Year End Lists The Year That Was 2000

Year End Lists The Year That Was 2000

Cam Lindsay

Album: Primal Scream Xtrmntr (Creation/Epic)
Creation Records' last album ever, and the best one since Screamadelica. Xtrmntr showed that the Scream are the best band in the world.

Surprise: It's Jo and Danny Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy (Double Snazzy)
Short and very sweet, this duo are the new wave of folk. A little bit of My Bloody Valentine, a little bit of Beth Orton.

Disappointment: The demise of Pavement , America's best band of the ‘90s — hard to handle, but expected. Remember when they rhymed "stick" with "crick"?

Concert: Badly Drawn Boy , Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, November 8
A drunken, human ashtray, Damon Gough made Lee's into a three hour, one night stand at Yuk Yuk's. Some music was played as well.

Song: Fatlip "What's Up Fatlip?" (V2)
What happened to this guy? The Pharcyde doesn't want him so he puts this out? Fuckin' hilarious. Video of the year as well.

Chris Ayers

Album: Morbid Angel Gateways To Annihilation (Earache)
Dazzling musicianship and blinding speed further Morbid Angel's spot as the world's foremost death metal band, and Steve Tucker's mile-deep growls couldn't be better.

Surprise: Cave In Jupiter (Hydra Head)
This former metal-core band from Boston changes gears and releases one of the greatest albums in all of rock history, and nobody saw it coming.

Disappointment: Queens Of The Stone Age Rated R (Interscope)
Kyuss legend Josh Homme completely eschews the neo-stoner grooves of QOTSA's phenomenal 1998 debut and instead gives us Desert Sessions Volume 7 — total garbage.

Concert: Shiner , New Brookland Tavern, Columbia SC, July 18
Kansas City's finest served the catchiest and best crafted alterna-pop from their latest platter, Starless ; it should be blaring on radios everywhere.

Song: King Crimson "The ConstruKction of Light" (Virgin)
Adrian Belew croons seriously about alien penises as Robert Fripp pares down his 30-year-old band and creates another career highpoint without Levin and Bruford.

Chris Gramlich

Album: Isis Celestial (Escape Artist)
Top-contender for heaviest album, well, ever, Isis redefines sludge, metal, psychedelia and the dreaded concept album to emerge as the band most likely to obliterate the Earth through sonic manipulation.

Surprise: Burn It Down Let The Dead Bury The Dead (Escape Artist)
No one expected Burn It Down's debut full-length to be this good. The maturity, ability and proficiency displayed here makes it one of the best metal/hardcore albums this year.

Disappointment: After the creation of Ink and Dagger's final album, front-man Sean Patrick McCabe succumbs to one of rock's most vulgar clichés. He dies through a combination of alcohol and pills before its release.

Concert: Melvins , Guvernment, Toronto ON, May 29
Afros may be back in vogue, but Melvins singer/guitarist King Buzzo has been rockin' one since back in the day. It's even more impressive live.

Song: Drowningman "My First Restraining Order" (Revelation)
Demonstrating all that makes DM one of the premiere hardcore/ metal/ rock bands on the planet, this best exemplifies DM's trademark surreal misanthropy and violently catchy sound.

Chris Wodskou

Album: Amon Tobin Supermodified (Ninja Tune)
Beyond the whole DJ-as-composer model, Tobin presents the DJ as bandleader — that's how live and organic this sounds, and it's still wildly inventive.

Surprise: Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Beggars Banquet)
The cleverest songwriter to happen along in ages, and not so precious about his craft that he won't muck it up with a beautiful strangeness.

Disappointment: Paul Weller Heliocentric (Universal)
After years of admirable Curtis Mayfield rip-offs, it's probably time for eminence gris Weller to move on out if this affable groovelessness is any indication.

Concert: Femi Kuti , Harbourfront, Toronto ON, August 12
The funkiest and most energetic uprising of the year. Fela would have been proud.

Song: Grandaddy "Dial-A-View" (V2)
A lushly, dreamily arranged song full of minor key moodiness by turns awe-struck, hopeful, ironic, paranoid and anxious. Pretty good summation of 2000.

Christopher Waters

Album: Sarah Harmer You Were Here (Cold Snap/Universal)
Harmer's roots-driven solo album is painted with a colourful romanticism that is thoroughly captivating. Here are 12 songs that are poignant, alive and remarkable.

Surprise: Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Beggars Banquet)
In a year where Radiohead unravelled and Primal Scream turned ugly, Damon Gough's Badly Drawn Boy proved it's possible to be both ambitious and entertaining.

