Anybody who took a peek at notable releases from 1992 won’t be surprised to see R.E.M.’s Automatic For the People at the top of my list of that year’s best new music. This is arguably the best album by one of my very favorite bands.
It also framed the summer I met my wife and became the unofficial soundtrack to our budding romance, so it has that going for it.
My #2 album of 1992 probably wouldn’t be in this spot if this list was less subjective. I don’t mean that as a slight to Michael Penn, whose sophomore album Free-For-All is a folk pop gem, but it’s hard to make an argument for this record being revelatory or important or any of the other highbrow things that land albums on lists like this.
But my list is entirely subjective, and Free-For-All was the soundtrack of one of the most important summers of my life, so damn it, here it is.
Morrissey’s solo work after The Smiths’ breakup was solid but lacked a certain musical confidence — Johnny Marr’s absence is clear. But that changed with Moz’s fourth solo record, 1992’s Your Arsenal, the best album he ever recorded apart from his old band.
Producer Mick Ronson, who worked wonders with David Bowie, brought a muscularity to Morrissey’s sound, blending grunge, glam and rockabilly into a collection more aggressive than anything the sad-sack singer had ever released.
My fourth favorite album of 1992 is Lyle Lovett’s fourth studio album, Joshua Judges Ruth. This was the first new material released by Lovett since I’d discovered his jazz-blues-country masterpiece …and His Large Band.
Joshua Judges Ruth, cleverly named after three consecutive books of the Bible, strayed even further from Lovett’s country roots. The only true country tune here is ‘She’s Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To.’ Lovett’s deadpan humor isn’t on display here, either, as most of these songs deal with loss of love or life.
Today’s album is the first in my top ten 1992 records that I discovered well after the year it was released. Lucinda Williams simply wasn’t on my radar back then.
But she was very much on my radar a decade later, after I fell in love with Car Wheels On a Gravel Road and started gobbling up the rest of her catalog.