A Massive 800-Track Playlist of 90s Indie & Alternative Music, in Chronological Order

800 indie tracksIn the time it’s taken me to grow out of my wayward 90s youth and into mostly solid citizen adulthood, cultural memories of that decade have crystalized around a few genres that have seen some renewal of late. I’m more than pleased to find current musicians reviving shoegaze, 90s electronica, and neo-soul. And with so many artists who peaked twenty or so years ago still releasing records or getting back together for impressive reunions, it often seems like the music I grew up with never left, even if a whole raft of stars I couldn’t pick out of a lineup have emerged in the meantime.

And yet, though the veneration of 90s music has become a thing in recent years, the perspective of it by people perhaps not even born when the decade ended tends to be somewhat limited. Perhaps all of us forget how strange and eclectic 90s music was. Even at the time, pop and alternative cultures were almost instantly reduced in films, compilation albums, and more-or-less every show on MTV. It was an era when subcultures were quickly commodified, sanitized, and sold back to us in theaters and on record shelves.

To remind ourselves of just how wide-ranging the 90s were, we might turn to the expansive “giant 90s alt/indie/etc” playlist here, compiled by Aroon Korvna (born in 1982, but precociously “musically conscious” during the decade). The journey begins with the nasal chamber pop of They Might Be Giants’ “Birdhouse in Your Soul”—a classic of DIY dork-rock—and ends with Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin,” a song heralding the triumph of radio-ready rap and club hits over the decades’ many quirky rock and hip-hop guises.

Hear the playlist in three parts: Part I (1990-94) and II (1995-96) above; Part III (1997-99) below. (If you need Spotify’s software, download it here.) Along the way, we run into forgotten songs by under-the-radar bands like The Dwarves, Red House Painters, Guided By Voices, The Beta Band, and The Microphones; leftfield choices from one-hit wonders like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Information Society; the first stirrings from now-superstars like Daft Punk and Jack White; and cuts from just about every other artist on college or alternative radio throughout the decade.

“The inspiration for this playlist,” writes Korvna, “came from seeing one too many of those nostalgia-bait pieces aimed at my cohort: ‘You totally forgot about these 20 amazing hits from the 90’s…. After the 6th or 7th of these articles all listing off the same obvious things, you start to think you really have heard everything from the 90s. But we all know that’s not true.”

By doing a bit of internet research to fill gaps in memory, Korvna compiled “a mix of things everyone is familiar with, and more obscure artifacts, the sorts of songs you might have only been familiar with if you were, say, listening to college rock in 1991.”

If the 90s is to you an unknown country, you’ll find that this three-part Spotify playlist offers a comprehensive walk-through of the decades’ diverse musical culture—and it doesn’t just play the hits. If you’re a gentleman or lady of a certain age, it will refresh a few memories, make you smile and wince with nostalgia, and perhaps fill you with indignation over all the songs you think need to be on there but aren’t.

Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments—or to make your own 90s playlist. And while you’re at it, you might want to take a look at Flavorwire’s surprising list of “105 ‘90s Alternative Bands that Still Exist.”

via Metafilter/Medium

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Glass: The Oscar-Winning “Perfect Short Documentary” on Dutch Glassmaking (1958)

You’ll find many a bold claim on Wikipedia, even on the page for Bert Haanstra’s Glass, a 1958 short documentary on glassmaking in the Netherlands, which, as of this writing, mentions that the film “is often acclaimed to be the perfect short documentary.” Just the sort of thing you’d want to take with a grain of salt, right? But if you watch Glass itself, which won the 1959 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, you might find yourself joining in on that supposed chorus of acclaim.

Prashant Parvatneni at The Essential Mystery calls Glass “at once a passionate celebration of human labour and craftsmanship and a biting critique of the mechanistic mass-production of objects. On the very surface this documentary can appear as a demonstrative film keenly elucidating the very basic processes that go into the making of handmade glassware and juxtaposing it with the process of bottle-making in a mechanised factory.

Yet this very juxtaposition coupled with a Haanstra’s strong stylistic intervention takes the film into a polemical space.” Taking a slightly different tone, Colossal’s Christopher Jobson highlights the jazz of the traditional half, and the “whimsical score of more synthesized music” in the modern half. “Also,” he adds, “there’s a ton of great smoking!”

