January 31, 2002

The Tops of 2001

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1. Death Cab for Cutie – The Photo Album

2. John Mayer – Room for Squares

3. Hey Mercedes – Everynight Fire Works

Because genres are so silly and unnecessary , it’s always a good sign when a band’s genre description requires more than three backslashes. Here, watch; Backstreet Boys: shit; LFO shit/pop; The Strokes: Brit/pop/rock. You see? This litmus test, although flimsy (see Ricky Martin: Latin/dance/shit/pop), proves that a band is at least trying something, evolving in some way, or resisting rigid characterization.

This year the Seattle-based Death Cab embarked on a highly-hyphenated/backslashed (indie/emo/alt/pop/punk) project called The Photo Album as if to suggest that it was all the musical imagery you’d need. And just as unassumingly packaged as all of your best photo albums, its contents include some shockers, like the baby pictures your mom shows to your hottest dates. Death Cab’s version is just as funny, just as cutting, and just as intense.

— Ari Fontecchio

1. Tortoise – Standards

2. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

3. The Strokes – Is This It

The avant-garde has returned to rock with Tortoise’s Standards: titled after exactly what the album defies.