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Best Albums

The 20 Best Albums of 2000

The 20 best albums of 2000, as ranked by the SPIN editors. [This list originally appeared in the January 2001 issue of SPIN.]

1. U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Interscope)

Hey, maybe straightforward, emotional songs aren’t so bad! You can have all the funny sounds your brain desires, but wrap them with melodies, hooks, and a sense that you still care to touch your audience’s hearts, and the result might actually be a warm, relaxed album that doesn’t have to be justified by ogling Autechre or donning sci-fi sunglasses! Thesis: The Joshua Tree. Antithesis: Achtung Baby. Synthesis: this great record. ERIC WEISBARD

2. Coldplay, Parachutes (Nettwerk)

Travis too aloof? Badly Drawn Boy too drippy? Britpoppers can find solace in these genteel dreamers. Coldplay hoist their blue guitars and tug on Radiohead’s cape, even if their brightly hopeful, baldly emotional debut actually evokes the forgotten shoegazers like Ride. From the Jeff Buckley-like “Shiver” to the epic “Yellow,” lovelorn Chris Martin makes early-’90s nostalgia seem like the next frontier. TRACEY PEPPER

3. Madonna, Music (Maverick)

No ashtanga, no erotica, no Evita — this time around, she just wants to be singy-singy-singy. At 42 (older than Britney + Christina), Rocco’s mom hasn’t sounded this effortless since “Into the Groove.” The breathy, down-tempo stuff drags, but “Impressive Instant” and — admit it — that blissfully simple title track show all those confounded kids how to make pop dance floor boom-bap. Just when you’d counted her out, oops, she did it again. ALAN LIGHT

4. Quasimoto, The Unseen (Stones Throw)

Out in the nowhere of Oxnard, California, a perfectly normal rapper-producer named Madlib (of Lootpack) wakes up to realize all the world’s a cage, reinvents himself as the radical amoralist Quasimoto, and goes searching for his alienated Afrocentric manhood. What he finds is the sampladelic spirit of ’89, through a daisy haze of violated soul-jazz and pooched Redd Foxx records. And what unfolds is indie-hop’s Zen ArcadeJON DOLAN

5. Mouse on Mars, Niun Niggung (Thrill Jockey)

Yesterday’s Kraut-techno, now with 25 percent more blippleeeingyrf@!***plurk!! Masters of cheektronica, the dynamic duo come up with IDM’s first comedy record. Clowns wander slapstick soundscapes; grooves squish, cavort, and sometimes bang their way from the romper room to the block party; Squarepusher gets a gig as the house DJ at Chuck E. Cheese. There’s some wistful Kraftwerkmanship, but the main vibe is pure goofy-ass joy. J.D.

6. Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne (Island)

This “country” singer vied with Aimee Mann for pomo confessional album of the year — meaning the settings might have been extra-stylized, but the frustrated passion arrived completely unexpurgated. The vocals play off the sigh of the keyboards, real songs anchor fascinating textures, and this record streams at you like fog overtaking a sunny mom. A rock-country-soul blend that comes off as roots anyway, because it’s so fundamentally uprooted. E.W.

7. Capleton, More Fire (VP)

When yardcore dancehall god Capleton roars, bonfires lick up the sky and weak-kneed Caribbean politicians tremble. If DMX had Peter Dosh’s blood coursing through his veins, he might match the brimstone roar of the Prophet’s “new roots” sermons — black and pure, vengeful and unforgiving, yet essentially hopeful. A Fourth World rant against globalized despair set to streaming riddims, More Fire is breathtaking. JEFF CHANG

8. Sigur Rós, Ágætis Byrjun (FatCat)

If 1997’s Von imagined the Cocteau Twins on a glacier, this is the great thaw; Voices flow beneath ambient waters, rise like leviathans, then drive back under. Commanding our Pequod of Icelandic artkids is Jón Thór Birgisson, a Corgan-esque androgyne who sings lusciously in both native and invented tongues (like I can tell the difference). Ineffably beautiful, impossibly tuneful, you could call it Kid A, but these guys made theirs first. WILL HERMES

9. Aimee Mann, Magnolia: Music from the Motion Picture (Reprise)

Subtract the Supertramp tunes and other ephemera, and you’re left with eight songs by the magnificent Aimee Mann, But oh, what songs they are — precision-strike, perfectly realized emotions. Released in December ’99, Magnolia represented Mann’s last laugh; “It’s not going to stop / ‘Til you wise up” was the perfect kiss-off to a clueless record industry that kicked her around for years. A.L.

10. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Cliente (Razor Sharp)

Sure, he’s one of the greatest rappers around, but when it comes to his desire to put on a show, Ghostface is practically a soul singer. Supreme Clientele is filled with brash intros, a Solomon Burke sample on the single, and hyperactive hype anytime Ghostface thinks the pace has slipped. Results: fun as bursts of verbal adrenaline, a restored Wu-Tang Clan, and a reawakened RZA. E.W.

