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 Features: The Best of 2002 

Top40: The Best of 2002

The best of the best for 2002:
1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40
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Top40-Charts presents the 40 best albums of 2002, both in our opinion as well as yours(after an extensive vote)!

11. Paul Oakenfold

(from UK)

Despite Paul Oakenfold's status as "the world's most successful DJ" (according to the Guinness Book of Records, no less), and producing bands like the Happy Mondays and U2, Bunkka is his first real stab at solo superstardom. Abandoning the podium trance with which he made his name, Bunkka sees Oakenfold marrying Hybrid-like breakbeats with rock, hip-hop, and progressive house - not to mention a healthy dose of pop.
Add an impressive list of guest vocalists - Tricky, Nelly Furtado, Ice Cube, Perry Farrell, Hunter S Thompson(!) - and a slew of radio-friendly tunes, and it soon becomes clear that Oakey has gone straight for the populist jugular.

Fair enough, but no amount of star turns, catchy choruses, and occasional flashes of brilliance can hide the fact that Bunkka is fundamentally a patchy album. It occasionally pushes the right buttons, but its blunt, schizophrenic nature risks compromising Oakenfold's appeal with his traditional fan base.

12. Paul Weller

(from UK)

It's hard to bring any fanfare to a Paul Weller release these days, but Illumination speaks for itself, bringing together the past and future Weller like none of his solo work before. Producing the album himself (and playing most of the instruments), he's made Illumination sound like a celebration rather than an introspective vanity project.
Songs such as the skyscraping "Leafy Trees" and "Standing Out in the Universe" are hard to imagine coming from his pen. Noel Gallagher, Kelly Jones, guitarist Aziz Ibrahim - the personalities are too big for the songs and their presence too overwhelming (particularly Jones, a man who used to write good records himself, who wrote the lyrics to and actually sings the pedestrian "Call Me No. 5").

The remarkable "It's Written in the Stars" is a revelation, however, sounding like it was actually written after a few glasses of good wine under the Mediterranean stars - and most of the rest of the album follows its lead.
"Who brings joy?" he sings on the song of the same name, and for once, Weller is the answer to his own question!

13. Moby

(from USA)

Following one of the most licensed CDs in history, 18 delivers more of the gospel samples and spiritual exploration that made Play Moby's breakthrough album. But keep your expectations in check.
On 18 there is barely a body-rocker in the bunch. This is often a somber, melancholy disc, blanketed in the washed-over cinematic orchestral melodies Moby's been fond of since his classic self-titled debut. It requires several listenings before the gems shine through the ambient fog - and most depart from Play entirely.

On the deceptively minimalist opening track, Moby delivers a powerful message through his thin little voice. "We are all made of stars," he sings, and indeed he's believable. MC Lyte punches out an infectious rap over old-school beat-box rhythms on "Jam for the Ladies," offering one of the disc's few roof-raisers. "At Least We Tried" is a tear-jerking swan song of the highest order, and, finally, "The Rafters" resurrects early-90s house piano, which will make any of Moby's career-long fans pine for his earliest club hits. The diminutive DJ needn't have produced Play Pt. Two to keep his new fans engaged. Fortunately, his greatest talent for cooking up interesting sounds is still audible; you just need the patience to find it.

18 is not Moby's masterpiece, as many might have hoped/feared/expected. But it is an exceptional work that shows definite progression from Play but ultimately falls short of his potential. For an artist, that's the highest compliment we've got.

14. Vines
Highly Evolved

(from Australia)

Hailed by a growing number as "the future of rock," the Vines are more a conglomeration of the best of the past. The Sydney, Australia, quartet sounds alternately like Nirvana, the Beatles, T. Rex, and even the Beach Boys (and, at times, all of those blended together). On Highly Evolved they present 12 flawlessly crafted songs, each one living up to the title of the album and first song. The wistful yearning of "Homesick," the breakneck force of "Get Free," and the gritty party of "Sunshinin" are proof alone of their deserved success. Sonically more complex than their stripped-down contemporaries White Stripes and the Strokes, the Vines write songs worthy of orchestration.
But unlike White Blood Cells or Is This It, this album lacks cohesion. Each song is a world to itself, never quite uniting with the others. But such a critique, normally reserved for more established bands, shows the extent of the Vines' accomplishments - getting compared to the greats your first time out isn't too bad.

If Australian boy lunatic Craig Nicholls - the Vines' singer-guitarist-songwriter - doesn't OD on McDonald's grub or accidentally impale himself onstage with his own guitar before he turns twenty-six, he'll make good on that album title. The quick kicks of "Highly Evolved" and "Get Free" (a combined 3:36, shorter than your average Limp Bizkit joint) are Nirvana's Bleach revisited, but there is strong promise and advanced pop in Nicholls' way with hooks and bridges ("Outtathaway," "Sunshinin").

