the laws of probability, Stockholm’s Opeth have followed last
year’s doomy masterpiece, Blackwater Park, with yet
another incomparable epic of blackened prog rock. Lying in
wait to ravish unwary death metallers, Deliverance
hails allegiance to King Crimson, yet all other inspirations
are pure, enigmatic Opeth—meaning these phantasmagoric vamps
take the twining of guitar brutality and compositional beauty
to its furthest extremes.
strafingly apparent that the kings of rap-metal have made
the jump to a higher elevation of visceral songwriting. Dispensing
with rap rants, the politics of victimization and all the
other trademarks that have dominated the genre in the wake
of Peachy, Untouchables is a landmark of blistering
lyrics and song structures, scored by the newly mature and
diversified vocals of Jonathan Davis, who soars from guttural
yowls to a freaky falsetto. Untouchables undoubtedly
will have the rest of hard rock playing follow the leader
for years to come.
Iron Lung Corp
the Attitude, Pally
collaboration between Dan (Clay People) Neet and members of
Acumen Nation, Iron Lung Corp combine elements of both bands
into a techno party platter of subversive wit, self-deprecating
defiance, and atmospheric weirdness. More addictive than crack,
Pally rampages from eerie drum’n’bass to full-bore
industrial with each and every song electrified by a power
surge of sly originality.
The Fifth Column
sister release to Pally, The Fifth Column finds
Chicago’s brazenly innovative, criminally underappreciated
Acumen at the top of their ambient-industrial game. The hypnotically
melodic “Demasculator” and the hypnotically grinding “Rally
and Sustain” are as good as cutting-edge techno gets. As always,
singer-guitarist- programmer Jason Novak proves himself a
studio wizard on a par with the biggest names in the biz.
Queens of the Stone Age
for the Deaf
by the megalithic twin engine of drummer Dave Grohl and guitarist
Josh Homme, Songs tells the Nuggety saga of a posse
of mood-enhanced amigos (including Screaming Mark Lanegan
and guitarist Dean Ween) riding the strange tension of their
juxtaposed talents to a self-indulgent and sonically jaw-dropping
conclusion. A mega-ton jumping bean of a song, “No One Knows”
is the feel-good hit of the winter, while the California dreamin’
of “The Sky Is Fallin’” is a decades-spinning head trip.
Their Darkened Shrines
say that Nile’s pulverizing death-metal is inspired by ancient
Egyptian rhythms (imaginatively colored by tablas, sitars
and kettledrums) doesn’t begin to convey the godly compositional
power of their latest opus. The roaring vocals invoke the
rage of a desecrated pharaoh, but what’s most impressive about
Shrines are the windstorms of momentum achieved by
the mercilessly grinding guitars.
angsty racket of these New Jersey postpunks has been compared
to Joy Division, but Sonic Youth at their most Joy-ful is
a more accurate description. On this live EP (including the
previously unreleased and essential “Jet Black New Year”),
the band’s discordant meters, crazed accelerations, jangling
guitars, crashing choruses and searingly honest lyrics are
shot full of adrenaline and urgency.
Queen of the Damned: Music From the Motion Picture
a year chock-full of rock soundtracks that were better than
the movies they appeared in, Queen held sway over all
others. Most of the songs were specially written for the movie,
and all of them are catchy, crushing, and blacker than Anne
Rice’s hair dye. But what makes this satisfyingly vampiric
mood piece a must-have are the five tracks written by Korn’s
Jonathan Davis (with studio keyboardist Richard Gibbs), which
coax surprising vocals turns from the frontmen from Static-X,
Disturbed, Linkin Park, Orgy and Marilyn Manson.
Cold White Light
beautiful doom-metal from Finland (with a tip of the kick
drum to Judas Priest) that occasionally achieves the overused
but rarely earned adjective of haunting, thanks to the impassioned
vocals and wild flourishes of Scandinavian folk music.
second coming of New Jersey troubadour Jimmy Gnecco isn’t
quite as ravishing as his 2000 major-label debut, but as far
as soaring lyricism and multi-octave emotive power goes, it’s
Critic: David Greenberger
1. John Hartford
loss of John Hartford last year is made all the more acute
by this second posthumous release. These dozen and a half
songs are outtakes, demos and alternate versions from his
groundbreaking 1971 album Steam Powered Aereo Plain.
