Critic's Pick: Melissa Price's Top 10 Albums Of 1998

This year we've asked some of our favorite writers and editors to tell us what albums

stood out in '98. Today, SonicNet's Melissa Price supplies her top 10.

Top Nine, But Who's Counting

1. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia):

A holy fire extinguishes everything false and spent in hip-hop and points more distant.

From the brimstone emerges a phoenix with a penchant for gospel, R&B, and spreading

songs of transformation and renewal in a world too jaded and tired to simply believe.

2. Belle and Sebastian, The Boy With The Arab Strap (Matador):

Transporting pop from the band that still rides the bus. Proof that humility can be sexy.

(Still, If You're Feeling Sinister was better because Stuart Murdoch didn't dilute

his genius by allowing other bandmembers to participate as much, so maybe this

humility thing has gone a little too far ...)

3. Madonna, Ray Of Light (Maverick):

Our favorite power chameleon discovers electronica, yoga and motherhood -- all of

which have loosened up her hips, resulting in the creation of a great dance album.

4. Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge/Elephant

Six):

Because early Pink Floyd was really good. It still is. Because they're shameless

surrealists.

5. Liz Phair, whitechocolatespaceegg (Matador):

Because she's a tall man. Because her left eye hurts. Because she is whip-smarter and

more imaginative than anyone else. Elegant, catchy, restrained, complex. Sometimes

mature ambivalence is a good thing.

6. R.E.M., Up (Warner Bros.):

It doesn't matter all that much that drummer Berry is gone, because when Stipe, Buck,

and Mills join hands and form a circle they become something like a drum.

7. Hole, Celebrity Skin (DGC):

Like a well-made bed. You can bounce a quarter off it, which is both bad and good -- bad

because such tight production leaves little breathing room, good because it results in the

kind of relentless catchiness that characterizes near-perfect pop.

8. Ani DiFranco, Little Plastic Castle (Righteous Babe Records):

More musically and lyrically experimental than previous albums. Here's a babe more

right than righteous, more court jester than queen.

9. Eels, Electro-Shock Blues (DreamWorks):

Because, like suffering, they're unrelenting. And yet there is hope -- it's bleeding a little,

but never mind ...