1 POP U2 (Island) That’s Pop as in ”Pop Muzik,” and Pop as in Father: This may be the first party record about the absence of God. But fans and foes zeroed in more on the techno sprinklings around the rim than the deus-shaped hole at the CD’s center, and while it’s weird calling a U2 album ”criminally underrated,” this one’s rep may require years of rehabilitation. All in good time. ”Gone” in particular is a great, rapturous funeral song for the ages; thank heaven no one thought to spoil it by hitching it to Di’s wagon.
2 GUN SHY TRIGGER HAPPY Jen Trynin (Squint/Warner Bros.) There’s a breakup song for every occasion in the second album from the finest rock song slinger to arrive in these late ’90s. Chrissie Hynde has had plenty of pretend heirs, but Trynin — marrying cautious strains of relational ambivalence to heedlessly cocky guitar pop — establishes a direct line of beautifully surly succession.
3 FRANK SINATRA WITH THE RED NORVO QUINTET, LIVE IN AUSTRALIA, 1959 Frank Sinatra (Blue Note) What a windfall, to find Old Bloodshot Eyes still riding the crest of his mid-1950s peak in the early August of his years, set up well out of town with a well-suited jazz combo, regarding one of the century’s most considerable canons like a lovely bender.
4 OLE (THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY) Tonio K. (Gadfly) ”Make it stop/Stop the clock forever,” goes the opening chorus…and nope, it’s not Dylan’s celebrated meditation on mortality and time’s ravages, but another great one in that subgenre from cult figure K., turning temporality into rock-of-ages stuff.
5 TIME OUT OF MIND Bob Dylan (Columbia) Dylan seems determined to sound as ghostly in the present tense as his hero Jimmie Rodgers does decades distant. These are blues heard through a glass darkly, the faint hope of heaven only occasionally casting light on the year’s most impressively depressing long-form lament.
6 SONGS FROM THE CAPEMAN Paul Simon (Warner Bros.) In some ways this 13-song excerpt can’t help but seem like a teaser for the 39-song Broadway show. That said, it’s rewarding to hear Simon working out his usual heady themes in middlebrow character…and in soaring doo-wop and salsa.
7 OK COMPUTER Radiohead (Capitol) Sure, it’s whiny. Sure, it’s stunning. Karma police, promote this band!
8 WHATEVER AND EVER AMEN Ben Folds Five (550 Music) If any comer seems a smart bet to someday follow Simon onto Broadway, it’s Folds, whose awesomely well-constructed, sober ballads are even better than his piano-pounding flights of bumblebee smart-aleckiness.
9 THE CHARITY OF NIGHT Bruce Cockburn (Rykodisc) Paint it black: This perennially cerebral Canadian’s folk-noir cycle affectingly found humankind’s best of times and worst under cover of darkness.
10 IN IT FOR THE MONEY Supergrass (Capitol) The perfect tonic for Oasis’ aggressively mediocre bloat, Supergrass helped give Brit pop back its good name by spiritedly combining Supertramp with Super-glam-rock.