College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, 78 and 77

ella mental
78. Ella Mental, Ella Mental

A little time with an atlas is going to be useful to anyone trying to track the path of the band Ella Mental. They formed in South Africa when guitarist and chief songwriter spotted Heather Mac singing reggae covers at a local club. After some success in their homeland, they set up shop in Ireland, maybe figuring the Emerald Isle that had such devotion to native sons U2 would be equally enamored with Ella Mental’s big sound. They eventually came to the attention of Warner Brothers, and then it was off to Los Angeles to record their self-titled record that stands as their official stateside debut. All that journeying hasn’t worn them down, though. They still sound ready to take on the world.

window to the world
77. The Questionnaires, Window to the World

The city of Nashville maintains its status as the country music capital of the world to enough of a degree that it’s a bit of a surprise to find a great new rock band emerge from there, but that’s exactly what we’ve got with The Questionnaires. Muddying the waters further is lead singer and chief songwriter Tom Littlefield’s familial lineage as the grandson of jazz legend Woody Herman. But there’s no country twang or bursts of swing clarinet to be found on the band’s debut album, Window to the World, just smart, solid songs built around slyly enveloping hooks. They even throw in a cover of “Teenage Head” by The Flamin’ Groovies, as sure a way as there is to demonstrate that turning the guitars up loud is where the band’s interest really lies.

90 and 89
88 and 87
86 and 85
84 and 83
82 and 81
80 and 79

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