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.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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