Here and There
1. Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast (XL Recordings): Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, is mopey and sad; he's the art-school kid who always got his ass kicked. He spilled out all of his emotional baggage on The Hour of Bewilderbeast, and it amounts to the best album of 2000. Gough and his studio friends have crafted a memorable record, full of weepy ballads and hook-laden pop songs. God bless his tormentors.
2. Doves, Lost Souls (Astralwerks): Compared with another British band that features Manchester-born brothers, Doves are a little more intellectual. Whereas you might enjoy listening to Oasis after your fifth pint of Guinness or coming home from a good curbing, Doves would be more suitable for a late-night comedown or a romantic night in. Lost Souls is a deep, soulful album that makes you want to down a bottle of wine and make out.
3. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol): I guess it's cool to rip Radiohead these days. Screw me, I liked it. Kid A is not the record I wanted Radiohead to make--I wish they'd just remake The Bends over and over. But then that's the point; Kid A is the anti-Bends. It's Thom Yorke's valentine to paranoia. Hopefully he'll score some Prozac and Radiohead can get back to making rock albums.
4. Tripping Daisy, Tripping Daisy (Sugar Fix/Good Records): It's appropriate that Tripping Daisy's final album is distributed by Sugar Fix Recordings, because that's exactly what it is. It's dripping with sweetness, every morsel more satisfying than the one before it. The disc is a fond farewell to late guitarist Wes Berggren, who discovered sounds that have never been heard before, and unfortunately, will never be heard again.
5. Elliott Smith, Figure 8 (DreamWorks): Elliott Smith has been trying so hard to be a singer-songwriter that he almost forgot how to rock; he finally got it right on his fifth solo effort. Figure 8 combines the elements of his earlier solo work with the energy of his defunct band Heatmiser. For every razor-blade-to-the-wrists number like "Everything Reminds Me of Her," there's a four-minute pop masterpiece like "Stupidity Tries." Hopefully he doesn't put away the drum kit when he records his next album.
6. Belle & Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (Matador): Yet another beautiful, delicate album full of winsome melodies by this Scottish art-rock collective. Belle & Sebastian are certainly melodramatic; they are best enjoyed when not taken too seriously. And band leader Stuart Murdoch is a bigger queen than Morrissey ever was--his over-the-top narratives "I Fought in a War" and "The Chalet Lines" are the best moments on the disc.
7. The Deathray Davies, The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist (Idol Records): To call John Dufilho a genius would probably be an overstatement. He hasn't cured any diseases or mastered cold fusion, but he has cranked out some of the catchiest pop songs of the year. "Clever Found a Name" and the album closer "Chinese Checkers and Devo Records" epitomize retro rock--they're so good, you swear you've heard them before.
8. Coldplay, Parachutes (Parlophone/Nettwerk America): Coldplay may be the next big thing out of England, but they are decidedly different from the latest wave of Britpop. The atmospheric guitars recall the late-'80s heyday of The Church and U2, but what sets Coldplay apart is front man Chris Martin's distinctive gravelly-then-falsetto voice. When he sings, "We never change, do we?" you want to reach through your stereo and give the guy a big hug.
9. Beachwood Sparks, Beachwood Sparks (Sub Pop Records): Take late-'60s psychedelia, Beatles-esque harmonies, and a healthy dose of old-school C&W, throw it all into a blender, and you've got the debut album from Los Angeles' Beachwood Sparks. There are equal parts fuzz and slide guitar, with Hammond organ and saloon piano thrown in for good measure. It's such a damn happy record, complete with stars, rainbows, and butterflies on the cover. Try to listen to "Canyon Ride" and not crack a smile.
10. Primal Scream, Xtrmntr (Astralwerks): With Xtrmntr, Bobby Gillespie and his revolving band have created the first listenable techno-punk record. The heavily anticipated follow-up to 1997's Vanishing Point is much darker and more aggressive, yet Gillespie still shows his tender side on the bittersweet "Keep Your Dreams." Still, most of the album is angry and defiant. Bonus: My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields has a hand in three of the tracks--good to see he's not dead.
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