Tag: 1994

Tsunami – The Heart’s Tremolo

ARTIST: Tsunami                       Tsunami-The_Heart's_Tremolo

TITLE: The Heart’s Tremolo

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Be Like That

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jenny Toomey, Kristin Thomson, John Palmer, Andrew Webster

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DC area band and record label owners second full length runs into a rut of same-same and bad production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I guess I DON’T have to follow the hipster crowd on some things. One of these is this Tsunami record.

Critics loved this band, but they must have seen them live, because on record they sound flat, have same-same songs, and have mixing and production issues. I can her fits and starts of songs that sound good, but when they get to the chorus it blurs together, at least in my ears.

Tsumani has a great DIY and independent legacy, and I don’t mean to belittle that. It’s just…I don’t get this record. It’s probably on me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they took a hiatus as Andrew Webster finished his degree.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE C: It’s probably a cop-out review but I’ll exile this and see if my ears perk up for their final album.

OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

ARTIST: OutKast

TITLE:  Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik 220px-Outkast-southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #20, #2 R&B

SINGLES: Player’s Ball (#37, #12 R&B, #1 Rap), Southerplayalistcadillacmuzik (#74, #41 R&B, #9 Rap), Git Up Git Out (#109, #59 R&B, #13 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ain’t No Thang

LINEUP: Andre 3000, Big Boi with Big Gipp, Sleepy Brown, Preston Crump, the Goodie Mob, Marq Jefferson, Craig Love, Mr DJ, Organized Noize, Peaches, T-Mo, Rico Wade, Colin Wolfe, Kenneth Write, Society of Soul, and more

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Southern Hip Hop goes national.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was all East Coast vs. West Coast until OutKast came out of Atlanta and hit the charts. Working around the LaFace Records orbit with TLC and Organized Noize production, OutKast’s debut album broke the dichotomoy of East vs. West.

There’s a mix between East and West, using funk and tongue twisting raps as well as hooks and melody. But there’s also unique sounds and style that later defined the Southern style. Big Boi and Andre 3000’s rhymes and flow are impressive, and the production, samples, and hooks are inventive and infectious.

Lost a bit in the mainstream (white) music press thanks to the East Coast vs. West Coast, OutKasts’ debut showed music a third hip-hop way, the Southern way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Organized Noize’s production team hit it big with TLC’s debut album before tackling OutKast.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: Even the segues and skits make sense here. A strong hip-hop album, especially for a debut.

Low – I Could Live in Hope

ARTIST: Low                                       Low_i_could_live_in_hope

TITLE:  I Could Live in Hope

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, John Nichols

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It started as a lark, but it became a serious project with some fantastic tracks right out of the gate.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Issuing a five song EP first (with tracks later repeated on this and their second album), then releasing this, their full length debut, Low turned the alternative world on its head. Slowly and hauntingly, Low became the exact opposite of grunge.

Alan Sparhawk’s lachrymose baritone is joined by his wife Mimi Sparhawk’s harmonies to provide an eerie set of harmonies, and the simple instrumentation (guitar, bass, a brushed floor tom and cymbal) evoke a mood. The songs are not dirges, though. These are mood pieces that evoke sadness and hope, and the tempos only add to the atmosphere. 220px-Low_ep

At times, the songs drag on a bit too long (three tracks over six minutes long that could have been trimmed) but there’s nothing that’s totally a throw away. This is a great debut from an important band in alternative circles.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sparhawk and Nichols were in a standard grunge band, and they formed Low out of rehearsals where they were improvising quiet sounds.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: A statement of quiet, slow purpose.

 

Madder Rose – Panic On

ARTIST: Madder Rose              panicon

TITLE:  Panic On

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #52 UK

SINGLES: Car Song

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sleep Forever

LINEUP: Billy Cote, Mary Lorson, Matt Verta-Ray, Johnny Kick

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from NYC alternatives builds on their strengths – Mary Lorson’s voice and Billy Cote’s songcraft.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second Madder Rose album got them noticed in alternative circuits here in the US, thanks to the combination of Mary Lorson’s voice (gentle yet powerful at times), and the songwriting and arrangements of Billy Cote, the guitarist.

Cote’s guitars wash all over the tracks, in some ways like the UK shoegazers, but Lorson’s vocals bring that back up, and Cote also adds in some interesting guitar flourishes above the noise. The band also has improved their chops at slower song (such as “Car Song”).

This album pointed Madder Rose to a path that was both pop-oriented and alternative, which was sorely needed at the time. This album still holds up as a good example of the variety found, but not noted by the press, in the 90’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band had 10 days to rehearse these tracks before heading into the studio after a long tour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: A good collection of pop melodies intermixed with guitar swirl that should have made more of an impact commercially.

Tortoise – Tortoise

ARTIST: Tortoise                 Tortoise-Tortoise_(album_cover)

TITLE: Tortoise

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #Nope

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: John McEntire, Dan Bitney, John Herdon, Douglas McCombs, Bundy Brown

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album by slow and steady Chicago scenesters is eerily beautiful.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s probably no apt name for this band than Tortoise – where mid-tempo is breakneck speed and the music moves along methodically, steadily, and even with great beauty despite it all.

The first incarnation of the band featured two bassists and three percussionists, who play the standard drum kit along with vibraphone, marimba, and other mallet instruments. What results is a music that intrigues the listener. It sounds so different, yet at the same time the themes and motifs are familiar. And because it’s slow doesn’t mean it can’t be loud, but normally they carry along quietly (the drum kit on “Ry Cooder” is loud and joyful, though).

This is a record for those chill moments when you don’t need volume or convention to hang out. Good with wine and a book.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band was given credit for moving the Chicago scene away from the “Guyville” towards something called ‘post-rock’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: For those of us who don’t mind instrumentals that blur the line of many genres.

