Top 10 Albums of 2001

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:

10. The Strokes – Is This It
Let’s go ahead and include this aforementioned Strokes debut. Mostly since this original banned-in-the-US album cover would look nice here on our website.

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.

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The Hunter Reels in a Mastodon Masterpiece

This is the best hard rock album of the year.

I wanna rock! Seriously, I really wanna rock, and I know you also enjoy rocking out. To rock, and rock music, is at the core of our being, as most music fanatics were turned on, raised, and possibly brainwashed by Satanic forces to feel the primal attraction of rock music.

This is often best expressed by hard rock and heavy metal. So it was written by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and so it has since been done. But most people, probably including you, are pansies like me. We don’t listen to all that crazy death metal and black metal and deathcore and goregrind and whatever other sub-core speed genres of anti-pop horror-metal madness exist out there.

I’ve got a couple of very close friends who are metal freaks. I’m sure you do too. But for pussies like us, we’re okay to just burn out on Them Crooked Vultures and maybe crank some old-school Van Halen in the car and be done with it. Some of you dig on the Foo Fighters cuz their CD’s are so much louder than most of your other ones. You like to name check Queens of the Stone Age, but “No One Knows” that you never actually heard Rated R. You probably dig on the Deftones and Disturbed and possibly some stuff that sounds like Slipknot, but System of a Down was a bit too intense and political. Hopefully you don’t rock out to Linkin Park at the gym. I don’t. But then again, I don’t go to the gym.

Well fear not, rock fans who crave something a little goddamn harder than fucking Wilco or My Morning Jacket but don’t want the bloodbath of Satanic butchery and mass-slaughter imagery infesting your precious earbuds.

Behold The Hunter, the new album from Mastodon.

Certainly not a household name, they’ve never been on Dancing With The Stars or served as guest judges or mentors on any of the other 14,682 talent-show style “reality” shows, Mastodon is one of those crazy talented bands of musicians with the kind of extreme chops that leave many jaws dropped. But, so far, their hard rock/metal has skewed a little proggy, so it was like some Rush-meets-Tool kinda thing with concept albums and 12-minute songs.

This is the deluxe version.

The Hunter is already being received as their “more accessible” album that pisses off the hardcore fan base but attracts the accolades of casual hard rock fans and possibly some non-metal bloggers working on their snarky reaction to the Lou Reed/Metallic collaboration. With apologies to any Mastodonians who feel like their favorite band is “selling out” (impossible these days anyway), The Hunter is perfect for fans of the band who’ve been waiting for them to make an Album Like This, and for people like me who need and want to rock the fuck out and turn it up to 11 but only sometimes.

This album is badass, and yet just catchy enough in its badassery to keep the festivities moving from one crunching riff and sick drum fill to the next. The vocals certainly sound like they hurt somebody’s throat, as well they should, but they are not so in your face or gory to turn off any casual listeners. It just kicks ass. But Mastadon is a different animal: among the mayhem it manages to mix in an obvious “The love I make is equal to the love I take” nod to the Beatles lyric, while “Creature Lives” features an intro that sounds like it’s covering two Pink Floyd intros at the same time.

Strongly rooted in the Black Sabbath basics, Mastodon’s technical proficiency allows them to elevate their stoner rock to high-grade medicinal levels. And it remains concise and hard hitting, certainly recommended if you lean a bit closer to Clutch than Slayer and prefer your Tool albums to have less hot-yoga droning interludes.

So if you crave that metallic taste in your ears without the messy dismemberments and commitments to spend eternity in damnation, pick up Mastodon’s The Hunter and crank that shit up.

When Did Selling Out Jump the Shark?

It used to “matter” that certain musicians/artists wouldn’t sell out. It was a line in the sand where you knew some whack-ass pop star would sell his song/image to the highest bidder, but Neil Young would always say no to Budweiser and Bruce Springsteen said no to Chevy (and we all got the Bob Seger “Like a Rock” commercials).

So... this happened.

But one day, it just didn’t matter any more. Getting your song on a Lexus or iPod commercial was just good business, and really not that different from being in heavy rotation on the radio back when that was the only way people heard new music.

So….. what happened and when? Was it when that guy yelled “Judas!” at Bob Dylan back in 1966? Was it when Bob did the Victoria’s Secret Commercial? Was it U2’s ZooTV Tour in 1992? Was it 9/11?

Do you still care if/when someone sells out? Is it even possible to sell out anymore? When did selling out jump the shark?

Mike Eddy: This is a great topic – we all could go on and on about it. I say that because being a “sell out” means something to our generation. Not selling out validates the artist to us and somehow makes them seem more true to us. But if we polled a bunch of early 20-somethings, would they even know what a sellout is? Do they care? Probably not, due to the overwhelming amount of current music and artists selling/promoting different products. Infomercials, logo’d clothing, etc… promotion and endorsement is everywhere. It’s what they’ve grown up with and it’s very different from when we were that age. We are all like-minded in looking at bands that we enjoy and hoping that their 4th or 5th album is that much better than the first. The entire industry is now based on individual songs and no real expectation that the “artist” will still be around in 2 years: “take it while you can and as much as you can” seems to be more of the flavor in the minds of musicians today.

Not saying that I’d like “my favorite band” to be on the new Ford commercial, but at the end of the day it plays no part in how good their music is. We have the notion in our heads that selling out is lessening the quality when it is only our perception of what WE want them to be. Continue reading →

My Top 10 Favorite Metal/Hard Rock Album Covers

Perfectly classic.

#10  AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK
Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap: “I think he is right, there is something about this, that’s that’s so black, it’s like; “How much more black could this be?” and the answer is: “None, none…more black.”

Nuff said.

 

 

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