Anyone who has scratched beyond the hype has probably heard the critiques just as "theyre too overhyped", "sounds too much like nirvana", "they borrowed the beatles"...
We decided to keep it around and it grew on us. Their music changes up so much and we came to enjoy the individuality of almost every song. It was like every song didn't just have a name to be able to tell them apart.
We find it an amusing thing that people will blow the whistle on the Vines for copying all the sounds of these different bands in a relatively sizable list. In this we think is where the the Vines exceptional qualities arise. We mean who else can bring together so many different sounds and styles?

15. Bob Dylan
Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue

(from USA)

One of the staples of rock has been the live album, usually a way to disguise a greatest hits package to make it more palatable to rock freaks, and in most cases, the musicians rarely stretched themselves away from the album versions of the music they were selling (unlike jazz artists). What makes Bob Dylan the greatest musical artist of the last 40 years is not his impressive chops, or his brilliant voice, but his mutable intelligence and visceral counter-intuitive songs, his inability to do the same thing the same way twice.
The roots of Dylan's Never-Ending Tour (1986-infinity) - the guitar-circus attack, the mad rearrangements of sacred hits - are here in these glorious explosions of Rolling Thunder. We can't take these discs out of our cd player. We play them over and over again. These are some of the best performances of these tunes we've ever heard. His energy is very high - but not that "charge through the song as fast as I can" stuff. He's focused, he really interprets the lyrics - hell - he even enunciates clearly. You'll be surprised, as we were, that his acoustic work here is far better than it was on the previous "bootleg" release from 1964.

The song selection is also outstanding, without a single clunker in the group. And this rag-tag pick-up band does a great job of staying right there with him - without the strained shrillness of the '75 (?) concert performance he did with The Band. He's clearly having a great time, and it's very infectious. The DVD is a nice touch with performances of Tangled Up in Blue and Isis. This album also demonstrates, for those who don't already know, that the songs from Desire are among his best. Superb liner notes, too.
We can't say enough good things about this album. If you're a Dylan fan, this is an absolute "must-have".

16. Interpol
Turn On the Bright Lights

(from USA)

The bleakest of the current New Wave revisionists, New York's Interpol have clearly studied the anguished abstractions, studio-savvy guitar art and danceable drums of UK post-punk cult heroes Joy Division, Wire and the Chameleons. American quartets are rarely this mannered, nor this poetic about their despair. Think Joy Division meets Psychedelic Furs, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Smiths.
But there's more here than Anglophile esoterica: With "NYC" and other richly descriptive soul-searching tracks, Interpol's anxious debut paints post-9/11 Manhattan in stark, mournful relief.
They're bright, sophisticated, and meticulous enough to build stirring soundscapes. Turn On the Bright Lights is a must for anyone who missed Echo & the Bunnymen, the Furs, and Joy Division the first time around.

There's a reason Interpol are constantly compared to Joy Division: Interpol take JD's best elements (leaping, pounding basslines, dark lyrics low in the mix) and put it in a blender with ingredients from other early 80's post-punk luminaries. And would you believe it doesn't sound at all derivative?
The first half of the album bests the later songs but each track has its strengths, especially "NYC", which breaks from the rest by using dreamy drones in the place of definitive melodies to make it easily the best track on the album. "NYC" is also a song that could only have been written by a New York band, despite its contradictory message.
"Say Hello to the Angels," "Hands Away," and "The Obstacle 2" are other standout tracks that at first seem innocuous, but later you will find yourself singing/humming them for hours on end.
The phrase "Everything old is new again" has never been more appropriate, especially in the music scene. Interpol fall into that category (to a degree), but they stand out because they actually make the old sound brand new and desirable.

Also, none of the attempts by US bands in the 90s to capture the energy, rebelliousness & innovation of the punk/post-punk era succeeded (except maybe Nirvana and Sonic Youth, who were still at it). One reason is that these groups weren't very musical (Green Day, etc.) and their lyrics weren't particularly creative.
Another reason is that it really was the music that compelled the 80s bands. Most of the 90s bands began with a MTV video, a major label contract & $$$ in their eyes. As a result, we largely switched over to electronica or the more heavily produced of the pop & rock scene (Pulp, Spiritualized) over the past decade.
However, Interpol have changed that! Now we aren't only checking out some of the new crop of lo-fi & DIY bands, but also popping in some of our favorites once again (Gang of 4, The Slits, The Pixies).

So how does the album sound? Well all the comparisons are only partially true, as Interpol really do have a unique variation on a familiar theme. You need to have a listen for yourself...

