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issue: 01/01/2001

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The Best Music of 2000

- by Jennifer Hawker

Another year, another year-end wrap-up. Every year it seems people complain that "it was a bad year for music" and I always beg to differ. This year was no exception: in a world filled with teenybopper boy bands, teen divas, and yet another groovy Madonna album, there were many surprises from a range of young talented bands and old favorites alike. You'll notice that I seemed to have both feet (or, rather, both ears) planted firmly in the British Isles, which is no surprise as it's no secret that I'm an Anglophile of sorts. However, think of this as your guide to what you missed if you have been caught in a world of Limp Bizkit and Blink 182 as your only "alternatives" to the teenyboppers.

From across the pond, three of my favorite albums were the debuts by London-based quartet Coldplay, the Mancunian group Doves, and Irish youngsters JJ72. Coldplay were dubbed "this year's Travis" after their catchy sing-along "Yellow" from Parachutes became one of the mega-hits of the summer. An infectious tune indeed, the real gems to be found on the album include the dreamy and magical lead track "Don't Panic" and the beautiful but haunting "Spies". Though singer Chris Martin's voice garners the band many comparisons to Radiohead and Jeff Buckley, I tend to think of the mellow acoustic vibe of Nick Drake as well as drawn-out space rock feel of early Verve.

editor's favorites

Donald Melanson

top 10:
1) Radiohead, Kid A
2) PJ Harvey, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
3) Travis, The Man Who
4) Coldplay, Parachutes
5) Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy
6) Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
7) U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind
8) Lou Reed, Ecstasy
9) The Tragically Hip, Music @ Work
10) Air, Virgin Suicides Soundtrack

other favoritess:
Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life
Placebo, Black Market Music
Steely Dan, Two Against Nature
Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out

best release:
David Bowie, Bowie at the Beeb

Picking up the spaced-out vibe where Coldplay left off is Doves, the latest great export from Manchester, England. Formerly the dance outfit (little-)known as Sub Sub, the group has since suffered enough problems to kill any band and yet still after eight years of hell they've re-emerged, reborn as Doves with Lost Souls. An album of one anthem after another, it's almost a little too much to listen to at once. The album proves itself a real grower with repeated listening, however, with "Here It Comes", "Break Me Gently", "The Cedar Room" and especially "Rise" proving most remarkable. Let this one fill a whole room. Allow yourself to be swept up in its power. Lifting, sweeping, but neither cheery nor depressing.

The last of my trio of favorite debuts is the self-titled album from Irish trio JJ72. Though not quite as polished as Coldplay, JJ72 is still remarkably accomplished for such a young band (like Coldplay, JJ72 are just barely out of their teens). Singer/guitarist Mark Greaney's falsetto is in line with rivaling that of Thom Yorke, filled with all the angst and passion that Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers had in their early days. As much as I hate these sort of comparisons, JJ72 are the new Muse, a similarly young, angsty, passionate band who released their debut Showbiz in 1999 but didn't take off until the following year. JJ72, I predict, will start making greater waves as the buzz on them continues into 2001. With JJ72 still only available on import in the US, try sampling "October Swimmer", "Oxygen" and "Snow" first if you're wary about import prices.

Quite a few bands that have been around for awhile, but still aren't that known outside of the UK, turned out excellent albums in 2000. Black Box Recorder, whose mastermind Luke Haines is better known for his "other" band, The Auteurs, released their second album, The Facts Of Life. Sarah Nixey handles the vocal duties delicately, yet knowingly, tackling intriguing stories of life and death most engagingly. Like comparing a flower to a sandstorm, Primal Scream's XTRMNTR couldn't be more different than Black Box Recorder, but they are another UK band that gets little attention Stateside. A heavy album of rock, dance, and even a bit of soul, it's a frenetic, insane, eclectic mess that gets better with each listen. Try "Kill All Hippies" and "Swastika Eyes" on for size and tell me I'm not wrong! Lastly, Elastica finally released their much-anticipated and highly-underrated sophomore effort The Menace. Though it doesn't capture the live energy of an Elastica gig, the attitude is there and the appearance of The Fall's Mark E. Smith on "How He Wrote Elastica Man" is a gem.

