John Cusack’s character in the film “High Fidelity” had an obsession for creating top-five lists of music. In the spirit of “High Fidelity,” the Daily’s A&E editors have comprised their own top five lists, picking their favorite albums of the year. These are all albums that cut through the noise in 2000, and you might want to give them a spin. Conor Bezane, Jon Dahlager and Kyle Moss’ picks follow:
1. Bright Eyes
“Fevers and Mirrors”
It’s no secret that the music industry is dominated by what’s happening on the coasts, but one of this year’s brightest prospects came straight from the heartland. Omaha, Nebraska’s Bright Eyes unleashed a somber record of sensitive indie rock.
Combining the sounds of acoustic guitar, delicate drumming, keyboards and an occasional flute, Bright Eyes’ sound could be the archetype for a new movement of rock music.
On “Fevers and Mirrors,” frontman Conor Oberst pours endless emotion into his songwriting, which is loaded with insightful and poetic lyrics about pain and depression with a hint of optimism.
It’s acoustic balladry at its finest — pure and uninhibited —ÿand though Bright Eyes is not a household name yet, it surely will be in years to come.
2. At The Drive-In
“Relationship of Command”
This Texas quintet has grown immensely since its first appearance in Des Moines in November of 1998. Then, as an opening act for Fugazi, the band’s sound was raw and unpolished, still hanging on to its punk roots.
At The Drive-In has matured strongly since then, and on its major label debut (on the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label), the band is finding a new audience. It has even hooked into the “Total Request Live” crowd, landing a spot on the voting ballot for the show’s daily countdown.
ATDI’s music is crossing over into the hardcore market, and fans of the Deftones, Korn and Limp Bizkit are opening their ears to this fresh, new sound. “One Armed Scissor” could be the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” of emotional hardcore, a genre on the brink of widespread recognition.
Radiohead reached an amazing achievement when their arty album “Kid A” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts this October. A musician’s highest accomplishment is to produce an artistically significant product that is actually embraced by the mainstream, and “Kid A” has done it.
It’s an album that finds meaning when listened to in its entirety, rather than in short bursts. Soft and seamless ambient sounds weave through the album from track to track. After repeated spins, “Kid A” unfolds into a soothing soundscape of musical masterpiece.
“The Sophtware Slump”
Like Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece “OK Computer,” Grandaddy’s “The Sophtware Slump” uses technology as a central theme. The group combines fuzz-drenched guitars with crooning vocals and interesting keyboard samples to create one of the most fun releases of the year.
It’s the indie rock sensibility of Pavement going head-to-head with ’80s-style synth-pop — a refreshingly unique combination.
5. Sasha and
Trance was the music of choice for ravers and electronica fans in 2000, and there could be no better representatives of the trance movement than DJs Sasha and John Digweed.
“Communicate” is the perfect mix of dance-inspiring epics. Otherworldly noises, samples and beats punctuate the record, taking on a spiritual sense of satisfaction. The double-disc is filled to capacity at 74 minutes per CD, and it remains compelling throughout. Electronic music doesn’t get any better than this.
— Conor Bezane
“Kid A” is the pill everyone should be popping daily. Forget ecstasy, Radiohead’s “Kid A” is the only drug any music fan really needs to survive the current sickness of glistening pop aggression and brand-name boy bands.
Less a collection of songs and more a soundtrack for the mind, “Kid A” flows like melting caramel, alternating between thick walls of sound and sparse, membrane thin passages. Thom Yorke’s whisper thin vocals weave through the Pink Floydesque instrumentation, conjuring a sonic landscape of towering mountains and dipping valleys.
Roger Waters and David Gilmour would be proud of Radiohead’s epic album. However, “Kid A” is more impressive because of Radiohead’s desire to never repeat themselves — a trap too many popular bands often fall into.
“The Marshall Mathers LP”
“The Marshall Mathers LP” starts off with a track titled “Public Service Announcement 2000” — a track that could serve as a description for most of the record. Sure, Eminem goes out of his way to piss off nearly everyone all of the time. But the real slim story is that for all his misogyny and homosexual bashing, Em is a reflection of the world in which we live.
Whatever his actual beliefs and feelings on the controversial subjects he covers and/or creates, Em uses his Slim Shady alter ego to reveal the dark side of American society. And he does it with a talented mouth that spits jagged-glass rhymes over deceptively catchy beats.
The blond-mopped pop star’s witticisms and skill are enough to make this record one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time — a lack of political correctness should not detract from that.
