.

Our Critics' Top Albums of 2001

From Gorillaz to Dylan, our picks mixed fantasy with reality

December 26, 2001 12:00 AM ET

2001 was the oddest of years, one in which music seemed like the least important thing in the world one moment, and the most important the next -- a dichotomy that's reflected in this year's scattered, shattered year-end poll. In other words, if you're looking for consensus, you've come to the wrong place.

Although there was no dominant trend to speak of -- aside from the love/hate lines drawn by individual artists -- the most-cited discs on our survey did show two things: We got very introspective this year, and then did our best to escape from reality. The former attitude is highlighted by the outpouring of support for Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft" and Gold, the second solo outing from alt-country whiz-kid Ryan Adams.

But those discs had nothing on the Gorillaz, a cartoon-pop creation that Blur's Damon Albarn concocted to be Britain's answer to the Banana Splits.

A surprising number of folks chose to take the sage advice of Chuck D., shrugging off the hype surrounding of much-touted releases by Radiohead and Tool and lending almost as many ears to the Velvets worshippers in the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as to similarly minded "it boys" the Strokes.

Other indie-rock hopes garnering significant support included vets like Guided by Voices (who topped a pair of lists), the White Stripes, Spoon and the Frames. Indie-minded -- but major-backed -- sorts earned kudos as well, notably comeback kids Weezer and the largely overlooked the Prayer Boat.

While the neo-soul movement continued to warm the cockles of scribblers hither and yon, no single release took hold of the collective consciousness. The Isley Brothers -- who've weathered at least three soul revivals so far -- snaked their way onto a few lists, with Angie Stone, Macy Gray and Jill Scott getting thumbs-up from other voters.

The hip-hop arena was similarly factionalized in Y2K+1, a year in which the most anticipated releases -- Nas and Wu-Tang, for instance -- may have come out too late for most to digest, leaving the door open for an old-school vet like Masta Ace to snag some serious support.

Here are our favorite recordings from 2001:

MICHAEL ANSALDO

1. The Tyde, Once (Orange Sky): If you couldn't afford this year's Buffalo Springfield and Velvet Underground box sets, try this.
2. Mellow, Another Mellow Spring (Cyberoctave): The album Air should have made.
3. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, The Blue Trees (Beggars Banquet): The prog-psych-popsters go unplugged, and it's as pastoral and serene as a Welsh countryside.
4. Alfie, If You Happy With You Need Do Nothing (Twisted Nerve): Oasis be damned! These Manchunians don't merely pay Bacharach lip service, they channel his adventurous arranging into eleven folk-pop nuggets.
5. Mark Kozelek, What's Next to the Moon (Badman): Only the Red House Painters' frontman could find the pathos in AC/DC's songs and make them sound lush and lovely.
6. Orange Peels, So Far (SpinArt): Proof that smart lyrics and jangly pop are still a potent combination.
7. Tim Buckley, Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology (Rhino): A long-overdue compilation that can only hint at the scope of one of "pop" music's few true visionaries.
8. R.E.M., Reveal (Warner Bros.): More of the studio experiments indulged on Up, but this time they temper it with decent songs and get it right.
9. The Go-Go's, God Bless the Go-Go's (Beyond): The godmothers of girl power pull it together for one more moment of magic.
10. Jason Falkner, Bedtime With the Beatles (Sony Wonder): Ex-Jellyfish Falkner Airs out some classics for the kids, but grown-ups will love it too.

STEVE BALTIN

1. The Prayer Boat, Polichinelle (Atlantic): Gorgeous, melodic, moving real songs.
2. Bjork, Vespertine (Elektra): More out-there genius from popular music's most daring artist.
3. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator) (Acony): Between Welch's songwriting and David Rawlings' guitar, the most underrated album of the year.
4. P.O.D., Satellite (Atlantic): P.O.D. pull away from the nu-metal pack and graduate to hard rock.
5. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): The man's a marvel. What else can you say?
6. Faithless, Outrospective (Arista): Trip-hop + hip-hop = cool grooves.
7. Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread (Rough Trade): There is no sultrier instrument on the planet than Hope's voice.
8. New Order, Get Ready (Reprise): The New Order/Billy Corgan duet, "Turn my Way," is the best single of the year.
9. Broadway Project, Compassion (Eighteenth Street Lounge): Wonderfully human electronic songs.
10. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): The live show made a believer out of me.

STEVEN CHEAN

1. The Stereophonics, Just Enough Education to Perform(V2): A warm, whiskey-soaked album in the true sense of the word -- every track is a single, drizzling endlessly hummable melodies over stories that would make Westerberg green with envy.
2. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): Hype aside, the guy's just getting better with every "tossed off" effort. Imagine what he could do with a real budget.
3. Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter (Columbia): Folk-rock that actually rocks. His debut comes off with the finesse of a fifth or sixth studio album.
4. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): An album that would make Diamond Dave and Brian Wilson positively giggle with delight.
5. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): In an age of smoke-and-mirrors electro-voodoo, the album positively bleeds talent and genuine imagination.
6. Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American (DreamWorks): Good God, how we missed power-pop.
7. Isley Brothers, Eternal (DreamWorks): R. Kelly, who's your daddy? The Isley Brothers return with arguably the best disc of their forty-year career.
8. Charlatans U.K., Wonderland (MCA): A successful veteran band breaks the formula late-career, reinventing themselves as Anglo soul men.
9. B.R.M.C., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin): Because we desperately needed some good ol' white noise.
10. Ol' Dirty Bastard, Free Dirty: The Best of Ol' Dirty Bastard (Rhino): Wink-wink-less insanity, left to simmer in a studio, can birth marvelous things. And this is the best of those marvelous, wink-wink-lessly insane things.

BILL CRANDALL

1. The Mother Hips, Green Hills of Earth (Future Farmer): Divinely inspired by the four great (North) American B's: the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield, the Band and the Beach Boys.
2. De La Soul, AOI: Bionix (Tommy Boy): The kings of hip-hop soul simply have their way with everything from Sir Paul to monster booties.
3. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): Heavily influenced? Sure. But a helluva lot more fun than its influences.
4. Dave Matthews Band, The Summer So Far/Lillywhite Sessions (N/A): This lost album supreme is a poignant, often uncomfortable gaze into a soul that's deeper than we thought. If only DMB's "found" albums were this good.
5. Prince, The Rainbow Children (NPG): When nobody was looking, the Purple One returned to form: high concept meets gritty funk and sweet soul that doesn't reside in Sissyville.
6. Pernice Brothers, The World Won't End (Ashmont): Precious and few have mixed melody and melancholy like these Seventies soft-rock revivalists. The strangers-on-a-burning-plane song particularly moving.
7. Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol): "Kid B" is almost as good as Kid A; it just lacked the surprise factor. New version of "Morning Bell" justifies the whole exercise.
8. Randy, The Human Atom Bombs (Epitaph): The hookiest punk rock band on Earth comes from Scandinavia. Love the tune about how there are no good places to play in Northern Sweden!
9. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Nifty in its own right, and made older Dylan records sound new again.
10. Beulah, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette): This delectable collection of sunny California pop resides on a foggy street in Northern California.

