Best of 2000: James Mann

Rather than present another “top ten” list of only music releases, I decided to throw in a few notable events as well. Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum-although some of it certainly should…

So, without further ado, the life and musical times of the last year of the millennium!

1. The Florida Fiasco
Remember snoozing in Civics class as a teenager and scoffing at the threat of a pop quiz? Well, wake up America, this is it. No matter what side you are on, everyone in this country will be profoundly affected by the events that are occurring in the Sunshine state. The Emperor has no clothes, and the Rule of Law means nothing as we inch ever closer to mob rule.

2. Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” in those car commercials
Finally the world at large can learn what some of us have known for years-the human heart, when wrapped in wire and strummed, is Nick Drake. If everyone who saw this commercial purchased “Way To Blue”, the anthology of Drake’s scant output, the world would be a far nicer place. Music that infects you at a cellular level. Once heard, it’s never really forgotten.

3. Drive By Truckers, Alabama Ass Whuppin’
Like an adrenal shot to the heart, Patterson Hood and his redneck band of merry men prove two things: A: Southern rock isn’t dead, even if does do a version of Jim Carrol’s “People Who Died” and B: Ronnie Van Zant wasn’t a fluke. It’s music like this that reaffirms your faith in loud guitars and drunken poets at microphones.

4. Sigur Rós, Agætis Byrjun (Fat Cat/Bubblecore)
For all of us who have wished Pink Floyd was trippier, or Björk more surreal, along comes Iceland’s Sigur Rós. Who knows, or cares, what they are saying?

5. R.L. Burnside, Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down (Fat Possum)
Like so many things this nation has created, the blues have been left to wither and die from hackneyed regurgitation of Stevie Ray Vaughn licks and bland Chicago leftovers. Problem is, somebody forgot to copy Fat Possum Records on the e-mail. Burnside stands ready to take the blues to the next level with impassioned vocals, hip-hop beats and a gangster guitar. R.L. sounds like a man who can kick your ass-if I was Johnny Lang, I’d get a bodyguard.

6. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol)
After creating brilliant but dour guitar rock, Thom Yorke and crew turn a 180 degree away from all of that and give us an album full of treated vocals, sound textures and mushy keyboards. For those who find themselves puzzled by the record, go back and watch Meeting People Is Easy, the film made of the OK Computer hysteria. The distain Yorke holds for the reality of stardom reeks from each frame, yet he craves the license he allows him. Rather than communicate, Kid A was perhaps made to alienate. If in the end it increases the frenzy that surrounds them-and with large first week sales and mysterious live performance schedules it just might — will Radiohead consider themselves to have failed?

7. The Prisoner DVDs
One of televisions finest moments — a paranoiac vision of state control and the power of one man to be “a name, not a number” — has finally made it to DVD. Created in 1960s Britain and starring Patrick McGoohan, this show so far exceeds the boundaries set for the medium that it transcends the small screen and becomes art.

8. Napster
As debate rages over the legality of file sharing-Metallica on one side, kids on the other, nobody doubts that Napster and other programs of it’s ilk have changed the face of music forever. When burn on the fly CD creators become common, long-held notions of copyright and property will change.

9. Guided By Voices, Suitcase, Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft (Luna/Recordhead)
Four CDs full of throwaway junk probably wouldn’t merit a listen unless the artist had a surname of Townshend or Dylan. Add Pollard to that list. Dayton, Ohio’s pop savant sweeps out from under the bed and finds a decade worth of false starts, half-baked ideas and in a lot of cases, some of the best pop music created in years. Sure, some of it is crap — a fact he fully acknowledges-but some of it, even with drunken vocals and being recorded on a Kenner Close-N-Play, is as good as anything the band has released.

10. Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica (Epic)
State of the art indie-angst pop. Isaac Brock’s stumbling guitar and annoyed whine takes a bit of getting used to, but on songs such as “The Cold Part” or “A Different City”, it all comes together to create small oceans of private pain.