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The Purple Tape

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Album Review

Like the Pixies before her, Lisa Loeb had an early demo dubbed "The Purple Tape" that circulated before she hit the big time — and, like that Boston quartet, Loeb's Purple Tape was instrumental in getting her big-time exposure. Self-released as a cassette in 1992, The Purple Tape was a collection of ten original tunes by Loeb, all featuring no more than just her and her acoustic guitar. This is the tape that wound up in Ben Stiller's hands, which of course led to Loeb's "Stay" being the key song in his 1994 comedy Reality Bites, which in turn made Loeb the first unsigned artist ever to top the Billboard charts. "Stay" is not among the ten songs on The Purple Tape, which finally saw a CD reissue in 2008 where it was paired with an interview disc, but the songs here certainly share the sweet melodiousness and emotional vulnerability of her breakthrough hit — and they're also simple and unadorned, lacking the big-budget productions that made Tails and Firecracker sometimes seem over-inflated. That's certainly not the case here. This is as simple as it gets, sounding exactly like what it is: a collection of endearingly open songs from a young coffeehouse singer who sometimes tries too had and stumbles, but that awkwardness just makes you root for her all the more. Really, of all the music Loeb has yet made, this Purple Tape comes the closest to delivering an album of songs similar to "Stay" — this is intimate, ingratiating music and it's hard not to see why Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller got a crush on Lisa based on this tape.


Born: 11 March 1968 in Bethesda, MD

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

If she had never made another record, Lisa Loeb would still go down in the record books as the first unsigned artist to top the American charts, as her meteoric single "Stay" -- from the soundtrack to 1994's Reality Bites -- spent three weeks at number one soon after the film's release. Born in Dallas, Loeb studied piano as a child but later switched to guitar. At Brown University, she studied music theory and played as a duo with her roommate, Elizabeth Mitchell (who went on to garner indie accolades...
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The Purple Tape, Lisa Loeb
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