1993 was the first year that listening to and thinking about records became a kind of active avocation, both via college newspaper and college radio. The album list here is certainly not the same one I would have made at the time, but it’s closer to it than I would have suspected more than 20 years later. I think that’s mostly the result of the cultural action of the times (indie rock and hip-hop) happening to intersect with where I was as well. Then and now, I don’t think much of a lot of the era’s more mainstream alt-rock (Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, etc).
- Exile in Guyville – Liz Phair: Feminist critique of classic-rock music and then-current indie-rock scenes, sure, but also both more personal/idiosyncratic than that and more broadly representational. I don’t much believe in generational identity, but this feels like a key generational touchstone and as such I’m glad to claim it. A tour de force union of rock riffage and confessional singer-songwriter observation. The best song might be the one about wanting people to leave your house already (damn).
- In Utero – Nirvana: Sharper lyrically and more severe musically than Nevermind, which is catchier, and while that doesn’t necessarily represent my inclinations, I think it’s also their best. I find it (even) more indelible, especially with the volume cranked. Maybe my favorite hard rock (not punk) album and essentially a co-#1 here.
- Buhloone Mind State – De La Soul: Four years after ecstatic, playful, widely celebrated teen debut (3 Feet High and Rising) and eight years before desperately underrated grown-folks-music testament (AOI: Bionix), here they are putting breakthrough and backlash behind them to flex the muscles of their young adulthood. A great groove record full of smarts and personality.
- Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers — The Wu-Tang Clan – As many MCs as tracks, collectively hacking through fields of Native Tongues and mafiosi pretensions to carve an East Coast rap path entirely their own. There would be more polished and certainly more epic albums to come in the Wu-Tang canon. Maybe even one or two better ones. But nothing that feels as busy being born.
- Rid of Me – PJ Harvey: Rendering debut mere warm-up, she comes on like she’s trying to be Robert Plant and Jimmy Page all at once, cleansed through punk and feminism.
- Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space) – Digable Planets: What Arrested Development was supposed to be the year before. Among other things, an exploration of a warm, platonic, equitable male/female hip-hop partnership that has, if anything, grown even more rare.
- Painful – Yo La Tengo: They would open up into being an even more epic domestic-bliss noise band on their next two albums, but this, for me, is where they first fully became what they were meant to be.
- Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest: The relative placement of this and #3 represents my general (minority opinion?) Native Tongues love/like hierarchy.
- World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan: One man’s 10-song anthology of American folk music and a warm-up for the “Love + Theft” to come.
- Icky Mettle – Archers of Loaf: One man’s hoarse croak rescued and renewed by his buddies’ guitar-bass-drums backup, a trick repeated over and over again by the niftiest, hookiest little-band-that-could of the indie-rock era
- Spinning Around the Sun – Jimmie Dale Gilmore
- Gentlemen – Afghan Whigs: Man behaves badly. Confesses with eloquence and intensity. Doesn’t quite apologize. (“This ain’t about regret/It’s when I tell the truth.”)
- Westing (By Musket and Sextant) – Pavement: Noise and tunes that would soon synthesize duke it out for primacy as a soon-to-be-great band finds itself.
- Career Moves – Loudon Wainwright III: Live de-facto best-of-to-that-point doubles as unlikely career peak (to that point), or maybe not so unlikely — see also: Todd Snider’s 2003 Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. Maybe funny singer-songwriters make for particularly useful live album subjects. Movie comedies are better with audiences too.
- Anodyne – Uncle Tupelo: Confess Your (Is It Still?) Unpopular Opinion: Mermaid Avenue aside, Jeff Tweedy peaked here.
- 4-Track Demos – PJ Harvey
Last Splash – The Breeders
One Sock Missing – The Grifters
Janet – Janet Jackson
Very – Pet Shop Boys
Pottymouth – Bratmobile
Pussy Whipped – Bikini Kill: Riot grrls.
The Bliss Album – P.M. Dawn
Bubble & Scrape – Sebadoh
Sons of Soul – Tony Toni Tone
Ultimate Alternative Wavers
— Built to Spill
God Don’t Make No Junk – Halo Benders: Doug Martsch’s two-part preview of coming attractions.
- “Rebel Girl”/”New Radio”/”Demi-Rep” (three-song 7-inch) — Bikini Kill
- “Protect Ya Neck” — Wu-Tang Clan
- “Money in the Ghetto” — Too Short
- “Heart-Shaped Box” – Nirvana
- “Shoop” — Salt-n-Pepa
- “50 Ft. Queenie” – PJ Harvey
- “Slide” – Luna
- “Whoomp! There It Is!” — Tag Team
- “Some Jingle Jangle Morning (When I’m Straight)”/“Western Union Desperate” – Mary Lou Lord
- “Cannonball” — The Breeders
- “It Was a Good Day”/“Check Yo Self” — Ice Cube
- “Web in Front’ – Archers of Loaf
- “Ruffneck” — MC Lyte
- “Movin’ On Up” — M People
- “Man on the Moon” – REM
- “If I Had No Loot” — Tony Toni Tone
- “Hip Hop Hooray” — Naughty By Nature
- “All Apologies” — Nirvana
- “Hey Jealousy” — Gin Blossoms
- “Come Clean” – Jeru the Damaja
- “Feed the Tree” – Belly
- “Passin’ Me By” — Pharcyde
- “Big Day Coming” – Yo La Tengo
- “Down With the King” – Run-DMC
- “Chattahoochee” — Alan Jackson
- “Nothin But a G Thang” — Dr. Dre w/ Snoop Dogg
- “Creep” — Radiohead
- “Debonair” – Afghan Whigs
- “Dream” – The Cranberries
- “Return of the Crazy One” — Digital Underground
- “Plastic Dreams” – Jaydee
- “Cantaloop” — US3
- “That’s the Way Love Goes” — Janet Jackson
- “Knockin’ on Mine” — Paul Westerberg
- “Show Me Love” – Robin
- “Rebirth of Slick” — Digable Planets
- “Gotta Lotta Love” – Ice-T
- “Method Man” – Wu-Tang Clan
- “Send Them” – Lyrics Born
- “Soul and Fire” — Sebadoh
No. 6 is a weird place to put Schindler’s List. It feels like it should either be higher or not there at all. But that’s why the film lists are harder than the music ones. I’ve relistened to every album and single on the these lists. Some of these moves, Schindler among them, I haven’t seen in 20 years. At some level, you end up filtering your memory of a film through your present aesthetic sense.
- Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater)
- Naked (Mike Leigh)
- Ruby in Paradise (Victor Nunez)
- Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis)
- Short Cuts (Robert Altman)
- Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg)
- The Piano (Jane Campion)
- Searching for Bobby Fischer (Steve Zaillian)
- Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes)
- The Fugitive (Andrew Davis)
- The Scent of Green Papaya (Tran Anh Hung)
- The War Room (D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus)