The best albums of 2001

Sunday, December 6th, 2009, 2:27 pm by Ben Salmon

(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. Tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)

You’ll note that neither my best-of-2000 list nor the one below contains a nice, round number of albums. Instead of sticking to a top 10 or 20, I’ve decided to cut off my lists wherever it feels right — wherever I think there’s a noticeable drop in quality. These lists should contain great albums, not merely very good ones.

One advantage of this method is that you can see how the individual years stack up against each other. The 2000 list has 17 albums; 2001 has only 14. That means just what you think it does: When compared with its predecessor, 2001 looks a little anemic. There are a couple classics here and a few other solid albums, but overall, the quality drops off pretty quickly. Heck, this list almost had 13 entries. I’ve often thought Gillian Welch’s “Time (The Revelator)” is overrated, but it was the perfect soundtrack for a recent drive to Portland, so it snuck in at the last second.

The most striking trends I see here are that it was a strong year for some big alt-country acts (MMJ, Whiskeytown, Old 97s, Easton, Welch) and we got a bunch of albums from bands (Death Cab, Shins, Strokes, Spoon) that would soon become big-time stars. Sprinkle in some melodic electro-noise from Fennesz, a little Scottish punk by Idlewild, a blueprint for hip-hop’s future from Jay-Z and the joyous choir-pop of The Polyphonic Spree, and you have the world of recorded music in 2001.

Death Cab for Cutie, “The Photo Album”
Fennesz, “Endless Summer”
Jay-Z, “The Blueprint”
My Morning Jacket, “At Dawn”
Tim Easton, “The Truth About Us”
Idlewild, “100 Broken Windows”
The Old 97s, “Satellite Rides”
The Polyphonic Spree, “The Beginning Stages Of …”
The Shins, “Oh, Inverted World”
Spoon, “Girls Can Tell”
The Strokes, “Is This It”
Gillian Welch, “Time (The Revelator)”
Whiskeytown, “Pneumonia”


One Response to “The best albums of 2001”

  1. Andy Z says:

    Again, GREAT list. Pardon me for adding my own opinions to these articles.

    Noticeable omissions:

    Alison Krauss + Union Station – New Favorite
    (This made me like country/bluegrass again. And it’s a good thing.)

    The Dirtbombs – Ultraglide in Black
    (Two full drum kits. A blind, black singer. And only one original song. Oh, and did I mention they know pretty much everyone who got famous out of Detroit?)

    New Order – Get Ready
    (A strong outing from a band a lot of people had forgotten about. Still rocks to this day.)

    Stereo MCs – Deep, Down & Dirty
    (Probably still my #1 album for getting myself pumped up and feeling cool. Also still some of the best party music I own.)

    Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Tyranny of Distance
    (Again, we shouldn’t be having this conversation.)

    The White Stripes – The White Stripes
    (This would be a strong contender for your list, but I can understand why you left it off. Maybe you just don’t like the White Stripes.)

    Oh, and Tenacious D, anyone?

    Oh, and thanks for the Tallahassee love.

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