Dan's favorite rock albums of the year
OK, so these are my favorite albums of the year, not the best albums
of the year. I know that the Muffs' record is not the second best of
1997, but I don't care, it roolz. Expect no incredibly insightful
criticism here, or even much of a description of what the bands sound
2001 favorites, so far
- Frank Black and the Catholics, Dog in the Sand
- Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills
- Spoon, Anything You Want
- Firewater, Psychopharmacology
- The Gravel Pit, Mass Avenue Freeze-Out
- Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus
I complete forgot to make a list during the year, so I just trawled
through the Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll to get a superset of
albums to choose from. So I may have missed a couple; I'll update
later if so.
- The Loud Family, Attractive Nuisance
- The New Pornographers, Mass Romantic
- Radiohead, Kid A
- Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One
- The Apples in Stereo, The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone
- Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, Muy Divertido!
- King Crimson, The Construkction of Light
- XTC, Wasp Star
- Elliott Smith, Figure 8
- Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
- Guided By Voices, Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft
- Belle and Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
- Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2
- Grant Hart, Good News for Modern Man
I've been putting off doing a list because I was too lazy to write
lots of descriptions, so I'm just going to put down titles without
reviews for now.
- Mr. Bungle, California. The first album was wildly
inventive drunken clown music with unfortunately (for me) willfully
offensive lyrics. The second, Disco Volante, was just too
weird, with minutes passing by without music that was identifiable as
such. Now they finally harness their wackiness to create something
that to me is just the right amount of weird, and catchy as hell.
Really great production, too.
- The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs. All over the place,
with an amazing number of great songs and a jaw-droppingly small
number of bad ones. One guest vocalist's overly dramatic voice I
find annoying, but I can live with that. Stephin Merritt has a way
with words I really appreciate; some find him glib, but I think he's
able to find the meeting point between wit and pathos.
- Guided By Voices, Do The Collapse. Imagine my surprise
when it turns out this is generally considered to be a
disappointment. GBV goes hi-fi, produced by Ric Ocasek. If you ask
me, the songs are great and the production is great, but it seems that
most fans consider the former uneven and the latter too slick.
- Built To Spill, Keep It Like A Secret. I had enjoyed
Perfect From Now On a great deal, but here Doug Martsch ups the
catchy factor by a factor of two. I didn't know he had it in him.
- XTC, Apple Venus vol. 1. XTC comes back after years and
years away, and what a surprise, Andy Partridge has written a bunch of
great songs in the meantime. The 'orchoustic' (gag) arrangements
generally work out very well; in my opinion, this sort of stuff is
hard to pull off convincingly, and they do.
- Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard, Speak Kindly of Your
Volunteer Fire Department. If Do The Collapse was too
hi-fi for you, try this instead. It's amazing that Pollard comes up
with enough material for two great albums a year. This is really
solid from start to finish; no saving the bad songs for the solo
- The Muffs, Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow. Some found this a
disappointment, but Kim Shattuck hasn't lost a step if you ask me.
Maybe she's getting more mature; the songs are maybe a fraction
slower, and maybe she'll use five chords instead of four. Great
- Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock. Surprsingly sophisticated;
there are few hooks that jump out as on Dig Me Out, so it took
me a while to get into, but after a few listens it really dug its
hooks into me.
- The Gravel Pit, Silver Gorilla. The Gravel Pit
Manifesto was incredible, an adrenaline-filled poppy rampage led
by Jed Parish's melodic bellow and organ fills. I thought the hooks
were fewer on this one, though the critics seem to like it better.
- Pavement, Terror Twilight. Pavement goes pop, and proves
that they're good at that too.
- Tom Waits, Mule Variations. Yay, Tom is back. It's solid
start to finish, but a bit too long for me.
- Frank Black and the Catholics, Pistolero. Frank is my
second-favorite songwriter these days, and the last album was great,
but this feels too manic to me. A few great songs, a fair number that
try too hard.
- Beck, Midnite Vultures. I thought Odelay was just
great. Mutations moved in one direction from that (towards
traditional songwriting), and this moves in the other (towards
grooves). I prefer the former, but hey.
- Lotion, The Telephone Album. Their last album was good but
I was unprepared for this. Catchy, witty, rocking, diverse - and they
always sound like they're having a great time. Fantastic.
- Cotton Mather, Kontiki.
As far as I can tell, this is sides 5 and 6 of the White Album,
rediscovered after thirty years. Brilliant and goofy in equal
- Beck, Mutations. I'm really impressed by this guy. I
loved Odelay, largely because, in addition to all the abilities
he's more known for, he obviously knows how to write a real song, with
a melody and chord changes. This album is more songs and fewer one or
two chord grooves. And the songs are great. I have to pick up all
his earlier stuff now.
