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Like those hideous mesh trucker’s hats and vintage iron-on shirts that hipsters from NYC to LA have been sporting, this year saw the resurgence of another relic from the past we could have done without. A return of the rock—garage rock that is.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Stooges and the MC5 as much as the next guy, but for my money, that sound was much better the first time around. With the exception of The Detroit Cobras and The Mooney Suzuki, most of the other would-be rockers smack of parody rather than innovation. That’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. That said, music, like most other art forms, is completely subjective. As such, rather than putting together a single all encompassing list of what we deem the best records of the year, we've opted to let the entire hybrid staff--or at least the ones who remembered to send their list--have their say as to what albums moved them this year. Not only would it be disingenuous not to let all the folks that make hybrid possible have their say, but all of our collective tastes are so disparate, we don't presume to think that a single list could speak for all of us. If you take the time to check out even a fraction of the albums we've listed, you'll be glad you did. Below you'll find some highlights of the records that flipped our wigs this year. — David Herrera, Editor-In-Chief

David Herrera - Editor - In - Chief / Publisher

1) The Gloria Record - Start Here
The soundtrack to a dream—that’s the way my best friend Jimmy described Start Here, The Gloria Record’s stunning debut full-length on Brooklyn’s Arena Rock Records. Start Here, an ambitious recording over two year’s in the making, is a career-defining masterpiece. TGR’s sound has evolved tenfold and Start Here is the sonic manifestation of that growth. Suffice to say, the band has fully realized all of the potential their 1998 eponymous E.P. promised—and then some. The befitting title itself suggests—albeit unwittingly—that longtime TGR fans, newcomers and detractors alike, dispense with any predisposition they may have held about the band's previous efforts and well, Start Here. The caliber of music TGR has delivered on Start Here is on par with more lionized and true arena rock artists like R.E.M., U2 and Radiohead. Start Here is arguably one of the finest records of 2002—bar none.

2) Coldplay - Rush Of Blood To The Head
Call it neo-Brit Pop. Call it shameless revisionism. Hell, call it whatever you want. No matter what you call it, one thing is certain: Coldplay does it better than the majority of those other mop-topped mopey grabass posuers from across the pond—and has for a while now. While a number of my indie scribe counterparts often feel compelled to play the role of apologist if they like anything produced by more mainstream artists, I don’t. I like what I like and don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks. Fortunately, if any of my afforementioned colleagues felt the need to include Rush Of Blood To The Head in their top ten list for 2002, no apology is needed. This album is absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful from the first listen to the last. Though Chris Martin’s vocals periodically remind me of Dave Matthews (whom I loathe) it was nearly impossible to remove this disc from my cd player since its release.

3) Wilco - Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
Despite the anticipation and hyperbole surrounding this release—or maybe because of it—this record took me quite a while to get my head around and truly appreciate its quirky pop brilliance. From the first time I heard Yankee Foxtrot Hotel on the band's website, before it was even released, to the first few months after its release, I'll admit it, I was on the fence. It seems I was not alone. YHF polarized dyed-in-the-wool Wilco fans and critics alike. They either instantly loved it, or not. Ultimately though, after spending time with it, one can only come to a single conclusion: this is Wilco’s pinnacle record and it will be interesting to see where they go from here.— Dave Herrera

4) Cody ChesnuTT - Headphone Masterpiece
Headphone Masterpiece: A debut 36-track double-album that generated a massive buzz in the mainstream press yet was nearly impossible to find. Recorded in ChesnuTT’s bedroom studio dubbed “The Sonic Promiseland” on two SONY MDR-7506's with a single microphone, Headphone Masterpiece makes Pavement’s Westing (By Musket and Sextant) sound downright slick by comparison. Think: John Vanderslice’s obsession with four-track recording, on a steady diet of ‘60s soul with the multi-instrumental prowess of Prince and Kravitz and the song writing sensibility of Shuggie Otis. 36 songs, a little self-indulgent? Maybe just a little. Truth be told, not every song on Headphone Masterpiece is a keeper and probably would’ve been a lot stronger as a single album, but its sexy allure is undeniable. Word has it ChesnuTT thumbed his nose at numerous offers from The Majors ™ to re-record and re-mix the album, instead opting to release the album on his cousin’s Los Angeles-based indie, Ready Steady Go. It doesn’t get much indier than that my brethren.

5) The Anniversary – Your Majesty
From the boom-boom-clack opening of “Sweet Marie”, the opening track on the Anniversary’s new album, Your Majesty, it’s evident these kids have adopted quite the musical pedegree over the last few years. This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter shit. No sir, this is the real deal Lucille, complete with shimmering harmonies that embody all the swagger of E.L.O’s (Electric Light Orchestra, for you younger readers) women—both of them— the evil one and the sweet talking one, respectively. It’s no secret. These days few albums are considered truly ground breaking. Everyone is influenced by someone—even if they don’t cop to it; ask the Faint and the Strokes, if you doubt it. The Anniversary is no exception. However, what sets them apart from their emotaph/retro-loving brethren. While all the other would-be wunderkinds shamelessly aped last year’s crop of arpeggiated minor chord heroes or pillaged the garage punk sounds of yesteryear, these kids were busy interpreting the best sounds from the best classic rock albums in their parent’s record collection. The end result, a stunning— if not flawless—follow-up to 2000’s Designing A Nervous Breakdown.

6) Canyon - Empty Rooms
Brandon Butler
(Boy’s Life, The Farewell Bend) left the comfortable confines of the Kansas heartland for the bright lights and big city feel of "The District" years ago. However, if you listen to Canyon’s second release, Empty Rooms, it’s apparent the heartland never left him. Ex-hardcore kids trying their hand at alt-country/Americana, hardly a novel concept. Hell, if Scott Hobart (ex-Giant’s Chair) can metamorphis into a modern day Buck Owens with Rex Hobart and The Misery Boys, it’s hardly surprising that Butler has molded Canyon into Crazy Horse with a U2 fetish, without a twinge of pretense. Empty Rooms is an amazing record and probably one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year

7) Pedro The Lion – Control
 Known for his penchant for intimate storytelling, David Bazan, Pedro's headmaster, has once again delivered a heavy-handed storyline, (a concept album about love, lust, corporate downsizing and betrayal in the modern age) in a similar vein—albeit more sophisticated and tenebrous —to his previous effort, Winners Never Quit. While Bazan hasn’t exactly tilled any new ground musically, Control has its moments of brilliance. One thing is evident, he’s spent a great deal of time and painstaking effort honing his skills as a storyteller.  On a scale of overly ambitious yet memorable rock concept albums, if one is Master Of Puppets and ten is O.K. Computer, Control rates a nine: The Texas Jersusalem Crossroads.

8) Desaparecidos - Read Music/Speak Spanish
Listening to Read Music/Speak Spanish, the debut full-length from Lincon, Nebraska-based Desaparecidos, it's apparent Conor Oberst, the prolific wunderkind of the Saddle Creek collective, is once again disillusioned. Shocking, I know.  In Bright Eyes, the other more lauded band which Oberst fronts, he is best known for his lyrical fortitude and penchant for taking the toils of middle American heartache and wringing every last ounce of emotion out of his experiences. Even though he's become synonymous with the unique brand of melancholia folk he's produced with Bright Eyes, Oberst is no one trick pony, which he makes abundantly clear on Read Music/Speak Spanish. Make no mistake, Desapecidos is not Bright Eyes. As a friend of mine so eloquently put  it, Bright Eyes is music to slit your wrists by. No sir, Desaparecidos —or more specifically—Read Music/Speak Spanish is a caustic anthem for young Americans disillusioned with gentrification, consumerism and rocks with an visceral urgency not heard in years.