Disappointment: Belle and Sebastian Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant (Matador)
Say it ain't so! High hopes for another pop masterpiece were grounded with the release of a new Belle and Sebastian disc that's merely OK.

Concert: Simon Wilcox , Centre For the Arts, Brock University, St. Catherines ON May 10
In four or five songs, David Wilcox's daughter made her point. She's mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Song: Sarah Harmer "Lodestar" (Cold Snap/Universal)
It's starts like the soundtrack to an old NFB shorts — the one with the animated lumberjack — and builds to the most dizzying of heights. Totally breathtaking.

Chuck Molgat

Album: Beachwood Sparks (Sub Pop)
A fresh, quasi-psychedelic take on the alt-country racket that sticks to the cranial hard drive like hot sauce to a flying burrito.

Surprise: Tahiti 80 Puzzle (Minty Fresh)
Out of left field (well, France) comes this melodic pop masterpiece full of nods and props to the Kinks and the Zombies.

Disappointment: Radiohead Kid A (Capitol/EMI)
A decent album, sure, but listeners ought to be warned about operating large hype machinery while under its influence.

Concert: Weakerthans , 898 MacMillan Ave., Winnipeg MB, March 24
The Weakerthans auctioned their services during CKUW's annual fund drive, raised $775 and treated 55 fans to a solid, 23-song living room set. Very cool.

Song: New Pornographers "Letter From An Occupant" (Mint)
Canada's reigning melodic pop monarchs may have issued the song of the century, let alone the year.

Craig Daniels

Album: Transylvania 500 Rock and Roll Party (Wee Wanna)
There's absolutely no reason this record had to be made and it doesn't fit into any trend, but that's exactly what made it so great.

Surprise: Speedealer Here Comes Death (Palm)
The surprise is that this one didn't really grab me when it first came out on Royalty records.

Disappointment: Andre Williams Black Godfather (In The Red)
This much weaker follow-up to the amazing Silky was more like a collection of half-baked jams than fully realised songs.

Concert: Peaches , Anoush Gallery, Toronto ON, March 18
The guest stars, the crowd, the films, the projections and the greatest living performer today, Peaches, all added up to one motherfucker of a night.

Song: Nashville Pussy "Piece Of Ass" (TVT)
This song was written by Rick Sims of the Gaza Strippers and it spells out "A-S-S!" in shouted back-up vocals.

David Dacks

Album: Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Ninja Tune)
Pure turntablism, not reliant on crowd-pleasing funky breaks. More experimental and listenable than any previous attempts at DJ collage.

Surprise: Various Calypso Awakening (Smithsonian Folkways)
Superb hi-fi recording of swinging social commentary from 1950s Trinidad. Great insight into the roots and diversity of musical styles across the entire Caribbean.

Disappointment: Da Lata Songs From The Tin (Palm)
Not abjectly terrible, but Patrick Forge's regurgitation of airy, 30-year-old Brazilianisms was a letdown. Spinning cool music doesn't necessarily mean you can make it yourself.

Concert: Femi Kuti , Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, March 29
Unlike his self-satisfied old man in the latter stages of his career, the younger Kuti pushed himself hard for two hours of slammin' Afrobeat.

Song: Sizzla "The World" (Greensleeves)
Made me smile from the first bar onward. Righteous lyrics, warm, dubby production — so nice to hear full-bodied reggae coming from Jamaica once again.

Del F. Cowie

Album: Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek Reflection Eternal (Rawkus/Virgin)
Over Hi-Tek's versatile soundscapes, Talib Kweli's rousing verses urgently expounded on love and life with uncanny poetic acumen further cementing his esteemed lyricist status.

Surprise: Zion I Mind Over Matter (Ground Control/Nu Gruv Alliance)
Hints of this Oakland trio's potential were surpassed on this positive and uplifting experience adroitly mixing mellow hip-hop and subtle drum & bass flourishes.

Disappointment: Guru Jazzmatazz: Streetsoul (Virgin)
With a stellar cast at his disposal, legendary MC Guru dropped the ball on what could have been a landmark entry as vital soul music returns to the foreground.

Concert: Mos Def & Jill Scott , CNE, Toronto ON, August 27
Mos Def's boundless charisma propelled his freewheeling performance and a stirring improv encore with Scott, who'd thoroughly impressed earlier, left a warm feeling inside.

Song: Outkast "B.O.B." (LaFace/BMG)
Andre 3000 and Big Boi's ridiculously addictive futuristic soundclash of double-time rhyming, gospel vocals and screaming guitars conducted at breakneck speed adds to their lore.

