Five Songs You Missed: 1998
It’s time to take a look at some songs from the almost-millennium.
By Adam Picard-Park
I’m quite meticulous with my music. I often find myself archiving and sorting my music into giant playlists, most recently making a timeline of my digital collection. In this segment for COPY, I’ll be looking at a certain year and picking some of my lesser-known favorites and deep cuts by bigger artists to introduce you to. Not all of the songs will be that unknown, but hopefully you’ll find some new music here that you enjoy!
Here I’ll explore some songs from 1998, the year I was born (and I assume some of you reading were too). It’s time to take a look at some songs from the almost-millennium.
“Ingrid Bergman” by Billy Bagg & Wilco
In the mid-to-late 90’s, the English folk singer Billy Bragg teamed up with Wilco to record some songs written but unrecorded by Woody Guthrie, given to them by Guthrie’s daughter Nora. Mermaid Avenue was the result, named after the street Guthrie lived on in Coney Island. There were eventually three volumes of these albums, but it’s generally regarded that the first is the best one. “Ingrid Bergman” is one of the tracks that appears in that first volume. It is a love song Guthrie wrote for the titular movie star that dreams about their life together on the island Stromboli, which is the setting of Bergman’s 1950 film of the same name. Bragg’s vocals add a longing coo to the lyrics that would be missing with most other artists. The recording’s simple guitar-strum instrumental is perfect for bringing the listener back to traditional folk while still keeping a 90’s feel. A friend of mine learned this on guitar freshman year of college and we used to sing it while staring out the window, dreaming with Guthrie.
“West Savannah” by Outkast
Outkast’s Aquemini is another one of their masterpieces. They never missed. The only problem with Outkast is that I find every one of their albums outshines the next one. I always felt Stankonia got way more attention than this one, and hey, both are perfect hip hop, but something always draws me back to Aquemini. Anyways, while “SpottieOttieDopaliscoius” and “Rosa Parks” are the iconic bumpin’ jams that brought that southern taste to the mainstream consciousness, “West Savannah” sets the scene for a new listener. “West Savannah” is for a hot day, you’re sweating, it’s too hot to even walk so you drive around and get a cold drink. It’s music to chill out to. I hear it and something inside me melts into relaxation like a creamsicle on a July afternoon. It’s gonna be a hot one.
“Buckingham Rabbit” by Silver Jews
David Berman is one of those tragic rock stories of a person unable to escape their demons. When I heard about Berman’s suicide in 2019, I wasn’t shocked, but it hit hard inside nonetheless. He had made music about depression his whole life and he was a master at it. One of my favorite songs of the past few is still “All My Happiness is Gone,” one of the most uplifting songs with some of the most crushing lyrics. “Buckingham Rabbit” is a deep cut from his band's 1998 album American Water. I’m not gonna say it’s that much better than the other tracks, this is more of just a recommendation to check out the whole album. “Buckingham Rabbit” does bring that same kind of lost-and-found feeling that the rest of the music does here. Berman’s voice was always wanting. It’s a bit grunge but not that rough, perhaps the start of indie rock or maybe belonging to that strange term “alternative” music, but listening to the music, I don’t think the band or anyone really cares about all that. Sometimes it’s nice to get lost in music’s handsome loneliness, whatever that means.
“Piano Black” by SEATBELTS
Anime soundtracks have only begun to get the respect many of them deserve over the last few years. I don’t watch much anime, but I know the music I like, and the music of the 1998 series Cowboy Bebop is perhaps the greatest anime soundtrack. It’s probably because the whole series is centered around jazz. A friend of mine in high school was obsessed with the series and would often play tracks that got me hooked on their funky rhythms. “Piano Black” is just one of many standards this show has stuffed into it’s groovy track listing. It brings to mind spy movies of the 60’s. It’s a perfect fit for the excitement of the show. Many hip hop artists have sampled the soundtrack in past years too. Checkout the whole album for some heightened fun, as it is very able to stand on its own.
“Communist Daughter” by Neutral Milk Hotel
All you music nerds already know this album. I don’t have to tell you about this, you either love it or hate it. There’s a guy screaming about Jesus and Anne Frank. They never make another album again and go down as some mysterious music legends. You’ve heard it, probably looked into it, maybe you love it like me or maybe not and that’s cool too. “Communist Daughter” is my favorite deep cut from this project because it’s so simple and calm in the middle of this storm of screeching and blasting horn sections. Something about the serene singing of “semen stains the mountaintops” is so perfectly Neutral Milk Hotel. I once covered this song and realized how hard it is to sing the whole thing without stopping and quickly ran out of breath. It’s short, sweet, and strange. Soothingly soft for the pain that music like this can bring.