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Top ten albums of the year… 1993

There was some fuss this past summer about the Breeders commemorating the 20th anniversary of their highly acclaimed second album, Last Splash, by going on tour and playing the album in its entirety. I'd listened to the album before, back in 1993 or so, and though I did like the big singles "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer", at the time the album as a whole didn't work for me, I just couldn't get into it. Hearing the album again as played live during their appearance at Bumbershoot, I found that I liked more of the songs and found it more interesting. However, it just never claimed a special place in my heart, as it did for so many others. Keeping that in mind, as I was thinking about the end of 2013 and posting about my favorite albums of the year, it occurred to me that it'd be amusing to write about my favorite albums that were released 20 years ago in 1993.

At the top of my list for 1993 is Star, the debut album by Belly, the band that Tanya Donelly formed after leaving both the Breeders and her original band Throwing Muses. Although I'd been listening to alternative radio WFNX in Boston for a few years by that point, Star was still something of an adventurous album for me; enough about it was quirky and unlike the music I typically enjoyed up to that point that I was surprised at myself for getting into it. It's remained a favorite of mine ever since, and I was a bit disappointed that no one was really talking up its 20th anniversary like Last Splash; in my mind at least, they're on par, and Star deserved some recognition this year.

The other album that I picked up when it came out in 1993 was Donald Fagen's second solo album, Kamakiriad. It hasn't really held up over time, like his first album The Nightfly, but I listened to it a lot back then and I remain fond of it. I'm placing this second in the list largely for being something I've enjoyed since its release; there are other 1993 releases that I now value more.

Speaking of 1993 releases I value more, the third place is a box set of previous material rather than a single album that was original to 1993, but I couldn't possibly leave it off a list of top releases for 1993. It is of course Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, by the Police. The Police were to me what the Smiths were for many others just a few years later, the band that spoke deeply to me from early in my teenage years through college, well after they'd broken up. Even today, 30 years after their final original album and 20 years after the box set were released, the Police remain one of my all-time favorite bands, and this is one of the few releases I have from any year that I'd never willingly give up. I'm listing this third, after Kamakiriad, only because at the time it was expensive enough, and because I still had the Police albums on cassette tape, that it took a couple years before I picked this up.

For fourth place, I'll put down a lovely one-off, the self-titled Wade, quite possibly the most obscure album that I own. I learned of this album through my friend Jay—via my sister Andrea, who had the CD—who knew of it because a member of the band, drummer Anthony Koutsos, was also a member of Red House Painters (and later Sun Kil Moon). The band's choice of name was rather unfortunate; All Music Guide lists a dozen or so bands by the name Wade, and *still* erroneously associates the album with a completely different Swedish group. The album features some great post-rock violin, which is always a plus for me, and I just love the moody songs.

I have a tie for fifth place, partly because I learned of both bands at the same time through a mix tape that my friend Doug had which included a song from each, and partly because I love both albums and bands equally. These are Deep End by Tsunami, and Perfect Teeth by Unrest, two stalwarts of the '90s indie rock scene back when indie rock really did mean the bands were creating their own labels to release their own and others' music without the backing of the majors. How much do I love these? Just thinking of them was enough to make me stop playing the music I had going and put them on instead. (Perfect Teeth first, and then I'll play Deep End, in case you're wondering.) So, so good.

Next, I think I'll put Elemental by Tears for Fears. This was the first album that Roland Orzabal released under the band name after his partner Curt Smith left, and I rate it almost as good as Songs from the Big Chair.

For seventh place, I'll go with Diary of a Drunken Sun by Opium Den. It comes out of Boston's '90s goth-shoegaze-dreampop scene, which produced a fair amount of good bands that unfortunately never really broke out of the local scene. It's gorgeously dark and gothic, good music for anticipating the apocalypse. The band's guitarist, Christian Gilbert, later went on to found another of my favorite brief-and-obscure Boston bands, Reflecting Skin.

In eighth place, keeping things dark and dreampoppy, I have Souvlaki by Slowdive. For years I had this on my list of albums to buy, and kept passing it up in favor of other things. But now that I have it, it definitely rates a place on the list of top albums from 1993.

Finally, I'll go back to Boston for a band with a different sort of moodiness, Morphine, and their album Cure for Pain. I liked several of their songs over the years without ever really getting into the band, but there's no question they also deserve a place on the list.

Honorable mentions include Invisible Threads by Andy Summers and John Etheridge, Bombazine by Meryn Cadell, Massive Blur by Melissa Ferrick, Laid by James, Red House Painters (aka "Rollercoaster") by Red House Painters, Dusk by The The, and Tortoise by Tortoise.

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