Best Albums of 2000: Critics’ Picks

Outkast
Stankonia (Arista/LaFace)
On this, Outkast’s fourth exquisite album, Andre “Dre 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton make joyous, diverse hip-hop in the spirit of George Clinton’s free-flowing funk.

At the Drive-In
Relationship of Command (Virgin)
This El Paso, Texas-based quintet might be the heir apparent to the noise-rock throne, but At the Drive-In is no Fugazi/Jawbox clone. Its sound is more like emo for punk-rock badasses, a focused, blisteringly passionate, cohesive display of adrenalized aggression.

The Faint
Blank Wave Arcade (Saddle Creek)
Like a musical Frankenstein’s monster, Blank Wave Arcade melds together body parts from the decaying corpse of various ’80s sounds. It’s all angular new-wave guitars, squiggly synths, “Mr. Roboto” drums, and neo-Freudian sexual hang-ups disguised as simple lyrics.

Self
Gizmodgery (Spongebath)

On this brilliantly conceived album, Self plays soulful pop (think mid-’80s Prince meets Weezer with Ric Ocasek behind the boards) on toy instruments. Even beyond the novelty of the toys’ sound, Gizmodgery is an enjoyable, diverse listening experience, as Self conjures up images of everyone from Queen and Jellyfish to the Doobie Brothers, whose “What a Fool Believes” Self covers with disarming reverence.

David Gray
White Ladder (RCA/ATO)
A novel mix of acoustic folk and mild electronica, David Gray’s White Ladder marks his triumphant return from his third major-label pink slip. It also adds validity to the Dave Matthews stamp of approval; it was released on the jam king’s ATO label.

Starlight Mints
The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of (SeeThru Broadcasting)
This Oklahoma-based band’s debut record, which boasts symphonic strings, strangled cat’s-got-your-tongue vocals, perfect pop melodies, and a deceptively dense instrumental attack, is the album that headphones were made for.

Aimee Mann
Bachelor #2 (Superego)
Aimee Mann’s intimately fragile Bachelor #2 is a survivor’s story filled with pointed cathartic barbs at all the music industry insiders who have made the business end of her career so hellish. Her witty songwriting and keen ear for hooks makes Mann the perfect partner for Elvis Costello, with whom she co-penned a tune for this record.

Ryan Adams
Heartbreaker (Bloodshot)
Former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams’ stellar country/folk record ranges from rootsy dust-ups to plaintive acoustic ballads, hitting all rural points in between. Frequently morose, this album lives up to its name, but it might well mend listeners’ hearts before it’s done.

Radiohead
Kid A (Capitol)
Radiohead’s grand gesture of an album is like Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde or Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, all bundled up for the cold and modern computer age. The group deserves credit for its courageous release of this rambling state-of-consciousness freakout, and gratitude for providing a few compelling songs to guide listeners through the darkness.

Grandaddy
The Sophtware Slump (V2)
Grandaddy’s most excellent Sophtware Slump, a wild, weird album that mixes bittersweet ballads and slanted and enchanted rockers, adds a slight country twang and polishes the finished product with an electronic glaze.

Categories: Music