Denise Benson

Album: PJ Harvey Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (Universal)
Wow. Just when I thought I couldn't love her work any more than I do, PJ comes out with perhaps her best work to date. Intense, emotional, precise and bloody fantastic.

Surprise: Various Select Cuts from Blood & Fire (Select Cuts/Echo Beach)
A tiny German label creates the dub compilation of the year, pairing Blood & Fire artists such as I Roy, Yabby You and King Tubby with top-notch European remixers. Superb!

Disappointment: Roni Size/Reprazent In the Mode (Talkin Loud/Universal)
Roni and crew create with dance floor tunnel vision, losing much of their original feel and diversity in sound. Half an album of strong songs isn't good enough from this talent.

Concert: Frederic Galliano / Frikyiwa , Reverb, Toronto ON July 13
Sadly under-attended, this special, special show saw France's Galliano paired with musicians and vocalists from Mali, giving us the Frikyiwa vibe. Sounds grew increasingly full, abstract and stunning.

Song: Nick Holder & Jemeni "America Eats Its Young" (DNH/NRK)
In my opinion, the ultimate house song: pointed, political, smart and a floor-filler. Jemeni lays her words dealing with racist police brutality over Nick's trademark tight production. Essential.

Denise Sheppard

Album: Fila Brazillia Brazilification (Kudos)
This year I preferred ambience over angst; this disc was largely why. Stellar takes on Radiohead, Lamb and Moloko made me listen in a whole new light.

Surprise: B4-4 "Get Down" (Sony)
That a song about cunnilingis — sung by three mutant adolescent boys — became a huge hit without any parental ire.

Disappointment: Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope)
Every time Eminem sells another disc, the public casts a vote overlooking his homophobic, wife-beating ways.

Concert: Sarah Harmer , SXSW, Austin TX, March 17
In an old Southern mansion, she unassumingly strapped on a guitar, opened her mouth, and gorgeous songs came out. A warm, wonderful memory.

Song: Madonna "Don't Tell Me" (Warner)
The catchiest fake-out guitar opening on the planet, not to mention a warm chorus that crazy-glued itself to my brain and won't let go.

Eric Hill

Album: Tomas Jirku Variants (Alien8)
Like Pole, Pan-American and others, proof that man and machine can have a warm and loving relationship. Encouraging!

Surprise: Modest Mouse The Moon and Antarctica (Sony)
Any time a band manages to make their best album on a major label it should be acknowledged. Too bad Sony has rendered it invisible.

Disappointment: Elliott Smith Figure 8 (Dreamworks)
A good album. Some memorable songs. No new ground broken. What will it take to make me happy? I'll tell you when I hear it.

Concert: Cecil Taylor , Colisee de Bois Francs, Victoriaville QC, May 22
A seventy-year-old man. Cecil can throw down with a piano and come up dancing. Living legend anyone?
Song: Radiohead "How To Disappear Completely" (EMI)
Those goddamn computers should have crashed on New Year's. I am so disappointed.

Eric Thom

Album: Mighty Mo Rodgers Blues Is My Wailin' Wall (Blue Thumb/GRP/Universal)
Seemingly coming from nowhere, Mighty Mo Rodgers delivers "spiritual" blues with something to say, taking over where Curtis Mayfield left off. A rock-solid blues groove pinned against gospel-based R&B.

Surprise: Jimmy James Calling On Love (Zeb, [email protected])
Who could've expected this grizzled homebody to emerge, begrudgingly, from his basement with a solid blues hybrid of such advanced calibre? It obviously pays to practise and James's warm and soulful electric blues deserve a larger audience.

Disappointment: Shemekiah Copeland Wicked (Alligator)
She had it all going for her — a killer first release, time off, some of the best hands in the business looking after The Next Move, advance press and big time advertising. Unfortunately, Wicked falls very short of its considerable promise.

Concert: Shakti , Roy Thompson Hall, Toronto ON, November 8
Much, much more than East meets West, this was an intoxicating study of two distinct musical worlds transcending entertainment and redefining "fusion" beyond the mere marriage of styles.

Song: Sonny Landreth "Turning with the Century" (Sugar Hill)
Phenomenal swampy, slide guitar, insightful lyrics, slick production, a never-say-die hook all-in-one. And a soon-to-be-massive public following that is long overdue.


Cave-In


Greg Pratt

Album: Nasum Human 2.0 (Relapse)
Totally obliterating aural onslaught, some of the tightest and most intense grind ever recorded, with intelligent lyrics to boot.

Surprise: Iron Maiden Brave New World (Sony)
Not amazing, but songs like "The Wicker Man" and "Blood Brothers" make up for past Maiden mistakes, stop denying it.

