It's just a few
short days before the Grammys and I'm again fighting the clock to get these done. So my
intro will be brief. In fact, it's over.
favorite 25 albums released in 2002.
The Roots- Phrenology: This album's release was delayed several times, and it
shows. It's often disjointed and misses the mark, but The Roots are just that good these
days- even their near-misses are worth listening to. They expand their "hip-hop with
a band" palette even further than previously, venturing into blues-rock and even Bad
Brains-ish hardcore territory. A good album that promises better things may be coming.
Anti-Pop Consortiun- Arrhythmia: A hip-hop group more likely to be found in the
pages of Wire (the highbrow UK new music mag) than in Vibe. They mix unusual beats (the
sound of a bouncing ping pong ball, for one) with adept and inventive rapping, creating an
unusual but interesting blend. It may not be the future of all of hip-hop- but these guys
may be viewed in 30 years in some of the same ways the Velvet Underground is looked at
today. They've broken up since this release, so hopefully good solo projects will result.
Radio 4- Gotham!: New York City bands are turning heads these days, mostly by
making everything 80's new again. These lads are often compared to Gang of Four, P.I.L.,
Mission of Burma and the more rhythmic output of the Clash. Apt comparisons, which makes
this a good listen even if it's a bit derivative. You can pick a lot worse sounds to
22. Queens Of The Stone Age- Songs For
The Deaf: It seems that each year I find one testerone-fueled heavy guitar album
to squeeze onto the list, and here's this year's. While it didn't get me the way their
previous album R did, this is a good batch of heavy, hard-driving rock. The radio DJs
interspersed throughout only help add to the idea that this would sound best played on the
stereo of a muscle car speeding through the desert.
Life On Other Planets: The UK cranks out a lot of alterna-rock bands, and few
make careers out of it. Supergrass is on album number 4 here, and it's a good one. T.Rex
is the name that comes to mind most often when I listen to this, but it sounds like a 2003
Marc Bolan effort, not a retro rip-off. Many good, catchy songs here- I hope album five is
around the corner.
20.The Soundtrack of Our Lives- Behind
The Music: If I heard today that this Swedish band was the top psychedelic act of
1969, was on route to Woodstock but was somehow frozen, became unfrozen and recorded their
hits on modern equipment and this is the resulting album, I would believe it. Not as sunny
as the Cosmic Rough Riders, who mine the same era as well, these guys come from the darker
side of the 60's rock looking glass- more early Pink Floyd than the Zombies. This one is
starting to grow on me lately, and would probably be higher ranked if I did this list in a
month or two.
19. Blackalicious- Blazing Arrow:
What De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest did for hip hop in the late 80s/early 90s,
Blackalicious is doing now. Hooked filled songs with impressive lyrics, this West Coast
duo adds clever rhymes to catchy melodies, often with either a jazzy or old-school soul
feel to them. This is their major label debut- they will be back, and are worth keeping an
Spoon- Kill The Moonlight: Another album that's not a good as the one the band
put out previously (Girls Can Tell, #8 on the 2001 Timmy's List), but still worthy of
attention. A little darker and less-produced than the last time out, still good songs than
remind one of the rougher edges of New Wave while still being entirely original.
17. Andrew WK: Guilty pleasure?
Novelty act? Inside joke? Not sure, but listening to these songs- sporting titles such as
"It's Time to Party", "Party Hard" and "Party Till You
Puke"- on a sunny day with the windows rolled down sure feels good.
16. Aim- Hinterland: From the
ridiculous to the sublime, Aim - a single UK trip-hop producer gives us an album that is
the polar opposite of Andrew WK's. Half instrumental, this is a subtle slice of jazzy
rap-influenced electronica that sounds great on a lazy winter afternoon.
Interpol- Turn On The Bright Lights: Another NYC band, another 80's comparison. I
hear Joy Division a lot, but I also hear Echo and The Bunnymen and other slightly dark UK
bands of the latter days of New Wave. They bring something new to the table though, making
this more of a next step than an imitation. I find it to be a bit of a downer for my
everyday listening, so I tend to gravitate mostly to the speedier tracks. But when I need
something a little more somber, this fits the bill nicely.
Solomon Burke-Don't Give Up On Me: A soul legend who rarely records these days,
this album is a tribute to his work in the 60s, in the sense that many of today's top
songwriters who were influenced by Burke contributed songs. So there's new songs written
by Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Brian Wilson, among others. That alone
makes it worth hearing- what the 66 year old Burke can do with the songs makes it worth
hearing again and again.
Iron & Wine- The Creek Drank The Cradle: This is the work of one man, who's a
cinematography teacher from Miami. This is more backwoods than sunny Florida, but the
cinematic influence is definitely present. The sparse songs use quiet vocals and folky
instrumentation to get across the literate lyrics. A very solid debut album.
12. Guided By Voices- Universal Truths
and Cycles: On what must be their one hundredth album, Ohio's GBV gives up on the
commercial success they attempted in the past few years and returns to Matador Records.
The result is more akin to their older, more low-fi efforts in terms of style, but has a
bit more focus than those earlier efforts. Influenced by both 60's guitar pop of the Who
and the Beatles and the D.I.Y. attitude of the punk era, these guys have gone back to the
niche they created through the 90s. They keep cranking out the records, I keep diggin' em.
