By Michaelangelo Matos
1. OUTKAST, "B.O.B." (LaFace/Arista) Tick, tick, bang!
2. B15 PROJECT FEATURING CHRISSY D AND LADY G, "Girls Like Us" (Relentless import) Two-step garage served ࠬa mode, with a julienned vocal hook pieced back together more beguilingly than it's sung, topped with a toasted break that could make the proverbial phone book sound good (and, for all I can understand of it, actually does).
3. DESTINY'S CHILD, "Say My Name" (Ruffhouse/Columbia) How could we when you kept switching members on us?
4. SCANTY SANDWICH, "Because of You" (Southern Fried import) The great big beat single that neither Fatboy Slim nor the Chemical Brothers made this year.
5. MOBY, "Natural Blues" (V2) The blues and the abstract truth, with the chorus' cutoff "hey!" the year's heart-in-throat radio moment.
6. EMINEM, "The Real Slim Shady" (Interscope) And you thought he was a one-hit wonder!
7. NELLY, "Country Grammar (Hot S**t)" (Universal) Except for that song about canines, this was the year's most inescapable chorus, only this one batted you over the head with its obviousness in a good way.
8. AALIYAH, "Try Again" (Blackground/ Atlantic) A sinuous R&B ballad with a squinching Roland 303 acid bass line. Addictive.
9. MYSTIKAL, "Shake Ya Ass" (Jive) The hardest barking man in show business's heart-warming tribute to James Brown circa 1968—with updated language, natch.
10. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" (Interscope) And if you used all the substances they listed, it really was!
By Kurt B. Reighley
1. JAZZANOVA, The Remixes: 1997-2000 (Compost) Call it "nu jazz," "broken beat," whatever. The fruits of the meticulous labor of this six-member German DJ/producer team are consistently the most rhythmically innovative, melodically intoxicating tracks around.
2. LARRY LEVAN, Live at the Paradise Garage (Strut/West End/Garage) On the first official release to document his legendary mixing innovations, the Paradise Garage DJ's disco alchemy energizes even a hoary chestnut like Cher's "Take Me Home."
3. GILLES PETERSON, Worldwide Programme 1 (Talking Loud import) Y2K soul canaries (Jill Scott, Kelis), progressive '70s soul (Rotary Connection), minimalist house, jazz, and abstract beats flavor this dusky, sweet, and lively double disc from the pioneering UK DJ.
4. GROOVE ARMADA, Vertigo (Jive-Electro) Refreshing, sassy songs and sumptuous, slo-mo gems like "At the River," perfect for underground house fans sick of recycled disco snippets, divas wailing pointlessly, and endless peaking drum fills.
5. PAUL VAN DYK, Out There and Back (Mute) Sidestepping current genre clich鳠in favor of elements of older influential styles, German trance DJ/producer Van Dyk proudly displays multiple facets of his m鴩er.
6. ARMAND VAN HELDEN, Killing Puritans (Armed) Dance grooves for Scorpions fans, the latest full-length from house hard-hitter Van Helden is as subtle as a brick and twice as heavy.
7. CARL CRAIG, Designer Music: The Remixes Vol. 1 (Planet E) Craig streamlines nine cuts, including Telex's '80s classic "Moskow Diskow," into stripped-down incarnations that feel timeless, without necessarily rendering everything into Detroit techno.
8. AMON TOBIN, Supermodified (Ninja Tune) Critics likened Tobin's last album of jazz- and soundtrack-inspired abstractions, Permutation, to Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and Art Blakey; Supermodified lands closer to Sun Ra.
9. TOWA TEI, Last Century Modern (Elektra) Flirtatious drum-and-bass, futuristic bossa nova, a remake of "Funkin' for Jamaica," and moody minimalism all complement one another cozily on the ex-Deee-Lite star's third solo disc.
10. FATBOY SLIM, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (Skint/Astralwerks) Norman Cook reduces the percentage of party-hardy floor fillers to allow for both funkier and friskier fare, finding his perfect foil in contributing soul weirdo Macy Gray.
By Jon Caramanica
1. OUTKAST, Stankonia (LaFace/Arista) Way too messy to be just a hip-hop album, Stankonia is also the best rock, funk, and soul album of the year with its easy alliance of joyful noises.