Disappointment: In Flames Clayman (Nuclear Blast)
Somehow forgettable, meandering and useless, except for the brilliant track "Pinball Map."

Concert: Iron Maiden / Queensryche / Halford , Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver BC, September 20
A celebration of all things metal, horns flyin' high and smiles all around.

Song: COC "Over Me" (Sanctuary)
After waiting four years for the new album, putting it on and hearing this opener was enough to keep me feeling good for weeks.

Ian Danzig

Album: New Pornographers Mass Romantic (Mint)
Songwriter Carl Newman tops his Zumpano output with an album that teams him with Destroyer's Dan Bejar for a hook-filled pop masterpiece.

Surprise: Neuseiland (Ultramagnetic, 1588 Barrington St., Halifax, NS B3J 3K5)
Halifax pop explosion alumni jam out a glorious experimental mash of pop, electro, country, rock and psychedelia.

Disappointment: Royal Trux Pound For Pound (Drag City)
Recent triumphs as rawk producers don't translate in Hagerty and Herrema's original material, as the pair flaunt style over substance.

Concert: 5ive Style , Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, May 2
This criminally overlooked instrumental outfit had me joyously jumping out of my skin with their groovilating melodic machinations.

Song: New Pornographers "Letter From An Occupant" (Mint)
Neko Case's big brash vocals, Carl Newman's heavenly harmonies and a stunning pop arrangement make for an immediate bubble-gum classic.

James Keast

Album: Blonde Redhead Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go)
Having burned off the excess Sonic Youth pseudo grunge, what remains is a startling art rock masterpiece layered with melodic inventiveness and subtle sonic surprises.

Surprise: Gonzales Uber Alles (Kitty-Yo)
As Jason Beck's Son got interesting, his label and listeners left, so he did too, emerging from the Berlin underground as Gonzales with this electro-pop masterwork of reinvention and media savvy.

Disappointment: Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (Matador)
Hoboken's greatest fails to bring the noise on this all-too-mellow snooze, melodically pleasant but absolutely innocuous ? the worst thing you could say about a band this amazing.

Concert: Hawksley Workman / Jim Guthrie / Wooden Stars , Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, December 30
Workman stood alone to prove he should write more and produce less; Jim Guthrie's band showcased a songwriting vision unheard on their A Thousand Songs; and Wooden Stars were their contradictory selves. A three-forked future of rock.

Song: New Pornographers "Letter From An Occupant" (Mint)
The apple of the year. At least once a day will keep the evils away. But I still don't know what it's about.

Jason Schneider

Album: Emmylou Harris Red Dirt Girl (Nonesuch)
Anything that approaches the majesty of her previous album, Wrecking Ball, has to be given this honour.

Surprise: The Apples In Stereo The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone (Elephant 6/SpinART)
Made a strong case that recorded rock'n'roll achieved perfection in 1966.

Disappointment: Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (Elektra)
The magic of Vol. I just wasn't there.

Concert: Sadies , Jane Bond Cafe, Waterloo ON
A guy requesting a Merle Haggard song is rewarded with five in a row. Hot damn!

Song: Jayhawks "A Break In The Clouds" (Columbia)
An apt title considering it's from a generally disappointing album. But when it works...


Sarah Harmer


John F. Butland

Album: Marah Kids In Philly (E Squared/Artemis)
It restored my faith in rock music – it is, to plagiarise Greil Marcus on Springsteen, a '57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records.

Surprise: Self Gizmodgery (Spongebath)
A crappy gimmick — entirely recorded using toy instruments — that resulted in a Becky Funky goofball of a record.

Disappointment: Paul Simon You're The One (Warner)
Return to form, my ass — a turgid, hookless piece of self-indulgence.

Concert: Fred Eaglesmith , Neighborhood House, Northeast Harbor, Maine, June 2
Great artist, great songs, great venue, and even better audience.

Song: Kelly Hogan "Papa Was A Rodeo" (Bloodshot)
Terrific song rescued from a crap LP (Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs) and turned into magic by the incomparable Hogie.

Jon Bartlett

Album: New Pornographers Mass Romantic (Mint)
No contest. Carl Newman and crew eclipse all of their previous works, and most of the history of Canadian rock, with this brilliant display of songcraft.

Surprise: Jim Bryson The Occasionals (Upright)
Ottawa's own sends a bullet through the heart with this humble country outing that hypnotises everywhere it's heard.

Disappointment: Masters of the Hemisphere I Am Not a Freemdoom (Kindercore)
After some impressive beginnings, the Masters produce a disastrous outing not worth its place on the shelf.

