Sunday, September 18, 2022
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
|McQ's #1 Album of 2001|
We're closing in on Labor Day weekend, which means it's time for a new McQ's Best Of... retrospective mix collection!
This year's look backwards returns us to all the great music of 2001, and what a music year it was!
Dance music had a transformative year with the arrival of Daft Punk's Discovery and several fantastic downtempo releases.
Alt-Rock produced tons of alternatingly substantial or fun, throwaway hits.
Female R&B singers, lead by the likes of Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, Macy Gray, and Mary J. Blige, killed it in 2001, matched blow-for-blow by their hip-hop counterparts.
Garage rock, led by breakout albums from The Strokes and The White Stripes, became the flavor of the moment and marked a clear historical transition point for when Indie overtook Alt-Rock as the dominate rock flavor of the era.
And for the first and only time to date, a straight-up metal release, Tool's Lateralus, claimed the title of McQ's #1 album of the year.
As with last year's 1980 retrospective, clicking on the name of our first Best of the Best mix here will take you to our not-so-brief write-up touching on many of the year's top highlights, but all the mixes in this year's collection can be accessed here! So dig into however you like.
And now, onto the music!
Sunday, August 14, 2022
ABOUT THE ARTISTS, SONGS, ALBUMS ON THIS MIX:
1. Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll (Punk Song) - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Yes, garage rock had a huge resurgence in 2001, but it wasn't just The Strokes and The White Stripes leading the charge. Another principal contributor (though choosing a far edgier approach) was San Francisco's Black Rebel Motorcycle club. Combining the white noise fervor and dark cool of the Velvet Underground and late 80s shoegazers like Ride, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & The Mary Chain with the primal fury of classic Stooges/MC5-informed Detroit rock, the band burst on to the scene in 2001 and rekindled excitement for a style not heard in a decade with their ass-kicking debut B.R.M.C. (Strong Recommend). The wave of like-minded imitators that surfaced in the album's wake would drown-out large-scale interest in the band's fine follow-up efforts, but that in no way should diminish the enduring appreciation for B.R.M.C., one of the better rock albums of the 2000s.
2. The Dark Is Rising - Mercury Rev: Following their largest critical success to date, 1998's enchanting Deserter's Song, the Buffalo-based art-poppers doubled down on their inscrutable predilections for followup full-length All Is Dream (Solid Recommend). Living up to its title, and harkening back to the two-sided era of pre-CD vinyl, the record is starkly divided into two five-song halves, the first half evoking the crush of nightmares on songs like Tides Of The Moon, Night And Fog, and The Dark Is Rising profiled here, and the second half channelling the bleary-eyed warmth of early waking hours on gems like Little Rhymes and Hercules.
3. Glad Girls - Guided By Voices: After a decade being revered as one of the lo-fi movement's most prominent "guiding voices," Guide By Voices' Robert Pollard was determined to lift the band into the big leagues in the early 2000s. The act's first stab at a richer, more mainstream sound, 1999s Do The Collapse fell a bit flat, somewhat undone by Rick Ocasek's too slick production, but for 2001's Isolation Drills (Solid Recommend), new producer Rob Schnapf got the mix just right, tapping a mainstream feel that nonetheless preserved the band's rough hewn charm and perfectly anchored songs that hooked and rocked in equal measure like Chasing Heather Crazy and the irresistible nugget Glad Girls included here.
4. New York, New York - Ryan Adams: When it comes to artistic timing, we've got both 2001's best and worst case examples featured on this mix. And the best case award definitely goes to Ryan Adams. In the wake of multiple recent sexual harrassment accusations, Ryan Adam's rep is now far, far removed from the indie darling status he enjoyed twenty years ago when Elton John was proclaiming him "the new Dylan," but few artists experienced a more perfect for the moment breakout as Adams when he set out to shoot the video for his sophomore full-length Gold's (Strong Recommend) lead single New York, New York. The simple video of Adams performing alone across the bay in front of the twin towers was filmed just four days before the September 11 attacks, and after the attack Adam's dedicated the video and all its profits to the victims and first responders. As for Gold itself, it's a flawed classic. The song strength is phenomenal, as good as any 2001 release, but the album's sequencing is for shit, ruined by a last minute label decision to shorten what was always designed as an epic double album and strip it down to a single CD/record length by pulling five songs. That irksome label interference aside, Gold remains the clear high point of Adam's career.
