[feature] New Year’s Count-Up: 1998 in five songs

Boards of Canada, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Air, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Together at last.

- Dec 20, 2012

As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 1998!

Boards of Canada - "Roygbiv"

boards of canada - roygbiv

BOC's debut full-length Music Has the Right to Children stands as a bible for analogue synth nerds everywhere. The Scottish brothers use equipment and tones that flavoured horror and sci-fi soundtracks of the '70s and '80s to write melodies that range from hulking and droning to airy and spindly. Punctuated with field recordings and fastened together with a cruising downtempo groove, "Roygbiv" feels like free champagne in first class, 35,000 feet in the air.

Lauryn Hill - "Lost Ones"

While the Fugees were much-loved, Lauryn Hill's solo debut apart from the group, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, has become a lasting document of the new sound of soul — placing R&B and hip-hop, beside more traditional soul elements. But sometimes, with all this "voice of new soul" talk, I forget just how good Hill is at rapping. "Lost Ones" serves as a reminder. Here, Hill gets her patois on and spits viciously against her ex-lover and bandmate Wyclef Jean.

Jay-Z - "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"

Jay Z Hard knock life

The Jigga man piggybacks an Annie sample to crossover success. For a post-Biggie-and-Tupac radio world, that innocent refrain, "It's the hard knock life for us," came off as most non-threatening and welcome. It was like a spoonful of sugar that sweetened the harder verses, whilst nodding at the type of ghetto stories that North America had acquired the taste for. But just because this sounded like safe rap, doesn't mean it wasn't good rap...comparing the outcry of a depression-era orphanage to the problems of the hood was a touch subversive and a whole bunch inspired.

Air - "La Femme D'argent"

Air - La Femme D'Argent

Meanwhile, in France, Air releases their debut full-length Moon Safari to critical acclaim. Grown fat on Jean Michel Jarre, Serge Gainsborough, europop and probably, cheese, the duo sounds loungier, sexier, and cooler than anything on North American radio. Here, the interplay of that Rhodes and the warm, woody bass make just about the perfect ear stuff for any comedown, afterparty or really, anytime you just want to close your eyes and disappear for seven minutes or so.

Neutral Milk Hotel - "Holland 1945"

Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945

Smack in the middle of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea's funeral march, a party breaks out. This is Neutral Milk Hotel in all their rollicking, lo-fi folk pop glory. Mangum takes his voice, that little nasally ball that it is, and throws it as high and as far as he can without any care. Absolutely everything is covered in fuzz. It's exactly the kind of thing that could grow untended out of the basements and garages of Ruston, Louisiana, pop. 20,000.

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