Cover Story: The Year in Music: 2001

Local musicians and music biz folks pick the best albums of the year

 
The Strokes at the Southgate House



Last year, for the first time, CityBeat asked a handful of local artists to tell us what they loved best about the year just finished. The experiment was a huge success, so once again we've picked some of the city's best musicians (and a few local-music friendly radio people) and asked them to reflect on the past 365 days or so (with apologies to the Wu Tang Clan and anyone else silly enough to put a new record out during the last two weeks of the year).

BOOM BIP, DJ
1. cLOUDDEAD — cLOUDDEAD (Mush Records) This trio has just landed a record deal with Ninja Tune's offshoot Big Dada and recently contributed to John Peel's "Peel Sessions" which will be out soon.

2. Aphex Twin — Drukqs (Warp Records) I had the pleasure of playing a Warp Nesh party this summer with him and all I have to say is his fans are more insane than the girls on The Ed Sullivan Show with the Fab Four! The fractured beats and manipulated melodies are done in an impeccable manner that only Richard can deliver.

3. Four Tet — Pause (Domino Records UK) Kieran (Four Tet) is a friend of mine who deserves high praises for this album. He has worked with others such as Pole, Aphex Twin, The Cinematic Orchestra and David Holmes.

His side band, Fridge, served as the back-up band for Badly Drawn Boy throughout Japan, U.K. and Europe. Songs from this album will be popping up on Nike commercials very soon. Look for the remix project of Pause — titled Paws — out on Domino featuring a remix of "No More Mosquitoes" by yours truly.

4. The Strokes — Is This It (RCA Records). I know it's trendy to like this album, but I really like it.

5. Radiohead — Amnesiac (Capitol Records) This album blew me away the first time I heard it and still challenges me every time I listen to it. Capitol A&R guru Perry Watts (responsible for Radiohead being signed to Capitol) said to me himself over a bowl of Skyline chili that "they will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before their hair turns gray." There is no doubt.

6. Antipop Consortium — The Ends Against the Middle (Warp). This group is truly breathing fresh air into the mouth of Hip Hop. Some call it "Blip-Hop" ... I don't.

7. Nudge — Trick Doubt (Outward Music Company) It took them three years to make this album, but it paid off in the end. The perfect blend of live instrumentation and fractured electronics.

8. Björk — Vespertine (Elektra) Beautiful album. Beautiful production. Beautiful lyrics. Beautiful woman.

9. Various Artists — Lexoleum Part One (Lex Records) Nice variety of artists on this compilation. The best part about this release is the anticipation it builds for the future of this label and the artists on it. It also includes an absolutely brilliant song titled "U R Here." Look it up at www.lexrecords.com.

10. Vincent Gallo — When (Warp) Depressing art-boy love songs at their best. Very simplistic yet honest approach to music.

DANA HAMBLEN, Fairmount Girls/Culture Queer/Ditchweed
1. Sigur Ros — Agaetis Byrjun Dreamy space pop sung in Icelandic.

2. Radiohead — Amnesiac

3. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club All-over-the-place Rock. Great for playing the "name their influences" game.

4. Ass Ponys — Lohio Folk-song/Bluegrass-inspired Rocktronica. Love when the guitar kicks in on the first song.

5. Metrovavan — Retrofitting Groovy Pop dance numbers. Looper spin-off.

6. Jim O'Rourke — Insignificance Adult Chicago Pop instrumentation. Worth it for the twisted cover art alone.

7. Busy Signals — Baby's First Beats Beat box Indie Pop. Cover art by Yoshitomo Nara.

8. Björk — Vespertine Late night beats and beautiful tones to match her swoon.

9. Tipsy — Uh-Oh! Emperor Norton style. Uma Sumac meets Carl Stalling in Tokyo.

10. Various — All Tomorrow's Parties 1.0 Smart, tasteful, modern compilation album chosen and hosted by Tortoise.

DAVE PURCELL, Pike 27
1. Ass Ponys — Lohio The finest release yet from the most unsung Rock band in the land.

2. Willie Nile — Beautiful Wreck of the World A perfect cross between Patti Smith and The Waterboys' Mike Scott. Bono, Robbie Robertson, Lou Reed and Lucinda Williams think Willie's a genius. Why don't you?

3. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band — Live In New York City This record captures all of the power and majesty of a live Springsteen show, and the two new songs prove that Bruce is still one of the best writers around. (I'm a recent Springsteen convert, by the way.)

4. Pete Yorn — musicforthemorningafter Soulful, driving Pop with just the slightest hint of roots influence. "Life on a Chain" is my single of the year.

5. Jay Farrar — Sebastopol A breath of fresh air after the last, stale Son Volt record. An expanded sonic palette — led by Steve Drozd of the Flaming Lips — serves Farrar's dense wordplay and melancholy melodies well.

6. Clabbergirl — I Feel Pretty This Cincinnati trio cranks out the best dirty Pop this side of the Buzzcocks.

7. Scott Miller — Thus Always To Tyrants Scott Miller is one of the best young songwriters around and his solo debut does not disappoint. Fiery, intelligent Roots Rock at its best.

8. Lucinda Williams — Essence Lucinda is The Queen. A smoldering, sexy blend of Rock, Folk and Delta Blues, at once timeless and forward-looking.

9. Messerly & Ewing — The Last Twelve Hours A fantastic blend of inspired Roots rock and thoughtful Folk from the Cincy duo, aided and abetted by a strong roster of guest musicians. True Americana.

10a. Wilco — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Finally, the songs and the experimentation come together. Finally, a Wilco record deserving of the hype. YHF is light years better than the uneven, overrated Summerteeth.

10b. Steve Wynn — Here Come The Miracles A two-CD return to form from the former Dream Syndicate chief. Real blood-stained Rock in a world increasingly devoid of it. Why are people afraid to rock? Thank goodness Wynn isn't.

JASON PHELPS, Pay the Girl
1. Nickelback — Silver Side Up Not only are the songs good, but the record sounds great. The drums are huge, and the guitar sounds have just the right amount of grime and definition. In my opinion, "How You Remind Me" is produced to perfection, the best commercial Rock song that I've heard within the last few years.

2. John Hiatt — The Tiki Bar Is Open A friend of mine turned me on to John when I was in college at OU. I've been a fan ever since that time. Although Walk On is my favorite effort, this CD has all the elements of classic Hiatt. His heartfelt lyrics and genuine performances make for a great record.

3. Sting — All This Time This CD was recorded live in Italy on Sept. 11, 2001. You can definitely sense a mood and emotion that we all felt on that tragic day, especially on the slower, more mellow cuts. The songs come across really well, and I think that is in part because his band uses dynamics within the tunes so well.

4. Default — The Fallout I'm probably a little biased because these guys are label mates of ours, but I feel like I've given it a fair listen. Default is from Canada, and their debut on TVT is full of raw energy. Maybe you've heard the single, "Wasting My Time" on WEBN-FM or seen the video on MTV. Good band, good CD.

5. Lucinda Williams — Essence This one has a permanent slot in my disc changer, right next to Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. She's got a great voice and a style that is all her own. Like Car Wheels, this is one you can listen to from beginning to end and not be disappointed.

6. Incubus — Morning View I like this band a lot. "Drive" was a big crossover hit for the band, and this new one has the potential to really solidify Incubus' place in the Rock world. I think their melodies and phrasing have a really cool vibe.

7. Shawn Colvin — Whole New You She had taken a bit of a hiatus after her last record but came back with this one earlier in 2001. She's a great songwriter, and I find her voice to be extremely soothing.

8. Ryan Adams — Gold I was a big fan of Whiskeytown and always wondered if they would get some attention. Well, Ryan has emerged and has made a name for himself. I'm a sucker for great singer/songwriters and he falls right into that category. I wonder why he is selling himself short — he should have called the CD Platinum. Great disc.

9. Dave Matthews Band — Everyday Dave broke away from his long-time producer Steve Lillywhite and worked with Glen Ballard on Everyday. I think Glen gave the band a bit of an edge and took the songs to another level. You really can't miss with a band this good, songs this good and a producer this good.

10. Aerosmith — Just Push Play These guys just flat out amaze me. They have been around forever and keep producing hit songs and great recordings. I have a lot of respect for the band and for their longevity in the music business.

JACOB HEINTZ, Buckra
10. The Damned — Grave Disorder Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible deliver. They may be going to hell, but they are rockin' all the way. Now if we could only get Bad Brains back together.

