Published Jan 01, 20061. White Stripes White Blood Cells (Sympathy For the Record Industry)
James Keast: While New York's the Strokes were loudly hailed as the return of gritty rock'n'roll, Detroit's the White Stripes have been quietly building an audience the old fashioned way: hear them, then tell everyone you know about your new favourite band. Jack and Meg White are simplicity personified; his scratchy off-key voice and her spare drum bashing accompany some of the best, most enthusiastic rocking this year. Their nerdy design concept (everything in candy-stripe red and white) and kitschy demeanour only contribute to their weird charm especially as word spread that their brother-sister act may (or may not) be just that. (The claim that Meg is a mere nine months older certainly smacks of fiction.) But whether or not they are an ex-couple, the fact remains that after spending time with the Stripes, you'll be singing along that "We are going to be friends." Friends forever.
Michael Barclay: Pure and dirty, wide-eyed and wise, this rock'n'roll classic could become the equivalent of Doolittle or the Violent Femmes' debut for a new generation.
Cam Lindsay: A stripped down, raw album with plenty of bluesy rock n' roll swagger by the coolest band of 2001.
Michael White: Rock's future is, evidently, its past. Whether this duo are studious students or idiot savants, this is a fucking scorcher.
2. Destroyer Streethawk: A Seduction (Misra)
Helen Spitzer: Dizzying in scope and rigorous in its execution, the fourth release from Vancouver's Destroyer is the perfect vehicle for Dan Bejar's deadly precision as a songwriter. On Streethawk: A Seduction, Bejar establishes himself as the crankiest of Canadian poets, setting his sights once again on the music industry and tearing into its underbelly with feral enthusiasm. The heady arrangements on the record are as extravagant as they are subtle: in Destroyer's capable hands even the acoustic simplicity of "Virgin With A Memory" becomes something extraordinary, and the epic sweep of "The Bad Arts" tears through complacency like the exploding record needle that punctuates its climax. Throughout it all, Bejar's astringent gaze is merciless, and, as is the case with the sharpest of wits, you can never be certain if you've been seduced or skewered. Possibly the most important Canadian record of the last ten years. Buy it on vinyl, save it for your children.
Michael Barclay: No one else writing songs today so successfully marries such dense and rich lyrical imagery with insanely catchy melodies and a timeless palate of popular music. The fact that most of Dan Bejar's lyrics are about the corrupting forces of popular music make it ripe for someone's undergrad thesis.
Chuck Molgat: Dan Bejar is king, even if he refuses the robes. As such, the self-referential lyrics that crop up here and there on this outing are easy to forgive, if not celebrate outright.
3. Björk Vespertine (Elektra)
Michael Barclay: This is big time sensuality. Not the instant gratification pop single from her Debut, but a sensual feast of every order: once submersed in Vespertine's aural layers, you can practically touch, taste and visualise Björk's "Hidden Place." It sounds best alone, with headphones, maybe in a hot bath with the howling winds of winter at your window. There's no question Björk is getting sexier as she gets older; her ticklish beats and increasingly intimate vocals don't just caress your ears, they fuck with your head.
Chris Waters: In the words of Michael Stipe: "Swan, swan, hummingbird hurrah, you're all free now." Vespertine finds Björk at her emotive and childlike best. It's a wondrous world in song.
Cam Lindsay: So beautiful it makes my chest hurt from sighing with wonder. She can only amaze me from now on.
Michael White: To paraphrase the title of another record about the interior conflicts of romance, Björk doesn't want to see the bright lights tonight.
Lorraine Carpenter: Our favourite Icelander, resurrected, returns to a beautiful space.
4. Mercury Rev All Is Dream (V2)
Jason Schneider: Opening with the soul-stirring "The Dark Is Rising," it's clear the Rev weren't out to revisit the vibe of Deserter's Songs so much as turn it inside out. While Radiohead was said to still be going through a "transitional phase" this year, Mercury Rev instead showed their complete mastery of orchestral/ ambient/ prog/ whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it rock on this album. The key, which seemed to completely elude Radiohead and those other British gentlemen, is to have a good song to begin with, and the combined talents of Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper provided more than enough to go around. It seemed a tough task to match the emotional heights of "The Dark Is Rising," but they came close with "Lincoln's Eyes" and "Hercules," with "Chains" adding some welcome punch to the mix. With any luck, All Is Dream has also raised the bar for the next Flaming Lips album.
Roman Sokal: The best band to have ever been born in North America. Their use of semi-bombastic classical arrangements cut into their loose eerie pop is ultra clever. It acts like a sign to tell you that you are about to be subjected to some real beautiful, downright honest lyrics that make out a map about the human condition, so pay attention and enjoy.
Fred Davies: An unpredictable and exuberant album that veers wildly from brooding darkness to giddy weirdness. The band's trademark trippy instrumentation is still intact and both ballads and guitar driven epics are here in good measure. Less accessible but quite possibly more complete than anything in the band's catalogue.
