Last week, on Twitter, I said something about the number of lovable young bands lately — I think it was Potty Mouth and All Dogs that really prompted this — who sound like they hail from the 7-inch shelf at a mid-90s college radio station. And how I always enjoy them, then have this pang of overthinking-it suspicion at my own enjoyment, as though maybe there’s something sort of fetal and nostalgic about it.
So over the weekend I allowed myself some actual nostalgia, and threw together this 90-song Spotify playlist of the type of stuff I have in mind when it comes to mid-90s college-radio indie-rock bin music.
Just for the record, this list is super-reductive. I mean, in addition to your average station at the time playing hip-hop, electronic, reggae and ska, classical and New Music, etc., even the rock programming might swing around through punk, noise, experimental, post-rock, prog, shiny ambitious bands, sub-grunge major-label bands … many, many things. Whereas what this playlist shoots for is just this selection of the basic scrappy/fuzzy mostly-American indie-rock-and-pop-sounds that’d likely be cycling through the 7-inch bin in an endless undertow (it leans pop; I was always partial to that stuff) — bands you could drop some of today’s DIY acts in among without anyone much noticing, because the sound’s essentially a charming perennial, and plus ca change.
At first I actually had the idea that I could put it together entirely out of bands I’d completely forgotten existed, the real quintessential flotsam and jetsam of the moment, but then I realized that (a) that posed epistemological problems, and (b) that kind of thing generally isn’t available on Spotify, which is the sole reason why the Stinky Puffs’ “Buddies Aren’t Butts” is not included. So there’s some ballparking, some bands you still hear about, and a few very well-known acts I’ve thrown in because it’s kinda fun to revisit how they sounded in their original habitat. But I think generally I tried to grab good songs that felt “typical” over things that stuck out as special or genre-transcending.
Also, if you enjoy the show Portlandia, you’ll notice that the New Bad Things song “Josh Has a Crush on a Femme from Reed” pretty much invents that show twenty years ahead of time. And that Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen both appear in bands on this playlist. Alongside several modern notables’ early acts, actually.
I suppose if you throw this on you can pretend for a few hours that you’re listening to the radio show of a single-minded indie fan who has the ability to time-travel, but only between 1992 and 1998 or so. Enjoy. I may add some notes on certain songs to this post later.