Wednesday, December 30, 2009

English Loans in Tuvaluan and Chichewa

My good buddy John in Namitembo wrote a post about English loans in Chichewa. English loans are something I happen to know just a tad about so I thought it'd be interesting to compare his list to some of what I found when I looked (however briefly) into English loans in Tuvaluan this semester. A lot of similar processes are going on.

Tuvaluan is a Polynesian language, so it has a fairly limited set of phonemes. Unlike Chichewa or English, it only allows voiceless stops (so while English and Chichewa has /b d g p t k/, Tuvaluan has only /p t k/). It also disallows any consonant clusters, but allows vowels to come in sequence (though not within the same syllable - the sequence /ai/ is two syllables, unlike in English). Vowel length is phonemic. Words and syllables must end in a vowel.

Chichewa is a language I know much less about, but it is a Bantu language and a few things are immediately observable from John's brief word list (and a quick look at the sound system via Omniglot). It does not appear that vowel length is phonemic, and it does not appear that vowel sequences are allowed without an interceding glide. Consonant clusters seem to be limited to nasal + stop or glide. Like Tuvaluan, words may not be consonant-final.

Interestingly, in Chichewa voiceless stops can be aspirated (like in English) or unaspirated, but only some English voiceless stops correspond to aspirated voiceless stops in loans:
book [bʊkʰ]* > bukhu [bukʰu]
cup [kʰʌpʰ] > kapu [kapu]

Another interesting point in the loans is the treatment of English /ɹ/. Now, in Tuvaluan - as in many Polynesian languages - English /ɹ/ and /l/ merge to a single sound - /l/ in this case. Chichewa (at least that of the Shire, Malawi) has, by current reports to me, allophonic lateral and central taps (/ɺ/ and /ɾ/) like in Japanese, and as was reported in early documentations of many Polynesian languages (Hawaiian in particular). Now, let's look at how this turns up in English loans:
labor [leɪbə]* > leipa [lɛipa]
retire [ɹɪ'taɪə] > lītaea [liːtaɛa]
cholera [kʰɒləɹʌ] > kolera [koɺeɾa]
newspaper [njuzpʰeɪpʰəɹ] > nyuzipepala [njuzipepaɺa]
computer [kʰʌ̃mpjuɾəɹ] > kompyuta [kõmpjuta]

Now the sort of inconsistency seen in Chichewa loans is of course par for the course with borrowing - different sources, different times, an imperfect understanding of the source language's phonological rules, and reliance on spelling for pronunciation information can do all sorts of things to how a language interprets words it borrows, especially when English is involved.

What really interests me comparing these two is the treatment of palatalization before the vowel /u/ in English. Compare:
ENG cucumber [kʰjukʌ̃mbəɹ] > TUV kukama [kukama]
ENG computer [kʰʌ̃mpjuɾəɹ] > CHI kompyuta [kõmpjuta]

Tuvaluan does not have a palatal glide as Chichewa and English do, nor does it have any other palatal consonants, so English palatalization is completely dropped. In Chichewa, on the other hand, this glide is used not only in this case but in this other totally cool way:
key [kʰi:] > kiyi [kiji]

The glide gets placed essentially between iterations of a lengthened /i/ as a way of avoiding long vowels.

Conclusion: languages do cool things when they get together and hang out.

*A non-rhotic variety is the assumed source for Tuvaluan borrowings

2009 and Wrap-Up

I have listened to a few good and great new albums this year (Devin Townsend released two more albums), but haven't really been paying particular attention to new music released to the general population (I've still only heard one song from Merriweather Post Pavillion). So for this one I figured I'd just pump some of the music that's been made by people I know this year.

Vigilante Santos and Her African Barking Spiders
Wah-Wah Exit Wound
Twilight Motel
And of course, very much of course, Colwyn (that's me)!

All great performers who did some excellent work in 2009.