2. QUASIMOTO, The Unseen (Stones Throw) The man pulls you gently by the arm until you're in a strange, uncomfortable place and everything around you is pitch black. Brutal.
3. GHOSTFACE KILLAH, Supreme Clientele (Razor Sharp/Epic) Ghostface is the hungriest MC in hip-hop, and I don't mean just for food. He also needs love, and here, he cries out for it in screechy, plaintive tones.
4. DEAD PREZ, Let's Get Free (Loud) In a perfect world, this album would have sparked a revival of conscious hip-hop. Instead, M-1 and Stic.man had to settle on being the year's top iconoclasts.
5. MF DOOM, Operation: Doomsday (Fondle 'Em) He's been battered by life, losing his brother and partner in rhyme to a car crash just as their old group KMD was about to blow. Here, he lets out his pain.
6. EMINEM, The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath/Interscope) Scrawny white boy from Detroit remains angry and razor-tongued, cashes even bigger checks.
7. AESOP ROCK, Float (Mush) Scrawny white boy from New York remains inquisitive and mumble-mouthed, wonders when record will get proper release.
8. REFLECTION ETERNAL (TALIB KWELI & HITEK), Train of Thought (Rawkus) No longer just the "black" in Black Star, Talib Kweli took on the star role on this diverse, mature collection of progressive hip-hop.
9. VARIOUS ARTISTS, ego trip's The Big Playback (Rawkus) A masterly compilation of overlooked gems, it's the type of collection reissues strive for but rarely achieve. A must.
10. MC PAUL BARMAN, It's Very Stimulating (WordSound) Umm, scrawny white boy from the Ivy League remains eggheaded and offbeat, registers blip on fickle hip-hop radar.
By Laura Learmonth
1. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, We've Got the Facts and We're Voting Yes (Barsuk) These sideways song stories start with conclusions and end with beginnings, and their middles are made up of the kind of schizophrenic indie pop that requires attention.
2. EELS, Daisies of the Galaxy (Dreamworks) Their three albums: good, better, best. The bottom line: Quirky, electronic melancholia outlines the bittersweet success.
3. SILKWORM, Lifestyle (Touch and Go) More user-friendly than anything else that bears the Silkworm moniker, the blues-ripped classic rock of Lifestyle is bound to outlive us all.
4. ASS PONYS, Some Stupid with a Flare Gun (Checkered Past) Some people don't know what to do with their madness—but not Ohio-based frontman Chuck Cleaver, who makes what I like to call No Fucking Depression roots pop out of his.
5. CAT POWER, The Covers Records (Matador) A gorgeous record in the borrow and steal tradition of jazz and folk, Chan Marshall wonderfully corrupts the Rolling Stones, Nina Simone, and Smog with her otherworldly holler.
6. J MASCIS + THE FOG, More Light (Ultimatum) More proof that Mascis is a guitar god. This time the evidentiary solos are tempered with Bob Pollard's backing vocals and some mellow piano lines.
7. STARLIGHT MINTS, The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of (SeeThruBroadcasting) It's almost impossible to tell the silver lining from the cloud—The Dream is sweet psych pop that packs a powerfully polarized punch.
8. KINGSBURY MANX, The Kingsbury Manx (Overcoat) This gentle band, named for a make of piano, came out of nowhere (well, OK, North Carolina) with this brilliantly mathy folk-noir debut.
9. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, Mass Romantic (Mint Records) What's more wonderful than Neko Case's beautiful belting? Neko Case's beautiful belting juxtaposed with fucked-up harmonies and skewed post-punk pop.
10. THE CONCRETES, Boy, You Better Run Now (Up) Just when you get tired of the nostalgic hum of the late '60s, these Scandinavians turn on a dime and leave you 9 cents change. Spend it on the reverby guitars and vintage instrumentation.
By Jason Bracelin
1. MORBID ANGEL, Gateways to Annihilation (Earache) Sets the bar so high in death metal that Glen Benton couldn't reach it if he was standing on George Fisher's shoulders.