ANDREW DANSBY

1. Charley Patton, Screaming and Hollarin' the Blues (Revenant): He wasn't chased by hellhounds and didn't mess with the Devil at the crossroads. But to find Delta Blues that predate those on this superb set, you'll need a time machine.
2. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Unlike the white minstrel singers of yesteryear, there's more love than theft here. Dylan and a crackerjack band give a history lesson that rocks, swings and amuses.
3. Howard Fishman Quartet I Like You a Lot (Monkey Farm): American gothic sounds drawn to and from New Orleans: backwoods bluesy with a jazzy dash of Django, tastefully peppered with fierce instrumental breaks.
4. R.E.M., Reveal (Warner Bros.) Unforgiven for leaving the past in the past, they're the best American band since the Ramones. Fans will scoff, but I'll take their last three over their first three; here's hoping that -- unlike the best U.K. band since the Clash -- they continue to recognize all that they can leave behind.
5. Beaver Nelson, Undisturbed (Black Dog): Thirty years ago, he would've been pegged as a Next Dylan, but as our Jester has proven more resilient than Yorick, Nelson can settle for being the first of something. A young, literate, melodic Texas songwriter, he salvages the state's lyrical legacy from the party-anthem buffoons.
6. Sparklehorse, It's a Wonderful Life (Capitol): Wont to let the instrumentation breathe, it's a brush stroke of piano, a wash of synth or Polly Jean Harvey's vox that give life to Mark Linkous' spooky, beautiful collages.
7. Nick Lowe, The Contender (Yep Roc): Country, soul and pop, masterfully stitched together. Lowe's found a classy formula for making pure pop for now people in their forties and fifties.
8. Matthew Shipp, New Orbit (Thirsty Ear/Blue Series): He wants no part of the Wyntonian jukebox of yesteryear, yet his thoughtful, progressive compositions won't send skittish listeners running for cover.
9. Ron Sexsmith, Boy Blue (spinART): Co-producer Steve Earle adds a touch of grit to the most exciting platter yet from a promising poncey popster, who reminds of PP's Brian Wilson and Lindsey Buckingham.
10. Roger Wallace, That Kind of Lonely (Texas Round Up): Hard country that sounds lived-in rather than bought off the rack and worn for effect.

ANTHONY DECURTIS

1. Cousteau, Cousteau (Palm): An album of genuinely haunting beauty. This is late-night balladeering with a deadly serious intent.
2. John Mayer, Room for Squares (Aware/Columbia): A winning coming-of-age album by a twenty-three-year-old songwriter eager to experience life and all it has to offer.
3. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): The alt-country prodigy delivers on his promise with an album that is dazzling in its hopefulness and energy. And "New York, New York" came at just the right time.
4. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): The wily old master takes us on a loose, bluesy, boozy journey along the musical backroads of pre-rock America.
5. Angie Stone, Mahagony Soul (J Records): Other ladies of soul got the hype, but, unlike her flashier rivals, Stone never oversings, allowing the richness of her voice, feeling and ideas to emerge in their own intoxicatingly sweet time.
6. Loudon Wainwright III, Last Man on Earth (Red House): A reflection on the death of the songwriter's mother, this album is moving and, ultimately, heartening.
7. Wu-Tang Clan, Iron Flag (Sony): Between RZA's effortlessly original tracks and the relentless word skills of this crew, Iron Flag grips your sonic attention and never lets it loose.
8. Lucinda Williams, Essence (Lost Highway): Williams lowers the decibel level, but not the intensity on Essence, a chronicle of love's elusive ways, but lyrics like "Nothing will make me take you back/Are you down, baby/Down with that?" show that she hasn't lost her bite.
9. Mobb Deep, Infamy (Loud): More cinematic mayhem from Havoc and Prodigy, but the emotions run as deep as the grooves -- proof that you don't need to bang and shout to hit with a chilling impact.
10. Buddy Guy, Sweet Tea (Jive) : "Done got old/Can't do the things I used to do," Guy moans over a mournful acoustic guitar on the opening track. But while it's had to accept that this one-time young gun is now sixty-five, he's burning hot, and he takes the blues as deep as it gets.

DAN EPSTEIN

1. Isley Brothers, Eternal (DreamWorks): Once again, these old dawgs taught everybody some new tricks.
2. Various Artists, Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From the British Empire and Beyond (WEA/Rhino): There's more creativity and magical weirdness in these four discs than in all of 2001's new releases combined.
3. The (International) Noise Conspiracy, A New Morning (Epitaph): Required listening for anyone laid off this year by a major corporation.
4. The Orange Peels, So Far (SpinArt): Jangly, insightful guitar-pop, with shiny melodies on top and darker truths lurking below.
5. Buddy Guy, Sweet Tea (Jive): Heaviest blues album since Black Sabbath's Master of Reality.
6. The Tyde, Once (Track & Field/Dell'Orso): Classic Rock record of the year, if your definition of "classic rock" includes Love, Scott Walker, late Velvets, and solo George Harrison.
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (Music Cartel): Three British wasteoids stagger forth with the year's best stoner-rock record.
8. The Excessories, Pure Pop For Punk People (Sympathy for the Record Industry): Catchy tunes, killer riffs, cute girl singer; what's not to love?
9. Zero 7, Simple Things (Palm Pictures): Recommended to anyone who wishes Air still made records like Moon Safari.
10. P.O.D., Satellite (Atlantic): New metal that really matters.

GREG HELLER

1. Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus (Matador): Finally figured out why I hated half of every Pavement album.
2. Ash, Free All Angles (Infectious): Why pop this summer-y and perfect doesn't play in America, I will never, ever understand.
3. System of a Down, Toxicity (American): Why metal this wonderfully odd plays in America, I will never, ever understand.
4. Beulah, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette): "Gene Autry" would be the best single of 2001 if college radio songs counted as singles.
5. Spoon, Girls Can Tell (Merge): Less will always be more: case in point.
6. Ben Folds, Rockin' the Suburbs (Epic): "Fred Jones Pt. II" -- most delicate ballad in eons.
7. . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Relative Ways/Homage (Interscope): A sneak peek at their deconstructo-rock masterwork of next year and a welcome major-label oddity.
8. For Stars, We Are All Beautiful People (Future Farmer): A twinkling secret every American Music Club junkie should come to know immediately.
9. Krisiun, Ageless Venemous (Century Media): Brutal proof positive for doubters of death metal's continued relevancy. Faster than a speeding bullet on speed.
10. Creeper Lagoon, Take Back the Universe (And Give Me Yesterday) (Dreamworks): A monument to implosion laced with glimmering hits that will never be.

