150 Best Albums of 2000

The most glaring trend among my 150 favorite albums of 2000 blasts off right there among the top four entries, every one a compilation: an r&b/hip-hop/teen-pop soundtrack to a terrific movie about high school cheerleading competitions; a most likely algorithmically programmed but hugely effective Eurocheese-dancepop mix that’s apparently the 18th in its series (but only one I’ve ever personally seen) on an reported Russian pirate label; a definitive double-disc collection of goth-rock metal tracks pressed in Germany; and the most slamming selection of Indian bhangra I’ve ever had the pleasure to bhang.

And that’s just the start. Descending the elevator, you’ll find five indie-label catalog samplers (Brighton big-beat Skint, New Orleans bounce Take Fo’, Brooklyn noise-dub Broklyn Beats, Colorado reactionary-rock-for-Joe-Carducci-cultists Upland, L.A. non-classical-weirdness True Classical, Hamburg Teutoni-smorgasbord L’Age D’Or); one more film soundtrack (RZA-masterminded Ghost Dog); and useful primers on European breakdance breakbeats, underground-rap/drum’n’bass fusions, electronificating glitchimacallit, and turn-of-the-millennium megacorporate Radio Disney pop: 14 various-artist collections in all, which may or may not be a record but certainly at least comes close.

So what, if anything, does this phenomenon portend? Could just be a random blip — After all, 136 albums below aren’t compilations. But one explanation that might not be terribly far-fetched could involve some claim along the lines of the Death Of The Author (Or At Least Rockstar) (Or At Very Least Album As We Knew It) and/or Birth Of The Mixtape That Wasn’t Even A Tape Anymore. The fact that Spin editors grandstandingly and brandhandily awarded their 2000 Album of the Year to “Your Hard Drive” might well second that emotion. The co-ed L.A. adult contemporary duo Fisher, who nobody remembers now, were a new kind of success story: 3 million downloads, almost every song a hit on mp3.com before Interscope gave them a CD contract.

Of course, 21 years later, albums — and pop stars, maybe even rock stars — still exist, even if playing them start-to-end is an endangered practice. And 2000 does offer up its equivalent of rock stars below: OutKast (who dominated plenty of other year-end critics’ lists including Pazz & Jop), Eminem (who I wrote about more than anybody else on the list at the time and have no remote interest in listening to anymore but still feel the need to acknowledge), Radiohead (who made a pleasantly uneven glitch-conscious neo-Kraut-rock album more shoegazzzzey than ones that same year by Einstürzende Neubauten, Circle, Oneida, Earthlings?, Replikas, Legendary Pink Dots, Umbra Et Imago, Primal Scream, Volapük or Ulan Bator, to name a few.) OutKast’s fellow Southern rapper Lil Wayne and Eminem’s fellow Detroiters White Stripes, neither of whose 2000 albums got much attention at the time, would be superstars soon enough.

As far as Southern rap goes, Lil Wayne wasn’t alone. And OutKast sort of were: #1 Pazz & Jop, #2 Eye Weekly, # 3 Alternative Press, #6 Rolling Stone, #6 (including Your Hard Drive) Spin, #24 (yeah I know but what did you expect) Mojo , #42 (ditto) N.M.E. — pretty much across the board acclaim for Stankonia. But go ahead, I dare ya — try to find another Southern rap album on any of those lists. I couldn’t. Metacritic does call New Orleans growler Mystikal’s Let’s Get Ready the seventh-best-reviewed hip-hop album of 2000 — but its score of 74 is based on only seven critiques, compared to 20 for first-ranked Stankonia and 21 for third-ranked The Marshall Mathers LP.

