Best of 2001 (for Crawdaddy!)
by Peter Jesperson

I want to preface this list by pointing out that I didn't listen to as much new music as I do most years. My theory is that it's because I was consumed by my job - helping to build a record label (New West Records). My wife, Jennifer, says it's because I played the same six records over and over again. Realistically, it was probably a combination of the two. Anyway, here goes, strictly for fun and heated argument:

1. Bob Dylan - Love And Theft
There can be no better record released in the rock field in 2001. When Bob hits it, he makes everything else look small, that's all there is to it. A summary, not just of his own work but, of his lifetime of musical academia. This is the real Self Portrait.

2. Vic Chesnutt - Left To His Own Devices
The fifteen songs on this album are as follows: eight skeletons of songs originally recorded in the early nineties with major additions/overhauls done at the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001; three unadulterated old songs; four brand new songs. In some magical way this eighth Vic Chesnutt album becomes his finest work. Exquisite melodies; words to live by, to confound you and to crack you up; challenging music that ain't always pretty (all of this, much like the Bob Dylan album now that I think about it). This is very, very High Art.

3. Rufus Wainwright - Poses
Unquestionably the best vocalizing I heard on record all year. Rufus is a real singer in the classic sense (ya know - Crosby, Cooke, McCartney, Nilsson, Wilson). Sophisticated melodies beyond what almost anyone else in popular music is doing or, maybe more to the point - beyond what almost anyone else in popular music is capable of. Unfortunately flawed by two songs that just aren't up to par with the rest of this disc - "Shadows" and "Evil Angel" - which is too bad seeing as there wasn't a bad moment on the first album. But that's quibbling really when you consider that if he keeps up this overall standard of practically inhuman quality for a few more records, he'll be literally one of the great artists of all time.

4. Jack Logan - Monkey Paw
Quite simply the very best Jack Logan record since his 42-song debut Bulk. To write the staggering variety of material he's come up with here is further evidence that this man's imagination is infinite. All thirteen songs are written by Logan himself - the first time he hasn't used any of his "enablers" to co-write on an album (note to Logan completists: the German Trocadero release has a fourteenth bonus track and completely different artwork). The deadpan humor of "It's Rare" and "Born At Altamount" contrast wonderfully with the beauty of Logan career milestone ballads like "Rain Me Out" and "Ain't It A Shame About This World" (a song that, if I were a radio deejay, I would play incessantly). And, man, oh man, he sings so good! No rock record collection is complete without Monkey Paw.

5. Mark Eitzel - The Invisible Man
This is where Mark finally makes a break from his past and creates a career record while he's at it. More adventurous than ever (machines all over the place!), he seriously fucks with phrasing - vocally, rhythmically and instrumentally. This is brilliant songwriting in a thoroughly modern aural setting. "Can You See?," "Sleep," "Shine" and "(It Is Important Throughout Your Life To) Proclaim Your Joy" are as good as anything Mark Eitzel has ever done.

6. Jay Farrar - Sebastopol
Similar to the Mark Eitzel album, a major artist turns a major corner. The most dramatic shifts are in the vocals. Commonly thought of as a monotonic singer, Jay really steps out here in many instances which opens up the songs in a profound way. The expanded instrumentation - most significantly in the exhilirating keyboards and the startling, magnificent, expertly played drums - is revelatory. Of course, none of that would matter if the songwriting wasn't the meticulous and puzzling stuff we almost take for granted from this brilliant man. Sebastopol is possibly Jay Farrar's greatest work to date.

And thirteen more that I loved dearly:
Leonard Cohen - Ten New Songs
Pete Yorn - musicforthemorningafter
Gingersol - The Train Wreck Is Behind You
Nick Lowe - The Convincer
Tommy Keene - Showtunes (live)
Stereolab - Sound-Dust
Beulah - The Coast Is Never Clear
Macy Gray - The Id
Paul Kelly - Nothing But A Dream
Fugu - Fugu 1
Phil Tagliere - Slow
Ike Reilly - Salesman And Racists
The Strokes - Is This It

Mind bendingly phenomenal live shows:
(in L.A. except where noted)
Bob Dylan
- 8/24 - Hard Rock - Las Vegas, NV
- 8/25 - Antelope Valley State Fair - Lancaster, CA
- 10/19 - Staples Center
Josiah Meigs And Me - a musical puppet show with music preformed live by Vic Chesnutt - 11/16 - St. Anne's Warehouse - Brooklyn, N.Y.
Iris DeMent
- 6/29 - John Van Duser Theatre, Arcata, CA
- 6/30 - Henry J. Mello Center - Watsonville, CA
Rufus Wainwright - 5/7 - The Roxy
Billy Joe Shaver - 6/14 - The Knitting Factory
Chuck Prophet - 6/2 - The Starry Plough - Berkeley, CA
Mark Eitzel - 1/19 - The Knitting Factory
The Jayhawks - 1/20 - The House Of Blues
Frank Black
- 5/24 - The Troubadour
- 11/21 - The Mint
Tribute To David Bowie - 11/16 - The Losers Lounge - various artists - The Westbeth Theatre - New York, N.Y.

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