So that is my recap of the past decade. I have been trying to make less a critical appraisal of the best of the aughts than a work of public nostalgia, so it would be wrong to include any top ten list to cap off the thing. More importantly, I'd just like to note that this decade has been an amazing one, as all decades tend to be, and there has been a great deal of good, bad, interesting, and terribly predictable music made. It is far too soon to evaluate what the real imprint of this decade in music and other culture will be in the long run, so instead I have been documenting how the years felt at the time. It's been a blast and I have had a great time recapping. Thanks for indulging me! Now let's see what we can do about this new decade coming up.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2008 - Hope and Other Crap

2008, we all thought we were such hot shit with the politics and the yes we can of it all. Really, it was generally pretty awesome times. And some good old music accompanied this.

The great thing about YouTube is it really made people appreciate high quality musicianship in a new way. All sorts of internet celebrities were made out of people just playin' some tunes radly. Andy McKee is probably the number one YouTube guitar player ever, and he made this great duets album this year with slap guitarist Don Ross. Very pretty and mellow and cool and everyone loves that.

Enslaved's Vertebrae is a hot contender for metal album of 2008. I really love the guitar sound on this album - more like a 70s prog album than a 00s black metal album. Being less crisp makes it more in the spirit of black metal than much of the overproduced stuff, but the production in general is not like a black metal record, as can be clearly heard here. A good mix of things come together to make a distinctly Enslaved work.

Land is a pretty ambitious Tyr album. They've really got the mix of the folk and the metal elements down pretty well, especially on this song which blends Grieg quotes with a sort of Metallica-like semi-ballad. I saw them this year and they used the opportunity to play a couple songs from the then-unreleased album and man, it was the highlight of the show. Radness all the way.

Fleet Foxes' self-titled album was much ballyhooed as the number one album of the year and there is a reason for that: it was really good. This of course is a highlight of the currently-still-happening resurgence of American folk in popular music, in Seattle and throughout the country. And why not? It's awesome! I really like the part where the piano kicks in in this tune. That's the sort of turnaround that really makes a song.

Opeth are Opeth and when they put out and Opeth album it is Opeth-level Opeth. Watershed was a kick ass album, the end.

2008 was the year when I played with Teapot Dome. We had so much good times. Recorded an EP (available at that there link). We rocked. Oh those were the days and etcetera.

Other albums: Earth - Bees Made Honey from the Lion's Skull; Jason Webley - The Cost of Living; Shugo Tokumaru - Exit; Wah-Wah Exit Wound - Earth Is a Cannon of Love; Jeff Loomis - Zero Order Phase; Magnetic Fields - Distortion

Finally: 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dude, 2007 Already?

Shoooot, 2007 was a rough year. Luckily there were some rad tunes to help me out.

Even when they're not singing in Welsh, Super Furry Animals put out some kick ass popular-style music. Hey Venus was a particularly fun, 60s-ish psychedelic romp. They probably just listened to Abbey Road a whole lot and then wrote a lot of somewhat silly lyrics about cards and coke and, I think this one is about having an STI? Anyway I dig this album lots.

Yeah yeah, more Devin Townsend. This year he decided to present us with a metal opera about an alien who wants coffee. How could anyone resist?

Icky Thump is a really excellent album. Very ambitious album by the Stripes. The first time I heard this song it was a little hard to believe it was them. If Jack White's voice weren't so distinctive, who would have guessed really? I bought a ticket to see them this year but the show got canceled because Meg had some manner of breakdown and also the ticket might have been fake.

The first Tuareg band to ever make an album using electric instruments just happened to totally kick ass. Tinariwen's Aman Iman was the "world" album (ie the album from the world) that everyone noticed in '07, and not without reason. The sound is just so cool. Every song sounds like a party. There seems to be a lot going on but it's all very simple and works together really cool like. And the language is rad.

If there's any one who dislikes Steve Martin I would like to meet them and have a long conversation about how they are wrong. In '07 he appeared on a couple tracks from the banjo duets album by Tony Trischka - a couple tracks which he wrote. The whole album is a lot of old time banjo fun. 2007 was, it just so happened, a year that I was way into banjos so this worked out well for pretty much everyone.

2007 had many more albums! Including: Rock Dream by Boris and Merzbow; Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective; You You're a History in Rust by Do Make Say Think; Awkward Annie by Kate Rusby; Xenosapien by Cephalic Carnage; Air by Agua de Annique; Solens Rötter by Vintersorg; Snakes and Arrows by Rush; Tervaskanto by Korpiklaani; and the DETHALBUM by Dethklok! Man, good year musically.

Oh and also 2008 is next.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Heavy Hitters Hit Heavily in '06

This crap is getting close to feeling recent!

You may have noticed the name Devin Townsend come up a couple times so far here. Well as it just so happens in 2006 our Devy was a very busy Devy. He put out a Devin Townsend Band album, a Strapping Young Lad album, and a minimalist ambient album. I have never listened much to the latter but let's discuss these first two because they were great and my 2006 had a Dev-like coloring.

Synchestra is one of Dev's most interesting and diverse albums. It features lots of folky elements (including a banjo solo and a tune that is largely an allusion to Wild Mountain Thyme), a guest solo by Steve Vai, a barely-audible sample of a Ravi Shankar piece, and several solid pop songs. And then there's the video for Vampira. All in all, while it's not strictly the best Devin Townsend album by all standards, it was a fantastic and more or less completely successful experiment.

Actually, this year was quite the endeavor in poppiness for Dev. The SYL album The New Black had a larger-than-usual number of catchy tunes, such as the above. The album seemed to have a theme of metal is awesome shut up pop singers, which I can't imagine is merely coincidental.
The upbeatness of the album was actually very well-timed for me this year as I was driving a lot between Seattle and Bellingham. Neat!

Yes! Another album by Blind Guardian came out in '06! And it had a song on it about Peter Pan! This is always a reason for a party. A Twist in the Myth is a solid album, in some ways not as ambitious as the previous couple from BG, but containing enough really great songs to make up for it. Plus they again played Seattle while touring on this one and it was even more amazing than the first time I saw them, even if we had to deal with the awful Leaves' Eyes as openers.

I love a good singer-songwriter, I love a good pop album, and I love when the former puts out the latter. Regina Spektor is a great singer-songwriter and Begin to Hope is a great pop album, so there you go. Her songs are really smart and sweet and poignant and fun. I think I got into her slightly after 2006 but hey that never stopped me before.

Around '05 or '06 I was turned on to James Kochalka, who is a total genius weirdo sociopath. And in '06 he put out Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly, an awesome half-family friendly half-typically-obscene album which I finally got around to buying this year, when I was able to do it right from him at Comic Con. He is just as awkward as I would have thought. The album is full of tunes about drugs and fun and rainbows and creepy old men and Britney Spears.
"Britney's Silver Can" was named one of the best songs of 2006 by Rolling Stone. I'd really like to have been the publicist who told Britney about that one.

Other things not to forget: Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain; Isis - In the Absence of Truth; Estradasphere - Palace of Mirros; My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade; Solefald - Black for Death; Waterclime - The Astral Factor; Lamb of God - Sacrament; Sunn 0))) and Boris - Altar

Aur 2007 bhii.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2005: And Then a Joke or Pun

Well look at this, we are halfway through the decade, and now we find ourselves in aught-five. Jesus I don't even know where to start with this year. There was a lot going on. I traveled throughout Great Britain (starting my long love affair with Wales), moved to Bellingham, recorded a bunch of music, and also saw a lot of huge shows live. Other musicians stepped up the rock just as much. Dig some of this shit.

This was the album that finally really sold me on the White Stripes. I realize that this was later than it should have been, but whatever. I've said it so many times, the best music is the music that takes a while. I like the balance of folky, bluesy, and heavy elements on this album. Get Behind Me Satan may be their best to date.

I always belied that songs did not need to have a big heavy guitar sound to be metal, that acoustic instruments could make metal. Enter Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka with her excellent album Rise and this intense track. Most of the album is more chill and meditative, but this one she positively shreds on. I mean really, listen to that solo and tell me this isn't a metal track.
You know, now I think of it, 2005 may have been the beginning of both my interest in Welsh things AND in Indian things. Huh!

Sunn 0))) doing what they do best: crushing everything. Black One is one of the most terrifying albums of all time. Just listen to Malefic's croaking voice. Man, I fucking love doom music.

Mars Volta are one of extremely few popular bands anymore who could be properly described as prog rock. Sure, this is their pop song, but Yes made I've Seen All Good People and Rush made Fly By Night; these things happen and they're not bad. Granted, a little something is lost in the four-minute mix, but a lot of the great things about the song and the band can be seen here. It makes me happy that this sort of stuff is still getting made even just four years ago.

Finally, a pair of albums which rocked my shit in five different directions that year:

Strapping Young Lad's Alien saw a lot of play in my car this year as I drove around Seattle, Bellingham, and the Olympic Peninsula, doing whatever crazy shit I was doing. An SYL album is always all about pounding craziness and screaming nonsense. Dev's always had this weird sense of humor, dropping barely audible chants of something or other into the background of songs (two different songs on two different albums have him mumbling something about Paddington Bear), which is a production stunt I always enjoyed greatly and can be heard a bunch on Alien. Zen here is the pop single style tune from the album, but it's actually one of my faves as well.

Opeth are gods, and that's all there is to it. This song is so heavy and glorious and perfect. Ghost Reveries is sort of a distillation of what was so awesome about what they do. I like that they added a little more keys on this album - the mellotron part in tunes like Beneath the Mire adds a lot, as does the organ here on Baying of the Hounds.

You know, now I think of it, the theme of 2005 seemed to be albums which distilled what was awesome about some awesome bands. Pretty good theme.

Oh yeah, here's the main thing I had to offer this year.

But wait! There was more! Pelican - The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (worst title ever), Common - Be, Demons and Wizards - Touched by the Crimson King, Gamma Ray - Majestic, Kamelot - The Black Halo, Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked, MIA - Arular, Ulver - Blood Inside, Sufjan Stevens - Illinois, Solefald - Red for Fire, Spoon - Gimme Fiction, The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema, Michael Manring - Soliloquy

Argh! This year almost hurts! 2006, you better impress (spoiler: it was also pretty good).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

0 4 2 B N 04

2004 was probably bigger in my personal life - getting a job, moving out of my parents' house, that sort of thing - than in music; a lot of the albums of note for the year were much less mind-boggling than those for some of these previous years. But hey, some undeniably good stuff here in any case!

These were the days of high quality material from the Homestar Runner boys. I think a lot of people had actually already given up on them, but this was MISTAKEN! Stuff like this video was what it was all about. But we're talking about music. I had been aware of TMBG of course but this song actually is what caused me to really get interested in them. The Spine is a great album, and Experimental Film is a great pop song. I think few people have pop-making skill that John and John have.

This might be the song I listened to the very most this year. Morgion were a great doom band at a time when I was all about doom metal. I vaguely knew a couple of the guys via the message boards, all seemed cool. I really like the patient, heavy flow of the pieces on this album. Great uses of feedback and keys, great dynamic range. Masters of the form, really. They once sent me an email thanking me for a positive review I had posted on, which always tickled me a little.

Oh my, Swedish is a funny language. Dungen (NOT pronounced "dungeon") make really cool psychedelic rock without being too much of a throwback band. I didn't know this album at the time but damn if Ta Det Lugnt isn't their best album to date. Love the production on the piano and drums on this tune.

This might be the best album released in 2004. Orphaned Land are one of the better folk metal acts from anywhere, so I'll take it as read that they're probably among the best from Israel. Great mixing of prog and classic metal sound (and bitchin' guitar solos) with Levantine folk.

Now, an album that I feel I must include here as I seem to be the only person in the world who remembers it fondly: Volvere by Fall of the Leafe. I can't find recordings on any of the usual places. Even the now-defunct band's Myspace lacks their tunes like More Like a Situation and Security Locks Are Good! The best I can do is link to some samples available on the band's real website.
I really liked this album. I don't think I could quite compare this band to anyone else. Lots of stuff going on. Heavily airy hard rock with lots of keys, rock vocals, silly song titles. I love this album. I wish everyone else did.