Michael Edwards: As clichéd as it is to list Mercury Rev among the year's best, they keep putting out fantastic records, leaving people like me with no choice.
5. Sparklehorse It's a Wonderful Life (EMI)
Roman Sokal: "I wanted to buy a bunch of little bunnies and turn them loose in the studio control room for atmosphere," admits Sparklehorse's cerebral Mark Linkous. While recording in upstate New York with Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev), Linkous went for a walk to get those rabbits at a nearby fruit stand. "They're all hunters and farmers out there they weren't sure why I wanted it. They said, Do you want it for eatin', or for pettin'?' It was so shocking, I just left without buying any fruit or any bunnies." Linkous's artistic genius makes personal, charming, poetically semiotic pop songs about dogs eating your birthday cake and summer nights sporting "bleeding fangs." Melt Neil Young, Grandaddy, Syd Barrett, Daniel Johnston, Flaming Lips, Cracker, Bob Pollard and Tom Waits into one heavenly candle and light it what you inhale is the beautifully burning Sparklehorse.
Eric Hill: Even with help from producer Dave Fridmann, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits and others, Mark Linkous still makes like a bedroom four tracker on this third album. The lows are a little lower and the highs are helped by studio strings, but the formula remains intact.
Lorraine Carpenter: Boosted by guests like Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and Nina Persson, this is undeniably dynamic, majestic stuff.
6. Sigur Rós Ágætis Byrjun (Smekkleysa)
James Keast: This Icelandic quartet induced some vivid hallucinations with this, their first album widely available outside their island home. Most critics compared their epic aural journeys to the endless skies and open landscape of Iceland. But Sigur Rós is really an internal journey the muffled thumping of heartbeat rhythms, the whooshing rush of blood in veins, and the languid, drawn out wordless vocals that are really the gooey, stringy, sticky mess of which dreams are made.
Chris Waters: A thrilling disc of orchestral pop that flirts with so many different reference points: This Mortal Coil, Kronos Quartet, Badly Drawn Boy.
7. Kings of Convenience Quiet Is The New Loud (Astralwerks)
Michael White: As tempting as it may be to suggest that the balm-like value of Quiet Is The New Loud has grown in the midst of turbulent times, this was destined to be the most understatedly beautiful album of the year when it was released in March. Swedish duo Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe write from the increasingly rare perspective of adults who can't understand why they aren't able to stop feeling like awestruck teenagers, particularly when faced with the verities of relationships. But unlike Belle and Sebastian, they never pre-empt their vulnerability by making bad jokes. Of course, the idea that a group who merge the spare folk melodies of Simon & Garfunkel and the sumptuous angst of early Everything But The Girl could be a relevant modern soundtrack might seem absurd. But when faced with the likes of "Winning A Battle, Losing A War" or "Parallel Lines," the appeal of Kings of Convenience is as simplistic and essential as drawing a calm, clean breath.
Rob Bolton: Although a rougher version of this was released last year on Kindercore, the Astralwerks release captures these Norwegian folksters at their best. Delicate harmonies and beautiful songs abound.
8. Propagandhi Today's Empires Tomorrow's Ashes (G7 Welcoming Committee)
Stuart Green: After a five-year hiatus, Canada's pre-eminent political punk combo came storming back to create a record against which future records of the genre will be measured. With the addition of former I Spy front-man Todd "The Rod" Kowalski replacing current Weakerthan John K. Samson on bass, the Winnipeg-based trio takes progressive thrash to a whole new level. Today's Empires... is both musically adventurous and lyrically arresting without being pretentious or preachy. At a time when punk has become so generic, predictable and safe that it's only a matter of months before we start hearing Muzak versions of Sum 41 and Blink 182 songs in Wal-Mart stores across North America, Propagandhi reminds us what exactly it is that made this music so subversive and important in the first place. The most innovative and important hardcore record since Refused's 1997 swansong The Shape of Punk to Come.
Chuck Molgat: Winnipeg's ferocious, international noise concern remains true to its hardcore form on this long-awaited full-length CD. The disc's title is eerily prophetic and the messages in the music are, perhaps unfortunately, more poignant than ever.
Greg Pratt: Metal enough with some of those riffs, these crazy Canucks always blow minds, educate you and piss off conservative punks with every album. Easily their best yet.
Rob Ferraz: Possibly the best progressive thrash record to be released since the '80s.
9. Radiohead Amnesiac (EMI)
Chris Wodskou: Quietly released only months after Kid A, Amnesiac was first assumed to be a tossed-off afterthought by Radiohead, or at worst, the detritus that didn't make the cut for Kid A. First impressions were that it was less off-putting with more approachable more actual songs than its predecessor, but even if it's less rigorously experimental, if anything, Amnesiac is more musically sophisticated. Radiohead remains as cranky and aloof as ever, but Amnesiac also opens up a nakedness and uncomfortable intimacy. The difference between them and the cloying hordes of confessional singers playing the pop equivalent of Chicken Soup for the Soul is that Thom Yorke sings of a shared nightmare of scraping away the veneer of Western culture and finding little underneath, which can only be unsettling to a band that embraces complexity the way most pop stars flee from it.