This set takes the No. 1 spot by dint its emotional tug on
me (this is my list after all).
sound of family, history and vitality: Timeless songs evoking
a sense of place as well as inviting you to dance. Music for
the head, the heart and the body. This a perfect and complete
because of their simultaneous release, these two albums are
like a set of twins, forced to dress alike in childhood, but
then one grows up to become a pastry chef and the other a
I Was Cruel
album contains elements and insights that Costello could have
created at no other point in his life, making him one of the
most consistently engaging and restlessly creative artists
in popular music.
and genuine, these songs would have sounded at home in any
of the past four or five decades, which also bodes well for
their journey into the future.
erstwhile member of Tsunami, Toomey here sings a set of songs
written by Franklin Bruno. The compositions and arrangements
evoke the rich songcraft of the Gershwins, Cole Porter and
Noel Coward. However, they’re free of any backward-looking
nostalgia, celebrating the traditions of cabaret and art songs
while locating them all comfortably in the present day.
Give up on Me
his first hits four decades behind him, one of the finest
soul singers of the ’60s gets to keep his crown with this
continues to know the only route connecting the downtown New
York scene of the ’70s (DNA, Lounge Lizards, etc.) with the
magic and allure of Brazil.
stands nearly alone in his cross-genre land of mountain ballads,
oblique yarns, sly humor, and timeless paeans to love and
hope. He sings with a voice that moves easily between world-weary
bluesiness and giddy near-yodeling.
Rules for Jokers
23-year-old Brit is a folksinger at heart, but don’t hold
her to it. With a rambunctious and flexible band, the results
are something like what Billy Bragg has achieved with his
Blokes. Gilmore gets the Newcomer of the Year Award, and not
just because she managed to rhyme “tarmac” with “Bacharach.”
Critic: Shawn Stone
1. Aimee Mann
many ways can someone be broken into pieces? As many ways
as Aimee Mann can chronicle, in her oddly distanced way. Whether
intended or not, she makes addiction seem as much lifestyle
option as social problem in this ennui-drenched disc. Does
it have post-9/11 relevance? You bet.
(Out of Our Heads)
is falling from the sky: Rights crumble in the name of “security,”
and we’re all supposed to pull together against “them.” That
scabby-looking bunch over on the sidelines, muttering inconvenient
truths (with irreverent sarcasm) to a rock & roll beat
. . . they’re Mekons. And they should be heeded.
the tracks have high-profile guests (Jay Z, Ludacris, Method
Man et al.), but these ringers are absorbed in Elliott’s (and
producer Timbalake’s) universe, almost without notice. Elliott
can outsing, outrap, and outwit just about anyone—and she
keeps getting better.
Again: An Anthology
and sex and aging and rock & roll. Being “alt-country”
without sending out a press release. Singing about “Beer &
Kisses,” and watching some guy try to hit on your not-yet-of-age
teenage daughter. Keeping your sense of humor while remaining
clear-eyed about your prospects. And not being discouraged—that’s
Alice Cooper, once a band, now an artist. It’s Ms. Prankster’s
personality and vision that have always dominated anyway,
and are in full effect on her angry, rocking, intelligent
sexual manifestos (“Irresponsible Woman,” “Darlin”). Like
Missy Elliott and Amy Rigby, she’s not offering any apologies.
Hour Party People: Original Soundtrack
the ’70s and ’80, and you’re in Manchester, England. You’re
on some drug they haven’t yet had the chance to ban, and are
dancing like a lunatic. This music is what you’re dancing
to. It presents Joy Division and Happy Mondays like they were
the Stones and the Beatles. Which, to the true believer, they
affecting and spare. When Kim Deal sings “I am the autumn
in the scarlet,” I believe her. Whatever she means. Recent
stuff recorded with the latest incarnation of the band, however
hard-rocking, vies for interest with cuts recorded by the
Deal sisters, sans help. They don’t sound like they need any—musically,
Dee Dee Bridgewater
great Bridgewater presents Kurt Weill’s Weimar and Broadway
songs side-by-side in a convincing context. The Latin jazz
stylings help, but her smooth, devil-may-care attitude is
just as important. “Bilbao Song,” a 10-minute Brechtian reminiscence
of better, more decadent days, stands out, as does “My Ship,”
showy Ira Gershwinisms and all. Smart and pleasurable.
art rock. The sound is more compelling than the content, which
is good for Jay Bennett’s résumé, but bad for the short-term
future of Jeff Tweedy’s band.
The Beach Boys
Selected by Brian Wilson
equal space to the surfin’ heyday and the Boys’ later, lesser-known
songs, Brian Wilson stakes his claim to being the tragic genius
everyone from Paul McCartney to John Cale tells him he is.
And when I hear “Time to Get Alone,” “Surf’s Up” and “Sail
on, Sailor,” I agree.
Critic: J. Eric Smith
1. The Residents
which the venerable, yet vulnerable eyeballs assess loss,
longing and fear in a post-9/11 world, and make a lasting,
haunting elegy in the process—without ever mentioning the
events of that landmark day.
and future Jazz Butcher guitarist finally gets around to making
his sophomore disc, and man is it a doozy. Throw out your
Combustible Edison records now, and replace them with this.