BILL HOLDSHIP

1. Young Fresh Fellows, Because We Hate You (Mammoth): The right kind of retro rock from America's greatest bar band. The spirit of both the Replacements and NRBQ lives here.
2. The Old 97's , Satellite Rides (Elektra): Like Wilco, they've moved way beyond the limiting alternative country genre to create an album that would have sounded right at home during the glory days of British and New York new wave.
3. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): A hard pop-rock winner that doesn't outwear its welcome like most modern CDs (which are generally too damn long).
4. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Critics may have overrated this just a tad (though hardly as much as they've overrated the Strokes), but he remains the only artist of his generation that you can never safely write off. And his live shows this year were magnificent.
5. Beulah, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette): Think Brian Wilson if his psychosis had taken on much darker overtones. The music doesn't exactly jibe with the lyrics, but that's what makes it so intriguing . . . and good.
6. B.R.M.C., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin): Especially loved the review that said this band not only sounds like the Jesus and Mary Chain but they also sound like the Velvet Underground. Well, Duh! Some people actually preferred this retro to the Strokes' form of retro.
7. Shelby Lynne, Love, Shelby (Island): Entertainment Weekly actually gave this a D-plus grade. It was a better album before they deleted three songs originally intended for inclusion. But it's still a Sixties-sounding pop delight in many places, especially the awesome "Killing Kind."
8. Beachwood Sparks, When We Were Trees (SubPop): An Americana joy.
9. Jim Lauderdale, The Other Sessions (DualTone): Classic Bakersfield country. Vintage Buck and Merle can be heard in most of these tracks. Garth and Shania should take notes.
10. Ron Sexsmith, Blue Boy (SpinArt): Not his best effort, but he's still one of the best singer-songwriters of the past decade. And when he's on here, he's great.

TRACY E. HOPKINS

1. Bilal, 1st Born Second (Interscope): Record buyers slept on this falsetto-prone, Philly native's genre-busting debut, but if you love Prince, then Bilal has something in his freaky music bag of tricks just for you.
2. Jill Scott, Experience: Jill Scott 826+ (Epic): Her riveting debut posed the question "Who Is Jill Scott?" This live, double-disc set provides the answer.
3. Bjork, Vespertine (Elektra): Bjork's piercing vocals always provide the listener with a cathartic release and evoke emotion with every imperfect octave.
4. Res, How I Do (MCA): This newcomer does just fine with a debut that mixes new wave, alt rock, and a splash of reggae and hip-hop.
5. Maxwell, Now (Columbia): Neo-soul's smoothest crooner made a welcome comeback with this alternately swoonworthy and booty-shaking set.
6. Omar, Best by Far (Oyste): Brit hipster Omar may scores once again with his latest classic soul, acid-jazz, and Latin rhythm-infused set.
7. Jay-Z, MTV Unplugged (DefJam): Not since a shirtless L.L. Cool J has an unplugged hip-hop set sounded so hype.
8. Mary J. Blige, No More Drama (MCA) The now drama-free queen of hip-hop soul is like a fine wine -- her raw soul only gets better with time.
9. The Isley Brothers, Eternal (DreamWorks): He may be an old-school veteran, but Ron "Mr. Biggs" Isley can still out-mack any new jack crooner in the game.
10. Nas, Stillmatic (Columbia): There's nothing like a lyrical battle to reenergize hip-hop.

STEVE KNOPPER

1. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Music is funny -- remember?
2. John Hammond, Wicked Grin (Virgin): Tom Waits' songs, turned to blues, viewed from a weird new angle.
3. Holmes Brothers, Speaking in Tongues (Alligator): For some reason I couldn't stop listening to gospel music this year.
3. Blind Boys of Alabama, Spirit of the Century (EMD/Real World): More adventurous than the Holmes Bros. -- with John Hammond and David Lindley playing the Stones' "Just Wanna See His Face" from separate speakers.
5. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): Forget the cartoon concept, it's the first seamless blend of hip-hop and indie-rock since Sir Mix-a-Lot collaborated with Mudhoney on Judgment Night.
6. Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera (SDR): The South lives! In an underdoggy, pride-and-guilt, Lynyrd Skynyrd-worshipping kind of way!
7. Angie Stone, Mahogany Soul (J Records): R&B from the old gospel-trained soul school, trumping not just Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera but overrated Mary J. Blige and overcutesy Macy Gray.
8. Various Artists, O, Brother Where Art Thou? (Mercury Nashville): The American Anthology of Folk Music dragged into the twenty-first century and hung up on its pop charts.
9. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): I feel the same way about this as I felt about Green Day's Dookie. Fun, but I can't tell if that's just because it reminds me of other bands I love.
10. Joe Henry, Scar (Mammoth): Not the most consistent mixture of skronky modern jazz and straightforward country-folk, but a few killer songs and what other rocker would Ornette Coleman agree to play with?

JOLIE LASH

1. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): If Damon Albarn had released it under his own name he would have been laughed all the way to Staines, U.K. -- package 'em fronted by cartoons and it's a winner.
2. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): Ryan comes into his own and wins admirers from the glitterati around the globe.
3. Slam, Lifetimes (Soma): Ten years in the making from this Scottish techno outfit and more than worth the wait.
4. Justin Robertson, Imprint #1 (Distinctive): Nail biting techno mix from the man who taught the Chemical Brothers how to spin the wheels of steel.
5. The Avalanches, Since I Left You (London/Sire): Five Aussies, 900 samples, absolutely smashing.
6. Missy Elliot, Miss E ... (Columbia): Can't stop the rock.
7. Daft Punk, Discovery (Virgin): Rollicking Eighties synth flavoured pop yumminess.
8. The Youngsters, Lemon Orange (F-Comm): From Laurent Garnier's label comes another wonderful bout of French fluid techno.
9. Richie Hawtin, DE9 Closer to the Edit (Nova Mute): The Canadian pushes the boundaries of sound yet again.
10. Paul Van Dyk, The Politics of Dancing (Ministry of Sound): Our favorite German's first ever mix album which is just as solid as his original productions.

JOHN D. LUERSSEN

1. Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills (TVT): Vibrant and powerful, Pollard never ceases to amaze.
2. Spoon, Girls Can Tell (Merge): A contagious, sundry indie record with strong legs.
3. Velvet Crush, A Single Odyssey (Action Musik): Melody, spirit and soul collide in the presence of greatness.
4. New Pornographers, Mass Romantic (Mint): Enthusiastic pop with abundant hooks.
5. Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter (Columbia): I have seen the future of rock & roll and his name is . . .
6. Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic): Brilliantly-crafted, lush and memorable.
7. David Mead, Mine And Yours (RCA): The McCartney album we all wish Paul had made.
8. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): Ten hummable keepers in one half-hour -- what's not to love?
9. John Mayer, Room for Squares (Aware/Columbia): A soothing, sophisticated and winning debut.
10. Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines (Columbia): A great, roaring rock album that coulda, shoulda been huge.