Lorraine Carpenter: Like Britney, they did it again. Unlike Britney, their page in musical history is totally fucking reserved.
10. Super Furry Animals Rings Around the World (Sony)
Cam Lindsay: Rings Around The World will be hailed as a masterpiece by anyone who hears it. A psychedelic pinwheel of ringing cell phones, '60s soul and Biblical country, the Beach Boys doing Entombed, and yes, even a dash of Martian-brand hip-hop. The Super Furries went all out on this record (idealistically and financially), delving even deeper into their abnormal psyche, and pulling out their most eye-opening and globally conscious lyrics to date. The music is not quite of this world, but then again, when has any of their music ever sounded like it was made here on earth?
Michael Barclay: Audacious genrefuckers with pure pop intentions, this is one band who justify big budget spending.
11. Mogwai Rock Action (Matador)
Michael Edwards: Right from their debut recordings, Mogwai have managed to impress. But some were willing to dismiss them as one trick ponies who could only write one kind of song. And even though they hinted at it with their sophomore effort, it took this third album for them to really shine. Rock Action has the band beginning to show a level of depth that nobody really expected from them. They no longer follow that "quiet-loud" template of old, preferring to now take a more subtle path that revels in the quiet moments. Quiet is pretty much the order of the day the music here is melancholy and expressive, with all kinds of little touches that you'll miss on the first few listens. Arrangements require brass, strings, piano and even vocals to get their point across. And most amazing of all, they manage to do it all within a succinct 38 minutes. Unbelievable.
Eric Hill: The band is sorting out their mapwork, travelling further into realms of pop songcraft, then out into abstract realms where analog and digital squiggles collide with Thom Yorke's big brain. By the end of their most concise effort to date there are few cues of where to next.
Cam Lindsay: So peaceful yet they are such devilish buggers. It's like giving the Antichrist a guitar, a hymnbook and 38 minutes to make noise.
12. Ryan Adams Gold (Lost Highway)
Jason Schneider: This is the kind of album I imagine every singer/songwriter would kill to make. Adams deftly wandered through his record collection: Blonde On Blonde-era Dylan ("Nobody Girl"); Moondance-era Van Morrison ("Answering Bell"); Exile-era Stones ("Tina Toledo's Streetwalking Blues") without ever losing grasp of his own powerfully emerging voice. Above all, nobody this year sounded as if they were having as much fun as Adams was in the studio, reason alone enough to recommend this. Even when he verges on the maudlin, the naked beauty of the performances, and the masterful production of Ethan Johns more than compensates. It is so rare nowadays to hear an album where every song has its own distinct personality. Hopefully more singer/songwriters are already taking notes from this major breakthrough.
Chris Waters: The original meaning of the line "I love you, New York" and the Born in the USA parody of the album cover were forever changed by the events of Sept. 11. But, at the risk of sounding like Greil Marcus, Adams has crafted a collection of songs that can withstand the weight of the world.
13. Fugazi The Argument (Dischord)
Vinita Ramani: This collection of songs, carefully crafted and recorded beginning of 2001, has eerie resonance in the wake of the current political crisis. As usual, the band manages to draw thematic threads through disparate events to produce a tightly woven fabric of social commentary. Gone are the whimsical outtakes, piano tinkering and oblique tunes of Red Medicine. Instead Fugazi fills the new album with layers of uncertainty. At times drawing from the newer bands they helped produce like the Warmers or Blonde Redhead, the new songs are a combination of the older sound, with quiet musings. Tracks like Ian MacKaye's anti-gentrification song "Cashout" and Guy Picciotto's "Life and Limb" are not anthems but unfinished chapters of disturbing observations. It is brilliantly uncompromising, neither imitative of their own sound nor an unnecessarily experimental forced departure. They've got all feet firmly on the ground and continue to remain resolutely involved in the world.
Cam Lindsay: Taking a less aggressive more artistic stance, these veterans released their best record in a decade, maybe even their career.
14. Strokes Is This It? (BMG)
Lorraine Carpenter: All hype and counter-hype aside, the beauty of this album is its bummed punk energy in the finest NYC tradition (Velvet Underground, Ramones, Televison). Besides standout tracks like "Last Nite," "Soma" and the renegade now-deleted "New York City Cops," some of these tunes start to bleed into each other after a while. But when Lou Reed-y vocals collide with 50s rock'n'roll strumming and angular punk riffs, does it really matter? And keep it in perspective this is a young band's debut album, not sacred tablets handed down from the new gods of rock'n'roll.
Cam Lindsay: Need I say more.
15. Ben Folds Rockin' the Suburbs (Epic)
James Keast: Fans may have been as grumpy as Mr. Folds himself about the loss of his band, the Five, but forgiveness eventually comes with this pop gem. It's followed by melancholy, joy, bitterness and hurt, anger and frustration and of course that wry sense of humour all the usual menu items for a Ben Folds album. More concerned with the inexorable crawling passage of time than the adolescent tomfoolery of some earlier work, the minor hit "Rockin' the Suburbs" makes sure the piano man won't be called mature just yet. And while Folds himself is more thrilled to have played all the instruments, throwing the lyrics together at the last minute, it nonetheless remains the enthusiastic, off-key sing-along album of the year.
