By Jeremy Hallock
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7. Dixie Chicks, "Truth No. 2" (Open Wide/Sony): What country music should be in 2002: traditional and timely, down-home and uptown all at once. There's picking but not much grinning as the Chicks sit on the back porch of a penthouse.
8. The Flaming Lips, "Fight Test" (Warner Bros.): Wayne Coyne and the boys followed up this generation's Pet Sounds with this generation's Smile, and "Fight Test" set the tone.
9. Missy Elliott, "Work It" (Elektra): Sticks in your head like autopsy photos, despite (or because of?) its back-masked chorus. Miss E's prolly the only rapper around who can give decades-old samples that new-car smell.
10. Ash, "Envy" (Infectious): What would happen if the Undertones heard the Supremes' symphony. Pick up Ash's import-only singles collection Intergalactic Sonic 7"s (only $19 at Tower) and hear what you've been missing all this time.
11. Interpol, "PDA" (Matador): Not sure if I like this because I actually like it or if it just reminds me of other bands I already like (Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen). Works either way, I guess.
12. Goldenboy, "Sing Another Song for the Winterlong" (b-girl): Nick Drake sits in with Grandaddy, and they all cheer up for a few minutes.
13. Morcheeba and Slick Rick, "Women Lose Weight" (Warner Bros.): Slick Rick's still the ruler. Don't let the government deport him.
14. Norah Jones, "Cold Cold Heart" (Blue Note): Jones' voice is all smoke and Sunday morning, sounding like the angel that brought Hank Williams to heaven. If that's where he went.
15. Antipop Consortium, "Ping Pong" (Warp): The Wu-Tang Clan, if everyone in the group took as many drugs as ODB. Hip-huh?
16. Elvis Costello, "45" (Island Def Jam): This year's model is older, but it runs better than it has in almost a decade.
17. Josh Rouse, "Feeling No Pain" (Rykodisc): Rouse doesn't like to be called a singer-songwriter. Too bad he's such a great one. In Rouse's hands, "mature" isn't merely a synonym for "boring."
18. Guided by Voices, "Back to the Lake" (Matador): I hope I get old like Bob Pollard before I die.
19. Jurassic 5, "One of Them" (Interscope): A line in the sand, a grenade with the pin pulled, a fist in the air, a kick in the junk. You're either with J5 or against them.
20. The Vines, "Ms. Jackson" (EMI): This smoked-out version of the OutKast hit is the only remotely worthwhile thing Craig Nichols and the Vines have done. And it's so over-the-top good, it almost justifies the music media's crotch diving. Too bad they didn't write it.