Posted by: Dave on January 5, 2002 at 11:32 am

– Dave Powers (As posted in January 2002 on; revised slightly 9/10/06)

Working for MTV, MTV2 and VH1 this past year as a producer/writer, and writing
concert previews for Washington, D.C.’s CityPaper, not to mention posting album
and concert reviews for this very Internet radio station, I was around a wide variety
of music in 2001. My album picks this year (as they always have) run the gamut of popular music: pop, rock, metal, hip hop, r&b, electronica and of course, indie-
rock. While the albums at the top this year don’t illustrate the same brilliance as
last year’s top 3 on my list (1. At the Drive In Relationship of Command 2. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 3. Outkast Stankonia), there’s a steady crop of strong
albums from 1 to 20 and very little separating one from the next. Without further
adieu, here are my picks for the top 20 albums of 2001:

1. The Strokes Is This It (RCA) – Sure the hype has been overbearing, but
they were the best band out there this year. Ignore the buzz and just listen to the
album. Their Velvet Underground-ish punk scores hit after hit. It’s feel-good, dirty, NYC rock that isn’t entirely original, but well crafted and fun. And although, there
are far greater repercussions to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, it really does
suck that one of them is the exclusion of “New York City Cops” from the stateside
version of the album. It’s their best song, and one of the top 5 songs of the year.
Including it solidifies the album at this year’s top spot.
Buy CD

2. Fugazi The Argument (Dischord) – With their self-titled EP, Margin
EP and the album Repeater, Fugazi set a lofty level of excellence for
political emo-core 12-13 years ago. Throughout the 90s, the band maintained
their mythical DIY status, and released some incredible songs, but their albums
were mostly inconsistent. With “The Argument” they have returned with perhaps
their strongest effort ever. Only occasionally manic and aggressive, the new
Fugazi is more about finesse, laid-back grooves and, as always, daring musical
progressions. The message and attitude remain, but it’s chilled- out and often
just gorgeous.
Buy CD

3. Jay-Z The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella) – More soulful and intimate than his
last couple albums, The Blueprint is often a disturbing and heartwarming look at
life in the streets through Jay-Z’s eyes. But there’s time for boasting, name-
calling and pimpin’ too. The balance, along with an endless string of provocative
beats, lyrics and samples, make this a very complete Hip Hop album. And with
very few guest appearances, HOVA keeps the album personal and demonstrates
that he’s in top form.
Buy CD

4. System of A Down Toxicity (American) – The schizophrenic,
progressive, and political metal contained on System of A Down’s 1998 self-titled
debut album was so earth-shatteringly original and captivating, you had to wonder if they could ever follow it up. Three-plus years between albums certainly added
to the suspense and raised doubt. Their sophomore effort is less perfect and
wacky, but it’s still some of the most original and important music on the planet.
Buy CD

5. The White Stripes White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record
– Brash but sweet, and raw but polished, the garage rock duo of Jack
and Meg White cover a lot of ground for two people. Well-developed lyrics and
original hooks throughout catapult their third album to greatness.
Buy CD

6. The Shins Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop) – The Shins make
ambitious pop reminiscent of Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd and Pet Sounds-era
Beach Boys with Who-like energy. The album is a steady stream of quirky, artful
gems that make their point quick and move on.
Buy CD

7. Basement Jaxx Rooty (Astralwerks) – Yes, dance music is always supposed to be fun, but Basement Jaxx make it really fun. With a large stable of vocalists singing everything from sugary pop to wistful musings to naughty grinds, there’s something for everyone. Rooty is one of the most well-rounded and accessible electronica albums ever.
Buy CD

8. Stephen Malkmus Stephen Malkmus (Matador) – The former
Pavement frontman shows he still has plenty to say on his own. Oddball hilarity,
slacker anthems and beautiful meditations make this a complete and user-
friendly solo debut.
Buy CD

9. Aaliyah Aaliyah (Blackground) – Aaliyah’s angelic voice silkily glides over digital r&b, hip hop and funk beats as she coos empowerment anthems and heartbroken reflections. The futuristic and forward-thinking production catapults urban music into a new stratosphere.
Buy CD

10. Death Cab for Cutie The Photo Album (Barsuk) – They make delicate and intricate indie-rock with observant and insightful lyrics. Each listen
will reveal new ideas and melodies that stick in your head and suck you in further.
Buy CD

