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
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’sWesting (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
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
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 /
tom’s top tens, not really in any ranked
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
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
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
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
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
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. Isis – Oceanic Technical metal gods create orchestral meditation music.
To cop out, this is like Entombed recording Yes’
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.
– Wiretap 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
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
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
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.
Canyon - Empty Rooms. This is what I wanted
the new Wilco album to sound like.
The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee.
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
24 Hour Party People soundtrack. I always hear "Blue
Monday" when I'm shopping for black jeans at the Gap.
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.]
Polak – Rubbernecking
Gomez – In Our Gun
Duncan Sheik – Daylight
Neil Halstead – Sleeping On Roads
Gloria Record – Start Here
Luka Bloom – Between The Mountain And The Moon
Idlewild – Remote Part
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Twangbangers – 26 Days On The Road
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
2. David Gray – A New Day At
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
Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales
Beth Orton – Daybreaker
Peter Murphy – Dust
Bob Mould - Modulate
Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars
Lori Carson – House In The Weeds
Kindred Spirits – Songs of John Cash
Ryan Adams – Demolition
Coldplay – A 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.)
Low - Trust
Jessica Bailiff – Self-Titled
Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads
Victory At Sea - The Good Night
Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Morella's Forest - Tiny Lights Of Heaven
Pia Fraus - In Solarium
Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits
Stereolab - ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions
Seana Carmody - Struts And Shocks
Matt King - Staff Music Writer
The Polyphonic Spree - The Beginning Stages
of. . .
The Trail of Dead - Source Tags and Codes
Rhythm of Black Lines - Split EP w/ Pele
Elf Power - Creatures
- Ride the Lightning
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.
Red Hot Chili Peppers--ByTthe
Bright Eyes -- Lifted Or The Story Is In The
The Roots -- Phrenology
The Jam -- Live At The BBC
The Hives -- Veni Vidi Vicious (Re-Issue,
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
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
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,
OneAll, 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
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!
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
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
Epoxies - Epoxies
Radio 4 - Gotham
Add N to (X) - Loud Like Nature
Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice
Liars - They Threw Us In a Trench and Put a
Monument On Top
Missy Elliot - Under Construction
The Streets - Original Pirate Material
Numbers - Life
Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
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
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
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.
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….
Honourable mention : ON – Make 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
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
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 Eyes—Lifted, 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
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
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
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
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 &
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
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
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.