9) DJ Shadow - Private Press
Oops, he did it again. Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) has dropped another mind-melting audio collage into our laps. Though not as groundbreaking or compelling as Endtroducing, DJ Shadow, the harbinger, is still exponentially better than the would be hackneyed  imposters who’ve bitten his style. Make no mistake, Shadow has very few peers (DJ Krush and Cut Chemist come to mind…) and even when he’s not on top of his game, he’s still head and shoulders above the rest.

10) Rosie Thomas – When We Were Small
From the first time I heard Seattle-based chanteuse Rosie Thomas perform on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, I was instantly captivated. Her voice is as delicate as it is powerful. When We Were Small is worth getting if only for the track “Wedding Day” in which Thomas explores the wanderlust of a post-breakup road-trip intent on “never letting anything pass her by, never ever again.” Mixing equal parts Blue-era Joni Mitchell and Harbinger-era Paula Cole (before she got all Dawson’s Creek on everyone) When We Were Small is an achingly beautiful album.

tom topkoff - Managing Editor / Reviews Editor

tom’s top tens, not really in any ranked order.

KMFDM--Attak
There are some bands who have honed a place for themselves in the musical spectrum, consistently putting out records that sound like their previous work, yet they take it a step further with each outing.  KMFDM have done just that throughout their career.  Each record sounds slightly familiar, but head audio-terrorist Sasha Konietzko always adds a new twist to keep you intrigued (you know…the “what will he do next?” mentality).  Attak is a comfortable sweater, knitted from the barbed-wire yarn of one of my favorite bands. 

Oasis--Heathen Chemistry
So what…I LOVE OASIS.  I don’t care if each record seems to be a re-write of each other (is this a trend with me this year?).  I don’t care if the Gallagher brothers want to be the Beatles.  And I certainly don’t care if bar fights are a way of life with these guys.  Hell, let’s bring back more of the bad boy…it’s fucking rock and roll!  Fact is, Oasis could do a cover of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” done in a style like “Revolution” and I’d be down at the local record store (not a chain…..mind you) shelling out my painfully hard-earned money.  If you don’t agree with me, well PISS OFF!

Hank Williams III--Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’
Bocephus be damned!  His kid is harder, drunker and far more rowdy than you and all your rowdy friends.  From the big middle finger salute to Nashville on “Trashville” to the drunken swamp groove of “Mississippi Mud”, Hank III rocks with the best of them, while stayin’ true to his grand-pappy on the title track and “Walkin’ With Sorrow.”  Not a damn thing on this record misses.  Grab yer bottle and belly up to the bar (and don’t forget to bring the smoke!!)

Various Artists--Dressed In Black.
A Tribute To Johnny Cash.
  A fantastic collection of artists and Cash side-men taking on the songs of the first punk rocker, in a traditional and respectful manner. No real interpretations here, folks.  Straight Cash.  Dale Watson’s take of “I Walk The Line” displays that rich baritone voice, while fellow Texan Robbie Fulks pours his heart into “Cry, Cry, Cry.”  Hank III tears up “Wreck Of The Old ‘97”, and Rev. Horton Heat raves-up “Get Rhythm”.  You’ll also find Raul Malo, Rosie Flores and Bruce Robison making appearances.  A must have for the Cash fan.

Ivy--Guest Room
Whenever Ivy releases a record, it makes my top lists.  On this release, Ivy collects the cover songs that have appeared on singles, album tracks and soundtracks and piles them all together for your listening enjoyment.  To hear Dominique Durand cooing her way through tunes like The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed”, the Blow Monkeys’ “Digging Your Scene” and the Motown classic “Be My Baby” is like sipping from the love cup itself.  And the best thing about the record?   If you didn’t know some of these songs were covers, you’d think they were Ivy originals.  Sigh…

The Rocking Horse Winner--Horizon
It took me a while to get to this record this year, but when I did, I could have shot myself for not picking it up sooner.  Jolie Lindholm (of Dashboard Confessional fame) has a sweet pop voice that gets nowhere near syrupy-sweet.  It’s the kind of guitar-pop-fronted-by-a-chick sort of thing that I have always loved.  I think this rates as my biggest surprise of the year.

Supersuckers--Must’ve Been Live
I’ve been waiting for a Supersuckers live record for years, and when one comes out, it’s a document of a couple of the country shows!  How cool is that.  Playing much of the material from the Must’ve Been High record, the ‘Suckers display why they are such a spectacular live band.  Even these country sluggers kick more ass than many other punk band’s live records.  In addition to the previously released material, Must’ve Been Live tacks on other numbers from the set not on the record.  I’ve seen the country set and the rock set many times.  Glad to finally have at least one segment of their live sound. 

Ash--Free All Angles
A favorite band around our house is back with what is definitely their best record since 1977.  These kids still pump out the infectious melodies and grooves in the good ol’ British pop-punk style.  Don’t you wish all pop-punk could be as good as this?  Why does American pop-punk have to be so….bleeech?  That’s another article.  Anyways, want a good beer swillin’, hanging out, good time record.

Doves--The Last Broadcast
I love this stuff.  To tell you the truth, I don’t really even know how to describe the sound of the Doves.  You readers who like them probably know what I’m talking about.  Once I think I can describe them with certainty, I am thrown for a loop.  My wife, Susan, calls Doves “tom music--without the female singer.”  I reckon that’s a good thing.  There are so many elements and styles going on there that I just can’t put a finger on it.  So what….I guess I’ll just let the music do the talking and shut up for once.

So, those nine records show what of the 2002 stuff I’ve really been listening to.  With that said, the record that saw the most seat time this year, and is my favorite record of the year, actually surfaced late in 2001.  Now don’t laugh….my favorite record of 2002 is:

George Strait --The Road Less Traveled
Now, I am a George Strait fan, but this record really is all that and a case of beer.  Strait breaks down some boundaries with this record:  there’s the lush and ultra-textured constructs of “Run”, the likes of which I’ve never heard on a country record.  There’s the use of slight vocal effects on the brilliant cover of Rodney Crowell’s “Stars On The Water.”  You’ve got the bar-room atmospherics of “Good Time Charlies”.  How about the contemplative (musically and lyrically) title track?  You also get solid Strait material like the singles “Living And Living Well” and “She’ll Leave You With A Smile.”  “The Real Thing”, a song quickly becoming a modern standard, is a party waiting to happen while Strait bemuses the state of music.  Nothing on this record is a miss-fire, even the very short and sappy “My Life’s Been Grand” that closes out the album.  I couldn’t stop listening to this record all year long.    

Honorable mention goes to: the new Cornershop record, Handcream For A Generation.  The more I listen to it, the more I like it. They’ve been missed since their last record, and this one picks up where the last one left off. 

The jury is still out on: the new records by Clinic and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives.  Each record sound good, have picked at my interest and are very promising, but I just haven’t spent enough time with them yet. 

Cyndi Ashley - Staff Music Writer

1. Liars-- someone threw us in a trench and stuck a monument on top
Strange music that revealed new layers each time I listened to it, someone threw us in a trench . . . was my favorite album of 2002. I felt, for lack of a better way to describe the music of the Liars, as if I were listening to a fractal. Each note opened up an infinite possibility to the next. Hyperbole? Maybe, yet this album had that effect on me. It rocks hard. It's psychedelic. It's avant-electronica. It's got punk roots. It has melody and precision. Now do you understand what I mean? The best album of the year.

2. The Mooney Suzuki--Electric Sweat
Much has been hyped about the garage rock revival, but this record blew me away. "Oh Sweet Susanna" and "It's Not Easy" are eminently danceable tunes that prominently display their blues/punk underpinnings. Every song on this album is a hip-gyrating, aurally kinesthetic experience.

3. Sleater-Kinney --One Beat
Corin Tucker's voice is kick-ass potent, and on this record, she achieves a maturity that nevertheless does not diminish her intensity. The band becomes better with each successive release and this album just plain rocks.

