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2002: 20 in 2002, The 20 Best Records of 2002

After our first full calender year as an online magazine, we’ve decided (like so many before us) to compile a list of 20 records that have left an indelible mark on our ears in the year 2002

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After our first full calender year as an online magazine, we’ve decided (like so many before us) to compile a list of 20 records that have left an indelible mark on our ears in the year 2002. Filled with both audio happiness and certain madness, many will say that 2002 was a good year for the music industry. With many a great bands and records emerging this year, collecting this list was no easy task. So we hope that you enjoy this list – we compliment it with a few personal lists from staff members, musicians and some of our faithful readers who have made our very first full year online an enjoyable, learning experience. 

A big thanks to all those who have dropped by, read our work and contributed in anyway. Also, a big thanks to all the bands, artists and great people we’ve met and worked with in 2002. We hope to see you all in 2003.


Taking Back Sunday – “Tell All Your Friends” (Victory)

I still remember when I first got this CD. It came with such high hopes I was almost expecting to be let down, but I picked it up one day and popped it in the CD player as I headed home. As I walked through the park and over MacDougal (literally, though I wasn’t wearing clogs) I had to stop and sit to take it all in, and this was just the first track. It seriously rocked, it was incredibly catchy, and the lyrics were dying to be sung along to even if I didn’t know the words. Very rarely does a CD come out that I like every single song. – AJ Naito

Dolorous Canter – “The Alpha Project EP” (Schoolcraft)

Introduce yourself to Dolorous Canter. Their high energy blend of hardcore with emotionally driven melancholia is an incredible fusion resulting in a truly outstanding aural experience. In 28 minutes and 2 seconds, Dolorous Canter takes you on a musical passage that can be best described in one word – ‘epic’. It is grand, loud, powerful, moving, emotional and most importantly, sincere and honest. [Read our review]

Eminem – “The Eminem Show” (Interscope)

Whether you hate him or love him, there is no denying the impact Emimen has had on not only the world of hip hop/rap, but on the entire music and entertainment industry. When not criticizing mainstream America (in “White America”), he’s taking his personal life out into the open (“Cleanin’ Out My Closet”). His honesty and brash attitude have not only captivated fans of his genre but intrigued, mesmerized and angered the rest of the entertainment world. With the success of his first movie, there is no telling where he might go next. 2002’s ‘The Emimen Show’ (powered by a driving first single in “Without Me”) garnered not only commercial success, but acclaim from even his biggest critics.

Hot Snakes – “Suicide Invoice” (Swami)

Featuring members of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket From the Crpyt, Hot Snakes’ ‘Suicide Invoice’ is a rollicking, loud and crunchy rock outing. From the fuzzy, distorted opening of “I Hate the Kids” to the high toned, catchy vocal and guitar work of “XOX” – certain flair permeates throughout the record. Its aggressive, acute approach epitomizes the band’s desire to just rock and not worry too much about being innovative or new.

Jets to Brazil – “Perfecting Loneliness” (Jade Tree)

In defining the album in its entirety, one can say that ‘Perfecting Loneliness’ can be found somewhere in between ‘Orange Rhyming Dictionary’ and ‘Four Cornered Night’. It is an earnest attempt not to recapture the certain flavor of the first record, but to continue developing and building that JTB sound. ‘Perfecting Loneliness’ is an intricate, yet simplistic record – a perfect accompaniment to their two previous efforts. [Read our review]

Chevelle – “Wonder What’s Next” (Epic)

Mainstream modern rock has seen its fair share of KoRn rip off bands and Incubus wannabes. Some fledgling rock bands even have the audacity to imitate Tool – but when Chevelle rolled in with ‘Wonder What’s Next’, they not only defied previous stereotypes and sounds, but they created an atmospheric sound which is simply grand. Their first single ‘The Red’ is easily the most powerful modern rock track of the year and it’s merely a preview to the grinding eeriness that is present throughout the album. While modern rock does little to revolutionize music, it can give us some loud and truly moving work as showcased here. Chevelle will most definitely leave us wondering what’s next.

