Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Best Albums of 1989

We are back with another Best Albums feature from a year gone by - if you missed 2000, check that out after you're done here. Let's go back 29 years... In the Year 1989, George H.W. Bush began his term as the 41st President of the United States, and minimum wage was a whopping $3.35. The Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, causing a massive environmental disaster. Erik and Lyle Menendez shot and killed their parents in Beverly Hills, California. On November 9th, the Berlin Wall started crashing down, leading to the reunification of Germany a year later. Batman, Dead Poets Society, The Little Mermaid and Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade were topping the box office chart while Saved By the Bell made its TV debut. And how can we forget about the release of cult classics like Road House, The 'Burbs, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Puppet Master? Taylor Swift and Hayden Panettiere entered the world, while we mourned the departure of Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, voice actor Mel Blanc, SNL's Gilda Radner and artist Salvador Dali.

As always, Sarah and I enlisted the help of our regular contributors & friends to select Top 10 albums. In addition, everyone handpicked a track from each album for you to enjoy in our Best Albums of 1989 Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page (unfortunately there are a few albums not available on Spotify - we encourage you to locate those elsewhere). If you'd like to share your own 1989 favorites, please comment below. We'll be back very soon with a list of our Honorable Mentions. Stay tuned to see which year is coming next!

Bret Helm
Life on this Planet | Audra

10. Red Temple Spirits - If Tomorrow I Were Leaving for Lhasa...
09. Pixies - Doolittle
08. New Model Army - Thunder and Consolation
07. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mother's Milk
06. Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
05. New Order - Technique
04. The Cure - Disintegration
03. Shelleyan Orphan - Century Flower
02. Peter Murphy - Deep
01. The Cult - Sonic Temple

About My #1: How do you choose your favorite album from this year? Seriously. Scroll down and look at these lists. Most of my picks could've easily held the #1 spot for me at some point in time over the last 29 years. At the onset of compiling this feature, I assumed The Cure's Disintegration would've ended up my #1. So why The Cult? Because one look at that album cover and I immediately remember the excitement of opening that brown box from Columbia House Music Club and staring at that iconic album cover on cassette. I still feel the excitement of those musical dropouts during the verse of Sun King where it feels like you've taken a punch to the gut. I still feel the late night car rides singing along with the way-too-high-for-my-voice chorus of Fire Woman. I still can smell the mixture of orange blossoms and Polo cologne in the air, fifteen years old and dancing to that song with my older brothers at Teen Night at The Devil House in Tempe, Arizona - back when dance clubs played rock music. I still feel the emotional impact of Billy Duffy's arpeggiated chords in the moving tribute to Edie Sedgwick. And for the simple reason that over the last month, I listened to this album the most! - Bret

Sarah Quarrie
Life on this Planet

10. The Mighty Lemon Drops - Laughter
09. Red Flag - Naive Art
08. Erasure - Wild!
07. Ian McCulloch - Candleland
06. The Stone Roses - s/t
05. The Primitives - Pure
04. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
03. New Order - Technique
02. Peter Murphy - Deep
01. Xymox - Twist of Shadows

About My #1: The releases from 1989 had such a permanent impact on my life. Hearing them now still evokes the feeling of when I first heard them. As a teen in the Chicago suburbs at that time, music discovery wasn't just a hobby - it was a way of life. Staying up late on a Sunday night to watch 120 Minutes on MTV, staying up late on a school night to hear what The Big Beat on 93.1 WXRT would play on the radio, configuring my stereo antenna with thumbtacks on the ceiling to pick up those left of the dial college radio signals from "High Energy" 88.7 at Loyola University and 89.3 WNUR Northwestern University's "The New Music FM". Armed with an arsenal of blank cassettes I was constantly on high alert to hit Record in order to capture the sounds of the underground. I distinctly recall the first time I heard Xymox's "Obsession," thinking "WHO is THIS?!". It was dark, it was dancey, it was haunting, it was catchy. Every time I popped in the clear cassette of Twist of Shadows and the synth intro to "Evelyn" kicked in I'd get chilly goosebumps. Still do! - sarahQ