4. The Hives-- Veni Vidi Vicious
The garage rock monster appears to be hydra-headed. That's fine with me; I love this record. I've been waiting a long time for the low-fi trend to fade, and just in time, here come the Hives to make a lot of really cool noise. Howlin' Pelle Almqvist has the kind of voice that makes you automatically turn your stereo all the way up and play air guitar, even if others are watching.

5. The Soundtrack of Our Lives-- Behind the Music
Pretty psychedelic pop? You bet. Top-40 Alterna-pop radio stations across the country have not picked up on Soundtrack of Our Lives, I think because this beautiful and well-crafted type of song-styling tends to appeal to a more adult listener. The songs on this album are lush and gorgeous, yet encapsulated within a traditional three-to-four minute pop-song length. This record is sweet and happy and recalls the days when pop/rock music was meant to be just that.

6. Queens of the Stone Age-- Songs For The Deaf
An amusing concept: The driver in a car is punching buttons for different radio stations and QOTSA provides commentary and music when the driver rests on a station. Dave Grohl's much-touted performance didn't enhance this album in my opinion; Rated R is exponentially better. That a mediocre album from Queens of the Stone Age can still make it onto my Ten Favorites list says something about the ingenuity and power of this band.

7. Korn—Untouchables
The early buzz was that the album was overproduced and too tedious to be fresh and angry, the way Korn "used to be." Curmudgeonly criticism such as this could have tanked what I believe is Korn's finest album. The power-rhythm section that defines Korn is in full play on this record and Jon Davis' pain seems deeper, less raw and desperate, and more meaningful.

8. Guided by Voices-- Universal Truths and Cycles
Nineteen short, intense bursts of melodic rock--GbV's signature. Now that they're back on Matador after several experimental stays on other indie labels, GbV sounds as though they are living up to the name of their band. This is their best album in years.

9. The Boggs-- We Are the Boggs We Are
2002 seems to be the apex year for roots revivalism, spurred by the astonishing success of the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? The songs on this album are haunting and wry and fun and dour and all the other feelings one would expect a roots band to sound like. The recording was made to sound as if it's being played on a gramophone and it is, indeed, evocative of that folksy era.

10. Yes-- In a Word
Good old Rhino Records; what would the world do without their mania for releasing retrospectives? Yes are perennial sufferers of rock journalism's sniping, and for some legitimate reasons. They really are a juggernaut, however--and an original. Art rock is a venerable medium; Tool and Radiohead owe much to the tapestries of sound that Yes continues to produce 35 years after their first studio release. This retrospective manages to capture the quintessential Yes over their many incarnations and years and I think it's a definitive compilation.

Sean Carey - Staff Music Writer

1. The Black Keys – The Big Come Up
Two white boys from Ohio playing the blues like they invented it. The blues do not get any better than this. Period.

2. Jimi Hendrix – Blue Wild Angel
I know it came out in 1970, but the music made by the ghost of Hendrix on this disc is as beautiful as a guitar can sound. There are times during this double-disc set when your mind will feel as though you’ve witnessed the birth of the universe.

3. Botch – Anthology Of Dead Ends
There are always moments of bitterness when listening to awesome music. This EP is the last release from one of the most wonderful math-rock bands ever. But have no fear, number 3 has given birth to number 6.

4. Hopesfall – The Satellite Years
This is where experimentation pays off, mixing hardcore with psychedelic guitar excursions. Just like peanut butter and bananas, it might have never seemed right until a band like this showed us how awesome these two genres can sound together.

5. IsisOceanic
Technical metal gods create orchestral meditation music. To cop out, this is like Entombed recording Yes’ “Fragile”.

6. Minus The Bear – Highly Refined Pirates
Rigid pop built around the mathematical skeleton of Botch songs. Soothing and repetitive with an oddly inviting strangeness to its angularity, these songs will surely be the stepping stones for a new style of pop music.

7. SpartaWiretap Scars
It’s on a major (Dreamworks), but damn if it doesn’t sound as good as Quicksand’s big league debut. This is mart rock with the guts to throttle the brain-washed radio listeners back to life. Wake up kids, this is better than Audioslave.

8. Mastodon – Remission
Lacing old-fashioned Sabbath metal with minor math rock, these chameleons have created something new yet classic, in an amazing “I’ve never heard it done quite like that before” kind of way.

9. Centaur – In Streams
Mourners of the long lost Hum take note. Matt Talbott has not only graced us with the blinding genius of Hopesfall this year, he has also released Centaur, essentially picking up where Hum left off. Droning sonic pop gems and that trademark melancholic voice never sounded as good as now, when they were thought to be dead and gone forever.

10. South – From Here On In
Coldplay, Oasis and Radiohead could use a swig of the British water these boys have been drinking. Equal parts electronica and pop, South spend almost all of the time on their debut making mellow and attractive sounds for people who love songs as well as music.

Jennifer Conrad - Staff Music Writer

1. Beck - Sea Change
Okay, I know it’s lame to start with such a megastar, but Beck’s songs are so sad and beautiful.  All the haters probably just don't have hearts. It's too bad his lyrics are so clichéd you wish he was being ironic.

2. The Band - The Last Waltz
I would put this at number one if giving top honors to a re-release of a live album wasn't the lamest thing I've ever heard of.

3. The Walkmen - Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
I hadn't listened to this in awhile and picked it up last week; it was even better than I remembered. "Wake Up" is great for drunken late-night karaoke; sub in profanity for all the lyrics you don't understand.

4. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Yoshiiiimi!  Yoshiiiiimi!  Not as good as The Soft Bulletin, or even the record with the "She Don't Use Jelly" song, but these guys are so fucking great.

5. Liars - They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top
Great dance punk that captures about 30 percent of the energy of their live shows.  But this would really be an EP the last song didn't turn into a half an hour of background music.

6. Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth
Somewhere between alt-country and distorted indie rock freakouts.  Lyrics nabbed from a deranged fan.

7. Spoon - Kill The Moonlight -- So pretty.

8. French Kicks - One Time Bells
I’m going to be lame again, and include Walkmen labelmates the French Kicks, even though StarTime has released like four albums.  I like this album more every time I hear it.  Also, I have this dream that when I write my first novel, the French Kicks will come play Jackson Five covers at the party.

9. Seafood - When Do We Start Fighting
I think this album came out last year, but they're from the UK, so it's okay.  It's, like, emo, but...I like it.

10. Pulp - We Love Life
The band just broke up, so I guess this is their swan song.  Too bad, because I liked the direction they were going in, but they didn't quite get there yet.

Honorable Mention:

Canyon - Empty Rooms. This is what I wanted the new Wilco album to sound like.

The Mountain GoatsTallahassee. Haven't actually listened to this one yet, but there are very few things named after the place where I grew up.  (There's the Freddy Cannon song and a song (or maybe a band?) in the Kurt and Courtney documentary with the name misspelled.)

24 Hour Party People soundtrack. I always hear "Blue Monday" when I'm shopping for black jeans at the Gap.  Weird.

David DeVoe - Staff Music Writer

David DeVoe’s Top 11 Records 2002 (in no particular order, with the exception of #1) [Apparently, Devoe used that new math again this year. ed.]

  1. Polak – Rubbernecking
  2. GomezIn Our Gun
  3. Duncan SheikDaylight
  4. Neil Halstead Sleeping On Roads
  5. Gloria RecordStart Here
  6. Luka BloomBetween The Mountain And The Moon
  7. IdlewildRemote Part
  8. WilcoYankee Hotel Foxtrot
  9. Norah JonesCome Away With Me
  10. Twangbangers26 Days On The Road
  11. Nickel Creek - This Side
Michelle Fajkus - Staff Film Reviewer

1. Various Artists – The Truth About Charlie Soundtracks
Perhaps better than the hip Parisian-set murder mystery it was produced for. An eclectic mix of cool world beats, from Sparklehorse to Transglobal Underground to Ted Demme.

2. David Gray – A New Day At Midnight
An inspiring follow up to Gray’s first major American release, White Ladder. One of those you like immediately and listen to over and over. And over.

