Best Music of 2002: Jon Garrett

Jon Garrett

Top 20 lists are a sham. For that matter, so are top 10 lists. How many albums from any given year can you honestly say you listen to on a regular basis? Five or six if you're lucky. The bottom line is that very few albums endure, and yet publications like Spin and Rolling Stone continue to pump out massive year-end lists-as if your collection would somehow be incomplete without the latest Sleater-Kinney record. If an release makes my list, it's there for one reason alone: I firmly believe I'll be listening to it three or four years from now. That's really the only standard I have, and, in my opinion, it's the only standard that truly matters. With so much new music and old music vying for our ear drums on a regular basis, an album or EP has got to have something special to merit spins past the two or three month mark. These are the ones that did it for me.

1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
Like I said, the contest was over in April. This is an album for anyone who thought Radiohead got a tad too obtuse with their eletronic glitchery in recent years. Tweedy and Co. aren't afraid of being post-modern, but they never allow the studio frosting to cloud their sense of melody. From start to finish, this is a colossal achievement, one that needs no David and Goliath story (arty Midwestern band against the big, bad record industry) to justify its place in rock history. But it got that too, just in case.

2. Thirdimension, Protect Us From What We Want (Parasol)
I'm still pissed that it took me over four years to hear anything about a band this good. But I suppose I should be thankful I heard of them at all. After Warner Sweden essentially stopped promoting this debut, the group languished in obscurity until "The Swedish Sound" became the next big thing, with bands like the Hives and The Soundtrack of Our Lives getting generous major label offers. Thirdimension still haven't been the subject of a bidding war, but at least their debut album reached the ears of a few discerning listeners at Parasol Records, which finally released it Stateside this past October. If you're a fan of the Beatles, the Who, and their more modern derivations like the Super Furry Animals, this an album you simply can't do without.

3. Beck, Sea Change (Geffen/Interscope)
Beck always rubbed me the wrong way. His albums are daring and adventurous, but have consistently lacked the emotional depth of any truly enduring work. Mellow Gold, Odelay, and Mutations were clearly the work of a genius, but they aimed squarely for the cerebral cortex. As a result, they wound up coming off like well-constructed facades: technically flawless but empty once you got beyond the witty wordplay and instrumental tomfoolery. Sea Change, on the other hand, is a masterful, profoundly demonstrative work. Rather than hide behind a veil of nonsensical phrases and sonic patchwork, Beck has finally imbued his compositions with warmth and meaning thanks to an intimate folk approach. Even if it proves to a fleeting moment of truth for this notoriously guarded artist, he's proven once and for all that he's capable of something beyond silly rhymes and ironic cool. .

4. The Mars Volta, Tremulant EP (Gold Standard Laboratories) The two former stars of At the Drive-In manage something truly incredible with their new project: they make prog rock sound vital again. It was always quite obvious that Omar Rodriguez was a phenomenal guitarist, but rarely has he been allowed to show the extent of his range. The Mars Volta, however, gives the afroed wonder ample opportunity as they explore everything from dub to reggae to punk and back. Rodriguez's partner in crime, frontman Cedric Bixler, has also ditched the confines of his former band's sound, trading in the emo lyric sheet for a more sci-fi focus. Plus his high-pitched squeal is-thankfully-nowhere to be found. Supposedly, the band is in the studio right now laying down the tracks for its debut full-length with Rick Rubin. Can't say I'm too thrilled at that pairing, but as long as Rubin parks the rap-metal at the door, the album is almost guaranteed to eclipse anything ATDI ever attempted.

5. Wire, Read and Burn 01 (Phantom)
Instead of quietly retiring and retaining their hipster cachet, Wire decided to take a stab at relevancy again. Most of these attempts from older artists end in disaster and ridicule. Listened to Iggy Pop's Beat 'Em Up lately? But I give credit where it's due: Wire not only came back, but they managed to sound more angry and vital than during their supposed peak period in '77. Taking a few cues from latter day Primal Scream and the rest from the Thrill Kill Kult, Wire took the best elements of proto-dance punk to update their original template. "Agfers of Kodack" is a true standout, but the rest aren't too shabby either.

6. The Music, Collected EPs
Okay, so I cheated a bit. This wasn't actually released. I burned all the tracks on a single disc it because, well, I don't believe in shelling out cash for a bunch of import EPs. (Have you seen the prices on those things?!) Still, if there were ever such things as UK-only EPs that were worth your money, these would be among them. The a-sides, "Take the Long Road and Walk It," "You Might As Well Try and Fuck Me," and "The People," are pretty neat tunes, but The Music save their best for the b-sides. The two instrumentals that accompany the "Long Road" EP are positively mind-blowing in their grandeur and musicality-somewhat akin to Mogwai on speed or GYBE! with a sense of rhythm. Meanwhile, "Let Love Be the Healer" and "Jag Tune" are dashed with the Verve at their cocky, anthemic best. But, hey, don't take my word for it. You can stream every track they've ever recorded straight from their website at

Biggest disappointment: Supergrass, Life on Other Planets
After three albums of unrelenting brilliance, the 'Grass deliver their first bonafide turd. This is unlistenable mid-tempo muck that Tom Petty wouldn't have even included on a non-Heartbreakers album. "Grace" and "Never Done Nothing Like That Before" provide momentary relief, but for a band that started their career by stringing together two perfect albums, this is a spectacular dip in quality.

Best Song: Queens of the Stone Age, "You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire"
We may never know why the powers that be chose to release "No One Knows" as the first single from Songs for the Deaf. How anyone could overlook this colossus of a song remains a mystery to me. "Millionaire" is the aural equivalent of a giant 18-wheeler barreling down the highway at unsafe speeds, crushing everything in its path. It's one of those songs that's so damn good that it makes everything else after it seem woefully inadequate. This is metal as it was meant to be played: loud, fast, and reckless.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.