Ted Simons
Contributing music writer

1. Sugar, Copper Blue (Rykodisc). Bob Mould's best stuff since the heyday of Hsker D. Mould's massive hooks and compressed, buzz-saw-guitar attack makes for great energy, great songs--great stuff. Killer cuts: "Changes" and "Fortune Teller."

2. R.E.M., Automatic for the People (Warner Bros.). Year-end polls are almost automatic for R.E.M. But this latest 12-song set is special. A melancholic return to form, highlighted by the wonderfully wistful "Nightswimming." 3. Gin Blossoms, New Miserable Experience (A&M). Pure pop for Tempe people. A strong, beautifully produced CD of accomplished songcraft and bar-stool metaphysics. The best local disc since Meat Puppets II.

4. Television, Television (Capitol). The grand old band of New York's New Wave reunites for a startling exhibition of economic six-string magic. A prerequisite for anyone even thinking of picking up a guitar. Great song: "In World."

5. Arvo Part, Miserere (ECM). Released in late 1991, this postmodern "classical" collection puts minimalism alongside ancient polyphony, with striking results. A truly transcendent piece of work.

6. E, A Man Called E (Polydor). More like a man called "Twee." The Pet Sounds tendencies are at times overbearing, but the curiously monikered E still comes up with a confident, original-sounding debut.

7. Del Amitri, Change Everything (A&M). A slew of stunning breakup songs best avoided by the weak of heart. Catchy compositions and an overall sense of maturity make this a good CD to grow up on and grow old with.

8. Catherine Wheel, Ferment (Fontana). Another sullen bunch of Brits, you say? Well, yes. But Ferment's blend of swoopy-doopy hooks and almost-industrial noisecraft is a delight from every angle. Best cut: "Black Metallic."

9. Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted (Matador). The last of the great post-Pixies, post-post-V.U. bands. Pavement's monochromatic brand of emotive bloodletting is almost out of style these days. Too bad, really. These bicoastal bohos do the slacker-catharsis thing well.

10. Tool, Opiate (Zoo Entertainment). Controlled mayhem recorded live and in-studio. The psychotic spew of lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan makes this kinda sound like Jane's Addiction in a real testy mood. Pleasant tune: "Cold and Ugly."

Best Singles: "One" by U2, and Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch." Proof that even over-the-hill megastars can come up with honest, heartfelt songs. Killer lyrics on both.

Best Record Company: Rykodisc. For the Big Star collection. And the Soft Boys rereleases. And the Sugar disc. And for giving John Cale and Buffy Sainte-Marie an opportunity to fail.

Best Retrospective: The massive Buck Owens box recently let loose on an underappreciative public. Worth the price for another hearing of "My Heart Skips a Beat."

Best Local Disc: Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience. No contest there. But watch for the likes of Chimera, Spinning Jenny, Grievous Angels, Beats the Hell Out of Me, Strangelove, Zen Lunatics, Galen Herod, genepool and the ever-promising Dead Hot Workshop to jockey for position in 93. Should make for an interesting onslaught of local tunes. David Koen

Contributing hip-hop writer

1. Arrested Development, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of . . . , (Chrysalis). Call em P.E. unplugged. They brought songs about lynchings and black-on-black crime to Top 40 and wrapped them in the kind of sweet protest melodies that pick up where Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley left off.

2. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head (Capitol). Essentially, the Beasties' white-punks-on-dope-grooves formula all over again, only this time we're talking a live-instrument free-for-all that sends you straight for the meshuga pit. 3. House of Pain, House of Pain (Tommy Boy). The only thing better than the House's shtick is the music. Take away its carefully designed, Guinness-slurping image, and you've still got a rapper in Everlast whose voice is as awesome a weapon as any in hip-hop and a production team with impeccable taste in samples. Top o' the mornin' to em.

4. Brand New Heavies, Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1 (Delicious Vinyl/Atlantic). The British Heavies, a guitar-bass-drums trio, got together with a different American or Jamaican rapper on each song, and everyone's so busy hitting on everyone else's live grooves and discovering the essence of organic hip-hop, the songs take on the kind of warm glow that makes you glad they didn't invite the drum machine to the session.

5. Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Hipocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury (4th & B'Way). Stick with this album through Michael Franti's rote rants on TV, war and all the world issues Bono used to fret over. It's on the micro level that the ex-Beatnig really speaks volumes, rending heart-wrenching tales about gay-bashing and miscegenation that'll have you remembering Hiphoprisy long after you've forgotten Franti's views on the budget deficit.

6. Shabba Ranks, X-tra Naked (Epic). The anti-Michael Bolton, Jamaican dance-hall king's as hard-core as he is sexy, whether he's wrapping his whiskey n' spliffs vocals around a ballad or hurtling through the rocking fat jams like an L.L. of the island.

7. Ice Cube, The Predator (Priority). Sinad O'Connor wasn't too far off when she named Ice Cube America's poet laureate. With his smarts and fury and much juicy drive-by funk to back him up, it's safe to say Cube's replaced Chuck D as AmeriKKKa's premier prophet of rage.

8. Das Efx, Dead Serious (Eastwest). Not an ounce of fat anywhere. The group shows off its ultra-angular, slice-and-dice raps for the pure pleasure of celebrating the poetry and competition of hip-hop.

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