Chris Waters: Growing old has never sounded more difficult or more fun.
16. Two-Minute Miracles Volume Two (Teenage USA)
Chuck Molgat: It took London, ON studio wiz Andy Magoffin three years to get this sophomore CD from his Two-Minute Miracles together, but the finished product is well worth the wait. As the band's name suggests, each of these 13 tracks clock in at just over the two-minute mark, which is a shame given that every single one qualifies as a first rate gem. Few albums can boast that kind of consistency, fewer still while demonstrating such stylistic variety. From dusty, languorous countrified numbers, to chunky, catchy pop nuggets and instantly memorable melodic-rock anthems (there's even an oddball klezmer exercise here), Magoffin and company change gears repeatedly, all the while adopting a deceptively loose, laid-back swagger that belies this finely crafted, brilliantly performed and clearly inspired material. This is the stuff of pop genius, to be sure. Here's hoping Volume III isn't too far off.
17. Stereolab Sound Dust (Elektra)
Joshua Ostroff: Confronted by an army of synthetic photocopies, Stereolab decided to ditch the blips and burbles that had clung to recent releases and wallow in old-school instrumentation that let their compositions do the talking. Somehow though, their effervescent sound remains entirely intact and arguably improved. While they play with musical minimalism on Sound-Dust, less layering simply allows their stylistic palette to expand even further. Few bands can genre-jump with such dexterity that their own originality never gets lost, but over a dozen releases in, the Lab's distilled future-pop continues to connect the dots and loops that most of us never even noticed were there.
Chuck Molgat: Just when you thought the band had outgrown the politically savvy, electronic lounge-pop subgenre it perfected years ago Stereolab comes out with a stellar return to form that revisits old territory while at once charting a new course.
18. Constantines s/t (Three Gut)
Michael Barclay: The clashing guitars make you raise your fist. The rubbery rhythm section demands that you shake your ass. The lyrics and the packaging inspire you to publish your own poetry fanzine. The live show leaves you on your knees, a testifying true believer. Southwestern Ontario's MVP Andy Magoffin (Royal City, Golden Seals, By Divine Right, Two-Minute Miracles) captured it perfectly, and Guelph's greatest deliver a dangerous debut that is assured, soul-stirring and equally tender and ferocious. Hopefully it's not beginner's luck. When I say dance, punk, you dance!
Roman Sokal: Proof that Bruce Springsteen is actually cool.
19. Shins Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop)
Ian Danzig: Not just the best new band from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the best new Sub Pop signing or the best album you haven't heard, the Shins' debut release is the best pop album of 2001. Period. Led by songwriter/singer/guitarist James Mercer, Oh, Inverted World intersects psychedelic pop, new wave and folk rock with fully refined and carefully sculpted songs that careen through a series of exquisite melodies. While the sweet hooks are immediately gratifying, future spins expose infinite layers of intoxicating musical detail. Mercer's verbose and introspective lyrics only heighten the beauty, creating that rare album that makes everything feel better.
Lorraine Carpenter: Easy psychedelic pop straight outta the desert. The new, New Mexican Beach Boys on shrooms.
20. Gordon Downie Coke Machine Glow (Wiener Art)
Michael Barclay: This album got plenty of attention for plenty of the wrong reasons, but few listened to it with open ears; it was far too strange for the mainstream, while the underground deemed it guilty by association. Both camps lost out on a subtle gem, anchored by Josh Finlayson's acoustic guitar and delicately coloured with sound poetry by Dale Morningstar and Dave Clark. The most "rock" song sounded more like the Velvet Underground than Downie's day job, while he convincingly embraced a whole other set of central Canadian traditions, from Al Purdy to Michael Snow to Cowboy Junkies to Dinner is Ruined.
Michael Johnston: Surrounding himself with the Toronto musicians he has always supported, Downie's first solo foray is experimental yet rooted in old-timey spirit and sensibilities.
Jason Schneider: From the man who wrote "Courage," a truly courageous deconstruction of his creative process.
21. Ladytron 604 (Emperor Norton)
Lorraine Carpenter:Four young robo-Brits conjure up Kraftwerk and the Human League, producing songs and sounds that never fail to compute.
Joshua Ostroff: Wow, it's as if the 1980s never went way they just got cooler.
22. Joe Henry Scar (Mammoth/Universal)
Michael White: It makes some sort of skewed sense that, at a moment in history when nothing seems private, the albums that moved me most this year were those about private epiphanies rather than communal revelations. This is also one of those, and it includes the year's best song title: "Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation."
Michael Johnston: Alt-country rendered unrecognizable by Henry's minimalist, jazz-inspired vision. Jaw-dropping solos from Ornette Coleman, and subtle interplay between pianist Brad Mehldau, drummer Brian Blade and guitarist Marc Ribot help to create an album like no other released in '01.