5. Last Nite - The Strokes: First there was The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks, then Nirvana's Nevermind, and finally (with a strong assist from peers The White Stripes) The Strokes' debut Is This It (Highest Recommend), and with Is This It's galvanizing arrival, rocks third "back to the basics" wave was officially launched. Like most indie acts of the early aughts, The Strokes intentionally sought to reimagine notable sounds from rock's past, and in their case (ironically for a Manhattan-based quintet of mostly top 1% of the top 1% penthouse-born scions), that touchstone was undoubtedly the street level, amphetamine-fueled pop-rock rush of The Velvet Underground's more accessible songs. Lead singer Julian Casablancas sought to emulate Lou Reed at every turn, manifesting Reed's vocal delivery, and striving to deliver a similar gritty, reportorial lyricism. And around him, his boarding-school-educated cohorts whipped up a glorious, lo-fi garage rock racket. That they would never quite recapture the magic on future efforts is hardly relevant. In the late summer of 2001, a more pitch-perfect, fully realized album could not be found. Going with obvious choice, best overall song Last Night here over several strong contenders, though I did consider deep, deep cut Alone, Together, as I feel that song's final minute provides the album's ultimate highlight.
6. Pyramid Song - Radiohead: Born of the same recording sessions that produced Kid-A, and released less than a year later, it's not uncommon to hear Amnesiac (Strong Recommend) referred to as Kid-A's outtakes album. But such a sentiment ignores how good and distinctly different Amnesiac is in its own right. Where Kid-A, even on its quietest tracks, showcases the session's most crisply epic and distinctly "this or that" compositions, Amnesiac collects the session's murkier, smaller scale, and often more texturally intricate numbers. And it's that textural intricacy of its top tracks - the layers upon layers of doomed, droning strings on Dollars and Cents, the backwards loops of Like Spinning Plates, and best of all, the ocean of seething voices that churn barely perceptible in the bottom of the mix of Pyramid Song featured here - that make Amnesiac a unique standalone addition to the Radiohead discography, rather than just a collection of outtakes.
7. More Than A Woman - Aaliyah: A "French Connection" album, what felt so unique and modern about Aaliyah's eponymous final full-length (Strong Recommend), released just six weeks before her death in a charter plane crash in the Bahamas, has been imitated so many times since that it's impossible to get a full sense of its significance coming at it in retrospect. So what endures today is still a damn fine R&B album, fueled by Timbaland's state-of-the-art production and elite tracks like What If, Try Again, We Need A Resolution, and More Than A Woman featured here, but an album that no longer feels significantly better than the other mainstream R&B classics of 2001 (Macy Gray's The Id, Mary J. Blige's No More Drama, Alicia Keys Songs In A Minor), albums which while all less technically forward-looking than Aaliyah, matched the album blow-for-blow in terms of pure song craft.
8. Heads Explode - Monster Magnet: A huge sales disappointment at the time of its release following the stoner-rock crew's 1998 commercial breakthrough Powertrip (so disappointing it led to a label dropping and the break-up of the band's best lineup), it's hard today to grasp just what it was the head bangers who loved Powertrip felt was missing in God Says No (Strong Recommend), as the album delivers the exact same streamlined hard-rock maximalism, and also like Powertrip, knocks its best tracks (Kiss Of The Scorpion, the title track, a beyond ass-kicking re-recording of their 1991 song Medicine, and especially minor MTV-hit Heads Explode) out of the f*cking park. Seen today, it's hard not to view the Powertrip/God Says No tandem as one of the late 90s/early Aughts elite hard rock album runs, right on par with Queens of the Stone Age's similarly timed Rated R/Songs For The Deaf tandem.
9. Takeover - Jay- Z: Jay-Z's The Blueprint (Highest Recommend) is a hip-hop classic, heralding a creative high point for Jay-Z, and also the album that launched a young beat producer by the name of Kanye West's career. But for me, it will always boil down to being the album that contains the best hip-hop dis track of all time - the Doors-and-Bowie-sampling, Nas-and-Mobb-Depp-skewering Takeover.