Cleveland legends just keep getting stronger as they go, releasing
one of their most clangorous yet hardest-rocking records since
Modern Dance days.
Mindless Self Indulgence
live document filled with crucial early tracks and choice
new songs, guaranteed to make you grab your chair to stop
the room from spinning.
and Burn 01/02
separate EPs and one very focused band, returning to their
spiky roots without losing the benefits gained by three decades
worth of arty pioneering.
Rollins Band cover two dozen classic Black Flag tunes with
guest vocal turns from every influential screamer in modern
metal, all to benefit the legal defense fund of the West Memphis
Three. The music’s as good as the cause.
System of a Down
my friend Russell noted, “How can their leftovers still be
better than what everybody else is doing?” It’s a mystery,
but he’s right.
skronky sax and guitar music with emo vocals so the kids can
most challenging and claustrophobic work since his landmark
third album, a welcome return to vintage form.
Humpty Dumpty LSD
tape-cleaning exercise from the ’80s that gives yet another
datapoint into how magical this band can be when they’re playing
at the top of their game.
Critic: Carlo Wolff
1. Solomon Burke
Give up on Me
the persistence, poetry and depth.
the anger, persistence and daring.
with Alice, of a nearly perfect pair.
Badly Drawn Boy
You Fed the Fish?
eccentric pop that melds the unpredictability of a Van Dyke
Parks with the acute observation of a Ray Davies.
narratives with furry disco beats. Count on Eels to make the
heart of darkness go down easy, like a valentine from Wes
blues as revelation from a master of mojo, not just technique.
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Source Tags & Codes
Texas kids play like a hurricane, like a meaner baby U2 sans
Ole Opry legend Stanley sings and plays banjo to ring wondrous
changes on tradition.
Mehldau pushes the jazz envelope with Radiohead, Jobim, the
Beatles and his own unique originals.
Spend the Night
lives, wanton and sexy. We’re talking ‘tude, not nü.
Critic: Kirsten Ferguson
1. Queens of the Stone Age
Songs for the Deaf
Queens had a potent blend of peyote-fueled desert rock before
they took in ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and added the whiskey-throated
Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees. Now, they’re poised
to take over the world.
Walking With Thee
catchy, sinister yet melodic, these British rockers merge
decadent organ-driven beats with thrashes of art punk.
my fist, where’s the fight?” is the opening salvo on Sahara
Hotnights’ charged sophomore album. The quartet of Swedish
femmes (some would say hotties) rocks out with the energy
of the Ramones and the attitude of Joan Jett.
garage rock of Nuggets-era vintage.
The Mooney Suzuki
garage rock inspired by MC5.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
been proclaimed a masterpiece, but Foxtrot falters
at times under the weight of Jeff Tweedy’s increasingly depressive
tendencies. Still, the album has its transcendent moments.
anyone could make a 9/11-themed album without seeming maudlin
and opportunistic, it’s the Boss, our long-anointed artistic
voice for the working class. Give the guy some credit—you
can tell that he truly feels this.
riot grrrl punks have grown up and turned into a damn fine,
full-blown rock band (replete with horns) without losing the
art-punk flourishes and the lyrical rallying cries.
Kill the Moonlight
rock bands make use of space and instrumental-interplay as
well as Spoon. On Kill the Moonlight, their stylized
song-sculptures are lean and modernistic, yet bristling with
energy and anticipation.
Blacklisted’s stark minimalism serves as backdrop for
Case’s beautiful torch-twang crooning. Refreshingly lowbrow,
Case’s haunted vocals reveal a morbid streak—imaginings of
plane crashes and Interstate murders coexist alongside her
heartfelt, lonesome musings.
Critic: Bill Ketzer
1. Queens of the Stone Age
Songs for the Deaf
a band at the peak of their powers. Life in the desert, death
in the afternoon.
historic hardcore band paying homage to . . . er . . . themselves,
with help from Lemmy, Hank Williams III, Tom Araya, Exene
Cervenka and a host of other heavies in this collection of
24 Black Flag songs to benefit the West Memphis Three.
Fall of the Plastic Empire
we used to say at Colonie High, this is golden, dude. Check
these guys out before the industry whelps them like staffordshire
Coup de Grace
proof that there are still legions of people who still listen
to Sabbath’s Volume 4.
way better than I ever expected.
1. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III
together generations of musicians and strands of American
music (folk, blues, country, bluegrass, gospel). Features
guests such as Doc Watson, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Willie
Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss and a host
The Bigger Lovers
Honey in the Hive
Philadelphia power-pop band know their Move and Soft Boys
as well as its Big Star. “Bought Your Ghost” is my favorite
rock song of the year.
