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2000 top albums

May 14, 2012

Top albums, 2000

This piece originally appeared in the Decatur Herald & Review

This list is NOT all-inclusive.

In fact, it’s not inclusive at all. What you’re going to find as I list my favorite compact disc releases from 2000 is generally a monochromatic group of folks over the age of 30 (except for the ones who are dead).

Maybe online music-exchange agent Napster doesn’t help you increase your music diversity. Maybe you only chase the stuff you know you’re interested in.

Or maybe 2000 for me was simply the year that I needed to have my old friends remind me how talented they are, and I’ll get around to listening to that Outkast CD this summer.

So as always, please take no inference that these were the best CDs to come out last year. They’re simply what I liked best out of what I heard. And if you see something here you don’t recognize, don’t be afraid to try something
new. My resolution for 2001 is to do just that.

I’ve been compiling these lists for years, so in order to give you an idea of how many acts’ efforts are repeat appearances, in parenthesis is past showings in my recent top albums lists.

1. Jill Sobule, PINK PEARL
Little annoys me more than the phrase ‘one-hit wonder.’ Sobule was the architect of the 1995 novelty single “I Kissed a Girl,” and has seen since her share of record company problems. She roars back with this collection,
which includes odes to exercise nuts, manic depressives, Alzheimers victims and love’s winners and losers. Best of all, it’s all melodically catchy and lyrically intelligent. Oh, and if you need the novelty factor, there’s a song here about former school teacher and convicted sex offender Mary Kay Letourneau.

2. Danielle Brisebois, PORTABLE LIFE
(ARRIVE ALL OVER YOU, No. 9, 1995)
The shame of a record company. RCA pressed test and promotional copies of this CD in 1999, promising it would be released in 2000 (which is why it didn’t make my 1999 list). Again, tuneful and melodic pop, with some
fascinating production tricks to keep it interesting. As I type this, someone has a $50 bid on this disc on eBay. Wouldn’t it be easier to just put this out?

3. Aimee Mann, BACHELOR NO. 2
(MUSIC FROM “MAGNOLIA,” No. 8, 1999; I’M WITH STUPID, No. 1, 1996)
This started out as an Internet-only release after Mann had to negotiate to purchase the masters following trouble with her record company. (Do you see a theme developing here?) Three of these songs were featured on the “Magnolia” soundtrack last year, but they don’t outshine or suffer by comparison with 11 new cuts. Intelligent pop that owes as much lyrically to Elvis Costello (who co-wrote a song here) as its multi-layered harmonies owe to the Beatles.

4. The Jayhawks, SMILE
(SOUND OF LIES, honorable mention, 1997; HOLLYWOOD TOWN HALL, honorable mention, 1992)
I keep hearing the Bee Gees when I listen to this. Not the falsetto dance-music kings from 1977, but the melodic, tight-harmony batch of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I also find myself wondering if primary songwriter Gary Louris is capable of writing anything but an excellent song.

5. Jimi Hendrix Experience, JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE (box set)
(BBC SESSIONS. No. 8, 1998)
Rock music’s greatest loss came in the death of Jimi Hendrix, and this set details the meteoric rise and expansion of the man’s music. Want to be astonished? The earliest recordings on this four-CD set are from 1966, the latest from 1970. Yet this just scratches the surface. An amazing archive of how the man helped invent heavy metal, brought jazz fusion to rock’s mainstream, and wrote and performed some spectacular songs and solos on top of it all.

6. XTC, WASP STAR (APPLE VENUS VOL. 2)
(TRANSISTOR BLAST, honorable mention, 1998)
Talk about living your principles – these guys didn’t put out any new music for 10 years to protest what they considered outrageous practices by their record company. They came back with an orchestral album in 1999 that some, including myself, considered a more sure cure for insomnia than old episodes of “Medical Center.” This puts them right back in the power pop seat where they made such a memorable mark in the late 70s and early 80s.

7. Marshall Crenshaw, MARSHALL CRENSHAW (deluxe edition)
(MIRACLE OF SCIENCE, No. 5, 1996; THE 9-VOLT YEARS, honorable mention, 1998)
Originally released in 1982, this is easily one of my 25 or 30 favorite albums ever. A masterpiece of three-minute pop songs, Crenshaw, although consistently good throughout his career, has never been as great as he is here. This reissue adds nine songs, including live cuts, B-sides and previously unissued material, essentially making it a whole new album and justifying its inclusion here.

8. Emmylou Harris, RED DIRT GIRL
(AT THE RYMAN, No. 4, 1992; WRECKING BALL, No. 10, 1995)
She goes five years without releasing a studio album, then for the first time in her 25-year career, writes an album full of songs. Top-notch treatises on aging, growing up poor, losing things important to you and (of course) love, made wonderful by Harris’ innate sense of melody and that most magnificent voice. Quite an adult record.

9. Nik Kershaw, 15 MINUTES
What a comeback. Best known for his 1983 hit “Wouldn’t It Be Good” (in case you forget the tune, he includes an “unplugged” version of it as a hidden track), Kershaw took almost 10 years off from performing. This collection
finds him in fine pop form, a little meatier than what he was doing in the 1980s.

10. Paul Simon, YOU’RE THE ONE
So what do you do when you haven’t put out an album in 10 years and your most recent effort was a well-publicized Broadway flop (“The Capeman”)? You put out a great collection of songs, that’s what. Simon is traveling on old ground here, but it’s still touching and unforgettable in many ways.

Honorable mention:
Robin Trower, GO MY WAY
Ginny Owens, WITHOUT CONDITION
Fastball, THE HARSH LIGHT OF DAY
Veruca Salt, RESOLVER
Eleven, AVANTGARDEDOG
Nash Kato, DEBUTANTE
Kimberly Rew, TUNNEL INTO SUMMER
Vertical Horizon, EVERYTHING YOU WANT

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