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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 1997

Considering this was the year I graduated from high school and entered college, it’s no stretch to call this a momentous year in my life, musically speaking or otherwise. But given those major events, it should not be surprising that this is a particularly indelible soundtrack for me, and one in which I can pinpoint a great number of these songs to not just general timelines, but specific memories.

From U2’s divisive Pop, released in the spring and the CD of choice I played on drives down to Tacoma to watch my classmates compete in the state basketball tournament; to Cornershop’s When I Was Born for the 7th Time, an album all the cool kids—myself included—in my freshman dorm had in their Case Logics; to Ben Lee’s Something to Remember Me By, which included a song I put onto a double mixtape for my fellow Seattle Prep alums headed to Boston College; to Radiohead’s OK Computer, which I listened to at Blockbuster Music before buying, even though I already loved their previous effort; to Daft Punk’s “Around the World”, which made my aunt so annoyed one summer day at the Canal, for all they did in the song was “say the same thing over and over again”; to Ben Folds Five, whom I discovered while listening to KUGS 89.3 one day in the U District—or if it wasn’t that, it was on a station I doubt exists anymore.

I could go on. And on, clearly. But instead, I will pause to mention there are some songs on here that arrived in my life later than the year in question. I would not discover the joys of World Party, The Dismemberment Plan, Cornelius, Whiskeytown, Neko Case or Sleater-Kinney until one (or two or three) years later, for example. Nor can I say I was listening to Pavement, Lambchop, Air, Guided by Voices or Old 97s at the time, though I was certainly familiar with them.

But 18-going-on-19 me was already on his way to becoming the musical archivist and devourer of genres I now consider myself. I was definitely listening to Chris Whitley 20 years ago. And Forest for the Trees, and Finley Quaye, and Spearhead, and Brad, and Willis, and The Minus 5, and Tuatara, and Elliott Smith, and Supergrass, and Citizens’ Utilities, and Buckshot LeFonque, and Super Deluxe, and Freedy Johnston, and Son Volt. For a lot of those names, I have The Mountain to thank. For others, The Rocket. Sometimes I still miss them both.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available—a whopping 8 short of complete!—but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Robyn Is Here

    Show Me Love

    Robyn

    Robyn Is Here

    BMG

    Notes

  2. Somewhere in England

    Miami

    Will Smith

    Big Willie Style

    Columbia

    Notes

  3. Life After Death

    Mo Money Mo Problems

    The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Mase & Puff Daddy

    Life After Death

    Bad Boy

    Notes

  4. Gone Till November

    Gone Till November (The Makin’ Runs Remix)

