EW critics rank Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach, Lauryn Hill, and Bob Dylan as the best of the year
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Chris Willman crowed about Sheryl, got hooked on Alanis’ ‘Junkie’…

1 Painted From Memory Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach (Mercury)
A torch song thrillogy in which Alfie gets dumped by Alison, leading to much exquisite torment in the wee small hours of the morning.

2 WhitecChocolateSpaceEgg Liz Phair (Matador/Capitol)
Rock’s erstwhile princess of provocation proves there’s no shock value quite like dealing honestly with husbands, babies, and fellow confused grown-ups. Oddly, it’s sexier than ever.

3 The Globe Sessions Sheryl Crow (A&M)
”My Favorite Mistake” is an all-time keeper, even if the guy wasn’t. Crow’s masterfully tuneful meditations on losing at love are properly anguished but wickedly funny, too.

4 Hell Among the Yearlings Gillian Welch (Almo)
O death, where is thy sting? Why, right here in dust-bowl diva Welch’s austere balladry, full of mortal reckonings, tempered by the barest traces of country-gospel hope.

5 Car Wheels on a Gravel Road Lucinda Williams (Mercury)
If you aren’t caught up by the catch in that voice, better check under your hood.

6 Live 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (The ”Royal Albert Hall” Concert) Bob Dylan (Columbia/Legacy)
In case you missed the bootleg, or the sound of history changing before our ears.

7 Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie Alanis Morissette (Maverick)
You don’t have to be a gifted child to be intrigued by Alanis’ dramaturgy — just tolerant enough to see how her emotional precocity is casually brilliant at least as often as it is precious.

8 Up R.E.M. (Warner Bros.)
How uplifting to hear R.E.M. giving up the rock-star exertions of the last two albums for a return, new electronic toolbox in tow, to the business of being beautiful.

9 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia)
The best argument for prematurely splitting up a perfectly tenable supergroup.

10 Taming the Tiger Joni Mitchell (Reprise)
Half personal insight, half incisory gnashing, Mitchell lashes out at the world, then retreats back to the arms of love. Speaking of both sides now.

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