Music

Best of 2001: Andrew Ellis

Andrew Ellis

Best Music of 2001 Lists


1. Athenaeum, Athenaeum (Atlantic)
A welcome return for the North Carolina rockers with an album that gets more outstanding with every listen. The undeniable hooks from the band's 1998 debut album Radiance still remain, but the production of Phillip Steir and Peter Collins has added a more mature, rough-around-the-edges vibe this time around. The songs may take a little longer to register, but great tracks like "Frozen in Time", "Suddenly", and "Comfort", prove that it's well worth the effort and once registered, they cement Mark Kano's reputation as a real songwriting talent.

2. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Time* Sex* Love* (Sony Nashville)
With critics unfairly lambasting her previous effort, A Place in the World, Carpenter was obviously determined to pull out all the stops to make her next record a success. And boy, on Time* Sex* Love*, does she manage it. A Mary Chapin Carpenter album is never short on lyrical inspiration, gorgeous melodies or sublime vocals, and songs like "The Long Way Home", "The Dreaming Road" and "Swept Away" are among the best she's ever recorded. Absolutely essential, especially if you'd rather be deaf than listen to anything out of Nashville with Byron Gallimore's name among the production credits.

3. Killing Heidi, Reflector (Universal/3.33)
Teenage Aussie siblings Ella and Jesse Hooper found massive success down under with this, their debut album, but unfortunately failed to set the US charts alight. With an astonishing vocal performance from Ella and a refreshing sound that is part sublime pop, part alternative rock, top songs like "Weir", "Mascara" and "Astral Boy", certainly deserved a better reception Stateside. Shame on you, America, for ignoring them.

4. The Tories, Upside of Down (02)
No, it's not the ailing UK political party, but a criminally underrated band from LA that certainly gets the vote of discerning power pop fans. This fine sophomore effort is boosted by the powerful production of Stuart Brawley and the infectious nature of an album's worth of quality tunes, the highlights which include "Would You Notice", "Superconductor", and "Time for You", the theme song from the sitcom Jessie.

5. Bliss 66, Trip to the 13th (Epic)
Another candidate for the "Should Have Been Huge" award 2001. One of the best debut rock albums to surface this year, Trip to the 13th had the songs ("Fly Away", "Crazy World", "Paramount"), the voice (Cheyenne Goff) and the producer (Glen Ballard) to theoretically guarantee success. The reality was that bands like Creed sold millions while Bliss 66 didn't. Here's hoping they get another shot to endear themselves to the masses in 2002.

6. Glen Phillips, Abulum (Brick Red)
This solo album by the former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman, together with the album Near Tonight by former guitarist Todd Nicholls' new band Lapdog, is ample evidence to suggest that the break up of the popular college-rockers wasn't necessarily such a bad thing. While Lapdog impressively continued the band's rock tendencies, Phillips' album is a superb blend of mellow, beautifully crafted acoustic Americana. From first bar to last, songs like the delicately emotional "Train Wreck", the vibrant "Professional Victim", and the quirky "Fred Meyers" reveal Phillips as a storyteller of some repute and with plenty to say.

7. The Clarks, The Clarks Live (Razor & Tie)
After over a decade of wowing Pittsburgh audiences with a brand of no-nonsense rock 'n' roll, The Clarks came close to national acclaim in 2000 with the single "Better Off Without You" and the quite brilliant album Let It Go. As the band gears up for the release of a new Justin Niebank produced studio album in 2002, Razor and Tie released this re-mastered version of The Clarks' self-issued live CD. With minimum studio tweaking and maximum emphasis on memorable songs, one listen to the three new tracks and 14 old favourites here is all the persuasion required to find out when their next show is.

8. Smartbomb, Yeah. Well, Anyway! (Razor & Tie)
Bursting energetically out of Washington, D.C., Smartbomb definitely hit the target with an album brimming with brilliant pop-punk tunes. Slightly more cerebral than most bands of their ilk, Smartbomb manages to sound modern without mimicking the host of similar bands that surfaced over the past 18 months. The quartet's cover of Faith Hill's "Breathe" was rather predictably released as a single, but the album boasts plenty of self written tunes more worthy of such status, such as "Movie of the Week", "Acetylene", or "50 in My Wallet".

9. The Feelers, Communicate (Warner Music New Zea)
Communicate is not yet released in the US, but New Zealand's finest look set for big things if this album of intelligent, highly melodic contemporary pop-rock is given a world-wide push. The band's first album, Supersystem, did enough to catch the eye of producer Gil Norton and the end result of their collaboration is an album of superb, solid songwriting and beautiful sonics. With a multitude of great songs ranging from the hook-filled, poppy title track to the poignant re-mix of "As Good As It Gets" and the haunting "Fishing for Lisa", it appears The Lord of the Rings is not the only thing made in New Zealand this year that's worth shouting about.

10. Danger Danger, Cockroach (Sony Music Special Products/Low Dice)
Along with what seemed like a thousand other bands, Danger Danger landed a deal back in the day when Axl Rose actually released records (yes, that long ago). But D2 always were a class above the raft of no-hopers A&R execs hastily snapped up during the heyday of hard rock in the late 1980s, and Cockroach proves it. The band's third album has gathered dust on Sony's shelves since 1993, thanks mainly to a bitter legal feud between former vocalist Ted Poley and remaining band members Steve West and Bruno Ravel. That dispute prevented the band from releasing it with the re-recorded vocals of new singer Paul Laine. Now a two-CD set (with both vocal versions) has been released, and although its combination of huge gang vocals, Mutt Lange-esque choruses and screaming guitars belongs to a byegone era, Cockroach is a tremendously entertaining and enjoyable trip down memory lane, nonetheless.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.

Music

Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.

Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.