11. Guided By Voices Isolation Drills (TVT) – The long-time kings of lo-fi
rock have graduated into a more polished level. Isolation Drills is an album full of
songs, as opposed to the traditional bunch of highly promising, but
underdeveloped fragments with smatterings of complete ideas. Now Bob Pollard
reveals what we had to assume all along: he can write a complete album if he
wants to. For those who were frustrated by so many of the unfinished gems of the past, here’s an album’s worth of both gorgeous and rocking 60s-British Invasion-
inspired beauties in finished form.
Buy CD

12. Clinic Internal Wrangler (Domino) – Vintage synths, fuzz guitar, a
mouth organ and other clamorous sounds over danceable rhythms – that’s the
backdrop upon which Clinic deliver a slew of memorable melodies. Though they
blatantly pilfer one track each from T-Rex and the13th Floor Elevators, few will
notice. Besides, they offer so many fresh, retro-minded twists that they’re
(Note: UK release 2000. US release 2001.)
Buy CD

13. The Living End Roll On (Warner Brothers) – The often political and always hell-raising Australians could be described as The Clash with blistering metal riffs and solos. Their sizzling guitar work puts them in a category separate from all the other pop punkers with tight harmonies and irresistible hooks. Unfortunately two of the albums three lackluster tracks are near the beginning, but hang in there, the rest of the ride is a unique experience.
Buy CD

14. Quasi The Sword of God (Touch and Go) – On their fifth album, the
once-married duo of Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss deliver another dose of
cynicism, hopelessness and paranoia packaged in sugary sweetness.
Buy CD

15. Aesop Rock Labor Days (Definitive Jux) – With Oriental and Indian
strings and horns over spare beats, Aesop Rock raps in a mysterious and
intellectual world similar to the Wu Tang Clan’s. However, he’s just one MC
handling the large majority of the vocal responsibilities. A lyrical idea like “Rip Van Winkle’s 12-step narcolepsy seminar” is just one example of the off-the-wall,
highbrow rhymes he comes up with. There are many more bizarre twists in his
fascinating world.
Buy CD

16. Missy Elliot Miss E…So Addictive (Elektra) – Amazing Timbaland beats, hot R&B harmonies, percussive vocal noises and raw MCing make for some incredible highs. But there are some lows that disrupt the flow. Just skip around a little and you’ll be in good shape.
Buy CD

17. Bob Dylan Love and Theft (Columbia)With nearly 40 years of
recording under his belt, it’s impressive that the 60-year-old Dylan was able to put
out something this solid. His menacing vocals are almost superhuman and a
must hear. Through blues-rock, bluegrass, jazzy ragtime and intimate ballads,
the greatest lyricist of our time continues his unparalleled career.
Buy CD

18. Superchunk Here’s To Shutting Up (Merge) – The mellower,
gentler Superchunk of the new millennium is a far cry from the noisy indie-rock
darlings of the past. But they still write fantastic songs. Track for track, they are
endearing and steady.
Buy CD

19. Preston School of Industry All This Sounds Gas (Matador) The mellower, gentler Superchunk of the new millennium is a far cry from the noisy indie-rock darlings of the past. But they still write fantastic songs. Track for track, they are endearing and steady.
Buy CD

20. Gorillaz Gorillaz (Virgin)Damon Albarn’s (Blur) animated side project is actually one of his most consistent and innovative albums to date. An eclectic stew of Brit-pop, hip- hop, trip-hop and more, Gorillaz creates Beck-like
concoctions, although not quite of the same lofty caliber.
Buy CD

One Response to “Top 20 Albums of 2001”

  1. New Music Nation » Blog Archive » Top 100 Albums of the ’00s Says:

    […] 11. Fiona Apple Extraordinary Machine (Epic) 12. Kings of Leon Youth and Young Manhood (RCA) 13. Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand (Domino) 14. My Morning Jacket Evil Urges (ATO) 15. Outkast (Big Boi) Speakerboxxx (Arista/La Face) 16. The Strokes Is This It (RCA) 17. 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (Interscope/Shady/Aftermath) 18. Jay-Z The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella) 19. The Arcade Fire Funeral (Merge) 20. My Chemical Romance Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (Reprise) […]

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