23. Gorillaz s/t (EMI)
Joshua Ostroff: Ignore the silly cartoons and just sit back and enjoy the unlikely synthesis of avant garde beat-maker Dan the Automator, Blur's Damon Albarn, Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori, Kid Koala and Del the Funkee Homosapien. Spacy hip-pop that single-handedly revives the supergroup.
Chuck Molgat: The hyped-up cartoon character gimmick may have been a little hard to swallow, but this veritable supergroup's inventive songwriting and fresh, genre-challenging compositions go down way easy.
24. Bran Van 3000 Discosis (Grand Royal)
Joshua Ostroff: Alas, their label Grand Royale may have disintegrated but Montreal's coolest cats still manage to avoid an L.A. hangover and bring Curtis Mayfield back from the dead.
25. Clan of Xymox Subsequent Pleasures (Metropolis Records)
26.Nick Cave No More Shall We Part (Mute/Warner)
Fred Davies: There is a depth of maturity in Cave's lyrics and delivery that was never fully realized in previous recordings. Including the collaborations of Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis and the McGarrigle Sisters, this is a collection of songs that celebrate the redemptive power of love with stark beauty and restraint.
27.Beta Band Hot Shots II (Astralwerks/Virgin)
Michael Edwards: After making us all think that their EPs were just a fluke, they managed to make the album they always threatened to.
28.Ron Sexsmith Blue Boy (Linus/Warner)
Michael Johnston: Producer Steve Earle brings less twang and more Revolver to cushion Sexsmith's melodic gems. And, finally, long time drummer Don Kerr gets to play his heart out.
29.Steve Wynn Here Come The Miracles (Blue Rose)
Spiritualized Let It Come Down (BMG)
Cam Lindsay: Another masterpiece by a very undervalued genius. Hearing how much work Jason Pierce put into this record really makes me feel lazy.
Chris Waters: Yes, it's merely more of the same old, same old and some of the lyrical wordplays are truly cringe-worthy. But there's no denying the sonic thrill of listening to these full-scale freak outs.
Spoon Girls Can Tell (Merge)
Eric Hill: Is their label-hopping/dropping suffering at an end? Whether it is or not the album they've made along the way speaks volumes to the merits of instability. Just as energetic but a few light days away from the sound which got them pegged as Pixies wannabes up 'til now. Pray they stay as they are (if that's what it takes).
Michael Edwards: The spirit of Stiff Records lives on with one of the most finely crafted albums in recent memory. And yet the curse of Spoon lives on because Girls Can Tell slipped through the cracks again.
34.Unwound Leaves Turn Inside You (Kill Rock Stars)
Cam Lindsay: I never gave a shit about this band until I heard this. Two discs of experimental post-punk that is as close to Daydream Nation as you can get.
Eric Hill: Everything they always were plus everything you never expected they'd be. On two CDs. With no filler. Damn.
35.Tortoise Standards (Thrill Jockey)
Fred Davies: Studio trickery cannot disguise the high level of musicianship and exploratory genius evident here.
36.Tindersticks Can Our Love... (Beggars Banquet/Select)
Michael White: Still half-drunk, still friendless, still troubling the ear of the same bartender, still unable to entice a woman to stay, still going home alone in the same taxi, still raining outside. Still pop's most sumptuous glamorisers of failure.
International Noise Conspiracy A New Morning, Changing Weather (Burning Heart/Epitaph)
Chuck Molgat: Sweden's most stylish commies come out swinging with another collection of lefty diatribes and emphatic rock'n'roll. Socialism hasn't been this sexy since Marx trimmed his beard.
Here's to Shutting Up (Merge)
Eric Hill: More than ten years after "Slack Motherfucker" and Superchunk have managed to not only stick around, but pull the slippery trick of maturing without getting old. This eighth studio album follows the progression of added strings and keyboards begun a few years back, but here they're featured in a much more organic fashion than the Jim O'Rourke produced Come Pick Me Up. Solid melodies, 3.2 metric tonnes of hooks, creepy pre-September 11th plane crash references, and angst that's neither teenage nor cliched but yours to use.
38.January I Heard Myself In You (Poptones UK)
Rob Bolton: A treat to listen to from start to finish: great songs, varied tempos and emotions. The overall sound is incredible, which ranges from huge washes of guitar, right down to softer acoustic tracks. The single "Through Your Skies" is a perfect pop song. It features a stunning mix of acoustic, pedal-steel, and electric guitars combined with smooth vocals, and a great build up to the climactic finale. I can listen to it 100 times in a row without getting bored, which is an amazing feat.
39.American Steel Jagged Thoughts (Lookout Records)
Rob Ferraz: You got your circa 1978 New Wave into my circa now Berkeley Punk Rock. Result? Delicious repeated listening.
40.Tool Lateralus (Zomba)
Roman Sokal: Yes, Tool. It's more calculated than Ted Bundy and the moon landing, or Pink Floyd remixed by Carl Jung.
