Willie's Obligatory Best of 2001 List
Well, I'm certainly glad this year is over, for both personal and musical reasons. My friend Scott Floman said that this was probably the worst year for rock since 1996, which is especially disappointing since both 1999 and 2000 were both so great. He's right, of course- this year sucked. Need proof? Britney Spears appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone two times in as many months.
That's not to say that the albums I've listed below as being the best wouldn't have that title in a stronger year (It's a Wonderful Life, for example, can hold its own against nearly any album you stand it up against), but with underwhelming releases from bands like Weezer, Butthole Surfers, Mercury Rev, Air, and the Meat Puppets letting us down over the past twelve months, one can't help but be dismayed at what might have been. However, I'm the first to admit that I haven't heard nearly all of the albums that came out this year- I haven't even heard all the albums I want to hear (White Stripes, Super Furry Animals, Clem Snide, etc.)- so I'm sure there are some more great ones out there. I don't plan to revise this list once I find other 2001 classics, though, because that would be an irritating exercise. And yes, I'm well aware that this isn't a particularly diverse group of musicians (running the gamut all the way from melodic dance music to, er, melodic indie rock). So as of December 30, 2001, here are my picks for everything:
TEN BEST 2001 ALBUMS THAT I'VE HEARD:
It's a Wonderful Life
2. Death Cab for Cutie: The Photo Album
3. Arab Strap: The Red Thread
4. Radiohead: Amnesiac/I Might Be Wrong (tie)
5. Bjork: Vespertine
6. Plaid: Double Figure
7. Built to Spill: Ancient Melodies of the Future
8. Idlewild: 100 Broken Windows
9. Beulah: The Coast is Never Clear
10. Dump: That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice?
BEST SINGLE OF THE YEAR:
Gorillaz: "Clint Eastwood" An infectious chorus by Damon Albarn, whimsical metaphysical rapping from Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and a can't-look-away video by the Tank Girl guy. What more do you need from a single?
BEST SONG OF THE YEAR THAT SHOULD'VE BEEN A SINGLE:
R.E.M.: "The Lifting" Wonderful though Up and "The Great Beyond" were, "The Lifting" marks the first time in ten years that R.E.M. has come up with a song that just made you feel elated from start to finish. Even if Reveal's seams start to show after five or six spins, "The Lifting" is every bit as unimpeachable as anything from Lifes Rich Pageant.
WORST SINGLE OF THE YEAR (IF I HAD TO PICK JUST ONE):
Nikka Costa: "Like a Feather" Oh, there were plenty of crap singles choking our airwaves this year, from American Hi-Fi's "Flavor of the Weak" (which mistakes heartlessness for cheek) to Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U" (which is creepy in addition to being utterly shapeless), but was there a song as annoying as "Like a Feather"? With a chintzy bassline and hiccupped vocals, Nikka Costa's debut single is an unlistenable mess of stuck-needle repetitiveness.
The Jazz Butcher: A Scandal in Bohemia Three cheers for Vinyl Japan, who rescued one of the eighties' most satisfying multigenre rock albums from being the sole province of eBay entrepreneurs! Best of all, the Butcher's smart-alecky, Brit-wit journeys through rock history sound just as fresh today as ever.
BEST RARITIES COMPILATION:
Lambchop: Tools in the Dryer Newcomers to Lambchop might be baffled by such goofy rarities as the uninhibited basement rocker "Style Monkeys," but there are still plenty of top-notch leftovers here ("Whitey," "Love TKO") that accurately represent why Lambchop is the best indie-rock band ever to back Vic Chesnutt and buy percussion instruments at Home Depot.
BEST LIVE ACT (SUPERSTAR DIVISION):
Radiohead Although I only got to see them perform about six songs (see the I Might Be Wrong review for more on this), Radiohead packed more intensity into those six numbers than most bands can muster in six entire tours. From the moment they charged onstage, playing a pummelling rendition of "The National Anthem," I was unable to doubt, even for a second, that because I'm a Radiohead fan, I'm on the team that's going to save the world.
BEST LIVE ACT (LITTLE GUY DIVISION):
Pernice Brothers Until someone releases a greatest hits album of the songs Joe Pernice has written with the Scud Mountain Boys, Chappaquiddick Skyline, the Pernice Brothers, and solo, you need to see his band live to get an adequate summary of his folksy, cynical brilliance. From the hilarious tale of pathetic horniness "Grudgefuck" to the haunting "Bum Leg," a Pernice Brothers set is overflowing with wit, pathos, and the sort of pop instincts that Ryan Adams can only dream of.
Snatch Yes, the film is little more than a more polished revision of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but it's nevertheless fun, and it's obviously the product of one man's giddy vision. The same goes for the soundtrack: rather than being a pandering, committee-assembled collection of disposable hits or useless cast-offs by established bands, the contents of Snatch's album have unquestionably sprung from Guy Ritchie's tastes and Guy Ritchie's alone, which makes it strangely cohesive no matter how many types of music it crams together.
Well, I guess that about covers it, then, doesn't it?
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