2. HIGH ON FIRE, The Art of Self-Defense (Man's Ruin) Though stoner rock has become overrun by shaggy, Visine-defeated burnouts whose musical pedigrees equate to pulling bong hits in their parents' basement, High on Fire drop one of the most accomplished albums ever in the genre.
3. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, Rated R (Interscope) Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol: In a rock world cluttered with albums that have no substance, this one is loaded with them.
4. DWARVES, Come Clean (Epitaph) The masses love teen pop, and the Dwarves love popping teens on this barely legal punk leg-spreader that's enough to leave Britney walking funny for a week.
5. JUCIFER, Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip (Capricorn) Athens girlfriend-boyfriend duo deliver an equally beautiful and bracing debut that blends blithe melodies with the ugliest guitar tone this side of Left Hand Path-era Entombed.
6. AT THE DRIVE-IN, Relationship of Command (Grand Royal) Agit-prop rock that's more combustible than Richard Pryor's hair.
7. MURDER CITY DEVILS, In Name and Blood (Sub Pop) A howling lamentation of rum, romance, and the wounds opened by both.
8. EYEHATEGOD, Confederacy of Ruined Lives (Century Media) New Orleans' nastiest violate cochleae like O.J. does restraining orders on this mordant comeback effort.
9. BOULDER, Ravage and Savage (TeePee) Protruding brow Cro-Magnon rock that proves you don't need opposable thumbs to rock the fuck out.
10. SIX FEET UNDER, Graveyard Classics (Metal Blade) Hearing former Cannibal Corpse "singer" Chris Barnes vocally vomit all over "Purple Haze" and "Smoke on the Water" is funnier than watching the elderly slip and fall on ice come December.
By Richard A. Martin
1. ALLISON MOORER, The Hardest Part (MCA Nashville) Ten beautifully executed songs about country's flagship topic: the bittersweet line between loving, leaving, and letting go.
2. NEKO CASE, Furnace Room Lullaby (Bloodshot) An authentic voice, heartfelt songwriting, and music infused with a gritty soulfulness that no studio tricks or calculated planning could match.
3. KNIFE IN THE WATER, Red River (Overcoat) From deep in the heart of Texas, twangy tales of mischief and death that even Edgar Allen Poe would appreciate, and sizzling male-female harmonies that could chicken-fry a steak.
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Mercury Nashville) This Coen Brothers' film soundtrack, produced by T-Bone Burnett, mixes '30s recordings with brilliant performances by Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, and others.
5. KELLY HOGAN & THE PINE VALLEY COSMONAUTS, Beneath the Country Underdog (Bloodshot) A showcase for this Atlanta-raised Chicago transplant's crystalline voice, with an unbeatable cover of Magnetic Fields' "Papa Was a Rodeo."
6. MARK OLSON & THE ORIGINAL HARMONY RIDGE CREEK DIPPERS, My Own Jo Ellen (Hightone) The most rocking entry yet from Mark and his wife Victoria Williams, it's distinctly American, lavishly detailed, and nearly irresistible.
7. MERLE HAGGARD, If Only I Could Fly (Anti-) One of country's greatest living outlaws returns to form (at age 63) on a debut for punk label Epitaph offshoot Anti-, stripping down and letting 'er rip.
8. THE HANDSOME FAMILY, In the Air (Carrot Top) Sad country waltzes and witty narrative ditties from Brett and Rennie Sparks, alt-country's twisted, affable, urban couple.
9. CLEM SNIDE, Your Favorite Music (Sire) Gentle, rolling songs about chiseling through the wall of reality and dancing around on the other side, delivered deadpan over a warm acoustic bath of cello, violin, guitar, and bass.
10. RADIOGRAM, Unbetween (Transsiberian) This list's long-shot entry, from Vancouver, BC, it's a disc that merges blues, pop, and country like an earlier batch of Canadians known as the Band. Worth seeking out.
By Chris Nickson
1. A.R. RAHMAN, Zubeidaa (Sony) Rahman's gorgeous soundtrack, packed with aching melodies, is proof that Indian film music doesn't always have to equate with cheese.
2. NACAO ZUMBI, Radio S.A.M.B.A. (Stern's Brazil) Hard-core electronic music from Brazil. Not for the fainthearted or Limp Bizkit fans.
