Best of 2001: Patrick Schabe

Best Music of 2001 Lists

1. Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin)
Yeah, yeah, they’re over-hyped. The album is spotty and bounces between brilliance and filler. But the disc itself is only a portion of the package. Not only is it a concept disc, it’s a concept band! Of cartoons! The fact that “Clint Eastwood” became a hit only speaks to the postmodern timing of the idea. Trying to separate the music from the whole ensemble misses the point. The plasticity of the star image and a sellable mish-mash of musical style: the future of music is arriving. Maybe not the “best” album in terms of technical, artistic merit, but certainly the most important.

2. New Order, Get Ready (Reprise)
It’s hard to imagine New Order being relevant in the 21st century, but Get Ready proves that there was more innovation to the band than met the eye. Finally reconciling the ghost of Joy Division with New Order’s own identity, Get Ready is an excellent album that continues New Order’s legacy of mixing dance music with modern rock while allowing them to explore some new territory. Easily the best thing they’ve released in years (ha!), this is one of the most complete discs I’ve heard in a long time.

3. Deep Blue Something, Deep Blue Something (Aezra/Orpheus)
This will probably be one of the most wrongfully ignored albums of 2001. After being written off as one-hit wonders with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, Deep Blue Something comes back with an incredibly surprising disc that mines an incredible range of alternative rock and proves the band to be entirely underrated as a perfect rock/pop act. There’s something for everyone on this album, but it’s a must have if you’re a fan of baggy and Britpop. “She Is” and “Parkbench” are two of the best songs of the year.

4. Weezer, Weezer (Geffen)
Speaking of reinvention, Weezer continues to develop their sound in ways that manage to simultaneously piss-off die hard fans of their debut disc and gain new recruits in droves. “The Green Album” is what happens when talented song-writers embrace their loves over their scene. The Geffen logo on the disc might be a sore spot for some, but they’ve always been the major label indie band, and there are tons of indie rock bands out there who look to Rivers Cuomo as a god. And they can all learn something from the unabashed pop mixed with nervously beautiful punk rock on this disc. Hip-hip!

5. They Might Be Giants, Mink Car (Restless)
If there’s one thing you can say about They Might Be Giants, it’s that they’re never quite predictable. True, they have their own sound, and everything they record is easily recognizable as the band, but they never sit still long enough to get stale. Mink Car finds them heading into strange new territories like pop love songs, dance club rave ups, and three chord guitar rock. Oh, and their usual assortment of indefinable musical whimsies, too. Not their best disc to date, but it’s another mark in their consistently great discography.

6. Frank Black and the Catholics, Dog in the Sand (What Are Records?
Okay, I said in my review of this disc back in January that I was sad it didn’t make it onto my Best of 2000 list. Well, here’s giving the album its due. Good thing it actually came out this year. Frank Black and the Catholics turn in one of the best albums of music inflected with the American Southwest that I’ve heard in years. “St. Francis Dam Disaster”. ‘Nuff said.

7. Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic/Independiente)
I’m sick to death of hearing about how commercial viability means a previously good band now sucks. After the brilliant The Man Who, Travis had the double duty of repeating themselves and fending off critics who can’t stand to see musicians earn a buck. “Sing” may be one of the most mainstream songs Travis has ever released, but its simple and earnest splendor is no different than their prior work, and if the indie rock edge has been smoothed into adult pop craft, so much the better.

8. Ben Folds, Rockin’ the Suburbs (Sony/Epic)
If Ben Folds fans can be divided into camps of those who like the funny, upbeat Ben Folds Five tunes and those who appreciate the more introspective and austere tracks, then I suppose I stand in the middle between both. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” is a great kiss-off to certain red ballcap-wearing artists, but the album also continues to explore the grandiose territories that made Reinhold Mesner such a stunning album. Gratefully, going solo hasn’t hurt Folds’ abilities to churn out excellent music.

9. The Mockers, Living in the Holland Tunnel (One Eye Open)
A completely sleeper pop underground disc, Living in the Holland Tunnel builds itself on so many hooks and catchy riffs that it sticks in your head long after you’ve moved on to another disc in the ol’ player. Chock full of classic pop-rock standard sounds but edgy enough to be completely contemporary, this is a highly infectious album.

10. The Appleseed Cast, Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 & 2 (Deep Elm)
I’ve got a wishy-washy relationship with Deep Elm. In small doses their bands turn out great songs, but it’s such a standard sound that eventually everything just seems repetitious. So along comes The Appleseed Cast to turn in a truly awesome concept album full of well orchestrated, engaging, and constantly changing indie rock. The risks this involves have paid off, and these may be the first truly indispensable Deep Elm records to have come along.

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