Best of 2001: Jason Thompson

Jason Thompson

Best Music of 2001 Lists

What can I say? It's been an interesting year with the indies. Lots of great new music from both labels previously unknown and the well respected alike. The majors were satisfied playing the same old game that they have for the past couple of years, relying mostly on marketable teen pop confections with a short shelf life. And if it wasn't them, then it was groups like Radiohead who turned out another uninteresting album that got praised sky high. (And don't forget the live disc that was also released to prove to us nonbelievers that they still could "rock". Whatever.) Then of course there were other big time players like Garbage and Tori Amos that were content to push product around as well. But why dwindle on the bad? Here is my list of the ten best albums of 2001 that rocked my socks off.

1. TIE: Those Peabodys, Those Peabodys (Post-Parlo) / Tenacious D, Tenacious D (Epic)
There was no way that I could have chosen which of these two albums was "better". They both rocked like no other in 2001. Those Peabodys' debut was the first disc that I played from my initial PopMatters shipment way back when and it tore my head off then and continues to do so today. I can't tell you the number of times I have played this disc. Adam Hatley and Clarke Wilson rock out like there's no tomorrow on this disc. "Frank", "Hazzard Co.", and "Negro Spiritual" are some of the best rockin' tunes ever laid down. Hell, all ten tracks here are simply great. You need to own this one.

Likewise for The D. Jack Black and Kyle Gass took their long-time favorite songs, stuck a big ass rockin' band behind them and never looked back. One listen to this classic album and you'll be humming the tunes for days afterward. There is no stopping the brilliance behind tracks like "Kielbasa", "Wonderboy", "Dio", "The Road", "Rock Your Socks", and "City Hall". The D know how to rock and have unearthed a mighty beast with this album. Thrill to what great rock and roll should be with both of these discs.

2. Chris Butler, Easy Life (Future Fossil)
Some of you probably remember Chris Butler from his stint in the Waitresses. Well, he's still out there. He has the World's Record for Longest Single ("The Devil Glitch") and recently compiled The Best of Kilopop! -- Un Petit Gouter, a career-spanning disc from one of Europe's best unsung bands. Now he has recently issued Easy Life, easily the best pop album released this year on an indie label. The melodies are gorgeous, the lyrics downright intelligent (not to mention full of dry wit), and the songs intricate puzzles that prove Butler wasn't "just" the guy who wrote "I Know What Boys Like". The songs here go above and beyond that. Easy Life is pop perfection.

3. Tik N'Tak, Friends (Universal)
OK, so I was wrong. Finland's finest all-female, all-rockin' pop group never had their debut album issued here in the States. What a shame. I was truly hoping it would, just to prove to the majors over here that pop groups need not be completely prefabricated and disposable to work. The songs here are all infectious, with "Anytime", "Move On", and "I Will Always Be In Your Heart" being standouts. Yes, these girls really do play their instruments and are just as good in a live setting. No dancing about and looking all tarted up for the camera to sell their records, Tik N'Tak are truly wonderful and will hopefully be unleashed in the U.S. someday on their own, instead of being the opening act for Aaron Carter. Feh.

4. coco b's basement songs, firehawks and dirtybirds ep1 (K-Double)
I declared that this was the EP of The Year. I still stand by that. Kevin Castillo and Bob Penn produced some of the finest 13-and-a-half minutes of pop bliss of all time. Castillo has a beautiful way with words and his vocals will deliver the sucker punch and keep you coming back for more. "The Big Okie Dokie" is Heaven in a song. As is "Bluebird". As is the rest of this release.

5. Cockeyed Ghost, Ludlow 6:18 (Karma Frog)
Adam Marsland and mates turned out the hot melodic pop on this release. If you like artists like Ben Folds or Paul McCartney or Billy Joel, then Cockeyed Ghost is the band for you. There's so much true Soul running through this disc that it's not even funny. Marsland beats Folds at his own game on "December", and rocks like mad on "Ginna Ling", while waxing funky on "The Foghorn". A wonderful, inspired (and inspiring) album from top to bottom. Check these guys out if you're looking for something new.

6. Linus of Hollywood, Let Yourself Be Happy (Franklin Castle/Oglio)
At this point in my list, I'm thinking that it's pointless to even assign ranking numbers to these albums, as they are all so great in their own ways. Comparing the lot of them is futile. But anyway, this is my next choice, a whimsical, fun, and smart pop album by this decade's Todd Rundgren. Linus does it all and does it right. From the hauntingly pretty "Building A Ship", to the Ozzy cover of "Goodbye To Romance" and the best ode to drinking that there ever was, "Thank You For Making Me Feel…Better", Let Yourself Be Happy will make you laugh and cry and realize just how amazing music can be at times.

7. The Velvet Underground, Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes (Polydor/Universal)
My favorite band of all time returns to the masses with an impeccable three-disc set courtesy of long-time fan Robert Quine. Thrill to Lou Reed, Sterling Morrisson, Maureen Tucker, and Doug Yule ripping through such classic tunes as "Sister Ray", "Heroin", "What Goes On", "I'm Waiting For The Man", "Rock And Roll", and many more - live in 1969, like you've never heard them before. If this is truly only the beginning of a series of unreleased VU tapes, then the rock world has a whole lot to look forward to.

8. Patti Rothberg, Candelabra Cadabra (Cropduster)
Wowie. What would my life in 2001 have been like without Patti and her new album? She rode the starlight a few years back with her EMI debut Between The 1 & 9 when the label decided to close its doors shortly afterward. Well, Patti returned to rock New York and did it in spades with songs like "Nothing I Can Say", "To A Muse", "You Killed My Time", and a rippin' cover of Bowie's "Moonage Daydream". She's a bad girl. She's a good girl. She's an artist and a great person all around. Candelabra Cadabra is still as mystical as it was the first time I heard it.

9. Amanda Thorpe, Mass (Cropduster)
Again: what would my life in 2001 have been like without Amanda and her new album? Yes, it would seem that two of Cropduster's finest ladies won me over with a double whammy of exceptional music. I got to interview both Patti and Amanda and we have become good long distance friends in the months since I first heard their music. Mass is a bittersweet, beautiful album thanks to songs like "Always" and "High & Dry". If you want some great female rock and pop, then you can't go wrong with numbers 8 and 9 here.

10. Be, Thistupiddream (Besongs)
A truly enigmatic work that defies convention. What you have here is an unseemly mix of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Michael Penn, and Peter Gabriel all rolled into one. Definitely a powerful, direct album, there is lots of wild imagination and sharp tunefulness working their way through the songs here. "The Corporal's Daughter", "Driving to the Beach", and "The Night You Faked Your Own Death" are just simply stunning. A strange and transfixing work that should not go overlooked.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.