The Tops (Slightly Revised)

It seems like the first half of 2002 was pretty uneventful, or maybe I just remember the last half better. Instead of just putting the copyright year on the back of albums, I sure wish they would print the full date. There were a host of albums that just carried over from late last year. I can’t tell you how bracing it was to hear bands like Trail Of The Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, Sparta and others putting the R-A-W-K back in rock. It was also refreshing to have albums from the likes of Josh Rouse, Neil Finn, Candidate and Coldplay making some plain ‘ole good music. It’s been a good year for songs. I probably write that somewhere every year, but I’m saying it again.

One of the difficult things about being a music lover is that I want to listen to everything out there, but there just aren’t enough hours. There are albums by bands like My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, The Roots and several others that I just never got around to picking up until recently. I’m certainly not going to justify my picks for 2002. I think they stand just fine on their own, though I do have a few words about them. When I originally posted this list, there was a numbered order, but I’ve since decided that I simply cannot decide on an order. There also used to be 20, but I changed it to 10 and put the rest in with the other essential albums.

The Top 10 Albums of 2002

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Source Tags and Codes: There are certain people’s opinions on music I almost always agree with. One of those people wrote such an impassioned review of this album, I really had no choice but to go out and get myself a copy. The coordinated chaos and massive melody canÂ’t be described in words. It’s aggressive, loud and so luscious. I can listen to it at high or low volume and it just shines. There may be others out there creating similar sounds, but I hear something a bit more emotional from TOD.

Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head: I was afraid for Coldplay. Parachutes was such a wonderful album that I wasn’t very confident that they could follow it. There was gigantic potential, but I thought they might blow it. I should have had more faith. Once I heard this album, I regretted my earlier doubts. What I heard was a band that had become closer. They played better together and played off one another with so much more coherence this time around. Each song on this album has its own legs, but it’s just such a exquisite whole.

Doves – The Last Broadcast: Like Coldplay, Doves is a band that had a tremendous, critically acclaimed debut album. Again, I didn’t know if their sophomore effort would be as compelling. Wrong again. Not only did they deliver, but they seemed a bit more cheerful this time around. Lead vocals were shared and they maintained everything that made them one of my favorites with Lost Souls. Doves are pros at pulling it off on stage as well, which always gives me more respect for a band.

Neil Finn – One All: Neil Finn is one of the greatest songwriters of my lifetime, if not one of the best of all time. While he may be more familiar as part of Crowded House or Split Enz, his music is undeniable. Delicious harmonies and guitar playing add to the overall warmth of this album. Employing the genius of Tchad Blake as co-producer and the likes of Lisa Germano, Sheryl Crow, Sharon Finn, Wendy Melvoin and Jim Keltner (among others) make this heartfelt album that much better. If I had to explain this album in one word, it would be ‘human.’ It could very well be the finest moment of his solo career.

Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights: This wasnÂ’t an album of which I was initially a huge fan. It took me a few listens before I discovered its greatness. Its magnitude was reinforced once I experienced the live show. The album is not one I use as a sonic backdrop. I like to focus on it. The songs are masterful and even a little artsy, but it’s all done so tastefully and free of pretense that it just works.

Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf: Simply put, this is one of the best rock records I have heard. Ever. The chemistry on this album is so intense that I get chills every single time I hear it, and I’ve listened to it hundreds of times. The addition of Dave Grohl’s drumming genius just makes it all that much better, but make no mistake — QOTSA are Josh and Nick. The crust around that core may change with each album, but I think it’s safe to assume that it’s going to rock no matter what. This album is best listened to at maximum decibel levels.

Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars: I don’t remember how I first heard of Josh, but when I listened to his album I was elated. It was a dreamy mix of unique vocals, simplicity and some of the loveliest songs I had heard all year. I could count on this album to lift me when I was down and inspire me to write when my tank felt empty. I could certainly count on someone thanking me for introducing them to this album — it just feels like home. I can’t say that about many, but it’s such a cozy bunch of songs.

