By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Best live album by a band you didn't expect to be good live anymore: Radiohead, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (Capitol): An essential reinterpretation of Kid Aand Amnesiac's best songs, featuring the most unlikely singalong in music history, "Idioteque."
Best album by a guy who looks like a Sunday school teacher: Built to Spill, Ancient Melodies of the Future(Warner Bros.): BTS's Doug Martsch continues to assert himself as indie's pre-eminent guitarist. Sorry, J Mascis.
Best album that hasn't actually been released yet: Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (unreleased): So this is the exact opposite of what record company executives like. No wonder the music industry sucks.
Best album to get stoned to: Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat): Notes buzz in and short out, creating songs that don't so much end but fade away.
Best album by a bunch of stoners: The Beta Band, Hot Shots II (Astralwerks): The weirdest band in the world has maintained its love of samples and odd instrumentation, but this time it wrote actual songs.
Best soul album by a rock band: The Charlatans UK, Wonderland (MCA): Not what you'd expect from aging British rockers. Singer Tim Burgess has traded in his Dylanesque delivery for a dynamite falsetto.
Best album by a guy who nailed Winona Ryder: Ryan Adams, Gold (Lost Highway): After taking his turn with everyone's favorite groupie, Adams emerged with this tribute of sorts to '70s rock radio--equal parts ripping guitars and tender ballads.
Best album to rock your balls off: Tenacious D, Tenacious D (Epic): JB and KG have come to rescue rock, returning to its core elements: twin guitars, wailing vocals, Satanism and misogyny.
Best album by friends of the Observer: Chomsky, Onward Quirky Soldiers (Idol): Local boys on the verge of greatness who craft the kind of bouncy pop tunes that bring emo kids and XTC fans together.
Best album by a band of manic-depressives: Travis, The Invisible Band (Epic): Not as much of a downer as The Man Who, this album proves that sensitive men can rock when they want to.
Best album from north of the 48th parallel: Sloan, Pretty Together (Murder): They continue to make up for Bryan Adams and Alanis Morrisette, exporting rock anthems and heartfelt ballads.
Best overhyped album: The Strokes, Is This It (RCA): So what if they are the indie 'N Sync? Conspiracy theories aside, they've got some pretty damned good songs; although at this rate they'll probably end up on Now That's What I Call Music Volume 9.