KEN MICALLEF
1. Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol): Beautiful deconstruction for doleful head cases.
2. Garbage, Beautiful Garbage (Interscope): Opposing Radiohead's rock deconstruction ethic, Garbage basked in glorious traditional pop for the year's most unpretentious and satisfying album.
3. The Koop, Waltz for Koop (Compost): Drenched in the styles of Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand, this German duo recreate a sensuous Sixties jazz, then paint it black with ominous samples and rain-on-windshield sound noir.
4. Nortec Collective, Tijuana Sessions Vol 1. (Palm Pictures): From urban slum to hillside fiesta, this gritty, shadow-filled collection of Mexican DJ music makes you long for hot sun, tequila and ammunition.
5. Four Tet, Pause (Domino): Four Tet combine the organic nostalgia of British folk with bustling big beats and warm found-sound trinkets as rare as an unthreatened rainforest.
6. DD Jackson, Sigame (Justin Time): Jazz pianist Jackson, aided by Latin sensation drummer Dafnis Prieto, makes old-school trio jazz sound surprisingly contemporary, letting his musicians and his fingers play beyond often claustrophobic jazz borders.
7. Lemon Jelly, LemonJelly.KY (Beggars Banquet): Who doesn't love gurgling babies and happy dance beats? 8. Solex, Low Kick and Hard Bop (Matador): Juxtaposing freak sound sources against her bratty voice and nervy arrangements, Elisabeth Esselink creates wonder pop with records taken from her own cut-rate vinyl store.
9. Tool, Lateralus (Interscope): Brainy L.A. Satan worshipers mix King Crimson and Metallica in this bruising record that sounds best played backwards.
10. Brazilified, Brazilified (Quango): As the world shrinks and Internet access expands, DJs have full entry to world cultures and all manner of sonic scrawl, hence this robust comp which turns dance music from Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France into one world under a groove.

MEREDITH OCHS

1. Jim White, No Such Place (Luaka Bop): Sacred and profane hick-hop.
2. Oh Susanna, Sleepy Little Sailor (Catamount): Beautiful and haunting, watery-themed gothic folk-rock.
3. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): More Rolling Stones and Big Star than alt-country, the second solo album from this roots rock wunderkind aspires to be great, and it is.
BILL HOLDSHIP

1. Young Fresh Fellows, Because We Hate You (Mammoth): The right kind of retro rock from America's greatest bar band. The spirit of both the Replacements and NRBQ lives here.
2. The Old 97's , Satellite Rides (Elektra): Like Wilco, they've moved way beyond the limiting alternative country genre to create an album that would have sounded right at home during the glory days of British and New York new wave.
3. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): A hard pop-rock winner that doesn't outwear its welcome like most modern CDs (which are generally too damn long).
4. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Critics may have overrated this just a tad (though hardly as much as they've overrated the Strokes), but he remains the only artist of his generation that you can never safely write off. And his live shows this year were magnificent.
5. Beulah, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette): Think Brian Wilson if his psychosis had taken on much darker overtones. The music doesn't exactly jibe with the lyrics, but that's what makes it so intriguing . . . and good.
6. B.R.M.C., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin): Especially loved the review that said this band not only sounds like the Jesus and Mary Chain but they also sound like the Velvet Underground. Well, Duh! Some people actually preferred this retro to the Strokes' form of retro.
7. Shelby Lynne, Love, Shelby (Island): Entertainment Weekly actually gave this a D-plus grade. It was a better album before they deleted three songs originally intended for inclusion. But it's still a Sixties-sounding pop delight in many places, especially the awesome "Killing Kind."
8. Beachwood Sparks, When We Were Trees (SubPop): An Americana joy.
9. Jim Lauderdale, The Other Sessions (DualTone): Classic Bakersfield country. Vintage Buck and Merle can be heard in most of these tracks. Garth and Shania should take notes.
10. Ron Sexsmith, Blue Boy (SpinArt): Not his best effort, but he's still one of the best singer-songwriters of the past decade. And when he's on here, he's great.

TRACY E. HOPKINS

1. Bilal, 1st Born Second (Interscope): Record buyers slept on this falsetto-prone, Philly native's genre-busting debut, but if you love Prince, then Bilal has something in his freaky music bag of tricks just for you.
2. Jill Scott, Experience: Jill Scott 826+ (Epic): Her riveting debut posed the question "Who Is Jill Scott?" This live, double-disc set provides the answer.
3. Bjork, Vespertine (Elektra): Bjork's piercing vocals always provide the listener with a cathartic release and evoke emotion with every imperfect octave.
4. Res, How I Do (MCA): This newcomer does just fine with a debut that mixes new wave, alt rock, and a splash of reggae and hip-hop.
5. Maxwell, Now (Columbia): Neo-soul's smoothest crooner made a welcome comeback with this alternately swoonworthy and booty-shaking set.
6. Omar, Best by Far (Oyste): Brit hipster Omar may scores once again with his latest classic soul, acid-jazz, and Latin rhythm-infused set.
7. Jay-Z, MTV Unplugged (DefJam): Not since a shirtless L.L. Cool J has an unplugged hip-hop set sounded so hype.
8. Mary J. Blige, No More Drama (MCA) The now drama-free queen of hip-hop soul is like a fine wine -- her raw soul only gets better with time.
9. The Isley Brothers, Eternal (DreamWorks): He may be an old-school veteran, but Ron "Mr. Biggs" Isley can still out-mack any new jack crooner in the game.
10. Nas, Stillmatic (Columbia): There's nothing like a lyrical battle to reenergize hip-hop.

STEVE KNOPPER

1. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): Music is funny -- remember?
2. John Hammond, Wicked Grin (Virgin): Tom Waits' songs, turned to blues, viewed from a weird new angle.
3. Holmes Brothers, Speaking in Tongues (Alligator): For some reason I couldn't stop listening to gospel music this year.
3. Blind Boys of Alabama, Spirit of the Century (EMD/Real World): More adventurous than the Holmes Bros. -- with John Hammond and David Lindley playing the Stones' "Just Wanna See His Face" from separate speakers.
5. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): Forget the cartoon concept, it's the first seamless blend of hip-hop and indie-rock since Sir Mix-a-Lot collaborated with Mudhoney on Judgment Night.
6. Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera (SDR): The South lives! In an underdoggy, pride-and-guilt, Lynyrd Skynyrd-worshipping kind of way!
7. Angie Stone, Mahogany Soul (J Records): R&B from the old gospel-trained soul school, trumping not just Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera but overrated Mary J. Blige and overcutesy Macy Gray.
8. Various Artists, O, Brother Where Art Thou? (Mercury Nashville): The American Anthology of Folk Music dragged into the twenty-first century and hung up on its pop charts.
9. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): I feel the same way about this as I felt about Green Day's Dookie. Fun, but I can't tell if that's just because it reminds me of other bands I love.
10. Joe Henry, Scar (Mammoth): Not the most consistent mixture of skronky modern jazz and straightforward country-folk, but a few killer songs and what other rocker would Ornette Coleman agree to play with?