All of which might make sense if, say, 2000 was an awful year for Southern hip-hop. It wasn’t. I’m no hip-hop head, a dabbler at most, but in addition to OutKast and Lil Wayne, my list has Ludacris and Field Mob from Georgia (Black Belt boondock Albany not ATL in Field Mob’s case), Trina and Trick Daddy from Miami, two Take Fo’ bounce albums from New Orleans, and let’s say half a Nelly. (St. Louisan Nelly’s other half belongs to the Midwest, also home region of Detroit’s soul-harmony-warmed Slum Village and Eminem of course and getto-techie DJ Assault if he counts, Chicago’s Common, and Minneapolis’s Atmosphere. I also like how he ended up in the spot on my list immediately after another multiplatinum rookie called Nelly, surnamely Furtado.) I’m trying to remember when critics started taking Dirty South rap more seriously — but stuck between the Miami bass and crunk dynasties, 2000 clearly wasn’t time yet.

Another unusual if not embarrassing rap-trend on my list is that all the West Coast representers (Blackalicious, Del The Funky Homosapien or however he spelled it that year, Jurassic 5, Quasimoto, Zion I) are solidly underground (even “backpacker” if that semi-pejorative had come into style already), and therefore totally cornball on a countdown that omits Ghostface Killah and Wu Tang Clan and Dr. Dre. I can live with that. I’m a 60-year-old white cliché catching up with Black music of a bygone generation, cut me a break. Especially since my Old White Guy quotient (Merle Haggard, Steely Dan, Warren Zevon, does Madonna count? — none above #70) isn’t worrisomely high at all.

Oldest guy on the list, for what it’s worth, is almost definitely fife-and-drum-blues bandleader Otha Turner or however he spelled it that year, born to a Black sharecropping family in 1907 in the post-Reconstruction Mississippi hill country where he wound up subsistence farming for the rest of his life. Youngest on the list are almost definitely a couple 14-year-old members of Finnish bubblegum sextet Tik N’ Tak, beating out the 16-to-18-year-old members of Norwegian bubblegum duo M2M and New Jersey-to-U.K. bubblegum duo Daphne and Celeste in the year that Britney Spears and Don Ho’s burrito-loving daughter Hoku both turned 19.

But back to my Wu Tang mental block, to be honest, I don’t think it’s all just about age. There’s something happening around Y2K where hip-hop albums start giving up the funk in favor of sounding like action or suspense movies or some genre along those lines. In theory I’m in awe that hip-hop could grab music from absolutely anywhere, and that RZA Ghost Dog soundtrack demonstrates how beautiful it could even wind up. But in general this detour turns me off, and not just because I don’t care about kung fu I don’t think. Might be more that I just don’t care about concepts (or, I dunno, mythology? mysticism?), especially concepts that turn music into an endless marathon endurance test. Which may well contradict the presence of some of the more long-winded prog rock items on my list (CMX, Fates Warning, the Gathering, Primordial, IQ, Ayreon), but then I almost never know what they’re going on and on and on about, either. I’m just happy they don’t sound as depressed and whimpery about whatever it is as Thom Yorke does.

My aversion to whimpery depression, amorphousness, shoegazery, that sort of thing might be generational. I’m not sure I’d even quite heard of Pitchfork yet by 2000, but it had been around since 1995, and by 2000 at least was topping its year-end Top 20 with not just Kid A at #1, but Sigur Rós at #2 and many more such sweet nothings whispered in your ear. To me, this established an aesthetic — When Modest Mouse (who didn’t quite make my much longer list) are as concrete, maybe even as unmousey, as your favorites get, I doubt you and I are gonna see eye-to-eye too often. Sincerely not trying to be snarky here despite my occasional controversial Radiohead views in the past, and I’m well aware Pitchfork’s taste perimeters have widened significantly since those salad days — surely OutKast or Ghostface would’ve ranked in 2000 had the site grown beyond indie purism earlier, maybe amorphously mumbly There’s A Riot Goin’ On-without-the-riot D’Angelo as well. I have a couple friends with entirely comprehensible tastes who write for the site regularly. But maybe for obvious taste reasons I’ve never been invited myself — even Pitchfork’s metal recommendations tend toward really heavy shoegaze — and I still rarely if ever check out what’s going on over there.

