Critic's Pick: Matt Melucci'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 Matt Melucci supplies his top 10.

1. Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge/Touch &

Go):

One of the best albums of the decade, let alone the year. It is quirky, warm, real and

completely of another realm. This is as close to perfection as they get.

2. Pernice Brothers, Overcome By Happiness (Sub Pop):

The melodies are infectious, even hypnotizing at times. The arrangements -- which use

harps, guitars and piano -- and the harmonies drag you in and never let you go. They

sound even better live.

3. Elliott Smith, XO (DreamWorks):

A Beatles-styled nearly perfect piece of work that feels genuine from the get-go. Not only

can he turn a phrase lyrically, but this album proves he has some of the best instinct for

pop around.

4. Afghan Whigs, 1965 (Sony Music):

It just sounds good. Hard to pinpoint why. Briefly: It's edgy. It's thoughtful. It rocks.

5. Madonna, Ray of Light (Warner Brothers):

What can I say? She's Madonna. Somehow, she keeps finding a way. This time, she did

it with a little electronica and a lot of that classic Madonna sensuality.

6. Pulp, This Is Hardcore (Island):

A wonderfully eclectic, hardcore project. I heard it once; I loved it.

7. R.E.M., Up (Warner Brothers):

This vote is more out of an allegiance to the band. While I think the album is good and, at

moments, excellent, aside from some experimental instruments and beats, I don't feel it

offers anything that these guys haven't already done and better. But they are R.E.M., and

even their not-so-good is pretty damn good.

8. Creeper Lagoon, I Become Small And Go (Nickelbag/A.D.A.):

Probably one of the most unknown, yet most intriguing bodies of work released in '98. It

has everything and the Dust Brothers.

9. Wilco/Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue (WEA/Elektra):

It's hard to imagine these two artists singing the lyrics of Woody Guthrie could be

anything but great. Just listen to "California Stars" and you'll see what I mean.

10. Hole, Celebrity Skin (Geffen):

I'm not a big fan of Ms. Courtney, still I can't help but love this album. It's great pop with

an energy and an attitude that is 90 percent Hollywood and 10 percent grunge. And,

somehow, it works.