9. Northern Aggression's Bittersweet Relief CD release parties, one and deux (8/24/01 and 11/23/01) Bittersweet Relief is a local compilation of some of the best bands in the Tristate. Josh Asbury and his Northern Aggression label are welcome additions to the Cincinnati music scene.

8. CAMMY Award Show 2001 Even though Buckra is the Susan Lucci of the CAMMY awards (five nominations, five losses), I will always remember the solo guitar performance by lifetime achievement winner, Cal Collins. We lost one of the greats this year.

7. OutKast with Ludacris at the Firstar Center (3/16/01) Good Rap shows are few and far between. Last one I saw was Public Enemy in '93. Ludacris had the energy, but OutKast had the vision to take Rap beyond. The only thing missing ... Cee-Lo's guest performance. (I can dream can't I?)

6. 97X (WOXY-FM) Only a handful of Tristate stations support local music (thank you all). Only one goes to the extreme — Homebrew, Local Lixx, and 97xposure. Now if we could just knock down that country radio station tower that keeps bleeding in on the 97.7 signal.

5. Popopolis 2001 (11/10/01) Jay Hopper and crew do it again. Simply the best local music event of the year.

4. U2 Elevation Tour at Nationwide Arena in Columbus (5/7/01) Luck of the Irish indeed. This band just keeps delivering. As relevant now as they were in the '80s. Stunning.

3. Radiohead at Blossom Music Center near Cleveland (8/8/01) The best live band on the planet. What more can I say?

2. The Strokes CD Is This It and Southgate house show (10/14/01) The "It" band of the year actually delivered, both live and on CD. Unfortunately, you will have to buy the import to get the good CD cover and the song "New York City Cops." Damn American censors.

1. The healing power of music From every fundraising concert to benefit the Sept. 11 victims and their families, to every radio spin of "Imagine" or "God Bless America," to the first Afghan radio turned on in five years without risk of death or imprisonment — let music ring.

JASON SNELL, Readymaid
10. Iggy Pop — Beat 'Em Up Iggy still has it. When he performed on David Letterman a few months ago, I lost it! Iggy was amazing — for Christ sake, he had raw broccoli around his neck! Pop proves Beat 'Em Up packs the punch.

9. American Analog Set — Know By Heart AAS creates beautiful music. Greatest album drum work in '01. It was done in a basement!

8. The Shins — Oh Inverted World Caught these kids opening for Modest Mouse last year in Louisville. They were great and so is Inverted.

7. Built To Spill — Ancient Melodies BTS still rocks, and Ancient cures your hunger for guitars.

6. Tortoise — Standards Standards has to be my favorite Tortoise album! These folks have more talent than anyone in modern music. The drums kill.

5. Radiohead — Amnesiac Radiohead have always stood alone since OK Computer. This B-side collection continues their tradition of excellence.

4. The Strokes — Is This It Whether Bob Pollard "found" The Strokes or not, this is one hell of an album. I'm interested to hear the next — can they produce a killer Stones-ish acoustic cut? That would do me in.

3. Guided By Voices — Isolation Drills Isolation Drills is brilliant. Pollard and company brought all the right tools to the table and produced their best album to date. And that's an ass load! You cannot beat the anthem qualities of "Run Wild" and "Glad Girls." These two songs alone are astonishing — now about that tackling thing.

2. Sparklehorse — It's A Wonderful Life Sparklehorse has been the most underrated band in the past four years of Modern Rock. This album packs so much emotion, you're fooling yourself if you do not buy it.

1. Beta Band — Hot Shots II The Beta Band is the greatest band in the world. Hot Shots covers all the bases: It's got the beats, the instrumentation, the vocals, the emotion and the Rock. Don't let me kid you — like many Beta Band records, it takes a few listens. Once the listener gives it time it totally sinks into the cranium, the magic begins. Suddenly the world opens up, you realize these kids have a purpose and a total focus. If you give Hot Shots the proper attention, you might even "see the demons."

ZACH GABBARD, The Shams
1. Them Wranch — Medium Rare One of the most unknown, underrated and now defunct bands to grace these ears. Those boys should be famous for this album.

2. Andre Williams — Bait & Switch The man has soul, 'nuff said.

3. The Gazelles — The Void (10/31/01) Not enough shouts out for these guys. One of the only Rock & Roll bands left in Cincinnati

4. Apples in Stereo — Southgate House (9/12/01) One of my all time favorite bands before and after seeing them. They sound better live than their over-produced studio albums.

