Much of the mid-90s was somewhat dominated by a group of bands, connected only by the media-created super-scene known as Britpop. Yet with acts such as Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Supergrass absent from the album charts 1996 was something different altogether (OK, Sleeper released an album but that’s not made the list). Radiohead also decided to have a rest in ‘96; inbetween making the best rock record of the 90s (The Bends) and that cheery little pop record they released in ‘97 (OK Computer). But who needs Britpop? The finest albums of ’96 arrived from all over and were a pretty diverse bunch too. So while we still got some fine English acts releasing some ground-breaking records (I’m looking at you, Tricky!), we also got to hear from Wales, Scotland, Australia, Belgium and the good-old-US of A. 1996, dear reader, was actually a really fantastic year.
Glasgow’s Belle & Sebastian gave us not one, but two, of the finest indie albums ever made in the form of the wonderfully fragile Tigermilk and the slightly more self-assured If You’re Feeling Sinister. Wales’ boys The Super Furry Animals twisted our fragile little minds with their classic debut album Fuzzy Logic while The Manic Street Preachers went all orchestral on the stadium straddling Everything Must Go, possibly only challenged in the epic, stadium-sized rock stakes by Washington’s Screaming Trees with the psychedelically inclined Dust album.
Nick Cave scared the shit out of us and made us laugh with the macabre Murder Ballads album while Michael Gira pushed Swans into ever more terrifying and epic territory with Soundtracks for the Blind. Low broke a few hearts with the minimalist masterpiece that is The Curtain Hits the Cast while Belgium’s’ Deus confused and comforted in equal measure with the melancholic, jazz-rock styling’s of In a Bar, Under the Sea. PJ Harvey bamboozled the fuck out of everybody with the wonderfully mental Dance Hall at Louse Point while Aphex Twin, Tricky, Beck and DJ Shadow pushed things forward. And if all that was too much then Weezer and Rocket From the Crypt offered us some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
A pretty diverse and interesting year really. Oh, and Suede gave us the pill-popping, poptastic Coming Up album just so we got our fix of Britpop after all….