The 10 Best Albums of 1993

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

 

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In my introduction to Slant's list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1990s, I described nostalgia for the decade as “an idealized vision of a time when Bill Clinton was the fresh, young Democrat on the block, beepers were the hottest new tech items, and every major record label and Top 40 radio station was scrambling to discover the next big alternative to run-of-the-mill pop.” I went on to lament: “It's human nature to look back on things with irrational fondness and nostalgia, overlooking the bad and romanticizing the good. But while the '90s had its fair share of 'crap,' it's hard to deny that the 'good' was exceptionally good.” So good, in fact, that we decided to dust off our lovingly curated list of over 400 albums to compile individual Top 10s for each year of the '90s. Many of these titles are already widely—and rightfully—celebrated, but these lists also give us the opportunity to honor some typically overlooked gems. Sal Cinquemani
 

Honorable Mention: De La Soul, Buhloone Mindstate; The Cranberries, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?; Belly, Star; Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy; The Breeders, Last Splash; Meshell Ndegeocello, Plantation Lullabies; Pearl Jam, Vs.; Yo La Tengo, Painful; Boredoms, Pop Atari; Sunscreem, O3
 

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

10

Pet Shop Boys, Very

For most of Very, Neil Tennant is as scabrous and arch as fans had come to expect, saying a lot and insinuating more on tracks like “Can You Forgive Her?,” where he baits a man by toying with his fragile masculinity (“She's made you some kind of laughing stock,” he quips, “because you dance to disco and you don't like rock”) before offering him a choice between crawling back to his tormentor or engaging in a bit of bi-curious revenge sex. The pompous disco din is perfectly suited to Tennant's campy character, and serves just as well for the surprisingly sincere rendition of the Village People's “Go West” that closes the album—a song of longing for freedom and belonging that only a songwriter as fearlessly queer as Tennant could have created. Matthew Cole

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

9

Janet Jackson, janet.

It wasn't until the third album into her rhythm renaissance before Janet finally let herself explore her own heretofore underutilized pleasure principle. With two fingers, even. janet. (or Janet, Period) is absolutely off the rag. Taking a notable cue from Madonna's Erotica escapades, Miss Nasty drops trou (except on the immortal cover art) and, like a moth to a flame, burns like a fire of good times even Leni Riefenstahl-lensed, production-number socialism couldn't hope to mandate as effectively. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis may have worked with more disciplined results, but their sound never seemed so perceptibly opulent. As Christgau wrote, “The difference between hearing it on a cheap box and a booming system is the difference between daydreaming about sex and having somebody's crack in your face.” If Janet is their own personal Dietrich, janet. is their Motown-tracked Scarlet Empress. Eric Henderson

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

8

Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle

Snoop Dogg's career has proven to be more about durability than steady quality, finding the right hit just often enough to constantly stay afloat. Ranging through different riffs on his blunt-chewing, slang-dubbing persona, he's never been much of an innovator, working in the safe milieu of established sounds. His best incarnation was undoubtedly his first, following in the footsteps of G-funk pioneers like DJ Quik and Dr. Dre. Like a soul record focused on bedding women without actually wooing them, Doggystyle sees Snoop putting on his best ice-cold loverman, soft and silky while dodging any admittance of feeling, constantly reminding us how he don't love them hos. Jesse Cataldo

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

7

A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders

Overstatement would seem to be a thorny but tempting issue when it comes to A Tribe Called Quest, but all things considered, it's not that much of a stretch to dub them the greatest rap group to ever grace the planet, nor their 1993 masterpiece Midnight Marauders one of the greatest, most influential hip-hop albums ever produced. As a touchstone of rhyming inspiration for a whole generation of rappers, Midnight Marauders has no equal: One can easily hear the catalyst for Madvillain in the scratchy, jazzy “Award Tour,” and the manic explosiveness Busta Rhymes would later bank his career on in “Oh My God.” In an age where much of rap has become tired and stale, Midnight Marauders endures as an archetype of pioneering hip-hop. Kevin Liedel

The 10 Best Albums of 1993

6

Björk, Debut

While the U.K. press ate it up, American critics, perhaps still beating off to the U.S.'s exalted alt-rock movement, were divided on Björk's Debut. Though the album contains a healthy mix of trip-hop and jazz-pop, dance music dominates, a marked departure for the former Sugarcube. While the ballads don't measure up to those on Post or Homogenic, dance singles like “Violently Happy” and “Big Time Sensuality” (found here in its original, more mainstream house-y incarnation) truly defined the “Björk sound.” The album is Björk's most accessible to date, which is ironic considering one song includes over half a minute of the singer repeating “b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby” and another that was recorded in a bathroom stall. By titling the album Debut, Björk was acknowledging that it was simply a rehearsal for her forthcoming masterpieces, but even if she never recorded again, Debut was enough to cement her legacy as one of pop's most forward-thinking performers. Cinquemani

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