33. Pet Shop Boys, Very (Capitol, 1993)

Normally, a singles compilation inevitably signals a steady decline to follow; fortunately, Very, the record that followed this compilation, defies that rule. Ostensibly vocalist Neil Tennant's larger-than-life coming out party (though never as banal as that sounds), this album is a decisive, intriguing turning point. While still carefully cloaked in multiple layers of irony and metaphor (see "Dreaming of the Queen"), these songs take real risks to further expose the emotional, vulnerable core that always pulsated beneath the surface of "West End Girls", "Opportunities", et al. Of course, Neil and Chris still encourage you to dissect and ponder just exactly who and what they're addressing. But this unprecedented synergy, combined with an ongoing sense of renewal and a constant surge of ecstatic joy is what makes this album their best. Could anyone else reveal the poignancy and yearning lurking within the glorious camp overtones of the The Village People's "Go West"?