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.