10. Toxic Girl - Kings Of Convenience: One of 2001's forgotten gems, Norwegian duo Kings Of Convenience Quiet Is The New Loud is a delicate, charming exploration of the romantic difficulties that arise from male/female perceptual differences. Buoyed by clever lyrics and lighter-than-air, melancholy acoustic arrangements, it should appeal to any Belle & Sebastian or Simon & Garfunkel fan, especially the album's wonderful first third from which representative track Toxic Girl has been selected.
11. Crystal - New Order: A highly underrated effort in New Order's discography, 2001 release Get Ready (Solid Recommend) found the new-wave pioneers grown bored with dance-floor experimentation and ready to return to pure song craft. The result is one of the most direct and guitar-driven albums of their career, definitely owing a stylistic "tip of the hat" to younger post-rave acts like Primal Scream, but still distinctly New Order, and highlighted by phenomenal top tracks like Slow Jam, Turn My Way, and especially lead single Crystal featured here.
12. Island In The Sun - Weezer: Weezer had all but officially broken up and the band members all gone their separate ways after the disappointing sales performance of second album Pinkerton, but then, while on hiatus, their reputation started swelling online, and after a dramatic comeback performance at Japan's Summer Sonic Festival, Rivers Cuomo and his LA brethren suddenly found themselves back in their label's good graces. But Cuomo was determined not to self-sabotage this time out, simplify the material and veering away from personal lyrics. And for half of Weezer (Green Album) (Solid Recommend) the results were fantastic. The record gets off to an amazing start with its opening four-song run of Don't Let Go, Photograph, Hash Pipe, and enduring hit Island In The Sun, and even though the material takes a significant quality dip the rest of the way, it wasn't enough to blunt the feel of excitement generated by that opening four-song rush. Weezer soon found themselves near the top of the alt-rock landscape once again.
13. Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Even for the band that's had the greatest post-thirty-years-of-age career in rock history, No More Shall We Part (Highest Recommend) is one of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' absolute best, a towering exploration of love's ability to endure despite the innumerable physical, social and emotional obstacles thrown its way, delivered without an ounce of irony or sentimentality. Housing some of Cave's greatest lyrical turns, made lovelier by featured backing vocals from Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and beyond brilliantly arranged by its co-musical directors - the Bad Seed's resident instrumental genius Warren Ellis and guest collaborator (and PJ Harvey regular) Nick Harvey - you would have to move Heaven and Earth to find another singer-songwriter album as epic in feel as No More Shall We Part.
14. Broken Dreams - Basement Jaxx: Daft Punk's Discovery may have been the most influential, Fennesz Endless Summer the most strikingly unique, Kylie Minogue's Fever more hit-laden and mainstream ready, and Rokysopp's Melody AM more hipster chill, but when it came to sheer dance-house fun, no 2001 electronic album topped UK production duo Basement Jaxx's Rooty (Solid Recommend). Astonishingly crafted in just a few days and never afraid to get schmaltzy, the album evokes guilty pleasure charm even when it's being top-tier skillful. Going with personal fav Broken Dreams to represent this one over the album's bigger house hits like Do Your Thing, Romeo, Breakaway, and Where's Your Head At.
15. Dial Up - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' first full-length release as a complete band, The Tyranny Of Distance (Solid Recommend) is a lively, romantic, rock and roll delight that follows in the creative tradition of past British pub-rock greats who effectively merged punk, rock, and soul like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Billy Bragg, and Dexy's Midnight Runners. Lots of merry numbers to chose from on this one - Biomusicology, Timorous Me, Under The Hedge, Stove By A Whale, and St. John The Divine - but ultimately we went with the catchiest track of the bunch, Dial Up.
16. Essence - Lucinda Williams: An about-face from the tenor of her previous release, 1998's alt-country classic Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams turned decidedly inward for her sixth studio project, Essence (Solid Recommend). Those turned on by Car Wheels vibrant energy, confrontational thrills and eclecticism may be turned off by Essence's unrelenting restraint, reflection, and sonic saminess, but the record offers many rewards for the patient listener, including Grammy-winner Get Right With God and the "love really is the drug" title track included here, one of the best songs of William's entire career.