5. The Greenhornes — The Greenhornes Fingers, we shall miss thee.

6. Weezer — Weezer (Green) Not as good as Pinkerton, but Rivers thinks differently ... the medication probably helps.

7. Geraldine — Pure Bastard Rock The first album I've ever heard that captures a band's live sound on CD.

8. Brendan Benson — Lager House in Detroit (11/16/01) Came out of hiding after six years and sounded better for it.

9. Stephen Malkmus — Little Brother's in Columbus Being a big fan of Pavement, I was glad to see that he could do it on his own without relying on old Pavement material.

10. The Socials — You Dance, You Die Don't dance.

JASON ARBENZ, singer/songwriter
1. Ryan Adams — Gold (Lost Highway) Although this record's a bit toothless towards the top, and its Sunset Strip melancholy feels forced at times, the album's highlights are of a rare enough vintage to place it here. More importantly, its reception has made the music industry take notice, and if anything positive is to come out of the Sept. 11 attacks with regard to music, it's that maybe the masses are ready again for some substance in their music. And am I the only one to hear Jerry Garcia's influence in "Nobody Girl"?

2. Nick Cave — No More Shall We Part (Reprise) Cave returns with a beautiful, lush set of songs that display his sense of humor more than any I've heard. "We got a pretty little square, we got a woman for a mayor, our policy is firm but fair, now that God is in the house."

3. Robert Cray — Shoulda Been Home (Rykodisc). More of a Stax-sounding Soul record than a Blues guitar workout, Cray's put together a fantastic hour of tunes. Check "Love Sickness" for some stompin' party music.

4. Bob Dylan — Love And Theft (Columbia) I guess it's easy, when you're Bob Dylan.

5. Guided By Voices — Isolation Drills (TVT) One of Bob Pollard's earlier records this year is also his best. Picking up where Do The Collapse left off, Drills is fully-realized, Who-influenced GBV at their best. The faithful can keep the 4-track stuff.

6. Howlin' Maggie — HYde (Popfly) In the five years since Honeysuckle Strange, Harold Chichester disappeared beneath the national radar, losing his record deal and his entire band, before assembling HM Mach II, relocating his inspiration (love, chaos) and recording HYde. The record is testament to his heart and his talent. "Nobody Calls Her Baby" and "If I Could Murder The Right Man" each bleed isolation, as "Elephant Runs Amok" leaves a path of destruction in its wake.

7. Soulive — Doin' Something (Blue Note) Tricky, (mostly) instrumental Jazz/Funk from Jam band vets. Practically cleans your apartment for you.

8. The Strokes — Is This It (RCA) The most hyped Rock album of the year, incredibly, does not disappoint. Yes, they look almost too good to be true, and we've all been burned before, but these guys swing, Iggy-like, through a set of lo-fi classics, which sound familiar yet fresh, which, by the way, is IT.

9. Weezer — Weezer (Geffen). Rivers Cuomo returns and converts the little brothers and sisters of his old fans to his "Nerd Rock" (patent pending). In all likelihood, "Hash Pipe" must be the first song containing the word "ass wipe" to sniff Billboard's Top 100.

10. Wilco — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (label unknown) No, I haven't heard it, but I'm betting I'll like it better than the Pete Yorn record.

DAN WALZER, DW Project and Essence of Now Records
1. Jonatha Brooke — Steady Pull By far the best album of the year for me. Released on her own Bad Dog Records, Jonatha is a fantastic singer/songwriter. The album was co-produced by Bob Clearmountain and has amazing fidelity. Jonatha is my favorite female songwriter out there today.

2. The Bears — Car Caught Fire All I can say is "Wow." I'm a big Adrian Belew fan and Chris Arduser's drumming always fits the song so beautifully. The man has an incredible groove. There are just enough surprises to keep you glued to the album from start to finish. Glad it won "album of the year" at the CEAs.

3. Rob Fetters acoustic performance at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (11/26/01) Rob is a friend of mine, and seeing him perform in an intimate setting like that is a true joy ... on top of being a rarity.

4. Final Exit performance at Mad Frog in June Final Exit is a new Fusion band on the scene led by guitarist Bob Flury. They're killer and I can't wait to hear them on a record. We're going to do some shows in the near future.

