From a creative standpoint, the popular music industry has been on life support for some years, but I may well remember 1999 as the year when we finally pulled the sheet up over its head. There was a lot of fine music produced and released, but unless you had the time, energy, and determination to go hunting for it your chances of actually hearing anything meaningful were zip.
I hate to bitch, because I’m not somebody who believes that popularity and commercial success are automatically bad. I like the idea of massive record sales in principle, so long as those benefiting are talented artists whose work improves the audience in some way. But the system works that way rarely, and by happenstance instead of design, because people who genuinely care about music are rarely allowed in the same room with an important decision. Thanks to yet another mind-numbing round of bloodless corporate mega-mergers, the range of artists the average listener heard in 1999 was narrower than ever before.
The result was predictable. In Denver, where I live, we have three or four stations that pretend to play “alternative” in some form or another. At any given moment I can flip through the dial, knowing I have less than a 25% chance of finding anything listenable on any of them. I sometimes wind up listening to commercials because they’re less annoying than the crap being shoveled into the airwaves.
In a word, the mainstream rock & roll offerings in 1999 were mostly ordinary. Plain. Uninspired, homogenous, ho-hum. Helloooo, sports talk radio.
The bad news is I had to work even harder this year than before to keep myself plugged into meaningful new music. Of my top 10 releases, only one received significant airplay. A second got limited spin, and a third just got added this week.
The good news is that if you knew where to look you could find some absolutely remarkable music this year. I apologize in advance to those artists who belong here, and would probably be included if radio and the record industry didn’t suck. I mean, if you were trying to construct a music industry that kept innovative and interesting new artists from gaining an audience you’d have a hard time improving upon the corporate clusterfuck we have in place already.
The following list represents the best releases I heard from 1999, and also includes some 1998 releases that, for one reason or another, didn’t hit my radar screen until this year.
The Top 10
1. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#Infinity Read more