Concert: The Musical Box , Salle Odyssée, Gatineau PQ, November 3
Simply mind-blowing reinterpretation of Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway complete with theatrics that would make Gabriel proud.

Song: New Pornographers "Letter from an Occupant" (Mint)
An addictive jangly sing-along hit with the powerhouse vocals of Neko Case.

Kevin Stewart-Panko

Album: Drowningman Rock And Roll Killing Machine (Revelation)
The ultimate mix of metal, hardcore, emo and math rock. Such complexity! Such melody! Makes me want to throw my guitar in the trash and get a real job.

Surprise: Clearlight The Mystical Krewe of Clearlight (Tee Pee)
Who would have ever thought that ten minute stoner rock jammolas could be this engaging?

Disappointment: Neurosis Sovereign (Neurot)
I like sleeping as much as the next guy, but something's not right when one of my favourite bands is the cause of some solid shut-eye.

Concert: Discordance Axis / Disassociate / Cattlepress / Pig Destroyer / Dillinger Escape Plan , CBGB, NY, NY June 3
Jesus Christ, look at that line-up! And three of the bands were releasing albums that day.

Song: Theatre of Tragedy "Image" (Nuclear Blast)
I can't remember any metal song ever being this sexy. Hubba hubba!

Lorraine Carpenter

Album: Coldplay Parachutes (EMI)
A beautiful debut by these young Brits, as if concocted by Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake in heaven. Fuck Travis, this is the shit.

Surprise: Elastica The Menace (Deceptive)
This flagship Britpop band went AWOL Stone Roses-style, spending five years on drugs and a few weeks on this album. It came out! It rocked!

Disappointment: Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Beggar's Banquet)
A couple of ace singles piqued my interest but the album left me cold. Everyone loves it too, which makes me feel like a frigid freak.

Concert: Dears , Cabaret, Montreal PQ, June 2
An almost perfect show by these specialists in Brit/French "pop romantique." Front-man Murray Lightburn stunned us with high-intensity crooning, between conducting the string and horn sections. Crazy.

Song: Le Tigre "Deceptacon" (Mr. Lady)
A super new wave track that fills the dance floor like nobody's business. And it's his'n'hers: girls like the angry words, boys like the Transformers.

Michael Barclay

Album: Sarah Harmer You Were Here (Cold Snap/Universal)
For "Lodestar" alone, this record affirms Harmer's ascension to being the first great songwriter of the next decade. Maximum rotation doesn't wear it thin.

Surprise: Weakerthans Left and Leaving (G7)
A promising band instantly became a great one with a furious and heartbreaking song cycle about decaying cities and crumbling lives.

Disappointment: Femi Kuti Shoki Shoki (Barclay/Universal)
The live show kicked ass, but the album was a watered-down compromise. I'll take the remixes or the Club Africa comps instead.

Concert: Yo La Tengo , Majestic Theatre, Detroit MI, June 16
Unpredictable, furious, gentle, violent, hushed, attentive, sexy, engaging, dance routines, sweet harmonies and a huge songbook. Isn't that what live music is about?

Song: Sleater-Kinney "You're No Rock'n'Roll Fun" (Kill Rock Stars)
Now on indefinite hiatus, the queens of rock'n'roll left us with their best album and their most exhilarating song before they went.

Michael Edwards

Album: Dandy Warhols Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Capitol)
This is one of those rare albums where every single track matters — it works as a whole and there's no real weak point.

Surprise: The Guthries Off Windmill (Brobdingnagian)
From out of nowhere, this ambitious debut is the best country album to come out of Nova Scotia since the glory days of Hank Snow.

Disappointment: Coldplay Parachutes (EMI)
I bought into the UK media hype but when I finally heard it, it all sounded so... ordinary. A huge disappointment.

Concert: Sadies , The Chestnut, Fredericton NB, September 21
Even with less than 20 people there to see them, the Sadies gave their all. In concert-starved Fredericton, this was a definite highlight.

Song: Yo La Tengo "Cherry Chapstick" (Matador)
Far too hard to just pick one but this represents six minutes of sheer joy that I'll never regret giving up to the Hoboken trio.

Michael White

Album: Broadcast The Noise Made By People (Warp/Tommy Boy/BMG)
This quintet's hermetic universe — in which romantic longing is as disembodying as a moonwalk — locates technology's soul and, in doing so, claims your own.

Surprise: Primal Scream Xtrmntr (Astralwerks)
The group whose quests for bliss both Byrdsian (1986) and hallucinogen (1991) have accompanied half of my life, produce 2000's finest statement of hate.