Chamberlain – “Five Year Diary” (Ignition)

Reserved for those who’ve mastered the methods of soulful heartland rock ‘n roll, this musical form of art transcends boundaries of genres and musical styles; Chamberlain managed to capture the imagery of the lonely imagination. With the 1996 release of their much praised LP, ‘Fate’s Got a Driver’, they not only captured the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide, but provided incredible groundwork for a truly defining music career. ‘Five Year Diary’ is an incredible 28-track, double-disc compilation of some of their finest work. While they may have made their exit, ‘Five-Year Diary’ proves that their music will be remembered and cherished long after they took the stage for the last time. [Read our Chamberlain feature interview]

Spoon – “Kill the Moonlight” (Merge)

This quirky but beautiful musical endeavor is one among many of Spoon’s eccentric catalogue. With plenty of instrumental led vocal crooning and vibrant sounds, ‘Kill the Moonlight’ is as fantastic as it is creative. From the catchiness of “Stay Don’t Go” to the electronic induced beats of “Paper Tiger”, ‘Kill the Moonlight’ is a pleasant and unexpected jaunt into the musical world of Spoon. You have to like the vocal rhythm and electric pulse that vibrates from the opening track ‘Small Stakes’ – it’s just surreal and distinctive.

Nappy Roots – “Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz” (Atlantic)

While other hip hop artists garnered much of the attention in 2002, Nappy Roots’ southern fried, laid back approach was perhaps the most interesting and introspective. This sextet of rhymes showcased more than just a penchant for melody (the smooth, catchy and up beat ‘Aw Naw’) but they managed to truly inject their personality into the record. Their Sunday country feel best displayed in ‘Po Folks’, this roots/rap record is one I’m not afraid to blast out my car on any given day. Is it still cool to call things ‘dope’?

Queens of the Stone Age – “Songs for the Deaf” (Interscope)

Rock has never been so intuitive. QOTSA take a much more complicated road to rock royalty and have succeeded with an enthusiastic, complex and heavy record. From psychedelic guitar work to assertive vocals and strong drumming (provided by one Mr. Grohl on this record), QOTSA mix dreamy rock with sheer lunacy and power on this outing. With the first single “No One Knows” holding the fort, it’s with other tracks like the fast, punchy “A Song for the Dead” and wavy “The Sky is Fallin” that distinctly separates this album from other rock efforts.

Killswitch Engage – “Alive or Just Breathing” (Roadrunner)

The premiere metalcore release of the year, ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ is the quintessential mix of brutal fury and melodic prowess. It doesn’t get any louder, any more earth shattering than tracks like ‘Numbered Days’ and the single ‘My Last Serenade’. Play this extra loud at your local junior high dance or Bar Mitzvah.

Guided By Voices – “Universal Truths and Cycles” (Matador)

Believe what you may, but Guided By Voices should be classified among indie rock elite with the likes of Pavement. 2002’s ‘Universal Truths and Cycles’ does more than re-establish their grasp on indie rock supremacy. Just listening to the foot tapping, raucous single ‘Everywhere With Helicopters’ will shake away any preconceptions and doubt. They’ve managed to tangle melodic intangibles with indie rock sensibilities that are highlighted by the beautifully smooth ‘Cheyenne’ and the staggering, moving finale in ‘Father Sgt. Christmas Card’.

Bad Religion – “The Process of Belief” (Epitaph)

The forefathers of punk rock make their triumphant return that has them not only rejoin Epitaph, but welcome back Mr. Brett into their lineup. What resulted was their most powerful, fast moving and thought provoking record since the days of ‘Suffer’ and ‘Against the Grain’. While many of today’s punk bands struggle with identity and potential commercial value, the experienced, seen-it-all, done-it-all teachers return to share a history/future lesson with an unsuspecting public. Like one time travelling righteous dude once said, “Most triumphant”.