17. 5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO - The Coup: With their tune My Favorite Mutiny anchoring the opening credit sequence of HBO's hit series Winning Time, things are trending up for the legendary anti-capitalist Oakland hip-hop collective The Coup, but that was decidedly not the case in 2001. From a timing perspective, the absolute antithesis of Ryan Adam's New York New York, the original cover art (shown here) for the act's fourth album Party Music (Solid Recommend), featured band leader Boots Riley and Pam The Funktress blowing up the World Trade Center. Shot two months prior to the attacks, the obligatory cover change that followed led to a delay of the album's originally slated late-September release. But a cover change alone wasn't enough to hold off the considerable ire of conservative pols and pundits, who took great umbrage with the never-publically-released original cover after it leaked, and then pounced on the aggressively militant and fantastically funky songs within, especially, for obvious reasons, the track featured here.
18. Asleep In The Back - Elbow: A mere tease of many stronger efforts to come, Elbow's debut Asleep In The Back (Solid Recommend) laid down all the band's signature traits (the Gabrielesque vibe, the tasteful experimentation, Guy Garvey's unwavering warmth) but it is probably the weak link in the Manchester art-rocker's entire discography. Even from this tentative start, however, it was clear Garvey and crew had something special going on when it came to crafting achingly beautiful ballads, a talent fully displayed by the album's title track here.
19. Honest With Me - Bob Dylan: A big-time fan favorite, the uniformly excellent Love And Theft (Strong Recommend) is the most playful and hardest rocking album of Dylan's post-70s career, and really only rivaled by The Basement Tapes for copious good cheer. Wonderfully and unfussily produced by U2's Daniel Lanois, Love And Theft may lack the deep, mortality-obsessed poignancy of Time Out Of Mind or the back half of 2020's Rough And Rowdy Ways, but it is a natural starting point for new listeners eager to explore Dylan's later works.
20. Hidden Place - Bjork: Exhausted and miserable after her grueling, confrontational experience acting in and scoring Lars Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark (a film that would lead Bjork to swear off acting forever but would nonetheless win The Palme D'or and Bjork the best actress award at Cannes) Bjork set out to make an album that celebrated the quiet, healing comforts of home, sex, and love. Originally titled Domestika, she took inspiration from sample masters of the moment like Opiate, Console, and Matmos, and labored for three years crafting intricate micro-beats built from everyday domestic sounds (ironically, an almost identical rhythm design as that utilized by French producer Herbert on his 2001 real-world-sample-dominated Bodily Functions which just missed making this mix). She then forwarded her constructions to Matmos for a quick seal of approval polish, and atop those samples layered all manner of uncommon instruments - harp, clavichord, celesta, custom music boxes - chosen specifically for their "icy" audio qualities that wouldn't degrade when digitized and downloaded. A miracle of craft, persistence and innovation, but far from the most riveting listen, I'm not nearly as big on Vespertine (Solid Recommend) as many, but felt it was too significant a work to leave off this mix, a courtesy I couldn't bring myself to extend to 2001's other big-time, critically revered titles I personally like but don't love - Gorillaz's eponymous debut, No Doubt's Rock Steady, Andrew W.K.'s Party Hard, Slipknot's Iowa, My Morning Jacket's At Dawn, The Shin's Oh, Inverted World, and Unwound's Leaves Turn Inside You.
21. Working Girls - Pernice Brothers: A delicious confection of Beach Boys/Todd Lungren-flavored harmony-anchored nuggets, The Pernice Brothers' second full-length The World Won't End (Solid Recommend) is the strongest title in the band's now much larger catalog, kicked off in rousing pop perfection by opener Working Girls included here.
22. Independent Luxury - The Soundtrack Of Our Lives: After two expansive, trippy efforts, Swedish psych-rock sextet The Soundtrack Of Our Lives decided to go "lean and mean" for their third album, 2001's Behind The Music (Strong Recommend), and the album would prove to be their international breakthrough. Loaded with tight, crunchy numbers, every song clearly indebted to some 60s act that worked on the original psychedelic waves' rougher edge, be it Love, The Stooges, The Seeds, or even the Stones, it earned raves from fellow retro-rockers around the world, even prompting Oasis's Noel Gallagher to proclaim Behind The Music "the best album to come out in the last six years!" If you have a jones for uptempo psych-rock in a classic vein, and have not yet discovered this album, put Behind The Music right at the top of your "must hear" list.