It does say something for indie rock that late in the game, though, that tastes as divergent as Pitchfork’s and mine could both find so much of it in 2000 to our liking. For Pitchfork, that may have meant entities named Smog and Gas and Ether and Aerosol and Cow Methane (okay I made those last three up); for me, Lifter Puller, Bunny Brains, Pineal Ventata, C*nts, Briefs, Bleed, Spiders, Ghoultown, 16 Horsepower, Leatherface, Oxes. Or on my more Anglophilic days, Steward (with or without Australia’s Cannanes), Placebo, the Clientele, less guitar-oriented but still totally indie Baxendale and Asian Dub Foundation.

For Greil Marcus, in his Real Life Top Ten column in Salon, indie rock meant the Vue, Holy Childhood, Ass Ponys, Slobberbone, Bad Livers — none of whom much grabbed me, though I do share his appreciation of buskery Philly Mummers Parade boosters Marah and post-grrrl Olympia cubist new-wave-revision duo the Need. Not to mention Kim Gordon’s collaboration with “illbient”-inventing turntablist DJ Olive and ex-DNA drummer Ikue Mori, whose no-wavish avant-noise album I much prefer to the same era’s Sonic Youth. (True story: On hearing the Gordon/Olive/Mori track “Olive’s Horn” from another room, my wife exclaimed that it “sounds like our owl”; i.e., the adorably roly-poly little Eastern screech who finally moved a couple weeks ago into the owl house I hired some guy to build and install 20 feet up a tree in our backyard for Lalena’s birthday last July, and whooooo we’d already named, get this….Olive! How did they know??)

Anyway, what a rambling mess, huh? Weird year for country: Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks all took 2000 off, albumwise. A few country albums make the grade anyway, and a few Eurocheese and several jazz and metal ones, as well music from far reaches of the planet (like for instance the five working-class Naples revellers in Spaccanapoli, whose highest-charting non-comp has them cranking out tarantellas and tammurriata “rooted in traditions that go back further and deeper than Catholic rituals to the pre-Christian rites of Dionysus”), plus various shades of synthesized dance muzik not excluding trip-hop. The placings have not yet been carved in stone, though who knows? Maybe one day they will.

  1. Bring It On (Epic/Playtime/Sony Music Soundtrax)
  2. Viva New Dance Generation 18 (Invisible Halahup Russia)
  3. Blessed By the Night: The Dark Metal Compilation (Angelstar/Zoomica/SPV Germany)
  4. Bhangra Beatz (Naxos World)
  5. Spaccanapoli Spaccanapoli (Real World)
  6. Blackalicious Nia (Quannum Projects)
  7. Farmer’s Market Farmer’s Market (Winter & Winter Germany)
  8. OutKast Stankonia (LaFace/Arista)
  9. Chicks On Speed Will Save Us All! (Chicks On Speed Germany)
  10. William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Mayor of Punkville (Aum Fidelity)
  11. Steve Kuhn Trio Quiéreme Mucho (Venus Japan)
  12. Last Days of May Radiant Black Mind (Squealer)
  13. James Carter Chasin’ the Gypsy (Atlantic)
  14. Charles Lloyd The Water is Wide (ECM)
  15. Del the Funky Homosapien Both Sides of the Brain (Hiero Imperium)
  16. Red Snapper Our Aim is to Satisfy Red Snapper (Matador/Warp)
  17. Andrew Hill Dusk (Palmetto)
  18. Take Fo’ Superstars Party @ the Luau (Take Fo’)
  19. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath/Interscope)
  20. Daphne and Celeste We Didn’t Say That! (Universal UK)
  21. Brassic Beats USA (Skint)
  22. Strictly B-Boy Breaks (Mzee Germany)
  23. Alcazar Casino (BMG Sweden)
  24. Lil Wayne Lights Out (Cash Money/Universal)
  25. Omar Sosa Prietos (Ota)
  26. Steward Horselaugh on My Ex (555 UK)
  27. Trina Da Baddest B***h (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic)
  28. James Carter Layin’ in the Cut (Atlantic)
  29. Bosco Paramour (DMAFT)
  30. Einstürzende Neubauten Silence is Sexy (Mute)
  31. Scooter Sheffield (Sheffield Tunes/Loon Dance Construction Europe)
  32. Everclear Songs From an American Movie Vol. One Learning How to Smile (Capitol)
  33. M2M Shades of Purple (Atlanta)
  34. Cuong Vu Bound (OmniTone)
  35. Jurassic 5 Quality Control (Rawkus/Intersope)
  36. Gilberto Gil & Milton Nascimento Gil & Milton (Atlantic)
  37. Rednex …Farm Out! (Jive/Zomba)
  38. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Epic)
  39. Sandy Knox Pushin’ 40, Never Married, No Kids (American Originals)
  40. The Lord Weird Slough Feg Down Among the Deadmen (Dragonheart Italy)
  41. Slum Village Fantastic, Vol. 2 (Good Vibe/Interscope)
  42. David S. Ware Surrendered (Columbia)
  43. Kandi Hey Kandi… (Columbia)
  44. Circle Andexelt (Tumult)
  45. Jill Scott Who Is Jill Scott? (Hidden Beach)
  46. Brutal Police Menace (Broklyn Beats)
  47. Lifter Puller Fiestas + Fiascos (Frenchkiss/The Self Starter Foundation)
  48. KMD Bl_ck B_st_rds (Readyrock)
  49. Oneida Steel Rod EP (Jagjaguwar)
  50. Baxendale You Will Have Revenge (Le Grand Magistry)
  51. Young Gods Second Nature (Intoxygene Europe)
  52. The Bunny Brains Show Me the Bunny (Bunnybrains.net)
  53. DJ Jubilee Presents the Bounce Squad Bouncing All Over the World (Take Fo’)
  54. Earthlings? Human Beans (Man’s Ruin)
  55. Kim Gordon/DJ Olive/Ikue Mori Kim Gordon/DJ Olive/Ikue Mori (Sonic Youth)
  56. Phil Vassar Phil Vassar (Arista Nashville)
  57. Les Primitifs Du Futur World Musette (Paris Jazz Corner Productions/Sketch Studio France)
  58. Placebo Black Market Music (Elevator/Virgin UK)
  59. CMX Dinosaurus Stereophonicus  (Herodes Finland)
  60. Jo Dee Messina Burn (Curb)
  61. Quasimoto The Unseen (Stones Throw)
  62. The Cannanes and Steward Communicating at an Unknown Rate (Yoyo)
  63. Pineal Ventata Axes to Ice (Unit Circle Rekkids)
  64. Replikas Köledoyuran (Ada Müzik Turkey)
  65. Paul Bley/Evan Parker/Barre Phillips Sankt Gerold Variations (ECM)
  66. The Need The Need is Dead (Chainsaw EP)
  67. Ludacris Back for the First Time (Def Jam South)
  68. Atmosphere Lucy Ford (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  69. White Out on Black Ice (Upland)
  70. Merle Haggard If I Could Only Fly (Anti-)
  71. Fates Warning Disconnected (Metal Blade)
  72. Electric Wizard Dopethrone (The Music Cartel)