Other stuff! Isa by Enslaved, Epic by Borknagar, Bathos by Aarni, Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow by Jonathan Coulton, Panopticon by Isis, Only Just Beginning by Jason Webley, Souls to Deny by Suffocation, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance, Sanctus Diavolos by Rotting Christ

05 is on deck.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Something Something 2003

2003. Uh, let's see. I graduated high school, spent part of the year as a music major, my first band recorded an album and broke up, I did lots of questionable things, and some amazing albums got released!

Devin Townsend Band's Accelerated Evolution is one of the best albums ever forever. Really Dev at the top of his game. Every song is totally killer. Great music to fall asleep to, great music to rock out to, great music to drive to. I don't think there's a bad time to listen to this album. Dev pulls out all the stops vocally. The instrumental parts are all pretty simple but there's enough of them to have a thick, dense, warm blanket of a sound. The above song is from the pop end of the album's spectrum, and always makes me smile. Dev's Strapping Young Lad also put out an album this year but I was never that into that particular album, I confess.

The whole world loved the Postal Service pretty much instantly, and not without reason. What a great pop album. Sure, Ben Gibbard enunciates words to an irritating degree, it doesn't mean he can't produce great dancey songs with the better aspects of indie quirkiness.

FUCK YEAH. DECHRISTIANIZE. Oh yeah this was back around the brief time when I called myself a Satanist. Didn't last but whatever, listen to this album. So heavy and epic and RAWWWWWR. The drum sound on this album completely punishes. Glen Benton, you are ridiculous and I salute you. It's all about the time around 2 and a half minutes in where the guitar lead starts.

Probot was an awesome album aaaaagh. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Dave Grohl knows what rocking is all about. What rocking is about is putting together a whole bunch of people who can rock and just rocking for the shit of it. And so he did that. Cronos, Snake, and Kim Thayill on the same album? Yes and yes and yes.

Folk metal o how I love thee. I don't quite remember how I got into it but I do know that as soon as Ásmegin's Hin Vordende Sod & Sø was released in the states I bought it and listened the shit out of it. Fiddle parts, lyrics in Norwegian, Lars Nedland singing, little dancey parts. I was all about it and I was in love.

We all heard this song so many times that year. You guys know what it's about, come on. Surprisingly hard to find the video for this on YouTube.

Other things: Damnation by Opeth (I saw Opeth TWICE this year!), Elephant by The White Stripes, White1 by Sunn0))), Volcano by Satyricon, As the Palaces Burn by Lamb of God, Rabbit Don't Come Easy by Helloween, Room on Fire by The Strokes, and Dance of Death by Iron Maiden

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Twenty-Aught-Two and Tyler Too

Big things happened in 2002 in music. The first season of American Idol happened, so there's that. Also my first band started (as you may know), so there's also that. But there was good news too.

Blind Guardian had become my favorite band some time around 2000 or 2001. In 2002 they put out A Night at the Opera, their first new album since I had become aware of them and I was all kinds of excited about it. This is a huuuuuuuuge album, bordering on indulgent. The songs averaged something like 60 or 70 tracks each. And it delivered everything you might hope for with that size. Not only that, but the songs were good enough to withstand dramatic reduction, as shown by the live versions which I heard when seeing them that December and which were recorded on their subsequent, and cleverly named live album Live.

Along with A Night at the Opera, the other album that was almost always with me to listen to on the bus as I went to South Seattle for band practice was The Sham Mirrors by Arcturus. Garm's voice on this record is one of the all time great vocal performances in rock music. It still kind of pisses me off that this isn't an album everyone owns and listens to all the time. It doesn't help that this was the year that everyone thought Avril Lavigne was such hot shit. Or that Nickelback had the best selling rock album this year.

Another great band I saw this year, another great album being toured on. Natural Born Chaos was maybe the last Soilwork album worth owning. They really were a lot better than the other Gothenburg melodi-death bands. Dark Tranquility's Damage Done and In Flames' Reroute to Remain were both big albums for me in '02, but they didn't have Devin Townsend doing production or backing vocals, now did they?

Isis' Oceanic is an album that lives up to its name. It's massive. It's killer. It kicked my ass then, it kicks my ass now. You can feel this one in all your parts.

