1. The Shins - Pressed In A Book - Oh, Inverted World
The Shins hit fast and furious among my crew. It seemed that everybody was talking up this album and the kind of effortlessly catchy indie pop that sounded so fresh at the time. It still does, but the shine has worn off the album a bit for me by now. And for what it's worth, I never had a clue what this song is about, and I never cared. I just listened to it endlessly anyway.
2. Bob Dylan - I Can't Get You Off My Mind - Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute
For my money, this is probably the best tribute album ever released. Probably the smallest name on the list is Ryan Adams, and his take on "Lovesick Blues" is amazing. But the best of the bunch here is Dylan, who practically croons, and adds an accordion to the perfect country shuffle of Larry Campbell on guitar. This is a careful and reverent cover, but one performed with joy.
3. Whiskeytown - The Ballad of Carol Lynn - Pneumonia
An album recorded before the band split, but then released after Ryan Adams' solo debut, Pneumonia is unlike anything Whiskeytown did before. Gone are both the country heartache and the raw, hard-charging rock tunes as the band took a more classic pop sound. I used to think that this record and Wilco's Summerteeth were spiritual cousins, but I've kinda backed off that as it seems to point the way more for Ryan Adams solo work. This album opener is an absolute beaut, though.
4. Dan Bern - New American Language - New American Language
The title track from Dan Bern's best album, this minor key ballad is as heartbreaking as it is captivating. I especially love the opening lines:
She said love, love, love is everything5. Jay Farrar - Feed Kill Chain - Sebastapol
I said ok, I guess, whatever
She said what does that mean
I said nothing, it's just good to have a backup plan
Despite how much I liked about half the songs on this first solo album from Jay Farrar, it's really also the point that I began to lose track of him. I was a huge Son Volt fan, and I got to catch them live touring for the band's third album - which was the last one with that version of the band. With his solo work, Farrar just seems sort of ornery, but he still hits it out of the park sometimes. This song, along with "Voodoo Candle" and "Feel Free" are right up there with his best work.
6. Weezer - Photograph - Weezer
This was one of the last albums I stood in line to buy at midnight (Dylan's Love & Theft just may have been the last). After the band's first two albums - the uber popular blue self-titled and the critical smash Pinkterton - I didn't think they could do much wrong. And I listened to this endlessly for that summer. The album came out right when I moved back from Phoenix and picked up a serving job that was quite a drive. So this album, Billy Bragg's Workers Playtime and the promo copy I had of Jimmy Eat World's then-titled Bleed American were my driving music for almost three solid months.
7. Iron & Wine - A History of Lovers - Home Recordings
I heard the bright, horn-filled version of this song from Iron & Wine's collaboration with Calexico long before I heard this home demo version, and it shocking how somber the song started out.
8. Greyhound Soul - Nothin' - Alma de Galgo
One of Tucson's best bands for close to 15 years, Greyhound Soul is one of the more immediately recognizable bands there is, thanks to Joey Peña's rough desert drawl. I called their sound "peyote blues" at one point back in the day, around the time of this second album, which had the band taking a bluesy turn, with a double keyboard sound. This is a band whose audience has never swelled large enough to be on par with the quality of the music.
9. Wilco - Venus Stop The Train - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos
A fantastic song that's only turned up on a Jay Farrar solo album, Venus Stop The Train is one of the chief reasons that all Wilco fans need to have the YHF demos as well as the regular album. The band was on such fire that they could have put it out as a double album with repeats of the songs and still landed on as many year-end lists as there were.
10. Old 97s - Question - Satellite Rides
This is a sweet little ditty from yet another album that I listened to incessantly in 2001. It's a love song both simple and clever, and Rhett Miller delivers it with just and amazing level of honesty.
The Shins - Pressed In A Book (live KXCI)
Dan Bern - New American Language (live)
Iron & Wine - A History of Lovers
Wilco - Venus Stop The Train
Rhett Miller - Question (live)