Saturday, December 21, 2013

Top 10 Releases of 2002

Quite a few regulars here, but that's what 2002 was like.

... I guess.

#10 Adaptation and Survival: The Insect Project - Tribes of Neurot

"Metamorphosis" from Adaptation and Survival 10" (2002)
"Durability" from Adaptation and Survival 7" (2002)

Genre - Experimental Noisescapes
Official -
Location - Oakland, CA

Review - Pitchfork
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Wikipedia: "Tribes of Neurot is a side project of Neurosis that consists of all the members of Neurosis ... Tribes of Neurot has given them the freedom to explore practically anything in music and sound, such as 2002's Adaptation and Survival, which consists entirely of insect noises recorded and mixed to create something that sounds entirely different." O yeah, and it was released on vinyl as a 3-disc box-set of 5", 7" and 10" platters meant to be mixed & matched, at various speeds. If I'd ever owned the vinyl edition, this would be much higher.

Neurosis was #9 of 1996, and Steve von Till's solo psych-folk-drone identity Harvestman ranked #5 of 2009, #12 of 2010, and #2 Drone-Ambient of 2005. The #10 spot could have easily gone to either: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind OST by Jeremy Soule (Honorable Mention, 2011), or The Disintegration Loops I by William Basinski (re-released as #1 archival of 2012). But this won a close call - awesome idea, interesting sounds, different.

#9 Murray Street - Sonic Youth

"The Empty Page" from Murray Street (2002)
"Disconnection Notice" from Murray Street (2002)

Genre - Late-Period Sonick
Official -
Location - New Yawk City

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Loved me some Sonic Youth back in the day: #1 of 1987, #2 of 1988, and #9 of 1990. Although here's an older, more mature (boring) Youth, this is a pretty solid (if boring) album. And there might be no more Sonick song title than "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style." Lest you think it's only all the Thurston show... Free Lee offers the solid "Karen Revisited" - and Kim serves up a couple, notably "Sympathy for the Strawberry" (even if both are a bit overlong). Either way, I'm glad I got the chance to revisit it, better than I remembered.

Full album stream.

#8 Sea Change - Beck

"Lost Cause" from Sea Change (2002)
"Guess I'm Doing Fine" from Sea Change (2002)

Genre - Earnest Folkiness
Official -
Location - El Lay, I'm assuming...

Review - Rolling Stone
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

And here's another boring album. Beck is sad, and so he kind of makes a Nick Drake album, which turns out better than it really should have. I'm kind of serious - this is mostly mellow, acoustic folk-pop, with lots of accompaniment, and Beck singing fairly sad & straightforward lyrics, in his deepest possible voice. Wow, I had forgotten that he'd previously been listed for Odelay (#6, 1996).

O yeah, 2002 was also the year I saw Beck & The Flaming Lips (see below) play together at Jones Hall: concert review / ACL 2 days prior / setlist (first ever "Who Loves The Sun?"!). I kinda forgot that Flaming Lips released their own version of "The Golden Age" on some EP.

Full album stream (of Sea Change).

#7 Oceanic - Isis
Getting Sentimental EP - House of Low Culture

"The Beginning and The End" by Isis, from Oceanic (2002)
"Getting Sentimental" by House of Low Culture, from Getting Sentimental EP (2002)

Genre - Second-Wave Post-Metal
Official -
Location - Los Angeles, Calif.

Review - Sputnik Music
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

So that's 3 straight albums with the exact same pattern - bought them, listened to them, liked them okay, and left them behind. But while reviewing for this very exact same list, came to appreciate them much more than ever before. Oceanic is a whole lot better than I had ever given it credit for - compared to my other, more preferred Isis albums (#3, 2009 & #3, 2004). I think I ended up getting this one after those, and it's a bit rawer... so maybe I just never reached for Oceanic when I was in an Isis mood.

[Note to self: write a 3,000-word post on the idea of artists peripheral to a given personal canon and how that leads to a more limited set of album(s) standing in for their whole oeuvres & even possibly entire styles.] "Weight" was a classic later, longer tune. And also, Isis was our #5 Live Show of 2009. Wish I could have caught them live more often. Here's this album opener live.

