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Top Ten

The Year in Music

Laptop Dance: Kid 606 mixed and mashed his way to a new (not strictly legal) sound.

Top Ten 2002

The Year in News The Maryland Lottery announces its relocation to Montgomery Park, a new redevelopment of the... | By Van Smith and Erin Sullivan

The Year in Film It was an absolutely fantastic year for movie lovers of all kinds.

The Year in Music The tail end of 2001 brought out the flag-waving American in almost every musician, but we really...

The Year in Local Music Surely I wasn't the only person in town who read The Sun's Sunday, Dec. | By Bret McCabe

The Year in Books 1 Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin) You know a novel is going to...

The Year in Television Two weeks ago, when Roone Arledge --the instrumental TV producer who created such broadcast...

The Year in Art 1Painted Prints at Baltimore Museum of Art Judging from the exhibit's subtitle--The Revelation of... | By Mike Giuliano

The Year on Stage 1Fences at Everyman Theatre A good play is entertaining, but a great play can transport you to...

Posted 12/18/2002

The tail end of 2001 brought out the flag-waving American in almost every musician, but we really should have guessed that 2002 would be a year for the Statement Album. Capital "A" Artists had a case of the subterranean post-Sept. 11 blues and turned to song for reflection and catharsis. Hence the Boss dusting off the E Street Band, getting a full hour on Nightline from Ted Koppel, and unleashing the anthemic The Rising. Hence Sleater-Kinney sounding uncharacteristically unhinged on One Beat. Even Scarface's The Fix--the gangsta Time Out of Mind--feels like a meditation on mortality. The 9/11 factor was so commonplace that it was piled on albums that were recorded and originally set to come out way before Sept. 11 (hello, Wilco).

Thing is, a spoonful of reality doesn't help the pop go down for Americans. Pop is supposed to provide an escape. And the opportunistic knew it was better to pillage the past rather than ponder it, resulting in another wave of nostalgia peppering 2002's radio waves and music channels.

Problem was, we really didn't know where they wanted to escape to. We were grindin' one minute, taking off all our clothes the next. We offered up some righteous indignation courtesy the red, white, and blue, and said "see you later" to sk8ter bois. We believed J. Lo is still just another 'round the block Bronx chica, and we encouraged Pink not to let her get her. We crawled up Weezer's "Dope Nose," let Puddle of Mudd have "Control," partied hard with Andrew W.K., went "Underneath It All" with No Doubt, and were Pavlovianly seduced by Ashanti's 75 "baby's" in just under four and a half minutes.

In other words, music really didn't know what to do with itself, and this year was the most confused pop music's been since MTV started creating the first national top-40 radio station. Pop toyed with justifying its existence, but wisely settled for repackaging and reselling what worked once before, though more oft than not it came off sounding as confused as Mariah Carey.

Need proof? Thanks to the White Stripes 2001 coup, good, old-fashioned American rawk was born again hard in '02, though its biggest proponents were Australians the Vines and Scandinavians such as the Hives, Soundtrack of Our Lives, and the (International) Noise Conspiracy. Female vocalists who had a license to print money in the 1990s--Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston--dropped albums that even VH-1 shunned. Sure-thing heavyweights R. Kelly and Jay-Z recorded an album that--and there's no kind way to put this--sucked.

The kicker curve ball was that one of the most uplifting, just-believe-in-yourself songs ever made was turned in by none other than Eminem. Yes, Eminem. The little punk who taunted white America with his The Eminem Show went Hollywood and came out of 8 Mile looking like Horatio Alger. Looking back at his output, though, the arrival of the Eminem 2.0 isn't that surprising. Lest we forget, Em's the sort of MC who beefed with such hard-core thugs as his mother, his ex-wife, Moby, 'N Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick, Lynne Cheney, and a hand puppet. And once you roll up on Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, you really have to take stock of who you calling your enemies.

But music's personality crisis was really palpable in the music buzzing just below pop's surface. And it almost sounded as if it grew in Ground Zero's very ashes. From the once again gritty streets of New York, electroclash (new wave with better PR), postpunk, and other collisions of fashion, art, rock, and Manhattan fabulousness bubbled out of NYC as if the jittery anxiety that fueled the Big Apple's music explosion of the late 1970s/early 1980s never happened. Perhaps for this particular generation of twentynothings, it didn't.

