1994: The 40 Best Records From Mainstream Alternative's Greatest Year

Green Day, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and 35 other bands who made the word "alternative" lose all meaning

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Alice in Chains, 'Jar of Flies EP'
Courtesy of Columbia Records12/40

12. Alice in Chains, 'Jar of Flies EP'

The bleakest of the big bands to emerge from Seattle during the Great Grunge Land Rush, Alice in Chains were adept at creating indelible music from hard times — take this short follow-up to 1992's arid Dirt, which came about after the band wound up getting evicted from their living space post-Lollapalooza 1993. The band, including new bassist Mike Inez, relocated to the familiar climes of Seattle's London Bridge Studio and spent seven days writing and recording this comparatively airy and mellow EP, which showcases the band's ability to set a dark mood without the aid of massive amps. Its brevity makes it hard to pick a standout: "I Stay Away," which split the difference between the band's softer and harder sides (and even included strings!), rightly remains an alt-rock radio staple; Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's harmonies skate along the groove of "No Excuses"; and "Rotten Apple" closes with a shimmering, feather-light guitar freakout. Maura Johnston

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