The year's final installment of Calendar's guide to building a solid album collection on a $25 a month budget stretches all the way from the socially conscious sounds of England's Housemartins to Christmas cheer assembled by producer Jimmy Iovine.
The Housemartins' "The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death" (Elektra)--In their second LP, songwriters Paul Heaton and Stan Cullimore offer much of the lyric invention and enticing melodic sensibilities of Squeeze's Difford and Tilbrook, packing both wit and bite in their looks at human foibles and conceits.
Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper's "Bo Day Shus!!!" (Enigma)--Highlighted by the left-field college radio hit of the year ("Elvis Is Everywhere," a glorious sendup and salute to the Presley legend), this album mixes broadside humor with sly observation for one of the wildest assaults on the American psyche since Hunter Thompson's days on the campaign trail.
Victoria Williams' "Happy Come Home" (Geffen)--Some friends argue that Williams' sweet, endearing tales about life's quiet moments and understated truths are a bit too precious, but I find them . . . sweet and endearing.