After her 1996 self-released EP was picked-up and re-released by MCA, Holly McNarland set out to make her debut album Stuff. In the wake of the success of fellow Canadian singer/songwriters Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan, the table was set for McNarland to make similar waves even if the alternative rock field was getting more crowded by the day. While there is no "You Oughta Know" or "Building a Mystery" on Stuff, there is McNarland's voice, which finds the balance between on edgy angst rockers one moment and soaring pop balladry the next. Backed by a solid band, including then ex-Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago in the studio, the songs are elevated beyond straightforward singer-songwriter material to deeper depths thanks to occasional cello and synths popping in and out of tracks. But while the first half is full of knock-out material, the back half left us divided on experiments with trip-hop and Seattle grunge.