23. Fallin' - Alicia Keys: Given her striking beauty and the fact that compared to her neo-soul peers, Alicia Keys always felt like the safer choice (less trippy than Macy Gray/Eryka Badu, more traditional than Aaliyah, not bat-shit crazy like Lauren Hill, more mature and sophisticated than Destiny's Child), it would be easy to assume Key's debut album Songs In A Minor (Strong Recommend), which launched her into the stratosphere, was some typical label-controlled concoction, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Just nineteen at the time, but already a skilled, classically train pianist, Keys wrote, arranged, and produced almost every super-smooth note of Songs herself. Going with obvious choice Fallin' as representative track here, but this is an album all R&B fans should hear in full.
25. Chop Suey! - System Of A Down: System Of A Down's crowning achievement and Spin Magazine's top album of 2001, Toxicity (Strong Recommend) took all of their 1998 self-titled debut's strengths (the fervent political passion, the helter-skelter rhythms that at first seem chaotic but upon further listening make perfect sense), improved upon them, and then to that already potent mix added a greater insistence on and attention to melody, and the Armenian-American alt-metal warriors' career prospects exploded, so much so that even post 9-11 censorship couldn't keep top hit Chop Suey! and its suicide referencing lyrics off of mainstream radio.
26. Alexandra Leaving - Leonard Cohen: A brilliant lyricist and impactful talk-singer, but otherwise a man of virtually no natural musical talent, Leonard Cohen was tremendously dependent upon his studio collaborators to generate music equal to his words, and on Ten New Songs (Solid Recommend) he teamed up exclusively with producer/backing vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sharon Robinson for his first album in nine years. The end result was one of the most divisive records of Cohen's career, with many fans praising the lyrics, but put off by Robinson's slick, mainstream R&B production. That said, the album's best songs - My Secret Life, A Thousand Kisses Deep, and Alexandra Leaving highlighted here - seem to benefit from the enhanced soulfulness Robinson brought to the project. Oh, and side-note: for those listening straight through this mix that want a break, this song is a great first-half stopping point.
27. The Moon - The Microphones: Considered by many critics the easy call for best indie release of 2001, The Microphones' The Glow Pt 2 (Solid Recommend) is an expansive twenty-song flurry of lo-fi folk-rock invention and ceaseless stylistic exploration. That said, for all the breathless sense of adventure the album conveys, chief architect Phil Elvrum's whisper-weak vocals have always bordered on deal-breaker status for me, so a still positive but lower rating for the album here than one usually finds elsewhere.
28. Endless Summer - Fennesz: Released at a moment when hyper-cerebral superstar producers like Aphex Twin had driven electronic music in an icy, beyond abstract direction, Austrian glitch artist Fennesz's Endless Summer (Solid Recommend) arrived like a soothing breeze of warm ocean air. Intentionally giving the album the same name as the Beach Boy's bestselling greatest hits package, Fennesz set out to make an electronic album that valued warmth, melody, and emotionalism as much as cutting-edge experimentation, and the result was a near perfect balancing act of the two that would make Endless Summer one of the most influential electronic albums of this century. The album in full is still an at-times tough listen for non-fans of the genre, hence the solid recommend, but with multiple passages as mesmerizing as the title track here, I encourage all to give it at least one spin.
29. Hyper Music - Muse: Fuck originality. With Radiohead moving on to ever weirder, glitchier pastures, it was left to B-teamers Muse to step up and keep the chops-fueled art-rock torch Radiohead lit with Pablo Honey and The Bends going, and boy, did they ever rise to the occasion with the incendiary, beyond bombastic Origin Of Symmetry (Solid Recommend), arguably (along with Black Holes And Revelations) the best album of their career. And has a song title ever better captured the essence of an album upon which it appeared than Hyper Music included here?