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Behind The Music: I debated whether or not to put this album at the top of the heap. It was up there a few times, but when the dust settled there were titles that I had spent more time with. Others were just better albums, plain and simple. This will be one of those that I play quite often in the future. Every song is timeless. Yeah, I know that’s just so cliché, but listen to it and try to tell me otherwise. I could recommend this album to almost anyone I know. It’s accessible without being too calculated and it’s just damn good rock ‘n’ roll.

Superdrag – Last Call For Vitriol: If I chose a few bands that I could count on for great records nearly every single time they made one, Superdrag would be near the top of the list. I still cannot figure out for the life of me why more people don’t know who this band is and why they aren’t as popular as they should be. This album is just good rock ‘n’ roll. It’s so catchy, you’ll be singing along within a few listens and it sounds great at ear drum-piercing volume. I’m still convinced that Superdrag are rock saviors and this album just reaffirms it. Pop sensibility intact, this band will not give up (until they die of lung cancer or sorosis of the liver).

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Color me a fan of Jeff Tweedy (Uncle Tupelo and Wilco included). While this album may not be for everyone, if you strip away the sometimes overdone atmospherics, you are left with some of Tweedy’s finest. Don’t get me wrong, I think the creative and stark production is fine, for the most part. The album stands as a whole. Take one of the songs away and you’d be left with something incomplete. It sounds and even feels epic at times. One thing you can count on is Tweedy’s uncompromising vision and knack for writing some great songs. Admittedly, it took me quite a few listens to really enjoy this album, but the moment the enjoyment began, it never stopped.

Some Other Essential Albums From 2002

The Actual Tigers – Gravelled And Green

Ryan Adams – Demolition

Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk

Beck – Sea Change

Brenden Benson – Lapalco

Bright Eyes – Lifted

Candidate – Tiger Flies

The Chemical Brothers – Come With Us

Clinic – Walking With Thee

The Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through And Leave

The Coral – The Coral

Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel

DJ Shadow – The Private Press

The Donnas – Spend The Night

The Electric Soft Parade – Holes In The Wall

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Foo Fighters – One By One

Frou Frou – Details

Missy Eliott – Under Construction

Haven – Between The Senses

Hot Snakes – Suicide Invoice

Idlewild – The Remote Part

Ben Kweller – Sha Sha

Low – Trust

Aimee Mann – Lost In Space

Mastodon – Remission

Tom McRae – Tom McRae

Mellowdrone – A Demonstration Of Intellectual Property

Tift Merrit – Bramble Rose

Rhett Miller – The Instigator

My Vitriol – Finelines

Nirvana – Nirvana

Oasis – Heathen Chemistry

Pulp – We Love Life

Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way

The Roots – Phrenology

Röyksopp – Melody A.M.

Sigur Rös – ()

Sparta – Wiretap Scars

Spoon – Kill The Moonlight

The Vines – Highly Evolved

Paul Westerberg – Stereo/Mono

Top 10 Concerts Attended In 2002

01) Thom Yorke (Bridge School Benefit Performance) @ Shoreline Amphitheater

02) The Soundtrack Of Our Lives @ The Troubadour

03) Coldplay @ The Greek Theater

04) Interpol @ The Troubadour

05) The Hives @ The Roxy Theater

06) And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead @ The El Rey Theater

07) The Foo Fighters @ House Of Blues (Anaheim, CA)

08) Sparta @ The Troubadour

09) Superdrag @ The Troubadour

10) Doves/Elbow @ The Mayan Theater

13 thoughts on “The Tops (Slightly Revised)”

  1. I realize that this is your personal top 10 – that it’s your opinion, which means the list is absolutely correct – and I know just from reading the site that Songs for the Deaf really struck a [power] chord with you. However, I have to say that the albums by Trail of Dead and Wilco, not to mention Spoon and Interpol, are just overwhelmingly better albums than QotSA. Those four albums hang together so tightly, using so much innovation combined with classic songwriting, that I would think it automatically nomintates at least one of them for a number one choice. Particularly Trail of Dead, such an epic sounding record that you can only imagine how much work and energy went into it.
    The QotSA album, on the other hand, while exploding into the first three tracks, beings to meander and lose it’s epic quality. Sure, there was a period of two months where I woke up with a different song from the second half of the album every day, but it usually took me a few minutes to realize what track it was; they are all horribly similar in form and undertaking. (It’s on my top 10 anyway)

    Also, I doubt that the Vines will ever make anything that should be deemed essential (Oasis either for that matter, but that’s much more debateable).

