Top 20 Albums Of 1993

For this week's Ranked!, we ranked our favorite albums of 1993. Did we get it right? Let us know in the comments!

20. Goo Goo Dolls, Superstar Car Wash

Goo still plays a song or two from this live, as a surprise to the diehard fans. One of my best friends and I totally freaked at a concert when they launched into their more hardcore songs from this album, and the performance was awesome. This was such a cool album for fans, because the guys were still pretty hardcore rockers, but brought on some more understandable lyrical work. Their evolution musically has been so cool, growing with fans and somehow maintaining their roots, and I think this was a pivotal point in that long career. There are few albums I write up on for these lists that I immediately want to go back and listen to at that moment, but trust me, on this one I'm heading right for the CD player.--J-Hawke

19. Flaming Lips, Transmissions From The Satellite Heart

The Flaming Lips have always been a strange and fearless band with demented lyrics and genuinely original ideas. Sometimes that mix would result in a misfire, other times it would blend together beautifully, creating powerful musical stew. This album (their SIXTH!) was the one that sold me on the band and made me a lifelong disciple of Wayne Coyne and company. It contained the radio friendly "She Don't Use Jelly" which, when you think about it, should have been on a censor's hit list, and a lovely cover of Ed Rush's "Plastic Jesus." It's the go-to record I recommend for anyone looking to take a first listen to the band before dragging them dressed as a gargantuan white bunny to one of their concerts.--Dufmanno

18. Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Toward Ecstasy

This is one of those albums that I wore out on my 5-disc CD changer back in college. I think my favorite track, because it's gorgeous, is the first song, "Posession," partly because it's misunderstood. I remember at the time gals at school were talking about it being a nice love song but sorry drunk college girls, it's sung from the point of view of a guy stalking Sarah, based on her experiences with a kind of crazed fan. In fact, she got SUED by a stalker because he claimed she used his crazy letters as the basis for the song. The legal case went nowhere because the stalker killed himself. True story.--Archphoenix

17. Mariah Carey, Music Box

I got into Mariah Carey because my older cousin, who I thought was sooo cool, was a big fan. When I started buying CDs, I tried to complete a whole catalog of her music (I still haven't, sadly). However, I did manage to secure Music Box, her 1993 release. The two singles that stand out in particular to me are "Dreamlover" and "Hero," though I know there were two more ("Without You/Never Forget You" and "Anytime You Need a Friend"). "Dreamlover" was fun though, and "Hero" was inspiring. I remember the resurgence of the song during 9/11, and that is just a song that is forever lovely. The album, as a whole, is seen as among her most mellow work, but I have to say that I love this side of Mariah. She's classy here, and shows people a lyrical side of her as opposed to just a beauty with an incredible vocal range. There's a real, respectable young lady there and Music Box really took her to a different place in her career.--J-Hawke

16. New Order, Republic

New Order's Republic is largely known for its in-fighting during the recording sessions—hence its widely mixed reviews—but readers should be reminded of the fact that Fleetwood Mac's brilliant and inspired album Rumours was riddled with backstage conflict, as well as The Beatles' Let It Be (which also garnered varied opinions, but eventually received recognition as #392 in Rolling Stone's 2012 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time"). It is perhaps during these moments of turmoil that brilliant artists are able to channel that negative energy and leave us with something deeply human and frighteningly relatable. Republic's first single "Regret" appears, on the surface, to lack the tenebrous mark of many previous New Order songs. Rather, it has a carefree John Hughes-like quality—Hook's bass ever present, Sumner's voice lighter and livelier—though not without that muted color palate, which suggests a tone of concession and (appropriately) regret. It's not often you'll find a band continue to evolve after ten years of major success (not including their many years as Joy Division). Too often we see aged musicians idle in their artistic output, producing the same album over and over, eventually staling on stage and falling out from the public eye, not because of backstage turmoil but because of a refusal or an inability to grow. In Republic, New Order rises to the occasion. Songs like "World" and "Young Offender" introduce us to a more modern danceable version of their previous work, and others like "Special" and "Everyone Everywhere" continue to give us the stronger yet more subtle qualities of Sumner's voice that we've all come to love. It's not hard to understand why Republic is one of our Top 20 Albums of '93. It is, in fact, one of New Order's best.--Jacqueline

15. Urge Overkill, Saturation

It's an absolute tragedy that Urge Overkill didn't become the next Nirvana or Pearl Jam. One listen to Saturation and you'll ask yourself the same question. It's one of my favorite rock albums ever, a deliberate attempt by the band to make a hit record which over-delivers in every way. "Sister Havana" kicks things off with incredible riffs and clever lyrics, and they keep the pedal to the medal through killer tunes like "Positive Bleeding," "Bottle Of Fur," and the Susan Lucci-inspired "Erica Kane." Bush and Candlebox may have had the big chart hits, but they look like pathetic amateurs next to Urge Overkill.--CroutonBoy

