Critic's Pick: Matty Karas' 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 Matty Karas supplies his top 10.

1. Semisonic, "Closing Time" (UNI/MCA):

It was a crappy year for albums, a great one for singles -- especially syrupy, simple slices

of perfect AM-radio popcraft with just enough '90s angst to fool FM modern-rock stations

into playing them. Just try not singing along.

2. Air, "Sexy Boy" (Source/Caroline):

The most monstrous hook of the year. It sounds something like one of those Black

Sabbath songs that actually has a melody, but whittled down to its roots and plinked out

on a Casio.

3. Madonna, "Ray of Light" (Warner Bros.):

You can have your Fastballs; for power-pop, I'll take this curveball from the queen of pop.

The album was overrated, the singles underrated, and this strange delight was the best

of 'em all.

4. Stereo Total, Juke-Box Alarm (Bungalow):

The singles I would cull from this lo-fi European synth-pop masterpiece, had I the power,

would include the Tommy Roe rip "Touche-Moi," the garage-glam-rock sing-along

"Supercool," the Coasters rip "Nouvelle Vague" and the lo-fi sex song "Holiday Innn."

And if I had the power, I would make them bigger than the Vaselines.

5. Money Mark, Push the Button (Mo Wax/London):

I like singles 'cause I have an incredibly short attention span. So, it seems, does Money

Mark, whose second album sounds like a mix tape made by a home-recording fanatic

with an equal love of guitar pop, hipster grooves and left-field singer/songwriters. Also, it

appears he has a chronic inability to stay with any of those things for more than two

minutes at a time, which endears me to him to no end.

6. Vic Chesnutt, The Salesman and Bernadette (Capricorn):

This relatively normal album doesn't fit into my, um, theory of the year in any way; it's just

a fantastically eerie, strange, funny folk-pop record. And -- move over, Warren Zevon -- it

includes "Woodrow Wilson," my new favorite song named after a celebrity.

7. Fatboy Slim, "The Rockafeller Skank" (Astralwerks):

Call me a sucka for falling for this incredibly catchy crossover move. But my friend Andy,

whose idea of perfect pop begins with the Archies and ends with the Ohio Express, and

who turned me onto it in the first place, still swears by it, as does my friend Peter, whose

idea of perfect pop runs more toward DJ Shadow and Kid Loco. So I'm quite sure we're

onto something here.

8. Cardigans, "My Favourite Game" (Mercury):

My favorite video in I don't know how long. The piece of bubblegummy, yet sad, pop that

came with it didn't hurt.

9. Various Artists, I Stayed Up All Night Listening to Records (Anyway):

These 25 short, under-produced non-singles by 25 moonlighting members of Guided by

Voices, Moviola, Gaunt, the Yips and even a few bands that aren't from Ohio all probably

could be turned into Semisonic hits if anybody felt like trying.

10. The Spice Girls, "Stop" (Virgin):

Puff Daddy's problem isn't that he rips off other people's songs, it's that he rips off other

people's incredibly boring songs. The Spice Girls, on the other hand, chose to rip off

Culture Club's heavenly "Church of the Poison Mind," and they got it right.