17. David Gray
A New Day at Midnight

(from UK)

We thought after "White Ladder," the odds were that Gray's next effort would be a total bomb. After all, what was left to do or say? Well, we were wrong! This is a very fresh, original recording all on its own and you will not find yourself comparing it to "White Ladder." It does not have a tune similar to "Babylon," which is what we were looking for when we first started listening to it.
However, that proved to be smart because you cannot compare the 2 albums. The best numbers on here have a quality I can only call crystal clear, water-like or bell toned. It is a very unique sound which we like a lot. We love that it brings to mind the element of water so much when I am listening to it. Gray's voice also has an emotional, raspy quality to it which grows and grows on us with each listening. David Gray is a considerable songwriting talent in addition to being a considerable performing talent.
More often than not, though, Gray's natural, amiable phrasing and ability to create a mood show off his continued growth while staying firmly in the groove that's made him a star.In sum: well worth adopting into your CD family.

18. Madrugada

(from Norway)

Probably the summer is there above in Scandinavia much too short, in order to waste this season in cold exercise areas or partitioned studios. Thus a weight lies over its music since the early 80's-years, when volume from the nordischen countries began to properly up-add the European scene from Indie to jazz. There also Madrugada form no exception. After the Spanish expression for the phase before the morning-grey (grey one fits with these sounds better than redness) designated the group, uses also its third work Gritt, in order to therapieren itself.

The Duesternis of the predecessors remained, also the psychotischen sounds, but Madrugada left the atmospheric epischen widths and to solve their problems with a straight, wuchtigen club impact mark skirt. Comparisons with the Tindersticks, Jim Morrison or nod Cave straight regarding Sivert Hoyems singing must only once rest, more suitably are there already morphines, Stooges or Gun club. Even CAN and new served, as with the outstanding Opener "Bloodshot" as sources of inspiration. "I'm ready" is Sixties Punk skirt, "GET bakes in LINE" an unexpected Dub number and "Song OF Majesty" an irresistible ballad. The broad spectrum of the guitarist Robert Buras however still passes on: It plays betoerende of Country Slide reef, Desperado Wuestenrock or noelige Psychedelik and lends to the album thereby undreamt-of versatility.

For the first time the Norwegians went out of Stokmarkes with domicile Oslo when bringing in Grit new ways. Without an intensive phase the spatial separation followed the stepped out Trommler Jon Lauvland, in order to develop distance and at the same time to sharpen the view for the substantial. At the end Grit was taken up with the aid the PJ Harvey producer, received its fine cross section and gloss. The raue surface however remained and to Madrugada a further step toward own identity succeeded.

19. The Music
The music

(from UK)

The Debut Album from a Band that Has Released a Number of EPs. Well where to start, this album regardless of the hype(which is non existant outside the uk)is a genuine classic! Every track blends into one another to form an awesome sound which struck us down. There are elements of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind as Well as Fields of the Nephilim Abound.
Stand out tracks have to be "The Dance", "The Truth has no words" and "Getaway" though basically the album never ceases to amaze! We saw them live about a year and a half ago and they took absoultely ages to bring album out though it was worth it. We don't want to preach but basically get anything you can get your hands on by the band because you will not be disapointed.

Probably the most amazing thing about this album is that is a debut, though then again we all know that it can all go downhill from there, but seriously when they tour with the vines sparks will fly! We predict a floor of nodding heads and crowds looking at each other in disbelief. So, we guess the gist of this is to loisten the album, if u don't believe us well nevermind, your lose :)

20. Badly Drawn Boy
Have You Fed the Fish?

(from USA)

The second full-length album (not counting his superb soundtrack to About a Boy) by Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, reveals the true depths of his songwriting and arranging talents.
While his debut, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, knocked us dead with his fey, indie-folk-rock sensibilities, Have You Fed the Fish shows a musician striving for top-shelf greatness in the pantheon of British pop, a la the Beatles, Oasis, and Radiohead. Lush arrangements with strings, horns, a very grand piano, and guitars abound, with a richness rarely found in pop and rock music these days. Gough's songwriting is topnotch and by turns catchy and clever, stinging and personal. But you've been warned: this album gives us less of the indie-pop hero you may want to love, and more of a classic rock idol in the making.

The sometimes goofy but very gifted singer-songwriter's subsequent studio album also feels like a film. Packed with domestic drama and lovely melodies, "Have You Fed the Fish?" keeps a tight close-up on the day-to-day details of career, partnership and fatherhood - reserving a broader perspective for the album's sweeping philosophical peak, "You Were Right."

The best of the best for 2002 without music frontiers:

| 1-10 | | 11-20 | | 21-30 | | 31-40 |

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