Disappointment: PJ Harvey Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (Island/UMG)
New York invokes fascinating errors of judgement in visiting hedonistic Britons. Sid Vicious died, Richard Ashcroft wrote "New York," Polly became Chrissie Hynde (circa now).

Concert: Yo La Tengo / Lambchop , King Cat Theatre, Seattle WA, March 13
Contrary to the theory that aging erodes a musician's muse, this bewitching evening of questing calm rooted us to our (thoughtfully supplied) seats.

Song: Lambchop "Up With People" (Merge)
Its raw contents (a protest lyric, a gospel choir) suggest as much glamour as Dylan in his gaunch. Its reality is goose-bumps upon the spine!

Noel Dix

Album: Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Ninja Tune)
Creative genius Eric Sans' first full-length and it's a concept album! Top marks for bravery, sheer skills, and advancing turntablism.

Surprise: DJ Cam Loa Project (Volume 2) (Inflammable/Columbia)
A solid release, with the exception of a brutal Christina Aguilera-esque track. Following some horrific albums, it's Cam's most impressive since Mad Blunted Jazz.

Disappointment: Del The Funky Homosapien Both Sides of the Brain (Hieroglyphics Imperium)
A dreadfully weak offering. Very few highlights from this otherwise fabulous MC. Consider Deltron 3030 as proper follow-up to No Need For Alarm.

Concert: Coldcut , Opera House, Toronto ON, October 14
An absolutely breathtaking and indescribable musical experience.

Song: Amon Tobin "Slowly" (Ninja Tune)
A truly beautiful and elegant song that gradually builds into a triumphant masterpiece. Simple yet overwhelmingly brilliant.

Patrick Lejtenyi

Album: Giraffes The Days are Filled With Years (Orange)
Sublimely minimalist lo-fi guitar-twanging western mellowness from ex-President of the USA Chris Ballew. Great listening in any season, any locale, any time.

Surprise: Gruesomes Cave-In! (Tyrant)
Who'da thunk my childhood idols would've returned from the grave with a fuzzed-out whirl of time-frozen teen snottiness? Happy, happy days!

Disappointment: Osker Treatment 5 (Epitaph)
With all the hype surrounding these SoCal teen sensations, I was expecting something more than teen whining backed by shitty, boring punk.

Concert: Calexico , Horseshoe, Toronto ON, June 4
A mystical night of big skies, scorpions, Corona and peyote dreams, Calexico ambled into Toronto one night, played, and drifted off into the sunrise. Beautiful.

Song: The Slackers "You Don't Know I (Live)" (Hellcat)
The extended live version is a kickin' trip down steady, walking bass line and wild horn-wailin' way. The strongest song on a very strong album.

Paul Crowley

Album: Blonde Redhead Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go)
A wonderfully skewed take on the perfect pop album.

Surprise: Crooked Fingers (Warm/Sonic Unyon)
Eric Bachmann made a clean break from the Archers and his Barry Black noodlings with ten poignant songs about sad drunk people.

Disappointment: Roni Size/Reprazent In the Mode (Island)
Waiting for another New Forms became a lesson in high expectations. Like asking for a pony on Christmas and getting a toy horse.

Concert: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, October 26
Godspeed's symphony of loneliness and urban decay came beautifully to life, captivating from the first swell of guitar to the last ring of xylophone.

Song: Anti-Pop Consortium "Laundry" (75 Ark)
"Laundry" kicked off a record full of mind-expanding beats and rhymes, and made most of hip-hop stink like dirty drawers.


Amon Tobin


Prasad Bidaye

Album: Laurent Garnier Unreasonable Behaviour (F Communications/Foulespin)
A brilliant re-visioning of electronic music using elements of techno, house and jazz in ways that are superbly unrecognisable and occasionally humorous.

Surprise: Spice Girls "Holler" (Virgin)
With light lyrics and a slick groove, the worst band in the world puts out one of the few truly "pop" songs of the year.

Disappointment: D'Angelo Voodoo (Virgin)
Instead of delivering something uniquely contemporary, the undeniably talented D'Angelo took R&B fans for a ride with this over-rated offering of retro-soul.

Concert: Séance Divine , Reverb, Toronto ON, October 15
Peven Everett controls the band like Prince, sings with the soul of a natural mystic and brings house music back to its spiritual roots.

Song: Martino "It's Game Over" (Gemma)
Tech-house rhythms charge with atomic urgency as Nicky Lawrence disses the playas on this underground, Toronto production.

Rob Bolton

Album: Coldplay Parachutes (EMI)
Sounded great the first time and keeps getting better. Emotional and intelligent music from Britain's best export this year. Worth the hype.