3. GABRIELA, Viento Rojo (Intuition) Even if you don't speak Spanish, a beautiful singer-songwriter disc, pairing Gabriela's adventurous compositions with Bill Frisell's sparkling guitar.
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS, Safarini (Smithsonian Folkways) Who'd have thought the Pacific Northwest would have one of the most vibrant African music scenes in the world? It does, and the cream is here.
5. SAM MANGWANA, Sam Mangwana Sings Dino Vangu (Stern's Africa) Is the laid-back sound of Congolese rumba undergoing a renaissance? Master vocalist Mangwana returns to his roots with stunning effect.
6. DANIELA MERCURY, Sol de Liberdade (BMG Latin) Glitzy Emilio Estefan production, but the soul and vibrancy is all Mercury's. Sexy, powerful, a record that does everything right.
7. FELA KUTI, The Best Best of (MCA) What can you say? Cherry-picking the crop of Afrobeat's father means nothing less than sublime grooves and fierce politics. Essential.
8. WIMME, Cugu (Northside) A Sami joiker (singer) making music to dazzle the Knitting Factory crowd. It's right here and out on the edge.
9. MISIA, Paixoes Diagones (Detour) Portuguese fado for the millennium, soft, gorgeous, the perfect sound of heartbreak on a disc.
10. LO 'JO, Bohꭥ de Cristal (Emma Productions, France) WOMAD favorites, recorded in Mali, with horns from Benin. A worldly blend and a step forward from their last record.
By Jason Verlinde
1. URI CAINE, Goldberg Variations (Winter & Winter) Pianist Caine, a battery of DJs, jazz guys, and string quartets all reinterpret Bach's masterpiece with plenty of imagination, style, and respect.
2. MISHA MENGELBERG, Solo (Buzz) Sometimes, amid all his games, big bands, and "instant composing," you forget just how well Mengelberg can play the piano. Here, we have a bunch of originals; a tribute to Wagner; and great, Monk-inspired solos from the Amsterdam legend.
3. JAMES CARTER, Chasin' the Gypsy (Atlantic) If Coltrane ever covered the music of Django Reinhardt, it might sound like this. Carter captures all the nervous energy, lyricism, and longing of the late gypsy guitarist.
4. TIM SPARKS, Tanz (Tzadik) Any way you look at him—as Frisell without the schizophrenic effects or Zorn without a sax—Tim Sparks delivers a jazz guitar classic with Tanz. Klezmer-fueled improv at its best.
5. GIANLUIGI TROVESI AND GIANNI COSCIA, In Cerca di Cibo (ECM) Jazz by way of lost Italy. A haunting collection of pastoral tunes for sax, accordion, and nostalgia.
6. ARTHUR BLYTHE TRIO, Spirits in the Field (Savant) Who needs a bass when you have the pulsing tuba of Bob Stewart as your rhythm-keeping low end? Meanwhile, alto saxophonist Blythe swings through eight lyrical tunes loaded with energy.
7. MARC RIBOT, Muy Divertido! (Atlantic) An Afro-Cuban pastiche or one of Ribot's masterpieces? Either way, this disc is filled with great jazz and lots of humor.
8. MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD, The Dropper (Blue Note) Who else but MM&W could get away with such a funky, weird freak-out record? The jams may be grittier, but they're just as entrancing.
9. CRAIG VENTRESCO, The Past Is Yet to Come (Original Jazz Library) Ventresco—the acoustic guitarist on the Crumb soundtrack—melds ragtime, blues, jazz guitar, and the finger-picking complexity of Fahey on The Past. Tough tunes to play that are easy to get lost in.
10. KING BENNIE NAWAHI, Hawaiian String Virtuoso (Yazoo). A real blast from the past—a collection of sides from Hawaiian guitar god King Bennie, dating from the '30s. Shrouded in island kitsch ("Singing in the Bathtub," anyone?), they still comprise some of the best jazz guitar ever recorded on disc.
UNDER THE RADAR
By Mike McGonigal
1. SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE, One Sided 12" (Ba Da Bing) Hippy elf music (early T. Rex, Incredible String Band) collides lovingly with acoustic mesmer-trance guitar playing (Fahey, Basho). Wow.