3. Ani DiFranco – So Much Shouting So Much Laughter
She’s a bad ass Buffalo babe. This double disc set featuring favorites from Ms. DiFranco’s long lineup of albums belongs in any indie/folk guitar fan’s collection.

4. Dave Matthews Band – Live at Folsom Field
Okay, maybe they sold out a long time ago. But I still love them. Kind of. The last two albums have been admittedly weak. This second installment of live concert releases reinspires with old favorites and new classics.

5. Tom Petty – The Last DJ
The Heartbreakers make a statement about corporate America. And rock while they’re at it.

6. Bjork – Greatest Hits --‘Nuff said.

7. Counting Crows – Hard Candy
Catchy tunes every time. How do they do it?

8. Friends of Lizzy – Friends Of Lizzy
A nod to the local boys from Austin. This eponymous six-song EP is nearly as electrifying as their live shows at our local dives.

9. Ben Folds -- Ben Folds Live
So cool yet so un-cool. This lyrical, piano-driven album includes Ben Folds Five hits as well as new songs.

10. Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales
Mellow yet interesting acoustic jams. Favorite line, “Slow down every one, you’re movin’ too fast.”

Dan Gerr - Staff Music Writer

Dan Gerr’s Best Of 2002, in the absence of any new Catherine Wheel release

  1. Jack JohnsonBrushfire Fairytales
  2. Beth OrtonDaybreaker
  3. Peter MurphyDust
  4. Bob Mould - Modulate
  5. Josh RouseUnder Cold Blue Stars
  6. Lori CarsonHouse In The Weeds
  7. Kindred SpiritsSongs of John Cash
  8. Ryan AdamsDemolition
  9. ColdplayA Rush of Blood to the Head
Nancy Hutagalung - Staff Music Writer

Top 10 Fave Albums of 2002 (in no particular order). (IMHO, this year's releases are weaker compared to the ones in the past, but as my favorite ones this year are quite listenable and pretty enjoyable, they still deserve to be mentioned here.)

  1. Low - Trust
  2. Jessica BailiffSelf-Titled
  3. Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads
  4. Victory At Sea - The Good Night
  5. Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  6. Morella's Forest - Tiny Lights Of Heaven
  7. Pia Fraus - In Solarium
  8. Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits
  9. Stereolab - ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions
  10. Seana Carmody - Struts And Shocks
Matt King - Staff Music Writer
  1. The Polyphonic Spree - The Beginning Stages of. . .
  2. The Trail of Dead - Source Tags and Codes
  3. Rhythm of Black Lines - Split EP w/ Pele
  4. Elf Power - Creatures
  5. Marshmallow Coast - Ride the Lightning
  6. Of Montreal - Aldhils Arboretum

Bands that came out with albums this year that I would hope would be in the top 10 but I haven't had the opportunity to get them yet:

7.  Sonic Youth
8.  Clinic
9.  Low
10. Wilco

Notable exception from the Top 10:

Sleater-Kinney - One Beat (they haven't had a strong record since The Hot Rock.)

Dan Koch - Staff Music Writer

I’ve only got six---but here they are.

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers --ByTthe Way
  2. Bright Eyes -- Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil
  3. The Roots -- Phrenology
  4. The Jam -- Live At The BBC
  5. The Hives -- Veni Vidi Vicious (Re-Issue, I Guess)
  6. Weezer -- Maladroit
Matt Maggiacomo - Staff Music Writer

1. Beck - Sea Change
Another metamorphosis for Beck, and this time the result is his most brilliant record to date. Beck proves himself a poet; this album feels like a purging of a lifetime of emotion, and is at once dark and warm, sparse and haunting.

2. Kind of Like Spitting - Bridges Worth Burning
Ben Barnett's music defies categorization. This album hints at both punk and emo, but to label it definitively as either would be a disservice to the music. Barnett's reincarnation of guitar-based rock is intricate and moving, and even manages to nod to the folk heroes of the 60's and 70's. Additionally, Kind of Like Spitting's live act is a must see.

3. Low – Trust
Low's version of depression is more complex, more contemplative than the average angsty rock band. This album will make you cry, but it'll do it in a way that's ironically uplifting: the innovation and beauty in Low's music is impossible to ignore, and Trust comes as a blessing in a time when most bands express negative emotions with grunts and power chords.

4. Faith Kleppinger - Asleep In The Well
Kleppinger's debut is gorgeous in its subtlety, and compelling in its intimacy. The songs are like journal entries, rich with thought and emotion. Kleppinger is Atlanta's answer to Mazzy Star and Aimee Mann.

5. Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
This is no Soft Bulletin, but its thematic consistency and listenability make it one of their best records yet. The Flaming Lips have an obsession with the unknown future, and this is appropriate: each album they release  is an innovation, a good omen of what's to come in rock music.

6. Coldplay - A Rush of Blood To The Head
Despite a few throw-away tracks, this album has more beauty and complexity than most mainstream records. “The Scientist” is perfect, easily one of the best songs to appear on a rock record in the past few years. The radio singles (“In My Place”, “Clocks”) are catchy as hell, and rise above the mediocrity that bookends them on alternative playlists.

7. Bright Eyes - Lifted, or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground
Conor Oberst
is so good at being depressed that he deserves some sort of award for it. Underneath the youthful pretension is a budding genius, perhaps one of the greatest songwriters of our generation.

8. Pedro The Lion – Control
David Bazan continues churning out dark, introspective music, with a spiritual edge that is at once self-conscious and all-encompassing. His social criticisms are heavy-handed, but he has enough sense of humor and intelligence to make it forgiveable.

9. Ash - Free All Angels
This is their best album since 1977. Ash combines an endearing cuteness with a driving, pop-punk edge, and their live performances are clean, upbeat, and inspiring.

10. Weezer – Maladroit
Weezer finally abandon their 10-song, barely-30-minutes-long approach to making records and break out of their (Green) slump. Rivers Cuomo seems to respond to all of the criticism over the heavily-produced simplicity and repetition of the Green album; Maladroit's thirteen tracks are rich with guitar heroics, relatively sincere lyrics, and Weezer's classic tongue-in-cheek approach to rock stardom.

Oscar - Staff Music Writer

Oscar’s Top Ten albums of 2002

01. Skeleton Key — Obtainium
In this day of Creed and Clown clones galore, an original has floated to the surface. Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon (1997 on Capitol) was Skeleton’s Key’s first full length offering showing tons of promise, only to have the band burn-out on the road after two years of heavy touring. Obtainium, the groups third release, features former Lounge Lizards bassist Erik Sanko with Chris Maxwell (drums), and Rick Lee (odd-ball percussion) rounding out the remaining original members. After a five year hiatus, Skeleton Key has been joined by new guitarist Colin Brooks, continuing to rely on a heavy cacophony of “found objects” for their “punkfunkgarbage” groove. The “Key” have returned to take their grave digger grunts and kitchenware clammer and somehow made it “more accessible” to no one in “Obtainium”, a collection of very off-the-wall beats, electronic whoopee cushions, noises, rhythmic junctures and things that go bump in the night. “One Way, My Way” shines as the straight ahead, catchiest, most fun pop anthem of the year, defining their philosophy and explaining their nature to buck trends of boring radio fodder. But songs like “Roost In Peace” and “The Barker Of Dupes” may best identify this “broken cymbal on a trash can lid” rock sound that Skeleton Key is most welcomed back for. There is little on the scene to compare it to, and therein lies Skeleton Key’s brilliance.