- Frank Black and the Catholics. I was waiting around a year
for this (it was recorded in early 1997), and it was worth the wait.
Raucously recorded live to 2-track. I adore Teenager of the
Year, which most people seem to think was overproduced and
underbaked, but these more straightforward songs are great too. Frank
has gotten a little less willfully weird since the old days, but these
songs still rule. And you gotta love a guy who arranges the tracks in
- Soul Coughing, El Oso. It took me a few listens to warm up
to this one, but now I think it may be their best album yet, and I
adore Ruby Vroom. They keep growing musically, too. There
seems to be more singing than usual on this album, which I like.
- The Loud Family, Days For Days. The Loud Family are probably
my favorite band. This is more of the same, proving that you can be
creative and catchy at the same time, and being intelligent doesn't mean
you can't rock out.
- Liz Phair, whitechocolatespaceegg. Catchy songs,
interesting production. I was hooked after the first thirty seconds.
The scary thing is that I had previously written a song specifically
in the style of Liz Phair, and then she went and stole my chorus for
one of her songs.
- Robert Pollard, Waved Out. This is my Guided By Voices
fix for the year. Bob's last solo album, Not In My Airforce,
was pretty bad, but there are lots of good songs here, despite the
standard outtakey sound.
- Moxy Früvous, Live Noise. "A-cappella-based rock."
Usually I find this kind of stuff rather precious (I've never been
able to appreciate the Bobs, for example), but these folks pull it
off. See them in concert if you can, but if you can't, this live
album is the next best thing. One nice thing about being a live album
is that it's basically a greatest-hits collection, so the general song
quality is really high.
- Cake, Prolonging the Magic. It is uncool of me to like
Cake, I know. But they push my buttons just perfectly. Fashion
Nugget was my second favorite album of 1996, and this is mostly
more of the same, although it feels a little more samey than that one.
- Spoon, A Series of Sneaks. Sort of a cross between
Surfer Rosa-era Pixies and Pavement. I got both their albums
this year, and actually like their first one, "Telefono", a lot
more, and would recommend it first, but this one has a lot of great
- Sean Lennon, Into the Sun. One big charming "aw shucks."
- Money Mark, Push The Button. Not to be confused with Marky
Mark! This guy plays keys for the Beastie Boys. A scrapbook of fun
instrumentals in a variety of styles, with a few Beck-style songs
thrown in as well.
- Guided By Voices, Mag Earwhig! Just when I thought they
couldn't get any better. The new band behind Bob Pollard is tighter
and it really makes a difference.
- The Muffs, Happy Birthday To Me. I admit it, I'm a sucker
for this stuff. It may not be the second best record of the year, but
damn if I don't love it to death. Perfect two-minute punky-power-pop
songs. And Kim Shattuck's screech is the sexiest voice in rock and
- Blur, Blur.
Great songs, great production. I was really underwhelmed by their
last album, The Great Escape, but I'm glad I took a chance on this one.
- Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out. Well, I dunno if they're the
future of rock and roll, but they sure do rock. I do miss the low
end, and Corin Tucker's voice is (intentionally) pretty irritating,
but I still play it over and over again.
- Humbert, The Great White Lunchroom. I heard this between
sets at a local club and fell in love. Turns out they're a local band
from western Massachusetts - this is self-released. Twenty smart and
witty pop songs. In a sane world, these guys would be big. In this
world, it appears they're now defunct.
- Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. A really
nice album; usually they have a couple gentle tracks per record, but
this one is filled with them. A little too long, though.
- Foo Fighters, The Colour And The Shape. I was disappointed
by this one when I first bought it, but it's been moving steadily up
the list. Great rocking pop songs. If you have to get one album,
though, get the first one.
- Belle & Sebastian, If You're Feeling Sinister. Really
intelligently written and arranged folky rock. But I wish I didn't
find the singer's voice annoying.
- Jen Trynin, Gun
Shy Trigger Happy. Reminded me a lot of Aimee Mann's I'm
With Stupid. It's not incredibly awesome, but it's a real
- Papas Fritas, Helioself.
- Tobin Sprout, Moonflower Plastic. Tobin is formerly of
Guided by Voices. Minimally produced, but really good songs. I only
listened to his last album, Carnival Boy, a couple of times; I
should give it another shot.
- Pavement, Brighten The Corners. Another great Pavement
record, what can I say?
Go back to Dan's home page
Go back to the Honest Bob page
Last updated 18 July 2001