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CD Reviews:  2002: The year that Aimee Mann killed me

Be sure to also read Red Rocker's Best of 2002 list!

Top-10 Albums of 2002

1) Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol). Stunning. Majestic. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Challenging. They said they were out of gas. There was talk of a split. And then they made this. Others should aspire to be so creatively spent. 
Key Tracks: Politik, Clocks, Warning Sign, God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

2) Paul Melancon - Camera Obscura (Daemon). This is what power pop meant before it became a sad cliché. With his gargantuan hooks and super sweet voice, Melancon vaults up into the ranks of intelligent songsmiths like Neil Finn and Michael Penn. Someone give him a wheelbarrow full of cash and a month in Jon Brion's studio. Now. 
Key Tracks: King Sham, Finé, Little Plum, Jeff Lynne

3) General Store - Local Honey (NotLame). Odd to get a lesson on how to do 1970s West Coast pop from a twentysomething Brit, but Local Honey was just that and more. Don Henley would certainly be jealous, if he still had the heart to give a damn. 
Key Tracks: Stay, Coming Down, Airport Breakfast

4) Badly Drawn Boy - About A Boy (ArtistDirect/BMG). All of the promise implied on The Hour of Bewilderbeast was fully realized on About A Boy. And subsequently floundered on Have You Fed the Fish?
Key Tracks: A Peak You Reach, Silent Sigh, River Sea Ocean, Something to Talk About

5) Doves - The Last Broadcast (Capitol). Perhaps the Radiohead comparisons were a bit overstated. The Doves aren't going to change the world, but they're definitely going to make it more interesting if they keep making albums like this. 
Key Tracks: There Goes the Fear, Pounding, Words

6) Beck - Sea Change (DGC). Pain makes you beautiful. 
Key Tracks: The Golden Age, Guess I'm Doin' Fine, Little One

7) Thievery Corporation - The Richest Man in Babylon (ESL). The only band that gives Massive Attack a run for its money in terms of cool factor, and this slice of world-lounge is as cool as they come. 
Key Tracks: Omid (Hope), Facing East, All That We Perceive.

8) Chemical Brothers - Come With Us (Astralwerks). Worthy of inclusion solely for instant classic "It Began in Afrika." That it also contains "Star Guitar" and "Galaxy Bounce" is gravy. 
Key Tracks: Um, It Began in Afrika, Star Guitar and Galaxy Bounce.

9) John Shough - Ultra Vega (Big Beef). Nifty oddball pop in the vein of Guided by Voices and the Pixies. Three more albums' worth of material are supposedly in can. Yes, please.
Key Tracks: So Very, Hens Gone Wrong, Ejecti Nova Speed

10) Elbow - Asleep in the Back (V2). The missing link between Talk Talk and the Moody Blues. "Powder Blue" is one of the most achingly beautiful songs ever written. 
Key Tracks: Powder Blue, Newborn, Any Day Now

Honorable Mentions: 
Ben Kweller - Sha Sha
Bill Ricchini - Ordinary Time

Best 2001 release I didn't hear until 2002:
Lolas - Silver Dollar Sunday (Jam). Explosively sunny guitar pop that starts at a dead sprint and doesn't let up. Contains uncanny impressions of both the Beatles and the Stone Roses. Sweet. 

Singles and other assorted tunes not from my top-10 albums:

1) "Hate to Say I Told You So," the Hives. How cool is that bass player?

2) "Heavy Metal Drummer," Wilco. I will leave the gushing over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to Red Rocker. Just leave me this song, thank you. 

3) "Blame it on Me," Unwritten Law. Rockabilly on speedballs. Easily the best song from their last album. Should have been a smash. 

4) "A Little Less Conversation," Elvis vs. JXL. You may have heard of him. 

5) "Get Over It," OK Go. What exactly does it mean to have a body like a battleaxe?

6) "Party Hard," Andrew WK. Say it loud, I'm dumb and I'm proud. 

7) "Across The Universe," Rufus Wainwright. The only guy at last year's John Lennon tribute who actually got it. And not only did he get it, he nailed it. 

8) "That's Not Really Funny," Eels. Woo. Uh huh. 

9) "Home and Dry," Pet Shop Boys. Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe, Johnny Marr. That's as Medsker as they come. 

10) "Sweet Secret Peace," Neil Finn. Maybe This Christmas has a lot of good stuff, but this new track from Finn bested half of the material on his last album, which is no mean feat. 

Honorable Mention: 
"Invisible Ink," Aimee Mann
So this is what it's come to. Aimee, my beloved, my precious, after a 16-year love affair, has broken my heart. I could always count on one killer record every three years, but Lost in Space positively left me cold. Instead of her usual spot at #1 on the Album list, she's an addendum to my singles list. And why? She says it herself in the chorus: "Baby, we've all heard it all before." Of course, I'd take her back in a heartbeat, but until then, I'll sing the line from her song "Par for the Course": "I don't even know you anymore."

David Medsker

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