Bardo Pond Dilate (Matador)
Sean Palmerston: Wicked. The best record of the year hands down.
41.Covenant United States of Mind (Metropolis)
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions Bavarian Fruit Bread (Sanctuary/EMI)
Michael White: Solitude occasionally nurtures a fleeting moment of intense spiritual uplift, when the rest of the world vanishes and you become your own sovereign solar system. This is that moment, drawn out like spun sugar into 50 minutes of bliss.
Rob Bolton: Mazzy Star may have disappeared, but Sandoval keeps their spirit alive with this sparse, beautiful acoustic album.
46.Kristin Hersh Sunny Border Blue (4AD)
Vinita Ramani: After venturing into more whimsical territory with Strange Angels and Sky Motel, Hersh released Sunny Border Blue which came full circle and took her back to her sardonic, acerbic roots first seen in the Throwing Muses, and in her debut acoustic effort, Hips and Makers. Right from the opening track, Hersh's raw Georgian-accent tinged voice and the slightly off-kilter chord structures hit the gut. She manages to juxtapose a sad and beautiful Cat Stevens cover, "Trouble," with her own material making for a sombre, gut-wrenching listen.
James Pleased to Meet You (Universal)
Chris Waters: British pop group James rebounds to the high of its classic 1994 album Laid on this disc which blends pop songwriting with flourishes of electronica. The 11-track album thrives on moody invention and the music throbs with restless innovation.
Telepathic Butterflies Nine Songs (PBM)
Chuck Molgat: With this debut full-length effort, Winnipeg's Telepathic Butterflies proved that '60s inspired pop need not subscribe to predictable retro convention to work its magic. The combo is also one of the most engaging live acts to come out of Manitoba in years.
Ultrababyfat Eight Balls In Reverse (Orange Recordings)
Rob Ferraz: Southern belles who can rock as well as they serenade. They won't be an underground secret much longer.
Michael White: Canada's first true orchestral pop masterpiece. This should occasion a national holiday.
Dears Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique (Shipbuilding)
Lorraine Carpenter: A precious EP crafted with the care and grandeur these four songs deserve.
Kepler Fuck Fight Fail (Troubleman/Resonant)
53.A Camp s/t (EMI)
Roman Sokal: A Camp is the solo persona from The Cardigans' Nina Persson and produced with an edge by Herr Doppler-Effect Mark Linkous (the ghost behind Sparklehorse). Linkous casts his psychologically psychedelic country soil sounds all over the album, utilizing his workhorse samplers, humming mellotrons, stretching strings and other various mystery gadgets of unknown origin. Ms. Persson gets completely submerged deep within an array of environments ranging from sophisticated Swedish country, intelligently unorthodox pop to planes of near-futuristic oblique folk and jazz. However, at the core of each addictively angelic song is Persson's beautiful, exquisite and sultry voice that is mixed perfectly in a manner that sounds like flowing water, and Linkous always makes sure it grabs you first and foremost. And then from there, it only gets better.
54.Duncan Sheik Phantom Moon (Nonesuch/Warner)
Chris Waters: The stakes are high for Duncan Sheik's Phantom Moon, an homage to British troubadour Nick Drake. But the end result differs from Drake's sparse songs that Sheik ultimately escapes comparison. Phantom Moon comes off as a more composed effort than Drake's signature works. The folk-based tracks are gussied up with a shimmering pop sheen, which puts the best face forward on these richly melodic and thoughtful songs.
55.Danny Michel In the Belly of a Whale (Indie)
Jason Schneider: After years of obscurity, the album that at least made him a national critic's favourite. Now if only a few more people would buy it...
56.Joel Plaskett Emergency Down at the Khyber (Brobdingnagian)
Michael Barclay: Why did he spend the '90s cowering? Plaskett has matured into a lyrical songwriter unafraid of Big Rock Statements and heartfelt Canadiana.
57.Pulp We Love Life (Island/Universal)
Michael White: Britain's most habitually droll group retreat from privileged urban complaint into the idyllic splendor of nature, and in doing so create their first great album.
58.Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros Global A Go Go (Hellcat)
Rob Ferraz: Grizzled punk forefather hits his stride with a bit of everything on this rootsy record that improves with each spin.
59.Webb Brothers Maroon (Warner UK)
Rob Bolton: A musical tour-de-force. A great mix of classic Elvis Costello-era pop and modern hooks. Lots of fun to listen to and consistently strong tracks throughout the album.
60.The London Quireboys This Is Rock 'N' Roll (Sanctuary)
Greg Pratt: This amazing pub rock will appeal to any partyin' metaller. Totally life-affirming, this one has seen many, many spins on my player. I'm dead serious here, shut up!