Guided by Voices
Universal Truths and Cycles
Who tackle Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds on a four-track
in the garage. Some drinking implied.
follow-up to 1999’s drop-dead-perfect What I Deserve. My
love for Kelly Willis continues unabated.
lesser talents give tours of their “cribs” on MTV, the Roots
continue to redefine the parameters of hiphop. This is an
often-hard-edged album fueled by funk, punk, soul and smarts.
In Other Words
Capital Region transplant’s 1998 debut had the levelheaded
Lucinda Williams comparing his time-transcendent muse to that
of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. On this album, he primarily
covers tunes by songwriters from the Nashville underground.
And oh man, what a voice: Emmylou Harris risks getting lost
in it on their duet together.
of the great post-Uncle Tupelo roots-rock bands. They blew
out of New Hampshire in the mid-’90s, developed loyal followings
in the American South and Europe and called it quits a few
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Source Tags & Codes
most barbaric yawp of the year. Sounds like mid-’90s Pavement
swallowed the Stooges. Or vice versa.
Southern Rock Opera
about Lynyrd Skynyrd, the “Southern thing,” George Wallace,
Neil Young, ‘70s rock and Zip City. (Rock operas are supposed
to be indulgent.)
While You Weren’t Looking
Adams’ big-sister figure from Whiskeytown quietly released
a great album while we weren’t looking.
Local Recordings of 2002
J. Eric Smith
1. Bryan Thomas
Ones and Zeroes
record that makes your heart go pitty-pat while your toes
go tap tap tap. Awesome soulful pop decorated with gorgeous
arrangements, just so.
music that reminds you how less can so often be more, when
it’s delivered with poise and grace and heart and style.
Jimbo Burton has recorded five full-length demo discs since
leaving Small Axe last summer, covering all sorts of stylistic
ground in the process. This one is most atmospheric of the
bunch, a radically original work by a player working way outside
the box, and doing it extremely well.
sophomore disc offers thoughtful, catchy tunes arranged in
a spacious style, fully belying their home-studio origins.
winning EP from our region’s greatest pop hope, a disc where
all the little songs have great big hooks.
tales delivered sweetly, and sweet tales delivered with tang,
leaving a most interesting taste when you’re done.
What’s Been Done
Filter-ized tunes recorded by Rae DiLeo plus two homegrown
numbers, any one of which would sound fabulous on your radio.
metal, crunchy yet capable.
50 Man Machine
50 Man Machine
never listen to world music the same way again once you hear
what those Celtic, Caribbean and hi-tech instruments can sound
like when they’re all played together.
The Ubergoth Demo
heard it here first: Doane Stuart School senior Steve McDonald
makes some audacious Aphex Twin flavored electronic auditory
art that’s gonna be rattling your teeth in concert halls before
you know it. But not before I knew it.
Local Recordings of 2002
1. Gaven Richard
Live From Restaurant Island
source material from a precocious suburban teen’s darkest
flights of fancy run through a mill of black humor and spacey
garage rock—a la 13th Floor Elevators—and underscored with
the bloody morality of Perrault’s fairy tales. Jason Martin’s
production brilliantly highlights the songs’ grit, their shifting
currents and ambiguities, and still manages to maintain a
sensible sonic cohesion; and Aindrea H.B. Richard’s strikingly
melancholy cover-art suggests we need more categories for
Best Of awards. Live From Restaurant Island is a complex
and rewarding multisensory accomplishment.
the Rolling Rock. The lo-fi indie-rock songwriter genre, thank
God, is not dead; some day the sleeping giant will awake and—clad
in Converse All-Stars and a thrift-store cardigan—walk the
Earth again. Become friendly with Brent Gorton now, because
when that tide turns, he’ll be surfing its crest.
I’m no brain surgeon, but I feel comfortable with my diagnosis
that a steady diet of independent media, transgressive literature,
Steve Albini, malt liquor and ephedrine have made of songwriter
Steve Gaylord something worthy of extensive study. And here’s
two full discs of symptomatic action to back me up.
know that you know how I feel about the work of the Kamikaze
Hearts; I know you’re thinking, “Enough already”; I know you
think I’m obsessed or something; I know you want me to pass
over the Kamikaze Hearts and pick something else for the sake
of diversity or novelty—a jam band, a rock opera, a reggae
group—for this list, just for once. No.
don’t know whether they’re even a band anymore. Rumors reach
me secondhand: They’ve got a new drummer; they’ve found a
rehearsal space; they’re buying new strings as we speak. Whatever
the case, the brief self-titled Users disc that reached me
bubbles with enough unabashed twee glee and mopes with such
charming self-pity that it winds up here, with or without
a band to back it.