Best of 2000: Kembrew McLeod

Kembrew McLeod

1. Outkast, Stankonia (LaFace/Arista)
Imagine if Sun Ra collaborated with 2 Live Crew or if Afrika Bambaataa and Chuck D had a threesome with Pauly Shore, and you might have a good idea what Outkast's Stankonia sounds like. The revved up electro-shocking BPMs and caffeine-dada lyrics of "B.O.B." hit you over the head and keep it spinning like you're Linda Blair possessed by the demon spirit of Sir Mix-A-Lot, and the rest of the album ain't too shabby, either.

2. Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues (E-Squared)
Nashville's (most and least) favorite survivor. He has the eye of the tiger and he knows how to write a killer melody infused with heart-wrenching emotion. Perhaps the best album of his career.

3. Jurassic 5, Quality Control (Interscope)
Too many acts who try to "stay true" to hip-hop focus so much on the art of rhyming and making non-jiggy beats that they forget that hip-hop was founded, quite literally, on good times. Fortunately, Jurassic 5 haven't forgotten this, and their debut long-player � Quality Control � has more bounce to the ounce and more glide to the slide than any hip-hop album in recent memory.

4. Sade, Lovers Rock (Epic)
After an eight year sabbatical, she has returned with her vocal powers intact, and without any embarrassing "updates" to her sound. On Lovers Rock she sings about sexy, sweet taboos, crooning lovelorn lyrics with a melancholy voice that will mellow out the most hyperactively happy, but which will also uplift the most suicidal. The album's first single, "By Your Side", is perhaps the most beautiful song I've heard all year, a work of unassuming grace and soothing warmth sung for the loneliest of the lonely.

5. Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (Matador)
Ah, wedded bliss, indie-rock style. Matrimony and drone-y melodies, living together in perfect harmony.

6. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele (Epic)
Don't call it a comeback! Well, actually, it is. Supreme Clientele was the first great Wu solo shot fired by these Long Island lunatics in quite a while. On Supreme Clientele, Ghostface and company serve up a Shaolin chef salad of bizarre beats, witty wordplay and more style than you can shake a diamond studded chopstick at.

7. Kitty Vermont, Wonderful You (Motorcoat)
On this album you'll find the most darkly-textured, yet honey-drippingly sweet synth-pop numbers since OMD unplugged their keyboards and called it a day. "Back to Better Days" sports a melody those '80s popsters would have traded 100 spiffy haircuts for, and "Avalon" would make them feel like proud fathers. In these times when all that glitters goes gold or platinum, it's albums like Wonderful You that insure that pop doesn't go completely to the weasels.

8. Chappaquiddick Skyline, Chappaquiddick Skyline (Sub Pop)
Forget Sting. Joe Pernice is the real king of pain. This year the former Scud Mountain Boys leader and current Pernice Brothers front man added two new aliases to his treasure chest: Big Tobacco and Chappaquiddick Skyline. The CS album begins with the line "I hate my life", which serves as a sub-textual motto for an album filled with sadness, regret and mean-spirited bitterness.

9. John Prine, In Spite of Ourselves (Oh Boy!)
An album full of country duets. It's nothing new or earth shattering, but he somehow manages to sprinkle some fairy dust on a timeworn idea by choosing some of today's best female vocalists-Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Iris DeMent, to name a few.

10. Damien Jurado, Ghost of David (Sub Pop)
Competing with Joe Pernice for the musical sad sack award is Seattle's Damien Jurado. Ghost of David is unrelenting in its melancholia, and is a tour de force for the depressed and dispirited.





The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

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