01. "Stereo" - Pavement - Silly, irreverant, very relavent, all relative - Pavement was one of independent rock's heavyweights. Grand purveyors of slacker rock - the were lazy, sloppy, brilliant. This was one of my very favorite tracks, partly because of the zaniness, and partly because it rocks. But mostly because "the voice of Geddy Lee." I dare you not to sing along with that line - it'll get you every time.
02. "Bulldog Skin" - Guided By Voices - THE GREATEST FUCKING INDIE ROCK BAND EVER. You better believe it. From the early lo-fi days up through their electrifying conclusion just a few years ago, no one did it better than Guided By Voices. Several line-up changes never tripped up the prolific Robert Pollard, who released countless other records through pseudonyms, side projects, his own name, and more, in addition to the GBV franchise. This was from the transition from "lo-fi" to "hi-fi" (read: GBV sold out, but it didn't f-ing matter, they still rocked balls), Mag Earwig. The transition wasn't seamless, and they got panned for the first album after this, produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars fame. Didn't matter. Don't you understand? This is the greatest, most prolific, greatest drunken american bar rock band of all time. What more do you need to know? Crank it.
03. "Naomi" - The Mr. T Experience – There are two ways into the track. The first was Robbo, via College Music Journal magazine. The second was my friend Liz, a Chicago native who I met in my first Journalism class (J144?), who was a complete Mr. T Exp. nut. Either way, you can’t deny the catchiness of this tune. Sure, the vocals sometimes sound a little off key, but who cares? The joy, the fun, the silly lyrics, the sing-along chorus… what’s there not to like? Quit your complaining and sing, bounce, have fun!
04. "Happiness Is All The Rage" - The Promise Ring – The Promise Ring, to me, is the Holy Grail of punk-pop indie-rock bands. So many bands, great and terrible, would be nowhere without this band, and without this record, the unforgettable Very Emergency. Every song on the record is amazing. It’s full of energy, joy, wit, humor, and, yes, energy (again). Singer Davey Von Bohlen seems to have a bit of a lisp at times, but to me this just adds to the overall charm. Also, you trendy rockers out there might recognize this voice from those dorky scenesters, Jimmy Eat World, on whose record Bleed American Davey makes a cameo. And yes, JEW were almost just as important as The Promise Ring – the record Clarity is yet another holy grail of indie-rock, but someone has my copy. If you have my copy, damn it, bring it back! Go buy your own! And, while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Very Emergency – trust me, you will thank me a thousand times over.
05. "The Company Dime" - The Get Up Kids – Obviously, this second disc has it’s own theme, and pop-fueled punk-influenced rock is the name of the game here. The Get Up Kids just had a sound that got into your skull. Something to Write Home About was another one of those records that was nearly perfect from end to end, start to finish. This was a studio find, I think. What’s funny was how many records I bought after I found them at the studio… and I would bring them with me to my show. I always carried a backpack on campus (which is probably why I still have a bag – a pack, a man-purse, or whatever, to this day), and on the day of my show, my pack was always filled with records. We’re talking 20-30 CDs… even ones that I knew were in the studio. I would also write down my set lists, and would occasionally tape the shows, too. Sorry, back on topic… The Get Up Kids really rocked. They’ll pop up later – sort of – on another disc…
06. "Moving Trucks" - Bob Mould – Bob Mould showed up on disc one, with the band Sugar. Here he plies his trade on his own. This was a Top Shelf selection (ok, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remembered… but then again, I was there for four years and the Top Shelf changed every two weeks or so, so there was bound to be some gems in amongst the crap, right?). I was immediately hooked. This song, and this record, The Last Dog and Pony Show, lead me to all kinds of Bob’s goodness. I am a fan – hell, I even stole the title of one of his records as a primary, oft-repeated lines in one of my songs. Mostly, though, I love his guitar sound, and those devastatingly personal lyrics. The songs sound like chainsaws, but that’s actually the safe outer coating – it’s the words that really cut to the bone.
07. "Artificial Light" - Rainer Maria – Alternative rock in the ‘90’s wasn’t rife with girl bands, or bands fronted by women. Indie rock, though, was filled with them, and many of them were excellent. Rainer Marie – named for poet Rainer Maria Rilke – was one such female-fronted, excellent bands. This song captured me from the get go. And yes, I think this was also a Top Shelf selection. But I love the driving sound of this song. The band made really beautiful, powerful music. Plus, Rainer Maria really kicked ass in concert. We saw them at the same Sunny Day Real Estate show that caused the formation of Endolori. Great band, great show!
08. "Longwall" - Early Day Miners – Another local band – this one related to Ativin. Contains members of both bands. I think I grew to love Early Day Miners more and more. The created such atmosphere – like Ativin, but a different, more subdued and ethereal kind of atmosphere. This track was originally on disc one, but found it’s way here to give disc two some space and room to breathe. And really, that best describes this song – space, and room to breathe.
09. "Is Patience Still Waiting?" - The Juliana Theory – This was another band I heard about from Rob. Another Christian act to. And, I believe Wes and Frank knew about them, all around the same time. We became fans. I think this song has a great sound. The breakdown, the bridge or whatever you’d like to call it, is awesome. It adds a great gravity to the song. Another band who could mix drop dead gorgeous pop melodies with wall of Marshalls guitar sounds.
10. "Leaving Ohio" - Brandtson – Pop-punk abandon at it’s finest. Brandtson went from being a heavier, early Emo-tinged punk rock band to a poppier punkier alternative band, to a moody, absolutely fantastic post-rock band, to something more electronic and stranger all together. This song is from their poppier, punkier period. They obviously had a fantastic sound. I love the story-like nature of the song: “I got a letter saying I’m doing it all wrong. I think that I’ll write back, and find out how it’s done.” And I am in love with this lyric: “We all fall down, so pick yourself up from the dirt, because after all, you take a bitter fall but it’s the getting up that hurts.” After all of my bittersweet love stories about Ohio (seriously, Ohio and my love life just never mixed, and I think Ohio should be dismissed from the United States), this song can be considered somewhat of an anthem for me. I always return to it when I am down, and it always picks me back up and helps me get back on the right track.
11. "Sugarcube" - Yo La Tengo – Yo La Tengo are deserved heavyweights of the indie-rock world. They were another band that could reinvent themselves when necessary or desired. I found this song on a Matador records compilation – in fact, five songs in this collection come from that compilation, Everything is Nice, though I own most of the recordings in some other format (in fact, several of the “cutting room floor” tracks were also taken from that same compilation). Regardless, Yo La Tengo got played on the radio, probably a lot at WIUS. This was one of my favorite tracks by the band.
12. "Flowers" - Cibo Matto – I discovered this band, oddly enough, thanks to the song “I Know My Chicken,” courtesy again of Rob and CMJ mag. I ignored them for the most part, until Rob, his freshman dorm roommate Aaron, and I went up to Indianapolis during that first freshman semester to see the band Live play at the Murat Temple. Not at all sure why, because their music has literally nothing in common with each other, but Cibo Matto was the opener on that leg of The Distance To Here tour. These two tiny Japanese women, backed up by Sean Lennon of all people, came out and rocked the shit out of the crowd. I was blown away. So I went home and purchased both of their records on Amazon. Then I found said records in the studio, and… whatever. Their music is this odd amalgam of pop, funk, hip-hop, rock, metal, and other stuff. Not so surprising if you’ve heard other Japanese bands – they don’t quite suffer from the same pigeonholed mind set as American bands and record labels. Also, fun fact: the band’s first album was mostly about food, and it is rumored that this was because the two primaries (the tiny Asian girls) didn’t speak English quite so well, but loved food, so they simply sang about what they knew. I know my chicken, you’ve got to know your chicken.
13. "Mr. Raven" - MC Lars – I feel like little explanation is needed here. MC Lars put out a simple little six song EP, songs he made on his laptop while going to school in England. The songs all kicked ass. This song is obviously a novelty, but who cares? It’s catchy as all hell, it’s wittier than anything you’ll ever hear on a normal radio station, it sticks surprisingly well, lyrically, to the Edgar Allen Poe classic… I mean, this is English Lit 101 put to good use, people. Celebrate and sing along – I dare you not to.
14. "Race For The Prize" - The Flaming Lips – This was one of those songs you couldn’t escape at the station house. The Lips were a heralded underground band, this album was considered their masterpiece, and even ordinary rock fans recognized the band thanks to their one-off alternative rock radio hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Obviously, this song puts in to perspective how one-off that one song was – The Flaming Lips were capable of creating sonic masterpieces. I know this song gets a little repetitive, but if you listen closely, in those repeated passages are little aural gems, an instrument changing octaves here, or a different instrument playing a different harmony here and there. It’s really quite something, but it’s so listener-friendly that you might never notice – and therein lies the beauty of this song.
15. "In Open Plains" - For Stars – I bought this album after going back and listening to tapes of my shows, and trying to track down some of the bands I hadn’t bought any records of while I was in school. This song is a great example of why so much of independent rock stays independent – the singer’s “twee” voice, for instance, or the strange, off-balance time signatures here and there throughout this song. Still, I find this track an enjoyable listen, and, after all, I did play it on my show, because I obviously tracked this band down at some point.
16. "Cross Bones Style" - Cat Power – A strange, lilting tune, this song could almost be an Irish folk song in another life. You can hear it if you listen hard… but that’s always been a part of Chan Marshall’s charm. Under the name of Cat Power, she’s challenged conventional thinking time and again (her covers records can be quite brilliant). This track was another one off of Everything is Nice.
17. "You And A Girl" - Marine Research – Funny story about Marine Research: I actually picked up this disc from my local Karma Records store in Mooresville, Indiana. It was a freebie, picked it up on my way out of the store (probably after buying a shitty-quality Pearl Jam bootleg CD – this was back before they released all those amazing, professional “bootlegs” of their shows). Low and behold, I found the record at the station, and having thrown my copy in a pile somewhere and never having listened to it before, I gave the studio copy a spin. I fell in love with this particular song, less for the Brit-Pop vocals and much more for that angular, angry guitar and bass interplay that closes the track out.
18. "For The Love Of My Country" - Poor Old Lu – Frank the drummer was responsible for me loving this band. He put this song on a mix CD he made for me (we did this a lot back then), and I really dug this song. I bought a “career retrospective” disc down at TDs, and fell in love with all kinds of tracks from the band. They were another Christian act, which was fine by me. Better yet, their pedigree has spread – there are all kinds of links to this band and the fellows in this band. Best of all, the music just rocks. The crashing, reckless nature of parts of this song brings me so much joy – it sounds like a band that really enjoys playing together.
19. "Eye On The Finish Line" - Pedro The Lion – Like much of the music on this disc, this was in the studio, but I knew of it because of Wes and Frank. Yet another so-called Christian band, one that certainly went beyond just simple messages. There has always been plenty of meaning in Pedro The Lion’s lyrics. This tune comes from Winners Never Quit, a concept album about a pair of brothers – one, an alcoholic screw-up, and the other the golden son politician who cheats to win his office then kills his wife when she finds out and threatens to blow the lid on the scandal. So, you know, good Godly-themed music. No, this is mature music for mature people, and thinking man’s lyrics aside, the band rocks, too.
20. "The Official Ironman Rally Song" - Guided By Voices – From Under The Bushes, Under The Stars, this was GBVs last collective gasp from the “golden years” lineup featuring Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, and Kevin Fennell. This wasn’t quite yet the hi-fi GBV of later years, but nor was it the lo-fi band of Propeller or Bee Thousand. It’s somewhere in between, which is also where this song is – it’s a balance of hi- and lo-fi, a balance of indie sensibilities and a big rock sound. The song does in fact sound like a rally cry. In truth, this whole record could’ve been one GBV song after another – I play them enough to merit that, and I’ve been an ever-growing fan since then. Don’t ever try to get into Guided By Voices without a guide – there are hundreds, yes, hundreds of releases by this band and other pseudonyms. If you want more, just ask.
21. "Emergency! Emergency!" - The Promise Ring – It feels like to include two Promise Rings tracks. If the song before didn’t convince you this band was great, then this song should. This song illustrates everything great about this band. This WILL get stuck in your head if you give it even half a chance. This song, even more than Guided By Voices, truly defines the music on this disc. Truly, this song could probably define this entire collection. The Promise Ring were the perfect band for this era – an escape from the direness of grunge and the shittiness of boy bands and Brittney Spears. This song is the call to arms for a great generation of underground rock and roll.