61.Shannon Wright Dyed In The Wool (Quarterstick)
62.Dismemberment Plan Change (DeSoto)
63.Wolfsheim Spectators (Indigo)
64.Ida The Braille Night (Tiger Style)
65.Jeff Beck You Had It Coming (Epic/Sony)
Veda Hille Field Trip (indie)
Fred Davies: Just Veda and her piano. Music that is at times cacophonous at others strange and delicate. Thematically she explores the cycles of nature with song titles such as "Bird Song and Observations: Water. Much of the album is reflections on her recent trip to the Yukon - a clearly inspired trip, evident by the dynamic playing and startling lyrical imagery.
Alsace Lorraine Through Small Windows (Darla)
Rob Bolton: Dreamy, trippy pop that blends warm electronics, '80s style soft guitars, and the ethereal, childlike voice of Caitlin Brice. Perfect for headphone listening or drives through the country. The track "Dreams I Can't Control" is one of the best pop songs of the year.
New Order Get Ready (Warner)
Rob Bolton: I really didn't think these geezers would have been able to pull it off, but they did. Even though they're over 40 and it had been years since they released an album (or anybody cared), Get Ready is a fantastic, catchy New Order record that sounds remarkably relevant in 2001.
Al Tuck The New High Road of Song (Brobdingnagian)
Chris Waters: Ten tracks of pure magic. These quietly understated songs resonate with a warm intensity, which continues to thrill months after the disc's February release.
Califone Roomsound (Perishable)
Eric Hill: The Red Red Meat alumni continue not to fix that which still sounds broken: their amps, time signatures, Tim Rutili's voice. If only all blues records sounded like this.
Copyright The Hidden World (BMG)
Jason Schneider: Tom Anselmi could be the Leonard Cohen of his generation. A tough record that reveals more with each spin.
Randy The Human Atom Bombs (Epitaph)
Rob Ferraz: Swedish pop punk kings are ready to bust out with this one. Highly addictive stuff.
Rocket From the Crypt Group Sounds (Vagrant)
Electric Wizard Dopethrone (Music Cartel)
Ikon On the Edge of Forever (Metropolis)
Ivy Long Distance (Nettwerk)
Ohgr Welt (Spitfire)
Kimberley Rew Tunnel Into Summer (Gadfly)
Mark Eitzel The Invisible Man (Matador)
Eric Hill: It's a delicate operation: rescuing yourself from self-parody without abandoning... well in Eitzel's casing it would be abandoning the abandon of hope. With hints of electronics (not at Björk levels, more soft focus Mitch Froom) and a rousing song about proclaiming joy in the face of existential horror to cap the album, Mark has done just that.
Ash Free All Angels (Infectious UK)
Rob Bolton: The Irish power-pop masters return with a vengeance. Unlike their dismal last release, this is more what we'd expect from Ash: killer high-energy guitar pop songs with sing-along choruses.
New Town Animals Is Your Radio Active? (Mint)
Rob Ferraz: The second coming of 77 punk in all its sneering glory.
Crooked Fingers Bring On The Snakes (Warm)
Milemarker Anaesthetic (Jade Tree)
Kingsbury Manx Let You Down (Overcoat)
Red House Painters Old Ramon (Sub Pop)
Eric Hill: The other San Francisco Mark (not Eitzel) has rescued, not himself, but this album from the abyss; one which was created post-label mergers a few years back. He earns extra points for also releasing two more albums under his own name (Mark Kozelek), including What's Next to the Moon his homage to AC/DC which deserves this slot just as much.
Strawberry Smell Odorama (Rainbow Quartz)
Michael Edwards: When it comes to borrowing tunes, sounds and ideas, Odorama is a lawsuit just waiting to happen. But the Strawberry Smell manage to just stop short of plagiarism and the result is very enjoyable indeed.
Wayne Omaha Can the Maps Go for the Beauty (Bobby Dazzler)
Chuck Molgat: With a nod to Galaxie 500, this Toronto combo proves that loose and lazy aren't necessarily negative adjectives when it comes to composing imaginative tunes. Shoegazing is fun again, and it's about time, too.
Four Corners Say You're a Scream (Kindercore)
Lorraine Carpenter: A cool American take on mod and rock n' roll, featuring female vocal harmonies and slabs of shoegazing.
Paintbox Singing Shouting Crying (Ugly Pop)
Rob Ferraz: Japanese thrashers deftly combine Iron Maiden, GBH and Motorhead with ear-shredding results.
Victims Family Apocalicious (Alternative Tentacles)
Palace Of Orange Prepare To Greet A Guest (Rubric)
Laurie Anderson Life on a String (Nonesuch/Warner)
Gem Sunglare Serenades (Pitch a Tent)
Perry Farrell Song Yet to be Sung (Virgin)
Hawksley Workman (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves (Isadora)
Michael Barclay: Deservedly elevated Workman from romantic cult hero to mainstream appeal, thanks to the modern-day cabaret arrangements and the lustiest pop since Prince.
Push Kings Feel No Fade (Le Grand Magistery)
Rob Bolton: Unlike many of the other artists on Le Grand Magistery, Push Kings are a straight ahead rock band. Although there's a disturbingly "mainstream" sound to this album, it's filled with enough classic hooks to leave a strong, valuable impression.