02. Joseph Arthur - Redemption’s Son
Moody and unpredictable tend to be a given in Joseph Arthur’s past work, and Redemption’s Son is all that and more. Perhaps Bowie, in his most “stardustish” of costumes springs to mind in the grinding, evil landscape of “Nation Of Slaves” and the moody, reflective tapestry of choral arrangements and big chords throughout this masterpiece and do nothing to dis-sway the listener to the majestic emotional purging that is a Joseph Arthur song. “Let’s Embrace” seems to be the chosen single, but there’s much more to this album than this wall’o’pop delight, as Arthur continues changing the aural plane in mid-sway, opting to keep it interesting, unfamiliar, unstable, daring... Joseph Arthur is an artist whose illuminative sound is both profound and auspicious. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss him live on his current tour. 2001’s small club showcase amazed even those just there for the drinks. It truly was the most unbelievable one man shows I’ve ever seen!

03. EELS—Souljacker
This album barely qualifies for a 2002 best of, but officially was released in the U.S. in January, 2002. It’s a must for song lovers and the super cool. Hell, it makes you super cool with its rare ease of listening (“Fresh Feeling”) and toe taping comedic invention (“Dog Faced Boy”). These songs don’t rush the listener, creating moods swinging from contemplation of life’s dark comedy of events to the daily struggle, painting fresh, real life canvases. “Bustop Boxer” is a thoughtful bit of genius, with “E” (aka: Mark Oliver Everett) the consummate character actor taking to the streets, playing the mental, struggling with the mind-games of control and survival on the mean streets...going down to the railroad tracks, where people know that they better not relax. Rumor has it, in a search of new material, E decided to hitchhike around the country and write about the experiences (“Woman Driving, Man Sleeping”). Always in search of the fun and the vital (“World of Shit”), this album slides easily through the mind like a quiet walk in the country, but if you find yourself stalking a jogger, don’t blame the Eels.

04. The Vines-- Highly Evolved
Of the summer’s big media pushes, I’ll take my Vines before my Strokes or my Hives, thank you. Promotional budgets aside, the hype is less a determining factor than spinning the disk, so fuck the hype and dig-in. THIS ALBUM ROCKS! Sydney ’s Vines have all but exploded out of the basement in one of the years’ most memorable offerings. Along with the title cut, “Autumn Shade” with its layered vocal beauty and “Outtathaway” surely kicks the can confidently across the ocean with its blast-off drum beat and sing-a-long vocal, the songs nearly jump off the disk and introduce the Vines as a force to be reckoned with for years to come. “Homesick” establishes solid songwriting, out emo-ing the emos’ with little effort. And “Get Free” hits like a ton of bricks, right down the line, song after solid song, memorable music that moves the feet and vibrates the heart!

05. Elvis Costello -- When I Was Cruel
We always knew Costello was brilliant enough to continue to churn out cutting edge punk pop forever, after all, didn’t he “contribute” to the invention of the genre, always defining the moment with a twisted wordplay or discordant surprise that took the anger of the Pistols and sharpened the sword? But Elvis’s career has taken many different musical turns and twists since the final notes of 79’s Armed Forces, perhaps completing the most powerful triumvirate of introductory albums in the history of punk rock. And just as those early surprises defined Costello as a clever wordsmith with a kick ass band, this return to “take no prisoners” emotion and feel of those early works is a delightful tip of the old cap by Costello, Steve Neive and Pete Thomas to what truly put them on the map with Stiff Records in “the day”. Despite his acumen for jazz and big band stylings, his roots shine forth in this his 22nd official studio album. Some of these songs could be plugged into many of the past releases, like 1980’s Get Happy (“Alibi”) or the more jazzy Spike (“Soul For Hire” or “15 Pedals”) from ‘89 would be fine homes for these new gems, just as the moody, dark title track forges new ground without consideration of any particular time period. This release is wide open and contemporary, although it has a high respect for the past, should standout as one of Costello’s best in a library of timeless, trendsetting songwriting, as only the maestro can deliver.

06. Guided By Voices -- Universal Truths And Cycles
How DO they do it? (stand-up on stage that is!) After the success of last years Isolation Drills, this “American Treasure” from Dayton, Ohio, just continues to churn out some of the best, straight forward rock ‘n’ roll available in Universal Truths And Cycles. Does it hurt you to love l mean? The powerful frontman and iconoclast, Rob Pollard, poses the question on the wonderful “Storm Vibrations”, with all the intensity of Roger Daltry’s swinging mike stance and a devil may NOT care attitude that keeps him teetering on the edge of the stage and commanding our rock consciousness. Never much for “overplaying” a riff, the “Voices” again clock-in with 19 rockin' gems, most just over the 2 minute mark. “The gift of smiles and love production”... INDEED!

07. Jellyfish-- Fan Club
All hail Not Lame Records for forging ahead with a wonderfully packaged and selected collection of a rare, timeless and far too short-lived band, Jellyfish. Their two releases, from 1990 (Bellybutton) and 1993 (Spilt Milk), have left fans with great songs like their first big hits “That Is Why” and “The King Is Half-Undressed” to “Calling Sarah” and “Glutton of Sympathy”, but with little more to chew on than some wonderful side projects by former members. There is a whole family tree of great releases by the Jellyfish family: The Gray’s and Jason Falkner solo works, the hilarious Moog Cookbook (a Roger Manning side project) along with Imperial Drag, and Umajets, just to name a few. But for old and new fans alike, this set establishes Jellyfish as the groundbreaking act that far too few pop fans were able to appreciate, especially live. Advanced orders for this labor of love helped Not Lame complete the four disks and provide a glimpse at one of the best vocal and instrumental bands to grace a stage, EVER. The packaging is awesome, with full discography, rare photos, and the story as told by insiders who were there when it was happening. The proof is inside the collection featuring unreleased demos that audiophiles will treasure and live recordings that establish Jellyfish as masters of the “live” craft. Andy Sturmers’ voice and drumming are incredible. Gems like Badfingers’ “No Matter What You Do” or Argents’ “Hold Your Head Up” seem to have been written for Jellyfish, the harmonies are to die for and the musicianship incredible. A MUST for all pop rock fans. “Those days are long since gone forever, but now a flame just fills every room” (from “She Still Loves Him”). This whole collection is like one big bubble bath. And this tub is filled to overflowing - ENJOY!

08. Neil Finn-- One All
Neil Finn has not reinvented the wheel with his new release, One All, but what he has done is to continue to grab the notes, available to all writers, and construct songs that continue to melt our emotional beings down into the liquid essence and extract of life’s trials and tribs. In “Last To Know”, there is something beautifully recognizable and calming about Finn’s voice, and the writing throughout is top-notch, as usual. As much as Finn doesn’t waver from previous formulas, the CD is strong and catchy, as most of his projects are. Listeners must recognize the depth of Finn’s collection of works over the years and the culmination of his sound is found here. Amazing, the ease at which the songs flow and move us, whatever part of the full-monty of Finn’s collection this release fits into, it is damn good and worth the sawbuck.

09. Consonant— Consonant
Clint Conley
, bassist of the totally hip Mission of Burma, who dissolved into thin air back in 1983, has released his first album in 18 years. “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” and some of my other favorite Burma tunes were penned by Conley, although the great Roger Miller gets most of the writing credit. In collaboration with poet Holly Anderson, Chris Conley picks up the guitar and creates a new musical focus with the moody crescendos of Sunny Day Real Estate and Husker Du, and the smooth delivery of Magazine, if not as edgy or in your face as Mission of Burma, it is more focused and structured. This album has high expectations because it challenges the listener to work their way through a maze of emotions while offering rising suns of hope and discovery at every turn. Consonant shines plenty, interests us plenty and quite often rocks us plenty. To rock, check out “Buckets of Flowers, Porno Mags” or “Who Touches You Now”. For heavy moods, listen to “Call it L _ _ _” , “Not Like Them” or “What a Body Could”, or straight ahead rockers like “John Coltrane’s Favorite Things” and “Post-Pathetic”, whatever your mood, it’s all hear.