Uncertainty is the lone thread that runs through the top 10 albums voted by City Paper writers--Tom Breihan, Ray Cummings, Michaelangelo Matos, Bret McCabe, Tina Plottel, Jason Torres, Tony Ware, Mikael Wood (see their full ballots here--though it's handled in different ways. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy turns to intimacy, Missy Elliott turns frowns upside down, and Beck embraces the doldrums. Whatever the case, 2002 brought music down so long that come 2003, up may be the only option left. (Bret McCabe)


The Streets Original Pirate Material (Vice) With his full-length debut, 22-year-old Mike "the Streets" Skinner was introduced as the most intoxicatingly funky mouthpiece for bleak and blisteringly funny U.K. social observation since Irvine Welsh. Taking his challenge to push things forward personally, Skinner and his geezers took the U.K. garage blend of rap, R&B, and ragga from the club to the pub, regular blokes talking and toking. With a bobbing faucet of spoken-word flow over minimalist beats and ominous strings, the Streets redefined "keeping it real" as average, a gritty life of birds not bitches, the dole not diamonds, crisps not Cristal. (Tony Ware)


Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) Foxtrot matches every ounce of hype and controversy heralding its seven-months-late release with double that measure of brilliance. From the day-glo pro-meathead bounce of "Heavy Metal Drummer" to the devastation foretold in "Jesus, etc." to the stately "Ashes of American Flags," Wilco's fourth record oozes tuneful melodies and delectable punch lines like, "Phone my family/ Tell them I'm lost on the sidewalk." Lyrically, frontman Jeff Tweedy couldn't decide whether to be oblique or intimate with his audience; he settled for a happy medium and delivered a sublime, sweet 'n' sour masterpiece. (Raymond Cummings)


Beck Sea Change (Geffen) Beck didn't get serious on Sea Change, his seventh album of information-age blues, he just got lucid. He's always been one tired dude, and with no girlfriend's shoulder to lean on, lugging around two turntables and a damn microphone can get way hectic. So he did what doe-eyed Southern Californians have been doing for decades and got his Jackson Browne on, floating his acoustic guitar in Nigel Godrich's digital slipstream and singing his sad, sad cowboy songs to an open Los Angeles sky. (Mikael Wood)


Missy Elliott Under Construction (Elektra) However futurismo her videos or beats may be, Missy is less a superhuman than an ideal older sister or best friend, someone who not only knows how to have a good time but what those good times are worth. Getting fabulous cameos out of Jay-Z, Ludacris, Method Man, Beyoncé Knowles, and Ms. Jade, and glossing over inadequacies in concept and content with her irrepressible persona and Timbaland's insanely detailed production, she is pop's voracious, lovable reigning queen. (Michaelangelo Matos)


Sleater-Kinney One Beat (Kill Rock Stars) On Sleater-Kinney's sixth album, Corin Tucker's wail takes on new depth and urgency as the group's intricate, stripped-down two-guitar, no-bass interplay hits every single pleasure center. The Only Band That Matters responds to motherhood and the threat of war with a tense, harrowing, passionate, and ultimately triumphant monster of a record, equal parts dance party and a call to arms. (Tom Breihan)


Various artists Boom Selection_Issue 01 (Boom Selection import) How do you parse a monument? Don't be silly--you can't. But you can have fun wallowing around in one. This staggering collection--three MP3-CDs featuring 432 tracks and 11 DJ mixes totaling 34 hours--is too, too much. But it's also a smorgasbord, a world unto itself, and, frequently, it's a better version of the one you hear on the radio. And making your own Best Bootlegs in the World Ever compilations from it is the year's wickedest pleasure. (Michaelangelo Matos)


N.E.R.D. In Search Of . . . (Virgin) What's up with folks talking about how Pharrell Williams can't sing? On In Search Of . . ., the debut by Williams' and co-Neptune Chad Hugo's ostensible rock band N.E.R.D., 2002's most seriously overworked duo show off all the shit Noreaga wasn't down with trying: syrupy synth-pop, Stevie Wonder-ful freedom-funk, hissy-fit rap-rock, trashy Hank Williams Jr. hick-hop. But the album also introduces Williams, he of the tilted mesh cap and insouciant falsetto, as the kind of pop star 2003 truly deserves. (Mikael Wood)


Canyon Empty Rooms (Gern Blandsten) In a year that sounded like record companies gave deals to too many kids who once bought a Minor Threat record, Washington, D.C.'s best 2002 offering has more in common with Wilco than Fugazi. Canyon is a little bit country to the rest of the District's rock 'n' roll, and its latest, Empty Rooms, is a collection of the most melodic, heartbreaking, and lusciously arranged songs that hit deep in the place usually reserved for ballads by Johnny Cash. (Tina Plottel)


Kid606 The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams (Violent Turd) Let P. Diddy believe he invented the remix--Kid606 really doesn't give a damn. Hijacking two decades of pop music and feeding it--illegally, mind you--into his laptop, Kid606 doesn't settle for the momentary wit of mash-up juxtaposition. Instead, he reinterprets the familiar, grafting jazz quotation onto glitch's breakneck tempos to create tautly structured song collage that skirts nostalgia and novelty. No matter the source, Jams doesn't make the old new again, it makes the old relevant again. (Bret McCabe)


Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf (Interscope) In a year that witnessed a garage-rock revival, Queens of the Stone Age preferred to rawk in the most unfashionable way--big, dumb, and flat-out fun. Stone Age men Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri delivered a solid hour of sledgehammer charisma in Songs for the Deaf, which was packed to the gills with great melodies and kick-ass riffs. And they did it without whining about broken homes, without assuming any political pose, and without turntables. They did it without trying to sell anything--except units and proof that Dave Grohl was born to play the skins, not sing. (Jason Torres)

The Ballots

Tom Breihan
1. Sleater-Kinney One Beat (Kill Rock Stars)
2. Primal Scream Evil Heat (Sony)
3. Cex Tall, Dark, and Handcuffed 17
4. Atmosphere God Loves Ugly (Fat Beats Records/ Rhymesayers)
5. Radio 4, Gotham (Gern Blandsten)
6. Pretty Girls Make Graves, Good Health (Lookout!)
7. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 2: the Gift and the Curse (Def Jam)
8. Missy Elliott, Under Construction (Under Construction)
9. The Streets, Original Pirate Material (Vice)
10. Mates of State Our Constant Concern (Polyvinyl)

Raymond Cummings
1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
2. Yume Bitsu, The Golden Vessyl Of Sound (K)
3. Kimya Dawson, I'm Sorry That Sometimes I'm Mean (Rough Trade/Sanctuary)
4. Calvin Johnson, What Was Me (K)
5. Ladytron, Light & Magic (Emperor Norton)
6. Sonic Youth, Murray Street (DGC)
7. Chemical Brothers, Come With Us (Astralwerks)
8. Clinic, Walking With Thee (Domino)
9. Guided By Voices, Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)
10. Eyes Adrift, Eyes Adrift (spinART)

Michaelangelo Matos
1. Boom Selection_Issue 01 (Boom Selection import)
2. The Streets Original Pirate Material (Vice)
3. Sleater-Kinney One Beat (Kill Rock Stars)
4. Clipse Lord WillinĘ (Star Trak)
5. Luna Romantica (Jetset)
6. Orchestra Super Mazembe Giants of East Africa (Earthworks)
7. Playgroup Playgroup (Source/Astralwerks)
8. Clinic Walking With Thee (Domino)
9. Missy Elliott Under Construction (Elektra)
10. Pantytec Pony Slaystation (Perlon)

Bret McCabe
1. Missy Elliott Under Construction (Elektra)
2. Kid606 The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams (Violent Turd)
3. Devendra Banhart Oh Me Oh My . . . The Way the Day Goes By the Sun is Setting Dogs are Dreaming Lovesongs of the Christmas Spirit (Young God)
4. Tall Dwarfs Sky Above, Mud Below (Flying Nun)
5. Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf (Interscope)
6. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
7. . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead Source Tags & Codes (Interscope)
8. Immortal Sons of Northern Darkness (Nuclear Blast)
9. Max Tundra Mastered By Guy at the Exchange (Tigerbeat6)
10. The Books Thoughts for Food (Tomlab)

Tina Plottel
1. Beck Sea Change (Geffen)
2. Canyon Empty Roots (Gern Blandsten)
3. Neko Case Blacklisted (Bloodshot)
4. Mercury Program Date Learn the Language 10
5. Sigur Ros ( )
6. Ivy Guest Room (Minty Fresh)
7. Most Secret method Our Success (Superbad)
8. Low Trust (Kranky)
9. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxttrot (Nonesuch)
10. Johnny Cash: American Recordings IV (American)

Jason Torres
1. The Roots Phrenology (MCA)
2. Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf (Interscope)
3. Beck Sea Change (Geffen)
4. Nas Lost tapes (Def Jam)
5. Clipse Lord WillinĘ (Arista)
6. Foo Fighters Oine By One (BMG)
7. Andrew W.K. I Get Wet (Mercury)
8. N.E.R.D. In Search of . . . (Vrigin)
9. Badly Drawn Boy Have You Fed the Fish?
(Artist Direct)
10. The Vines Highly Evolved (Capitol)
Tony Ware

1. The Notwist Neon Golden (City Slang)
2. Mum Finally We Are No One (Fat Cat)
3. Manual Ascend (Morr Music)
4. The Streets Original Pirate Material (Vice)
5. Doves The Last Broadcast (Capitol)
6. Idlewild The Remote Part (EMI International)
7. Sigur Ros ( )
8. . . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead Source Tags & Codes (Interscope)
9. Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador)
10. RJD2 Dead Ringer (Def Jux)

Mikael Wood
1. The Streets Original Pirate Material (Vice)
2. N.E.R.D. In Search of... (Virgin)
3. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
4. Andrew W.K. I Get Wet (Island)
5. Beck Sea Change (Geffen)
6. Neko Case Blacklisted (Bloodshot)
7. The Breeders Title TK (Elektra)
8. Eminem The Eminem Show (Interscope)
9. Blackalicious Blazing Arrow (MCA)
10. TLC 3D (Arista)

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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