30. April The 14th Part 1 - Gillian Welch: Hailing from the best folk album of 2001, Gillian Welch's (and lifelong collaborator David Rawlings') Time (The Revelator) (Strong Recommend), April The 14th Part 1 is the first of a two track rumination on what Welch believes is the most ominous day of the calendar year, a date that has seen amongst many other tragedies the Black Sunday dust storm of 1935, the sinking of the Titanic in 1914, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
31. Sunflower - Low: The best album of Low's first decade, and arguably the purest distillation of the Minny trio's original slowcore sound, it's easy to think a little less of Things We Lost In The Fire (Solid Recommend) today in light of how good the band has continued to be since switching labels to Subpop in 2005 and expanding their sound. But the uniformly excellent Fire remains an important, canonical title from the 2000s indie era, and throughout all the band's stylistic changes, the power of Alan Sparhawk's & Mimi Parker husband/wife harmonies has never waned.
32. L'Enfant Roi - Noir Desir: The best non-English album of 2001, Bordeaux veteran act Noir Desir's Des visage Des Figures (Solid Recommend) was quieter, artier and cooler than much of their earlier, harder-rocking catalog (check out the Kid-A inflected opener L'Enfant Roi featured here), and swept the top French music awards that year, winning for both best album and best song (the Manu Chao collaboration Le vent nous portera). But the glow from that career high came to a crashing, horrifying halt just a year later, when lead singer Bertrand Cantat beat his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignant, to death in a fit of drunken, jealous rage after she received a text from her actual husband. Her tragic death, and Cantat's light, celebrity-softened punishment (just eight years, of which he only served four) would become a focal point for French feminists in their battle against too lenient sentencing for abusers.
33. Three Great Alabama Icons - Drive-By Truckers: The lives of George Wallace and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zandt provide the Drive-By Truckers an entry point for a deep exploration of the societal complexities of the south in their sprawling double-album epic Southern Rock Opera (Solid Recommend). Gritty and intermittently excellent, several of Rock Opera's songs hit hard, but none encapsulate the album's overall themes better than the spoken-word number Three Great Alabama Icons included here.
34. Painkiller - Cannibal OX: With West Coast rap and even fellow New Yorker Jay-Z dramatically shifting the emphasis in hip hop towards vibrant beat production, Cannibal Ox's Vast Aire and Vordul Mega set out to make an album that would, in the vein of Nas and The Wu-Tang Clan, put the emphasis back squarely on the words. Then they teamed up with young producer El-P and his fledgling Definitive Jux label, and all that was thrown out the window, for while the resulting album, The Cold Vein (Solid Recommend), did indeed deliver the elite-level lyricism Cannibal Ox intended, it was El-P's beats - so bizarre and murky and new - that would make The Cold Vein one of the most influential rap albums of the decade and a sonic template for underground hip hop for years to come.
35. Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Kylie Minogue: Though one of the biggest pop stars in Australia's history, bubbly, lifelong Madonna-be Minogue had been widely forgotten outside her native land by the turn of the century after some late 80s/early 90s international successes, but that all changed in 2001 with the release of her dance-floor classic Fever (Strong Recommend). The "about nothing but good times" album reintroduced Minogue to club aficionados around the world, and Fever's signature song, the robotoic Can't Get You Out Of My Head, would go on to top charts in over 40 countries, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time.
36. On Fire - Spiritualized: An excellent album that nonetheless feels almost overwhelmed by its vast orchestral ambitions (the album credits over one hundred players, and at times it feels like all are playing at once), Spiritualized's impassioned fourth release Let It Come Down (Solid Recommend) is actually often best in its most scaled-down moments, like the simple, scorching rocker On Fire representing the record here.
37. Full Disclosure - Fugazi: A fitting last chapter in the Washington D.C. DIY Hardcore-Punk outfit's storied career, Fugazi's sixth and final album The Argument (Solid Recommend) found the band's political passion undimmed and their restless, zig-zagging creativity still cresting. From Cash Out, to The Kill, to Life And Limb, this was punk at its most intelligent, and when the band just wanted to let it rip, tracks like Epic Problem and Full Disclosure featured here proved they could still do that, too.
38. No More Drama - Mary J. Blige: An excellent mid-career effort from the oft-labeled Queen of Hip Hop Soul that didn't generate quite the critical buzz as Aaliyah and Alicia Keys' 2001 releases, but is nearly the equal of those more-heralded efforts, No More Drama (Solid Recommend) was powered by two hit numbers, Family Affair and the Chic-sampling title track featured here.
