steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

best of 2002
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The Top 20 Albums of 2002
Here are our picks for the best twenty records of the past year.  The year was a good one - lots of excellent records were put out, and it was hard to choose just twenty.  Please do tell us about what we forgot about / shouldn't have included.  Also, you can send us your list - we just may like it so much that we post it!

20. Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador)

With all the hype, Interpol's debut was guaranteed to be absolutely raped by critics. People everywhere were calling it mediocre, unworthy of the attention it was getting. But all this anger really isn't justified - the truth is, this is a very enjoyable, powerful album. And though not the Revolver 2002 music fans were hoping for, the record is still an excellent one.

19. Bran Flakes Bounces! (Happi Tyme)

Collecting a whole new tubful of obscure thrift store oddity records and other assorted sounds, The Bran Flakes have managed yet again to make a bunch of lame stuff cool. From the bassline of "Another One Bites The Dust" to a truly idiotic rendition of that old "Ding Dong Bell" nursery rhyme, there isn't anything that the Flakes haven't touched upon.  With all thinks considered,  Bounces! is easily 2002's funniest release.

18. Hollydrift This Way To Escape (Public Eyesore)

Deep, dark audio collages, ambient textures, synthesized backdrops ... Hollydrift's new album proved to be quite a change of pace from his previous outings, but his new style is certainly welcome. Though certainly a shocker album to be showing up on a Best of 2002 list (what's that, it's a cdr?), it definitely deserves it. Not since Fenn'o'berg have I been this satisfied with an experimental release. So dark and beautiful.... so dark and beautiful...

17. Badly Drawn Boy About A Boy (Artist Direct)

After his brilliant debut release, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, Damon Gough was faced with the daunting task of recording a follow-up album. As About A Boy makes obvious, he was certainly up for the challenge. The album sees Gough as a totally different man; though his talent for crafting delicious pop melodies remains intact, his music seems much less folky. Though some songs miss the mark a bit, the majority of this full-length (actually a score for the film of the same name) is good good fun.

16. In Flames Reroute to Remain (Nuclear Blast)

Reroute to Remain marks one of In Flames' most accessible albums to date, and whether that is a good thing is up for argument. However, despite this newfound catchiness, the band still have the power to rip you apart. With ultra-powerful riffs, aggressive growling, and the ultimate in Maiden-esque axe solos, In Flames manage to add a sense of melody to the violent Scandinavian metal sound, creating a fantastically enjoyable hybrid. Perfect evidence can be found in "System," which rollicks along relentlessly, attacking you with a barrage of power riffs and - surprise surprise! - melody. Some metal fans will avoid this, but their cool new sound will likely win over a whole new generation of fans.

15. Kid 606 The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You The Fucking Jams (Violent Turd)

No Top 20 list is complete without this album. Upon its release, The Action Packed Mentallist... made such a stir that just about everyone knew about it. Not since John Oswald's infamous Plunderphonics album has someone shown such an utter disregard for copyright laws. Culling together and FUCKING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF so many songs, from Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" to The Buggles' classic "Video Killed The Radio Star," the Kid will get you dancing (or spasming, as it may be) like nothing else - that is, if you can handle his hardcore electronic rush.

14. Q And Not U Different Damage (Dischord)

Though relatively ignored, especially in comparision to 2000's fanastic No Kill No Beep Beep, Different Damage is a fantastic follow-up. Consistently producing tons upon tons of catchy, angular songs, Q And Not U are proving themselves to be one of the most impressive acts on the Dischord roster. It's hard to ignore the immediate accessibility of tracks like "So Many Animal Calls" and "Recreation Myth" - and their powerful, post-hardcore sound manages to maintain a host of strong, sonic properties while still remaining joyously danceable.  Sweet.

13. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

Well what am I supposed to say? Huh? Hasn't enough already been said about YHF? And, really, just one listen to "Ashes of American Flags" replaces any comments I - or anyone else for that matter - could possibly come up with. Take that, Reprise Records!

12. Deltoro Ashtray Yoga (Datawaslost)

From Cincinnati indie label Datawaslost comes this little darling. Planted firmly in minor key, Deltoro's music really gets to you. But in a good way. You'll be able to hum such classics like "I'm No Angel" (not an Allman Brothers cover!) for months after - despite their eerie, minor chords and discordant singing. This album, as well as 2.2 Kid Life's fantastic debut, really prove what a musical city Cincinnati is.

