John's Best Albums of 1993

Not being a person to jump on just any old passing bandwagon, I thought I would send in my twenty best albums of the year. By the way, I don't think I really have tastes which jibe with most of the EctoWorld, but I suppose that doesn't really matter. And not all of these were released in 1993, but I first heard them during this year. These albums are ranked in order of the number of times I listened to them, which I take as an indication of preference. But tomorrow this list would be different.

-- John
Pooh Sticks, Million Seller
Amazing. These folks make bubblegum rock sound respectable. They also pack their songs with references to other bands. This album is not quite as bad as some. But the music? Wonderful harmonies, happy songs, good guitar work. Pure pop. A combination of Neil Young, The Partridge Family, Boston, XTC, Donovan, you name it. The album rocks from the opening notes to the end of the final song. Yow.
Frank and Walters, Trains, Boats and Planes
The first full album from these boys from Ireland. Another pure pop band, this one a three-piece. But they write interesting lyrics, and they aren't afraid to sing nonsense when it makes sense to. Some very strong songs on this album. You may have heard their cover of The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" on the Ruby Trax compilation.
Happy Rhodes, Equipoise
I still think "Save Our Souls" must be listened to at earthshaking volume.
Vanessa Paradis, Vanessa Paradis
If you like Lenny Kravitz's pastiche of the sixties and seventies, you'll love this. Vanessa's voice is a bit high and breathy for some, but I love it. And since this isn't a Lenny Kravitz album, Mr Kravitz didn't have to take himself seriously, to his benefit. A cross between the Mamas & Papas, the Cowsills, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66, and The Partridge Family (again). Great harmonies (thanks to Lenny). And then after you've listened to this, listen to the bonus track on the Lemonheads' Come On Feel...
Jane Siberry, When I Was a Boy
Utterly amazing. Great hip hop grooves, powerful lyrical imagery, nice cover art. An all around classic, but I find myself programming out most of the quieter songs, just going for the groove and the power.
Idaho, Year After Year
Powerful dirge grunge, mostly slower songs, but loads of feedback and washes of sound. I don't know what they sing about, but I like how they sing it. I could listen to this for hours.
Deep Forest, Deep Forest
Another grooving album. Crank the bass and dance to these pygmies. The Frenchmen who put this one together did a pretty good job, although I think they didn't let the pygmies sing for themselves quite enough and spent too much time stringing samples together. A nice ambient dance album nonetheless.
Peace Together, Peace Together
When it's good, it's real good, but when it's bad. Highlights on this are Curve & Ian Dury, My Bloody Valentine, the Robin Guthrie remix of the title track. I also like the remake of "Games Without Frontiers" even though it is a little grating. A couple of bombs, notably U-2's lame-oid self-aggrandizing cover of the Lou Reed track. But program those two or three tracks out and it's a big win.
Martin Newell, The Greatest Living Englishman
English pop at its best. As someone else pointed out, the production values may leave a bit to be desired but the songs are good, the guy is a very tuneful gardener (yes, he is a gardener).
Captain Sensible, The Universe of Geoffrey Brown
Another great English pop album. A little patchier than some of his other works, and the "rock opera" format may leave some people cold, but it's a good message and when the songs are good they are really good. Especially "Getting to Me", a great Beatles-style pop song, and "Street of Shame", more of a rocker. Martin Newell wrote the 'tween-tracks dialogue.
David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, The First Day
Another album that has its great points and its not-so-great points. Some of the songs build up a great groove but go nowhere. But all in all a very nice listening experience. Fripp does a little Hendrix, Sylvian's lyrics as oblique as ever, if not more so. Their concert was intense, and unfortunately pointed out some shortcomings of the studio recording.
Robert Fripp, Kon-nan Power
A bootleg of one of the Robert Fripp String Quintet shows, this recording has amazing sound quality, and the songs are wonderful. From heavy Frippertronics to contrapuntal baroque music to surf, this album covers it all. Except for one thing: no vocals.
Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth
I can't listen to Dead Can Dance very often, but this album is very good. Frank Sinatra goes mediaeval. High points for me? "How Fortunate The Man With None", "Mr Lovegrove". But Aion is still a better album.
Posies, Frosting On The Beater
This one grows on me every time I play it. Good pop music, but on the heavy side. The noise quotient is up from their previous releases, and their songwriting ability is still there.
Galactic Cowboys, Space In Your Face
Metallica meets XTC meets Weird Al. A metal band with vocal harmonies and a sense of humor. Their first album is very good as well.
Jellyfish, Spilt Milk
Whilst this album is technically better than The Posies Frosting, it sounds a little forced. And the guitars just don't make it. The lack of a full-time guitarist shows on this record. But there are some great pop songs. "Sabrina Paste and Plato" and "My Best Friend" might have well been Queen and 10CC and XTC and more rolled into one.
Lemonheads, Come On Feel The Lemonheads
This album isn't nearly as good as It's a Shame About Ray, but Evan is still a good songwriter and has a nice voice. But don't watch the video, he acts like a total space cadet. I really like his country music excursion here, the anti-gay-bashing "Big Gay Heart". And the uncredited bonus track hits Lenny Kravitz hard. Ouch!
Matthew Sweet, Altered Beast
Another disappointment from his previous. This album is a little less coherent and a bit noisier than Girlfriend. Still some winning songs, but overall not as good. Heavy wailing guitar pop with a cutting emotional edge.
Camper Van Beethoven, Camper Vantiquities
Being a compilation, this album is very uneven. But even so, there are some great songs, some instrumentals and some not. If you like the Campers at all, check this one out. Something for everyone. More great underground pop music, with a faux-eastern european folk twist.
Matthew Sweet, Goodfriend
The demo and live version of Girlfriend with a few bonus tracks, including the live cover of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" with the Indigo Girls helping him out. Some of the re-workings on this album work, some don't, but it is a revealing portrait of the various sides of Mr Sweet.

Other albums worth a mention, in no particular order:

The California Guitar Trio, Yamanashi Blues
Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way
Antenna, Hideout
New Model Army, The Love of Hopeless Causes
Adrian Belew, The Acoustic Adrian Belew
Kate Bush, The Red Shoes
Neneh Cherry, Homebrew
Cracker, Kerosene Hat
Curve, Cuckoo
Brian Eno, Neroli
Brian Eno, Nerve Net
Peter Gabriel, Us
Greaves, Cunningham, Greaves, Cunningham
Robyn Hitchcock, Respect
King Crimson, The Great Deceiver -- Live 1973-1974
Led Zeppelin, Box Set2
Happy Rhodes, RhodeSongs
Joe Satriani, Time Machine
Shonen Knife, Shonen Knife

Back to John Relph's Decade in Music

2 November 2005 / John Relph