2. VARIOUS ARTISTS, Ethiopiques Vol. 8: Swinging Addis (Buda Musique) Ethiopian garage funk: emotive, melismatic vocals atop dirty, heavy rhythms. Imagine a jam between Fela, the Meters, and the cantina band from Star Wars.
3. ANGUS MACLISE, Brain Damage in Oklahoma City (Siltbreeze) Exceptional archival drone bliss recordings from the '60s from the Velvet Underground's drummer who split because the band was too commercial! Seriously out there, it's basically one long contact high.
4. BOB BROZMAN AND TAKASHI HIRAYASU, Jin Jin Firefly (Riverboat) Sleeper record of 2000: goofy, Hawaiian-style guitarist hooks up with Okinawan stringed instrument player to cover traditional Okinawan children's music. Lovely, accessible, and unbelievably good.
5. LONNIE JOHNSON, Unsung Blues Legend (Blues Magnet) A voice as distinctive, subtle, and resonantly mournful as Sinatra's croons blues and standards over simple, lo-fi guitar playing, recorded live in Bernie Strassberg's living room in 1965.
6. L'ALTRA, Music of a Sinking Occasion (Aesthetics) You know the kinds of images you have when you're drifting to sleep, half in and out of reality? Chicago quartet L'Altra are the soundtrack.
7. BOLA SETE, Ocean Memories (Samba Moon) Deeply melancholic and ungodly pure acoustic guitar playing from the early '70s that fuses classical, flamenco, and American folk styles.
8. ESG, South Bronx Story (Universal Sound) Finally, one of the most-sampled and unique minimalist funk bands ever sees their crucial early '80s documents released. These girls are amazing—the JBs meet the Shaggs.
9. BRIGHT, Full Negative or Breaks (Ba Da Bing) Artistically, this is a total breakthrough, as Bright push dissonant yet melodic indie rock past anything Polvo, Mogwai, Pavement, or Sonic Youth ever arrived at.
10. ROBERT BELFOUR, What's Wrong with You (Fat Possum) Mississippi hill country juke joint, dirty-ass, Junior Kimbrough-like blues, pure and simple. An awesome debut from this sixtysomething gentleman.
By Jason Hughes
1. 764-HERO, Weekends of Sound (Up) With James Bertram on bass, this record is sonically superior to previous 764-Hero albums, full of textures and nuances that help bring to life John Atkins' thoughtful and melodic tunes.
2. MODEST MOUSE, The Moon & Antarctica (Epic) Modest Mouse's major label debut defies industry standards with meandering songs and an indie-label ethic. As always, quirky and brilliant.
3. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (Barsuk) Death Cab's sophomore release comes through. Intelligent, well-crafted, and melodic tunes that remind us why this band has such a large following.
4. SLEATER-KINNEY, All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars) More reminiscent of their earlier work. Edgy and catchy, All Hands' intelligence is conveyed with both urgency and caring.
5. DANDY WARHOLS, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia (Capitol) These Portlanders have grown up since their debut, Dandys Rule OK. The best British band from the Northwest.
6. POLECAT, High Pressure System (Sonic Boom) I have to admit a little bias on this one since I put it out on my label, but it is one of my favorite records of the year. With walls of guitars and pounding drums over solid bass lines, this record reminds me why I love Fugazi, Jawbox, Seaweed, and Polecat.
7. FCS NORTH, FCS North (Pacifico) FCS North is definitely not your typical Seattle band. Ambient grooves of drum-and-bass, all played live, fashioned in a jazz format, make this the local chill-out release of the year.
8. CARISSA'S WIERD, Ugly but Honest (Brown) Carissa's debut album title lets on more than you might think. This is not the slickest, best-played record of the year, but it may be one of the most honest and striking.
9. ELLIOTT SMITH, Figure 8 (Dreamworks) This may be Elliott's most accessible record yet. Top-notch production lends itself to his trademark song crafting. Lazy piano lines and haunting melodies add to already beautiful tunes.
10. I couldn't do just 10, so other contenders: Harvey Danger, Alien Crime Syndicate, No. 2, Silkworm, Mirah, Fairgrove, and Sunny Day Real Estate.
More lists, please!