5. Semi-Automatic These guys just released a single called "On My Way Down" which will be a hit on Modern Rock radio, I think. Anchored by former members of COTS, they're tearing it up! Dave Becknell is the man!

6. Aloha An Indie band from Cleveland featuring my good friend Cale Parks on drums (from Cincinnati). and Eric Koltnow on vibes. They're recording on Polyvinyl Records out of Chicago. They released a brand new disc in 2000 called That's Your Fire. These guys are a must-see live!

7. Falling Down Hard) Dave Purcell busted my Roots Rock cherry with this bittersweet, homesick tune that makes me want to drink a six pack of PBR, drive straight to Louisville and hug my mom after each late night listen.

7. Crosley at the Hope & Anchor 4/5/01, London: U2, the Clash, Bowie and the Pogues all once played at this cozy little hole in the wall in Camden Town, and to see these Milford boys open a five-date mini-tour, rocking hard and turning blasé Euro-heads gave my buzzing, jet-lagged soul quite a lift.

8. Simpletons — "The End" (from Method for Passion): Pretty popsters punk out and pummel with personal prose. A blistering, essential track off the group's sophomore effort.

9. Gorillaz — "Clint Eastwood" (from Gorillaz): Not since the Cosby Kids, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem or Josie and Pussycats has a cartoon band rocked my world. This song makes me drive up and down Montgomery Road in my Nissan hooptie with the seat pulled waaaay back. Put your hands in the air: "I ain't happy, I'm feeling glad ..."

10. Blood and Glitter (Vision On Publishing): A brilliant collection of concert photographs, album covers and portraits by the fabulous Mick Rock, erstwhile buddy of Bowie, Reed, Bolan, Mercury, etc. Historically important for his contribution to the Glam Rock scene and multiple legendary album covers (Transformer, Coney Island Baby, Queen II). His photos inspire and capture the true spirit of Rock & Roll in simple images.

CYNTHIA DYE, local music show "Kindred Saction" on WAIF-FM
1. WAIF Radio begins broadcasting online Now my friends believe me when I tell them WAIF is the best station in Cincinnati.

2. 2001 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Great live performances, and I got to meet Chuck Cleaver!

3. Greater Cincinnati Blues Festival at Sawyer Point The best of local and national Blues, and it was free.

4. Puzzle of Light's Sound Sculpture performance at Fairfield's Village Green Amphitheater I've never seen instruments like that before.

5. Zack Mechlem — The Haight Gang East meets West.

6. Fairmount Girls — Tender Trap It's fun to be a girl.

7. Abiyah — Flow Tectonics (poetry+beats=floetry) What an incredible poet.

8. Gravy8 — Miss The Boat Groovy, man, groovy.

9. The Damned — Grave Disorder OK, I know they aren't local, but I dig them!

10. Lloyd's Blues Music Festival at Riverbend featuring B.B. King , Buddy Guy and others. Watching B.B. King and Buddy Guy with my 4-year-old, Ian, was great. Did you know that kids under 5 get in free at Riverbend on the lawn?

NAPOLEON MADDOX, Iswhat?!
1. Self Scientific, "Self Science," Self Science

2. Reflection Eternal, "Memories Live," Train of Thought

3. KRS One, "Raptism," Sneak Attack

4. De De Johnson, "Journey to Freedom," Journey to Freedom

5. N Dambi, "Little Lost Girls Blues," Crazy World

6. Dilated Peoples, "Worst Comes to Worst," Expansion Team

7. Ursula Rucker, "Womansong," Supasista

8. One Drop, "Money," E.P.

9. Pep Love, "Pacific Heights," Ascension

10. Micronauts, "Kulture," Obelisk Movements

JASON GARGANO, CityBeat
1. The Strokes — Is This It The naysayers best step off. Derivative? Who isn't? Besides, if your going to rip someone off, who better than the Velvets, Television and Gang of Four?

2. Radiohead — Amnesiac No one follows their muse as faithfully or effectively as these guys. While The Bends remains their pinnacle, Amnesiac finds the Oxford, England, boys exploring yet another batch of intriguing sonic territories. Hats off again.

3. The White Stripes — White Blood Cells Meg and Jack White have gone from obscurity to household names as fast as that American Taliban guy — and siblings or not, it's much deserved. The Whites deliver their stripped-down Garage Blues with a rare combination of grace and grit.

