By Kim Taylor, Virginmega.com
#1 Paul van Dyk - Reflections (Mute)
What can I say? Paul has outdone even himself on his latest artist album. Next to Underworld and Massive Attack, he may have produced one of the most far-reaching and significant electronic albums ever. Seriously, it's that brilliant. The range begins with Paul's first-ever foray into pop ("Time of Our Lives") and extends to hard dance floor tracks that are unmatched - all are pure perfection. For an interview with Paul about this album click here.
#2 Deep Dish Global Underground - Toronto (Global Underground)
This 2-CD Global Underground mix represents everything I love about DJ culture! Both Sharam and Ali's mixes are tight as hell ranging from emotional vocal tracks to dark, emotional breakthroughs. The guys expose up-and-coming talent in certain ones, while remixing others with keen intuition. It's the best mix album that came out last year hands-down. For an in-depth profile on Deep Dish read this interview: click here.
#3 Underworld (1992 - 2002) (V2)
Everything Karl Hyde and Rick Smith do is better than the last and this 2-CD retrospective is no exception. Plus it's one of the only places you'll find updated mixes of classics like "Born Slippy." Although it features previously released songs, all of it sounds thoroughly modern proving that Underworld is always just that much ahead of the curve. It's purely brilliant and anyone who loves electronic, Underworld, or spot-on production in any kind of music will agree.
#4 Paris - Sonic Jihad (Guerrilla Funk)
Musically, the production on this CD is genius, as is Paris' sexy, smart rapping. And the message? Well, a lot of folks think it's dangerous. You may not like the message this long-standing, very well respected Bay Area rapper/producer is delivering, but if you turn off CNN and read some alternative news sources, you'll see Paris' information is very well documented.
#5 Paloalto - Heroes & Villains (American)
THE most beautiful, melancholic and lyrically poignant record to come out this year. You won't fully understand it after just a couple of listens… stick with it and you won't be able to stop. Read the Virginmega.com review of Heroes & Villains to know why. I listened to this CD so much that I converted people in my office, at home and friends visiting from far away simply because it was playing so much.
#6 Stereophonics - You Gotta Go There To Come Back (V2)
I was not a fan of this British rock band (even though they're on my favorite label V2) until they came up with this album featuring the soul-wrenching UK single "Maybe Tomorrow." Almost every song on this album is special - especially a few of the real rockers. This one stayed in my car stereo for months (I know, I know, I live in LA).
#7 Ghazel The Rain (ECM Records)
This is the album to listen to when everyone is going crazy around you and chaos reigns supreme. It will center the sphere around you taking your unconscious soul to ancient Persian and Indian times. This gorgeous live recording is made up of stark vocals, sitar, tabla, and kamancheh, giving it a decidedly Zen feel in just three tracks ("Fire," "Dawn," "Eternity"). It's actually up for a Grammy, which is very unusual for anything appearing on my Top 10.
#8 Dave Ralph - Resident Alien (System Recordings)
Dave Ralph has played music in Paul Oakenfold's shadow from so many years on the road (as his opening act), that we forget, he has a distinct sound of his own (which I like better than Oaky's). This mix featured lots of his original material that is truly splendid, as is the actual mix on CD 1. Can't wait to see what he does next ...
#9 Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (La Face)
This should make every Top 10 of the year simply for the song "Hey Ya" and its hilarious video. This stellar album (with 39 tracks!) needs to set the tone of our nation in another direction (a happy one!). It proves that Atlanta's Big Boi and Andre 3000 are not afraid of anything. The fact that they have recently busted onto every nook and cranny of the mainstream is simply fantastic. Show us the way boys.
#10 People Under The Stairs - Or Stay Tuned (Om Records)
Along with Sonic Jihad and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it's one of the year's best hip hop albums! They're paying attention up there in the Bay Area and you should too.
Jem It All Starts Here (ATO)
Although this is just an EP, it shows so much promise from fresh British singer Jem, who works with producers who are perfectly suited to her (i.e. Guy Sigsworth of Frou Frou), that it had to be mentioned. Look for her full length coming out early next year.