14. Frank Black, Frank Black

It's no secret that I was gutted when The Pixies met their demise. It was too soon.
The first solo album from the beloved Pixies frontman hit me hard because it pushed me to the full realization that the band might not just be "taking a break." I'd already had one favorite '80s supergroup call it quits on me and a second just cemented my reputation for choosing my music foolishly. "They'll all leave you in the end", everyone whispered. Anyway, this bleak band breakup track record didn't prevent me from racing to the nearest music store to pick up Frank Black's masterpiece and I had to grudgingly admit that it was awesome. UFOs, sci-fi, crazy shenanigans, it was all here, and then there was the fact that Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago played guitar on these scorching songs; that made up for a little. Soon everyone was belting out the lyrics to "Hang Onto Your Ego" and "Ten Percenter" with as much gusto as they'd mustered for "Giagantic" and "Debaser." A new era had begun.--Dufmanno

13. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

"Your soul has just been taken through the 36 Chambers of Death, kid." Arguably one of the best rap groups ever, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, named after the martial arts film The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin. With each track so jam packed with pop-culture references and martial arts metaphors, a college course could be dedicated to understanding the literary merit of such work. It's what makes listening to this album so much fun. Their coined language and self-contained culture requires an audience to plunge in completely. Not many have been so fearless in their approach to making music, especially hip hop. And by daring to have a group with nine emcees and exhibit an almost childlike obsession with martial arts culture, they opened themselves up to the possibility of failure; all of this play and experimentation could have easily gotten lost on the public. But it didn't. Along with RZA's clever use of movie sampling and unprocessed independent beats, 36 Chambers ended up changing the rap world forever. "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'" is just one song on this album that exemplifies the uniqueness of Wu-Tang, heavy with metaphor, allusions, and battle raps. "The flow changes like a chameleon/Plays like a friend, and stabs you like a dagger," spits Masta Killa, referencing Sun Tzu's The Art Of War—how genius is this? It's actually the movie that this particular song is named after, whose villain (widely considered to be one of the best in kung-fu movie history) that Ghostface Killa derives his name. And though Ghostface may be one of the most villainous rappers out there, none is really comparable to ODB. Who else seizures from rapping so hard? Though, admittedly, it was probably from all that crack.--Jacqueline

12. Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music Club

I remember hearing "Leaving Las Vegas" on the radio, with its folksy guitar, handclaps, and chorus that demanded you to singalong to at the top of your lungs. Truthfully, it was set up as a perfect early '90s one-hit wonder once you get over the fact that the song itself was never a hit, peaking at 60. But Crow was too talented to be a flash in the pan. She followed up "Vegas" with three Top 40 singles from Tuesday Night Music Club, two of which, "Strong Enough" and "All I Wanna Do," made it to the Top 5. Not too shabby for a former Cop Rock singer.--Chris

11. Bjork, Debut

What's not to love about Bjork? Icelandic queen of quirk and master of the house beat with a heart, Debut was something you could listen to in the background of your first dinner party or on full blast while flashing lights confused your friends. Who knew there could be life after The Sugarcubes? Debut was a surprise hit and it shocked her record company to no end. All I can say is it deserved it. Off-kilter beats and warm sensual lyrics about love and life fill the album. My pristine copy sits on top of my CD collection waiting for another chance to play.--Dufmanno

10. Duran Duran, Duran Duran

I have to admit, I may have added this one because of a boy, a silly little memory from another time in my life. I do appreciate and enjoy Duran Duran a lot though (please see Glee's mash-up of "Rio" and "Hungry Like The Wolf" for a really fun update on their music). This one is also known as The Wedding Album, and features the band members' parents wedding photos on the cover. It was supposed to be released in 1992, but was pulled by management due to lack of enthusiasm, apparently. Instead, the company spent time building revival hype around the band, and followed that work with this release in 1993. Hey, no matter when, you can't really go wrong as long as you're getting some more Duran Duran music out there, even in 2012. Yes, that happened.--J-Hawke

9. The The, Dusk

Hello there, post-Smiths Johnny Marr, we meet again. Actually Marr played on several The The albums but this one is my favorite hands down. Matt Johnson has always floored me. He has never been nor never will be as magnificent as he was on 1993's Dusk. This played non-stop in my home and I saw Johnson and Marr no less than six times on this tour. I actually cried the first time. Musically and lyrically, songs like "Slow Emotion Replay" and "Dogs Of Lust" do me in every time, but it's the floor-shaking "Lung Shadows" that haunts my dreams to this day.--Dufmanno

8. Cracker, Kerosene Hat

Kerosene Hat isn't just one of my favorite albums of 1993; it's one of my Top 10 albums of all time. While "Low," the song that most people associate with the band, appears here front and center, it really is one of the weaker tracks on the album. You've got the one-two punch of "Movie Star" and "Get Off This," followed by the mellow title track. The album also includes "Take Me Down To The Infirmary" and "I Want Everything;" Johnny Hickman's turn at the mic with "Lonesome Johnny Blues;" and one of their greatest songs ever, the hidden track, buried all the way at #69, "Euro-Trash Girl."--Chris