4. Björk — Vespertine Vespertine sounds as if someone hijacked the musings of Bjork's immense imagination and downloaded them straight to your ears. For many, that's a scary proposition. I'm not scared.

5. Ass Ponys — Lohio Unlike MJ, the Ponys just keep getting better with age.

6. Guided By Voices — Isolation Drills While GBV's "studio" recordings have never lived up (not that they've actually tried) to their rousing live shows, Isolation Drills is their closest — and most consistent — effort yet.

7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — B.M.R.C Who said The Jesus and Mary Chain couldn't make another great record?

8. Chocolate Genius — Godmusic Marc Anthony Thompson's (aka Chocolate Genius) deep grooves and poetic meditations take time to fully penetrate. Godmusic is well worth the wait.

9. The Shins — Oh, Inverted World If Brian Wilson gave the world four sons instead of two daughters, Oh, Inverted World would be the result. The Shins are proof that Sub Pop can still do something right.

10. Fugazi — The Argument Groove-based atmospherics might take precedent over the all-out sonic assaults of yore, but the results are no less explosive or penetrating.

Honorable Mention (alphabetically):

Ryan Adams — Gold, Air — 10,000 Hz. Legend, Nikka Costa — Everybody Got Their Something, Bob DylanLove and Theft, Fairmount Girls — Tender Trap, The Handsome Family — Twilight, Alicia Keys — Songs in A Minor, Le Tigre — Feminist Sweepstakes, Stephen Malkmus — Stephen Malkmus, Mogwai — Rock Action, Pernice Brothers — The World Won't End, Trailer Bride — High Seas, Weezer — The Green Album

BRAD QUINN, CityBeat's Foreign Correspondent
1. Pete Yorn — musicforthemorningafter A friend and I once listened to this CD three times straight while looking for Sylvia's Mexican Restaurant in Northern Kentucky. Sylvia's isn't that hard to find, but the songs were so good that we didn't want to stop driving. Buy American.

2. Gillian Welch — Time (The Revelator) The best album yet from Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings. Sparsely produced and beautifully sung. Welch's latest take on American Roots music is a narrative as well as musical milestone.

3. Pulp — We Love Life After the boozy sleaziness of This Is Hardcore, England's finest living Pop group returns with an album about plants. Every home should have one.

4. Super Furry Animals — Rings Around the World After releasing MWNG, the best-selling Welsh language album ever, SFA returns with an ambitious mix of Beach Boys harmonies, psyched out Electronica, and guitar Pop. So what if some of the album's best melodies sound suspiciously familiar? SFA borrow from the best.

5. Ryan Adams — Gold More Country music for cool people. Forgive the hype and listen to tracks like "Sylvia Plath" and "The Rescue Blues."

6. Spencer Dickinson — Spencer Dickinson Jon Spencer and the Dickinson brothers from the North Mississippi All Stars team up for a session full of sonic surprises, humor, and raw bluesy Rock & Roll. Should be played at max volume.

7. The Band — In Concert (Capitol Re-Issue) Captures The Band live on New Year's Eve 1972. Repackaged with an extra CD of performances with Bob Dylan. One of the all-time great live albums.

8. Nick Cave — No More Shall We Part Cave usually sings as if he's trying to blow out all the candles on a birthday cake. But here he's uncharacteristically subdued. Chock full of darkly funny lyrical moments and delicate instrumental passages.

9. Ken Stringfellow — Touched The sometime Posies/Big Star member and R.E.M. sideman steps out with a keyboard-heavy solo set. The best thing to come out of the Posies camp since their 1995 classic, Frosting on the Beater.

10. The Strokes — Is This It The vocals sound like they were recorded on a White Castle Drive-thru window speaker. But it's the mustard and those little onions that make this one so irresistible.

BRIAN BAKER, CityBeat
1. The Shins — Oh Inverted World (Sub Pop) The Shins display a brilliant affinity with acclaimed Popmeisters like Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields), Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel), and Robert Schneider (Apples in Stereo), with dashes of the Paisley Underground's baroque shimmer and Ray Davies's Kinky Carnaby Street snap, crackle and Pop.