The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (Warner Bros)

In a world of loopy, floaty and often dreamy guitar driven pop – The Flaming Lips are without doubt, floating up on a high cloud. It was never going to be easy topping ‘The Soft Bulletin’ but ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ is pretty damn close. Layered with electronic sounds, beautiful lyrics and a well created instrumental atmosphere, the world of The Flaming Lips is high above somewhere among the stars. And if happiness does make you cry (as they sing in “Do You Realize?”), we’ll soon be drowning in tears.

Over It – “Timing is Everything” (Lobster)

The sound of youth has never been so honest, heartfelt and moving. What so many young aspiring bands lack, Over It is packed with to the brimful. ‘Timing is Everything’ is fast, driving, melodic punk rock with a very distinct rock vocal aesthetic that is unmatched by any alike this year. – Billy Ho

The emotionally charged 11 track album is a perfect example of 4 people coming together and having a musical connection with one another. – Kamtin Mohager

Wilco – “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (Nonesuch)

Jeff Tweedy and company are no strangers to controversy. It is such that this record was delayed before finding a home on Nonesuch. Thankfully the public saw its light of day in what can be said is Wilco’s finest work to date. Breathtaking, incredibly well written and soulfully earthlike, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ is something out of fairy tales. Beautiful instrumental work, vocals and a captivating completeness makes for a stellar effort. Take a listen to the electronically tinged, gracefully soothing “Heavy Metal Drummer”. Wilco’s latest is splendid in every way.

Interpol – “Turn on the Bright Lights” (Matador)

While the reviews and buzz surrounding their full length effort ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ has been overwhelmingly positive, it is with merit and justification. Upon feasting your ears on this eerie, enigmatic triumph, you can easily understand why so many will feature this as a year’s favorite. It is powerful, vibrant, moody and dark, ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ simply oozes musical sophistication. [Read our review]

The Gloria Record – “Start Here” (Arena Rock)

There is a certain atmospheric wonder to the sound of The Gloria Record. A certain magnetic quality that when coupled with the mesmeric voice of Chris Simpson, creates a truly beautiful, escaping sound. Like moving through mountains and stunning landscapes, the music of The Gloria Record is ever flowing. Delightful, charismatic and truly magnificent, ‘Start Here’ marks their long awaited departure from the gates. [Read our review]

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – “Source Tags & Codes” (Interscope)

Every so often the boundaries between tranquility and sheer chaos are blurred. Harmony is entangled with madness creating a more complex, unexplainable entity that one can only hope to fully understand. One a musical front, …Trail of Dead’s “Source Tags & Codes” is such an entity; so complicated, so chaotic, yet so beautiful and at peace all at the same time. This is without doubt the year’s most innovative, creative and mesmerizing release. (But somehow, not #1) [Read our review]

Idlewild – “The Remote Part” (Parlaphone/EMI)

There are several layers to music – some of the layers; the outer most parts are distinguished upon first listen. Those first impressions are what separate listeners – to those who understand and enjoy the music and those who don’t. While Trail of Dead’s “Source Tags & Codes” was near groundbreaking in its innovative, complex madness, there was one record that was in a sense, better. ‘The Remote Part’ has secured itself as Sound the Sirens’ best record of 2002 because of its overall captivating experience. Critically speaking, there was enough intelligent song writing and arrangements to satisfy diehard music critics. Yet it had a certain aesthetic quality that a more wide range audience could appreciate. You can listen to this album at almost any given time, in almost any mood, and still be captivated by its allure. It’s intrinsically austere, yet powerfully and emotionally moving. Blending in power pop with rock and punk while maintaining a distinct, poetic and pop feel, it is your accompaniment to any musical mood and desire. Remarkably perfect in almost every way – ‘The Remote Part’ is suited for all who take the time to listen. [Read our review]

Lists

Feel Unlucky Punk: 5 records lost in the punk explosion

We take a look at 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.

