100 Best Songs of the ’90s (#50-41)

These are the best songs of the 1990s.

42: Neil Young- Harvest Moon (1992)

Movie sequels are hard. Album sequels are harder. Album sequels to legendary records years later after time in the wilderness? Fugetaboutit. And yet, Harvest Moon. Thanks to the strangeness of the 80s, (Trans anyone?) and a nasty bout of tinnitus, Neil Young needed to return to something softer and familiar. So he grabbed some of his compatriots that played on Harvest, released in 1972, and turned back time.

It’s fitting that the title track is one of Young’s best. A total lack of modern references keep “Harvest Moon” from being tied to any specific era. With deft steel guitar and chiming backup harmonies, Young’s centerpiece could have been written any time in the last 100 years. During a set in 2014, its subtle percussion was performed on a broom sweeping across a mic-ed slab. Pre-industrial revolution lovers would have found it comforting.

With its sheer tenderness, this lovely ballad is a far cry from Crazy Horse. “Just like children sleeping/ We could dream this night away,” he coos. His images of dancing beneath a full moon conjure Van Morrison, but Young’s romantic ploys are far more concerned with the contentment and respect between two lovers.

Pearl Jam would later cover the song live, and Eddie Vedder’s husky drawl gave it a new texture, but there’s something more innocent about Young’s wiry tenor. Though he had been a rock staple for decades by the ‘90s, he adorned “Harvest Moon” with the wild-eyed love of a teenager slowly maturing into something less frenzied, but stronger. Young acolytes will know that he only recently filed divorce with his wife Pegi, giving this song 20 plus years of truth before fizzling out. Still, the song remains a lovely testament to unwavering commitment. – Nathan Stevens

41: Mazzy Star- Fade into You (1994)

The only Mazzy Star single to reach the Billboard charts, this sedative mystery has become so ubiquitous that it has become one of the defining tracks of the decade. From the group’s second album So Tonight that I Might See, “Fade into You” features Hope Sandoval’s fleeting whisper slowly cascading over David Roback’s gentle slide guitars and softly-strummed acoustics. Sandoval may give the impression of indifference, but her seductive vocals paint a different picture. Gazing intently at the ground, it’s hard to tell if she’s deep in concentration or simply letting everything wash over her in a dreamy haze. “I wanna hold the hand inside you/ I wanna take the breath that’s true,” she coos, her 1000-mile stare fierce enough to burn a hole in the back of your head.

Upon its release, the relaxed cosmic country of “Fade into You” was enough to land the notoriously awkward band its first television show appearance. With Conan O’Brien’s gangly figure towering over her, Sandoval looked lost rather than triumphant by the end of the performance. Was she anxious or shy? Sandoval would later simply explain, “…the Stones are more performers. You could always be like Pink Floyd and just make music.”

It’s appropriate then that this song has since been licensed so widely, used everywhere from Starship Troopers to CSI: NY and Desperate Housewives, to the point of cliché. Roback and Sandoval have likely made more cash off this one song than from album sales. Covered by such contemporaries as J. Mascis, such descendants as Au Revoir Simone and even the totally random Kelly Clarkson and Maximo Park, its elegantly simple chord structure lends itself easily to the democratization of endless amateur YouTube covers. But none have captured the half-woken, longing bliss that defines the original. – Edward Dunbar

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