7. U2, Zooropa

Fact: '90s U2 was a hell of a lot more fun than '80s U2. While the '80s brought us a Bono singing about pride and bloody Sundays, the '90s brought us a disco ball Bono. Achtung Baby ushered in the new era and before anyone entertained any comparisons to Kiss's Dynasty, "Numb" came along and showed us that this wasn't a bump in the road, this was the new U2. This album boasted two of my favorite U2 songs: the Johnny Cash led "The Wanderer" and the melancholy "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)," one of the most haunting songs to come out of the '90s that wasn't sung by Kurt Cobain.--Chris

6. Ace Of Base, The Sign

This is one of those odd albums whose career-defining singles "All That She Wants," "The Sign," and "Don't Turn Around" never seem to be played out, no matter how much people hear them. The Sign actually sold something around 21 million albums worldwide becoming one of the highest-selling debut albums of all time and making it a top 20 of '93 even if just for its monetary accomplishments. But that's not the reason why it's here. This is one of those albums you hope to find in the jukebox of your local watering hole or on the playlist at your favorite dance club. People just like the music; it doesn't matter who they are. The words have somehow been infused into the minds of all Gen X- and Y-ers regardless of that person's ability to memorize lyrics. So, if one night you’re feeling sassy enough, choose "The Sign" on that multi-colored florescent jukebox at your neighborhood bar (like I did), and be prepared for the room to get off their chairs with wild abandon and start lip-syncing to each other, arms circling wide like Malin Berggren from the music videos. Its fun mix of Euro-dance and reggae-pop make for one of those albums people just never get tired of. "I saw the sign/ and it opened up my eyes/ and I am happy now living without you/ I left you oh oh oh."--Jacqueline

5. Counting Crows, August And Everything After

This is another great college time album for me. I have so many great memories of hanging out in the dorms while this CD played with a group of close friends just talking about nothing and, likely, waiting for the new episode of Friends to come on. My two favorite tracks on this album have to be "Anna Begins" and "A Murder of One."--Archphoenix

4. Radiohead, Pablo Honey

Radiohead's first album Pablo Honey has all the young vigor a first album should have, exemplifying that feeling of youth and angst so pop culturally prevalent during those early nineties. Initially, however, this album was received with so-so fanfare, criticized for its derivative sound and post-grunge appeal. But sometimes it takes the critics a moment to understand the nuances of what makes an album stand out and last: Thom Yorke's painfully rendered falsetto, moving enigmatically from whisper to wail; their self-conscious, intelligent lyrics; and their clear experimentationalism in songs like "Blow Out." It is an album that makes me want to dance and cry at the same time. Songs like "Stop Whispering" and "You" stir up feeling in parts of my body that often go unnoticed, becoming one of those truly visceral and liberating experiences. Critics were wrong in that their debut album was derivative; rather their influences were apparent, cultivating but obviously not overshadowing the unique sound that is and has become Radiohead. From their early influences of Elvis Costello, Joy Division, the Pixies, and The Smiths to their more recent ones, Bjork and Aphex Twin, we've been able to witness a continuity within human and music history; clearly they have made themselves an integral part of that.--Jacqueline

3. Pearl Jam, Vs.

To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only person in the world who thinks Vs. is Pearl Jam's best album. I vividly remember the anticipation for the first single, "Go," hoping that they would continue to deliver on the promise of Ten. That winter I obsessed over the album, marveling at the propulsive rock of "Animal" and "Rearviewmirror" and the rapidly maturing storytelling of "Daughter" and "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town." Eddie Vedder is in fine form throughout, while Stone Gossard and Mike McCready build a wall of sound that undulates and expands to fill any room. It's not as brooding as Ten and avoids some of the weirder experiments of their later albums, making it consistently enjoyable and effortlessly rocking. It's too bad Ten's shadow is so long, because Vs. deserves just as much attention.--CroutonBoy

2. Liz Phair, Exile In Guyville

My penis somewhat disqualified me from being in Liz Phair's early '90s target audience. Exile In Guyville, her tremendous debut album, is raw, confessional, and unmistakably feminine. She claimed it was a song-by-song reply to Exile On Main Street, but it was more than that. It was at once a remarkable shot across the bow of a male-dominated music industry and an honest, unpretentious statement about isolation and how hard it can be to live and love. The music is stripped down and basic, and whether it was true or not, listening to it always made me feel like I understood my girlfriends better, especially in hard times. That's not to say it's just chick-rock for girrrrls, though. The music is awesome, and some songs (particularly "The Divorce Song") speak to universal emotions that powerfully resonate with me to this day. It's an incredible achievement, and deservedly revered as a modern classic.--CroutonBoy

1. Nirvana, In Utero

While Nevermind gets the headlines and is pointed to many as the beginning of grunge and '90s alternative music, In Utero was a far greater album. Much rawer than its predecessor, ever song reeked with pain and agony, Cobain's voice cutting like razor blades above the guitars and pound drums. There are a lot of bands that rightfully flew high and burned out after an album or two. I really wish Nirvana could've stuck around. Favorite tracks: All Of Them.--Chris

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