2. The Strokes — Is This It (RCA) The sound of New York then, the sound of New York now, the sound of New York triumphing over its role as target, evoking comparisons to the spare energy of the Velvet Underground, the punk ethic of the Ramones, and the lo-fi kitsch factor of Jonathan Richman.

3. Sense Field — Tonight and Forever (Nettwerk) After years of fussing with the formula, Sense Field has finally caught the right proportion of thrashing, thrilling Punk and soaring, anthemic Pop. The title is the instructions for playing the album.

4. Miranda Lee Richards — The Herethereafter (Virgin) Richards is the songbird for the new Folk Psychedelia, and The Herethereafter is her lightly polished Pop gem that checks influences from the Beatles to Nick Drake to the Mamas and the Papas.

5. Ben Folds — Rockin' the Suburbs (Epic) Ben Folds grows up, or at least some fair approximation of it, on Rockin' the Suburbs, his first solo venture without the Five. Maturity is a tough word to use with Folds, but he pulls it off without giving up too much of the smirk factor.

6. Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire — The Swimming Hour (Rykodisc) Former Squirrel Nut Zipper Andrew Bird successfully references every benchmark of Pop music over the past 60 years with very little regard for whether or not it's appropriate and does it simply because it's fun.

7. Loudon Wainwright III — Last Man on Earth (Red House) Who else but Loudon III could turn the anguish of his mother's death, the end of a relationship and a crippling bout of writer's block into one of the best Folk albums of the year?

8. Pernice Brothers — The World Won't Wait (Ashmont) The heir apparent to the orchestral Pop mastery of Burt Bacharach and the soulful Pop songwriting brilliance of Jimmy Webb, Joe Pernice continues to effortlessly churn out Pop albums of amazing depth and infinite charm.

9. Rufus Wainwright — Poses (Dreamworks) Loudon's son Rufus follows the baroque triumph of his 1998 debut with the masterful Pop of Poses. If daughter Martha comes up with an album next year that approaches her father's and brother's caliber, we're talking dynasty.

10. The White Stripes — White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Recording Industry) Maybe the only other band this year to receive as much hype as The Strokes and prove better than the words written about them. Whether siblings, divorced partners or their own grandparents, Meg and Jack White make a twisted Blues noise that is both rooted in tradition and completely contemporary.

MIKE BREEN, CityBeat
1. The Strokes ­ Is This It While the hype did indeed get to be a little overbearing, the backlash is even more ridiculous. If a great Rock & Roll album suffers from a little overexposure, so be it. Hey, it could've been Creed.

2. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad This book was my life, at least from a music fan standpoint. Each chapter takes on a different pioneering Indie band like Minor Threat, Big Black, The Replacements, Husker Du, Butthole Surfers and more. It's like a concise, well-written textbook for newer Indie Rock fans and an essential document for us old folks.

3. Beulah ­ The Coast Is Never Clear Like Wilco's Summerteeth album, with a refreshing an air of playfulness. Addicting.

4. Ron Sexsmith at Top Cat's Classy, funny and wonderfully dynamic, this gifted Canadian singer/songwriter gave one of the more elegant and graceful local concerts of the year.

5. U2 and Radiohead concerts You had to go to Columbus and the Cleveland area to see 'em, but it was worth the trip. After the Journeys and Styxsees of days gone by, it's amusing what Arena Rock has become.

6. Indianapolis Jazz Festival If the re-organized Jammin' On Main festival can come back next year and be anything like this multi-cultural event, a whole region of music fans will have something to smile about. The Jayhawks, Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, James Brown The Isley Brothers, Ramsey Lewis, Ohio Players, Chuck Mangione, Diane Schuur, The Neville Brothers and Poncho Sanchez are just some of the acts to appear.

7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ­ B.R.M.C. I love Rock & Roll, therefore I love this album.

8. Pete Yorn ­ musicforthemorningafter Charismatic and hook-filled, Yorn was another well-hyped Rock act that lived up to the brouhaha.

9. The Shazam at the Southgate House Fiery, classic Power Pop badness from Nashville's finest. And now they have local fella Greg Reynolds on second guitar, hopefully meaning they'll be hitting the local club circuit at least a couple more times in the new year. The band's Godspeed the Shazam is a must-have album of classic Rock & Roll songcraft.

10. The Shins ­ Oh, Inverted World A fantastic, creative Indie Pop album marred only by the memory of the band's limp performance at the Southgate House in support of it.

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