming record that bounces all the way through. Lyrics of loneliness and loss masked by bright guitar melodies, and the 63-minute runtime breezes by effortlessly. Compared to the dissonant nature of their follow-up, 1997’s Blur, it can be argued that this is Blur’s last good pop record.
Clouds Taste Metallic – Flaming Lips (released September 19, 1995)
By 1995, the Lips were already veterans of the Mid-Western alternative rock scene, and had built a solid career out of garage jams with careening guitar melodies, fuzzy bass riffs and crashing drums.
Vocalist Wayne Coyne had long-been charming listeners with his eccentric lyrics about spaceships and girls who put Vaseline on toast. Clouds Taste Metallic is an important record because it signaled the end of a 10-year-plus era for the Lips.
This was the last time they would write a record that relied on guitar-driven tunes to carry the load.
With the help of storied indie rock producer David Fridmann, Clouds Taste Metallic is the crossroads in the career of the quirky bunch from Oklahoma City.
However, the Lips would stick with Fridmann for some of their more groundbreaking experimental-folk records such as 1999’s The Soft Bulletin and 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Ultimately, it’s fun to go through Clouds and pick up the tendencies that become more prevalent in the Lip’s future releases.
Chris Dowbiggin is a graduate of broadcast journalism at Sheridan College. Besides Ultimate Frisbee, his true passions lie in his musings on music and pop culture. You can follow him on twitter here.