A year where lots of very fine music was spread out all over the landscape. The big behemoths of the record industry may be crying because sales were down — but fortunately, music isn’t so highly correlated with industry. My 10 best-ofs are in bold type — everything else is an honorable mention.
Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising was genuine and heartfelt — but for exploration of post-9/11 feelings, check out my favorite album of the year, Sleater-Kinney’s One Beat (Kill Rock Stars). Sorry times for the USA just happened to coincide with a leap in maturity for this trio. Another fine work that didn’t ignore current events was the angry, punchy and thoroughly committed Jerusalem by Steve Earle (Artemis/E Squared).
The year had some music that wasn’t like anything that had come before. Beck’s Sea Change (Geffen) gave off musical shudders that mixed the quiet and the odd, as a control freak shared the depths of his loss. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) was more self-consciously artsy, but still had lots of great noise/music/lyric interaction. Louisville’s Christiansen also gave a refreshing set with Forensics Brothers and Sisters!
It was a fabulous year for soundtracks. “Vanilla Sky” did a lot more than introduce America to Sigur Ros, and “Me Without You” was assembled with marvelous intuition. Way out of left field, though, came the best soundtrack album in years: Our Little Corner of the World (Rhino) based on the TV show “The Gilmore Girls.”
Other notables: Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age (Interscope). — Fun metal, with a touch of Firesign Theatre. The second track by itself contains an entire Deep Purple album, minus Jon Lord and the plodding.
Nephrology by The Roots (MCA). — A black Dark Side of the Moon? Almost. Sit back and give this one time.
Come Away With Me by Norah Jones (Blue Note). — The debut of the year. Its runners-up were the surprising local find Carter Wood (Unspoken, an independent release) and The Vines.
Lose Yourself by Eminem (Interscope). — This one-shot off of the “8 Mile” soundtrack works because it draws from the rapper’s increasing musicality and from a directness that’s surprising — it didn’t seem as if he’d had anything left to hold back, until he let it out with this great track.
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