House of Low Culture (#10, 2003) is like Tribes of Neurot of Isis: mostly singer-guitarist Aaron Turner, but this EP also features bassist Jeff Caxide.

Oceanic full album stream.
For some reason, this EP is not on the HOLC Bandcamp.

FYI - 2002 was a huge year for post-rock (a favorite genre) with 3 major albums (that I've never owned): Yanqui U.X.O. by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Source Code + Tags by ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, & Yet & Yet by Do Make Say Think.

#6 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco

"War on War (live)" from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
"Heavy Metal Drummer (live)" from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Genre - Noise-Pop Dad-Rock
Official -
Location - Chicago, IL

Review - Paste Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I used to hear "California Stars" on KPFT, but I didn't really have any connection to Wilco. So I completely missed all the internet ruckus over all the label issues & release of this album. Where I finally discovered them was at the 1st ACL Fest in 2002 (setlist). I still remember Jeff Tweedy's intro to "Jesus, Etc.": "This song is about Jesus... the exclamation."

So far, Wilco's been looming around the edges of some Top 10's: #12 of 2009, #13 of 2007, #9 Repertoire of 2005, Honorable Mentions of 2011, and #7 Live of 2011. This album's definitely one of their best studio efforts. Nice try, boys! But seriously, though... because it's regularly considered one of the best records of the 2000s, just can't help but be overrated. Opener "I am Trying to Break your Heart" is iconic of a generally much less noisy-experimental real-band-with-a-singer-songwriter album; so much so that they named a whole official documentary after it. YHF covers a lot of ground: groover "I'm the Man who Loves You," live-staple "Ashes of American Flags," droner-ballad "Poor Places."

Full album stream.

Good record. It's no Sons of Northern Darkness though...

#5 Sons of Northern Darkness - Immortal

"Sons of Northern Darkness" from Sons of Northern Darkness (2002)
"In My Kingdom Cold" from Sons of Northern Darkness (2002)

Genre - Trve Kvlt Norwegian Black Metal
Official -
Location - Bergen, Norway

Review - Encyclopaedia Metallum
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

An easy #1 Live Show of 2011. "One by One" was maybe kind of a weird single, but I don't know much about marketing Black Metal in the early-21st century. Just noticed that the official video's for a 3-minute single-edit version... which makes a bit more sense than the full 5-minute version. You know how everyone just looooves "Tyrants?" That's some rock & roll infusion into the ol' Black Metal orthodoxy - makes some people mad though. "Antarctica" ... is cold. You might even say 'grim & frostbitten.' Immortal fit in a lot of nice touches along with their outrageous pummeling - a weird guitar lead, some vocal special effects, whatever.

Full SOND stream.

If interested in more 2002 Black Metal, maybe try Romanian band Negură Bunget's 'n Crugu Bradului (I, II, III, IV).

#4 The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue - Bob Dylan

"Tangled Up In Blue" from Live 1975 (2002)
"Romance in Durango," Live (1975)

Genre - Mid-'70s Bob Dylan Live
Official -
Location - America

Review - Tiny Mixtapes
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

The great Bob Dylan (#3 of 1966, #12 of 1969, #5 of 1974, part of #9, 1988 and #6 Live of 2009) at one of his occasional peaks. I'd consider this the best of the Bootleg Series - at least so far. This was famously a small-venue tour with a crackerjack band: Mick Ronson (The Spiders From Mars), Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), T-Bone Burnett, Bob Neuwirth, Rob Stoner & Howie Wyeth... also with Joan Baez and Ronee Blakeley.

Copyright controls are keeping you from hearing more. I could only find this partial video of the mighty "Isis" (I guess to avoid YouTube security). You can stream a 10/31/75 bootleg, though. That tape probably gives a more accurate picture of a typical show, whereas the official release is more of a highlight reel.

Just look at that tracklist!

#3 Songs for the Deaf - Queens of the Stone Age

"No One Knows" from Songs for the Deaf (2002)
"Go With The Flow" from Songs for the Deaf (2002)

Genre - Stoner-Pop
Official -
Location - LA, CA

Review - NME
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Haven't talked too much about QOTSA - just #6 of 2003 (well, as Desert Sessions), plus #6 Live of 2011. I guess mainly since we're going backwards, and I dig the earliest stuff the most.

