Airspace Spotifriday V: The 90′s, Wouldn’t That Be Nice?


The 90s were pretty nice, right? I liked them. The economy was booming, the wars were few and far between, and the music was good—so good that rock music almost stopped evolving after this point.

This playlist aims to capture those pleasant vibes and pioneering spirit by incorporating some of the best of the alt-rock and indie sound. You can find the playlist here on Spotify, and you can expect a generally melodic mix of indie, folk, pop, and psychedelia.


1. Embassy Row—Pavement

Pavement jam starts softly, lulls you for an introduction, and then rocks out.


2. You Can Have It All—Yo La Tengo

A great break from “Embassy Row” and its angst. A melodic cover that strikes at your heart.


3. Stop the Show—Built to Spill

An excellent track from an excellent album, Built to Spill’s Perfect From Now On. It meanders a bit until it picks up halfway through, and then it just doesn’t want to stop.


4. Dry the Rain—The Beta Band

I have yet to watch High Fidelity—it’s on my list, don’t worry—but I am familiar with the scene where John Cusak’s character, a record store owner, puts on The Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain.” Everyone’s heads perk up, and he quips something along the lines of “Now I have just sold ten copies of The Three E.P.’s.” The first few moments capture the feeling of dropping the needle to vinyl.


5. When Will You Come Home—Galaxie 500

The earliest track on what is ostensibly a 90s mix, its dream pop and slowgaze (is that a thing? I’m combining slowcore and shoegaze to save time) set a tone and tempo for the songs to come.


6. Lucky—Radiohead

This song may fit in the least with the rest of the CD, but Radiohead’s alt-rock 90s sound is too great to pass by. It serves here as a companion piece to When Will You Come Home.


7. Pictures of Me—Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith makes a lot of appearances on our Spotifriday playlists, (Current Count: 3 playlists, 5 songs) but with good reason. This surprisingly uptempo piece from Smith changes the pace from the previous two, and its stronger rock influence blends in nicely with the rest of the playlist.


8. Holiday Surprise 1, 2, 3—The Olivia Tremor Control

Longer songs mark the playlist so far, with half of them clocking in at 5:22 or longer. “Holiday Surprise 1, 2, 3” expands off Elliott Smith’s folk influences and adds in a good portion of psychedelia with this track from Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle.


9. Everything Is—Neutral Milk Hotel

Both Elephant 6 artists, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Olivia Tremor Control influenced each other, and that overlap can be heard when they’re listened to back-to-back. Halfway through the playlist now, the interview-esque beginning of this song creates a momentary halftime for the music. Also, I’ve heard 4chan’s /mu board joke that the Everything Is EP is the greatest Neutral Milk Hotel. Judge for yourself with their title track.


10. The City—The Dismemberment Plan

The Dismemberment Plan’s “The City” is a pretty pretty good song.


11. The State I Am In—Belle and Sebastian

Tigermilk, arguably the best of Belle and Sebastian’s releases (though they all seem to blend together in my mind), starts off with The State I Am In, and it has since grown to be one of the best representations, at least in my mind, of their sound as a whole.


12. The Long Dance—Disco Inferno

Last year’s re-release of the 5 EP’s (we had The 3 EP’s earlier with “Dry the Rain”—there are no repeats on this list, don’t worry) proved revelatory for me. “The Long Dance” is a great and complex song.


13. Gravity Rides Everything—Modest Mouse

I know what you’re thinking: some liberties have been taken with the whole “90’s” theme, because The Moon and Antarctica definitely came out in this century. With this release though, and particularly with the first few tracks off The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse captures and a rather different and wholly 90’s sound, seemingly influenced by the folk and psych sounds of previous songs.


14. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space—Spiritualized

This was a song too good to leave off. It lacks the realism of some of the early folk tracks of this playlist, but its space psychedelic sound and general vibe is simply excellent. If you don’t feel like you’re floating in space after hearing this song, you can have your money back. That’s right: A money-back guarantee.


15. Hey—The Pixies

We end, it seems, at the beginning. The Pixies and Doolittle set the tone for future 90s releases. Itself beginning with a primal yell of “Hey!” before being backed with a melodic and rather catchy guitar riff, “Hey” experiments with sound, moving soft to loud with intensity. Doolittle is a classic pop record in the guise of a raw, punk rock record and, despite its 1989 release, has a quintessentially 90s alt-rock sound.


This playlist by no means aimed to be comprehensive, but if you have any suggestions, please do share. The goal was to captures a pleasant certain sound that fascinated listeners in the 1990s with a playlist that itself functioned as a curated piece of music. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did, be sure to subscribe on Spotify.

Check back for a Spotifriday post every Friday on The Airspace.


  • flavorsauce

    I find it interesting that actual 90s Modest Mouse doesn’t fit into your narrow view of what 90s music sounds like.

    • Tony Russo

       @flavorsauce An all-encompassing 90′s playlist would be impossibly long and schizophrenic (start with Guns with Roses and My Bloody Valentine and end with Third Eye Blind and Limp Bizkit?). My aim was to capture a certain sound that permeated the decade and I find particularly pleasant. But there are several tracks from Modest Mouse that would fit, and Gravity Rides Everything was my favorite, enough to make up for its technical disconnection.

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