Surprise: The Jayhawks Smile (Columbia/Sony)
I never took much notice of them before, but this album is glorious. Sweet, smooth, and beautiful music from the masters of alt-country.

Disappointment: Super Furry Animals Mwng (Flydaddy)
I don't mind experimental, but there is nothing here that clicks. A terrible waste of time from a band capable of much more.

Concert: Travis , Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, February 4
A room charged with so much excitement and love in the air I wanted to cry. Even Travis felt it. Like the ultimate group hug.

Song: New Pornographers "Letter From An Occupant" (Mint)
Perfect power-pop that I can listen to over and over at high volumes. So good it should be the new Canadian national anthem.

Rob Ferraz

Album: Weakerthans Left and Leaving (G-7 Welcoming Committee)
Not surprisingly, Winnipeg's subversive superstars have delivered the goods on their second album. An excellent piece of folk/pop/punk.

Surprise: Distillers (Epitaph)
The debut from these three girls and a guy will rip out your speakers with a raw Rancid-esque punk rock power. Catchy, energetic and worth the listen.


Disappointment:
That poster boys for suburban mall thuggery, Limp Bizkit , haven't gone out of style and returned to the Florida trailer park that spawned them.

Concert: Link Wray , Horseshoe, Toronto ON, October 12
This surf/rockabilly guitar legend can still rock like a demon. And he's 70 freakin' years old.

Song: Radiohead "How To Disappear Completely" (EMI)
As moody and melancholy as a funeral on a rainy day.

Roman Sokal

Album: Kool Keith Matthew (Funky Ass/Threshold)
The psychedelic Einstein of hip-hop. Keith rubs his verbal ointment onto fraudulent perpetrators, especially music business types and its insecure subsidiary remoras. He speaks truths.

Surprise: Grandaddy , The Sophtware Slump (V2)
One of the last remaining bands out there that are technologically advanced but still remain simple and innocent. Children's music for grown-ups.

Disappointment: Blonde Redhead Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go)
Their edge lacked sharpness, and too much happy gleam didn't make my Ivy League-educated friends feel frightened and uneasy like their previously sinister album did.

Concert: Robin Trower , Funhouse, Lackawanna NY, July 15
Fifty-five year old possessed with the creative chaos of a youngster and supernatural guitar playing destroys all popular testosterone-purging rock-out 20-somethings with ease.

Song: Swearing At Motorists "Goodbye Second & Main (Pink Violence)" (Secretly Canadian)
So, your ex-girlfriend is getting primordially boned by some neanderthal. A highly accurate portrayal of disparity, disconnection and the need for self-preservation.

Sam Thompson

Album: Slackers Live At Ernesto's (Hellcat)
The best "new traditionalist" ska band performing an intimate two-day concert at a small club in Holland. All of the band's best songs (and then some) played with an energy and attitude that blows their studio albums away.

Surprise: Suicide Machines (Hollywood)
Detroit's kings of ska/punk decided to go pop for their latest album, and it worked! Jingle-jangle pop-punk, sweet-sounding vocals and even an orchestra may have alienated hardcore fans, but this is pure pop-punk genius.

Disappointment: The demise of Whole Lotta Milka . After eight years and two amazing albums, Winnipeg's best-loved ska group finally hung up the suits. They will be missed.

Concert: Punk-O-Rama , Le Rendezvous, Winnipeg MB, May 23
Although concert goers didn't get to see headliners Dropkick Murphys, they did get to see three-quarters of the Winnipeg police force and a near riot. A Murphys acoustic set, plus solid performances by the Distillers, Bouncing Souls and the Dwarves saved the evening from becoming a complete disaster.

Song: Distillers "Gypsy Rose Lee" (Hellcat)
Punk rock personified, Distillers front-woman Brody Armstrong has managed to create a beautiful, touching song, while maintaining her band's punk rock attitude. Aggressive, rocking, but a love song nonetheless.


New Pornographers


Sean Palmerston

Album: Cave In Jupiter (Hydrahead)
Stepping away from hardcore, Boston's finest take prog rock and pop sensibilities and blow me away with every listen.

Surprise: Ryan Adams Heartbreaker (Bloodshot)
Who knew trading in your Rolling Stones records for Nick Drake albums could mean so much? Way better than I ever dreamt possible.

Disappointment: Gov't Mule Life Before Insanity (Capricorn)
One of those "should of, could have but surely did not" kinda records. A commercial attempt that stinks of label pressure. No thank you.

Concert: Sloan , Irving Plaza, NY, NY January 15
It is amazing how good this band is when they feel like it. Too bad they don't rock like this in Canada anymore.

