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Songs from Bands Who Love the Sound of the ’90s

Songs from Bands Who Love the Sound of the ’90s

Monthly Mixtape: June 2016

Side A

1. Dinosaur Pile-Up – “Birds and Planes”

Dinosaur Pile-Up is the ‘90s. “Birds and Planes,” from their first full length Growing Pains, has hyper-overdriven distortion, chest-rattling bass, pounding drums and hooks for days—not mention the old school Foo Fighters-esque breakdowns that’ll tickle any rock ‘n’ roll fan’s fancy. And think about this: “Birds and Planes” is one of the less-heavy tracks from their three full lengths; it’s just a perfect example of the things they do so well. Listen and find out.

2. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”

Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit was not only universally acclaimed but also universally heralded as the resurgence of slacker grunge. Her deadpan delivery of sardonic lyrics like “Give me all your money and I’ll make some origami, honey/ I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny” projects a disaffection that speaks to 21st century life the way Nirvana did for the early ’90s. Her self-effacing, supersaturated and verbose lyrics that hinge on nothing grander than quotidian observations with a dash of panicked existentialism are the essence of grunge-era apathy.

3. Speedy Ortiz – “Death Note”

For the latest crop of indie rockers, the ‘80s and ‘90s have become the clear touchstone in the fashioning of their sound. As with generations before, this co-opting of influences from another time often goes back to a time nearly as long ago as those performing the music have been on the planet. While the members of Speedy Ortiz might not be old enough to actually remember much of the early-‘90s, they’ve done a fine job of replicating the sound and feel of the era from whence they sprang, disaffection and all.

4. Parquet Courts – “Human Performance”

Pavement comparisons get thrown around a lot. Any band with a so-called slacker mentality seems to get tagged with being “the next” incarnation of Stephen Malkmus and company at their early-to-mid-‘90s peak. While not always accurate, Parquet Courts have managed to take the tag and run with it, fashioning themselves as a modern-day Pavement for those who enjoy their indie rock shambolic yet tuneful.

5. Bully – “Reason”

With their bubbling, effusive brand of pop punk delivered with a hefty dose of sneering vocals and driving guitar lines, Bully sound like a band out of time. On “Reason,” they sound phoned in from college radio circa-1992, all angsty bluster and calculated cool. Not quite riot grrl, not quite straight grunge, Bully aim for the sweet spot somewhere in between, adding a healthy amount of memorable hooks and catchy melodies for good measure.

6. The Superweaks – “Kick It”

The Superweaks’ “Kick It” is the cure for anyone (and I know you’re out there) for anyone who loves Pinkerton-era Weezer and has been jonzin’ for it since it began and ended back in ’96. Fuzzy bass, heavily affected vocals and a rompin’, stompin’ beat that’s both danceable and head-bangable? Seriously, what more could you possibly want?

Side B

1. Parquet Courts – “Dust”

A lot of ’90s artists are praised for their observational lyrics, honing in on minute details of the quotidian and seemingly universal mundanity. Parquet Courts have always courted comparisons to ’90s alt rock, but “Dust” may take that old penchant for the mundane a little too far. A song literally about flecks of dead skin, “Dust” presents no answer to the inevitable problem dust poses other than a curt “Sweep,” the word repeated so frequently throughout the track that it becomes a numb adage droning along with the chunky guitars.

2. Diarrhea Planet – “Ruby Red”

With their multi-guitar attack, Diarrhea Planet already mark themselves as having arrived from another time. Add to that a few grunge-era influences, fuzzed-out guitar and clear Dinosaur Jr. obsession and you’ve got yourself the recipe for some good old fashioned ‘90s guitar rock. The best part is, there’s not a trace of hipster irony to be seen; instead, it’s sincerity and earnest rocking all the way.

3. The Menzingers – “Rodent”

Okay, so, the Menzingers are one thing at their core: a punk band. But the beauty is that they refuse do the same thing twice. On “Rodent” (and most of their fourth LP, Rented World), they took a ‘90s rock approach to their brand of punk. It’s noisy, melancholy and pissed. Essentially, it’s the perfect blend of the ‘90s and contemporary punk rock.

4. Wolf Alice – “Moaning Lisa Smile”

Led by Ellie Rowsell, British outfit Wolf Alice seem to be the amalgamation of all things ’90s grunge—crunching guitars and steely female vocalist, included. Yet the band resists the notion that they’re grunge revivalists for the much more reasonable explanation that they are simply products of their time, a continuation of alt rock that naturally draws on everything that came before it. Their single “Moaning Lisa Smile,” however, sounds like a pitch-perfect 21st-century approximation of Nirvana, down to the wailing chorus and the grungy power chords.

5. Diamond Youth – “Red Water”

Diamond Youth is a bit of an enigma. Part surf rock, part Muse, part ‘90s rock, this band basically does what they feel like doing whenever they feel like doing it and, goddammit, it just works. “Red Water” is one of their raddest and most ‘90s-influenced tracks. Not only does the band utilize ‘90s songwriting tropes (breakdowns, heavy and crunchy guitars, less than crisp recording), this track just feels ‘90s. It’s an exciting and refreshing throwback.

6. Waxahatchee – “Air”

Even though Waxahatchee’s (aka Katie Crutchfield) latest Ivy Tripp saw her add synths to her heartfelt lo-fi music, she remains a clear successor of the likes of Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield and Fiona Apple. Her monotone, seemingly detached vocals steady the emotion on songs like “Air” that analyze the end of a relationship with blunt lyrics. Her dingy, low guitar and acerbic, honest words make for music that sounds straight out of despondent ’90s indie rock.

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