ATN Critics’ Picks: Kembrew McLeod’s 1997 Top 10

This year we’ve asked some of our writers, editors and fave
musicians to tell us what they think kicked it for ’97. Here’s
Addicted To Noise Contributing Editor Kembrew McLeod’s‘s Top 10:

1) (tie) Missy Elliot, Supa Dupa Fly, and Timbaland & Magoo,
Welcome to Our World:
Totally fresh and original, these two
Timbaland-produced albums prove that innovation can translate
into great
party music and mainstream success. And Missy’s presence pushes
everything over the edge. Puff Daddy should take notes … Oh, that’s
right, he has … Just not very good ones.

2) Future Bible Heroes, Future Bible Heroes: Magnetic
Fields mastermind Stephen Merritt drops another pseudonymously titled
opus
for those too cool to admit they like the Pet Shop Boys. Equal parts
Abba
melodies, low-rent techno-pop and sardonic lyrics.

3) Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope: Though I’m still not
convinced by her new “dark” S&M image, I was won over by the
ultra-catchy
house beat and hook of “Together Again” and the Joni Mitchell/Q-tip
collaboration on “Got til it’s Gone.” It’s worth the price of admission
just to hear Q-tip say, “Joni Mitchell’s in the house.”

4) Steve Earle, El Corazon: It’s refreshing to hear
an unabashedly leftist musician who can create a moving state of the
union address (“Christmas in Washington”) and still know how to blow the
roof off the building with his electric guitar (“NYC”).

5) Quasi, R&B Transmorgrifaction: This is the most flawed
of my
Top 10 selections, but it is also the most exciting. Current
Sleater-Kinney drummer, Janet Weiss, does double-duty with her
ex-husband,
Sam Coomes of Heat Miser. If they get rid of some of the
indie-rock-noise-doo-doo and pump up the perfect pop-factor even more,
next time they’ll have a flawless album. I can’t wait.

6) KRS-ONE, I Got Next: Even with the Blastmaster’s
hip-hop
fundamentalist sermons, KRS-ONE still makes the misguided search for
authenticity in hip-hop fun. Bare beats, booming bass and the best
boast
of the year: “I’m number one. No, sorry I lied. I’m number one, two,
three, four and five.”

7) Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in
Space
:

Like all great mood music, this album can both function as
shallow, empty elevator music and gut-wrenching soul music that
goes
straight to the heart.

8) Various Artists, Return of the DJ, vol. II: Admiring
the
turntable wizardry of contemporary DJs can easily become boring, akin to
experiencing an installation art piece at a Soho gallery. Fortunately,
these DJs throw out the pretensions, keep a steady beat, and just rock
the house.

9) Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole: For those of us
that don’t get out much, Dig Your Own Hole works equally well as
great background music for writing and for dancing around the house like a
freak.

10) Chuck Eddy, The Accidental Evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll: A
Misguided Tour Through Popular Music
:
Even when Eddy writes
something that makes me so mad that I want to crack his head open with
his own book, I can’t because I’m either laughing too hard or I grudgingly
have to admit that he has a point. This is one of the few books on music in
which the excitement and energy of music translates convincingly into
the written word.