1. Bjork, Vespertine (WEA/Elektra)
I hold my breath whenever I play this album, gasping in the gaps between the silences, working hard to distinguish which sounds are my heartbeat, which sounds are head noises, and which sounds are coming from the disc. So beautiful it scares me silly sometimes, although I played “Undo” over and over in the days after September 11, because it was so beautiful that it scared me sane.
2. System of a Down, Toxicity (Sony/Columbia)
The most impressive, important metal album since, oh, well, probably since System of A Down’s eponymous debut record came out a few years ago. Anyone who could create something as technically intense as “Chop Suey!” and then get it onto pop radio is doing something really impressive–and it’s not even one of this album’s best songs.
3. Butthole Surfers, Weird Revolution (UNI/Surf Dog)
Beck-flavored, post-electronica sell out? Hell, no! Instead, the logical follow-on to a decade of electronic experimentation begun with the important and under-rated 1991 Jackofficers’ (an alter ego band) house elpee, Digital Dump. Scatology for the masses, wet and messy, badly influencing young people near you, very, very soon, like now.
4. Iggy Pop, Beat ’em Up (EMD/Virgin)
Forget Bob Dylan, will you? The best old-guy-making-important-music this year was Iggy Pop, hands down.
5. Mick Jagger, Goddess in the Doorway (EMD/Virgin)
Forget Bob Dylan, okay? The best old-guy-making-important-music this year was Mick Jagger, certainly.
6. New Order, Get Ready (WEA/Warner Bros.)
Forget Bob Dylan, alright already? The best old-guys-making-important-music this year were New Order, absolutely and for real. Not Bob Dylan. Really. Forget him now, please.
7. Marillion, Anoraknophobia (BMG/Sanctuary)
Smart and snappy pop that evokes Radiohead, I suppose–except that I like this, and I don’t like Radiohead. This is not your older brother’s Marillion.
8. Black Crowes, Lions (BMG/V2)
I suppose Kate Hudson can continue to live if she inspires her hubby and his brother to make records like this one. Just don’t let her make any more movies, okay?
9. Dredg, Leitmotif (UNI/Interscope)
Mysterious dudes make magnificent modern progressive rock music. Very crunchy, very engaging, like King Crimson with better vocals and occasional acoustic guitars and cellos. The kind of prog that can make you forget and forgive Rick Wakeman and his cape.
10. Clutch, Pure Rock Fury (WEA/Atlantic)
Truth in advertising lives, as this record’s title tells you just what you get when you slap it on the disc-go-round and push the “play” button. Hands up, who wants to rock?