JOLIE LASH

1. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): If Damon Albarn had released it under his own name he would have been laughed all the way to Staines, U.K. -- package 'em fronted by cartoons and it's a winner.
2. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): Ryan comes into his own and wins admirers from the glitterati around the globe.
3. Slam, Lifetimes (Soma): Ten years in the making from this Scottish techno outfit and more than worth the wait.
4. Justin Robertson, Imprint #1 (Distinctive): Nail biting techno mix from the man who taught the Chemical Brothers how to spin the wheels of steel.
5. The Avalanches, Since I Left You (London/Sire): Five Aussies, 900 samples, absolutely smashing.
6. Missy Elliot, Miss E ... (Columbia): Can't stop the rock.
7. Daft Punk, Discovery (Virgin): Rollicking Eighties synth flavoured pop yumminess.
8. The Youngsters, Lemon Orange (F-Comm): From Laurent Garnier's label comes another wonderful bout of French fluid techno.
9. Richie Hawtin, DE9 Closer to the Edit (Nova Mute): The Canadian pushes the boundaries of sound yet again.
10. Paul Van Dyk, The Politics of Dancing (Ministry of Sound): Our favorite German's first ever mix album which is just as solid as his original productions.

JOHN D. LUERSSEN

1. Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills (TVT): Vibrant and powerful, Pollard never ceases to amaze.
2. Spoon, Girls Can Tell (Merge): A contagious, sundry indie record with strong legs.
3. Velvet Crush, A Single Odyssey (Action Musik): Melody, spirit and soul collide in the presence of greatness.
4. New Pornographers, Mass Romantic (Mint): Enthusiastic pop with abundant hooks.
5. Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter (Columbia): I have seen the future of rock & roll and his name is . . .
6. Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic): Brilliantly-crafted, lush and memorable.
7. David Mead, Mine And Yours (RCA): The McCartney album we all wish Paul had made.
8. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): Ten hummable keepers in one half-hour -- what's not to love?
9. John Mayer, Room for Squares (Aware/Columbia): A soothing, sophisticated and winning debut.
10. Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines (Columbia): A great, roaring rock album that coulda, shoulda been huge.

KEN MICALLEF
1. Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol): Beautiful deconstruction for doleful head cases.
2. Garbage, Beautiful Garbage (Interscope): Opposing Radiohead's rock deconstruction ethic, Garbage basked in glorious traditional pop for the year's most unpretentious and satisfying album.
3. The Koop, Waltz for Koop (Compost): Drenched in the styles of Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand, this German duo recreate a sensuous Sixties jazz, then paint it black with ominous samples and rain-on-windshield sound noir.
4. Nortec Collective, Tijuana Sessions Vol 1. (Palm Pictures): From urban slum to hillside fiesta, this gritty, shadow-filled collection of Mexican DJ music makes you long for hot sun, tequila and ammunition.
5. Four Tet, Pause (Domino): Four Tet combine the organic nostalgia of British folk with bustling big beats and warm found-sound trinkets as rare as an unthreatened rainforest.
6. DD Jackson, Sigame (Justin Time): Jazz pianist Jackson, aided by Latin sensation drummer Dafnis Prieto, makes old-school trio jazz sound surprisingly contemporary, letting his musicians and his fingers play beyond often claustrophobic jazz borders.
7. Lemon Jelly, LemonJelly.KY (Beggars Banquet): Who doesn't love gurgling babies and happy dance beats? 8. Solex, Low Kick and Hard Bop (Matador): Juxtaposing freak sound sources against her bratty voice and nervy arrangements, Elisabeth Esselink creates wonder pop with records taken from her own cut-rate vinyl store.
9. Tool, Lateralus (Interscope): Brainy L.A. Satan worshipers mix King Crimson and Metallica in this bruising record that sounds best played backwards.
10. Brazilified, Brazilified (Quango): As the world shrinks and Internet access expands, DJs have full entry to world cultures and all manner of sonic scrawl, hence this robust comp which turns dance music from Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France into one world under a groove.

MEREDITH OCHS

1. Jim White, No Such Place (Luaka Bop): Sacred and profane hick-hop.
2. Oh Susanna, Sleepy Little Sailor (Catamount): Beautiful and haunting, watery-themed gothic folk-rock.
3. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): More Rolling Stones and Big Star than alt-country, the second solo album from this roots rock wunderkind aspires to be great, and it is.
4. Kirsty MacColl, Tropical Brainstorm (Virgin): The late MacColl went out with a bang on this Cuban-pop romp; the fun, sexy single alone ("I Don't Think So") makes it worth the price of admission.
5. Shaver, The Earth Rolls On (New West): The swansong of son Eddy Shaver, who died shortly after it was recorded, this album shows his tragic promise as a singer/guitarist and maps out the lonely road ahead for father/roots rock tough guy Billy Joe.
6. Various Artists, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Mercury/Nashville): The year that hillbilly "broke" -- it was a gas hearing "Man of Constant Sorrow" in the mall.
7. Charley Patton, Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues (Revenant): A comprehensive collection of one of "the big three" of country blues, and one of the most significant Mississippi Delta bluesman.
8. Macy Gray, The Id (Epic): Although Gray is one person whose superego should be kept in check.
9. Various Artists, There Is No Eye (Smithsonian/Folkways): Former New City Rambler/photographer John Cohen compiled songs of the blues, folk and hillbilly musicians he shot; the stark beauty of the music matches the mood of his photos.
10. The Derailers, Here Come the Derailers (Lucky Dog): Solid contemporary honky tonk with a California twist from start to finish.

ROB O'CONNOR

1. Varnaline, Songs in a Northern Key (E-Squared/Artemis): The quiet kid in the corner: keep your eye on him.
2. Duncan Sheik, Phantom Moon (Nonesuch): The quiet kid in the corner steals your girlfriend.
3. Red House Painters, Old Ramon (SubPop): The quiet kid in the corner wants to steal your girlfriend.
4. The Frames, For the Birds (Overcoat): The quiet kid in the corner seeks his revenge.
5. John Frusciante, To Record Only Water for Only Ten Days (Warner Brothers): International fruitcake.
6. Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic): Radiohead with songs you can hum.
7. Neal Casal, Anytime Tomorrow (Morebarn): Answer: Who was Jackson Browne?
8. Trembling Blue Stars, Alive to Every Smile (SubPop): Only love can break your heart.
9. Lori Carson, House in the Weeds (Micropop): Home demos for the asking.
10. Sparklehorse, It's A Wonderful Life (Capitol): The quiet kid in the corner (slight return).