Songs for the Deaf may be the best mainstream rock and roll album of this decade. Definitely a major contender. Josh Homme and Dave Grohl know what rock is supposed to be about.

In 2002 I was a big fan of Seattle singer-songwriter Jason Webley. I saw him live a good six or so times between May and October (his standard operating months back in the day). He released Counterpoint this year, which is one of those albums that needs to grow on you at first, and then it never stops growing on you. This is a video of one of his better known tunes - pretty much the essential Webley tune - played a couple years later. I want to say this was at a Monsters of Accordion show. I think you can hear my friend Andrew laughing at the beginning of this one.

Original Pirate Material by The Streets is pretty much all about fun. This was back before the days of nauseating Chris Martin choruses.

Other notables from the year: The Odyssey by Symphony X, Visions from the Spiral Generator by Vintersorg, The Art of Balance by Shadows Fall, Power of the Dragonflame by Rhapsody, Songs about Jane by Maroon 5, and Tuxicity by Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine

Next time: Some other year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2001: A Musical Aught-yssey

2001. The first year everyone agreed was in the new millennium. It was a crazy little year, what with G-W suddenly in the hot seat and also some planes and buildings.

Oh also I was 16. This played into my taste in music.

I was a teenager, and I was into metal, and I liked my metal TRUE. This song to me is everything early-00s power metal could possibly be. The vocals wailed, the bass punished, the guitars were soaring. Don't forget you are metal, NOT some ass-kissing whore.

Avantasia - The Metal Opera. Holy crap I spent some time listening to this album. I was more than a little in love with Tobias Sammet back in the day, not to mention the fun I had making teenage analyses of the deep meaning of the story of the album. It bears mentioning that metal bass hero Markus Großkopf played here.

Holy gosh, Savatage brought Jon Oliva back as their primary singer in 2001 and released this epic heaviness. I used to set my CD-clock radio to these guys, and I was all sorts of pumped when they put out this record. The riff where this song picks up rates high on the list of all-time great prog metal turnarounds.

Oh yeah, I "got into" "black metal" this year. This song actually shook me to my very core in a really essential way, so despite the fact that my opinion of these guys has declined palpably, I still have a soft-spot for the hilariously named "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia." Oh yeah, and the connection between this song and my later metal pseudonym is not unworthy of note.

Despite my hardline take on true metal back in these days, there was a place in my heart for System of a Down, especially this song. It's got that heavy, minor 6/8 part toward the end, which kicks a lot of ass.

I was never a big industrial sort of person, but Rammstein's album Mutter was pretty excellent. This was one of my favorite heavy hit singles of the year, though this was slightly influenced by my late-year close involvement with a huge Rammstein fan. I've always been a fan of huge, crowd-vocal choruses such as this.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs first EP is unfortunately overlooked for the most part. My god, they were so crazy. This is another song that just rocked me to my core in a way that I'm no longer sure I'm capable of experiencing. And what the hell, Karen O's voice is almost unrecognizable compared to later albums.

Discovery by Daft Punk. The album that taught me that electronic pop was something that could really be appreciated. Granted it didn't hit me initially, but this album is truly one of the greats.

Let's see, am I forgetting anything? Anything important? Oh, hey, maybe it's this:

I didn't fully appreciate Opeth at the time, and may not have even gotten turned onto them until the next year, but man. This album. This fucking album. One of the best things ever. It just does everything an album ought to. And this track, the counterpoint between the guitar lead and bass at the beginning and end, the various heavy and soft sections, Mikael Åkerfelt's voice. Jesus. Just wow.

Honorable mentions that must be mentioned: Wages of Sin by Arch Enemy, White Blood Cells by The White Stripes (I'll admit I really didn't like them at the time, like, strongly), Lateralus by Tool, In Search of Truth by Evergrey, The Photo Album by Death Cab for Cutie, No World Order by Gamma Ray, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise by Emperor, and Horror Show by Iced Earth

It also bears mentioning that this was the year that the great Chuck Schuldiner of Death died. Of course I knew little of it but metal kind of got a little bit ruined forever by that.

