The fact I can’t make a full list of ten indicates how far off my judgment was in 1995. I bought a lot of music that year, no doubt, but I also let a lot of it go.
John Zorn launched Tzadik Records that year, and he promptly reissued a number of albums released only in Japan. Burgeoning student composer that I was, I snapped up a whole bunch of those initial Tzadik releases hoping to glean something instructional. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Emmylou Harris also released Wrecking Ball late that year, and it pretty much squeezed out everything else. Combing through my collection, I noticed a number of greatest hits collections from that year. I kind of remember going through a nostalgic period right around that time.
I thought about shoehorning one more title, but that just felt dishonest. Why rank something for which I don’t feel any real passion? So a list of nine, it is.
Musicwhore.org Favorite Edition 1995
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
The podcast explains all.
The Klezmatics, Jews with Horns
So does this podcast.
John Zorn/Masada, Hei
Most of the Masada albums can get pretty unhinged, but Alef and Hei are the most tuneful of the bunch. The 11-minute "Hobah" can get trying, but everything else on Hei demonstrates Zorn’s agility with melody.
For the most part, Värttinä is a folk band, but in the mid-’90s, they took a slight detour into rock territory. The spitfire vocals and Finnish instruments still drove most of Aitara, but the augmentation by a rhythm section bolstered the group’s sound. "Outona omilla malla" would actually make a pretty good single.
I would only come around to Post until after listening to Homogenic. At the time of its release, I still had a chip on my shoulder about Björk’s solo career, and honestly, Nelle Hooper once again didn’t do enough to bring out the full extent of Björk’s weirdness. "It’s So Quiet" was such a gimmick at the time. But the chilling lyrics of "Hyperballad" and the surrealism of "The Modern Things" showed the first signs of what was to come.
Enya, The Memory of Trees
As irrational as my Enya fandom may seem — even to me — The Memory of Trees is perhaps Enya’s most melodic album. "Athair Ar Neamh" is the album’s centerpiece, a dark, haunting melody almost ancient in character. Enya’s music takes on a darker hue with this album, perhaps more so than Watermark.
Kronos Quartet, Performs Philip Glass
It’s easy to joke that Philip Glass’ music is a bunch of arpeggios set on repeat, but his fourth and fifth string quartets are much more organic works. Yes, the running bass lines and arpeggios are still there, but they don’t sound mechanical. The second movement of the String Quartet No. 4 has quite a long, expressive melody. I don’t actually own this album anymore, a victim of tight times. But I do have the 25 Years boxed set, which includes this album in a slightly different order.
Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
Yeah, yeah, I’m a lemming. There are a lot of things on this album to hate — overly precious lyrics, Morissette’s annoying whelp and the perfect Exhibit A in the loudness wars. But the reason this album became such a zeitgeist in 1995 was the fact each song could conceivably be a single, and I’m as much of a sucker for a melody as anyone.
Tears for Fears, Raoul and the Kings of Spain
In 1995, Tears for Fears was pretty much a Roland Orzabal solo project. Curt Smith had long since left the duo, and prevailing taste pretty much left Tears for Fears behind. So while no one was looking, Orzabal wrote and recorded one of Tears for Fears’ hardest and most melodic albums. It’s not Songs from the Big Chair, let alone The Seeds of Love. But it’s good enough to have survived numerous rounds of lay-offs from my collection.
So what could have qualified for the 10th slot on this list? A number of titles, none of which I felt too particularly attached:
- Bang on a Can All-Stars, Industry I can’t say I listened to this album enough to call it a favorite, mainly because I played Cheating, Lying, Stealing a lot more.
- Janet Jackson, Design of a Decade, 1986-1996 "Runaway" is an incredibly good single, but the bonfides of this collection’s contents have already been vetted on previous lists. To its credit, very few tracks from janet. are included.
- Madonna, Something to Remember This collection of previously released ballads makes for a good program, and "You’ll See" is a nice slice of overwrought drama. What else to expect from David Foster?
- The Police, Every Breath You Take: The Classics Essentially a reissue of a 1986 collection, it rectifies the terrible mistake of replacing "Don’t Stand So Close to Me" with a rerecorded version overproduced within an inch of its life.
- Throwing Muses, University This album isn’t bad, but I like The Real Ramona and House Tornado a lot more.
- John Zorn, Elegy and Kristallnacht Back in 1995, these albums would be safely ensconced in the list, but these days, I don’t have much patience for albums which actually include health warnings. Kristallnacht actually had to disclaim the use of high frequencies which might cause nausea.
One album that would never rank:
- Duran Duran, Thank You During live shows, these covers sounded excellent. But Duran Duran, as usual, second guessed itself in the studio, particularly with "Success" and "Crystal Ship". What results is an album voted as the worst by readers of one of the UK magazines (I forget if it was Uncut or MOJO.)