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.