This year we've asked some of our favorite writers and editors to tell us what albums
stood out in '98. Today, SonicNet's Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen supplies his top
1. Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue (WEA/Elektra): Bragg ruffled
feathers by calling this disc, on which he and Wilco set previously unheard Woody
Guthrie lyrics to their own music, a "collaboration" with the late folk singer. But the ghost
of Guthrie -- the man, not just the protest singer -- is all over this album, whisperin' and
hollerin' and, above all, singin'.
2. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse): Like the
Fugees from whence she came, Hill is informed by hip-hop but plays soul music as
intimately and eternally spiritual as Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.
3. Olu Dara, In the World: From Natchez to New York (WEA/Atlantic):
Most so-called world music is soulless drivel. But trumpeter-guitarist-singer Dara's
beautiful stew of jazz, Afro-Caribbean music, blues and hip-hop sounds both
down-home and worldly, while borderless and timeless.
4. Mike Ireland & Holler, Learning How to Live (SubPop): Ireland plays a
style of music -- "countrypolitan," with strings and an ear toward pop -- that country
purists pegged as a sellout back when George Jones was doing it. Now that Garth and
Shania rule the charts, this stuff's the real deal. It's also heartbreaking, gorgeous and
5. Hole, Celebrity Skin (Geffen): If you're focusing on Courtney Love's
"sellout," on Billy Corgan, or on her damn dresses, you sure as hell aren't listening to the
music. Courtney's always had a pop heart in a rocker's body, and that's exactly what this
disc sounds like. Catchy as hell, and it kicks ass. And because this is so clearly a
California album, there's nothing wrong with quoting Jackson Browne: "That girl can
6. Garbage, Version 2.0 (Almo/Interscope): Nobody combines rock
guitars, pop melodies and dance-club aesthetics better than Garbage. As great as their
debut was, it gave few hints at the variety of moods -- from the tragic "Medication" to the
swaggering kiss off of "Special" -- that Shirley Manson and the boys dive into here.
7. Outkast, Aquemini (LaFace): Along with Goodie Mob, Outkast have
claimed Atlanta as the current capital of hip-hop, with equal parts street cred and
Southern soul. Sure, they've got their gangsta side, but they always come back to the
consequences. And with "Rosa Parks," they honor an ancestor who's been all but left out
of hip-hop's version of history.
8. Patty Griffin, Flaming Red (A&M): Griffin interweaves the personal with
the political better than just about anybody else, and she writes the kind of organic pop
that Sheryl Crow only dreams of. The melodies pull you in, but the stories and the spirit
keep you there.
9. Bruce Springsteen, Tracks (Columbia): All of Springsteen's styles and
personas are here -- stream-of-consciousness street poet, celebratory rock 'n' roller,
blue-eyed soul man, folkie loner -- and hearing them side-by-side lets them play off one
another in ways that even his most ardent fans may not have bet on.
10. Bob Mould, The Last Dog & Pony Show (Rykodisc): Mould finally
reconciles the darkness and the light, coming up with his best solo effort yet. It's
introverted without being claustrophobic, reflective without being narcissistic, and it
delivers rockers and ballads with equal aplomb.