(in alphabetical order)
1. DJ Assault, Off the Chain for the Y2K (Intuit-Solar Recordings)
I haven't even heard this double album, but the man's track record speaks for itself. Dirty, dirty Detroit booty bass that is meant to simultaneously make you shake your moneymaker and alienate your politically correct friends. With simple, thumping basslines, a keyboard riff here and there, and the most offensive lyrics since MC Ren's Kizz My Black Azz, Assault goes beyond irony to perfect a style that is definitely the new sound of the millennium.
2. Don Caballero, American Don (Touch & Go)
Although they claimed to be unhappy with their (final) effort, American Don sees the Don coming into their own and fully shedding their metal roots (which in and of itself wasn't a bad thing to begin with). With tracks like "How to Get ICEMAN on Your License Plate" and "You Drink a lot of Coffee for a Teenager", Damon Che and the boys walk the fine line between improv experimentalism and catchy pop greatness.
3. The For Carnation, The For Carnation (Touch & Go)
A terrific amalgamation of shifting bass, moody keys, and whispered vocals, ex-Slint superstar Brian MacMahon's latest effort is actually a collection of pieces recorded 1997-2000. The second best fall-asleep-to album of the year.
4. The Fucking Champs, IV (Touch & Go)
If only they'd stop pandering to an ironic indie-rock audience who enjoy throwing up devil signs and headbanging, would they truly reign supreme. Otherwise the Champs play the ultimate brand of epic instrumental D&D metal, overflowing with scales, synth, and the ghost of Eddie, Iron Maiden's mascot for all those years.
5. Gas, Pop (Mille Plateaux)
I fell asleep to this record more than any other this year and for good reason. Never has the sound of white noise, air and footsteps in the air come together in such as beautiful way.
6. Jay-Z, Roc La Familia 2000 (Def Jam)
Jigga's latest effort drips classy Brooklyn-style hip-hop, glossy and grimy, full of gusto, bravado and sincerity. The posse (Beanie Siegel, Memphis Bleek, Freeze) and special guests (Scarface, Snoop) smoke like a house on fire and the production is top-notch, as expected. But what strikes me about this release is the sentiment held within. Jay-Z is a mensch, whether he believes it or not, and when he lets his guard down on tracks like "Soon You'll Understand" and "This Can't Be Life", the results must be heard to be believed.
7. The Jesus Lizard, Bang (Touch & Go)
This posthumous collection of 7"s, rarities, and other ephemera pressed into wax is the most rockin' easily accessible Lizard package ever. Yow's yells are top-notch and the licks pack a punch only found in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. A must for Lizard completists as well as first-time initiates.
8. Les Savy Fav, The Cat & the Cobra (Self-Starter Foundation)
Perhaps the only contemporary band that matters, le Fav have perfected the ideal mesh between dissonance and melody and in the process have concocted a supremely catchy ambrosia of a record. Their live show lives up to the weirdness caught on acetate as well.
9. Superchunk, Come Pick Me Up (Merge)
The old warhorse that is Superchunk keeps on finding new ways to redefine themselves while still maintaining their patented, tried-and-true formula for creating perfect golden-brown pop nuggets. Jim O'Rourke production just adds to the aura.
10. Third Eye Blind, Blue (Elektra)
I didn't believe their debut effort could be topped, but 3EB have spewed out an equally entertaining, glossy, and catchier than gonorrhea release than proves once again why they are the best mainstream, made-for-pop-radio fake band in the world.
Broadcast, The Noise Made By People (Warp/Tommy Boy)
Cradle of Filth, Midian (Koch)
Fu Manchu, King of the Road (Mammoth)
Hot Snakes, Automatic Midnight (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
Oval, Ovalprocess (Thrill Jockey)
The Quadrajets, When the World's on Fire (Estrus)
Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol)