I guess the main reason for this is that most of the music I have is from these years. In fact, if I were to break down my CD collection (not including compilations) by decade, I would find the following:
- 1950's 
- 1960's 
- 1970's 
- 1980's 
- 1990's 
- 2000's 
- Over half of my CD collection (not including compilations) is from the 1990's and 2000's.
- Considering we are only halfway through the 2000's, it's interesting that I've bought nearly 3/4 as many CDs this decade as in the entire 1990's. [Probably has something to do with starting work this decade. Oh yes, and the excessive CD purchasing addiction that I seem to have acquired.]
Brett, I admire your appreciation for 1971. And I agree that there are some brilliant albums released in 1971. There's the obvious classics like Led Zeppelin IV, L.A. Woman, Hunky Dory and Imagine. I know you're a fan of Pearl but I don't think it does it for me as much as it does for you. And there's lots more albums released in 1971 which could easily be mentioned here. But when everything is added up, other years have more albums that I like.
Some could argue that you shouldn't treat music so scientifically. Music arouses feelings in us that makes it more of a right side of the brain kinda thing. But being a left side of the brain kinda person, this is how I've composed my list. In fact you may even cringe when I say that I used a mathematical formula to work out my top 10 list. So I won't say that. Oh wait...I just did.
Anyway, onwards and upwards!
A drum roll please, good sir!
I hope that wasn't as unsatisfying as it was when we found out that Maggie shot Mr. Burns. But when it comes down to numbers, 2002 is my favourite year for music.
Why 2002? What makes 2002 such a great year for music? No, this isn't associated with memories or anything like that. 2002 isn't really *that* much different from other years in the 2000's. I've been working for this whole decade, so all of the years kind've blend into one.
This is the greatest year for music simply because there were so many great albums released in 2002. So many great artists released some of their best works in 2002. Some artists found it necessary to release not one but two albums in 2002. As with any year, there were a few duds as well. But the sheer number of solid, quality releases in 2002 elevate it above any other year in musical history for me.
Some may argue that it's too early to praise 2002 so highly. After all, it was only three years ago! Who's to know how 2002 will stand up against other years when the dust has settled? That's true, I may grow sick of the albums released in 2002 which will eventually lower it in the standings. Unfortunately I can't comment on how future years will compare as, to this date, I have yet to invent a time machine. But I will be sure to keep you informed of its progress as soon as I work out how to get that damn flux capacitor to work properly.
The Best Of The Best
Let's start with the best of the bunch. Beware, there's a lot of them!
Seriously, if you haven't heard of this band, go out and by both of their albums now. Go on, I'll wait for you. They are probably one of the greatest bands in the world at the moment. And their new album comes out this year. Yippee!
I'm not quite sure how to describe this music. Indie-folk-pop, perhaps? Well, it's an extremely diverse album. One second you are listening to the chamber pop of The vineyard, the next song This train will be taking no passengers sounds like a lost Pogues number. Glenn Richards (the lead singer and songwriter) has a real way with words. He scatters literary references throughout his songs. His songs are gems of melodic beauty, complex without losing sight of what makes a song enjoyable -- a great tune.
Album of the year no doubt.
There's not really a dud song in the bunch. Experimental opener I am trying to break your heart sets the scene. 7 minutes of streams-of-consciousness ramblings from Jeff Tweedy set to a musical backing that's part dream-pop and part electronic blips. And it doesn't outstay its welcome for a second.
Elsewhere, we have superb pop (Heavy metal drummer, War on war and Pot kettle black), gorgeous country (Jesus etc.) and epic ballads (Ashes of American flags and Reservations). Wilco took huge risks with this album and the returns came rolling in.
Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights
If any album deserves to be called a grower, this is it. A true slow burner of a record. First few listens did very little for me, but over time I grew to love this album. This is one of the albums I own which has a distinct vibe to it that is very hard to describe. And there's only about 10 albums in my collection of 800+ CDs that have what I call this vibe, so it's not a word I throw around easily [a list of my vibe albums and justifications behind them would be a good subject of another post].
Just listen to Hands away. There's more texture and emotion in that track than many bands can manage in entire albums. And if anyone tells you that their 2nd album Antics is better, slap them for me.
Their debut album Parachutes had sweet melodies and great vocals but it didn't really expand on the template that Travis had created on The man who. Luckily for Coldplay, they chose to progress for their 2nd album A rush of blood to the head.
Rush of blood builds on the melodic foundation of Parachutes but it rocks out a lot more. And the ballads like The Scientist are tighter songs that are made for waving cigarette lighters at gigs. Clocks is an amazing cut even though it's been killed by overplay, and its inclusion in television advertisements. The only track that I would call disappointing on this album is the debut single In my place, which sounds like an offcut from their debut album.
All in all, an incredibly solid 2nd album. It's easy to dismiss Coldplay nowadays, but it's even easier to listen to this album and truly enjoy it.
Like Coldplay, Manchester band Doves managed to build on the solid foundation of their debut album Lost souls without taking the easy way out and releasing the same album again. Many describe The last broadcast as the sunrise to Lost souls' sunset, and I can't think of a better way to describe this album.
While Lost souls tended to sometimes get caught up in its own mood, The last broadcast ups the ante in the songwriting stakes. There goes the fear is considered the classic on the album, although I have to admit it hasn't done it for me as much as it has done it for people I have spoken to. Pounding and Caught by the river are two amazing singles from this album, the former being the rockiest song Doves have released to date, and the latter being the perfect album closer.
While not a perfect album by any means (centrepiece tracks NY and Satellites can drag on a bit), this it just what we were asking from Doves at this stage of their career: a subtle progression.
A concept album about a Japanese girl battling pink robots. Whatever you are on, Wayne Coyne, pass it this way!
Seriously, this is a great album. While it doesn't reach the peaks of their previous album (the superb Soft bulletin), this expands on the thematic nature of that record into their first concept album. When most people hear the phrase concept album, a certain word springs to mind. Pretension. And there's no doubt that this is a pretentious album, but it's a great pretentious album.
Opener Fight test (which "borrows" its tune from the classic Cat Stevens song Father and son) sets the scene. The theme only really runs over the 2 semi-title tracks where Wayne Coyne sings that Yoshimi is going to battle the pink robots, and then she battles them. The rest of the album is just a headtrip of mellow spaced out numbers.
A great album to chill out to, even if it lacks the depth of The soft bulletin.
While generally not a fan of hip hop and dance music, every now and then an album comes along which hits the spot for me. This was another album I took a risk with purchasing, and it certainly paid off.
There's nothing else in my CD collection like this album (erm, ok maybe The Streets' 2nd album). Music aside, Mike Skinner is a fantastic lyricist and superb storyteller. You can't help but smile while listening to this album. The irony of it all is a fantastic song that needs to be heard by anyone who considers themselves a music fan.
Let's push things forward, indeed.
Who? I hear you ask.
Please, please, please don't let Conrad Keely's vocals in It was there that I saw you put you off this marvellous album. It's a remarkably rich and textured rock album that grows on you like a wart.
The album cover and band name makes this look like another cheap punk/emo/
This album juxtaposes beautiful piano work throughout. While the vocals are probably the album's weak point (but definitely not bad), the guitars and percussion have a texture that is very hard to describe but very easy to love.
But it's the control of tension within these songs that really elevates the album to legendary status. ...Trail of dead know how to build up the tension and release it at the appropriate moments, making this an exhilarating ride.
And it works so bloody well. Markus Archer's vocals make this album what it is. His voice pulls you into the songs Pick up the phone and Consequence, and the beats keep you in there.
A fantastic and original album from this excellent German band.
While this is not the same album cover I have, I have included the original cover here as I prefer it. Shuddup, it's my list.
This is the 2nd album from Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene and it's an incredibly diverse and solid collection of tunes. Musically, it's all over the shop. There's some beautiful instrumentals (Capture the flag, Pacific theme, Pitter patter goes my heart). Some great art-rockers (Almost crimes, KC accidental, Cause=time). There's some sublime balladry on show here as well (Looks just like the sun, I'm still your fag).
And Lover's spit sounds like a Radiohead song from an alternate universe had we hijacked a time machine and kidnapped Thom Yorke before he started travelling down the Weirdass Expressway.
Out of Machine Translations' 3 albums that I own (from Bad shapes onwards), this is probably their weirdest. It doesn't work quite as well as their latest album Venus traps fly (which I voted as my best album of 2004).
But there's simply no knocking this album. For music fans who want indie rock with a spark of originality, pick up any Machine Translations album today. This one has some great cuts on it including Amnesia and She wears a mask, which are probably two of the more accessible cuts on the album. And if you want weird we have that too. Give a listen to A most peculiar place, No hip or The monkey's back, and laugh at the silliness of it all.
There's his most popular effort Odelay which fused all sorts of music from hiphop, jazz and country into a coherent whole. Even though I'll openly admit that I'm not a fan of that album, it's still considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of the 90's.
Mutations was an incredibly diverse album which worked really well for me. Midnite vultures (from what I have heard of it) is his Prince album.
This, on the other hand, is his Nick Drake album. Like Blood on the tracks before it, this is Beck's breakup album. It's an incredibly lush piece of work that gets better with every listen. Many classic albums from the history of rock have been borne out of tragedy - Neil Young's classic Tonight's the night being a prime example of this.
An honest and emotional record, this is Beck's finest work to date.
Silverchair - Diorama
This is a stunning album from this Newcastle trio who have certainly grown up since their grunge days of the early 90's. Songwriter and singer Daniel Johns has been compared by many critics to Brian Wilson, and the fact that Across the night, Tuna in the brine and After all these years sound like lost late-era Beach Boys classics certainly reinforces this.
Frustratingly, this album just misses the mark for masterpiece status for me, if only for a few tracks that just don't hit the high spots of the rest of the album. Let's hope that their next one hits the bullseye.
Must people had given up on Oasis by this point, and it's sad because I considered this to be a bit of a comeback album for the band after the disappointment of Standing on the shoulder of giants.
Stop crying your heart out was the token Oasis epic ballad, designed for stadiums. Debut single and opening cut The hindu times was Oasis by numbers. But it was some of the lesser known tracks on this album, like Liam's fantastic Songbird, which elevated this album to comeback status.
While Coming up and Head music were enjoyable on a catchy pop level, they didn't have the shelf-life of Suede's first two albums. This album was kind of a return to the epic beauty of Dog man star. Don't get me wrong, it's not in the class of that album, but it's definitely getting back to the territory of what originally drew me to Suede.
Lyrics aside, Lonely girls is classic Suede. Obsessions, Lost in TV and One hit to the body are some other great cuts on this album. Many dismiss this album as bad due to the lyrics and Brett's vocals.
My argument is that Brett never really wrote good lyrics. He had his limited vocabulary (usually including the word gasoline in most of their songs). Some of the lyrics on this album are a bit more cringe-inducing, but I guess it's all part of the charm.
And while his vocals are not as good as they were in Dog man star, they are still unique, and that's gotta count for something.
JJ is not trying to release a masterpiece here, just a collection of tunes with a relaxed vibe, designed for laying back and enjoying life. And on that level, this album is a remarkable achievement.
Flake, Bubble toes and haunting closer It's all understood are my personal favourites on this album.
Where One Album Just Wouldn't Do!
Some artists wanted to up 2002 in my ranks so much that they released not one album, but two albums.
A true extra value meal from the king of avante garde. Oh yeah, except it wasn't great value because you had to buy both albums separately and they were full price.
While I probably wouldn't put Blood money in my top 5 Tom Waits albums of all time, Alice is truly a masterful effort. Easily one of the greatest albums he has ever released and definitely the most beautiful.
Saying that Tom Waits is an acquired taste is an understatement. While his early albums (which were nothing less than brilliant, mind you) were quite accessible, his post-Swordfishtrombones works can be hard nuts to crack. But once the nut cracks, the nutritious filling flows and flows.
Alice contains many of the most stunning compositions in Tom's catalogue. The title track, No one knows I'm here and Poor Edward are surreal songs that just grab hold and won't let go. Mix it up with some of Tom's trademark "cookie monster" music (Everything you can think, the crazy Kommuienezuspadt) and you have yourself not only one of the best albums of 2002, but of the last 20 years.
Blood money tends to emphasize the cooking monster moments over the beautiful moments, but it only pales next to Alice. A less than brilliant Tom Waits album is still better than a lot of albums by lesser artists.
Another artist who released two albums in 2002 was eccentric British troubadour Badly Drawn Boy. Known as Damon Dough to his parents, Badly Drawn Boy released one of the greatest debuts in recent history with The hour of Bewilderbeast in 2000.
The stakes were high for his 2nd album. The first one to be released in 2002 was the soundtrack to the Hugh Grant film About a boy. While soundtracks can sometimes be hit-and-miss affairs, BDB struck gold on this album. Some of his best tracks are on this album, including Something to talk about, Silent sigh and the underrated A minor incident (which sounds like a lost Bob Dylan number, but that could be due to the harmonica). The downfall of many soundtracks is that they feel the need to include snippets of dialogue for the movie. In same cases this can work (see Pulp fiction and Reservoir dogs for good examples of this), but most of the time, it detracts from the enjoyment of the album. Luckily, the About a boy soundtrack wisely chooses to avoid this path, and instead Gough intersperses the chunkier songs with some stunning instrumentals.
Many were disappointed with BDB's second album proper, Have you fed the fish? Everything about the album, from the title to the comic book cover art, looked like Damon was taking the piss. And to a degree, he was. This is a much less serious album than his debut. And personally, I think it's a good thing. An artist needs to mix things up a bit, and if all Damon had done was released The after hours of Bewilderbeast, it probably would have fallen flat as it would have been treated as the less talented younger brother of that album. So instead, we get to see Damon's more humourous, relaxed and poppy side on this album. You were right is an incredibly catchy song and one of his best, The further I slide borrows the bassline of Sexual healing and turns it into a very solid BDB funk number. Tickets to what you need sounds like a lost White album cut. In hindsight, a very solid album overall.
Not Quite The Best, But Still Worth A Mention
These are the albums which, quite frankly, didn't blow me away. I wouldn't call them disappointments, but I don't have enough enthusiasm about them to think of cool adjectives to describe them.
This was actually their second album, but the first one that's easily available. These Melbournians put on a fantastic live show (they even do a great cover of Television's Marquee moon) but I have found their studio albums to be a little disappointing compared to their live show.
That's not to say there aren't some great songs on this album. Already gone and Come again are great, foot-tapping numbers that really rock. Shit creek has a great sea-shanty feel to it. I guess this is a pretty good album overall, but for some reason I'm not blown away by it.
This debut album from these quirky Liverpudlians is easy to love, but like lebanese cucumbers that have been left out of the vegetable crisper, I find they lack a little in shelf life.
Dreaming of you is a bloody catchy song. Skeleton key is a crazy song that sounds like something Captain Beefheart would record if he was still recording thesedays. There's lots of other nice songs on this album, but I guess they are lacking a bit of substance that allows me to take this album to the next level.
Bring it on was one of the great debut albums of the 90's. A truly original band, Gomez fused blues, folk and electronica into a unique whole that sounded like no other band of the time.
Second album Liquid skin had some superb moments. In fact, the highs of Liquid skin are probably better than all the songs on Bring it on. But while it had some fantastic songs, it lacked a little in consistency.
Third album In our gun continues their steady decline. It's still a very solid album, but it's lacking the certain magic that their debut album had. And I have to say, it does get a bit patchy near the end. My favourites on this album are Shot shot, In our gun and the gorgeous Sound of sounds.
Supergrass are kind've like the Peter Pan of British bands: they have never really grown up. While they have matured since their debut album I should coco, they have yet to release an album that doesn't have its fair share of quirky numbers.
I guess it is for this reason that I found this, their 4th album, a little disappointing. A solid album of classic 'Grass numbers, but nothing really different. And it's not as solid as their previous two efforts, In it for the money and Supergrass.
My personal favourite cuts on this album are Seen the light, Can't get up and single Grace. Oh yeah, and that's a cool Spinal Tap reference in Evening of the day.
This has the potential to move up in the ranks, but it hasn't really grown on me yet. Iron & Wine is the moniker for Sam Beam, former school teacher turned folk singer. It's a beautiful, minimalistic album full of 4-track campfire recordings. Closer Muddy hymnal sounds like a lost Neil Young number, it's a stunning track.
HYPE. There you go. Now that we have that word out of the way, let me talk about this album.
No, the Vines did not change the world. No, they did not become the biggest band in the world. This is a solid album, and looking at it away from the stigma of the 'h' word, it's a solid album of some nice tunes. They generally alternate between Nirvana-influenced tracks and Beatles-influenced tracks. At the risk of using a record review cliche, they do wear their influences on their sleeves.
I don't think this album deserves all the praise it gets, and I also don't think that it deserves all the abuse it gets. Let's just leave it at that.
This is the kind of album that I enjoy while listening to it, but after switching it off, nothing really sticks. There's nothing that really draws me back to it.
I guess The Electric Soft Parade fall into the same bucket as acts like Ash. They record simple rock music, throw in a few ballads here and there, and it doesn't really offend anyone. Nothing really elevates this album to memorable status, and I guess that's why I don't place it that highly. Empty at the end, There's a silence and the epic Silent to the dark are probably my choice cuts from this album.
Also known as the function call album (but only to geeks like me), this was a very strange release by this Icelandic band. The songs didn't have titles. The lyrics were in a fictional tongue called Hopelandic.
I guess if Thom Yorke sung in gibberish (well...moreso), Radiohead would kind've sound like Sigur Ros do on this album. It's an enjoyable album, but at over 70 minutes, it's way too long. And the first half is definitely better than the second. Track 3 is the highlight for me.
Many of Elvis Costello's latter period albums on the Warner Brothers label have been frustratingly uneven. For every brilliant song like God's comic, there's a throwaway song like Chewing gum.
Unfortunately, this album is further evidence of this unfortunate inconsistency in his discography. Episode of blonde is one of my favourite Elvis Costello tracks ever. It's magic. But then we have a song like Soul for hire which just sounds underdone. I didn't think Dust was a good enough song that we had to have two copies of it on this album that almost sound identical. And I'm not talking about a reprise here, I'm talking about two three-minute songs. Just unnecessary.
Luckily his next album, 2004's The delivery man, would bring back the Elvis we loved.
I was one of the advocates for this album when it was released. Most of my friends loved their previous album, Dress me slowly, while it never did it for me as much as it did for them. Even Brett, who is not a member of the Tim Rogers fanclub, liked Dress me slowly!
For some reason, this album felt more "real" to me. A bit rawer, a bit less commercial. And while there's some great cuts on this album, I don't think it's stood the test of time very well for me.
While Portishead's Dummy is one of the best albums of the 1990's, that's pretty much where my admiration for Beth Gibbons ends. Their second album had it's share of good moments, but nothing quite matched the exquisite beauty of Roads and Glory box from their debut album.
This is Beth Gibbons' first solo album, and while her vocals are stunning, it lacks in the songwriting department. Beautiful opener Mysteries gets the hopes up, but unfortunately a lot of these songs are too bland to reward repeated listening.
Colin MacIntyre was still finding his bearings on this debut album which he released under the moniker Mull Historical Society. It's got some nice songs on it, but his vocals are very whiney and the songwriting hadn't matured enough. He'd definitely improve by his second album Us. Watching Xanadu is a choice cut though.
Here's the thing with GBV. They have a few amazing albums (namely Bee thousand and Alien lanes). And they have some great songs scattered across their other albums. But on this, one of the other albums, you have to sift through a lot of average tracks to get to the good ones.
But there are some great cuts here. Cheyenne and Everywhere with helicopter are catchy little numbers. And there's a lot of other ones that I can't remember at this moment.
I've stated my thoughts about chillout albums a few times in the past, so I won't repeat them here. While I agree that there's some nice tracks on this album, being a chillout album it will never really be up there in the album ranks for me.
And there are better chillout albums out there, so if I'm in the mood for "chilling out", so to speak, I'd probably put one of those on.
Need to listen to these more
I remember reading raving reviews about this guy a while back. And then I saw his CD for $5.00 at JB Hi Fi, so I thought I'd give it a go. The jury's still out on this one. Definitely not my style of music, but that's not to say that I can't enjoy this. I'll need to give it more listens. If there's any artist who I'd compare this guy to, it would probably be Prince.
This is another CD I purchased very recently for very cheap. It's pretty much country-rock, with a few religious references thrown in here and there. I have yet to give this album enough listens to comment on it properly.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for reading this list, and I hope that you have enjoyed it.
While I have enjoyed writing it, it has been very hard work and I look forward to writing shorter posts (and hopefully more often) in the future. I don't think I'll be committing myself to a big top 10 list like this any time in the near future (there's way too much pressure to finish it off!).
Once again, I encourage your comments. In fact, I can't think of any excuse why anyone who has read this couldn't reply and state their favourite year for music, with a few albums cited as evidence. Just to keep the discussion going. This blog isn't a one-way road.
C'mon, what are you waiting for?