Oasis- Heathen Chemistry: Did I say influenced by the Beatles? Oasis has made a
career out of taking what they've learned from Lennon and McCartney and updating it for a
new generation- at least in the UK. While people often compare Oasis against their first
two albums, they should compare them against what else is coming out at the same time.
This is a solid collection of middle-of-the-road rock songs, and better than a lot of
things I've heard in a long while.
Moby- 18: Speaking of comparisons to past triumphs, Moby's much-anticipated
follow-up to the highly-acclaimed Play was dismissed quickly by most after its release.
It's a lot more somber than Play, and isn't broken up by any big dance hits. It takes what
Play started, refines it, and quietly builds a mood that lasts the entire record. That's
no small feat.
Lemon Jelly- Lost Horizons: The album art explains a lot here. This is very
slick, modern music, but has a lot of warmth and humor to it. A very laid back yet playful
album from a duo who are graphic artists as well as musicians. I described an Add N to X
album in 1999 as being music for robots, by robots. This is music by cartoon characters
for other cartoon characters to chill out to.
8. Badly Drawn Boy- About A Boy
Soundtrack.: Though I generally avoid soundtracks, this one is really Badly Drawn
Boy's second album (although he claims it's not, just a side project). Whatever it is,
it's a nice collection of songs from one of today's emerging songwriters. Not as produced
or as eclectic as his debut, this is a good album wherever it falls in Badly Drawn Boy's
7. The Streets- Original Pirate Material:
Has England found their Great White Hip-Hop Hope? Maybe, but this guy is more Grandmaster
Flash than Vanilla Ice. A unique sound that draws from popular UK club beats more than it
does US rap, the very British lyrics and accents only add to its uniqueness. There will be
a lot of bad albums copying this in the next year, but this could also be the beginning of
something very good.
Elvis Costello- When I Was Cruel: Those who know me well know I'm a huge Elvis
Costello fan. That being said, his recent work would have struggled it's way on to my top
25 list. It took five really good albums to place above this very welcome
return-to-early-80s form for Mr. Declan McManus. The side projects with opera singers and
string quartets were worth waiting through for this.
Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: The big story in a nutshell: A Warner-backed label
turns down this album, saying it's too weird. The band shops it around, posts it on the
web where it starts to be become a mini-legend. The band gets bids for the album from
numerous spots, finally wind up on a different Warner-backed label, essentially getting
paid twice for the album. Good story, but what's lost here is that the album actually is
really, really good. Far away from their early alt-country days, this album is
well-crafted work that shows a lot of growth and even more promise.
4. Super Furry Animals- Rings Around The
World: To say that this is a British album is an understatement. The Welsh band
has created a wild trip across the UK countryside, taking pop sounds of the past and
coating them with just enough electronic gimmickry. They even got Paul McCartney to
contribute- by chewing vegetables. Sound familiar? Well, this parallels Pet Sounds there,
but also in the way it takes the pop music of it's day and tries to shape it into
something unique. Not a flawless album, but a nice mix of varying styles into a sound all
2 Many DJs- As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2: A DJ Mix collection at Number 3?
Son, this ain't no mix collection. Well, it is. But it's not. Take vocals of one song, say
Salt N Pepa's "Push It", and put it on top of The Stooges "No Fun". It
works in a weird and entertaining way, no. OK, now repeat for the next seventy minutes,
constantly weaving all genres of pop music (although mostly danceable tunes) in and out.
Oh, and it violates pretty much all copyright laws. Not the future of music maybe, but a
very interesting development, and a lot of fun to listen to.
Badly Drawn Boy- Have You Fed The Fish?: Now THIS is what Badly Drawn Boy calls
his second album, and I can see why. It's a mixed-up modern gem, taking bits and pieces
from a lot of the pop music world of the past 35 years and giving it a modern, almost
danceable, twist. The British sense of humor...um, humour...is very present (the title and
cover art should tip that off) but there are a great melodies and strong lyrics. Good
enough to be number one and it was for a long time. Then I heard the next album.
Beck- Sea Change: This is not what I expected from this album, especially based
on Midnight Vultures, which I liked enough to rank #3 when it came out in 1999. To say
that this is album is a lot quieter is very true, but is only telling part of the story.
This is a very lush, emotional and personal album. It's reported that this album comes
after a bitter breakup, as did Dylan's great Blood On The Tracks (which I also heard for
the first time in 2002). But while Dylan's bitterness surfaces much more often on his
record, Beck keeps thing more confessional and sounds more like a reflection of his
feelings in the aftermath than a scolding of a former love. The music- warm string
sections, longing guitar notes, brushed drums- very effectively mirrors the well-crafted
lyrics. While emotionally I'm nowhere near where Beck was when he recorded this album,
that's not necessary to enjoy this record. This is a fully realized song cycle that stands
out as a complete album and brilliant work of art, reflecting very personal and real
N.E.R.D.-In Search OF
Clinic- Walking with Thee
Talib Kweli- Quality
Neil Finn- 7 Worlds Collide
Tom Waits- Alice/Blood Money
X-Press 2- Muzikizum
Note: I've used the images of album covers
on this site so that if anyone reads this and is inspired to buy these albums, they know
what they look like. Anyone from these record labels who would like me to add copyright
information or remove any of these images, let me