Lost among the 20th anniversary hype around Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and U2’s Achtung Baby, and all the 10th anniversary energy only focusing on 9/11, let’s pause to look at the Top 10 Albums from 2001.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, and elsewhere there was some brief hoopla about The Strokes Is This It album turning 10 years old. I loved it at the time and while I don’t think it holds up quite as well as the other albums on this list, it was certainly a touchstone release worthy of the mentions.
Interestingly enough, two albums I most associate with 9/11 for some reason (Radiohead’s Kid A and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the titles I originally thought would anchor this list), were actually misremembered. They were from 2000 and 2002, respectively. Also, this list is short on hip-hop, but if you check the record books, there were several classics dropped by Outkast, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Eminem, Mos Def, and Common in either 2000 or 2002 (or in some cases both).
On to the list of the Top 10 Albums of 2001:
9. Explosions in the Sky – Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever
I admit I only recently discovered this band and their fine brand of instrumental rock goodness, and after investigating their back catalog, this is one gem I certainly missed back in 2001.
8. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
One of their most famous and celebrated albums, the DBT’s “concept album” surrounding the legend of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the deep south is no longer their best. It’s long since been surpassed by their continuing output, but this one put them on the map.
7. Radiohead – Amnesiac
Sometimes overlooked and underrated, this follow-up to 2000’s Kid A album is usually dismissed as simply the second album of Radiohead’s Bleeps’n’Blips Era. Kid B, if you will. But Amnesiac stands on its own as yet another solid entry in the band’s great catalog.
6. Whiskeytown – Pneumonia
Actually recorded in 1999 as a follow-up to Strangers Almanac, this one didn’t see the light of day until 2001 after the band broke up and Ryan Adams released his first solo album. Finished up with producer Ethan Johns, Pneumonia was called “easily Whiskeytown’s most ambitious and eclectic work” by AllMusic.com. A really catchy record that some people might not have caught when it was released.
5. Ryan Adams – Gold
Best-known for the single “New York, New York,” as well as signature tunes like “When the Stars Go Blue” and “The Rescue Blues,” this was a young Ryan Adams swinging for the fences, trying to make the greatest rock mix tape of all time. It falls short of that, and its length causes it to drag in spots, but it still contains some of his best songs.
4. Tool – Lateralus
Certainly one of the greatest hard rock albums ever, and also near the top of the list of great drumming albums of all time. While most people consider its 1996 predecessor Aenima to be the band’s best, 2001’s Lateralus is a worthy follow-up.
3. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
After 5 years and a few solid releases, Jay-Z cemented his legend with The Blueprint, usually mentioned among the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. It not only catapulted Jay-Z to superstar status, it also feature his first few collaborations with new young producer named Kanye West.
2. Bob Dylan – Love and Theft
Pretty amazing that Dylan could make this list 40 years into his career. Love and Theft is the second in what’s known as a trilogy of classic late-career albums by the master.
1. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
An early-career peak for Jack White, the White Stripes third record might be their best. It’s a perfect snapshot representation of what he and Meg did as The White Stripes, stunning in its simplistic immediacy. Raw but catchy blues rock with Jack’s songwriting prowess simmering just below the surface of his smoldering guitar.
Pete Yorn – musicforthemorningafter, Bjork – Vespertine, Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor, Old 97’s – Satellite Rides, Muse – Origin of Symmetry, The Shins – Oh, Inverted World, Spoon – Girls Can Tell, Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs, De La Soul – AOI: Bionix.