Lisa Germano – Geek the Girl

ARTIST: Lisa Germano                     220px-Geekthegirl

TITLE: Geek the Girl

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Cry Wolf

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: …A Psychopath

LINEUP: Lisa Germano, Malcom Burn. Kenny Aronoff on some tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Intense, eerie, powerful album with some tracks that are harrowing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Most of this album has instrumentation that’s ethereal and moody, but the songs by Lisa Germano take those arrangements and make them into something more emotional and wrenching.

In “Trouble”, she sings “As an act I hate myself”. “Cry Wolf” is about a rape where the victim is blamed, and “…A Psychopath”, the most famous track of them all, features a real 911 call from a stalking victim.

Not an easy listen, but compelling, and even today, rings so true. Germano captures her fears and anxiety as a woman living in this society. Her vocals, quiet, breathy, and tentative at times, are framed perfectly by the lyrics and music.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Most of this was recorded in Germano’s apartment, but they took it to the studio for mixing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A+: Not for the faint of heart, but a record that’s important to this day.

Spearhead – Home

ARTIST: Spearhead                             220px-Spearhead_Home

TITLE: Home

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #147 UK

SINGLES: Of Course You Can (#74 UK), People in tha Middle (#49 UK), Hole in the Bucket (#55 UK), Positive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dream Team

LINEUP: Michael Franti, Mary Harris, Le Le Jamison, Keith McArthur, David James, James Gray, Charlie Hunter. Vernon Reid plays a solo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Michael Franti forms a new group with studio musicians with a that gave his political messages a bit more grounded than the heavy Disposable Heroes of Hiphroprisy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Michael Franti’s distinctive raps are political and social, and at times the heavy handedness turned off some listeners. Here, though, using a live band of session musicians, his socially and politically conscious messages are enhanced, and easy to embrace.

At a time where material goods were paramount, and hip-hop was more about image than anything else, Franti stressed being active in the community, and love and respecting everyone. Also, he made people aware of what was happening in the world.

Franti’s shift to Spearhead was quite successful artistically, as the organic sound of the band works well with his flow and rhymes.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Based in San Francisco, this album was produced in Philadelphia.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: One of the landmarks of 90’s hip-hop and a leading light to a new movement combining live music and rap.

 

American Music Club – San Francisco

ARTIST: American Music Club            Amc_sanfrancisco

TITLE: San Francisco

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Can You Help Me, Wish the World Away, Hello Amsterdam

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, and that’s a shame

LINEUP: Mark Eitzel, Vudi, Tim Mooney, Dan Pearson, Bruce Kaphan

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moody and lachrymose band’s last album before a hiatus is their most accessible without sacrificing quality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mark Eitzel and American Music Club added some production elements and brightened their sound a bit for this album, and despite some carping, the new elements and clarity enhances the songs.

It’s also the same ol’ AMC, though, with a beautiful sadness that’s sometimes almost too much to handle at once. “It’s Your Birthday”, “Wish the World Away”, and “Can You Help Me” should have had some radio play, but the sophistication of the music ran contra to the post-grunge elements dominating the airwaves.

They went out on a good note, as they went on hiatus for nine or so years, and they were unfairly ignored by most.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They contributed “All Your Jeans Were Too Tight” for the No Alternative project.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: In the wrong mood, this could be too much, but overall the music and tone are excellent, especially if you know AMC isn’t the happiest bunch of souls.

The Cardigans – Emmerdale

ARTIST: The Cardigans         220px-CardigansEmmerdale

TITLE: Emmerdale

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rise and Shine (#29 UK), Black Letter Day, Sick and Tired (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

LINEUP: Lars-Olof Johansson, Bengt Lagerberg, Nina Persson, Magnus Sveningsson, Peter Svensson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sweet sounding Swedish pop band has a secret sour side.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With Nina Persson on vocals, it’s hard to be a dour and sour group, and yes, most of the Cardigans work sound sweet, but there’s a hidden edge there.

The confluence of a sweet voice, bright sounding arrangements, and sometimes dark lyrics make for an intriguing and sometimes compelling listen. Peter Svensson’s ear for melody (mostly co-written with Magnus Sveningsson) and the arrangements draw you in, and Persson’s vocal delivery keeps you there.

They’re not quite 100% here – a couple of songs could have been reworked or developed more, but it’s still a great debut from a unique 90’s group.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Svensson was a former metal-head, thus the Sabbath cover.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they released different versions of their first two albums, and there’s a version with the leftover songs appended to this album.

GRADE: B+: You’ll sing along and wonder why the words you’re singing are sometimes sad and bitter.

Coolio – It Takes a Thief

ARTIST: Coolio    It_Takes_a_Thief_(album)

TITLE: It Takes a Thief

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #8 US, #67 UK

SINGLES: County Line (#109 US), I Remember (#107 US, #73 UK), Fantastic Voyage (#3 US, #41 UK), Mama I’m in Love Wit’ a Gangsta (#119 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Coolio. Guests LeSuan, J-Ro, Billy Boy, WC. Six producers, too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full length by Coolio has some fun songs, but not everything hits and some are a little rough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coolio’s first album was a slow starter until “Fantastic Voyage” was unleashed on the public as a single. That catchy, and fun, tune helped Coolio become a sensation.

The rest of his debut album has some fun tracks, even with his predilection for gangsta rap’s most unpleasant tendencies. Coolio tries to offset those tropes with humor and self-deprecation at times.

The production and samples are creative, and even got some of the base tracks back into the public consciousness. Combining gangsta rap with some humor made a nice change, but not everything is successful.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original “Fantastic Voyage” was by Lakeside

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-:  Decent, some great tracks, and some that I don’t know if they really work.