39. Sing - Travis: Frontrunners in the earnest, back-to-the-basics songwriting movement that overtook Brit Pop in the late nineties and would directly influence the likes of Coldplay, Keane, and Snow Patrol in the years to follow, Travis's Nigel Goodrich-produced The Invisible Band (Solid Recommend) was the band's second straight record to go number one in the UK (following 1999's The Man Who), and was an even bigger hit than The Man Who in the U.S., where melodic, banjo-inflected, heart-on-sleeve tracks like Side, Flowers In The Window, The Humpty-Dumpty Song, Afterglow, and Sing featured here all became alt-rock/college-rock radio staples.
40. We Live NE Of Compton - Liars: Daring Brooklyn experimental outfit Liars has made our annual Best Of The Best mix multiple times over the last twenty years, usually when they veer to the electronic side of their wide-ranging stylistic excursions, but their 2001 full-length debut They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top (Solid Recommend) was another beast entirely - one of the most blistering and inventive punk albums of the early 2000s. The album's first eight songs fly by in a crazed, hyperactive blur, as "in your face" as music gets (but also so much catchier than your typical hardcore fare), culminating with the marvelously helter-skelter We Live NE Of Compton profiled here, but then the album makes an abrupt left turn for its last song, This Dust Makes That Mud, settling into a slow, hypnotic electro-rock groove that repeats ceaselessly for thirty-plus-minutes but somehow manages to stay engaging for the duration.
41. Take The Fifth - Spoon: While as with Low's Things We Lost In The Fire, I consider Spoon's fan-favorite third release Girls Can Tell (Solid Recommend) something the band has since eclipsed several times with subsequent releases, it remains a reliably sturdy and efficient Spoon album with several fine (if not flat-out awesome) tracks, capturing that transitional moment when the band began to break from the rough hewn Pixies/Nirvana-ish vibe of their early records towards the economical Beatle-esque indie pop that would define the still ongoing second phase of their career.
42. Poor Leno - Royksopp: With Air's Moon Safari triggering an explosion of downtempo electronic music designed for the wee evening hours, a million new DJ acts seemed to enter the chill-out IDM fray over the next decade, but few contributed as much to the movement as Norwegian duo Royksopp on their 2001 debut Melody AM (Strong Recommend). Delivering a never-ending stream of sophisticated, surprising production choices, Melody AM is one of the great front-to-back listens of the early electronic era, perfectly epitomized by its third single Poor Leno included here.
43. Superpowers - Dismemberment Plan: A band in constant evolution over the course of the late 90s, the Dismemberment Plan's fourth full-length effort Change (Solid Recommend) found the D.C.-based emo outfit turned first-wave dance punkers switching gears once again to explore the realm of soulful, late-night introspection. The end result was one of 2001's more unusual and captivating albums, highlighted by searching, swirling numbers like Sentimental Man, Secret Curse, Time Bomb, and personal favorite Superpowers included here.
44. One Minute Man - Missy Elliott: Yes, Rolling Stone recently named Get Ur Freak On the #9 greatest song of all time, but Missy Elliott's third album Miss E... So Addictive (Strong Recommend) is so overstuffed with ultra-funky, creatively produced (thanks Timbaland) hip-hop classics, Freak may not even be the best song on the record from which it originally debuted. So we're playing the contrarian here and going with So Addictive's other monster urban hit, One Minute Man, as our representative track from the second best hip-hop album of 2001.
45&46. Parabol/Parabola - Tool: It may not deliver the crunchy Stinkfist/Forty-Six & 2-styled alt-metal "hits" of 1996's Aenima (Tool's most popular and critically lauded album), but I've always found the band's long-delayed follow up after a protracted legal battle with management, 2001's Lateralus (Highest Recommend), to be the trance-metal masters true crowning achievement and the best album of 2001. As progressive and thoughtful as metal albums come, and dominated by one of the most spectacular album-length percussion performances ever set to vinyl courtesy of drummer Danny Carey, Lateralus is a dark, flowing, mystical journey that lands tremendous extended peaks in two long, brilliantly played song cycles - the amazing Disposition/Reflection/Triad triptych that closes the record, and the brilliant Parabol/Parabola pairing included here, which features one of the best full-band entries I've ever heard when the riff kicks in in Parabola's opening seconds.
