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 like.

2001 favorites, so far

  1. Frank Black and the Catholics, Dog in the Sand
  2. Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills
  3. Spoon, Anything You Want
  4. Firewater, Psychopharmacology
  5. The Gravel Pit, Mass Avenue Freeze-Out
  6. Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus

2000 favorites

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.
  1. The Loud Family, Attractive Nuisance
  2. The New Pornographers, Mass Romantic
  3. Radiohead, Kid A
  4. Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One
  5. The Apples in Stereo, The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone
  6. Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, Muy Divertido!
  7. King Crimson, The Construkction of Light
  8. XTC, Wasp Star
  9. Elliott Smith, Figure 8
  10. Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
  11. Guided By Voices, Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft
  12. Belle and Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
  13. Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2
  14. Grant Hart, Good News for Modern Man

1999 favorites

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 project here.
  7. 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 crunchy pop.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. They're allowed.
  10. Pavement, Terror Twilight. Pavement goes pop, and proves that they're good at that too.
  11. Tom Waits, Mule Variations. Yay, Tom is back. It's solid start to finish, but a bit too long for me.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

1998 favorites

  1. 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.
  2. 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 measure.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 alphabetical order.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 moments too.
  12. Sean Lennon, Into the Sun. One big charming "aw shucks."
  13. 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.

1997 favorites

  1. 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.
  2. 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 roll.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 solid album.
  10. Papas Fritas, Helioself. Utterly charming.
  11. 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.
  12. Pavement, Brighten The Corners. Another great Pavement record, what can I say?

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Last updated 18 July 2001