Best of 2000: Eamon P. Joyce

Eamon P. Joyce

1. Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Twisted Nerve/XL/Beggars Banquet)
While 2000 will not likely be remembered as a great year for music overall, I cannot recall a year when the best album stood out so clearly. Even after having been impressed by the Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough) EP I heard several summers ago as well as Gough's track on the UNKLE record, I was shocked at the undeniable elegance of The Hour of Bewilderbeast. From the opening strains of french horn and cello on "The Shining", one is unmistakably aware that this is an accomplished record. After the opener, Gough never makes a misstep, clattering through "Everybodys Stalking", sulking through "Fall in a River", and hammering out a catchy single with "Disillusion" (with help from his Mancunian mates, Doves, see below). Several listens to Bewilderbeast should be enough to quiet critics who paint Gough as little more than a British Elliott Smith, as Smith for all his success is a great distance from making a record this fine.

2. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol)
What more can be said about this album? Perhaps the world's preeminent guitar band, Radiohead abandon the guitars altogether, ignoring all conventional wisdom to craft a claustrophobic, self-hating, anxious treasure.

3. Coldplay, Parachutes (Nettwerk America)
Sporting the single of the year, "Yellow", this debut reaffirms the vitality of British guitars. Yes, comparing frontman Chris Martin's endless vocal gymnastics to Thom Yorke and the late Jeff Buckley is inevitable, but these kid stars are rather compelling in their own right as well.

4. Belle & Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (Matador)
While not representative of B&S's best work, Fold Your Hands... still displays just how far ahead of the competition these Scots remain. The now more democratic songwriting hurts this album's coherence, Stuart Murdoch's works still glisten. The unexpected hooks of "The Model" are uncompromising as B&S continue to connect the dots of The Smiths and The Field Mice on the way to pop heaven. Likewise, the string swept "There's Too Much Love" is pop at its most promising, as only Belle and Sebastian are currently capable.

5. Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life (Nude UK)
This second album from the side project of Luke Haines (The Auteurs), somehow scandalously couldn't find a stateside release. Haines has always been a champion of the perverse, but he and vocalist Sarah Nixey outdo themselves here. The Facts of Life provides enough sinister sexual fodder to make one feel like an embarrassed elementary school pupil in sex education all over again.

6. The Delgados, The Great Eastern (Chemikal Underground/Mantra Recordings)
The Great Eastern was one of this year's most pleasant surprises; while I liked the Delgados' two previous albums, I didn't think they could produce something of this much merit and substance. David Fridmann of Mercury Rev produced the record and he convincingly applies converging swathes of sound echoing his work with Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips and Wheat. The production's renewed purpose allows the vocal tandem of Alun Woodward and Emma Pollack freedom enough to provide lovely yet brutal accounts of misery ("The Past that Suits You Best") and torture ("Make Your Move") with little reason for hope.

7. The 6ths, Hyacinths and Thistles (Merge)
As if The Magnetic Fields' Stephen Meritt hadn't already proven that he is among the most prolific songwriters of his generation, these 14 tracks only serve to further up the ante. This, the second album under the 6ths name (his project where he writes songs for guest vocalists) picks up where 1995's Wasps' Nests left off, strangely consonant tones delivered by the finest voices (Momus, Bob Mould, Neil Hannon and Sarah Cracknell among them). My only complaint is that this record lacks some of the pop charms of its predecessor.

8. Primal Scream, Exterminator [XTRMNTR] (Astralwerks)
Gone are the days when Bobbie Gillespie and company sang the praises of ecstasy and bliss, replaced by the sound of pure evil. Thrashing anger vented at turn of the millennium capitalism doused in drugs, drugs, and more drugs. If "Swastika Eyes" did not provide enough paranoia to last the year, "Shoot Speed, Kill Light" certainly did.

9. Alpinestars, B.A.S.I.C. (Faith and Hope UK)
There is something oddly refreshing about an album that sounds this much like the past. With distinct touches of New Order, Kraftwerk, Devo and Depeche Mode, this throwback disco record has just enough seediness to make it a rather irresistible guilty pleasure.

10. Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador)
ATNTIIO is Yo La Tengo's pinnacle in what has been a lengthy career of critical acclaim for the Hoboken, New Jersey trio. The record is a most startling, fragile meditation on Ira and Georgia's marriage — what great strength they possess in exposing themselves and their love's highs and lows to the audience. The arrangements work splendidly and the melodies are gripping, even when the lyrics make you recoil in embarassed recognition — "Expecting a whisper, I heard the slam of the door / You say that all we do is fight / Gee, I don't know if that's true" has been implanted in my head all year.

The best of the rest (in some slightly particular order):
11. The Go-Betweens: The Friends of Rachel Worth (Jet Set)
12. Super Furry Animals: Mwng (Flydaddy)
13. David Holmes: Bow Down to the Exit Sign (1500 Records)
14. Björk: Selma Songs (Elektra)
15. Trembling Blue Stars: Broken By Whispers (Sub Pop)
16. Departure Lounge: Out of There (Flydaddy)
17. Doves: Lost Souls (Astralwerks)
18. Bent: Programmed to Love (Sport UK)
19. JJ72: JJ72 (Lakota UK)
20. Broadcast: The Noise Made By People (Tommy Boy)
21. Mojave 3: Excuses for Travellers (4AD)
22. Aden: Hey 19 (Teenbeat)
23. Automator: A Much Better Tomorrow (75 Ark)
24. Richard Ashcroft: Alone with Everybody (Virgin)
25. Air: Virgin Suicides (Astralwerks)
26. Clock Strikes Thirteen: Ever Decreasing Circles (Drive-In)
27. Cinerama: Disco Volante (Manifesto)
28. Teenage Fanclub: Howdy! (Columbia UK)
29. Thievery Corporation: The Mirror Conspiracy (ESL Music)
30. Photek: Solaris (Astralwerks)
31. The Aislers Set, The Last Match (Slumberland)
32. The Wisdom of Harry: House of Binary (Matador)
33. Her Space Holiday: Home Is Where You Hang Yourself (Tiger Style)
34. Lemonjelly: Ky (Impotent/Fury/XL UK)
35. Red Snapper: Our Aim Is to Satisfy Red Snapper (Warp/Matador)
36. Aix Em Klemm: Aix Em Klemm (Kranky)
37. Mark Kozelek: Rock N'Roll Singer (Badman)
38. Idlewild: 100 Broken Windows (Food UK)
39. The Clientele: Suburban Light (Pointy)
40. Grandaddy: The Sophtware Slump (BMG/V2)
41. Deltron 3030: Deltron 3030 (75 Ark)
42. Blonde Redhead: Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go)
43. Dimitri From Paris: A Night at the Playboy Mansion (Astralwerks)
44. Asian Dub Foundation: Community Music (London UK)
45. Arab Strap: Elephant Shoe (Jet Set)
46. The Twin Atlas: The Philadelphia Parking Authority Must Die (Tappersize)
47. Chris Morris: Blue Jam (Warp UK)
48. Elliott Smith: Figure 8 (Dreamworks)

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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