    Not to bash, just to weigh in with my feelings. And I guess I can’t say much until my own top ten is posted, but that will have to wait until this weekend.

  2. Peter – The comments are much appreciated. Part of me thought about not even numbering the albums because, well, just as you said, there are other albums in the list that may well deserve the top spot for various reasons. I agree that the QOTSA album peters out a bit in places, but I also think that the strong songs made up for that. Anyway, like you said, it’s my own opinion. As far as complete albums from start to finish go, you’re right, there are others that are better.

  3. ok, so I only have a top 5. and I don’t know if they’re all really the best of 2002, but they’re all albums that I have spent many hours listening to and that have brought me much happiness and comfort this year. I figure they’re the best albums simply because I played them the most, and because I like every single song on them. they are:

    Queens Of The Stone Age . Songs For The Deaf

    This album struck me like a freakin bolt of lightning. it’s so solid and so heartfelt and so striking. it’s complex in a way that’s not forced and is still accessible. every one of the musicians that worked on this record seems passionate about the music, and that comes across in every song. it’s one of those albums that I will be listening to for a long time.

    Spoon . Kill The Moonlight

    I wasn’t immediately struck by this one, probably because I was expecting more of what they’ve done in the past. but it really grew on me. this album has so much to listen to. it twists things around and makes my ears perk up wondering what to expect next.

    Bright Eyes . Lifted…

    When a friend lent me Fevers And Mirrors about a year ago, she warned me saying not to listen to it when I’m sad or it would make me feel worse. I didn’t always find that to be true, but it’s not exactly a cheery album. Lifted is still as (if not more) wonderfully complex and insane and so beautifully fucked up, while the mood is brought up a notch (just a tad). when all that tension swells up with those strings halfway through a song, I’m just sitting there in awe. Bright Eyes songs are like little story books packed with all sorts of things that you just want to spend some time looking through.

    Foo Fighters . One By One

    I didn’t really know what to expect with this one as I found There Is Nothing Left To Lose pretty disappointing. but as soon as I started playing One By One, I couldn’t really stop. I just can’t stay away from the heavy guitars and those wonderful melodic voices. they’re masters at combining the heavy with the sweet.

    Bright Eyes/Britt Daniel . Post Parlo Records HOME split cd series, Volume 4

    ok, I know this isn’t a full album and it should be on some other list or something, but I really don’t care. it is four amazing songs and an incredible pairing of talent and it was released in 2002, so it’s on my list. these guys need to record more together. the writing that comes from both Conor Oberst and Britt Daniel for their own projects is always smart and thought provoking (and always sounds so so so good) so it’s no surprise that I find this to be so amazing.

  4. OMG, Bradsky- that list is soooo trying too hard. Come on, shug—now, Kitty’s been around (and around, lol!) enough to know what’s hot and what’s not and this here list is buried so far deep underground it may not reach surface for years or at least until my next surgical make-over – ha! – Ok, right– maybe that’ll happen first, wink, wink! TOTAL LOL!

    Y’all are freakin heady about the shite—hey, kids… wake-up, its just music! Get up, shake that thang, jiggy-jiggy, funked-up fun times, ok? LOL!!! Why all the hang-dog seriousness? You crazy ho’s just took a tweezer and damn-well dissected the thing to ‘nth’ degree and not only do I not know what the beJesus y’all are saying but who are these bands anyway? Ever heard of the Top bloody 40? I mean, Casey Kasem just had a coronary and went to Heaven! LOL!