Jobson doesn’t mention that these guys also somehow manage to keep smoking even while blowing glass — an impressive feat indeed, and just one of the impressive qualities on display in Glass’ brief runtime. Eventually, the footage turns back from the factory to the workshop, and soon it begins oscillating between the two, cutting to the jazzy rhythm and even making the machines and workmen into musical instruments of a kind. The Dutch glassmaking industry has surely changed in the past half-century, but students of Dutch film can’t ignore the work of Haanstra, who in addition to this and other documentaries short and long, directed features including Fanfare, still one of the most popular films in the Netherlands ever. But as any film historian might suspect — and here comes another bold claim — Glass will outlive them all.

Glass will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

via Colossal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Carol Kaye, 81-Year-Old Pioneer of Rock, Gives Kiss’ Gene Simmons a Bass Lesson

If you asked me to name the best representative of rock and roll as a boy’s club, KISS would be high on my list. Despite their commitment to a gender-bending glam style, Frontmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s chest hair rugs, wagging tongues, and studded codpieces are exaggerated examples of seventies virility—a rock era known for progressive music, but not progressive gender politics.

If you asked me to name a musician who had challenged and defied gender stereotypes in rock and roll, Carol Kaye— bassist and member of L.A.’s top flight session musicians the Wrecking Crew—would be high on my list. Kaye and her crew helped create the sound of Phil Spector records, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, and so many other classic sixties artists.

Kaye never particularly saw herself as a pioneer or pathbreaker, but her smooth, unpretentious professionalism carried her through a career most musicians, male and female, would envy, even if she never stood in the spotlight herself. Her attitude, approach, and playing are pretty much the opposite of the bombastic, mercenary Simmons, who has on more than one occasion weathered charges of sexism in his pursuit of bigger, louder, dumber music and more tawdry reality TV.

In the short clip above, the two legends meet, and Kaye sits Simmons down and shows him how it’s done.

She has taught hundreds of students to imitate, though never duplicate, her chops, and earned the clout to take Simmons to school (though she seems surprised to be doing so); Kaye largely helped invent the sound of rock bass and elevated the instrument from a supporting player to an indispensable lead one as well.

The clip comes from an unfinished documentary that features over an hour of interview footage in which Kaye discusses her start in music and longtime success, and demonstrates more of her phenomenal, understated playing.

via No Treble

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Recalling Albert Camus’ Fashion Advice, Noam Chomsky Pans Glenn Greenwald’s Shiny, Purple Tie

chomsky fashion advice

70 years ago this month, Albert Camus made his first and only trip to the United States, briefly visiting Philadelphia and Boston, but mostly staying in New York, the city that captivated him most. As Jennifer Schuessler writes in The New York Times, Camus didn’t quite know what to make of the city’s “swarming lights” and “frantic streets.” But he had to appreciate the warmth with which he was greeted. During his 1946 stay, Camus celebrated the English publication of The Stranger on the rooftop of the Hotel Astor. He sat down for an interview with The New Yorker and gave a memorable speech at Columbia University. He also became a fashion critic for a brief moment, offering this thought on American neckties: “You have to see it to believe it. So much bad taste hardly seems imaginable.”

All of this sets up a little joke delivered this weekend by Noam Chomsky, as recalled on Facebook by journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald writes:

I arrived last night at the University of Arizona for my event with Edward Snowden and Noam Chomsky. Chomsky arrived shortly after I did and, after I greeted him, the following dialogue ensued:

Chomsky: You know, there’s this interesting essay by Albert Camus, written during his first visit to the United States, in which he described his surprise at what he regarded as the poor clothing taste of Americans, particularly men’s choices of ties.

Me (slightly confused): Are you sharing that anecdote because you dislike my tie?

Chomsky: Yes.

That’s how you receive a fashion critique from the world’s greatest public intellectual.


Note: The 70th anniversary of Camus’s trip to New York is being commemorated in “Camus: A Stranger in the City,” a monthlong festival of performances, readings, film screenings and events. If you’re in NYC, check it out. The full program is here.

via Critical Theory

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Download the Sublime Anatomy Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Available Online, or in a Great iPad App


I’ve always found anatomical drawing fascinating. At its best, it occupies an aesthetic space somewhere between mystical fine art and cutting-edge scientific observation—a space carved out during the Italian Renaissance, when the boundaries between artistic training and scientific inquiry were permeable and often nonexistent.