Next time: The palindromic 2002, and some freaking amazing shit

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Awesome Music of the Aughts - 2000

This here decade is about wrapping up, so fair game to start talking about the highlights, particularly in music (because it's easier than top linguistics of the decade, and I know more about it than I do about movies).

We'll start off with that year that everyone argued about whether or not it was part of the new decade/century/millenium: 2000. These were days when I was listening to almost exclusively metal and in particular was a huge Iron Maiden and Judas Priest fan, so two albums in particular out-shined most everything for me this year: Brave New World, Bruce Dickinson's fantastic return to Maiden, and Resurrection, Rob Halford's best work outside of Priest.

Brave New World was an amazing return to the quality, if not strictly the form, of the band's hay day. The songs had depth, there was great variety, and Bruce was back to where he once belonged, replacing the fairly regrettable Blaze Bayley. Adrian Smith also returned to the fold, but instead of booting perfectly cromulent replacement guitarist Janick Gers, they had a stroke of genius: Three Guitarists. This added new color to Maiden's classic guitarmonies and a larger-than-ever pool of songwriters working on the material. This is also the version of Maiden I got a chance to see live, and they totally rocked my world.
(Unfortunately for things related to Maiden, 2000 also saw the release of the song "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus. Vomit.)

(Can't find a good YouTube clip from Resurrection sadly)
Halford's solo album was way better than his other post-Priest work. More interesting than the blah thrash project Fight, and just higher quality than weird electro thing Two. This had a lot of the flavor of late-Halford Priest albums like Painkiller. This one doesn't stand up quite as well nine years later as Brave New World, but it was huge for me at the time, and I saw Halford at the same show I saw Iron Maiden (and Queensrÿche for that matter but their album this year sucked).

This was the same year I discovered one of my favorite bands, Blind Guardian. Though they didn't put out an album this year, Hansi Kürsch side project Demons and Wizards did, and it totally rocked my newly-power-metal-loving ass.

This album really sums up what I loved about this style of metal. Hansi's voice is perennially amazing, with huge range and immense power, and his sensibilities kept in check the duller tendencies of his collaborator, Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer. This and other songs from the album remain fairly regular parts of my melodic metal playlists. Honorable mentions from this genre this year: Dawn of Victory by Rhapsody, The Dark Ride by Helloween, Thunderstorm by Iron Fire, and V by Symphony X

It wasn't all metal for me this year. I was also way into jazz bass. Enter John Patitucci's album Imprint.

Patitucci was one of my heroes at the time on both electric and upright bass. This album showcased some of the better aspects of modern fusion-inspired jazz. Gorgeous melodies, varied instrumentation, non-annoying use of soprano sax. I still regularly play etudes from a book by John.

Of course, I didn't discover all of the greats that year. High up among my later discoveries from 2000 were Nevermore's Dead Heart in a Dead World and Super Furry Animals' Mwng.

Though it's got stiff competition from its predecessor, Dreaming Neon Black, Dead Heart may be Nevermore's number one album in my book. Huge riffs, huge solos, and the last instances of good production on a Nevermore record. There were several great ballads, a few awesome fast jams, and a zany cover of The Sound of Silence, but The River Dragon Has Come has it all as far as a Nevermore tune is concerned: an epic chorus, some groovy riffing, and maybe the best solo Jeff Loomis has ever played. The only real complaint I have with this album is how completely unhinged Warrell Dane's vocals got, especially on the track Between Four Walls

Super Furry Animals' all Welsh album Mwng is one of my favorite things ever. I get the feeling they figured like as long as they were going to make an album in a language few people speak, they may as well make the music sound a little like it's from outer space. This is weird indie pop at its best. It's got trumpets, accordions, and that wacky Welsh language, and I super love it.

Other highlights from the year: Sprial Architect's A Skeptic's Universe; Sunn 0)))'s ØØ Void; Ulver's Perdition City; The Murder City Devils' In Name and Blood; Värttinä's Ilmatar; The Living End's Roll On; and Devin Townsend's Physicist.

That's it for 2000 as I remember it. Up next: whatever year comes after 2000!