I have never been particularly good at recalling dates. In fact, I am positively hopeless when confronted with questions such as, “Where were you when….?”, and have often received strange looks when I struggle to remember my own children’s birthdays. Yet strangely enough, I can cite events and dates perfectly when I put them in context with music. For example, when I hear “Baby I Love Your Way”, I am immediately transported to April 1994, cruisin’ Route 66 through Texas in my 98 Oldsmobile. (I am, of course, referring Big Mountain’s cover of the Peter Frampton classic, which was enjoying high rotation on every single radio station at that time due to its inclusion in the Reality Bites soundtrack.)
It came as no surprise, then, that the prospect of selecting my 20 favourite tracks from the past 20 years was initially a daunting one. I mean, where to even begin?? It is akin to asking Imelda Marcos to select her 20 favourite pairs of shoes! But when Triple J marked the 20th anniversary of their annual Hottest 100 countdown with a poll to collate listeners’ favourite tracks from the past 20 years, that is exactly what I set about doing. In order that my list did not take 20 years to compile, I had to employ a strategy of sorts. After all, I do love a good strategy…
1. I only chose songs that had appeared in previous Hottest 100 lists.
2. I only chose one song from each year for the past 20 years (giving me a total of 20 songs).
It is entirely possibly that certain years may have heralded more memories than others, thus yielding a larger number of favourite tracks. It is also highly likely that some of my favourite tracks from the past 20 years did not even appear in the Hottest 100 countdown for that year. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this particular poll, I stuck with my initial strategy. Listed below are my top 20 picks, along with a brief rationale for my choices.
1993- Nick Cave- The Ship Song: This song was included on the cover disc of a Rolling Stone magazine I purchased whilst walking to school one morning in 1990. It marked the beginning of my love affair with Australian independent music. It remains a haunting, heartfelt and utterly mesmerising track for me to this day.
1994- The Prodigy- Voodoo People: The dark undercurrent of rock riffs combined with frenetic dance beat of this Prodigy track was like nothing I had heard before and left me wanting more, more more!! Did you know that the main riff in this track is sampled from a Nirvana song?
1995- Custard- Apartment: This song coincided with my highly transient lifestyle at the time. It was given the coveted privilege of being the first track to be played in each of my new residences.
1996- Underworld- Born Slippy (NUXX): I came to hear this song because it featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack- brilliant song, brilliant movie! ‘Nuff said…
1997- Jebediah- Leaving Home: This reminds me of drinking VB, smoking Peter Stuyvesant’s and chasing boys- those were the days!
1998- Fatboy Slim- The Rockafella Skank: Undeniably the launchpad for my as yet unattained notoriety as a world-class interpretative dancer.
1999- Sonic Animation- Theophilis Thistler: This song reminds me of my best mate Bev and the day we got to dress up as the band’s two mascots, Theo and Rolly, and dance on stage in the Boiler Room at Big Day Out. Perhaps my best ever music related memory!!
2000- Avalanches- Frontier Psychiatrist: It was around the time that Since I Left You was released that I was really beginning to appreciate the artistic stylings of turntablism, and the incredible use of sampling on this album really blew me away. Apparently the album contains over 3,500 samples!!
2001- Groove Armada- Superstylin’: Best party song ever! It reminds me of the numerous impromptu dance parties that occured at our house with the bass so loud that we later discovered that people could hear the music playing in the next suburb!
2002- 1200 Techniques- Karma: These guys were one of my first favourite Aussie hip hop bands- such a cool, yet slightly sinister vibe to this song- I had almost forgotten how much I loved it until I played it again recently.
2003- White Stripes- 7 Nation Army: A perfect song to undertake the challenge of simultaneously playing air guitar and air drums.
2004- Scissor Sisters- Take Your Mama: Is there a better song to practice your falsetto singing to?… I think not…. Particularly great for in the shower. I have seen these guys live twice and love the glitz and unbridled sexuality that oozes from the stage.
2005- Wolfmother- Dimension: I was so excited when I first heard Wolfmother because they immediately made me think of one of my all time favourite rock bands, Led Zeppelin. Their sound was like nothing else that was out there at the time…. as was their hair! Their music transports me back to the age of rock I wish I grew up in.
2006- Bloc Party- The Prayer: I was a massive fan of Bloc Party’s debut album Silent Alarm, but it was this song from their second album that really resonated with me. Great for listening to before heading out for a big night on the town!
2007- Daft Punk- Harder Better Faster Stronger: It makes me want to dance like a robot, and I am always mesmerised by the Daft Hands video clip that was made independently from this track. Plus, this was our team’s theme song when we undertook Tough Mudder earlier this year.
2008- Vampire Weekend- Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa: Hard to pick just one fave track from the killer debut album for these UK indie pop lads, but I was always drawn in by the Paul Simon-esque guitar riffs and conga heartbeat of this little ditty.
2009- Gossip- Heavy Cross: I love a strong female vocalist, and they don’t come much stronger than Beth Ditto. Music For Men was a powerhouse of an album and this was undoubtedly my favourite track.
2010- Art vs Science- Magic Fountain: It’s impossible to play this song too loud and it always makes me want to dance in my car like Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World!
2011- Florence & the Machine- Shake It Out: There’s something so sublime and ethereal about Florence Welche’s voice that just elicits pure happiness in me.
2012- Rudimental- Not Giving In: I cannot help but feel uplifted after listening to Rudimental, and this song in particular makes me feel like I am walking about 3 feet off the ground.
So there you have it. There were so many that just missed out (notable exceptions including bands such as Powderfinger), but that is usually how it goes when having to select a list such as this. What about you? Have you voted? What would you include in your top 20 for the past 20 years?