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Top Ten Albums of 2000

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Top Ten Albums of 2000

1 D'ANGELO Voodoo (Virgin) Into a world where producers create "soul" with artificial bombast D'Angelo reintroduced the profound power of simple restraint. The stripped-down, bass-heavy production, augmented by concise performances from players like Charlie Hunter, Roy Hargrove, Lucy Pearl's Raphael Saadiq, and the Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, reveals new depth with every spin. And although D'Angelo's fond of multitracking his mahogany falsetto and dusky baritone--inspired variously by Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, and Prince--the tiniest dip, curlicue, or tremulous fade from his lips is still more resonant than the collected works of Keith Sweat and R. Kelly combined. Voodoo is the kind of paradigm shift that generates scads of imitators--lesser acts like Musiq Soulchild and Toshi Kubota are testament to its snowballing influence.

2 JASON MORAN Facing Left (Blue Note) There are many reasons to love the second album by pianist Jason Moran--the most obvious of which is that he's a technically dazzling player. But he's also a flexible one: though he covers a vast amount of territory, none of his odd choices ever seems like a stretch. He takes on everything from Ellington's "Wig Wise" to Bjork's "Joga," and derived the melody to "Thief Without Loot" from the speech patterns of a Japanese woman. And his hot rhythm section, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, often steps into the foreground--Waits is the star of "Murder of Don Fanucci," and Mateen's Monk-ish composition "Another One" calls for all three members to go full throttle at once.

3 OUTKAST Stankonia (LaFace) Outkast's Big Boi and Andre 3000 juggle pleasure and principles and give their listeners credit for being able to draw their own conclusions from the running dialogue. The group's superb fourth album is a complex, nuanced examination of male-female relationships that complements the MCs' nimble, twangy flow with a dense blend of southern-fried funk, hyperactive electronic beats, and slippery psychedelia.

4 BILLY BRAGG & WILCO Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (Elektra) The second collaboration between Billy Bragg, Wilco, and dead folk icon Woody Guthrie is more raw and less immediately engaging than its wonderful predecessor, but although most of the contents were outtakes from the original sessions, they sound like anything but leftovers. Between Jeff Tweedy's flexibility--he moves easily from the Dylan-esque blues of "Feed of Man" to the delicate pop of "Secret of the Sea"--and Bragg's newfound ability to convey emotional nuance with his limited voice, it seems like this pairing can do no wrong. Good use of Corey Harris and Natalie Merchant, even--bring on volume three.

5 GIANT SAND Chore of Enchantment (Thrill Jockey) For more than a decade Howe Gelb's avant-roots band Giant Sand has served an impatient, impulsive, and sometimes erratic muse--and on the group's first album in six years, they've finally figured out how best to please her. Bassist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino, also (and possibly better) known as the spaghetti-Mexican duo Calexico, seem to have developed an eerie telepathy with Gelb as well as each other, and though the album--which ranges from the groovy "Temptation of Egg" to the joyfully chaotic "Raw"--was made in separate sessions with three disparate producers, they perfectly shade and shadow even his weirdest moves.

6 LUCAS SANTTANA Eletro Ben Dodo (Natasha) Taking cues from tropicalia avatars Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso--and sampling both of them on the album's opening track--this young Brazilian songwriter and singer injects native forms like samba and afoxe with heady doses of funk guitar and electronic effects, melding inventive, liquid melodies with giddy, propulsive grooves. He even manages to make James Brown's "Doing It to Death" his own, replacing the classic funky-good-time guitar with the hypnotic twang of a berimbau.

7 GREG OSBY The Invisible Hand (Blue Note) Saxophonist and composer Greg Osby spent nearly a decade figuring out how to adapt the staccato, off-kilter flow of his favorite hip-hop MCs for jazz. But like any great artist, once he succeeded--on his 1998 live album Banned in New York--he realized it was time to move forward. On this beautifully controlled, ballad-heavy sextet set, filled with beguiling new originals by the key participants and bold reimaginations (and reharmonizations) of standards like "Jitterbug Waltz" and "Nature Boy," he proves himself a distinctive and distinguished enough player to collaborate with two of his sometime employers, pianist Andrew Hill and guitarist Jim Hall.

8 SIGUR ROS Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat) Jon Por Birgisson, the vocalist and guitarist for Sigur Ros, sings in a mixture of Icelandic and a tongue of his own devising called Hopelandish, but that's OK--on the quartet's second album, his ethereal falsetto is just another layer in a glacial mass of sound. Strings and brass swell and recede, notes shimmer and then melt, beats pound and then flutter, and melodies drift in and out with organic, elegiac grace.

9 ALIM QASIMOV Love's Deep Ocean (Network) A master of mugham, the classical music of Azerbaijan, Alim Qasimov sings with the sort of power, emotional nuance, and soul that can stop time. At its most eerily feminine peak, his arresting falsetto takes on a life of its own, recalling the unbridled passion and improvisational daring that allowed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to reach listeners completely removed from the qawwali tradition. Backed only by spare hand percussion and melancholy Middle Eastern strings, Qasimov proves that emotion speaks louder than words.

10 ROY HAYNES TRIO The Roy Haynes Trio Featuring Danilo Perez & John Patitucci (Verve) The great Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez released his own record, Motherland, this year--an amalgam of jazz and rhythms and styles from all over the Americas that was ultimately more admirable for its ambition than its accomplishments. His assimilationist ear is put to more efficient use in the stripped-down confines of this piano trio with legendary drummer Roy Haynes. This album, recorded half in concert and half in the studio, pays homage to Haynes's many illustrious former associates--including Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker--in its tune selection, but it's not an exercise in nostalgia. Haynes applies his singularly crisp attack to a constantly shifting array of accents and provocative beat subdivisions, and Perez revitalizes old standards with scads of Afro-Latin rhythmic variation.

Honorable mentions: Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby (Bloodshot); Gul 3, Soul (Crazy Wisdom); Ruben Gonzalez, Chanchullo (Nonesuch); Allison Moorer, The Hardest Part (MCA); Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol); David Berkman, Communication Theory (Palmetto); Rokia Traore, Wanita (Indigo); Tobias Delius 4 Tet, Toby's Mloby (ICP); Susie Ibarra, Flower After Flower (Tzadik); Emiliana Torrini, Love in the Time of Science (Virgin)

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