47. Anyone Else But You - The Moldy Peaches: Simultaneously hyper literate and potty-mouthed juvenile, lo-fi New York anti-folkers The Moldy Peaches' self-titled debut (Strong Recommend) was among the most disputed releases of 2001, earning top-twenty of the decade accolades for some legendary critics, and pummeling zero-star reviews from others. But however one judges the album today (and I am definitely a fan), there's no denying that Adam Greene and Kimya Dawson's chemistry, sound and lyrical approach were utterly distinct, a trait that elevated the all-but-forgotten act's profile several years later when the Oscar-nominated film Juno employed Anyone Else But You as its musical centerpiece.
48. One More Time - Daft Punk: Basically the album that ripped open the flood gates for thousands of lesser DJ acts to follow and helped launch the mega-festival dance-tent era, Daft Punk's disco-beholden second release Discovery (Strong Recommend) stands today as an unchallenged electronic music landmark. Presently ranked as the 31st best album of this century on www.acclaimed.net, I'm knocking it down a peg for all the lame, bro-courting, oxygen-sucking imitators it inspired, but there's no denying the album itself is a winning parade of top-tier dance-floor hits, kicked off by its best track, opener One More Time.
49. Juxtapozed with U - Super Furry Animals: Few 2001 songs still sound as "necessary for the moment" today as this open-minded, open-hearted lead single from Welsh Cool Cmryu-champions Super Furry Animal's most accessible album, the highly enjoyable Rings Around The World (Solid Recommend).
50. Comfort Me - Sparklehorse: A simpler, calmer album than it's predecessor, 1998's chaotic but fascinating Good Morning Spider, Sparklehorse's It's A Wonderful Life (Mild Recommend) is by comparison a bit of a snooze, with only a few fully captivating songs (a trait some fans attribute to the album being the first that bandleader Mark Linkous wrote after getting sober). But whatever the record's limitations, I love, love, love its best song Comfort Me too much to leave off this mix.
51. The Middle - Jimmy Eat World: After being dumped by Capitol Records, Arizona emo-act Jimmy Eat World refused to be cowed, instead returning to the studio on their own dime with a renewed emphasis on the pop portion of their upbeat punk-pop formula. The end result, Bleed American (Solid Recommend) would become the band's top-selling release and one of the most likable punk albums of the century. And even though it's not my favorite song on the album (that would be the title track), going with pick-me-up track The Middle here because I know it's helped multiple friends get through difficult patches in their lives, and when it comes down to it, can any greater compliment be given to a song than that?
52. Relating To A Psychopath - Macy Gray: For my money, the best (or at the very least, the most fun) of all of 2001's great female R&B releases, Macy Gray's the id is a near non-stop funk fest, loaded with irrepressible, idiosyncratic crowd-pleasers like Boo, Sexual Revolution, Erykah Badu-collab Sweet Baby, Freak Like Me, My Nutmeg Phantasy, and best of all - the track that should really become Trump's walkout song for all future public appearances - Relating To A Psychopath!
53. Fell In Love With A Girl - The White Stripes: Along with The Strokes This Is It, The White Stripe's White Blood Cells (Strong Recommend) with its stripped-down, ragged guitars and primitive drums only attack, catapulted the early Aughts' garage rock revival into the mainstream, powered by our choice for the best song (and music video) of 2001, the exuberant minute-fifty blitzkrieg Fell In Love With A Girl featured here.
54. Let's Stay In And Make Love - Nick Lowe: One of rock's most charming artist's most charming releases, Nick Lowe's The Convincer (Solid Recommend), is as smooth, as simple, as relaxed, as warm, as love obsessed, and yes, as charming as albums come. A record guaranteed to put the listener in better mode, we hope our final selection for this mix, the album's romantic closer Let's Stay In And Make Love, has the same effect on you here. Thanks for listening, everybody, and if you want to keep the party rolling, don't miss our additional 2001 themed mixes! We'll touch base again next summer for a look back at all the best music of 1972.