Best Albums 2001 (6-10)

10. Old 97’s — Satellite Rides

Unlike freewheelin’ doofus Ryan Adams, who left alt-country ’round the same time, Rhett Miller had a winning theme: “I believe in love/ But it don’t believe in meeeeeee!” The very last twang straightened out of Ken Burrea’s guitar, and not much jangle left either, this was power pop done right for once–in a genre rife with grown men feigning puppy love, Miller offered straightforwardly carnal come-ons to other non-virgins. From “Do ya wanna mess around?” to “I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t have designs on you,” he’s our guide to the seduction games that young adults self-consciously play, or would at least like to think they play.

9. Rachid TahaMade in Medina

Gong fans please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone expected Steve Hillage to produce the rockingest rai record of all time. As for Rachid himself, who knew what to expect? The Algerian-born Parisian made his name desecrating the patriotic pop anthem “Douce France” with his first band, Carte de Séjour (Green Card en anglais), then broke through solo with respectful reinterpretations of rai classics on Diwan. Here, he growls as ferociously as his metallic guitars and groans as sleazily as his Euro-chintz synths. Trashy, brash, as bristly as his day’s length of beard, he spells M-A-N.

8. Shakira — Laundry Service

The oddball sexpot shimmied into the United States of Britney a camouflage blonde, frontloading her Anglo debut with three fantastic singles: “Obsession: Tango” roamed around the world like the B-52s with a grudge; “Underneath Your Clothes” proclaimed manifest destiny over her boy’s bod; “Wherever Whenever” is a Latin-Arabian Book of Ruth written on the wind. Jealousy possessiveness, monomania–that’s the price of love this passionate, and damn if her ingeniously awkward ESL lyrics don’t make her sound worth the trouble. Doubters are referred to “The One,” about the changes love can work, concluding “My real life has just begun.”

7. Atmosphere — Lucy Ford

You don’t know how long we Minnesotans waited for this damn record. Slug’s day-in-the-life narratives sorta explain the delay–from morning wood to cute baristas, South Minneapolis offered too many distractions. So he quit his day job, ran together some tour-only EPs, and called it a debut. “I love you, don’t ever fucking question that” sums up his woman issues pithily; his boasts of growing “bigger than guns, bigger than cigarettes” suggest why he became bigger than–well, Sage Francis, at least. One reason I’m proud to have adopted the town that’s Sean Daley’s home by birth is that no other city could have nurtured such a diffident hometown hero. OK, maybe St. Paul.

6. Black Box Recorder — The Facts of Life

All sadistic empathy and prim sensuality, posh bird Sarah Nixey was ex-Auteur Luke Haines’ ideal mask; simply by breathing on his onetime wan ironies she gifted them with an extra dimension. The trippety-hoppish settings of Haines and Nixey’s ex-husband to be, John Moore, acknowledge nervous solitude as a better fit to one’s recollected terrors of teen sexuality than heroic rock guitar, and their adolescent nightmares outspook Wes Craven coming and Jonathan Davis going. “Life is unfair,” BBR had taunted whinging teens a couple years back on England Made Me. “Kill yourself or get over it.” Here’s where Nixey teaches them how to do the latter.

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  • Richard Cobeen  On March 13, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Still loving the list. I put Satellite Rides way higher; it’s one of the great albums of the decade, one surefire tune after another. Your line, “he’s our guide to the seduction games that young adults self-consciously play” defines Miller’s output for the rest of the decade, but what’s impressive is that even stating the theme over and over again hasn’t diminished the freshness of this album.

    My new game is to guess your final five. Here it goes: Dylan, Manu Chao, White Stripes, The Coup, and The Strokes or New Pornographers.

    My pick for great lost album of 2001: Kirsty MacColl’s Tropical Brainstorm. The album David Byrne’s been trying to make for the last quarter of a century.

  • usefulnoise  On March 15, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Well, we’ll just have to wait to see how those guesses work out, won’t we?

    My 2001 top ten was really tight — not often that I like a half dozen or so records almost the same exact amount. Pretty close to my list at the time, too, from what I remember.

    I should re-listen to that Kirsty album sometime. I remember liking it OK, but not too much specific about it.

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