Saturday, May 1, 2010

Top 10 Albums of the Year 2000

Might as well start with the first year of the last decade. This is a great year and as this list will demonstrate, pretty hip hop heavy. In fact, I recently made the proclamation that 2000 was the last good year for hip hop full lengths. Every year following seems to have gotten progressively worse. Debate if you want, but this is a great year for hip hop and many other things as well. Let's start.

Note: I had originally started a while ago writing pretty long reviews of these albums but realized I'd never get any of this list done right now if I did that, so I'm going to do really short ones instead. They are probably better anyway.

10. Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
(75 Ark)

Probably the best hip hop concept album that I can think of. For my money, this is the peak of both Del and Dan the Automator's work. When I was just entering high school or even back in middle school and first saw the Flash video for "Virus" it blew my mind. The record is still terribly enjoyable, fun, and just well thought out. Nothing really sounds like it.

9. Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun

To me, Erykah Badu is queen of modern soul. From the moment I first saw the music video for "On and On" back in '97 as a young white kid in the suburbs, I realized the music she was putting out was different from the stuff that Brandy and Monica were putting out at the same time, dominating airwaves. "Mama's Gun" isn't quite as anthemic as "Baduizm" nor a forward thinking as her later albums, but as a snap-shot of the neo-soul scene in 2000, it is perfect. Great Dilla production and help from ?uestlove and The Roots - the album just breezes along. Consider it Badu's jazz album.

8. At The Drive-In - Relationship of Command

When all is said and done - "Relationship of Command" has to be considered the apex of the emo sound. Infinitely better than what spurned out as The Mars Volta and Sparta, "Relationship of Command" is ATDI's swan-song. A great blend of nonsensical, unintelligeble yet sing-alongable lyrics, crunchy guitars and enough shrieking to become 13 again with every listen. It's fun, one of my all-time favorite records to listen to when driving alone.

7. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker

If we take the time and attempt to ignore all the bullshit antics that Ryan Adams has given us over the last decade, what remains is the fact that somewhere down there in that dirty, nerdy, egotistical skull of his is a great singer/songwriter. His tenure with his band Whiskeytown showed he was capable of country brilliance, but his crowning achievement to this day is his debut solo record "Heartbreaker." A mixed affair of traditional country rockers, sappy ballads and a bluegrass influenced number or two - "Heartbreaker" was a record that changed ME more than almost any other record on this list. Early in high school, I was obsessed with this outlandish headcase and though that has changed nowadays, I can still listen to those first few solo records of his with much of the same awe I had back then.

6. D'Angelo - Voodoo

Over the past ten years - I'd be hard pressed to think of an album that is more anticipated than D'Angelo's eventual followup to "Voodoo" has been. Every bit of news we get about D'Angelo makes it rounds on the internet - every guest spot on a hip hop album presents good news that maybe, just maybe, he is back in the studio working on something new. We act this way, because at one point in just about everyone's life that has ever heard it - "Voodoo", D'Angelo's 2nd album has made the listener stop in their tracks and say "...whoa." Undeniably oozing sex, (you obviously remember the "How Does it Feel" video), heavy bass - this record is more soulful than many records in the 60s soul canon, yet for whatever reason - it doesn't sit as well with me these days. I find myself enjoying "Brown Sugar" more, maybe because the songs are more pop-oriented, I don't know. But regardless - "Voodoo" is a crazy album, a complete vision of what a soul album can and should be.

5. Common - Like Water For Chocolate

In 2010 we can look at Common as an over saturated cornball. Currently, he's staring alongside Queen Latifah in a romantic comedy about baskeball. Prior to that, he's become some big movie star in various films - been the focal point of Gap commercials and released two terrible albums back to back. But going back to 2000 - when Common released "Like Water For Chocolate", he changed the game. Already a name on in the underground scene for years, this album started his propulsion into stardom. Singles "The Light" and "The 6th Sense" were on MTV regularly, but they were actual hip hop songs. My favorite memory of this record is back in 8th grade, during our last week or so when we had like nothing to do in school and various field trips, I probably listened to this album close to 50 times in the span of a few days, just constantly playing it on my discman. More than Mos Def or Kweli or Del or Heiro or J5, no other act straddling the line between commercial and underground caught my attention and gained my love quite like this one.

4. Gas - Pop
(Mille Plateaux)

One of the first "ambient" albums I had in my collection. I don't remember where or how I heard of this album and what's more - it took me years to even listen to the full thing and revel in how great it is. But it is great. There is nothing else much out there that sounds like it - even music in the often stagnant ambient subgenre of electronic music. Some tracks have a little beatpulse to them, most don't. Most sound like you're being transported through serene waterways or being transformed into dew on the ends of leaf tips. This is an album (much like all of Voigt's work) that takes time to get into, to appreciate. There's more to it than just being "pretty" - it is a dense work, one that will continue to reveal itself to me in many years to come.

3. Outkast - Stankonia
(La Face)

There are times when listening to this record in my car still that I think to myself (or vocalize to my girlfriend) that this might very well be one of the absolute best hip hop albums of all time. It's all over the place and contrary to what other people say, Outkast's masterstroke. All their albums prior to this were great, I won't debate that and for a pure hip hop feeling they might be superior, but artistically it is hard for me to think of any other hip hop album that can touch what "Stankonia" accomplished. The ultimate crossover album of the early 00's, the idea of Outkast being pop stars is ludicrous, but probably the best decision that the masses made in the past 10 years. Great track after great track, funny skits, and somehow this prevailing feeling throughout the entirety of the album that only Outkast can conjure. It's not a concept album and the tracks don't sound the same, yet they are unmistakably songs that could only be created by Andre3000 and Big Boi.

2. Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele

I will be eternally grateful for my older brother's taste in hip hop while growing up. He exposed me to a lot of good records (and a lot of terrible ones too), but when it came to stuff from the East Coast - I was listening to Wu-Tang at a young age, made a copy of Ghostface's "Ironman" on a casette in elementary school, had "Ready to Die" on constant play, etc. etc. I still remember when my brother brought home "Supreme Clientele", Ghost's second album and thinking right then just how good it is. Too this day, I rarely ever understand what Ghost is rapping about, but there are few hip hop albums as raw as this one. Produced primarily by a bunch of young, unknown producers - they all come correct, sounding more like RZA than RZA does. Ghost just goes off for an hour, spitting, literally spitting (I swear you can hear his saliva in a lot of his songs), rapping circles around any other rapper out there. Guests come correct, drums come correct, this record is just hard and brings back a lot of memories too. I was a cool kid. Classic record, one the Wu-Tang camp will never top again.

1. Radiohead - Kid A

As if anything else could be considered the best record of 2000. Like most kids trying to transition into the world of indie rock and "good music" I basically started with Radiohead. I liked their singles in the 90s, but when "Kid A" came out during the first real age of filesharing over the internet, everything seemed to be well "in its right place." This is my favorite Radiohead album and more or less the only one that I still listen to with any regularlity. This record still slays me and its place among the top of many other critics and publications lists as the best record of the entire 00's is well-deserved. No other record showcases what this decade was about, what it could be, and no other record can be considered more of a masterpiece. Just about every song is a 5/5.