Honor roll: Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album

Each of these albums has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. They are ranked by honors received.

Album:Elephant

Elephant

The White Stripes

Jokingly referred to as the White Stripes’ British album, Elephant is scattered with cultural references that give away the fact it was recorded far from home. Just listen to the lyrics on “Seven Nation Army” (“From the Queen of England to the hounds of Hell”) or the album outro, in which someone chips in, “Jolly good, cup of tea?” But while there are new twists here, from Meg White discovering her voice to a tongue-in-cheek threesome with Holly Golightly, Elephant is no great departure for Jack and Meg White. They still push their creativity (and…

Album:Kid A

Kid A

Radiohead

How is it that Kid A’s opening track, laden with an electronic vocal stuttering “bleh, bluh-bleh bleh bluh” is the most fascinating statement made in rock & roll this year? Because somehow, even when Radiohead blathers and blips nonsense, it’s profound. The band’s future-perfect musical grammar may be hard to decipher, and the melody is even more subliminal, but the journey traveled with Radiohead reveals them to be not only rock music’s greatest adventurers in 2000, but teachers as well.

Album:Get Behind Me Satan

Get Behind Me Satan

The White Stripes

Their fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan is the strangest and least focused effort by these unlikely garage rock superstars to date. It’s also their finest, an Exile on Main Street-ish mish-mash where the sum is greater than the parts. In a market increasingly driven by singles and downloads, it’s nice to be reminded how exciting an album can be, especially one where you really don’t know what to expect next. There are a lot fewer pounding guitars on this album. They’ve largely been replaced by pounding pianos. Most songs sound like rough mixes at…

Album:A Ghost Is Born

A Ghost Is Born

Wilco

The infectious twang and pop hooks of Wilco’s former efforts may be fading fast, but A Ghost Is Born is still a rewarding effort that demands repeated listening. The group’s fifth album extends upon the experimentalism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with angular, blues-soaked guitar riffs (“At Least That’s What You Said,” “Hell Is Chrome”), a handful of sparse, yet catchy tunes (smack dab in the middle of the disc) that will surely keep college radio stations smiling, and a lengthy track that descends into mere static (“Less Than You Think”). Frontman Jeff…

Album:A Rush of Blood to the Head

A Rush of Blood to the Head

Coldplay

Coldplay required a lifetime to make their wonderfully assured debut, Parachutes. But it took less than two years for the moody British quartet to deliver a masterful follow-up. As a band, Coldplay have advanced to a stage where they outshine nearly every one of their rivals in terms of imagination and emotional pull. A Rush of Blood to the Head is a soulful, exhilarating journey, moving from the cathartic rock of “Politik” to the hushed tones of “Green Eyes” without once breaking its mesmerizing spell. Singer Chris Martin takes his voice on soaring…

Album:Parachutes

Parachutes

Coldplay

Music doesn’t come more touching than Parachutes. With their debut single alone, the emotion-fortified “Shiver”, Coldplay proved they could shift between elated and crushed in a breath as singer Chris Martin poured out music’s oldest chestnut (unconditional yet unrequited love) with the shakiest of voices and a backdrop of epic guitars that rouse and tug at the heart strings. For 10 tracks on Parachutes, he comes out with these, adding new-found meaning to the most tired and overused rock sentiments—love found, love lost, love unrequited, hurting…

Album:Midnite Vultures

Midnite Vultures

Beck

When Beck mangles folk, hip-hop, country, blues, and lo-fi rock into a unique sonic species, he pays homage to his influences in a way that is utterly entertaining. Indeed, the alt-rock vagabond is responsible for some of the 1990s’ most indispensable music. In his lesser moments, however, Beck’s attempts at emulating his preceptors fall flat, creating only B-grade versions of the genuine articles. Midnite Vultures splits down the middle between the great Beck and the not-so-great Beck. About half the album gorges on retro pulp fiction, a…

Album:Funeral

Funeral

Arcade Fire

“Wake Up,” a track from, Funeral, the debut full-length by Montreal’s Arcade Fire, builds from a midtempo strum into a “You Can’t Hurry Love” gallop, which singer Win Butler interrupts with a yell: “You better look out below!” Somehow, none of this hits the ear as over-emotional. Throughout Funeral, the band augments its five-piece line-up with string sections, weaving a near-cinematic, folk-influenced chamber pop that slots in somewhere between Belle and Sebastian’s delicacy and the robust classicism of ‘80s New Zealand bands such as the Chills and…

Album:Guero

Guero

Beck

Now that Beck has effectively exorcised his personal demons with 2002’s hyperconfessional Sea Change, he can get back to the business of being a total fruit loop. We all know what that involves: videogame sound effects, random shouting in Spanish, and rhymes about popsicles and vegetable vans. And that’s just the second track. Guero is like every Beck album condensed into one, a no-holds-barred collision of two-turntables and a microphone with the added bonus of guitars, bossa-nova beats, Jack White, lyrics about spaceships, and dumptrucks full of…

Album:Plans

Plans

Death Cab for Cutie

When an indie-rock band as intimately and fiercely loved as Death Cab for Cutie makes the inevitable major-label jump, it often telegraphs a painful death. Witness Husker Du, the Replacements, Nirvana—hell, even R.E.M. After a successful four-album run on tiny Seattle imprint Barsuk, however, Death Cab for Cutie just might buck the trend on its Atlantic premiere. Yes, you can grumble about the production (a little too slick), the proportion of ballads (a little too many) and the overall feeling of restraint (a little too much), but ultimately the album delivers…

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