Low Things We Lost In The Fire (Kranky)
Michael Edwards: More fragile beauty from Low on their most consistent album to date. Probably the quietest album that Steve Albini has ever been involved with.
Russian Futurists Method of Modern Love (indie)
Marc Roy: With superb staying power, Matthew Adam Hart delivers the Pet Sounds of the New Millennium
Annette Farrington Azure, Wonder and Lust (CBV)
Richard Lloyd The Cover Doesn't Matter (Upsetter)
The Minders Golden Street (SpinArt)
Warhorse As Heaven Turns to Ash (Southern Lord)
Blurtonia s/t (indie)
Built to Spill Ancient Melodies of the Future (Warner)
The Clean Getaway (Merge)
Rufus Wainwright Poses (Dreamworks/Universal)
Michael White: Flawed and too eager to please an audience that will never love him, this is still very much the work of an utterly unique songwriting voice. The title track is the sound of teardrops falling onto silk bedsheets.
The Swallows Turning Blue (Magnetic Angel)
Chris Waters: Blending big pop melodies and distorted guitars might seem like old hat in 2001, but Glenn Milchem scored a modest triumph with this collection of tunes which showcase a strong sense of songwriting.
Riptides Appetite For Rejection (Goblin Records)
Rob Ferraz: Canada's answer to the Queers and Screeching Weasel punch you out with their third one. No wonder Joe Queer and Mass Giorgini want to record them.
Air 10,000 Hz. Legend (Virgin)
Lorraine Carpenter: Reliable Frenchies abandon obvious hits for deep, dark sonic masturbation.
Acid Mothers Temple New Geocentric World (Squealer)
Frank Black And The Catholics Dog In The Sand (Sonic Unyon)
Sunless Day Electric Ahhh . (Amazing Grease)
Peter Murphy aLive: Just for Love (Metropolis)
Cosmic Rough Riders Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine (Poptones)
Michael Edwards: Continuing the great Scottish tradition of melodic guitar pop, the Cosmic Rough Riders album single-handedly kept Alan McGee's newest venture going. It's timeless stuff that could have come out any time during the last thirty years.
Eric's Trip The Eric's Trip Show (Teenage USA)
Fred Davies: Okay, the tunes aren't new but the raw intensity and searing angst represented in these career-spanning live tracks are a poignant reminder of the brilliance this band was capable of.
Exploders New Variations (Teenage USA)
Rob Ferraz: Raunchy garage masters grace us with a debut record filled with memorable riffs and a hefty dose of weirdness.
Fridge Happiness (Temporary Residence)
Alisdair Roberts The Crook Of My Arm (Secretly Canadian)
The Dipsomaniacs The Life You're Faking (Face Down)
Call and Response s/t (Emperor Norton)
Tricky Woo Les Sables Magiques (Sonic Unyon)
Michael Barclay: One of the only bands today who can tastefully pull off a three-minute guitar solo in the middle of a seven-minute Zeppelinesque punk epic.
Richmond Sluts s/t (Disaster Records)
Rob Ferraz: Glam-loving youngsters blend '70s trash with '60s garage for an excellent debut album that'll leave you feeling a little dirty.
Tram Frequently Asked Questions (Jetset)
Rob Bolton: Tram make the ultimate late-night listening music. This, their second album, has smoother songs, and even features a great Tim Buckley cover. Excellent.
Calla Scavengers (Quatermass)
Michael Edwards: This atmospheric gem of an album slowly crept up into my top ten with every listen.
Manic Street Preachers Know Your Enemy (Sony)
Lorraine Carpenter: A return from the brink of MOR for these Welsh politico-punks.
G Love The Electric Mile (Epic)
Guided By Voices Isolation Drills (TVT)
Juno A Future Lived in Past Tense (DeSoto)
The following album received enough votes to place it in the Top 20, which is highly unusual because it was rejected by Reprise Records, a division of Warner, and only available for public consumption when the band streamed it on their website. Its forthcoming official release on Nonesuch Records, also a division of Warner, is scheduled for April 2002. Nonetheless, it obviously made enough of an impression for several Exclaim! critics to place it in their own personal top ten for the past fiscal year.
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (unreleased)
Vinita Ramani: Not an official release, though it was originally scheduled to be released for mid-2001. Ex-Uncle Tupelo member Jeff Tweedy along with a now-and-then changing line-up of members, has penned a collection of songs that move the band into all kinds of new musical territories with the help of producer Jim O'Rourke. It's probably a little redundant to say it is a "departure" from an alt-country sound, because Wilco never held onto this after the demise of Uncle Tupelo. The breathtaking opening track, with its tongue-in-cheek but also oddly serious title "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," is a beautiful way to begin an album. It is an understated album, well-held together, but without the probable monotony that cohesion can sometimes lead to.
Sean Palmerston: The person at Reprise Records that made the decision to drop the band, saying this record was not commercial enough, is obviously a fucking idiot and/or has no musical taste. Probably both.