    Wyclef Jean featuring R. Kelly & Canibus

    Gone Till November

    Columbia

    Notes

  5. Rated Next

    Too Close

    Next

    Rated Next

    Divine Mill/Arista

    Notes

  6. Return of the Mack

    Return of the Mack

    Mark Morrison

    Return of the Mack

    Atlantic

    1996 UK release

  7. Women in Technology

    Your Woman

    White Town

    Women in Technology

    Virgin

    Notes

  8. A Life Less Ordinary

    Love Is Here

    Luscious Jackson

    A Life Less Ordinary

    London

    Notes

  9. Dig Me Out

    One More Hour

    Sleater-Kinney

    Dig Me Out

    Kill Rock Stars

    Notes

  10. Peace and Noise

    1959

    Patti Smith

    Peace and Noise

    Arista

    Notes

  11. Reverence

    Don’t Leave

    Faithless

    Reverence

    Arista

    Notes

  12. Pop

    If God Will Send His Angels

    U2

    Pop

    Island

    Notes

  13. Blur

    On Your Own

    Blur

    Blur

    Food/Virgin

    Notes

  14. Glow

    Place Your Hands

    Reef

    Glow

    Sony

    Notes

  15. The Dandy Warhols Come Down

    Every Day Should Be a Holiday

    The Dandy Warhols

    …The Dandy Warhols Come Down

    Capitol

    Notes

  16. Forest for the Trees

    Dream

    Forest for the Trees

    Forest for the Trees

    Dreamworks

    Notes

  17. When I Was Born for the 7th Time

    Good Shit

    Cornershop

    When I Was Born for the 7th Time

    Luaka Bop/Warner Bros

    Notes

  18. A Life Less Ordinary

    Deadweight

    Beck

    A Life Less Ordinary

    London

    Notes

  19. Maverick a Strike

    Sunday Shining

    Finley Quaye

    Maverick a Strike

    550 Music

    Notes

  20. Fush Yu Mang

    Walkin’ on the Sun

    Smash Mouth

    Fush Yu Mang

    Interscope

    Notes

  21. Third Eye Blind

    Graduate

    Third Eye Blind

    Third Eye Blind

    Elektra

    Notes

  22. Dude Ranch

    Dammit

    Blink-182

    Dude Ranch

    Cargo/MCA

    Notes

  23. Nimrod

    Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

    Green Day

    Nimrod

    Reprise

    Notes

  24. Via Satellite

    Years Ago

    Super Deluxe

    Via Satellite

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  25. Much Afraid

    Fade to Grey

    Jars of Clay

    Much Afraid

    Essential/Silvertone/Jive

    Notes

  26. Coil

    Crazy Life

    Toad the Wet Sprocket

    Coil

    Columbia

    Notes

  27. Farmer

    Sadie

    Farmer

    Farmer

    Aware

    Notes

  28. Terra Incognita

    Immortal Blues

    Chris Whitley

    Terra Incognita

    Work

    Notes

  29. El Corazon

    Telephone Road

    Steve Earle

    El Corazon

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  30. Too Far to Care

    Timebomb

    Old 97’s

    Too Far to Care

    Elektra

    Notes

  31. The Virginian

    Timber

    Neko Case

    The Virginian

    Bloodshot

    Notes

  32. Never Home

    On the Way Out

    Freedy Johnston

    Never Home

    Elektra

    Notes

  33. Straightaways

    Caryatid Easy

    Son Volt

    Straightaways

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  34. Beautiful World

    Resignation Superman

    Big Head Todd & the Monsters

    Beautiful World

    Revolution

    Notes

  35. Surfacing

    Sweet Surrender

    Sarah McLachlan

    Surfacing

    Arista

    Notes

  36. Lover's Knot

    As the Rain

    Jeb Loy Nichols

    Lover’s Knot

    Capitol

    Notes

  37. A Town Called Earth

    Happy Friends

    The Greyboy Allstars

    A Town Called Earth

    Greyboy

    Notes

  38. Music Evolution

    Music Evolution

    Buckshot LeFonque

    Music Evolution

    Columbia

    Notes

  39. Jurassic 5 EP

    Concrete Schoolyard

    Jurassic 5

    Jurassic 5 EP

    Rumble

    Notes

  40. Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1

    The Look of Love

    Slum Village

    Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1

    Counterflow

    Bootleg only; officially released in 2006

  41. The Velvet Rope

    Got ’Til It’s Gone

    Janet Jackson featuring Joni Mitchell & Q-Tip

    The Velvet Rope

    Virgin

    Notes

  42. R U Still Down?

    Do for Love

    2Pac featuring Erick Williams

    R U Still Down? (Remember Me)