DAVID PEISNER

1. Spoon, Girls Can Tell (Merge): An angry, beautiful, ambitious monster of an album that finds hope and meaning in vicious, heartbreaking three-minute pop songs.
2. The Frames, For the Birds (Overcoat): A literate, passionate record that sways with the sort of majestic weariness embedded in the Dirty Three's best work.
3. Clem Snide, The Ghost of Fashion (SpinArt): The most soulful and incisive country album ever made by a bunch of indie-rock geeks from Brooklyn.
4. Even Johansen, Quiet & Still (Five One): Plaintive, swirling pop that's both relentlessly downbeat and somehow uplifting.
5. The Beauty Shop, Yr Money or Yr Life (Mud): A pitch-black, strangely humorous mix of twisted country and death-trip folk that documents the near-pathological obsession/depression that comes with getting your heart torn out and stomped on.
6. Masta Ace, Disposable Arts (JCOR): Old-school MC kicks a bold, funny and poignant concept album that lays into hip-hop's here-today-long-gone-tomorrow attitude with cutting rhymes, sharp beats and clever samples.
7. The Court and Spark, Bless You (Absolutely Kosher): An expansive, drifting haze of twangy folk-pop, unfolds at a wonderfully lazy pace to reveal a profound sadness buried beneath.
8. Bubba Sparxxx, Dark Days, Bright Nights (Beat Club/Interscope): The real sound of a New South where there's nothing strange about rednecks who guzzle Budweiser and listen to Tupac.
9. Ben Kweller, EP Phone Home (ATO): A brilliant little power-pop wonder that suggests all the overblown hype over Kweller's long-lost teenage modern-rock outfit, Radish, might not have been so overblown.
10. Nathan Larsen, Jealous God (Artemis): A lush, dramatic soul-pop treat that imagines Elvis Costello if he'd been raised in Memphis.

MARLON REGIS

1. Various Artists, Superrappin Vol. 2 (Grooveattack): Soulful hip-hop productions with the wittiest lyrics.
2. Masta Ace, Disposable Arts (JCOR:) Old-school style with raw underground flavor.
3. Will I Am, Lost Change (BBE): Sophisticated meandering from an eclectic but hip-hop mind set.
4. Various Artists, Nude Dimensions Vol. 3 (Naked Music/Astralwerks): House music the way it should always be: danceable and faster- paced soul music.
5. Sanchez, Back at One (VP): Dancehall reggae's premiere crooner and cover bandit.
6. Various Artists, Wild Pitch Classics (Wild Pitch/JCOR): Memories and more memories.
7. Mission, One, (Insiduous Urban): Intelligently preserved hip-hop culture at its best.
8. Mystic, Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom (Goodvibe Recordings): An angel with a sharp knife for protection.
9. Damian Marley, Halfway Tree (Ghetto Youths/Motown): Bob's energetic and hip-hop baby son.
10. Zihan and Kamien, Refreaked (Six Degrees): World music electrocuted.

4. Various Artists, Nude Dimensions Vol. 3 (Naked Music/Astralwerks): House music the way it should always be: danceable and faster- paced soul music.
5. Sanchez, Back at One (VP): Dancehall reggae's premiere crooner and cover bandit.
6. Various Artists, Wild Pitch Classics (Wild Pitch/JCOR): Memories and more memories.
7. Mission, One, (Insiduous Urban): Intelligently preserved hip-hop culture at its best.
8. Mystic, Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom (Goodvibe Recordings): An angel with a sharp knife for protection.
9. Damian Marley, Halfway Tree (Ghetto Youths/Motown): Bob's energetic and hip-hop baby son.
10. Zihan and Kamien, Refreaked (Six Degrees): World music electrocuted.

CHRIS RUBIN

1. Julia Fordham, Concrete Love (no label yet): This Larry Klein-produced disc is the English singer's best ever -- earthy, funky and very, very sexy. Its '01 release was scuttled when Division One, an Atlantic subsidiary, folded, so look for it to see the light of day on a new label in '02.
2. Keith Jarrett, Inside Out (ECM): On this effort, Jarrett is partnered with longtime collaborators Gary Peacock (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), but here they eschew the standards which have been the heart of their recordings and concerts over the past few years in favor of pure improvisation.
3. Lucinda Williams, Essence (Lost Highway): Less polished than Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, and probably all the better for it, Essence is a stripped-down, naked effort of great beauty and heart.
4. Afro Celt Sound System, Further In Time (Real World): From Iarla O'Lionaird's achingly beautiful vocals to the pounding African and middle eastern beats, Afro Celt makes soul-stirring -- and butt-shaking -- music unlike anything else out there.
5. Jocelyn Pook, Untold Things (Real World): Best known for composing the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack, Pook, a talented viola and violin player, deftly mixes classical and world musics in this ethereal soundscape.
6. Gigi, Gigi (Palm Pictures): Gigi's delicate, fluttering songbird vocals call to mind Aster Aweke, Ethiopia's best known vocalist, but she has her own distinct sound, aided by Bill Laswell's production, that moves beyond her homeland into a broader African sound.
7. Alpha YaYa Diallo, The Journey (Jericho Beach Music): Diallo may now make his home in Canada, but his music still has the authentic West African sound you'd expect from a man born in Guinea. With its galloping rhythms and delicate guitar and vocals, The Journey is a surprising mix of the Nigerian juju music of King Sunny Ade and the mbalax beats of Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour.
8. Attention Deficit, The Idiot King (Magna Carta): AD call to mind Brand X, Fire Merchants and other jazzers rocking out or rockers jazzing out at high speed and higher decibels, complete with thunderous drums, heavy bass and guitar riffs that will make you go blind.
9. Dhol Foundation, Big Drum Small World (Shakti): Afro Celt member Johnny Kalsi leads an eclectic group of percussionists on this rollicking, beat-heavy disc, which mixes electronic and acoustic beats with wind and string instruments in a unique hybrid of dance and world music.
10. Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol): A great disc, and fodder for the band's mesmerizing live performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

CHRISTINA SARACENO

1. The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): The Strokes act like the discovered sex drugs and rock & roll, and by the sound of it they have. Pure fun with a New York sneer.
2. Spiritualized, Let it Come Down (Arista): Chrissy Hynde once said the best cure for the blues was heroin -- in the immediate sense and spiritual development in the permanent sense. This is Spiritualized.
3. The The Old 97's , Satellite Rides (Elektra): Alt-country by way of the Lower East Side, Rhett Miller's melodies and vocals are earnest and urgent and just right.
4. Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic): Lovers of a hummable tune, champions of the sincere, Travis are unafraid of simplicity, humility and wearing your heart on your sleeve. Check your irony at the door.
5. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen): Nobody does punk-pop better.
6. Tim Easton, The Truth About Us (New West): Occasional synthesizers and canned beats add another dimension to the roots feel of Easton's debut all about what we wish we would have done.
7. David Mead, Mine and Yours (RCA): Beautifully crafted, smart pop songs ranging from Sixties bounce to alternative era melancholy.
8. The Trouble With Sweeney, Dear Life (Burnt Toast Vinyl): A geek-rock finish and an alt country engine drive the band through this love letter to small town romances, heartbreaks and regret.
9. Ben Folds, Rockin' the Suburbs (Epic): Folds at his most engaging.
10. Tom McRae, Tom McRae (Arista): Pop music with its eyes wide open to the world and taking notes.

