By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Coldplay, Parachutes(Parlophone/Nettwerk America): The first song sounds like Elliott Smith, the last song sounds like Randy Newman, and in between is "Yellow," the best single of 2000 not named "Beautiful Day" or "B.O.B." When the guitars ring in like midnight on New Year's Eve and Chris Martin starts crooning about how the stars shine just for you--me?--you'll keep hitting "repeat" so often, you'll forget there are five songs left on the album.
U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind(Interscope): First three songs are better than any complete U2 outing since Bono had a mullet. And I used to think "Beautiful Day" was the best U2 single in history, till I heard "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" on the radio. It's like a hug on a horrible day.
Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue Volume 2 (Elektra): Woody Guthrie's dead, long live Jeff Tweedy and Billy Bragg, who once more resurrect the dead man's words with chimes that reverberate down to your soul and soles. When I die, I want "Airline to Heaven" played over and over again at the funeral, even though I know hell awaits; at least it will cushion the blow.
Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast (XL Recordings): The best Paul Simon record Elliott Smith didn't release this year, and a record so sad (all those cellos, French horns, and strings) that it makes you somehow ahappy to be in its presence. Damon Gough just wants to "put a little sunshine in your life," even if he gets eclipsed by a broken heart every now and again.
Jill Scott, Who is Jill Scott?(Hidden Beach Recordings): If you have to ask now, it may be too late; you probably bought Mama's Gun and like it. This is the follow-up the Dallas diva should have delivered but didn't, couldn't, wouldn't--all three, likely, as writer's block is a bitch. Best R&B record of the year. Best jazz record of the year. Best soul record of the year.
Various Artists, O Brother, Where Are Thou?soundtrack (Mercury Records): The best collection of rural-roots Americana since Harry Smith sat down on the banks of the Ohio with the Blue Sky Boys back in the day. In a perfect world, "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" would be a single, and Emmylou Harris would ditch Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton so she could record with Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss all the time. A record so good, Sam Phillips is buried in the choir.
The Go-Betweens, The Friends of Rachel Worth(Jetset): The best Sleater-Kinney record of 2000 is this reunion between old friends Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, who found there's still "Magic in Here" and out there by singing about angels and surfing magazines and German farmhouses, or something. For a minute, I thought someone replaced this disc with the one inside Bellavista Terrace, last year's proper best-of; sometimes, you can--and should--go home again.