This was the Bard’s 29th studio album, in his fifth decade of recording, and it’s as vital and playful as anything he put out in the 60s. He released his meditation on death and aging, Time Out of Mind, a couple of years earlier, and people might have easily mistaken it for a swan song. Instead, Love and Theft suggested it was a rebirth.
I find it hard to believe that through almost 4,000 Songs of the Day I have yet to do a theme week or two on ‘Best Debut Albums.’ It seems like such an obvious and rewarding topic. I’ll put it on the list for later this year. Plus, it would lead nicely into ‘Best Sophomore Albums’ — I can get a whole month out of this.
At any rate, without question John Mayer’s Room For Squares would rank highly on that list of best debuts. Over 14 tracks and nearly an hour, he leaps out of the gate with a winning collection of pop-rock gems and doesn’t take a wrong step. That’s enough to make it #2 on my list of 2001 albums.
Rufus Wainwright seems to have lost interest in the pop music world after 2012’s Out of the Game (a prophetic title in hindsight). Since then he has written and recorded an opera and a collection of Shakespeare sonnets set to orchestral music. Not exactly Top 40 material.
I don’t begrudge Wainwright his musical path, but I miss the old stuff. From 1998 to 2007, Wainwright released five amazing albums that married his classical sensibilities with a real knack for pop songcraft.
My top four albums of 2001 are so good that I really could have presented them in any order. I settled on the lineup I did based on a quick dive into each album right here and now, so these rankings reflect my current mood as much as anything.
At #4 is Ben Folds’ first solo album, Rockin’ the Suburbs. Ben Folds Five had split up a year earlier following the release of their third studio album, and this record marked Folds’ shift into what would become a fascinating and successful solo career.
This was the Scottish band’s third album and the follow-up to 1999’s smash hit The Man Who. That record is also excellent, and ushered in an era of emotional rock music alongside Coldplay’s Parachutes. But for my money, The Invisible Band is an even grander achievement.
Apparently this intentionally superficial ditty was written in response to comments then-President George W. Bush made in the aftermath of 9/11. He encouraged Americans to “go shopping” as a way to both help the economy and not let the fear of terrorism keep them from living life as they always had.
‘All Night’ is the penultimate track on Beyoncé’s extraordinary 2016 “visual album” Lemonade. The early single ‘Formation’ closes things out, but this track is the emotional resolution, and on of the album’s best songs.
Much was made of the anger on Lemonade‘s early tracks (“he better call Becky with the good hair”), and people initially thought the album might even be Beyoncé’s very public way of leaving Jay-Z.