10. Del Amitri-- Can You Do Me Good?
Justin Currie and friends may not illicit a big “Yeah” of recognition from you about this selection, but “Can You Do Me Good”, having not been released in the U.S., hasn’t been heard by much of the populace. A&M should “take a chance” on an American release of this excellent offering from Glasgow’s Del Amitri, a group best know for their hit “Roll To Me” from ‘95’s Twisted. Yes, the song did put Del Amitri on the map, but in a way was their “My Sharona”, identifying them as one-hit pop wonders, but not establishing them as some of the best writers and musicians to come out of Scotland in the past decade, or even Europe for that matter. Resplendent layering of guitars, vocals and keys and a cool funkified soul groove starts out the album on “Just Before You Leave”: Do you still misbehave then beg for his reprieve, and do you love to feel his needy hands pulling at your sleeve? The Album is full of Motown-esque string arrangements and Al Green guile, as Curries’ voice rolls easily through an interesting commentary of self-discovery and relationships. “Drunk In A Band” is a hilarious commentary on band life, with its fun flailing keys and the tongue in cheek “Jesus Saves” as a strong social comment on the unfortunate. “One More Last Hurrah” re-establishes Del Amitri’s proclivity in constructing beautiful, sobering musical ballads. Wondering where Del Amitri’s been since “Some Other Suckers’ Parade” in 1997, their last studio release? The song “Buttons On My Clothes” says it all: “I took a chemical vacation in my head, but now I’m back here at the station, with a trunk of regret”. Do yourself a favor and order this album online. This is pop music that shouldn’t be missed!

Honorable Mention:

Polak—Rubbernecking 
This album may not save “brit-rock” (as hybrid writer Dave Devoe would have you believe in his recent review...), but it is as Devoe says, “A must for any record collection”. It has a certain confident swagger about it and the songs ARE easily more interesting than 99.9% of what some are spoon fed daily.

Puffy AmiYumi-- An Illustrated History
Just plain fun stuff, much of it in Japanese, not just a must for Shonen Knife fans, this is really well done pop rock.

Tori Amos-- Scarlet’s Walk
This one will probably work its way up the list of favorites in 2002, although I haven’t had time to digest its full psychic effect, I instantly loved “Amber Waves”, “Crazy” and “Sweet Sangria”. I think it may be one of her best efforts yet.

Superdrag-- Last Call For Vitriol
Very “Rosenbergs”, and I love the Rosenbergs . We can’t have enough slammin’ pop rock as far as I’m concerned.  Fountains of Wayne, Super Deluxe, just strip it down and play it loud. More, more, more!

That’s it for 2002! Thanks to all at Hybrid for keeping me hip to the scene and making my humble opinion hopefully worth the space. And thanks to you our loyal readers for caring. Rocket into 2003, and to all a Happy New Year! — OSCAR

Vivian Sarratt - Staff Music Writer
  1. Epoxies - Epoxies
  2. Radio 4 - Gotham !
  3. Add N to (X) - Loud Like Nature
  4. Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice
  5. Liars - They Threw Us In a Trench and Put a Monument On Top
  6. Missy Elliot - Under Construction
  7. The Streets - Original Pirate Material
  8. Numbers - Life
  9. Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
  10. Ikara Colt - Chat and Business

Honorable mention: The Raveonettes - Whip It On

Terry Sawyer - Staff Music Writer

1. Princess Superstar-- Is
2. Buck 65-- Square
3. Logh-- every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings
4. Soncre Lerche-- Faces Down
5. Rilo Kiley-- The Execution Of All Things
6. Doug Martsch-- Now You Know
7. Iron and Wine-- The Creek Drank the Cradle
8. Missy Elliot-- Under Construction
9. Greenhornes-- Dual Mono
10. Asylum Street Spankers-- My Favorite Record

Andy Scheffler - Staff Photographer & Writer

Haven – Between the Senses
This must be my best buy of the year. I had caught the tail end of a tiny interview clip with this band on the Canadian music station, including maybe 20 seconds of live footage. That piqued my interest, and I thought maybe I should be on the lookout. A few days later I was looking to drop some change on a few CD’s, and while scouring the shelves at the store, I saw this album, and immediately picked it up. I hadn’t heard anymore than that 20 seconds of live footage, and thought on the way home, “Geez, maybe that was a stupid move. I hope this album doesn’t bite bigtime.” And it sure doesn’t. I had hoped it would be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this fantastic. The whole thing is fairly mellowly-tempoed, but powerful. “Is This Bliss” will give you chills, “Say Something” will break your heart. It’s a loving album full of pining songs. Ahhhh. Originally from Cornwall, in my opinion, they are severely underrated on this continent. www.haven-online.com

Hometown Hero – self titled
Another great surprise for the year. I was out to cover the Hoobastank show in Vancouver, and got to the venue in time to see one of the opening bands. Now, Hoobastank’s never really been a favourite of mine, and accounts from people who had watched the first band on the three-band bill had relayed that they weren’t so hot, so I wasn’t expecting much here. But, out on the stage came a group of boisterous guys from LA who played this amazing brand of indie-punk with a twist of gravelly rock thrown in... and they put on an amazing visual show to boot. I picked up the disc from the band after the show, brought it home, and it has spent a lot of time in the player since. It’s loud and fun from start til finish, and Aaron Bruno’s voice adds a distinct snarl to the lyrics. It’s got a rollicking feel to it that allows you to vividly picture the musicians bouncing around on stage, and chances are, you’ll be bouncing around too by the end of it. I’d say it’s a catchy indie-rock version of  Stone Temple Pilots, if Stone Temple Pilots would write upbeat-sounding songs. These guys should go big. www.hometownheromusic.com

Speed To Kill – self titled
This Vancouver band released a low-budget version of their debut EP earlier this year, and in November, finally released the souped-up version. It contains five tracks and a remix, and came together pretty quickly considering the relative youth of this band. After the Saddlesores, a country-glamrock band, split up in late 2001, three of the band’s final lineup formed Speed To Kill, with an additional guitarist. They manage to be dark, yet fun at the same time. Sexy and tragic. Loud but vulnerable. The album is an extended tale of love spurned… it’s touching, and it also completely rocks. My only nit is that it’s only six songs…. *sigh* Yes I do know and work for these guys, but don’t misconstrue this as a bias; I know and work for a number of bands in this town, but STK is the only one that made the cut this year… www.speedtokill.com

The Snitches – Star Witness
I saw a video for this Montreal band’s single “Right Before My Eyes” and thought, “wow, what a bunch of loonies! I love it!!” I picked up the disc on a bit of a whim, expecting the whole thing to be the same sort of jumpy, scrappy, dirty punk. But it’s not. It’s actually really diverse, and just about every song makes you think of a different artist or genre of music that it would fit well alongside. They’ve actually been around for a number of years, but this is the first I’d heard about them. The album jumps from raw rock tracks, to poppy, up-tempo tunes, to those aforementioned scrappy punk songs, and even a couple cute little Partridge-Family-esque happy songs. Surprises at every turn, and there’s something for everyone on this album.  www.thesnitches.com

Sam Roberts – The Inhuman Condition
This has nothing to do with Richard Ashcroft’s latest release. Sam Roberts is a young talented songwriter from Montreal who quietly came out of nowhere with the “Brother Down” single, and was quickly catapulted to stardom on that song alone.  He’s in the process of recording a full-length, but this EP is available in the meantime, and wow, is it ever fun stuff. This is a good Canadian guy writing good Canadian songs. Sing-along, anthem-y rock that calls to mind Jane’s Addiction at times. You can tell this man loves what he’s doing. Dance, sing, have fun. www.secret-weapon.com

Woven Hand – self titled
A side project for David Eugene Edwards from the magnificent 16 Horsepower (who have also just released a new album, which I have yet to hear in its entirety). The ‘gothic-country’ continues here, but it’s a little less country and a little more of the dark and brooding. The album starts and ends with a reference to hands directly. The second and second-to-last songs are called “My Russia” and “Your Russia” respectively. There was a lot of thought that went into this album’s creation. Right smack in the middle of all this is an absolutely outstanding cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Maybe not the sort of thing you’d normally hear from a band like this (not that there is any band like this or 16 Horsepower out there), it turns the loving ballad into a creepy, dark song that sounds more like a stalker’s anthem than anything else. Edwards has a way of making it seem like life is just plain not worth it anymore. And I can see people whittlin’ away on the front porch… www.16horsepower.net

