When you think of 1997, Titanic, Diana or Backstreet Boys may spring to mind. But that's just the tip of the iceberg – in reality, the year was huge in terms of pop culture and music, producing a number of brilliant songs. We've compiled a list of some of our favourites.
The Divine Comedy: In Pursuit of Happiness
A Short Album About Love notably contained 'Everybody Knows (Except You)', undoubtedly one of The Divine Comedy's best-known songs, but it also featured the gem that is 'In Pursuit of Happiness'. First sounding like a fairly typical love song, the track's development is intriguing and reveals levels of social criticism towards the end.
Wu-Tang Clan: Triumph
Wu-Tang Clan's second studio album, Wu-Tang Forever, was released in the summer of 1997. While it consists of two full discs of tracks that could all be discussed in length, the single 'Triumph' is always worth mentioning: an unusual and bold move, the track was chosen as a single despite being over 6 minutes long and having no chorus.
Blonde Redhead: Symphony of Treble
While Blonde Redhead are nowadays often considered a more shoegazey alternative band, back in the 90s they were still known for their noisier material. While many prefer their newer tracks and stylings, their early albums include a number of interesting tracks, such as 'Symphony of Treble'.
Mogwai: R U Still In 2 It
Mogwai's music is mostly instrumental, almost trademarkedly so, but 'R U Still In 2 It' is one of the exceptions. Featuring vocals from Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt, the track is poetic, but haunting. Despite Young Team being Mogwai's debut album, some of their best material can be found on it and 'R U Still In 2 It' is without doubt one of these tracks.
Elliott Smith: Between the Bars
Elliott Smith's third album Either/Or is much loved by both fans and critics, and for good reason. The record is introspective and intense, with a track listing that is essentially perfect. While Either/Or should be listened to in its entirety, 'Between the Bars' gives a good insight into what the album will hold. Moreover, it is a track you'd wish could go on for longer than its actual duration of less than two and a half minutes.
Spice Girls: Viva Forever
Like them or hate them, Spice Girls were a defining sound of the 90s. Their second album Spiceworld was released in 1997 and was a big global success. One of the album's slower tracks, and arguably one of Spice Girls' best songs, 'Viva Forever' was only released as a single in the spring of 1998, when Halliwell had already left the group, despite her being the main writer of the song. 'Viva Forever' may not be especially interesting or experimental, but it's a pop treasure. Furthermore, its music video looks endearingly homemade, considering the success Spice Girls had reached by this stage.
As the final track to Pavement's fourth album Brighten the Corners, 'Fin' ('Infinite Spark' on non-US pressings) is a brilliant finish to a brilliant album. It is the longest track on the album, but remains interesting throughout and is yet another testimony to Stephen Malkmus' songwriting abilities.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Slow Moving Trains
Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 1997 album F♯ A♯ ∞ is an experimental classic and by no means your standard album, with the vinyl version having a technically infinite running time. The album was re-released in 1998 with some alterations, and the CD version below combines 'Slow Moving Train' with 'The Cowboy...'. At nearly 8 minutes, the track mixes different sounds and segments, growing from a slow start to something much more overpowering.
Radiohead: Fitter Happier
Whether you're a fan of Radiohead or not, their 1997 album OK Computer is an undeniably clever album. With tracks like 'Let Down', 'Karma Police' and 'Exit Music (For A Film)', it's varied yet still distinctively Radiohead, and even if they have released more interesting albums in their time, there is a reason why OK Computer has been consistently topping the Best Albums charts. Although often left unmentioned, one of the reasons for this should be 'Fitter Happier'. Featuring computerised, talking-head-like vocals (note: not the band, but actual talking heads) reflecting on how society's expectations of us merge with our own, everything about the song is slightly “off”, adding to the depressing atmosphere.
This is not nearly all from 1997; stay tuned for Part 2. to see more tracks by the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, The Verve, Superchunk and Mew.