The 10 Best Albums of 1992

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


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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: Sade, Love Deluxe; En Vogue, Funky Divas; Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine; Arrested Development, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of… ; Alice in Chains, Dirt; Sophie B. Hawkins, Tongues and Tails; Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Words 85 – 92; Deee-Lite, Infinity Within; Mary Chapin Carpenter, Come On Come On; Sugar, Copper Blue

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

“Too black, too strong.” The Malcolm X mantra opens Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise,” but it applies in spades—as Maude Findley said, no racial connotation intended—to the Pharcyde’s debut album, a raucous house party with enough lyrical verve and scruffy jazz sampling to match the South Central posse’s straight-outta-the-gate flair for boastful good times (“Niggas on my Snoopy like the bird Woodstock/Getcha hands off my dick because I hold this cock”) and heartrending pathos (the tearjerker “Passin’ Me By,” a threnody for a childhood love evaporated which reveals the likes of Arrested Development’s “Mr. Wendel” for the clumsy Sunday-school parable it is). Eric Henderson

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


Prince and the New Power Generation, Love Symbol

He may have been a tiny man, but Prince had the biggest balls in pop music. Consider the unpronounceable symbol he used to title his “Love Symbol” album, the fact that he later changed his name to said symbol, that he declared the album to be a “rock soap opera,” and that it includes spoken-word interludes from Kirstie Alley. Putting every bit of that business aside, it’s still damn near impossible to believe that Prince and the New Power Generation, easily the finest of his backing bands, were able to get away with an album of such deep funk and such a filthy take on contemporary pop and R&B. The Love Symbol album was the decade’s most unabashedly slutty-sounding record. Jonathan Keefe

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

Having already released one of hip-hop’s greatest party records with Licensed to Ill, revolutionized the art of sample-based hip-hop with Paul’s Boutique, and, in doing so, seamlessly introduced the white Jewish MC into the cultural lexicon of East Coast rap, it would have made sense for the Beastie Boys to take a breather. Instead, the clown-princes of New York City went lo-fi, infusing and sometimes overpowering their rap roots with barreling post-punk drums, metal riffs, and sweaty funk grooves. At that, it’s tempting to lay blame for the endless cultural embarrassment of rap-metal at their feet. I’d ask that we give props instead, because contained in that accusation is an acknowledgment that the Beastie Boys succeeded where pretty much every imitator has failed. Matthew Cole

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


Annie Lennox, Diva

With her debut solo album, Annie Lennox placed all of her insecurities, pretentions, frustrations, and triumphs on display like finely polished diamonds, at once haughty and stubborn but equally delicate and transcendent. The Eurythmics singer is in total command of her craft here, using her strikingly contralto voice to lead the record through plush, penetrating pieces like “Why” with the same amount of sensual power that graces playful pop songs like “Walking on Broken Glass.” Diva is ultimately Lennox’s greatest work: a warm, soulful, rhythm-fueled pop masterpiece that established her as not only one of the best female vocalists of the ’90s, but of any age. Kevin Liedel

The 10 Best Albums of 1992


Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes

Blurring the line between artist and cult leader, Tori Amos’s epistles are intimate and seductive, allowing anyone who’s ever been a victim or who’s ever struggled to find his or her own voice to derive deeply personal meanings from her mishmash of religious iconography, pop-cultural non sequiturs, and harrowing first-person details. Her mythology has become more convoluted and frankly insufferable over the years, but Amos’s Little Earthquakes still plays like a revelation, with its cutting turns of phrase (“Boy, you’d best pray that I bleed real soon” remains perhaps the most loaded line in her catalogue) and simply masterful piano work causing seismic upheavals that are anything but little. Keefe