Best Albums 2000 (21-25)

25. Elastica – The Menace

Semi-ambient junkie synth doodles, impromptu poetry reading, “Da Da Da” cover, a yowled cameo Mark E. Smith may yet be unaware of–Justine Frischmann practically dared you not to care about her careless jumble of a (ha, right) follow-up. Yet this admitted “third rate imitator” and whoever she corralled into futzing around with the best bits of Wire toons sound sexier, goofier, and just plain more alive than her blurry one-time beau or his rival arena-rock mirage merchants ever did. Happy ending: Frischmann reportedly lives a quiet normal life in Colorado. Fun fact: cover photo was taken by promising art student Maya Arulpragasam.

24. Lyricist Lounge 2

“Sellout,” the underground dutifully groused, noting the presence of commercial powerhouses like–uh, Beanie Siegel? Crunk sore-thumb JT Money? Macy Gray, who reconfigures “I’ve Committed Murder” with frazzled moll Mos Def riding shotgun? Mos himself, whose “Oh No” broke Hot 100 with help from (tsk, tsk) Nate Dogg. Oh, I know, the Lounge was conceived as a safe berth to nurture AAA up-and-comers. But this historical curio–opening with an archival Biggie freestyle and closing with a Q-Tip eulogy for the same that’s now no less archival–aptly documents an East Coast scene churned up but not yet colonized by corporate seed money, hinting at opportunities lost and paths not taken, and showcasing more talent than the biz could ever have use for.

23. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica

Fucking people over may not be Isaac Brock’s only art–that undersells his ramshackle guitar, which Jeremiah Green and Eric Judy effectively harness to their spastic grooves. But because Brock spares no more empathy for himself than for the rest of you shit ‘n’ water composites we call humanity, he plays his low-level depression for laughs–watching wild dogs drag away his kin, disintegrating into thin air himself, it’s all the same to him. Wasn’t I tickled to realize that he’d stolen “Laugh hard/ It’s a long way to the bank” from TMBG, of all people. Or when the long-delayed punchline to this proudly unmarketable major-label debut finally arrived in ’04, and “Float On” turned out to be a smash hit. 

22. Cheikh Lô – Bambay Gueej

This dreadlocked Fela fan not only fringed his West African pop with the Cuban tinge you’d expect of a worldbeat pro who cut his teeth drumming in various rumba outfits, but he cocked an ear to the pan-African language of reggae. In other words, here was mbalax at its least provincial–less rough and tumble than the Dakar norm, yet deeply textured enough that Cheikh wouldn’t completely bland it out into fusionably polite entertainment until his 2006 follow up. Special guest star: Pee Wee Ellis, whose horn arrangements, similar to those he’d previously crafted for Oumou Sangare, may prove him the diaspora’s greatest unsung gift back to the motherland.

21. Mouse on Mars – Niun Niggung

Throughout the ’90s, Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma made misguided stabs at beauty and transcendence and all that gooey 19th century stuff that wows us untutored American savages. Well, who knows what got into them–the Stereolab collaboration, immersion in Sonic the Hedgehog incidental music, maybe just a realization that German humor was a vastly underserved niche market–but Niun Niggung turned out to be the finest novelty record this side of Kid A. Only volk with 0s and 1s fizzing through their veins could mistake this for “organic,” but the ingratiating addition of acoustic instrumentation and human voices does help terrestrials feel at home. And at least nobody calls this rambling whimsy post-rock anymore. They don’t, right? Whew.

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  • Pete Scholtes  On January 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Wait, you’re doing albums too? Awesome!

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