The best of 1996 mix tape
1996 was one of the most difficult mix tapes to narrow down to an hour. Unlike 1991, there were not several classic releases that demanded inclusion, but rather a fairly large number of really good releases without much to separate them from the others. Were Sucked Out by Superdrag or Novocaine for the Soul by Eels better than songs by Stone Temple Pilots or Bush or Pearl Jam? Is FU-GEE-LA by the Fugees better than a handful of tracks from Beats, Rhymes, and Rhythm? Maybe, and I would suggest probably, but it definitely took longer for me to narrow down the starting list of 40 or so tracks down to the 14 included here.
The end result is that I’m probably less sure about the final list here, and in a week or so I’ll probably get a hankering to make some changes to it, but once I write it down here and hit publish it will be too late. I’ll just live with the results.
As always, criteria for inclusion is here, and the rest of the best of the 1990s mixes are here. (And again, if you wondering why there is so little rap here, it’s pretty simple: I’ve got kids, and I play these mixes in front of them all the time, so no TuPac, Wu Tang, etc even if I was inclined to include them.)
Devils Haircut – Beck
Well hello, Mr. Hanson. Nice to see you. Grab your two turntables and a microphone and get comfortable, as I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of you in the coming years.
Sucked Out – Superdrag
Literally the last song to make the list, just edging out STP’s Lady Picture Show. This kind of Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello-inspired guitar pop is just right in my wheelhouse though, so when in doubt I’m always going to defer to it. Sorry STP, you had a good run.
FU-GEE-LA – The Fugees
I will defend The Score as one of the best hip hop albums of the 90s to just about anybody, even if mid-40s white guys talking about hip hop is intrinsically hilarious. Great beats though.
Follow You Down – The Gin Blossoms
Just in case there was, in fact, any doubt that I’m a mid-40s white guy, here’s some more Gin Blossoms! Get some of that Dad Rock! Your ridicule does not faze me one bit, just wait until the 2000s when the parade of The National and the Walkmen starts.
Dramamine – Modest Mouse
I do love me some Modest Mouse. Isn’t it about time for them to put out a new album? Seems like the last one was ages ago.
Three Marlenas – The Wallflowers
If I ever update the list in a surge of hipster dufus, music snob-fueled guilt, this is likely the first track to go. It’s a good one though, so I feel good about including it. No, really I do. For now.
Me and the Major – Belle and Sebastian
Call it twee or sad bastard music (thanks for that, Jack Black) or whatever you want, I call it good. Had a half dozen B&S track that could have taken this spot, but this one off If You’re Feeling Sinister is a long-time favorite.
Criminal – Fiona Apple
This is just a massive, giant, undeniable tsunami of track, and it demands your attention and inclusion here.
Novocaine for the Soul – Eels
Is this the best song ever written? No, of course not. But it is a really good one and it also happens to fit really well here and screams mid-90s, so, why the heck not?
E-Bow the Letter – R.E.M.
I’ve said this before, but New Adventures in Hi Fi is not just my favorite later period R.E.M. album, it is my favorite R.E.M. album period. Sure it’s a track or two too long, but I love every inch of it, even you, Zither. This tracks wins out because, duh, it’s awesome and PATTI FREAKING SMITH.
King of New Orleans – Better Than Ezra
What’s that? You still don’t believe that I’m a mid-40s white guy? Would including some Better Than Ezra convince you? Yes, I thought it would. Glad that is settled.
Organ Donor – DJ Shadow
Does the fact that I bought Endtroducing when it came out earn back any of my hipster music cred? Maybe, just a little? No? Ok, thanks anyway.
Beautiful Ones – Suede
Speaking of bands that scream 90s, I think Suede may be the poster child for that category. Good stuff.
Misunderstood – Wilco
Much like the way Street Spirit (Fade Out) signaled that Radiohead was about to drop something amazing and evolutionary with Ok Computer, Misunderstood foreshadowed some of the coming greatness from Tweedy & Co.
That’s all 14. Here’s the Spotify version for your listening subscribing pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I leave out, Children or the 90s?