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 1999!
Eminem – “My Name Is”
This is how a white trailer park punk who wears his problems and prescriptions proudly like a badge introduces himself to the world. He came out fresh: incendiary, self-lacerating, and experimental, with a candy-coated beat from Dre. For a debut single, it’s bratty and caustic, but also, wickedly aware of the pop culture landscape it’s thrusting itself upon. Wouldn’t be crazy to imagine a young Kendrick Lamar or a tiny Earl Sweatshirt bumping this as a kid.
The Magnetic Fields – “The Book of Love”
From Stephin Merritt’s magnum opus 69 Love Songs. “The book of love has music in it/ in fact, that is where music comes from/ some of it is just transcendental, some of it is just really dumb.” The Magnetic Fields do a complicated tango here — indeed a triumph on the album. At once, Merrit takes a snarky potshot at the long history of the love song and our cultural ideas on love (like dancing and gift-giving; all pages in the book of love), but also validates them as reactions to that most inexorable emotion. And he does all that in a love song.
Sigur Rós – “Olsen Olsen”
“Olsen Olsen” is a good representation of the Sigur Rós sound from Ágætis Byrjun (OW-guy-tis bi-r-yun) forward — lush orchestration, Jónsi’s bowed guitar, and the inevitable crashing catharses (That’s right, like more than one catharsis, dependably). While they rarely get radio love, their gargantuan, sublime sound has made them the darlings of many a television and movie soundtrack.
The Flaming Lips – “Race for the Prize”
The Soft Bulletin has been called the Pet Sounds of the ’90s — symphonic and texturally complex, while still accessible, if not catchy as hell. It turned a group of indie pop experimenters into masters. In the video, we see Coyne, the affable leader, fronting his weirdo orchestra as, unbeknownst to them, they race into “best of the decade” lists everywhere.
The Dismemberment Plan – “The City”
Their sound lands somewhere between Fugazi and The Tom Tom Club — an unassuming bunch that seemed almost devoid of the “coolness” of other indie rock bands. But let’s not be coy, the D-Plan were heralds of the late ’90s dance punk movement. On “The City,” Travis Morrison sings about longing over a quick, bouncy beat and ragged eighths on the guitar, while a fat synth rolls around towards an all-engines-go rock out.