This was my official Top 10 album list for 1998:
1. Baxter Baxter
2. The Jesus And Mary Chain Munki
3. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
4. Massive Attack Mezzanine
5. Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs
6. Space Tin Planet
7. PJ Harvey Is This Desire?
8. 54-40 Since When
9. Godspeed You Black Emperor! F#A#∞
10. The Inbreds Winning Hearts
Not to be confused with the post-hardcore band Baxter featuring Tim McIlrath, later of Rise Against, the Baxter I’m talking about were a Swedish electronica trio signed to Madonna’s Maverick label. I still stand by their self-titled debut album and listen to it today. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best, most slept on records of the ’90s.
Singer Nina Ramsby cooed morbid Nordic spells over an elegant wash of drum ‘n’ bass in songs that were just a touch too jagged and heartbroken to rank as car commercial sellout techno. This was the stuff.
Here’s their song “Television,” 13 years before Lykke Li:
The Jesus And Mary Chain are one of my favourite bands. And when they put out Munki on Sub Pop I was pretty excited about it. Time has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat and I can admit now what I couldn’t admit then — Munki is definitely not a Top 10 album.
Remember that year when Lauryn Hill was the greatest? I do. Then she went cray-cray. In hindsight this album has a few mind-blowers, a personal fave being “Lost One,” but it maybe captures more of a time and a place. And Hill’s dropping off hasn’t helped its legacy.
“Doo Wop (That Thing)” remains classic:
I interviewed Massive Attack for the Mezzanine album on the same day that Avi Lewis from The New Music did. I remember being so bummed that I didn’t get a great interview out of them when I finished, but later, when I saw that they FELL ASLEEP during Avi’s interview I felt pretty awesome — at least I was able to keep them awake.
Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs is still beautiful. It’s definitely their high-water mark as a band, and if you’re the sort that likes to map out family trees, I’d argue that Deserter’s Songs is one of the pillar records for the sprawling indie rock that would eventually be perfected by Arcade Fire. This still holds up.
The band Space are responsible for one of the best singles of the ’90s.
That song’s not on Tin Planet, though. So I think I was feeling a bit compensatory by trying to jam this one onto my Top 10.
It does at least have the song “The Ballad Of Tom Jones,” which is a particularly cheeky duet between Space’s Tommy Scott and Cerys Matthews of Catatonia. Sarah and I have contemplated learning it as a karaoke slayer.
“The Ballad Of Tom Jones”
PJ Harvey’s one of my foundation artists. I think she’s brilliant and fascinating, and Is This Desire? remains one of my favourite albums by her. I prefer her when she’s doing less howling, and more dark purring, which is what she does here. PJ believes it’s the best album she’s ever made and I just might agree. This should probably go higher in hindsight.
Check out “The Wind”:
54-40’s Since When? I really like this band. Always have. Not really sure why it made it on this list, though.
Yeah, I was just as swept up in Godspeed You Black Emperor! and their album F#A#∞ as every other young, enthusiastic music writer. Going back to it, this record’s still unique and interesting, it’s just not… special anymore. The best parts of their sound and technique ended up getting lifted by all the next generation Montreal bands who’d take what they heard here into more manageable/palatable territory. Which arguably makes F#A#∞ still relevant and awesome, but nobody in 2011 wants to do their computing on an Apple Classic II, right?
The Inbreds Winning Hearts? This one’s probably another sympathetic choice. The Inbreds were just about done as a band at this point and as someone who had spent his teen years romancing the Halifax scene and finally having the authority to write my very own fancy published Top 10 album list in a music magazine I was probably swept up in the drama of it all. I haven’t even ripped this album into iTunes all these years later. Still like the band, though.
Other album lists…
2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1