Story Tony BonyataThis past year, although still dominated in the charts by teenybopper fluff and now middle-of-the-road metal acts revealing a disgustingly softer and even less interesting side, saw not only the resurgence of some ancient rock fossils but also a handful of talented new artists filled with funk, soul, atmospheric guitars and honesty, not to mention some good old fashioned teeth-clenching metal thrown into the pit.
While it comes as no surprise that the newcomers to make this Top Ten list were capable of injecting something fresh into the airwaves and modem lines, it's the surprisingly strong works from some of rock's eldest statesmen such as Iggy, Dylan and Jagger that revealed that these old timers are still every bit as relevant today as their younger contemporaries.
1) Bob Dylan "Love and Theft" (Columbia)
Returning full circle to where he once came, Dylan creates a masterful collection of songs that taps into the rich, cultural legacy of American music through the last century. Unfurling a repertoire which touches on blues, country, rockabilly, American standards, vaudevillian show tunes and rock 'n' roll, Dylan somehow successfully manages to encapsulate a hundred years of music into just under one hour.
2) Radiohead "Amnesiac" (Capitol)
An extension of their brilliant, if not misunderstood, masterpiece "Kid A," released the previous year. With all of these tracks coming from the "Kid A" sessions, it's no wonder why the same cold terrains and barren soundscapes still abound. And while the icy, electronic production, like it's predecessor, may have turned some off, the warmth of their haunting melodies - mastered early in their career - along with Thom Yorke's longing vocals could melt glaciers. Still THE band to watch.
3) Lucinda Williams "Essence" (Lost Highway)
While the queen of alt / country may not have kicked up as much gravel on her latest album, which ultimately is more introspective and one-dimensional than her more recent efforts, "Essence," nonetheless, showcases Williams as one of the premier singer / songwriters of this or any other decade. And if she doesn't have one of the best damn set of pipes in the business, I'll eat her straw Stetson.
4) Pete Yorn "musicforthemorningafter" (Columbia)
Finally, a male singer / songwriter for today's youth who writes songs that matter. On his debut, this South Jersey native delivers songs steeped in emotion, indelible melodies and earthy vocals. The potential for this newcomer is huge.
5) Iggy Pop "Beat Em Up" (Virgin)
Ahh, Iggy. And just the way we love him, too - loud, obnoxious and unrelenting. After two near-dismal efforts, The Godfather of Punk is back in fighting form with an album filled with a bullying metal band, a production that, like his own physical attributes, is tight, lean and sinewy, not to mention THAT voice (imagine Sinatra taking over Johnny Rotten's duties for the Sex Pistols.) Welcome home, Mr. Osterberg.
6) Mick Jagger "Goddess In The Doorway" (Virgin)
Forget about Keith Richards' Chuck Berry-inspired riffs for one minute and, with an open mind, listen to The Voice of The Rolling Stones on his fourth and strongest solo effort. Not only is Jagger's voice at the top of game here, but the well-written songs are modern rock gems. I know it ain't The Rolling Stones, but I like it, like it, yes I do.
7) Nikka Costa "Everybody Got Their Something" (Cheeba / Virgin)
Every once in while a new artist bursts on the scene that is so hot they play a direct role in raising global warming. Such is the effect of this red-haired fireball. As funky as Sly and Chaka and gritty as Tina and Janis, this gal gets her point across immediately on this spicy, finger-lickin' good debut.
8) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "B.R.M.C." (Virgin)
A welcome return to atmospheric fuzzed-out guitar rock, in the grand 'n' grubby tradition of The Jesus and Mary Chain. It's been so long since something this cool has come out in this genre that it makes you remember how good shoegazing felt way back in the very early '90s.
9) Gorillaz "Gorillaz" (Virgin)
Just because they're the hippest cartoon characters this side of Ren, Stimpy and Spongebob doesn't mean they should be overlooked for some of the most fresh and inventive new music of the year. On their self-titled debut album, Blur vocalist Damon Albarn, combines the real musical talents of the Talking Heads' Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori and Dan "The Automator" Nakamura to create an album that is filled with quirky pop, accessible hip-hop, Jamaican dub, Cuban jazz and just about everything but the kitschy N-Sync. Who knows, maybe for their next album they can incorporate Squidward's clarinet into the act.
10) Smashing Pumpkins - "Rotten Apples" (Virgin)
Yeah, I know...it's a greatest hits package. But that doesn't stop this two-CD set from not only retracing the bombastic and beautiful past of, quite possibly, the best band of the '90s, but also unearthing a rock-pile of unreleased gems that, as this band has proven in the past with their generous b-sides and EPs featuring countless outtakes, are not only as good as their own studio releases, but better than just about any act on the charts. Rotten apples, indeed.
Ryan Adams "Gold" (Lost Highway),
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds "No More Shall We Part" (Reprise)
and Lennon "5:30 Saturday Morning" (Arista).
Check out the best albums of 2000
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