favorite albums of 2001

20.Jamiroquai – A Funk Odyssey (Epic)

Their most consistant album to date. More of the same disco funk, but this time all of the songs are good instead of just half of them.

Favorite songs: Little L, You Give Me Something, Love Foolosophy

Favorite lyric: “You make me love you, love you baby with a little ‘L'” from Little L

19.Gorillaz – Gorillaz (Virgin)

This cartoon band is actually Damon Albain’s (Blur) side project. A fun mix of hip-hop and British smarts.

Favorite songs: Clint Eastwood, 19-200, Slow Country

Favorite lyric: “I got sunshine in a bag” from Clint Eastwood

18.David Byrne – Look Into The Eyeball (Virgin/Luaka Bop)

Byrnes’s best since Rei Momo. Fun, catchy and not extremely pretentious.

Favorite songs: Like Humans Do, Oesconocido Soy, Walk On Water

Favorite lyric: “Beauty rests on mattress springs wearing just her under things” from The Revolution

17.The Avalanches – Since I Left You (Sire/Modular)

Imagine listening to a radio that constantly changed stations without running into static and you’d have an album full of samples and party attitude.

Favorite songs: Since I Left You, Frontier Psychiatrist, Live At Dominoes

Favorite “lyric”: “And tighten your buttocks, pour juice on your chin, I promised my girlfriend I’d play the violin” from Frontier Psychiatrist

16.Andrew Bird’s Bowl Of Fire – The Swimming Hour (Ryko)

Andrew Burn likes to wear his influences on his sleeve. He mixes rock, country, cabaret and gypsy music to make a very underrated album.

Favorite songs: Two Way Action, Core And Rind, How Indiscreet

Favorite lyric: “My return fills me with dread/Will my houseplants be all dead/My significant be with another… And I think I’m gonna, yeah, I think I’m gonna call my mother” from Two Way Action

15.Human League – Secrets (Ark21)

This was a nice surprise. Their best since their break through album, Dare. Very modern, but very Human League at the same time.

Favorite songs: All I Ever Wanted, Never Give Your Heart, You’ll Be Sorry

Favorite lyric: “Never give your heart to a runaway/Never tell yourself that you’ll make them stay” from Never Give Your Heart

14.Dolly Parton – Little Sparrow (Sugar Hill)

A great companion to her Grammy winning “The Grass Is Bluer”. She said that she had had it with the recording industry and so went back to her roots. It’s a wonderful album with a great remake of Collective Soul’s “Shine”.

Favorite songs: Shine, I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby, I Get A Kick Out Of You

Favorite lyric: “Coz he knows a lot about love and stuff and he’s going to marry me” from Marry Me

13.Electric Light Orchestra – Zoom (Epic)

Some of my favorite bands I love because they like to experiment and move beyond. Some I love because they never change, but constantly put out quality material. Jeff Lynne has put together a great collection of songs here during his time away from the ELO name.

Favorite songs: Moment In Paradise, State Of Mind, Stranger On A Quiet Street

Favorite lyric: “If you found what you were lookin’ for it really doesn’t matter at all” from Really Doesn’t Matter

12.The Go-Go’s – God Bless The Go-Go’s (Beyond/Go-Go’s)

It’s like they never even left for 15+ years. Picking up right where “Talk Show” left off, the girls got back together and put together a comeback album that is full of hooks and their own brand of love-gone-wrong songs. Plus this time there is a sense of maturity as they look back at their own past.

Favorite songs: Apology, Kissing Asphalt, Daisy Chain

Favorite lyric: “I’m sorry but I have no regrets” from Apology

11.Suzanne Vega – Songs In Red And Gray (A&M)

All I can say is that I’m glad I’m not the one who divorced her. Inspired by her split with Mitchel Froom, Suzanne Vega has written her best album since 99.9F°. Yet the album never becomes redundant. Most of the songs are different views of relationships going sour and are just stunning.

Favorite songs: Widow’s Walk, (I’ll Never Be) Your Maggie May, Last Year’s Troubles

Favorite lyric: “Consider me a widow boys and I will tell you why. It’s not the man, but it’s the marriage that was drowned” from Widow’s Walk

10.Basement Jaxx – Rooty (AstralWerks)

Best dance album of the year and creator of a new genre of music: House-Pop. With its catchy turns of phrase, hard-core beats and fat chords, Rooty gets under your skin and just stays there. Plus who can resist the pornographic “Get Me Off”. It’s almost as good as Foxy’s “Get Off”.

Favorite songs: Breakaway, I Want U, Get Me Off

Favorite lyric: “I want to undress you/Wanna caress you/Don’t wanna be coy/It’s time to get me off” from Get Me Off

09.Sam Phillips – Fan Dance (Nonesuch)

One of my all-time favorite artists. On her latest, Sam completely tears down the arrangements to the point that the songs are just her and two or three instruments. This combined with her wonderful song writing makes for one of the most melodic albums of the year.

Favorite songs: Five Colors, Taking Pictures, How To Dream

Favorite lyric: “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be” from Taking Pictures

08.Nikka Costa – Everybody Got Their Something (Cheeba Sound/Virgin)

This is an incredible debut from a woman who’s been involved with music all of her life. Forget the cheap thrills of “Like A Feather” (the hit) and let yourself get into the funk of the title track and “Hope It Felt Good” and the beautiful R&B ballads “So Have I For You” and “Push & Pull”. This woman sings the living hell out of these songs and delivers an album that spans across several genres.

Favorite songs: So Have I For You, Everybody Got Their Something, Push & Pull

Favorite lyric: “What if I was the one to leave your sorry ass behind” from Hope It Felt Good

07.No Doubt – Rock Steady (Interscope)

What a fun album! No Doubt’s last album Return Of Saturn was a morose look at life and while it had a few good songs, it came nowhere close to Tragic Kingdom. Now with Rock Steady, they wanted to party and do they ever. Songs like “Hella Good”, “Hey Baby” and “Making Out” are all about girls finding boys and having a good time. “Underneath It All” almost takes the cake for best No Doubt ballad away from “Don’t Speak”. This is one is a bit different from their others as the main influence seems to be 80’s New Wave: take The Cars inspired “Don’t Let Me Down”.

Favorite songs: Hella Good, Underneath It All, Don’t Let Me Down

Favorite lyric: “Don’t blow it, even a little bit ’cause now you’re all mine. Don’t you forget it” from Don’t Let Me Down

06.The Strokes – Is This It (RCA)

The most hyped album? Probably. Is it worth it? Hell, yeah. Harking back to the days of low-fi 70’s rock, this new band started one of the biggest record company bidding wars with just some demos and a few good shows. It takes a couple of listens to get into, but your patience is paid off in spades with 13 short, little ditties that seem to be barely produced at all.

Favorite songs: Someday, Last Nite, Hard To Explain

Favorite lyric: “I say the right thing but at the wrong way. I like it right here, but I cannot stay” from Hard To Explain

05.Leona Naess – I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll (MCA)

Ever have those albums that you just can’t stop listening to? Well, this is mine for 2001. MUCH better than her album last year, Comatised. The album is definitely inspired by the 80’s with sprinklings of electronic noises mixed in with Leona’s guitar playing. It’s an album full of great pop songs with sing along choruses. Very underrated. Winner of Best Album Title.

Favorite songs: Mexico, I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll, Blue Eyed Baby, Hurricane

Favorite lyric: “The ink you spilt across my skin is sinking deeper within” from I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll

04.Eddi Reader – Simple Soul (Compass)

This is one of the beautiful albums of the year. Eddi got her start in a band called Fairground Attraction, but soon went solo and has a string of reliably good albums, but this one is her most inspired. Another artist who decided to go with a more stripped down production arrangement to great effect. The songs are soft and heart-felt.

Favorite songs: Wolves, The Wanting Kind, Lucky Penny, The Girl Who Fell In Love With The Moon

Favorite lyric: “It doesn’t matter who you are, cynical or unrefined. You’ll be digging in the back of the drawer for all the ones you left behind” from The Wanting Kind

03.The Actual Tigers – Gravelled & Green (Nettwerk)

This is a great pop album. Tim Seely has channeled Paul Simon’s early works (before his New World stuff). It just crackles with electricity especially the unforgettable “Standing By”. The faster songs are all foot tapping and the ballads just plain beautiful most notably “Halfway House”. And then there is the highlight of the album, “Testimony” that combines quick paced verses with a gorgeous, emotional chorus.

Favorite songs: Standing By, Time And Space, Halfway House, Testimony

Favorite lyric: “And I was thinking while standing on the corner to use a public phone, I gotta pay. The day I find someone who’s worth my quarter, I was thinking, that’ll be the day. I remember thinking, that’ll be the day” from Testimony

02.Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (Epic)

It seems that getting out on his own has done Ben Folds a lot of good. This is probably his best collection of songs. Every single one is a character study. Not only is the music good, but every story is at the least interesting and at the most heart-wrenching. How he can take a simple story about someone getting fired and give it heart and soul is beyond me, but “Fred Jones Part Two” is the song “Brick” wanted to be.

Favorite songs: Annie Waits, Zak And Sara, Still Fighting It, Fred Jones Part 2, Fired

Favorite lyric: “Everybody knows it sucks to grow up and everybody does” from Still Fighting It

01.Rufus Wainwright – Poses (DreamWorks)

What a talent. The son of Loundon Wainwright III, Rufus released his second album with very little press and that’s unfortunate. Not only is it better than his first, but it’s far more accessible as well. He’s toned down the Cabaret and just let his pop sensibilities flow. The first song sets the tone, “Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk”, a great song about his obsessions. Thus most of the songs are about obsessing in some form or another. “Poses” is probably the most dry of his humor. It’s all about how some gay men obsess about unimportant things, “There’s never been such grave a matter as comparing our new brand name black sunglasses.” A real treat is “One Man Guy”, which is a song his dad wrote. In Rufus’ hands it takes on a double meaning and makes it all the more enjoyable. My favorite song though is “Grey Gardens”, a song inspired by the documentary Grey Gardens. It’s not so much about the film as how it makes him feel. He’s really come into his own on this one and there really isn’t a bad song in the collection. And make sure you see him live. You’ll enjoy his quick wit as much as his music.

Favorite songs: Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk, Greek Song, Poses, Grey Gardens, One Man Guy, Evil Angel

Favorite lyric: “Trying to get my mansions green after I’ve Grey Gardens seen.” from Grey Gardens

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