11. Opeth Deliverance (Koch International)

Consisting of merely six long, epic tracks, Opeth's Deliverance truly is an achievement in modern black metal. Hailing from Sweden, the band has been both torturing and pleasing ears for quite a few years now. This is their latest release, and is also, arguably, their best. Though Opeth have quite the talent for the growly, violent side of things, they also know how to include calmer parts to their music. The title track is a perfect example; although often raucous, the song does take time to slow things down a bit, introducing a beautiful, sorrowful sound to the audience, only to pick up the energy again a few minutes later. Deliverance is both beautiful and terrifying.

10. The Walkmen Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone (StarTime)

Deep, fragmented pop songs from the band that was poised to become the next Strokes. One wonders how this could have been likened to anything the Strokes have done - what an insult! Anyway, this is sure to turn up on many best of 2002 lists, but you're reading it here first, folks! Unless, of course, you've already read it elsewhere.  Dang.

9. L'altra In The Afternoon (Aesthetics)

I received this album in April, and it still sits on top of the computer monitor for those times when I need it. Now that's longetivity! Each song is like a whole wad of tracks crushed into one; they're deep, they're dense, and they never get old. And though the album definitely has a glum, dreary sound to it, it never suffers from being too weepy. To put it simply, In The Afternoon is the perfect soundtrack for everything sad, from those post-break-up "I wanna kill myself" episodes to the rainy days that kinda get you down.

8. Minus The Bear Highly Refined Pirates (Suicide Squeeze)

I dislike emo. Well, that's being a little brash there; I hate a considerable amount of emo. But that doesn't stop me from totally digging this album. With complex rhythms, angular guitars, and oh-so-cool melodies, the band look like they're out to save their poor old genre. Minus The Bear's Highly Refined Pirates starts off with the beautiful "Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister," getting you immediately into the action. Another highlight is the five minute "Let's Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band," which calls to mind comparisons to both Modest Mouse and Faraquet. Emo and math rock fans absolutely must go out and track this down (even if the band themselves swear they aren't math rock), and all other indie rockers would definitely be advised to check it out. Nice.

7. Fiesel The Ruins of This Life (Losing Blueprint)

Oh man. I was blown away by their debut EP a while back. I didn't think it could get much better than that. And while The Ruins of this Life is a very different release, it just proves that Fiesel can hold up perfectly when given a larger canvas to work with. Angular, abrasive, yet immediately accessible, this could be one of this year's best debut albums.

6. Taking Pictures Friends Are Ghosts (My Pal God)

When three quarters of the legendary rock outfit Hurl form a band, an awful lot is expected. Fortunately, Taking Pictures really lived up to their expectations, releasing Friends Are Ghosts, a beautiful, epic album that can be played for weeks without getting stale. Nice.

5. 2.2 Kid Life The Escape Artist (Ionik)

Criminally ignored by the majority of indie fans, The Escape Artist is a lo-fi gem in the true sense of the word. All alone, using vocals, guitars, and a synthesized rhythm section, 2.2 Kid Life (aka Frank Longano) brings the listener to a dreamy world of pop. Sometimes beautifully cheery, as evidenced in the fantastic "The Tarot Card Reader," and at others drearily depressing, as seen in the classic "The Pros and Cons of Avoiding Adulthood," the album runs through many different emotions and feelings. 2.2 Kid Life has restored our faith in the lo-fi indie scene (like we could ever live without it).

4. No Knife Riot For Romance! (Better Looking)

Undeniably catchy and amazingly cool, No Knife's latest album will have you hooked in no time. In an era where everything's becoming all too derivative and stale, this little San Diego quartet managed to record something so fresh and new that indie rockers everywhere couldn't help but lend an ear. Just one listen, man, and you'll know what I'm talkin' about.