  73. Steely Dan Two Against Nature (Giant/Reprise)
  74. The Legendary Pink Dots A Perfect Mystery  (Caciocavallo)
  75. Umbra Et Imago Mea Culpa (SPV)
  76. Warren Zevon Life’ll Kill Ya (Artemis)
  77. Common Like Water for Chocolate (MCA)
  78. Amorphis Tales From the Thousand Lakes (Relapse)
  79. Boulder Ravage and Savage (Tee Pee)
  80. Ashes to Ashes Big Moving Parts (Ata Boy!)
  81. The C*nts Oh No It’s the C*nts (Disturbing)
  82. The Briefs Hit After Hit (Dirtnap)
  83. The Clientele Suburban Light (Merge)
  84. Asian Dub Foundation Community Music (FFRR UK)
  85. Bleed Motor Psycho (MuSick Recordings)
  86. Tik N’ Tak Friends (Universal Finland)
  87. The Gathering If_Then_Else (Century Media)
  88. Tarantula Hawk Tarantula Hawk (Life Is Abuse)
  89. Vampire Beach Babes Reckless Summer  (VBB Canada EP)
  90. The Modernist Explosion (Matador)
  91. Sea Of Green Northern Lights (The Music Cartel EP)
  92. Primal Scream Xtrmntr/Exterminator (Astralwerks)
  93. Jamie O’Neal Shiver (Mercury)
  94. D.A.D. Everything Glows (Medley Europe)
  95. Marah Kids in Philly (E-Squared/Artemis)
  96. The Drastic Jungle Project (Drastic/Insomniac)
  97. Volapük Polyglot (Cuneiform) 
  98. Field Mob 613: Ashy to Classy (MCA)
  99. Mammoth Volume Noara Dance (The Music Cartel)
  100. The White Stripes De Stijl (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
  101. Ulan Bator Ego:Echo (Young God)
  102. Trick Daddy Book of Thugs: Chapter AK Verse 47 (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic)
  103. Otha Turner & the Afrossippi Allstars From Senegal to Senatobia (Birdman)
  104. True Classical CDs Sampler (True Classical) 
  105. Fermin Muguruza FM 99.00 Dub Manifest (Piranha Germany)
  106. The Spiders Sex is Thicker Than Blood (Unscene)
  107. Primordial Spirit the Earth Aflame (Hammerheart)
  108. Lucy Pearl Lucy Pearl (Pookie)
  109. Snake River Conspiracy Sonic Jihad (Reprise)
  110. Madonna Music (Maverick/Warner Bros.)
  111. Dropkick Murphys Sing Loud Sing Proud (Hellcat)
  112. Nelly Furtado Whoa, Nelly! (DreamWorks)
  113. Nelly Country Grammar (Universal)
  114. IQ The Seventh House (Giant Electric Pea UK)
  115. Ghoultown Tales From the Dead West (Angry Planet)
  116. 16 Horsepower Secret South (Razor & Tie)
  117. Leatherface Horsebox (BYO)
  118. L’Age D’Or/The Golden Age/Das Goldene Zeitalter/El Siglo Del Oro/金の時代(L’Age D’Or Germany)
  119. Skyclad Folkémon (Nuclear Blast)
  120. Pink Can’t Take Me Home (LaFace)
  121. Solar Anus Next World News/あの世通信  (Gyokumen Japan)
  122. Submarine Skindiving (Kinetic)
  123. Britney Spears Oops!…I Did It Again (Jive)
  124. The Distillers The Distillers (Hellcat)
  125. Dead Meadow Dead Meadow (Tolotta)
  126. Grandpa’s Ghost Il Bacio (Upland)
  127. Danni Leigh A Shot of Whiskey and a Prayer (Monument)
  128. Moloko Things to Make and Do (Echo UK)
  129. Apollyon Sun Sub (Mayan)
  130. DJ Assault Belle Isle Tech DJ1 (Mo Wax EP)
  131. Paris, Texas Brazilliant (Polyvinyl EP)
  132. D’Angelo Voodoo (Virgin)
  133. Sara Evans Born to Fly (RCA)
  134. Fisher True North (Interscope)
  135. Oxes Oxes (Monitor)
  136. Zion 1 Mind Over Matter (Ground Control)
  137. Hoku Hoku (Geffen)
  138. The Yo-Yos Upper and Downer  (Sub Pop)
  139. Clicks + Cuts (Mille Plateaux Germany)
  140. Spiritual Beggars Ad Astra (Music For Nations UK)
  141. Totally Hits 2 (WEA)
  142. Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun (Motown)
  143. Shelby Lynne I Am Shelby Lynne (Island)
  144. Donna the Buffalo Positive Friction (Sugar Hill)
  145. Entombed Black Juju (Man’s Ruin EP)
  146. Ayreon Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (Inside Out Music)
  147. Radiohead Kid A (Capitol)
  148. Spaceboy The Force That Holds Together A Heart Torn to Pieces (Howlingbull EP)
  149. Evolotto 1776 (Sin Club Entertainment)
  150. Razor N Guido Dancefloor (Groovilicious)

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