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 canít 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 wasnít 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