|Top40: The Best of 2002|
Top40-Charts presents the 40 best albums of 2002, both in our opinion as well as yours(after an extensive vote)!
21. Elmer Bernstein
Far from Heaven (SOUNDTRACK)
50 years in the business and still on the top of this game! Elmer Bernstein has written a flawless masterpiece with Far from Heaven. Harkening to a more or less innocent time and to his own score for To Kill a Mockingbird, Bernstein has provided us score-fans with what is as of yet the best score of 2002.
With typical verve, director Todd Haynes's film not only seeks to evoke Douglas Sirk's social-themed Hollywood melodramas of the '50s, but to bring an entirely new one to life with a distinct lack of modern irony. In telling the story of a Connecticut couple whose "perfect" relationship masks taboo undercurrents of homosexuality and interracial love, Haynes has found the perfect musical collaborator in 50-plus-year film scoring veteran Elmer Bernstein.
The composer manages a deft tightrope act here, managing to inform Haynes's film-out-of-time with the same delicate, emotionally compelling sensibility he brought to his classic score for To Kill a Mockingbird, while steering clear of emotional treacle and obvious musical anachronisms. Anchored by a spare, ethereal piano theme (performed with sympathetic grace by Cynthia Millar) and colored with melancholy woodwind figures and restrained string flourishes, Bernstein's music still manages a back-to-the-future pastoralism that firmly underscores the film's timeless subtexts.
It's a masterpiece of autumnal understatement by one of Hollywood's true living legends. This music score deserves to get an Oscar nomination!
Arguably one of the best releases of 2002 and unquestionably one of the most original, the filmic, dreamy and mostly instrumental Melody A.M. - from Norwegian duo Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland, or Royksopp - finds uncommon beauty in the study of contrasts. At once frosty and lush, austere and joyful, ambient and wildly detailed, Melody A.M. is equal parts classical, electronica and film score, but with way better optics. Yes, optics - or at least that's how it feels.
Opening track "So Easy" lulls with a gently whispered chant casually draped over what sounds like plucked harp strings while technicolor gurgles and bloopy keyboards sputter in the background. The sweeping, beatbox-damaged "Eple" - its cascading piano notes exploding into tiny white flashes of light - is as panoramic as the Nordic vistas that inspired it.
Cinematic strings flood through "In Space," creating a real sense of velocity. Like Philip Glass or Boards of Canada, Royksopp are minimalists who wring every bit of juice out each note without ever losing sight of the emotional core.
Really though, the not-so-secret appeal of the track (as well as this brilliant full-length) is in the warm '70s synths that float melodies into the druggy stratosphere, giving the band's shifty downtempo rhythms and vaguely experimental!
Royksopp's ability to put together dreamy beats, appropriately placed vocals and brilliant samples makes this album the perfect soundtrack to a movie that has not been made. Is it the soundtrack to your life story? You will never know unless you listen... (perfect for warm weather and a long drive).
Melody A.M. is music as painting, in watercolor, and destined to be a sleeper classic for the ages.
23. Diana Krall
Live in Paris
Recorded at the historic Olympia Theatre in Paris in November 2001, this is Diana Krall's first live album. Backed by her quicksilver combo of bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and guitarist John Pisano (on some tracks), Krall's jazz heritage comes through loud and clear on this program of standards, ballads, and bossa novas.
On Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here with You," Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care," and Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon," Krall's snappy, postbop piano playing shows off her debt to Nat "King" Cole and Jimmy Rowles.
Her cool contralto vocals are illuminated by the Orchestre Symphonique Europeen, under the direction of Alan Broadbent, as well as the London Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Claus Ogerman. Krall's deep take on Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" is a great choice for an encore, and the CD concludes with Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" (a studio track from a film called The Guru), with tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and bassist Christian McBride.
This collection only hints at what Diana Krall has to offer us in the near future. Just a great LIVE album.
Sea Change, Beck's latest studio album is among the best albums of the year. We've drawn this conclusion after numerous listens. It's not experimental or bizarre; it's just a straightforward recording - the way albums used to be.
Over the last several years my musical tastes have become harder to pigeonhole because of the increasing number of artists who have created music that is basically "genre-defying."
Beck could be considered one of those artists because he continuously has his hands in about twenty different types of music. That's how it should be. Music is a wonderful thing if done with compassion and integrity. Besides, why limit yourself to one style when you're an extremely talented musician like Beck Hansen?
Sea Change is a bit different from Beck's Midnite Vultures and Odelay sessions. It's not a party album, and you definitely won't be able to pick up girls in a "tricked-out Hyundai" with it.
Overall, the musicianship on this album is phenomenal. There will be plenty of people who will put this album down because it's very polished and not the least bit experimental.
That's fine by us.
Who says music has to be way out in left field to be good? Why not occasionally enjoy some of the more simple things in life?
Finally, remember that all music has its place in the industry. While we don't agree with a lot of promotional fodder in the music industry, artists like Beck will continue to show us all that music will always come first! Sea Change represents that for us and hopefully it will for you too. Go out and get a copy for yourself. You have four covers to choose from that have been done by the wonderful LA artist, Jeremy Blake.
25. Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake's booty-shaking solo break from 'NSync pays tribute to childhood heroes while moonwalking toward adulthood. Too bad about the Michael Jackson-oid poses adorning Justified's artwork and initial video: These well-sung, wide-eyed songs from the Neptunes and Timbaland don't need any calculation to capture the carefree spirit of early-Eighties R&B. No other teen-pop star has better beats, and even the rhythm-crazed Neptunes yield chewy melodies ("Take It From Here," "Nothin' Else").