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We could sit here all day and discuss the ethos behind the entire punk mantra but it has been discussed to no end. Instead, we’re inspecting the spiraling consequences of the mainstream upsurge of punk that ultimately peaked in 1994/95. Three years after what many dubbed as “the year punk broke” (1991), the resurgence of the punk subculture back into the mainstream scope was in significant contrast to the 70’s and early 80’s – there was now widespread acceptance. An extension of the earlier indie rock signing spree, 1994 was the pinnacle, underscored by two California bands that saw their popularity rocket into previously unfamiliar extremes. With the success of Green Day’s Dookie and Offspring’s Smash, major labels sought to find continued and similar success in unearthing hopeful bands and signing those who had called the underground home previously.

However, the effects of a genre’s popularity often result in a number of those caught up in the wave to get left behind. Casualties of other people’s success. For one reason or another, glory did not come to them as expected, and the resulting fallout ends with bands disbanding and careers changing. The fallout of an entire movement are far too great to tackle in mere paragraphs. We will instead section the years 1994 to 1996 as a small example of these fleeting successes, a time during and immediately after Green Day and the Offspring opened the floodgates to the modern punk underground. We circle five records that the major labels released; all of which merited success in many ways, but undoubtedly lacked the mega-sale attraction their financiers had hoped for. In a different time, under different circumstances, these records would have led to more, but in the shadow of platinum records these albums just did not pay back their investment. At the height of major label power, that was the death knell for many bands.

Here are the 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.

Hog

05. Hog – Nothing Sacred
(Geffen Records, March 1996)

Los Angeles punk band Hog were fueled by frontman Kirk Miller’s monstrous anthemic handiwork and the band’s love for melody, Nothing Sacred was a blast of a time. It was a simplistic record yes, one that relied on crunchy alternative rock riffs and soaring melodies, but one that was as easily digestible as it was loud. Miller’s raspy voice rang clear in “Shut Down” and “Walls”, providing guidance for the band’s heavily distorted appeal. Perhaps in an attempt to sustain a level of ingenuity, they combined honky-tonk fragments with aggressive punk riffage in “Don’t Know Why” and took on punk acoustic in the terrific country-bluegrass fueled “You & Me”. There was no love from the public however, as stints on the Black Sheep soundtrack and limited airplay did little to bolster the band’s success. Nothing Sacred was the band’s only offering.

I wore out my cassette tape copy of Hog’s Nothing Sacred it was so good. The title track is fantastic in particular, but there are so many great songs on this album, like the aforementioned “Walls” and “Not Perfect”. To this day I still go back to this album as the perfect windows down highway album because sonically, it sounds like a damn rock record. If you ever come across this album somewhere in a record shop and you like loud guitars, melodic punk, and some attitude, don’t hesitate to spend the money on it.

Stream: Hog – “Shut Down”

Waterdog

04. Waterdog – Waterdog
(Atlantic Records, October 1995)

Atlantic’s pop-punk flag carriers depended greatly on Green Day’s popularity to carry over. This self-titled disc was surprisingly accessible (bolstered by radio-ready tracks “Can’t Let Go” and “Jessica”) but ultimately lacked a strong connection to the recently converted masses. Unlike the Berkeley trio’s unabashed, juvenile visage, Waterdog relied on slightly more cultured lyrics and less simplistic chords, but kept true to mainstream pop-punk’s then alternative sound. Waterdog was a band that had the chops and the songs, but for a myriad of reasons, just couldn’t find their ground in a crowded radio field. After the dissolution of Waterdog, members of the band spent time in (ironically enough) Mike Dirnt’s project The Frustrators.

This album was not the best produced but had some great songs- most notably the closer “Good-bye, Good-bye”, and the track below “Jessica”. I still like listening to this song today and while it isn’t as loud or as urgent as Hog’s Nothing Sacred, had plenty to like, especially if you enjoyed pop-punk with a less bouncy appeal. The band came and went after only one album, but who knows just what they could have done during a different era.