RICHARD SKANSE

1. Shaver, The Earth Rolls On (New West): An uncommonly powerful and moving album made doubly so by the untimely death of singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver's guitar playing son Eddy shortly before its release. Billy Joe turns in some of his most profound, mournful and even joyous songs to date, and Eddy shines on with the greatest guitar work of his life.
2. The Go-Go's, God Bless the Go-Go's (Beyond): It took these girls sixteen years to come up with a follow-up to Talk Show, but all is forgiven. Showing more pop smarts and punk rock balls than male competitors/imitators half their age, the Go-Go's prove they've still got the beat with the best comeback album since, well, Some Girls.
3. Alejandro Escovedo, A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot): The former True Believer wears his rock & roll heart on his sleeve with the immense "Castanets," but it's the bittersweet opener "Wave" that hits hardest and sets this apart as his best album yet. If you know the guy's work, that's saying a lot; if you don't, start here. Now.
4. Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid (Sugar Hill): The makings of a great American novel set to equally great music. Partly truth and partly fiction, all of it outstanding. Bonus points for having the solid brass balls to change one of Johnny Cash's greatest melodies on "I Walk the Line (Revisited)" - and getting the Man in Black himself to sing it.
5. Lucinda Williams, Essence (Lost Highway): A subtle disappointment upon its release, Essence revealed its true beauty over time. "Blue" and "Lonely Girls" best sum up the mood of the album, but just when you least expect it, Lucinda shows her fangs on the wicked "Are You Down" and turns up the sexual heat to 11 on the title track.
6. Gordon Downie, Coke Machine Glow (Wiener Art): Taking a break from his role as frontman for Canadian rockers Tragically Hip, Gordon Downie gets tragically beautiful. The year's best driving at night album.
7. Miranda Lee Richards, The Herethereafter (Virgin): An exceptional folk-rock debut with trippy psychedelic undertones that probably would have sold like gangbusters had it been released in the Summer of Love. Miranda's meltingly lovely voice could give wings to pure fluff, which almost makes it seem wasted on songs this good.
8. Bruce Robison, Country Sunshine (Boar's Nest): Having Tim McGraw take one of his songs to No. 1 and the Dixie Chicks cover another on the CMAs made 2001 a banner year for this Texas songwriter, but this splendid, independently released collection of Don Williams-style countrypolitan goodness is his greatest achievement. "Friendless Marriage," featuring Bruce's wife Kelly Willis, is the best country duet of the last ten years.
9. Jim White, No Such Place (Luaka Bop): "They say it's better to be blessed than it is to be clever / but I don't care," sings Jim White, and why should he? He's got both things going for him. Equal parts pretty, funny and downright spooky, like Tom Waits and Syd Barrett collaborating on a spaghetti western score.
10. Ray Wylie Hubbard, Eternal and Lowdown (Rounder): Bob Dylan released a great, swampy blues album this year. This onetime outlaw country musician turned poetic singer-songwriter released a better one. Greasy!

DAVID SPRAGUE

1. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry): Songs of innocence and experience from a power duo that evokes the breathless spirit of rock as visceral art better than any band since Nirvana.
2. Spiritualized, Let It Come Down (Arista): Alternately uplifting and gutter-dwelling, this totally over-the-top orchestral gem creates epiphanies at every turn.
3. Electric Eels, The Eyeball of Hell (Scat): Archival recordings of a pre-Ramones combo that merged situationist thought and free-jazz blurt into a sound that still sounds punker-than-you, even thirty years on.
4. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): A thing that makes you go "hmmmm."
5. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (Music Cartel): Stoner rock that doesn't skimp on the mind-alteration.
6. Mystic, Cuts for Luck, Scars for Freedom (Goodvibe): Strong and soft, tough and tender, this Bay Area MC is the most natural of women.
7. Mercury Rev, All Is Dream (V2): The sound of what lies at the end of the shaft of the Zen Archer.

8. New Order, Get Ready (Warner Bros.): No parking on the dance floor!
9. Macy Gray, The Id (Epic): She tugs the heartstrings and tickles the funnybone so well, you gotta wonder what she could do using both hands.
10. The Soundtrack of Our Lives, (Hidden Agenda/Parasol): Welcome to the Infant Freebase. The sound of "Waterloo Sunset" being splattered by the detritus from Iggy's "Fun House."

DENISE SULLIVAN
1. Elton John, Songs from the West Coast (Universal): Reportedly inspired by Americana darling Ryan Adams, this is the follow-up to Tumbleweed Connection, his '71 classic about the West.
2. Joe Strummer, Global A Go Go (Hellcat/Epitaph): This as faraway from Ryan Adams as you can get: Fuelled by beer, cigarette and chicken tikka masala.
3. Bob Marley, Exodus [Deluxe Edition] (Island): What the world needs now are the songs of love, peace and freedom by Bob Marley (whose name shares the same number of letters as Ryan Adams).
4. Various Artists, Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard): John Hurt Lucinda Williams, Beck, Steve Earle, Peter Case, Dave Alvin and oops, no Ryan Adams.
5. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry): The Whites are from Detroit -- Ryan Adams is not. Anything else you need to know?
6. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): He probably confuses Ryan Adams with Bryan Adams.
7. Spiritualized, Let It Come Down (Arista): Their white noise is the anti-Ryan Adams.
8. Buffalo Springfield, Box Set (Rhino): They would've appreciated Ryan Adams' wardrobe.
9. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass 30th Anniversary Edition (Capitol): Ryan Adams never was/never will be My Favorite Beatle. So long, my sweet George.
10. Winona Ryder, "Shoplifter" -- Prior to her arrest, she was last seen in the arms of Ryan Adams.

RICHIE UNTERBERGER

1. Bonnie Prince Billy, Ease Down the Road (Palace Records): Whatever name Will Oldham uses, he has spooky, enigmatic folk-rock down pat.
2. Karl Blau, Clothes Your I's (Knw-Yr-Own): One-of-a-kind screwball indie rock eclecticism, with reference points from everything to 1967 Beach Boys to current jam bands.
3. Dipstick, Transistor Rodeo Witty(Weed): Instrumental mix of retro rock twang, lounge music, soundtracks, and more, but fun rather than post-modern.
4. Various Artists: Remote Wing: Knw-Yr-Own Compilation 2001 (Knw-Yr-Own): All-over-the-map engaging folk-pop-rock from one of America's most unjustly obscure indie labels.
5. Stephin Merritt, Eban & Charley (Merge): This soundtrack isn't a major effort from the Magnetic Fields man, but a modest triumph of subdued gloom all the same.
6. Shy Nobleman, How to Be Shy (Noble Tunes): Revivalist 1960s psych-pop from Israel that's playfully melodic and whimsical without being too imitative.
7. Rockfour, One Fantastic Day (Earsay): The Byrds, the Beatles, and the Mellotron on another quality set of neo-psych from Israel.
8. The Strawbs, Acoustic Strawbs: Baroque & Roll (Witchwood): Dignified mix of acoustic-oriented updates and new material from these (in the U.S., at least) largely forgotten British folk-rockers.
9. Various Artists, Songcatcher (Vanguard): Sympathetic interpretations of traditional folk songs by Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Maria McKee, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch and Iris DeMent.
10. The Green Pajamas, This Is Where We Disappear (Parasol): Another set of fragile, pungent folk-rock from Jeff Kelly, leader of this long-running indie Seattle group.

