Best of the Best

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 A and Amnesiac's best songs, featuring the most unlikely singalong in music history, "Idioteque."

Best album by a band you didn't know still existed: New Order, Get Ready (Reprise): Is guest vocalist Billy Corgan assisting in New Order's comeback or vice versa?

Best album by a band you hoped still existed: Weezer, Weezer (Interscope): One pop masterpiece after another. Unfortunate side effect: We now have two generations of Weezer kids.

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.

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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 ever come out of Albuquerque: The Shins, Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop): A dreamy pop classic that makes The Apples in Stereo look like a cheap Beatles cover band.

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.

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