Two Decades: Differences between 90’s & 00’s rock radio, and what it can teach us about orchestration

Isn’t it weird how pop/rock music from any given decade has such a distinct sound?  Even if I’m hearing a song for the very first time, I can usually guess with reasonable accuracy the year (or, at the very least, the decade) in which it was recorded.  Of course, decades are just arbitrary spans that make it more convenient for us to organize time, but for whatever reason it seems to be a convenient unit for categorizing periods of rock music. Case in point: a couple months back, WXRT (93.1 FM in Chicago) celebrated its 40th year of broadcasting by showcasing a different year from their existence for each of 40 selected days.  Because they only did this for four days out of every week, it worked out conveniently that they would generally feature one year from each decade over a ten-week span. As I would listen daily on my commutes to and from work, I began to get a pretty good sense of what defined each year from within this genre.  In many ways this just reinforced what I had already known.  The 70’s were dominated by the rise in popularity of distortion and sprawling epic rock from the more »