3. The Notwist Neon Golden (City Slang)

Is there anyone who doesn't like this album? Dense, layered backgrounds of guitars and other instruments are mingled with breakbeats and layed below Markus Achler's calm, yet gritty voice; the results are astounding. "One With The Freaks," for example, is a tear-enducingly beautiful track. The jangly guitars and talk-sing vocals lend the song that familiar indie rock sound, and the fantastically programmed rhythm section gives it a bit of a space-age feeling. "Solitaire," meanwhile, is a bit more electronic, calling to mind unfortunate Radiohead similarities. But the album works best as a whole, where all the tracks come together perfectly. As its February release date may suggest, Neon Golden isn't an album to be forgotten.

2. Enon High Society (Touch And Go)

Switching labels to Touch and Go after the closing of SeeThru Broadcasting, Enon's sophomore release proves to be even more impressive than 2000's Believo! "Disposable Parts" is a short, beat-driven little number. "Leave It To Rust" is an unbelievably catchy little tidbit. "Shoulder" is the finest in female-fronted robot pop. And the energetic title track, well, it could be the finest tune here. Essential, methinks.

1. Chris Cacavas Bumbling Home From The Star (Normal)

Ohh.... now this is a record! We've heard a lot about those instantly catchy records these days, but what about the instantly classic ones? In a year of extravagance - from ultra-glossy pop divas to explosive garage rock revivalists - Cacavas somehow manages to prove him and his band better than all of them. Just one listen to the album's first track, "Sucker," and you'll be hooked. Though its Germany-only release guarantees hefty import costs in stores, any price you'll have to pay will be worth it.  The best album of 2002, folks!  Take heed.

The Top 5 Reissues and Boxsets of 2002
Reissues are a tricky thing.  Boxsets even trickier.  That is why it's completely essential that we list some of the best ones to come out this year.  There's nothing like paying homage to the past.

5. Camper Van Beethoven Cigarettes and Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years (Cooking Vinyl)

The ultimate collection from everyone's favourite art-punk-indie-college rock band! The box contains their first four (out-of-print) albums, and a disc chockful of unreleased live material. Remember "Take The Skinheads Bowling"? Of course you do.

4. San Francisco's Shiver (Shadoks Media)

So yeah, nobody knows about them - but who cares? In a year of so many high-profile reissues, Shiver's record stuck out. This was raw, high-energy acid rock as it was meant to be performed - a pure slice of the real scene. With all the energy of a live concert, this one artifact of Shiver's music offered us a rare taste of what we all missed out on. Beware, it will make all your Steppenwolf records sound like Paul Anka in comparison.

3. Drive Like Jehu Yank Crime (Swami)


2. Pavement Slanted And Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe (Matador)

Following Pavement's break-up, it was only a matter of time before Matador started working on the reissues, and it seems they've started at the start. Packaged as a fantastic double-cd set, the reissue collects all of the band's first album, as well as adding a whole discful of other goodies. The b-sides, oddities, and unreleased tracks will surely satisfy any Pavement fan waiting for the next Jicks record.

1. Jimmie Rodgers Recordings 1927 - 1933 (JSP Records)

This is the ultimate box set. It's comprehensive, it's listenable, it's musically important, and it's totally inexpensive (my copy ran 33 dollars Canadian). Combining all of the songs Jimmie Rodgers ever recorded, save one, these five discs collect an important part of history. Though it lacks all the second takes and unreleased stuff Bear Family's Singing Brakeman box boasts, who really wants to pay an extra hundred dollars for a sixth, completely inessential disc? Buy this if you can find it.


Honorable Mentions for the Top 20 Albums List (in no particular order)

Venetian Snares Winter in the Belly of a Snake (Planet Mu)
VSNARES 2370894 (Planet Mu)
Liars They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top (Blast First / Mute)
Squarepusher Do You Know Squarepusher (Warp)
Sigur Ros ( ) (Fatcat)
Radboud Mens & Jaap Blonk BEK (Brombron)
Dromedary Artifact (Solponticello)
Atombombpocketknife God Save the ABPK (Southern)
And, especially, a fantastic little album: Gameboyzz Orchestra Project Lajv Ad Hom (Mik.Musik)


Best Band Anagram: MOTORHEAD turns to MATH RODEO

Funniest Band Name: ggtctttat

Most Bizarre Oddity: Collin Olan's rec01
(Two waterproof contact microphones were frozen inside a 10" by 10" block of ice.  The ice was then submerged in water and the recording was started, lasting until the ice had finished melting.  No processing was made to the recording, although small digital errors were removed.  The results were rec01.)

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