John Magness
Uttoxeter, England

10. David Byrne - Rei Momo
09. Maria McKee - s/t
08. And Also the Trees - Farewell to the Shade
07. Daniel Lanois - Acadie
06. The Cure - Disintegration
05. The Blue Nile - Hats
04. Van Morrison - Avalon Sunset
03. Kate Bush - The Sensual World
02. New Order - Technique
01. Neil Young - Freedom

About My #1: Choosing my number 1 album from this year was really difficult, it could easily have been New Order (in fact I had forgotten how much I love that album) or Van Morrison or The Blue Nile, but in the end I decided to go with the album with most memories attached. I first heard Rockin' in the Free World the first time we visited the US (Florida) and got the CD while we were there - I really wish I'd kept the long box which we never had in the UK. My favourite track has always been Wrecking Ball and I love the version by Emmylou Harris as well which Neil Young sings on. I was quite hoping that Bruce Springsteen was covering it when he released an album of the same name but no such luck. In compiling this list however I realised that I don't have a vinyl copy of Freedom so that needs to be remedied. - John

Tim Brown
London, England

10. The Wonder Stuff - Hup
09. Soul II Soul - Club Classics Vol. One
08. Texas - Southside
07. Bob Dylan - Oh Mercy
06. Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever
05. Madonna - Like a Prayer
04. The Cure - Disintegration
03. The Stone Roses - s/t
02. The Beautiful South - Welcome to the Beautiful South
01. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising

About My #1: This album meant so much to me at the time of its release. Its joyful exuberance blew me away from the minute I first heard it. More playful than the hip hop I was used to, it just seemed more playful than pretentious and still is my go-to happy album. - Tim

Jesse Deitermann
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Prince - Batman
09. The Wedding Present - Bizarro
08. Peter Murphy - Deep
07. The Ocean Blue - s/t
06. Pixies - Doolittle
05. Lush - Scar
04. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
03. The Sugarcubes - Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!
02. The Cure - Disintegration
01. Ian McCulloch - Candleland

About My #1: The reason I chose this album is it's a comfort album. It takes me back to 1989. '89 had so many great albums and personal experiences, as minor as my brother getting this small truck that we would blast The Cure and Pixies with the windows down whilst driving to Boulder or downtown Denver to buy more records and tapes at Waxtrax or Twist and Shout. Again, comfort! - Dream Pop Jesse

Ron Marrs
New Orleans, Louisiana

10. Love and Rockets - s/t
09. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
08. Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
07. The Cure - Disintegration
06. Sidewinders - Witchdoctor
05. The Stone Roses - s/t
04. Concrete Blonde - Free
03. Pixies - Doolittle
02. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
01. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

About My #1: I struggled with this one. I’ve certainly accepted these lists as a revelatory experiment to find those albums in our life we want to celebrate. When I sat down and put the pen to paper, what filled the page was a recipe of black eyeliner, Doc Martens, syringes, and clove cigarettes. So many of the albums that comprise my 1989 list encapsulate the anarchy of my junior/senior year of high school. A snapshot of tormenting relationships, the anger, the depression, and the exploration into self-destruction. These albums fed a psyche that was perched upon a pedestal of chaos that I sought to ruin in its foundation. My escape was found in bands like The Sidewinders, Royal Court of China, and Beastie Boys – a salvation of sorts from becoming cliché. The truth is, anyone that braved high school with a Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction or a Christian Death t-shirt were anything but a cardboard cut-out from their surroundings; our progressive interests may as well have been a scarlet letter. For me, it served as antagonism to stereotype, and to an English teacher that proudly rivaled my term paper on Oscar Wilde, with a dissertation on her years spent as a Catholic nun and a “gift” of 9 one-inch nails left on my desk. Point made, challenge accepted – no pun intended. “Pretty Hate Machine” served as my initiation into a club scene I wasn’t mature enough to navigate, and a how-to manual for reckless exploration into convoluted romance. Every word of the album might very well have been scripted from the observations of my flight down a staircase crafted by my ignorance and impulsiveness. I wasn’t clever enough to realize that my experience was one transgressed by so many others, and I personified every song, as if Trent Reznor was my biographer. Twenty-nine years later (groan) – listening to this album is so visceral that I can touch the pain, anger, and depression, as if it’s a scar across my heart and mind. Nine Inch Nails was an enabler, the voice assessing your situation as completely f'd-up and having space for more torment. I don’t know if the album is life-changing, but it definitely served as the soundtrack to a life that was changing, probably never more so than any other point thus far or since. To the student that sat on the other side of the Physics 2 class drumming out “Coast To Coast” on his text book while alternating between Cure, Voivod and Corrosion of Conformity shirts, thank you for providing a memory of 1989 that makes me smile to this day. - Ron