Justin Timberlake shines when he moonwalks into more adult terrain, turning his back on the innocent dance pop that put 'N Sync on the charts. With the help of hip-hop producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, Timbaland, and P. Diddy, Timberlake has turned out a remarkably cohesive and sophisticated slice of club-friendly R&B.
26. Norah Jones
Come Away With Me
Used for not one but two love scenes in J. Lo's new romantic comedy, "Maid in Manhattan," this blue-toned debut seems to be losing respect as it gains mainstream momentum. Tracks such as "Turn Me On" and her cover of "Cold Cold Heart" prove the piano-playing Texan is an original - jazzy and stylish, yet heartbreaking enough that she also could be used in a Wim Wenders movie.
All the Divas (from Celine Dion to Mariah Carey) have to listen the way she is singing... Jazz has a new face, much more feminene!
27. Elvis Costello
When I Was Cruel
Cruel? That would be the Costello of '77-'80, of This Year's Model and Armed Forces, when his pop was all vitriol and lightning. Following a string of tasteful but sometimes bloodless collaborations with Sophie Van Otter, Bill Frisell, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Costello delivers his most visceral and satisfying CD in years with When I Was Cruel.
Reunited with half the Attractions, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve, Costello sticks relatively close to the sharp new-wave melodies that sealed his reputation in the late '70s and '80s, but infuses them with powerful sonic touches: a hypnotic loop of Italian pop singer Mina that carries the title track, the melodica that casts an eerie glow over "Soul for Hire," and the frenetic, klezmer-inspired horns that drive "15 Petals."
Costello's guitar is frequently drenched in tremolo, and his lyrical wit hasn't been this consistently spiky and unforced since Blood & Chocolate. Compared to some of his more uptown adventures, When I Was Cruel may seem at first a kind of semi-nostalgic slumming, but the opposite may be the case: like Woody Allen, Costello is at his most artful when he produces perfect pop trifles that will almost certainly outlast his more self-conscious "serious" work.
We've been Elvis Costello's fans since the late seventies. No, this album is not a return to this year's model. This is an album that stands proudly on its own. Even if you had never heard of Elvis Costello you would be blown away by this record!
The Last Broadcast
The Last Broadcast sees Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin and multi-instrumentalist brothers Andy and Jez Williams soaring to new if perhaps grandiose heights. The thundering opening beat and spiraling guitars of "Words" are reminiscent of Ride at their bombastic peak, and "There Goes the Fear" has relentlessly reverberating Latin rhythms, New Order-influenced guitars, and sweeping vocals that are nothing less than breathtaking. Quiet reprieve comes with "M62," a delicate haunting reworking of King Crimson's "Moonchild," bizarrely recorded under the M62 flyover in Manchester, and its desolate atmospherics are juxtaposed against the remainder of the album.
With the thrusting onslaught of "Pounding," the obligatory earthy rock of "N.Y.," and the joyous pastoral acoustic-led splendor of "Caught by the River," the Doves have crafted a liberating sophomore album that happily combines the uplifting anthemic essence of dance with good old rock & roll.
This album is better than their last LP. If you like melodic bands like Radiohead, Jeff Buckley or Coldplay, you will love The Last Broadcast.
We are kind of mad they aren't popular in their own country (UK). We are hoping that The Doves will save Rock n' Roll!
The second album from Philadelphia's Musiq keeps the quality level high, mixing equal parts Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, and D'Angelo to good effect. Musiq's voice has noticeably matured - the puppy edge of Aijuswanaseing is gone - resulting in a rich tone that reflects a stylistic progression in his music.
He's also expanded into new areas, including a slight touch of bossa nova on the excellent "Half Crazy."
Meanwhile, "Caught Up" and "Religious" have a late-'80s Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy feel, heralding a tougher hip-hop sound than the spangle-eyed, jelly-kneed love paeans Musiq included on the first album (such as "Girl Next Door" and "143"). Having said that, Aijuswanaseing remains the essential Musiq starting point, as there's little here that matches the genius of "Speechless" or "You Be Alright."
But for those who want to hear the sound of an artist growing up, Juslisen is required listening.
Cornell Haynes is back with his follow-up to his multi-platinum LP "Country Grammar." This time he introduces us to his utopian world he calls "Nellyville." Nelly's vocals along with beats from probably THE most underrated hip-hop producer, Jason Epperson (Jay E.) look to make this album just as successful as his first. Guest spots on "Nellyville" include "Country Grammar" skit man, Cedric The Entertainer, LaLa (I believe to be the same LaLa from MTV's Direct Effect), King Jacob, *NSync'er Justin Timberlake, Destiny Child's Kelly Rowland, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and also, of course, his fellow St. Lunatics (Murphy Lee, Ali, & Kyjuan).
It's simple, really: It's getting hot in herre, so take off all your clothes. The St. Lunatic beats the second-album slump by managing to sound completely unneurotic about fame: He loves it at the top, so he escorts us through his world of brand-name flash, hip-hop beats, country grammar, fast cars and all the lesbian twins he's loved before.
Philosophical question of the year: "Why you at the bar if you ain't poppin' the bottles?" Pop on, Nelly. Pop on.
The best of the best for 2002 without music frontiers:
| 1-10 | | 11-20 | | 21-30 | | 31-40 |