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National Album Day 2023: The STRAND's Top Picks From The 90s

Photo by Encik Tekateki via Wikimedia Commons (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

According to your local supermarket, petrol station or post office, it's about time to start preparing for Halloween (or for some, even Christmas) — but before that, we think National Album Day (October 14th) is just as much worth celebrating.

This year's theme for the day is the 90s, in all its low-rise. animal-printed, bubblegum-coloured glory: so we asked the STRAND team to tell us about their favourite albums from the decade before we were all even born.

Introduction by Talia Andrea, Editor in Chief

1996 - Ryuichi Sakamoto

"Sakamoto is an incredible composer, and this album combines all his best pieces. I remember seeing Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence at the BFI last year, and when I heard the title track by Sakamoto (who also acts in the film!) it was so emotional. I also love ‘M.A.Y. in The Backyard’, which is on on the iconic Call Me By Your Name soundtrack. It’s the perfect album for autumn — looking out of the window as it rains and gets colder…"

Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis

"Many albums have been given the title of era-defining, but this label is most definitely earned with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. This album sonically captures the mood of the 90s British youth, and displays the best of what ‘Britpop’ has to offer."

Saul Carlton, Staff Writer

The Writing's On The Wall - Destiny's Child

"This album is now (unbelievably) 24 years old, but it still sounds as fresh as ever. The empowering lyrics and bumping instrumentals on evergreen tracks from Bills, Bills, Bills to Bug-A-Boo have served as the blueprint for so many budding R&B girl-bands who have come after them. And still, no one does it quite like Destiny's Child."

Talia Andrea, Editor in Chief

If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle and Sebastian

"I love Belle and Sebastian. This is something that is essential to my being — I listen to them every day, I wear my B&S shirt with a pride resembling one of someone who is extravagantly patriotic, and the heart and soul of my room is undoubtedly my B&S poster from an obscure gig they did over thirty years ago..

If You’re Feeling Sinister was the band’s second album, and it was recorded in five days — something that might be a flaw for any other record, but seems perfectly apt for this one. The quick recording of the album is reflected in the pace of the storytelling, which all seems to spill out of Murdoch at once: it is poignantly honest, a calling for something unattainable, a prayer for those who can listen. He invents fictitious stories of people who are living conventional and normal lives, and yet the beauty with which these are described is enough to make you wince. There is a real and brutal sense of longing in the lyrics, despite their catchy and happy melodies. “I had so much stored up in me emotionally,” Murdoch says about these songs, “from the years and years of nothing.” This much is made abundantly and beautifully clear in Sinister."

Dan Ramos, Staff Writer

Le Tigre - Le Tigre

"Le Tigre is my personal favourite project which Kathleen Hanna has been part of, and this album really encompasses why! It's very much punk and punchy, especially with its lyrics, but the slight pivot towards pop brings everything together so well, making it even more appealing and interesting for modern audiences. It's such a charming piece of music, which really shows the space and influence Riot Grrl carved out for itself in the 90s."

Kiana Kardooni, Staff Writer

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel

"This is a truly eclectic record. The use of unique instrumentation such as singing saws and bagpipes, combined with its lo-fi production, sets it apart from any of its contemporary folk albums, whilst lead singer Jeff Mangum’s off-key vocals provide a rawness and innocence not often heard in mainstream music.

It is ultimately Mangum’s lyricism and songwriting which brings me continuously back to this album. His abstract imagery and cryptic concepts mean that every listen uncovers more and more of the genius behind it, furthering my appreciation for this beautiful yet strange piece of music."

Ellis Riverol, Staff Writer