The ’98 yearbook

Rewinding and revisiting the year's highs and lows.

1998: Second-rate divas sang forgettable lachrymosities. Retro pastiches gave rock its only glimmer of fun. Enormous entertainment conglomerates continued to chew up and spit out small labels and especially bands. Dance music failed, yet again, to hit the mainstream—

not a big surprise, really, since dance music is as revolutionary today as punk was 20 years ago, and we all know how long it took America to catch on to that sea change. (Just wait, some bedroom whiz-kid inspired by Photek and Roni Size will hit the Billboard Top 40 in the year 2010.) In short, like the culture at large, music is suffering from millennial malaise. Below, a subjective guide to the musical year that was.


Four Most Underrated Records of the Year:

  • The Spinanes, Arches and Aisles
  • MC Lyte, Seven and Seven
  • Pressure Drop, Elusive
  • Spoon, A Series of Sneaks

Six Most Overrated Records of the Year:

  • Alanis Morissette, Supposed Former

    Infatuation Junkie

  • Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of

    Lauryn Hill

  • Outkast, Aquemini
  • Hole, Celebrity Skin
  • Fatboy Slim, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
  • 4 Hero, Two Pages

Top Five Seattle Albums

  • 764-HERO, Get Here and Stay (Up)
  • Pedro the Lion, It’s Hard to Find a Friend (Made in Mexico)
  • Death Cab for Cutie, Something about Airplanes (Elsinor/Barsuk)
  • Volume All Star, Self-connected, Twice Elected (Slabco)
  • Hi Fi Killers, Possession (Loosegroove)

Top 10 Albums

  • Beastie Boys, Hello Nasty (Grand Royal/ Capitol)
  • Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Black Star (Rawkus)
  • Massive Attack, Mezzanine (Virgin)
  • Mixmaster Mike, Anti-Theft Device


  • Amon Tobin, Permutation (Ninja Tune)
  • The Spinanes, Arches and Aisles(Sub Pop)
  • Mercury Rev, Deserter’s Songs (V2)
  • Marilyn Manson, Mechanical Animals (Nothing/Interscope)
  • Calexico, The Black Light (Touch & Go)
  • Ernest Ranglin, In Search of the Lost Riddim (Palm Pictures)

The 1998 Mix Tape:

  • “Simple Man,” Josh Wink (featuring the Interpreters), Herehear
  • “Naxalite,” Asian Dub Foundation, Rafi’s Revenge
  • “Object Unknown,” DJ Spooky (featuring Kool Keith), Riddim Warfare
  • “World That I Know,” Esthero & Goodie Mob, Slam original soundtrack
  • “St. Lucy’s Gate,” Snowpony, The Slow-Motion World of
  • “Jeanne,” Air (featuring Françoise Hardy), Sexy Boy (CD single)
  • “Jennifer,” Q-Burns Abstract Message, Feng Shui
  • “Waltz #2,” Elliott Smith, XO
  • “I Never Want to See You Again,” Quasi, Featuring “Birds”
  • “Metal School,” Spoon, A Series of Sneaks
  • “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” Beck,


  • “Rabbit in Your Headlights,” U.N.K.L.E., Psyence Fiction
  • “I Love Hip-Hop,” DJ Cam, The Beat


  • “Madina Passage,” John Forté, Poly Sci
  • “Politics of the Sneaker Pimps,”

    Public Enemy, He Got Game original soundtrack

  • “Cumbia de Los Muertes,” Ozomatli, Ozomatli
  • “Omerta/The Vampire Lanois,” Afghan Whigs, 1965
  • “8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain,” Jim Carroll, Mercury Rising

Three guilty pleasures:

  • Money Mark, Push the Button (Mowax/ London)
  • Cleopatra, Comin Atcha! (Maverick)
  • Tones on Tail, Pop reissue (Beggar’s Banquet)

Most pointless remake: Ace of Base, “Cruel Summer”


Most gracious performers: Goodie Mob at the Showbox

Best Clash of the Titans

impersonation: Wilco and Billy Bragg at WOMAD

Show so good it was worth getting sick over: Roni Size/

Reprazent at the Showbox

Best place to get smothered: The final Electrolush (with a disappointing DJ set from the Chemical Brothers)

Best effect: The Planet of the Apes characters synchronized with the music at Cornelius’ gig.

Best place to relive your lost youth: The Breakroom

Best repeat visitors: Josh Wink, Afghan Whigs

Most clueless move: Liz Phair opening her King Cat show with 45 minutes of slides—of herself

Biggest Seattle coup: Getting to hear Jim Carroll sing with a band—which he only did in New York and at the Crocodile

Most improved booking: The Fenix

Best cover: Elliott Smith’s version of Big Star’s “Thirteen”

Most punk-rock moment: Nick Cave encouraging the crowd at the 5th Avenue Theater to defy the bouncers and gather at the front of the stage

Most mesmerizing performers: Massive Attack, with Horace Andy, at the Paramount


Eternal VIP Room presences: First half of the year: The Real World—Seattle cast. Second half of the year: the Murder City Devils

Best subliminal advertising: The cover of R.E.M.’s record Up, with title lettering that approximates the Up Records logo

Ubiquitous sonic ingredient: Latin rhythms, propagated by Bloqué, Bio Ritmo, Los Amigos Invisibles, et al.

Cast for a musical update of My Three Sons: Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainwright, and Eagle-Eye Cherry

For whom the bell tolls: Charlie Feathers, who died just weeks after John Fahey’s Revenant Records label released the amazing double-CD Feathers retrospective, Get with It

Most celebrated dead guy: George Gershwin, born a century ago this year and the subject of several albums, including Gershwin Standard Time, Red Hot + Rhapsody, The Great Gershwin Decca Songbook, and Herbie Hancock’s Gershwin’s World

Don’t call it a comeback: Burt Bacharach, Bauhaus, Jim Carroll, Public Enemy, Mark Lanegan, Everlast, Vanilla Ice—who didn’t come back this year?

Easy prediction for 1999: Guitar rock will return.