The nominees are:
- Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist
- Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
- Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
Keep in mind that I’m not claiming these are the absolute best albums of the year. They’re simply my favorites out of what I listened to.
The winner is:
Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
This album blew me away, I really don’t know how I forgot to include it in my preliminary nominations. Year Zero is a concept album, telling the story of a near-future USA which is run by a totalitarian theocracy. The songs come from different points of view, from people on all sides. The album has something for everyone – radio friendly hit singles like Survivalism stand next to a number of quirkier pieces. Trent Reznor and the band are at the top of their games here, delivering an album that plays great from start to end. There’s not one dud on the entire thing.
On a meta-level, Nine Inch Nails did some fascinating things with their promotional campaign. The current issue of Wired has a feature about the related Alternate Reality Game here. I played along a little bit, and the associated websites (which can still be accessed) do a great job of fleshing out the album’s story. In addition, there’s a new remix album of the Year Zero (somewhat clumsily titled ‘Y34RZ3R0RMIX3D’), which includes the raw tracks for each song on a DVD, preformated for audio editing programs like Garage Band. Fans are encouraged to create their own remixes and upload them to an official website for sharing.
I feel like Year Zero is an important album. Not just for the message, but also for what it heralds about the future of interactive participatory marketing in general.