11. Le Tigre, Le Tigre (Mr. Lady)

Too punk (or punk-ass?) to do a SPIN interview, but we adore them anyway. On a record that never lets up, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna & Co. take riot grrrl to the disco and teach her the new wave shimmy, recalling a time when synths weren’t just boys’ toys. Includes the year’s second-best song to namecheck Gertrude Stein (see Idlewild) and the catchiest subway ode since “Take the A Train.” W.H.

12. Armand Van Helden, Killing Puritans (Armed)

DJ du jour shifts from house to homeboy on his sequel to the stunning 2Future4U. Van’s sampling can be a bit Puffy — the “Cars”-jacking “Koochy” forecasts a brave Numan world. But it’s all for the sake of hybridization, whether he’s rocking the decks like a hurricane (the scorpions-biting “Little Black Spiders”), finding common ground with Common, or busting a rhyme himself — though MC Armand may wanna keep his night job. MIKE RUBIN

13. Queens of the Stone Age, Rated R (Interscope)

Hang out in the California desert. Get bored. Take bong hits. Grow King Tut goatee. Play crunchy hard-rock riffs. Take another bong hit. Recite “nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol” over punky Nirvana chords. High-five bandmates. Take umbrage at the label “stoner rock.” Record bong hits. Nap. Write mysteriously beautiful, smartly stoopid psychedelic jams, complete with jet planes and monsters. Rate them “R.” SIA MICHEL

14. PJ Harvey, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (Island)

Chapter V: Polly Gets Her Gun. But it’s not the return to true grit that makes this her best record since when she was Jesus with PMS; it’s that whereas the old stuff took your head off, this rewires your guts. All the beautiful bullshit’s here — pathetic fallacies, Patti Smith mythopoeia, a Thom Yorke duet — but it’s more earned, more cathartic. Sand in her joints. Wind through her hair. Blood on her tracks. J.D.

15. OutKast, Stankonia (LeFace)

Dre and Big Boi ask: “Do ya really wanna know about some gangsta shit?” Well, no, actually. But when it stanks this funky, that’s a different story. “B.O.B.” is the bomb-squadron showpiece. But “Ms. Jackson” might be the achy-breakiest hip-hop testimony ever, explaining how bad love happens to good playas and apologizing to all mamas, Rosa Parks included. Otherwise, it’s highbrow bounce with fluorescent jimmy hats. Par-tayW.H.

16. At the Drive-In, Relationship Of Command (Grand Royal)

Down in the west Texas town of El Paso, five guys discover that the secret formula for breathing life back into rock’s rotting corpse is E(mo)=MC5. ATDI combine artily abstruse lyrics with thunderously direct guitars to forge a sound much like singer Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez’s Afros: big, thick, and gnarly, capable of evoking the ferocious power of a mushroom cloud. Punk is dead; long live punk. M.R.

17. D’Angelo, Voodoo (Virgin)

Yes, he showed more happy trail than a beachful of thong-song hootchies, but soul’s ruffneck standard-bearer had to get naked. Otherwise these subtle, groove-based jams might’ve escaped attention — it takes ten listens and $20 in black musk Nag Champa before they creep under. The payoff is the year’s best mood album — a retro future-gaze of “chicken grease” funk, boho politicking, hip-hop badass, and sexual healing. Edible panties not included. S.M.

18. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope)

Best case: prince of outlaws without a clue who’s the law. Worst case: a cynic getting over with five octaves of hate speech. What “going too far” means: really, finally brought that psycho rude shit home to the ‘burbs. History lesson: the Beasties’ bad conscience made poetical flesh. It’s tricky to rock a rhyme. “At least he made the quatrains run on time.” In case you missed it: left more things unsettled than when he started. JOSHUA CLOVER

19. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol)

The music-biz hysteria that greeted this represented everything wrong with said biz: “No songs!” they howled. “No big guitars!” (Translation: “No radio airplay!” “No Christmas bonuses!”) Meanwhile, the Band That Wouldn’t Save Rock declare computers very OK, compose the most emotive downtempo electronica ever, shape it like a classic concept record, put wicked apocrypha under the CD tray, and manage to save rock anyway. Artists: Go figure. W.H.

20. Your Hard Drive

It’s the community, stupid. What industry-sanctioned product could compete with 20 million Napster users collaborating on the greatest mix tape never sold? This year, you didn’t have to wait for a label to bequeath a Timbaland best-of or go dork-to-dork to compile that Stereolab C-sides disc. Downloading challenged our definition of The Album as a self-contained work and our role as fans like no record ever could — while opening our ears to thousands of new ones. J.D.