Famously, the period introduced renderings of the human figure so anatomically accurate that “until about 1500-1510,” writes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the artists’ “investigations surpassed much of the knowledge of anatomy that was taught at the universities.”

Recto: Studies of a cranium. Verso: Notes on the nerves and move

Artists like the great Michelangelo Buonnarroti and Leonardo da Vinci—as well as lesser-known figures like Antonio Pollaiuolo and Baccio Bandinelli—undertook “detailed anatomical dissections at various points in their long careers,” producing hundreds of sketches and studies alongside and in preparation for the muscular paintings and sculpture for which they’re best known.

Recto: The muscles of the back and arm. Verso: Studies of the in

Most Renaissance artists “became anatomists by necessity,” the Met points out, “as they attempted to refine a more lifelike, sculptural portrayal of the human figure.” Leonardo’s studies in anatomy, however, held a scientific interest all their own, akin to his investigations into the physics of flight, weapon and battlement design, architecture, and other pursuits.


Many of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings contain detailed notes on his observations, as you can see in the study of a heavily-muscled torso and of a human cranium, further up. He wrote these notes using his proprietary right-to-left “mirror-writing” technique, which he reserved for his private notebooks. “Only when he was writing something intended for other people,” Boston’s Museum of Science informs us, “did he write in the normal direction.”

Recto: Studies of the foetus in the womb. Verso: Notes on reprod

Now we can see several dozen of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings of human and animal figures (such as the bear foot above) all in one place, thanks to Buckingham Palace’s Royal Collection Trust—who have digitized their sizable collection. Leonardo not only studied anatomical structure, but also performed dissections in order to understand human physiology; he approached the workings of the human body as though it were an organic machine, as confident in the rational ordering of its parts as he was of its privileged place in the natural world. (See just above Leonardo’s well-known drawings of a fetus in the womb, with copious notes on human reproduction on both sides.)

Da Vinci iPad App

In addition to the many intriguing sketches, studies, and detailed illustrations in the Royal Collection Trust’s online archive, iPad owners can also search and view the collection on their devices with the free Leonardo da Vinci Anatomy app (screenshot above). “For the first time,” writes the description, “it is possible for anyone with an iPad to own and explore this remarkable testament to Leonardo’s scientific and artistic genius…. All 268 pages from Leonardo’s notebooks are presented here at the highest resolution, optimized for the pin-sharp retina display of the iPad.” The app includes incredibly helpful features like English translations of the notes, as well as essays and interviews with experts discussing the significance of Leonardo’s discoveries.

The head of Judas in the Last Supper

Whether you own an iPad or not, you can benefit immensely from this collection. The online version allows viewers to download high-resolution images like the “Head of Judas” sketch in red chalk above (c. 1495). Once on the page, click the download arrow to the bottom right of the drawing and you’ll be taken to a larger version of the image. You can zoom in to examine details, like the very fine lines and subtle shading that mark each of Leonardo’s illustrations, from the most utilitarian to the most artistically-rendered, as the special creations of an extraordinary artist with a gifted scientific mind.

Da Vinci Judas Detail

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Florence Nightingale Saved Lives by Creating Revolutionary Visualizations of Statistics (1855)

I’ve long counted myself as a fan of Edward Tufte, the preeminent living expert on the visual display of quantitative information. I like to think this puts me in the company of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing as well as a prolific writer and still today a household name. Having lived in the Victorian era, she of course never got to enjoy the work of Tufte himself, though her own zeal for data and statistics, in a time that valued such things less than ours, made her, in some sense, a Tufte of her day: the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and an honorary member of the American Statistical Association. The video above, an outtake from Hans Rosling’s The Joy of Stats, offers a brief introduction to the statistical side of Nightingale’s career, and the important role data visualization played in her mission to save lives.

“When Florence Nightingale arrived at a British hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War, she found a nightmare of misery and chaos,” writes Science News‘ Julie Rehmeyer. “By the time Nightingale left Turkey after the war ended in July 1856, the hospitals were well-run and efficient, with mortality rates no greater than civilian hospitals in England.”

But feeling great regret over all the lives lost there to preventable disease, she went on to save even more of them by bringing numbers into play. She specifically compiled “vast tables of statistics about how many people had died, where and why. Many of her findings shocked her. For example, she discovered that in peacetime, soldiers in England died at twice the rate of civilians — even though they were young men in their primes.”


Nightingale’s most influential presentation of her data, which she called a “coxcomb,” appears just above. This Is Statistics describes “Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East” as “similar to a pie chart, but more intricate. In a pie chart the size of the ‘slices’ represent a proportion of data, while in a coxcomb the length, which the slice extends radially from the center-point, represents the first layer of data.” Her famous chart “was divided evenly into 12 slices representing months of the year, with the shaded area of each month’s slice proportional to the death rate that month. Her color-coded shading indicated the cause of death in each area of the diagram.” She stated the goal of her visualization clearly: “to affect thro’ the Eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears.”

We all try to do the very same thing when we present information today, though few of us—even armed with a degree of number-crunching and graphic design powers that would have seemed magical to Nightingale and her contemporaries—achieve the kind of results she did. She galvanized systemic change in hospital design and operation as well as prompted a revolution in sanitation which increased Britain’s average national life expectancy by 20 years—something to bear in mind when we start to get big ideas about how our Powerpoint slide shows will change the world.

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via @pourmecoffee

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Harvard’s Michael Sandel Launches “The Global Philosopher,” a New Digital Show Exploring Pressing Philosophical Problems

In 2009, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel broke some ground when he made his popular course, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?,” available online. A course taken by thousands of Harvard undergrads suddenly became a course taken by tens of thousands of lifelong learners worldwide.

Since then, Sandel has continued speaking to a broader audience, first creating a BBC podcast called “The Public Philosopher,” where he “examines the thinking behind a current controversy.” (Download the episodes here.) And now comes a new program, The Global Philosopher, which grapples with philosophical problems using an innovative digital format. According to the BBC, the show brings together “60 participants from over 30 countries using a pioneering studio developed by [the] Harvard Business School, called HBX Live. Each participant is able to see and speak to every other contributor, as well as to Professor Sandel, replicating the experience of a face-to-face debate.” In the first debate, shown above, “contributors from America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East discussed the moral justification for national borders. Hundreds more watched a live video stream and took part by sending in text comments and voting in straw polls.” This is just the first of more planned installments. Down the road, you can find new episodes of The Global Philosopher here.

via Harvard Gazette

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Watch the Earliest Surviving Filmed Version of The Wizard of Oz (1910)

The Technicolor Oz that greeted Judy Garland in 1939 seems a far less colorful place than the one in 1910’s silent short, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, above. (A version with music added can be found below.)

Adapted in part from a 1902 stage version, this Wizard – the earliest to survive on film – feels quite close to the spirit of author L. Frank Baum and illustrator William Wallace Denslow’s original creation.

Audience members who had no familiarity with the source material must’ve been very, very confused. There’s a lot of bang for the buck, but title cards aside, not much in the way of context.

No matter. There are plenty of special effects and a crowd-pleasing chorus of gratuitous beauties in tights and bloomers, just as in Georges Méliès’ seminal A Trip to the Moon.

It’s conceivable that Jack Haley and Burt Lahr, the MGM version’s Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion, might have been taken to see the 13 minute short as children. (Scarecrow Ray Bolger was a mere babe at the time of its release.)

Despite the presence of all the well-known characters, including two Totos, for my money, the project’s true star is Hank, the scene stealing mule.

I think the actor in the mule suit likely agreed, though Hank’s role in the Oz pantheon is minor at best.

It’s unclear to me if the Wizard’s dark makeup is meant to be blackface. According to Robin Bernstein’s Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, the stage play that inspired the film featured minstrel songs and popular blackface actors Fred A. Stone and David Montgomery as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman.

The film cast’s identities have been lost to history, though a rumor persists that the young actress playing Dorothy is frequent Harold Lloyd co-star, Bebe Daniels. The original piano score is unknown, but likely hewed closely to Paul Tietjens‘ music from the play, which is what we hear in the online version.

Five years later, the movies returned to Oz, with the Baum-produced and -scripted features, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, and The Magic Cloak of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz (1910) will be added to our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

You can also download the complete Wizard of Oz Series, as free eBooks and free audio books.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She was shocked to find out how much her childhood Oz books are worth, but has thus far resisted parting with them. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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