    Jive

    Notes

  43. Men In Black

    The ’Notic

    The Roots featuring D’Angelo

    Men In Black: The Album

    Columbia

    Notes

  44. Supa Dupa Fly

    The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

    Missy Elliott

    Supa Dupa Fly

    Elektra

    Notes

  45. My Way

    You Make Me Wanna…

    Usher

    My Way

    Arista

    Notes

  46. Chocolate Supa Highway

    U Can’t Sing R Song

    Spearhead

    Chocolate Supa Highway

    Capitol

    Notes

  47. Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

    Everybody Here Wants You

    Jeff Buckley

    Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

    Columbia

    Notes

  48. Baduizm

    On & On

    Erykah Badu

    Baduizm

    Universal

    Notes

  49. Breaking the Ethers

    Dark State of Mind

    Tuatara

    Breaking the Ethers

    Sony

    Notes

  50. Like Swimming

    Hanging on a Curtain

    Morphine

    Like Swimming

    Dreamworks

    Notes

  51. The Boatman's Call

    Into My Arms

    Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

    The Boatman’s Call

    Mute

    Notes

  52. Interiors

    The Day Brings

    Brad

    Interiors

    Sony

    Notes

  53. Daisy

    Umbrella

    Dog’s Eye View

    Daisy

    Sony

    Notes

  54. Perishable Fruit

    The Book I’m Not Reading

    Patty Larkin

    Perishable Fruit

    High Street

    Notes

  55. Blame It on Me

    Crazy

    Alana Davis

    Blame It on Me

    Elektra

    Notes

  56. Something to Remember Me By

    New Song

    Ben Lee

    Something to Remember Me By

    Grand Royal

    Notes

  57. Bourgeois Blues

    Testimony

    Willis

    Bourgeois Blues

    self-released

    Notes

  58. Middle of Nowhere

    MMMBop

    Hanson

    Middle of Nowhere

    Island

    Notes

  59. Whatever and Ever Amen

    Battle of Who Could Care Less

    Ben Folds Five

    Whatever and Ever Amen

    550 Music

    Notes

  60. Message for Albert

    Bella’s Birthday Cake

    Five for Fighting

    Message for Albert

    Nettwerk America

    Notes

  61. Nine Lives

    Pink

    Aerosmith

    Nine Lives

    Columbia

    Notes

  62. Hot

    Put a Lid on It

    Squirrel Nut Zippers

    Hot

    Mammoth

    Notes

  63. The Lonesome Death of Buck McCoy

    Empty Room

    The Minus 5

    The Lonesome Death of Buck McCoy

    Hollywood

    Notes

  64. Time Out of Mind

    Make You Feel My Love

    Bob Dylan

    Time Out of Mind

    Columbia

    Notes

  65. Sound of Lies

    Stick in the Mud

    The Jayhawks

    Sound of Lies

    American

    Notes

  66. Fathering

    I Woke Up in the Mayflower

    Mark Mulcahy

    Fathering

    Mezzotint

    Notes

  67. Strangers Almanac

    Losering

    Whiskeytown

    Strangers Almanac

    Outpost

    Notes

  68. No More Medicine

    Idaho

    Citizens’ Utilities

    No More Medicine

    Mute

    Notes

  69. Thriller

    Your Fucking Sunny Day

    Lambchop

    Thriller

    Merge

    Notes

  70. Static & Silence

    Summertime

    The Sundays

    Static & Silence

    DGC

    Notes

  71. Lucid

    California

    The Freddy Jones Band

    Lucid

    Polygram

    Notes

  72. Yeah, It's That Easy

    Slipped Away

    G. Love & Special Sauce

    Yeah, It’s That Easy

    Okeh/Epic

    Notes

  73. S.C.I.E.N.C.E.

    Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)

    Incubus

    S.C.I.E.N.C.E.

    Epic/Immortal

    Notes

  74. Ultra

    It’s No Good

    Depeche Mode

    Ultra

    Mute

    Notes

  75. New Forms

    Brown Paper Bag

    Roni Size & Reprazent

    New Forms

    Talkin’ Loud

    Notes

  76. Homework

    Around the World

    Daft Punk

    Homework

    Virgin

    Notes

  77. The Fat of the Land

    Breathe

    The Prodigy

    The Fat of the Land

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  78. Vegas

    Busy Child

    The Crystal Method

    Vegas

    Outpost

    Notes

  79. I'm Afraid of Americans

    I’m Afraid of Americans

    David Bowie

    I’m Afraid of Americans

    Virgin

    Notes

  80. Burden in My Hand

    Bleed Together

    Soundgarden

    Burden in My Hand

    A&M

    Notes

  81. The Colour and the Shape

    Everlong

    Foo Fighters

    The Colour and the Shape

    Capitol

    Notes

  82. Nothing Feels Good

    Why Did We Ever Meet

    The Promise Ring

    Nothing Feels Good

    Jade Tree

    Notes

  83. Under the Bushes Under the Stars

    The Official Ironmen Rally Song

    Guided by Voices

    Under the Bushes Under the Stars

    Matador

    Notes

  84. The Mollusk

    Ocean Man

    Ween

    The Mollusk

    Elektra

    Notes

  85. I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

    Autumn Sweater

    Yo La Tengo

    I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

    Matador

    Notes

  86. Brighten the Corners

    Date With IKEA

    Pavement

    Brighten the Corners

    Matador

    Notes

  87. Perfect From Now On

    Kicked It in the Sun

    Built to Spill

    Perfect From Now On

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  88. The Lonesome Crowded West

    Polar Opposites

    Modest Mouse

    The Lonesome Crowded West

    Up

    Notes

  89. Is Terrified

    This Is the Life

    The Dismemberment Plan

    Is Terrified

    DeSoto

    Notes

  90. Fantasma

    New Music Machine

    Cornelius

    Fantasma

    Matador

    Notes

  91. Lateness of the Hour

    Everything So Real

    Eric Matthews

    The Lateness of the Hour

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  92. Dots and Loops

    Brakhage

    Stereolab

    Dots and Loops

    Elektra

    Notes

  93. Premiers Symptoms

    J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau

    Air

    Premiers Symptomes

    Caroline

    Notes

  94. Dig Your Own Hole

    Where Do I Begin

    The Chemical Brothers featuring Beth Orton

    Dig Your Own Hole

    Astralwerks

    Notes

  95. Around the Fur

    Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)

    Deftones

    Around the Fur

    Maverick

    Notes

  96. OK Computer

    Subterranean Homesick Alien

    Radiohead

    OK Computer

    Capitol

    Notes

  97. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

    Lades and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

    Spiritualized

    Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

    Dedicated/Arista

    Notes

  98. Either/Or

    Angeles

    Elliott Smith

    Either/Or

    Kill Rock Stars

    Notes

  99. In It For the Money

    Late in the Day

    Supergrass

    In It For the Money

    Capitol

    Notes

  100. Egyptology

    It Is Time

    World Party

    Egyptology

    Chrysalis

    Notes