AIDIN VAZIRI

1. Alpha, The Impossible Thrill (Astralwerks): Is it a sin to get a high off music this sad and slow and lush and languid and doomed and beautiful? If so, call me Beelzebub.
2. The Prayer Boat, Polichinelle (Atlantic): Emmett Tinley should have been this year's David Gray: the beaten troubadour whose soulful songs of anger, betrayal and loss shatter all expectations.
3. Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows (Capitol): When a Scottish guitar band says they are influenced by Patti Smith, Red House Painters and the Minutemen, you know they're not messing around.
4. Kings Of Convenience, Quiet Is the New Loud (Astralwerks): Norway may be best known for quality death metal and inspired pornography, but it has heartbroken Simon and Garfunkel types, too.
5. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator) (Acony): Who would have thought that in the year when mechanical dogs and talking apes were supposed to take over the world, one of the best records would be made up of ballads that sound like they were written in the Dust Bowl?
6. The Clientele, Suburban Light (Merge): Life can't be easy for guys who still wear trench coats and scour budget bins for old House of Love singles. But when this is the result, it somehow seems worthwhile.
7. Bjork, Vespertine (Elektra): When Bjork shouts "I love him!" over and over on "Pagan Poetry," it's kind of like when Kurt Cobain sang, "No, I don't have a gun!" over and over on "Come As You Are." Only more.
8. Red House Painters, Old Ramon (Sub Pop): "Cruiser" contains the best lyrics ever in a rock song: "So drive me down Sunset Boulevard/I'm feeling nice in your white car/Playing Hanoi Rocks and Social D."
9. The Strokes, Is This It, (RCA): Addiction. Insanity. Divorce. Prostitution. Suicide. The Strokes have a lot to look forward to. But for right now they'll just have to settle for being the best rock & roll band in America.
10. Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread (Rough Trade): The fuzzy country lullabies of Mazzy Star stripped bare, just as they should be. Hope Sandoval should be declared a national treasure.

DON WALLER

1. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia): To paraphrase what the man himself said, "Don't compare this with my old records -- compare this with everything else that was released this year." The only old-school rocker still making interesting records.
2. The Dirtbombs, Ultraglide in Black (In The Red): Fuzzed-out, garage-soul -- mostly obscure covers -- all held together by Mick Collins's vocal performance of the year.
3. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): True pop art, as high-concept as a Warhol soup can, but it works.
4. Garbage, Beautiful Garbage (Almo Sounds/Interscope): At least as good as the third Roxy Music album, highlighted by wicked parodies of contemporary pop (Destiny's Child, 'N Sync, et al.)
5. The Word, The Word (Ropadope): Featuring, John Medeski, the North Mississippi Allstars and Robert Randolph. Gospel music for atheists -- it's all instrumental -- and blinding playing by young, African-American steel guitarist Randolph.
6. Steve Wynn, Here Come the Miracles (Blue Rose/Down There): Double disc of strong songs and stronger performances from the erstwhile Dream Syndicate frontman and his current crops of guys 'n' gal.
7. Incredible Moses Leroy, Electric Pocket Radio (Ultimatum): This young, African-American singer-songwriter-producer-multi-instrumentalist knows pop as well as he does his bedroom studio. A major talent waiting to explode.
8. B.M.R.C., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin): The Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons are facile. Plus, they have youth and self-production on their side.
9. Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): Not nearly as good as his recent live shows, but this is clearly a singer-songwriter-guitarist who knows more than four chords.
10. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Global a Go-Go (Hellcat/ Epitaph): Again, not nearly as good as his recent live shows -- the production's a bit cluttered -- but an appetizing fusion of world musics.

TONY WARE

1. The Avalanches, Since I Left You (London/Sire): sampling of sampler potential, and a summer feel good vibe for the most part lacking this year.
2. Four Tet, Pause: (Domino): Every genre needs a defining moment, now "folktronica" has one.
3. Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera (SDR): If you don't know, a Southern Man don't need you around anyhow (but I'll tell ya: ambitious, touching two-CD tale of a band growing up in the South patterned after Skynyrd)
4. Prefuse 73, Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives (Warp), Hip-hop taking it to another level, literally.
5. Fischer Spooner, Fischer Spooner (International DJ Gigolos): It originally came out last year (in Germany), is now being released domestically, and sounds like it came from the '80s, but left the bad memories behind.
6. New Order , Get Ready (Warner Bros.): With all respect to Radiohead's valuable social statements, sometimes it just feels better to get out of the armchair and dance.
7. Fugazi, The Argument (Dischord): Guess sometimes it's nice to have the familiar with some flair.
8. Royksopp, Melody A.M. (Phantom): The best European album of 2001 will be talked about a lot in 2002.
9. Aphex Twin, Drukqs (London/Sire): Because the good outweighs the gripe.
10. Pinback, Blue Screen Life (Ace Fu Records): Just because of how many times I listened to it.

GAIL WORLEY

1. Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills (V2): Because inner turmoil is sexy!
2. Buckcherry, Time Bomb (DreamWorks) Keeping rock & roll in the gutter where it belongs.
3. Powderfinger, Odyssey Number Five (Uptown) Prog-rock album of the year!
4. Chris Connelly and the Bells, Blonde Exodus (Invisble): Sounds like David Bowie! 5. Girls Against Boys, Series 7 Soundtrack (Koch): The soundtrack to Survivor only with real bloodshed!
6. Echo and the Bunnymen, Flowers (SpinArt): My favorite nostalgia-fest of the year, complete with Acid flashbacks.
7. The Old 97's , Satellite Rides (Elektra): Because their fans are violent maniacs!
8. Ours, Distorted Lullabies (DreamWorks): I miss Freddie Mercury too.
9. Live, V (Radioactive): Ed grew his hair back!
10. Joe Henry, Scar (Mammoth): Joe Henry tells good stories and is related to Madonna by marriage.

ADRIAN ZUPP

1. Billy Joel, The Essential Billy Joel (Sony/Legacy): Nothing but net.
2. Elton John, Songs From the West Coast (Universal): Elton and Bernie build a time machine and almost make it back to their glory days.
3. Deep Purple, Deep Purple in Concert 1970-72 (Spitfire): Ah, the golden age of virtuoso rock.
4. Aerosmith, Young Lust: Aerosmith Anthology (Uni/Geffen): Aerosmith history from lock-up-your-daughters to lock-up-your-mothers.
5. John Mellencamp, Cuttin' Heads (Columbia): Heart attack, shmart attack, the Cougar still rocks.
6. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Live at Montreux 1982 and 1985 (Sony/Legacy): If at first you don't knock 'em dead . . .
7. Bee Gees, Their Greatest Hits: The Record (Uptown): A brief history of pop's great sibling falsetto rivalry.
8. Mick Jagger, Goddess in the Doorway (Virgin): Not quite the Stones but neither are the Stones anymore.
9. L.A. Guns, Man in the Moon (Spitfire): While Axl does his Howard Hughes thing, these gunners keep on firin'.
10. No Doubt, Rock Steady (Interscope): The Anaheim angel has never sounded better.

(December 26, 2001)

3. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin): True pop art, as high-concept as a Warhol soup can, but it works.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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