    Its Holiday time, gang! Now, I say holiday because its very pc and even here where I live (North-easterly Bev Hills flats) there are different kinds of Christmases for different beliefs. Don’t shit on my Xmas tree and I won’t sit and spin on your dreidel – Ha! – Full-on: Roflol! I like it all, really I do. Music is the language of the heart and we need to keep the vibe fan-frickin-tabulous for all. Everyone’s all good and Kitty can get freaky all up in yo shit, just wash yourself nice and good before you get all up in mine – LOL! And make sure my big fat lug-o-hubby, Keith ain’t around.

    Kitty’s List:
    Justin Timberlake – omg, honey is as cute as cute gets. Little “J Tim” (that’s what I call him) can release a cd of himself spitting up and you can bet Miss Kitty Stitch will be there to purchase. And another thing, I’ll kick the twat right offa any twit who even tries to lay a hand on his chicken ass – ha – ROFLOL (Kitty’s been over-served too much egg-nog, please – ha!)

    No Doubt – feisty, funky, super duper No Doubt junky, I am! Hella tasty – lol! I like to chew gum and drive when I hear this cd. Keith can’t stand my “screeching” as he so lovingly refers to it. He calls them a young “tween” girl’s band. Heck, Kitty’ll take a compliment (back-handed or otherwise) wherever she can get it– lol!

    Pink – this here’s Kitty’s kind of kick-ass, gimme a Jack Daniels mixed, plastic bottle cocktail and watch out kinda music. Home girl is ready to kill us all if we even think about crossing her. Go Pink, go Pink, go Pink! She [one of] my little pills. Pop, gulp! (lol!)

    Missy Elliott – Bitch don’t care if you don’t like her or if someone just shitted in yo cornflakes, dig this cd for breakfast lunch and dinner or Miss Missy be over yo house lickity split to kill it wit a skillet, mu’fuckers. (this is one young brad and I agree on ‘cept he put it way lo!)

    Cher – So it’s the exact same cd she put out last year, ‘cept this time she’s blonde. She can do as she pleases. Myself, I like to put it on and boogie while I watch the maid do housework – ha – lol!!!

    Shania Twain – am I crazy or is she way country AND a mega bit rock ’n roll? I’m sayin’ pure Donny & Marie style, full tilt boogie!!! Take that – lol! Shania has the total package, the bitch – lol! She could do a Summer variety TV series that features wacky skits, b-level stars and power ballad dance numbers that’d totally blow the ratings off the meter. This is music, homies.

    Celine – Sister honey has got herself a pair of lungs – Yeeeeow! Celine and subtlety are like oil and water. So how come I keep listening to this obnoxious broad? Does every picking song have to lead up to a giant mu’fuckin’ beltering wail like she’s passing a small animal out her backside? Love, hate is all I can say. My best friend Katrina (yes, we’re talking again) blasts this in her Lincoln Navigator every time we go anywhere. It’s just by some freaky, habitual, Pavlovian backfiring mishap that she’s even on my list. Whatever. She does have nice nails.

    J-Lo – Okay, I had to throw this in for my very own tub-o-love, personal Santa, Keith or else Kitty won’t make out like she plans come baby-jesus’ b-day, ok? Got myself one fierce wish list this year and I gotta make nice (since I done took care of the naughty already – hee hee – lol!) J Lo shows a lot of titty and booty. She’s got a new husband for every season and she may still be Jenny from the Block—just, so help me God, keep her off mine! I’ll rip those tittys right off, bitch.

    Eminem – the best white rapper with the hottest ‘blaccent’ going—it sound so real! LOL! He’s naughty, he’s nasty, he’s cute as a button and to quote Sharon Osbourne, “If I want to look at this raggedy little white boy’s ass, I will.” Better yet, this trailer park girl is ready to put him over my knee and give him something to rap about! ROFLOL!!!