Jason Jones
Okinawa, Japan

10. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
09. Love and Rockets - s/t
08. Einstürzende Neubauten - Haus der Luge
07. Kate Bush - The Sensual World
06. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
05. New Order - Technique
04. Ian McCulloch - Candleland
03. Public Image Ltd - 9
02. The Cure - Disintegration
01. Peter Murphy - Deep

About My #1: Peter Murphy’s album Deep is one of my very favorite albums, but it didn’t start off that way. I bought this on cassette when it came out, but I only knew him by name at that time. I gave it a listen and actually didn’t think much of it. I remember thinking it was merely “okay”, and put it away without any real intention of listening to it again anytime soon. A couple of weeks (maybe months?) later, I found myself in the mood to listen to something that I wasn’t very familiar with. I decided to give this album another shot, and ended up loving it! It became a go-to album that I would listen to more and more often. After all these years, this is still one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and one of my very favorite albums from any year. - Jason

Rob Clark
Rockford, Illinois

10. Meat Beat Manifesto - Storm the Studio
09. The Stone Roses - s/t
08. Daniel Lanois - Acadie
07. The Blue Nile - Hats
06. Peter Murphy - Deep
05. XTC - Oranges & Lemons
04. Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
03. Del Amitri - Waking Hours
02. Kate Bush - The Sensual World
01. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

About My #1: I grew up in Cleveland. In the 80s, there was guy named Trent Reznor who was in local bands like The Innocent and The Exotic Birds. My friends and I were aware of him but he really was just this local guy making some okay pop and synthpop. At the tail end of the 80s, he re-emerged as the frontman of this project he called Nine Inch Nails and it pretty much blew all our minds. “Pretty Hate Machine' opened my doors to anything even remotely industrial and quickly became one of those “game changer” albums for me. It's one of the biggest reasons I’m proud to be from Cleveland. Almost 30 years later, it still sounds fresh and is still one of my favorite albums. - Rob

Sierra Anna Jones
Okinawa, Japan

10. Julee Cruise - Floating Into the Night
09. The Ocean Blue - s/t
08. Public Image Ltd - 9
07. Galaxie 500 - On Fire
06. Kate Bush - The Sensual World
05. Einstürzende Neubauten - Haus der Luge
04. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
03. Peter Murphy - Deep
02. New Order - Technique
01. The Cure - Disintegration

About My #1: Disintegration is permanently etched in the deepest, darkest parts of my mind and soul. The sad, shimmering soundscapes of this album shaped my taste in music, comforted me during my loneliest days, and helped me discover who I was. As a teenager, I instantly fell in love with The Cure’s dreary romance and existential dreaminess. At the time, I felt a great deal of uncertainty about the future, a lack of purpose, and all the complicated emotions that come with transitioning into adulthood; I often spent sleepless late nights sitting alone on my rooftop listening to this record on repeat. Although I am currently in a different place in my life, Disintegration resonates with me more than ever. - Sierra

Jaymz Todd
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Nirvana - Bleach
09. Pixies - Doolittle
08. Prince - Batman
07. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Automatic
06. The Stone Roses - s/t
05. Kate Bush - The Sensual World
04. Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
03. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
02. The Cure - Disintegration
01. Pop Will Eat Itself - This is the Day...This is the Hour...This is This!

About My #1: This album is the quintessential answer to the question of “if you ever got stranded on a deserted island and only could bring one album, which album would you bring?” - Jaymz

53 different albums appeared in this feature
Which ones made it onto the most lists?
The Cure (8), The Jesus and Mary Chain (6), Peter Murphy (6)

If you're a vinyl enthusiast, check out our feature on the Spin Clean Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine (click image below)
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  1. The Cult !! Excellent choice tho a tough year to pick a list of 10 from. I can see how the Cure was in 8 times. All great records. - VK

  2. Surprised that The The - Mind Bomb was absent.