Album Milestones 2023: Which is the best album turning 30 this year?
Are all the albums celebrating a round anniversary this year absolute gems?
In this five-part series, Euronews Culture takes a trip down memory lane, exploring the landmark albums celebrating their big anniversaries in 2023 and picking one standout album to rediscover or embrace as the best this year had to offer.
With albums turning 10 and albums turning 20 we move on to the releases from 1993 which are turning 30 this year.
1993… It was a year so good at music that knowing where to start is proving to be dizzying, so bear with us.
It was debut album year, with so many great acts to give us a first taste…
Liz Phair stunned everyone with her debut Exile in Guyville, a track based on The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St. and a loose song-by-song response to the 1972 album; The Cranberries released “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We” with killer tracks like “Dreams” and “Linger”; Wu Tang Clan made a big impression with their debut “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, which eventually served as a blueprint for future hip-hop acts; Snoop Dogg had “Doggystyle” with hits like “Gin and Juice” and “Who Am I?” (What is my name?)’.
Wait, there are more first-timers…
counting crows had everyone singing along to “Mr. Jones” with their first album “August and Everything After”; Tool exploded onto the stage with “Undertow”; all Sheryl Crow wanted to have some fun with “Tuesday Night Music Club”; ace of base signed ‘The Sign’ with hit singles like ‘All That She Wants’ and ‘The Sign’ (Don’t Pretend You Don’t Love Them); and Oxford’s finest radio head also released their debut album Pablo Honey, which has aged badly – especially considering the band’s adventures into new sonic territory – but still featured tunes like “Creep” and “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” It was the promising beginning of a band that would shape music history for decades to come.
This difficult second album syndrome has been belied by so many…
Blur“Modern Life Is Rubbish” was a notch above 1991’s “Leisure” and heralded the beginning of Britpop with tracks like “For Tomorrow” and “Sunday Sunday”. PJ Harvey‘s “Rid Of Me” – one of the greatest albums of all time – contained “50ft Queenie”, “Rub ’til It Bleeds” and had us all singing: “_Lick my legs I’m on fire / Lick my legs of wish_” .
Another excellent second effort was over slow dive and her acclaimed “Souvlaki,” which has since been hailed as a classic of the shoegaze genre; the breeders had their “Last Splash,” which saw Kim Deal’s supergroup go from strength to strength after the Pixies split, most notably with the track “Cannonball”; pearl jam had the unenviable task of following up their 1991 debut “Ten” with “Vs.” that surpassed all expectations; and the second album of Mazzy Star, “So Tonight That I Could See,” was proof of what dream-pop dreams are made of. It was a completely hypnotic effort, with the stunning single “Fade Into You” lulling everyone into a collective swoon.
If there was a second album to look forward to in 1993, this was it The Smashing Pumpkins with their probably best album “Siamese Dream”. It was a significant step up from their already terrific debut Gish, and to this day songs like “Today”, “Disarm” and “Mayonaise” remain among the band’s best tracks.
Two ’80s favorites are making a comeback.
After its peak in the previous decade duran duran returned to great form with their self-titled album, and singles ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Come Undone’ were the sound of a band starting a whole new chapter in their career. And then there were electro rockers Depeche Modewho had a great year with their best album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, a more guitar-heavy album that spawned hits like Walking in My Shoes and I Feel You.
And let’s not forget Lenny Kravitz‘s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’, his third album after ‘Let Love Rule’ (1989) and ‘Mama Said’ (1991), which included the title track, which was heard on radio stations around the world, and Janet Jackson‘s masterful ‘Janet’, which only had hits.
Our top pick of 1993 was very close nirvana‘s third and final album, In Utero, which saw the Seattle band return to their original roots after the world-conquering success of 1991’s Nevermind. Kurt Cobain died a year later, leaving listeners with songs like “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Rape Me,” and “All Apologies,” which were played repeatedly after his death.
However, and considering the insane amount of outstanding debut albums this year, we decided to premiere.
The record that turns 30 this year and most deserves to be championed is…
Bjork and her adventurously titled debut album Debut.
Although it was her first album, the Icelandic singer-songwriter was anything but a newcomer to the music scene. The former Sugarcubes member was nevertheless introduced to the world as a solo artist with “Debut,” which immediately set her apart as a force to be reckoned with.
Björk ambitiously blended a wide variety of sounds on this album, weaving moody strings, club beats, world music, jazz influences and ambient house for an insane pop mix that feels as innovative today as it did in 1993.
Meticulously written and performed songs included “Human Behaviour”, “Venus as a Boy”, “Big Time Sensuality” and “Violently Happy” as well as “Play Dead” on the re-release released the same year. This added track is probably one of Björk’s greatest. Originally released as a single from the 1993 crime drama soundtrack The young Americanswith Harvey Keitel, “Debut” is a stronger album for its inclusion.
The musician has moved into greater experimental territory over the years, with her latest 2022 album Fossora showing just how far she’s come since her experimental pop days. “Debut” sounds pretty quaint compared to their recent releases, and while perhaps not as strong as the glorious “Post” (1995), the absolutely perfect “Homogenic” (1997) and the atmospheric “Vespertine” (2001 – you greatest achievement to date), that doesn’t change the fact that there are rarely artists who can release such an exciting, varied and accessible debut album.
“Debut” was a statement of intent that saw Björk’s first solo album as a rehearsal for greater things to come. It made her a one-of-a-kind artist who, right from the start, had great joy and skill in exceeding expectations. Choose to (re)discover it and appreciate the grandiose sound change that listeners must have felt in 1993.
Join us next week for part 4 of this series – the best albums turning 40 in 2023.