Ummm, do you realize that maybe not everyone can pull Dave Grohl out of drumming retirement? The band at this point was Josh H., Nick O., Dave G., and Mark Lanegan. What?! Also, Dean Ween (see below) plays guitar on three tracks here. Mang. That last one 'here' (album closer) could not be further from "You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire" (kick-off track). But that's what you got back when Nick was on the scene. Cool songs, bro!

Although I want to go on record that I'm philosophically opposed to having skits on your album, at least Lux Interior was involved. Wikipedia is so useful! I'd totally forgotten about their cover of Roky Erickson's "Bloody Hammer" (from #2, 1980). Which they played live here in Houston, and after the show I ran into Nick, and commented on us Texans appreciating the Roky love. Pretty sure I didn't realize at the time that it was a vinyl bonus track for this album. [Edit, 12/26: I was informed last weekend that Mondo Generator played that song live here in Houston, not QOTSA themselves.]

Full album stream.

#2 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots + EP's - The Flaming Lips
Finally, The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid - The Flaming Lips
The Day They Shot A Hole in the Jesus Egg - The Flaming Lips

"Fight Test" from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
"Do You Realize??" from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

Genre - Post-Indie Symphonic Electro-Pop
Official -
Location - Oklahoma City, Okla.

Review - The A/V Club
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Boasting a top-tier discography, the Flaming Lips have already shown up on numerous Top 10's: #3 of 1987, #1 of 1993, #1 of 1995 & #4 of 2006, #5 Repertoire of 2005, #11 of 2007, #13 of 2009, co-#2 other/live of 2006, #8 Live of 2010, and #6 Live of 2012.

I originally thought Yoshimi was a major step down after the previous album, with perhaps a bit too much electronical backings. Still a valid opinion, but I've gradually warmed to it more & more. "One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21" works like a lot of The Soft Bulletin, but with a very different approach.

Although most of the Yoshimi EP's actually came out the following year, I'm going to consider them here. The Fight Test EP had the album opener, covers of Kylie Minogue, Beck (see above), and Radiohead, plus lots of others spread out over like nineteen EP versions. The Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell EP started off with 3 all-new, all-different tunes: "Assassination of the Sun," "I'm a Fly in a Sunbeam (Following the Funeral Procession of a Stranger)," and "Sunship Balloons," before even getting to the title track. Oh, man, it would take forever to chronicle a few albums' worth of B-sides for all the various "Do You Realize??" and "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1" singles, and the later Yoshimi Wins! EP. Let's move on...

2002 was also when the 1984-91 Restless album re-issue packages - Finally, The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid and The Day They Shot A Hole in the Jesus Egg - were unleashed. More tons o' bonus tracks, I'll mention only two: Finally's "After the Gold Rush," from The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young benefit comp (1989). And Jesus Egg's CD premiere of "Lucifer Rising," originally on the Unconsciously Screamin' EP (1990).

O yeah, this was where the Lips first won a Grammy: Best Rock Instrumental for "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)." Internet tells me they've got 2 more since. (FYI - I'm pretty sure I saw Enik the Altrusian in that video.)

Full Yoshimi album rip.

#1 Live at Stubb's, 7/2000 - Ween

"A Tear for Eddie" from Live at Stubb's, 7/2000 (2002)
"L.M.L.Y.P." Live at Stubb's (7/2000)

Genre - Ween Live
Official -
Location - New Hope, Penn.

Review - Mark Prindle
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

As you may have heard, I enjoy the band Ween: #1 of 1990, #1 of 1996, #3 of 2003, #1 Archival of 2005, #15 of 2007, co-#2 other/live of 2006, #2 Live of 2010, and #5 Live of 2011. Those live rankings might be another hint - they have been a great live band for many years. (Hehe, I was at this show too. Houston!) Okay, Stubb's BBQ of Austin, TX - somewhat of a second home for them - I think this live document ranks among their best of all time. And that's some tough competition.

Full album stream.

And you can stream or D/L both epic shows: 07/07 & 07/08.

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