The Tragically Hip – In Violet Light
Our Kingston, >Ontario heroes. The Tragically Hip have been a genuinely Canadian staple since the 80’s, and while never really catching on in the US so much, they’ve always been well-loved in their home country. The power and sheer Canadian-ness of their earlier albums seemed to fall off a bit in recent years, but In Violet Light has brought back all the splendour of those earlier days. The lead-off single, “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”, is one of the softest, most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year. And then, with songs like “Silver Jet,” they prove they can still pull out that distinct rock sound they’ve honed. www.thehip.com

Danko Jones – Born A Lion
Danko Jones took charge immediately when he first popped onto the scene in the latter stages of the 90’s. Now he’s back with Born A Lion, and he’s better than ever. The difference between his quiet in-person personality and his on-record/stage personality is staggering. This is one sexy album. The guy talks about ladies, about love, about love lost, and about the rock. Big, chunky guitars intermix with frenetic drums, and a combination of Jones’ sharp, growling singing voice, and his hard-talkin’ monologues. It’s a truly interesting listen that’ll have you swaggering in no time. www.dankojones.com

Swollen Members – Monsters in the Closet
Vancouver’s biggest hip-hop export. I’m not normally into the urban thing, but I can’t stop enjoying what I hear from them. They just don’t stop churning out infectious, hard-hitting tunes. Forget about the booty-bling-bling; this is all about having a good time and about their own work ethic and subsequent success. That’s not to say there aren’t references to babes and cars and whatnot, but it’s not quite the central focus. The first single off this disc is “Steppin’ Thru”, and, as follows the format of most of their songs, it’s a three-person rap-along between the core Members MadChild and Prevail, and unofficial Member Moka Only.  Perhaps it’s slightly intangible, but there’s just something about this that appeals to me more than a lot of urban music (and I’m not alone there… Swollen Members shows attract a huge cross-section of people, and the band is often seen teaming up with the country’s rock elite on various projects). www.swollenmembers.com

The Eels – Electro-Shock Blues Show
I was stunned when I saw this disc. The studio album Electro-Shock Blues came out years ago. This is the live show from that tour. Some of the songs are very similar to their recorded counterparts, but others are so beautifully-enhanced, they take a whole new life. Orchestration, flourishing keyboards, acoustic versions… and over it all, E’s voice, stronger than it sounds on the records, and still covered in a thick coat of downtroddeness.  Wish I really could have been there…. www.eelstheband.com

Honourable mention : ONMake Believe. I just heard about this, which is why it’s only an honourable mention. If I had been more familiar with it, I don’t doubt it would top the list. As it stands, I’ve only been able to manage to dig up 2-minute clips of about half the album, and I love what I hear. It’s less electronic than the first ON album, but gentler than either Failure, or Ken Andrews’ current project, Year of the Rabbit (which is also great, but I couldn’t include them on this list, as they don’t officially have an album released… just a quickly-put-together EP to tide fans over until the full-length comes out).  The song “Pure Distraction” caught me the most out of the ones I’ve heard so far. Edgier than the rest of the clips I listened to, this one also has some of those electronic elements in it. I can see this being a pretty incredible album and I can’t wait to listen to the entire thing. The old ON website is no longer being updated, as I believe Andrews is just doing this project as an independent side-project now, but check out Year of the Rabbit. www.yearoftherabbit.net

Bridget Schultz - Staff Music Writer

1. Ani Difranco-- So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
Ani is in her prime live, and this double-disc set shows off her skills as a performer.  Although most of the material, except the song “Welcome To” can be found on her other albums, she has interpreted all of the material differently this time around, and songs like “My I.Q.” are improved upon.

2. Sleater-Kinney-- One Beat
Sleater-Kinney just seems to build on the sound of each successive album.  This album delves into themes that seem more personal to the band, yet they have an universal appeal.

3. The White Stripes-- White Blood Cells
OK, so they’re media darlings right now, but there’s a reason for that.  The opening chords to “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” made me a believer.

4. Stavesacre-- Stavesacre
This band has long been a favorite of mine, and their newest album did not disappoint.  A little more mellow than the loud catharsis of previous albums, yet just as passionate, with the rich, poetic lyrics that I’ve come to expect.

5. Sarah Slean-- Night Bugs
Moody and atmospheric and lushly beautiful.  The song “Sweet Ones” is one of my favorites of the year.

6. The Doves-- The Last Broadcast -- Solid pop music.

7. Jack Johnson-- Brushfire Fairytales
Chunky, acoustic jam music.  The singles “Flake” and “Bubble Toes” make good driving music.

8. Death By Chocolate-- Zap the World
Not the best sounding, but definitely the most unique album I’ve heard this year.  It’s like they were watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and tripping on acid when they made the album.

9. Ben Kweller-- Sha Sha -- A welcome newcomer.

10. Reel Big Fish-- Cheer Up! -- Pure, adolescent, zany fun that puts a smile on my face.

Emily Strong - Staff Music Writer

TOP TEN PICKS OF 2002, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Damon Albarn, et al — Mali Music
Forget your personal opinions of Blur’s infamous frontman and just absorb the delightful and refreshing atmosphere that this collaboration provides.

Bright EyesLifted, or Keep Your Ear To The Ground, The Story Is In The Soil. Start with an unforgettable voice, add thoughtful and poetic lyrics, and then throw in an interesting cocktail of instruments both common and unusual, and you have an album that transcends the emo label its creator has been tagged with.  Simply stunning.

Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The title alone deserves to be in every top ten list in the country, not to mention the Flaming Lips’ best work to date

The Gloria Record – Start Here
The Gloria Record: not hyped enough.

Idlewild – Remote Part
This intelligent emo-punk-rock act keeps getting better with every album.

Mellowdrone – Demonstration Of Intellectual Property
A one-man act that will knock your socks off, be on the lookout for Mr. Jonathan Bates’ debut album on BMG some time in 2003.  In the meantime, try to get your hands on this amazing self-released piece of yummy goodness.

Damien Rice – O
Beautiful.  Soothing.  And really damn intriguing.

Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
Coming from Austin , I might be biased, but in my humble opinion Spoon can do no wrong.  Here, they do better than ever.

Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World
From celery sticks to synthesizers, these Welshmen play music on their own terms, while simultaneously tipping their hat to several rock legends.

John Vanderslice – The Life And Death Of An American Fourtracker
Full of wit and thoughtfulness, Vanderslice does it again, but with fewer thematic elements.

And one to grow on…

Oceansize – Relapse EP
Ok, I couldn’t exactly narrow it down to ten, but I couldn’t go without mentioning Britain ’s most brilliant and idiosyncratic new act, recently signed to Beggars’ Banquet and ready to take over the world.  If you haven’t heard their music yet, you should.  And you will.

Ewan Wadharmi - Staff Music Writer

Top 10 In Alphabetical order:

1) The Adicts - Rise And Shine
Any other band as underrated as The Adicts might show some bitterness at this point. But “Rise And Shine” is joyous, clever, snotty, and veddy British.  The best elements of punk are exhibited in one package. The blue-collar ethics of The Jam, the theatrics of The Damned, the social commentary of Killing Joke, and the youthful excitement of Stiff Little Fingers.  Add to that the smart ass British tradition of The Kinks and (dare I say?) The Beatles

2) Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up On Me
It’s fitting that in “Real Real Gone” Van Morrison turned me on to King of Rock 'n' Soul Solomon Burke.  In a project similar to the last Roy Orbison record, Van and fellow icons Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and Nick Lowe contributed songs for this King turned Bishop.  Though Burke has recorded regularly since the sixties, the offerings here call on him to meet the expectations of his talented fans.  The reward for their contributions is their words coming out in that voice.  Everyone wins, and wins big.