3. At The Drive-In
“Relationship of Command”
The rap/metal genre eerily mirrors the hair metal explosion of the late ’80s, and rock ‘n’ roll is in desperate need of a new “Nevermind.” “Relationship of Command” is that record.
At The Drive-In has crafted a batch of songs that sound pissed off without sounding like the current crop of Korn rip-offs. The music links emo, punk and hardcore in a refreshing fashion. Vocalist Cedric sounds like the bastard son of Zack de la Rocha and System of a Down’s Serj Tankian.
Abrasive yet infectiously catchy, “Relationship of Command” is set to spark a musical revolution.
4. Lifter Puller
“Fiestas and Fiascos”
The best band you’ve never heard of, Minnesota-based Lifter Puller broke up this summer, though not before releasing “Fiestas and Fiascos.”
Mixing art punk with M. Doughty-like singing and occasional flourishes of hip hop (though never rap/rock), Lifter Puller tell amusing and serious tales of life, relationships and the city.
Great song titles such as “Space Humping $19.99,” “Cruised and Accused of Cruising” and “Touch My Stuff” are almost reason enough to buy the album. But it is the band’s willingness to make fun music that doesn’t cater to any preconceived genre notions that makes “Fiestas and Fiascos” amazing.
5. New Found Glory
“New Found Glory”
Blink-182 may currently dominate the pop punk market, but they should watch out for Coral Springs, Fla.-based New Found Glory. Perhaps the only good band ever to come out of Florida, NFG combines TRL-ready hooks with emotional lyrics, resulting in a sort of Less Than Jake/Get Up Kids blend.
Without a doubt, this record is the freshly-dumped person’s best friend — providing a shoulder to cry on or someone to scream along with.
—Jon Dahlager1. Eminem
“The Marshall Mathers LP”
There isn’t a person in music who got more attention in the year 2000 than Eminem. But put aside the pissed-off pop artists, the lyrical battle with Everlast and the rest of the lawsuits, and you’ve got a groundbreaking hip-hop album filled with pure genius.
Yes, the word “genius” was used again. But he is not a genius because he pulled a gun on someone; he is a genius because of the music he makes. Much like Bobby Knight is a genius at coaching basketball and not because he choked a player.
“The Marshall Mathers LP” is a conglomeration of catchy hooks behind a series of sometimes humorous and sometimes frighteningly truthful lyrics.
Sure, some of Em’s pop culture references on the album won’t mean anything five years from now. What makes this album simple yet smart are the poignant pokes at how society and the media are so quick to blame public figures for adolescent problems rather than where they really begin — with parents.
There are end-of-the-year lists (Chicago Tribune) that won’t include this album because of Em’s message. But the real message is that Eminem just likes to make good hip-hop music and get a rise out of people at the same time. Did he succeed?
“Playmate of the Year”
It’s hard to find a band as creative, distinctive and fun as Zebrahead. Their dual-vocalist combination is one that can’t be beat.
With a flowing rapper used to capture a hip-hop feel, a super-catchy singer enlisted to capture a poppy feel and a driving musical sound that hardly ever lets up, Zebrahead creates (for the second time) a fun album that can be listened to from beginning to end.
3. Rage Against
Rage was in the habit of putting out an album every three years. But now that frontman Zack de la Rocha has left the band, “Renegades” marks the second of three releases in as many years.
With a live album still on the way for 2001, Rage was originally going to record one or two covers to throw onto that album. But once in the studio, the band ended up recording 11 songs. The result — a free flowing rock/rap album with catchy beats, creative guitar and de la Rocha rapping to the best of his ability.
4. (hed) p.e.
In a music industry that is constantly pumping in new fads and flushing out old ones, (hed) p.e.’s “Broke” was able to breathe life back into hard-core rock/rap, a genre close to extinction.
With an actual appealing form of screaming mixed with good singing and talented rapping, vocalist Jahred makes this band what it is.
Of course the creativity in the music doesn’t hurt. Using a DJ and a beefy yet sometimes melodic guitar, the band provides the perfect compliment to Jahred’s talent.
It seems that after every Deftones album, there is a train of bands chugging behind copying their sound. But instead of just letting it happen, the Deftones are constantly changing their sound and staying one step ahead of the rest.
“White Pony” is a patchwork of thick guitar, monster beats and the unmistakable vocals of Chino Moreno. No other vocalist in rock can be as intense yet lamentably crystalline as Moreno.
— Kyle Moss