    N’Sync – Hotties with a hunkering for pop meets soul and I’m ready to pop my stuff every time I hear ‘em. Justin’s the real hero here. Keith thinks they’re all homos – poofs, he says. He’s just jealous he can’t dance like that. Course, except for Justin and the big Guido one, I’m inclined to agree. LOL! I think this might just be one big on-the-road circle jerk, go girls! Ha – lol! But you can’t deny the sexy fun beats no matter who be touchin’ who’s young hot meat – HA! – Kitty’s gone full blown rap now, suckas! LOL!!!!!

    Happy 2003 too, bottom’s up – tee hee! LOL(squared)!!!

  5. wow, that was faantastic. 😀

    i have to admit that i do find “jenny from the block” pretty catchy though. and i actually like ‘nsync.

    anyway, my personal top 5 (where nothing really new is mentioned…and i still haven’t listened to a lot of stuff):

    1. wilco–yankee hotel foxtrot (liked it immediately. now i love it.)

    2. spoon–kill the moonlight (another one that i was instantly drawn to)

    3. matthew barber–means and ends (canadian singer-songwriter that i’ve been listening to a lot lately)

    4. bright eyes/britt daniel–post-parlo home vol. 4 ep (i have to agree w/ the girl above–it is fantastic and addictive)

    5. clinic–walking w/ thee (wish i could’ve caught a live show…i hear they speed up their playing to an insane tempo)

    special mentions:
    aimee mann, jason mraz, the dears, tmbg

  6. I have to admit that i completely missed out on the Trail of dead… all year i’ve been meaning to get the new record, and then i kind of forgot about it. I bet i’m gonna love it and it will end up on my “missed in 2002” list.. oh well.
    I’m still working on my top 10, but i can say for sure that i’ll have at least a 20% overlap with your list, maybe a 30%…

  7. Mine favorite 15 would be the following, in no order.

    Plush – Fed
    Sondre Lerche – Faces Down
    My Morning Jacket – Chocolate & Ice EP
    Ours – Precious
    Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars
    Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
    Badly Drawn Boy – Have You Fed the Fish?
    Chris Robinson – New Earth Mud
    Mellowdrone – A Demonstration of Intellectual Property EP
    Ed Harcourt – Here Be Monsters
    Beck – Sea Change
    Craig Chaquico – Shadow and Light
    Ani DiFranco – So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter

    The Ed Harcourt and Sondre Lerche albums were released in 2001, but not in the US. So I include them.

  8. Wot no Radar Bros.? ‘And the Surrounding Mountains’ in the stand out album of the year.

  9. These are the albums that i enjoyed the most this past year, i can’t say they were the best written or produced, but they were my favorites.
    i spent this year going back to albums that i missed or were released earlier, so i’m sure i missed a lot of great albums released this year…but this is it

    coldplay – a rush of blood to the head
    interpol – turn on the bright lights
    doves – last broadcast
    frou frou – details
    beck – sea change
    gemma hayes – night on my side
    damien rice – O
    flaming lips – yoshimi battles the pink robots
    bright eyes – lifted
    n.e.r.d. – in search of…
    eels – souljacker
    josh rouse – under cold blue stars
    k’s choice – almost happy (2002 US release)
    duncan sheik – daylight
    donnie darko soundtrack

    (some of the release dates of these albums were not exactly in 2002, but i found out about them this year, so that’s reason enough for me)

  10. well, i haven’t listened to nearly enough music this year, so i’ll only be listing my top 5 (in no particular order).

    badly drawn boy – have you fed the fish?
    beck – sea change
    wilco – yankee hotel foxtrot
    coldplay – a rush of blood to the head
    ben kweller – sha sha

  11. i will second the fantastic picks of the majority, possibly with the exception of justin timberlake and j. lo, but have to add a pacific northwest band that put out my favorite album of 2002. the long winters – the worst you can do is harm, on barsuk records. and they’ve got a new one coming out in the spring! how much better can things get?

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