3) The Code - Alert Aware Involved
The exciting punkskametal sounds surpass the accomplishments of their forefathers like Rancid & Operation Ivy.  In the same way that our parents have to struggle to program the VCR while we were born with the inherent ability.  And in turn, our children will say, “What the hell’s a VCR?”

4) Kings Of Nuthin’ - Fight Songs For Fuckups
The unholy matrimony of swing and punk.  Who knew it could be so cool to Lindy Slam?

5) Nik Frietas - Here’s Laughing At You
His bio and underdog status along with his ability to craft damn fine pop songs, make Frietas the pop contender.  He could be Mcartney or the next Beck thing.

6) McCluskey - McCluskey Do Dallas
Radiohead
and Blur unintentionally made their best music with tongue in cheek rock anthems.  A bit of “Let’s give the kids an ironic AC/DC thrill.”  McCluskey proves it’s funnier to occasionally not rock out. 

7) The Reigning Sound - Time Bomb High School
America’s last best hope to save garage-rock from the Scandal-navians. 

8) The Soft Boys - Nextdoorland
Another reunion that could have been fatal or worse, forgettable, is thankfully redeemed in "Nextdoorland.”  The Soft Boys image as artsy and pretentious may stem from critics’ who praise them with, “Soft Boys chose to cut against the grain of the nascent U.K. punk zeitgeist.”- Murray Jason Salon.com.  Buzzword bullshit or not, Robyn Hitchcock can write great songs.  Back with the equally feminine-named Kimberly Hew, the re-marriage takes on like Verlaine & Loyd. (Damn you, Matthew Sweet!)

9) Speedball Baby - The Blackout
Dark narcotic tales with a fun personal touch.  Exploring the hidden parts of your mind like Cohen & Cave.

10) The Vandals - Internet Dating Super Studs
Well hell, you can win I date with them.  I want to be the next Mrs. Quackenbush.

Severe disappointments of 2002

Wire - Read & Burn 01 EP
Every bit as exciting as the title promises.  I’ve always been a Wire fan on principle but I can’t see popping this boring slab in the player again.  Never even bothered with “Read & Burn 02.” 

Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Alright already, Wayne!  You don’t have to worry about having another accidental hit like “She Don’t Use Jelly” again.  Damn, get some punk rawk bass back and slip into Charlie Manson blues. 

Camper Van Beethoven - Tusk
Mediocre ‘80’s alternative band covers awful ‘70’s AOR band…and the hilarious antics ensue.  Like John Wayne’s The Conqueror, this album has been collecting dust for years waiting to be released.  Should have listened to Howard Hughes.  Leave bad enough alone.

GBH - Ha Ha
Not awful, but some of these guys are grandpas now.  I’d expect a little more wisdom and maturity.  Or at least more pith and vinegar.  Musically passable but not on par with their best, and nothing close to what’s come since.

Rich Wood - Culture Writer & Staff Columnist

1) Doves -- The Last Broadcast
After the brooding, darkly beautiful melodies of Lost Souls, Doves returned in 2002 with a brighter, more optimistic sound. Thankfully, the lush arrangements and shoegazer-style symphonies in which they specialize went unaffected, making The Last Broadcast not only a masterpiece but, in this writer's opinion, the single best album of the year. “Words” blows away every other song I've heard since the mid-90s, with its trancelike, hypnotic guitar and defiant lyrical challenge, Words, they mean nothing / so you can't hurt me. The album could have piggybacked into my top five on the strength of this alone, but the Goodwin Bros. couldn't leave well enough alone. No, they had to go and include the anthemic “Pounding”, the uplifting “There Goes The Fear”, the gorgeous “Caught By The River” and eight other songs to soundtrack a night driving beneath the hazy blur of mercury streetlights.

2) Monster Movie -- Last Night Something Happened
Ex-shoegazers Slowdive had already brought the world Mojave 3's Gram Parsons-esque English country rock, but this year the other half of the band who gave us Souvlaki came back from the dead. Closer to their roots in beautifully swooning walls of sound than the Mojaves ever were, this closet classic excels with the glorious “Sleeping On a Train and elegiac “Take Me Away”. Hard to find but if ever you enjoyed the likes of Ride et al, it's worth  the effort of searching.

3) The Gloria Record -- Start Here
The first full-length effort from The Gloria Record sees Chris Simpson and company putting the ghosts of Mineral to rest with a synth-laden air of gorgeous finality. Ten of the most delicate, fragile pieces of rock'n'roll artistry you'll ever hear somehow manage to inspire, lull, comfort, excite, sadden and delight the listener all at once. Possibly the single most underrated, unpublicized and unheard-of band in America or Britain. Undeservedly.

4) Coldplay -- A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Another Chris (Martin) returned to prominence with considerably more fanfare. Supposedly worn out and played out by the end of their touring in support of 2000's Parachutes, Coldplay were allegedly on the verge of quitting before they recorded "In My Place", this album's first single. Paeans to loves lost and found and lost again have never been quite so enthralling before.

5) Idlewild -- The Remote Part
Scottish punks Idlewild had a tough act to follow in 2000's 100 Broken Windows, which one influential music mag called The Best Album You’ll Never Hear This Year. Enlisting Manic Street Preachers producer Steve Eringa after canning Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths), they give it their best shot with The Remote Part.  More up than down, it has a few dull moments that Broken Windows didn't possess, but makes up for it with powerful tunes like standout track "American English". A bona fide grower, the album sounds better after twenty listens than two. Maybe that's because the best tracks, "Out of Routine", "Stay the Same" and "Tell me Ten Words", are stashed away near the end.

6) The Bluetones -- The Singles
It seems like cheating to list a 'best of' compilation in any top ten, and doubtless this author will be pilloried by his friends for it, but The Bluetones have always gotten short shrift in America so it's about time that someone stood up for them. There's never been a better time to do it, either-- The Singles collects the sort of melodic guitar-pop gems that nobody makes on this side of the Atlantic anymore. And as a bonus, it doesn't include any of the crappy filler songs that round out their three studio albums. A second bonus: the never before available first single, "Are You Blue Or Are You Blind?"

7) Cary Pierce -- Live at Shuba's
Live albums are cheating too, but I was introduced to Dallas singer-songwriter type Cary Pierce through this album and I promptly became a convert. The sort of guy who makes David Gray look like a sad little boy but doesn't have Dave Matthews making noise in his corner, Pierce (one half of 90s college rockers Jackopierce) comes off as right at home in the intimate, small-hall settings in which he plies his trade. He probably makes a comfortable living off acoustic weepers like "Tower" and jaunty "The Absence of Love", but in a better world he'd make a lot more.

8) Neil Finn and Friends -- Live At The St. James
Another live album, but by no means is this one a cheater. Any band recording sixteen songs that boast not only Neil Finn but Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr and... well, shit. JOHNNY MARR. That's enough for me.

9) The Get-Up Kids -- On A Wire
Kansas indie act The Get-Up Kids might get called 'emo', but it's the Jimmy Eat World sort of emo-lite powerpop: subtract the complaints about whiny voices and moping lyrics, add some catchy tunes and irresistible harmonies instead. Who knew this sort of thing came out of Kansas? Kansas?!

10) Oasis -- Heathen Chemistry
The Gallaghers sneak in on the strength of their best stuff since 1995, but fall to number ten on the weakness of lurching pub-rock crap like "Force of Nature" and "All In The Mind". Liam contributes the affecting "Songbird" while "The Hindu Times" is a rocker that makes The Strokes, The Vines, The Datsuns, The White Stripes and every other flavor-of-the-moment garage-rock revisionist act du jour look like the kids they are. You only wish they had a few more where that one came from.


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