– WORLD-MUSIC ALBUM PROXIMA ESTACION: ESPERANZA Manu Chao (Virgin) Reggae-inflected party music from a Spanish Frenchman never sounded so good. The second CD from the ex-Mano Negra frontman is full of joy and verve.
– CUTTING-EDGE JAZZ ALBUM BLACK STARS Jason Moran (Blue Note) A forward-thinking young pianist, Moran found the perfect partner in septuagenarian saxophonist Sam Rivers, producing a cross-generational triumph.
– REISSUE THE LANGLEY SCHOOLS MUSIC PROJECT: INNOCENCE & DESPAIR (Bar/None) High-voiced ’70s Canadian grade-schoolers sing ”Rhiannon,” ”Desperado,” and other bell-bottom hits. No, we’re not kidding. And yes, it’s that good – a sweet, beguiling pop choir.
– TRADITIONAL COUNTRY ALBUM MOUNTAIN SOUL Patty Loveless (Epic) Honest-to-Jesus, acoustic hillbilly music, performed with fire and grace. Loveless’ masterwork throbs with the pride and anguish of a region that refuses defeat.
– CLASSICAL VOCAL ALBUM ANGELS HIDE THEIR FACES Dawn Upshaw (Nonesuch) Angelic, but poignantly human. Soprano Upshaw brings radiant sincerity to Bach’s and Purcell’s sublime meditations on love, faith, and redemption.
– ELECTRONICA ALBUM ROOTY Basement Jaxx (Astralwerks) They love the nightlife, they got to boogie.
– BOXED SET NUGGETS II: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND BEYOND, 1964-1969 Various Artists (Rhino) Those alienated by today’s soulless pop can tune in and turn on to this galvanizing four-disc set of garage classics. You may never want to listen to anything recorded after 1969 again.
– SOUNDTRACK HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (London/Sire) Ziggy would be proud of Stephen Trask’s stardust-covered rockers; ”Wicked Little Town” is the power ballad Andrew Lloyd Webber and Poison both wish they’d written.
– MAINSTREAM JAZZ ALBUM BLACK DAHLIA Bob Belden (Blue Note) The inventive composer and arranger interprets a gruesome tale of noir Hollywood through sumptuous orchestrations and lean combo playing that put a bracing new spin on 1940s nostalgia.
– CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM STRAVINSKY: THE RITE OF SPRING; SCRIABIN: THE POEM OF ECSTASY Valery Gergiev (Philips) Brute force and extreme passions are conductor Gergiev’s strong suits. His Rite is a seething cauldron of raw fury; his Poem, a smoldering, hyper-erotic hallucination.
– VIDEO ”NEW YORK NEW YORK” Ryan Adams Filmed on Sept. 7, this moving-but-tasteful clip features Adams singing ”I still love you, New York” in front of the Twin Towers. Neither the song nor the video was intended as a tribute; maybe that’s why they’re so inspirational.
– CAST ALBUM BAT BOY – THE MUSICAL (RCA Victor) Between ”Springtime for Hitler” and a very special Buffy, it was a swell year for musical send-ups, but the hysterical, inordinately tuneful Bat Boy was the fairest of them all.
– JAM-BAND ALBUM THE WORD The Word (Ropeadope/Atlantic) Rich, Allman-style instrumentals featuring the North Mississippi Allstars and gospel steel guitarist Robert Randolph, and best summed up by the title of one of their songs: ”Joyful Sounds.”
– DB, CW, Rob Brunner, Tom Sinclair, Alanna Nash, Steve Futterman, Scott D. Paulin