Speaking of The Fall, a year wouldn't be complete without a new Fall album, and sure enough, The Unutterable did not disappoint. It was everything a Fall album should be, including a tad of patchiness toward the end, and yet it was nothing like I expected it would be. Wow!

editor's favorites

Dan Richards
Senior Editor

top 10:
1) Coldplay, Parachutes
2) Nelly Furtado, Whoa, Nelly!
3) Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl
4) Outkast, Stankonia
5) Madonna, Music
6) Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2
7) Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP
8) Steely Dan, Two Against Nature
9) 2gether, Again
10) Jay-Z, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia 2000

other favs:
David Gray, White Ladder
D'Angelo, Voodoo

biggest disappointment:
U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind

And just as Primal Scream is nothing like Black Box Recorder, so is Toploader not a thing like the Fall. Easily written off as a "feel good" pop rock band, Toploader are more mature than that; fresh, honest and genuine. "Let The People Know" gets Onka's Big Moka (no, I don't know what it means either) off to an energized start, their cover of "Dancing In The Moonlight" is as catchy as they come, and "Achilles Heel" is the song that tipped me off to this wonderful band as the Next Big Thing two years ago. One listen and you will understand why.

Now what of 2000's biggest hypes? Richard Ashcroft (formerly of The Verve) released his solo debut, Alone With Everybody to mixed praise from fans and critics alike. Personally, though some of the songs were overlong and overproduced, I still found myself reaching to put the album on all year long. "A Song For The Lovers" is the definitive track from the album. Oasis gave it a shot with a new album and new band lineup this year, and while the latter change was successful on the live circuit, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants was a big disappointment. Go download album track "Gas Panic" and you've got the best thing from the album - Noel's deeply personal lyrics are matched with Liam's distinctive voice to great effect. Finally, U2 released their tenth studio album in 20 years, another mixed bag like the Ashcroft album. Overproduction isn't the problem on All That You Can't Leave Behind, however, for the U2 boys have stripped things down into a simpler affair, more like their 1980s output. The problem is that the edge, the spark, just isn't there. The lyrics are inspired (in fact, the album comes off sounding very Mainstream Christian Rock - make of that what you will), the band are strong, but where's the fire? "Beautiful Day", "Elevation", "Wild Honey", and the majority of the album's first half are okay, but the second half reeks of filler material. "Summer Rain", a B-side from the "Beautiful Day" single, would have been a better choice on the album than, say, the languid "When I Look At The World".

On the more successful end of the "hype" bag was definitely Radiohead's Kid A, their much-anticipated fourth album. Many didn't know what to make of it, and I must admit that I owned the album for a couple of weeks before I gathered up enough nerve to play it. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations, which had been fueled by a lot of hype and speculation, not to mention quite a few downloaded MP3s! In the end, though it was nothing like I'd expected; it was actually far better than I could have hoped for. It's uneasy listening, requiring several plays to even get a hint of all that's going on. Another album that was subjected to a heck of a lot of speculation was Madonna's Music, as everyone wondered what the aging pop star would come up with next. Music was certainly very hip and groovy - whoever thought nearly 20 years ago that Madonna would still be the trend-setting hot mama of pop music that she is at age 42? Only a couple of overdone repetitive tracks on the album keep this one off of my overall Top Ten list, but a recap of 2000 would not have been complete without it.

Jen's Top Ten of 2000:
1. Coldplay: Parachutes
2. Doves: Lost Souls
3. Radiohead: Kid A
4. JJ72: JJ72
5. Black Box Recorder: The Facts Of Life
6. The Fall: The Unutterable
7. Toploader: Onka's Big Moka
8. Elastica: The Menace
9. Richard Ashcroft: Alone With Everybody
10. Primal Scream: XTRMNTR

Bubbling Under:
Madonna: Music
U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind

b i o :
Jennifer Hawker is a recent Kalamazoo College graduate in Computer Science and is pursuing career interests in California.


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