Song: Guided By Voices "James Riot" (Rockathon)
How this song ever got left off their last major release is anyone's guess.

Simon Lacroix

Album: Amon Tobin Supermodified (Ninja Tune)
As good as Tobin's classic Permutation. Need I say more?

Surprise: Trans Am Red Line (Thrill Jockey)
I had almost lost faith in Trans Am with Futureworld because it sounded like a copy of Kraftwerk. Red Line is a great comeback.

Disappointment: Delta 72 OOO (Touch & Go)
All the intensity and energy that made Delta 72 great is gone in this one.

Concert: Trans Am , Cabaret, Montreal PQ, September 30
Perfect performance by this no-hold-barred electro rock'n'roll machine.

Song: Calexico "Ballad of Cable Hogue" (Quarterstick)
With vocals in English and French, this song should be the new Canadian national anthem. It's that good.

Skip Viitala

Album: (International) Noise Conspiracy Survival Sickness (Burning Heart/Epitaph)
Great thinking inspires great music.

Surprise: Kingpins Plan of Action (Stomp)
Line-up changes equals style changes equals catchy ska! Not what I expected.

Disappointment: Mighty, Mighty Bosstones Pay Attention (Big Rig/Island)
I'm afraid there's nothing left in the tank but frat-rock.

Concert: Rheostatics , Ted's Wrecking Yard, Toronto ON, March 25
It was pure and simple sonic magic.

Song: Stand "Bad ol' Days" (Jump Up!)
Every now and then a song makes you stop and think as you dance.

Stuart Green

Album: All Problematic (Epitaph)
Some 20 years later, the godfathers of melodic surf punk proved they still have what it takes to whip the punk asses of every artist on the entire Fat Wreck Chords catalogue combined.

Surprise: Sunny Day Real Estate The Rising Tide (Time Bomb/BMG)
Once touted as the next big thing out of the Pacific Northwest, the Sub Pop defectors threw everyone for a loop with a lush, gorgeous, emotionally draining record.

Disappointment: Ignite A Place Called Home (TVT/Universal)
With their third album and first with major distribution, the Orange County punks pulled off a virtual sell-out of their hardcore roots in failed attempt at mainstream success.

Concert: At the Drive-In , Kathedral, Toronto ON, August 17
In their first of two trips through town, the well coifed El Paso quintet displayed the kind of exuberance and frenetic energy that has made them one of the most impressive live acts around.

Song: Armand Van Helden "Koochy" (SPG)
Dance music's bad boy sampled the shit out of Gary Numan's "Cars" and reworked it into the most lascivious and irresistible rump shaker of the year.

Thomas Quinlan

Album: Shapeshifters Adopted By Aliens (Celestial)
The Shapeshifters crew never miss with their future primitive combination of old school and future school experimentation.

Surprise: Restiform Bodies Oubliette (Independent)
It might only be a little demo cassette recorded to makes some quick cash, but it's gained underground cult status for its left-of-centre Anticon sounds.

Disappointment: Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (Universal)
With Dre's help, Slim Shady devolves into a harmless caricature; everything Vanilla Ice wished he could be.

Concert: Cage , Comfort Zone, Toronto ON, May 12
Although he was nothing like the ferocious terror he portrays on record, Cage violently abused the mic, proving who the original shady white MC is.

Song: Awol One "Sleepin' All Day" (Celestial)
Awol One perfects the anthem for depressed and disillusioned b-boys with his hoarse sing-song flow and mutated lyrics over a body-movin' beat.

Venk Chandran

Album: Matrix Sleepwalk (Metro)
Optical's brother proves he can hold his own with an album bereft of the heavy handed and repetitive bass lines prominent these days, with brilliant and original production.

Surprise: Bad Company Inside the Machine (Bad Company)
A definite surprise since it featured so many complex tracks different from their usual style of production. Sure, "Nitrous" and "Brain Scan" are still worth it, but "Colonies," and "Trick of the Light" are so different, yet worthwhile. The real surprise is that they got their act together and put it out at all.

Disappointment: Soulslinger Mixer Presents United DJs of America (DMC)
This is a wack album over-hyped by the American drum & bass community. Filled with lukewarm, overdone beats and lacklustre production.

Concert: Breakbeat Era , Better Living Centre, Toronto ON, February 12
Leoni Laws, and her kru proved that the Breakbeat Era concept could fly without Roni Size and DJ Die on stage, making breakbeat/ jungle into a viable live experience.

Song: Krust "Universe" (Full Cycle)
Yep, Krust is still a deep man, and this track starts off with such a soulful and melodic theme — and breaks it down with some serious drum samples. Just makes me dance.