18. Travis, The Invisible Band
I didn’t have a working familiarity with a lot of the artists on this list when 2001 began, even those that could reasonably claim to already be well-established in the realm of college. I certainly knew Travis, though, largely because I had completely bought into their brand of lush, emotive pop at the time. It was an understandable (and, I’d hazard, commonplace) position to hold at the time, collecting music crafted in the rhythmic aftershocks of The Verve’s Urban Hymns, the 1997 album that housed perhaps the most rapturously wonderful single of the decade. The Verve were hardly the first practitioners of such a sound (and I’ve got a well-worn copy of the Triffids’ Calenture from about a decade earlier to prove it), but they were the exemplars of the style at the moment. Travis weren’t juts following in their footsteps, they were pressing their feet deeply into the soil as if planting a territorial flag. I owned their fine 1999 sophomore effort, The Man Who, and was plenty pleased when the follow-up arrived at the radio station at about the same point as I. It was another fine album, even if it had a bit of a rehash quality to it, but my main association with it is as the release the reminded me that, along with all the pleasures inherent in involvement with college radio, there was always the significant risk that DJs gifted with playlist freedom could easily overplay certain songs to the point of souring a whole album if you’re the person who is listening to the radio station all day, every day. Sorry, fellas.
17. Tricky, Blowback
There were plenty of things that seemed different between my two separate tenures in college radio. One of the most admirable was the wider acceptance of rap and hip hop on the general charts. In the late eighties and early nineties, there were a few acts and albums that crossed over (chief among them the Beastie Boys, who were such a hybrid that they barely counted), but the continuing erosion of barriers between sounds in the intervening years changed that. I might instinctively categorize Tricky as hip hop, even though the songs on the 2001 album Blowback have more in common with Tom Waits’s Bone Machine than anything Public Enemy ever did. Of course, that’s in part because I was mentally filing it in the wrong section, and Tricky is better described as a trip hop artist. Goes to show how unschooled my ears can be. Blowback was Tricky’s sixth studio album and was, by his own assertion, one deliberately intended to generate the sort of radio airplay that had largely eluded him to this point. It worked for college radio, but it’s hard to conceive of the commercial stations ever warming to material this dark.
50 and 49: Creeper Lagoon and Ryan Adams
48 and 47: The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
46 and 45: Spoon and Black Box Recorder
44 and 43: Rival Schools and Aphex Twin
42 and 41: Ben Folds and Superchunk
40 and 39: The Faint and Modest Mouse
38 and 37: The Shins and R.E.M.
36 and 35: Old 97’s and Red House Painters
34 and 33: Mogwai and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
32 and 31: Death by Chocolate and PJ Harvey
30 and 29: Rocket From the Crypt and The Donnas
28 and 27: U2 and Cake
26 and 25: The Living End and Spiritualized
24 and 23: Ladytron and New Order
22 and 21: Air and Mercury Rev
20 and 19: Daft Punk and Idlewild