Stream: Waterdog – “Jessica”

Samiam

03. Samiam – Clumsy
(Atlantic, August 1994)

Amongst their respective discography, Samiam’s Clumsy can easily go unnoticed. Their foray into the majors did not end here but unlike some of their kind, Samiam lasted through all the troubles and are still around today. Their creative blend of chunky pop punk components with more rock-oriented mechanisms resulted in their fiery guitar powered focus. Keen on quality vocal delivery and constantly trying to rework their musical progression, Samiam are front runners of pop-punk/rock with definitive style and substance. Clumsy however, is far from being their definitive work, but thankfully, major label misteps aside, they got even better after their foray into the majors. Albums like You Are Freaking Me Out and their 2000 release Astray, proved that there was life after the majors. Clumsy was the only album they ever did for Atlantic.

Sergie Loobkoff of the band also spent time in seminal emo band Knapsack as well as indie rock band Solea. I had a chat with Sergie Loobkoff about Solea back in 2002 about his then-new band.

Samiam are one of the lucky few.

Jawbreaker

02. Jawbreaker – Dear You
(Geffen Records, September 1995)

Pulled from shelves just months after its release, Dear You is a painful reminder of the fickleness that saturates the major label landscape. Far more restrained than their previous work, Jawbreaker’s (then) final release is as mysterious as it is admired; a defining example of bad things happening to good bands. Almost completely disappearing from North American retail stores (and most definitely from the Geffen catalogue), it has been the scourge of punk record collectors who have been unsuccessful at securing a copy. Featuring the classic Jawbreaker track “Jet Black”, Dear You was re-released in 2004 via Blackball Records. After Jawbreaker’s initial break-up, Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form one of my favorite bands, Jets to Brazil.

Dear You is not such a lost commodity since its reissue. However, it’s still a fascinating example of how the majors reached deep into the underground to try and replicate Green Day’s success any way they could. Dear You was a real step away from previous Jawbreaker material and the commercial results were unfortunate. In the Jawbreaker discography, it isn’t the easiest of records to get in to, partly because it was a shift from what the band were known for. But in hindsight, it’s a shining example of a band exploring new surrounds while jumping head first into the major label game.

In 2017, against all odds, Jawbreaker reformed. Remarkably, there is new music on the way. New Jawbreaker. In 2019. Who would have thought post Dear You?

Klover

01. Klover – Feel Lucky Punk
(Mercury/Polygram Records, August 1995)

Featuring members of legendary Boston hardcore outfit Gang Green, Klover epitomized all that was the spirit of a misunderstood generation. Leering like the Buzzcocks, influential like the Jam and embodying the youthful enthusiasm of early Social Distortion, Feel Lucky Punk was an immensely competent release. Confidently portraying ideas of rebellion, social rejection and an underlying cause for unity, it was a record that exuded all that was great of the punk movement. Strengthened by the “Basket Case”-like “Our Way” (how did this song not resonate with the radio crown? I just don’t know), the gang vocals of “Beginning to End” and the truly wonderful cover of the Real Kids’ “All Kindsa Girls”, Feel Lucky Punk is a real gem that deserved far more than it received. The album sounded great, the songs were exactly what you would expect from a shiny, major label punk release- everything seemed poised for success. It never came. Klover disbanded in early 1996 after just one album.

If there was ever an album so commercially ready to be big, it was this one. Mercury Records didn’t do anything for the band, and the songs here were relegated to used bins in Tower Records all around the world. Too bad because there is so much good material on here, so much of it is still so listenable today (you could argue that it holds up better than a lot of mainstream punk of the last decade). Their cover of “All Kindsa Girls” is still one of the best covers you’ll hear. However, it is the opening track “Our Way” that really sets the tone for the album and remains one of the best things not to have been huge.

Stream: Klover – “Our Way”

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