So perhaps it's no surprise that 2002 was also a good year for quality CDs that didn't receive nearly the attention they deserved.
Here, then, is my list of 2002 CDs that may have eluded your music searching radar, even though in a perfect world these acts would be household names.
1) Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons, "Conscious Contact" (Terminus Records) "Conscious Contact" should have pushed Joseph into the upper echelon of rock songwriters. On these dozen taut rootsy songs, Joseph is at times tough, heartfelt, chilling and even tender.
2) Badly Drawn Boy, "Have You Fed The Fish"(Artist Direct Records) Like the more celebrated Rufus Wainwright, Damon Gough (who operates under the name Badly Drawn Boy) creates the kind of genre-defying range of pop music that's sorely lacking these days. Though not as baroque or operatic as Wainwright, Gough still creates an inventive kaleidoscope of pop that recalls everything from Stephen Foster to the Beatles and beyond.
3) Candy Butchers, "Play With Your Head"(RPM Records) Mike Viola's latest effort fronting his band, the Candy Butchers, personifies the description of edgy pop. On tunes like "My Monkey Made A Man Out Of Me" and "Tough Hang," driving beats, tense moods and Viola's wonderfully grainy vocals go toe-to-toe with some of the hookiest melodies any songwriter produced this year. Add in a few acoustic tunes that are at times quirky and beautiful, and you get an adventurous and addictive CD.
4) Anna Waronker, "Anna" (Five Foot Two/Oglio Records) After several years co-fronting the underappreciated group That Dog, Waronker sparkles on this first solo effort. Featuring big guitars, big beats and even-bigger melodies all laced with Waronker's honeyed vocals this is the potent pop CD Veruca Salt dreamed of making.
5) Cindy Bullens, "Neverland" (Artemis Records) Bullens started her career in the late 1970s before taking an extended hiatus to raise a family. "Neverland," makes one glad she got back to music. On this first-rate effort, Bullens rocks confidently on rootsy tracks like "Hammer & Nails" and "Sensible Shoes," and shows a tough and tender side on more understated fare such as "Long Way Down (I Liked Falling)" and "The Right Kind Of Goodbye."
6) Tegan And Sara, "If It Was You" (Vapor Records) Tegan And Sara might sound like the name of a folky duo, but most of the time, this pair actually kicks out a smart collection of rocking guitar-pop that ranges from the insistent "I Hear Noises" to the janglier "Under Water" to one tune, "Living Room," that introduces some loping country into the CD's poppy context.
7) Doves, "The Last Broadcast" (Capitol Records) While other new British bands like the Vines and Coldplay got well-deserved hype, the Doves got largely lost in the shuffle. Shimmering tracks like "Words," "There Goes The Fear Again" and "Caught By The River" are as pretty and evocative as rock music gets, and the sense of ambition on this CD suggests the Doves will be hard to overlook much longer.
8) Slobberbone, "Slippage" (New West Record) With every album, the songwriting of bandleader Brent Best gets sharper and more developed. This time around, blazing rockers like "Write Me Off" and "Springfield, IL" sit comfortably alongside sturdy ballads like "Sister Beams" and "Find The Out." It's bands like Slobberbone that prove that there's room for considerable artistry within classic bar-band rock.
9) Josh Joplin Group, "The Future That Was" (Sheridan Square Entertainment) Joplin's voice will remind you of Michael Stipe of R.E.M., and the group's rootsy pop sound doesn't break any stylistic ground. But on "The Future That Was" Joplin's fast-developing songwriting chops make any lack of innovation trivial. This is a subtle charmer of a CD.
10) Ultimate Fakebook, "Open Up And Say Awesome" (Initial Records) A couple of years ago, Ultimate Fakebook seemed primed for a shot at the big time, having signed with major label Epic Records. But the band ended up leaving Epic without ever releasing a new CD. Listening to the easily accessible power-pop on "Open Up And Say Awesome," causes one wonder how Epic let them get away.
For the record, here is my list of CDs that made my overall top 10 list for 2002. This list was restricted to higher-profile acts that received considerable airplay, press coverage or had a history of strong sales.
1) Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising" (Columbia Records)
2) The Hives, "Veni Vidi Vicious" (Sire/Burning Heart/Epitaph Records)
3) Wilco, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (Nonesuch Records)
4) N.E.R.D., "In Search Of" (Virgin Records)
5) Elvis Costello, "When I Was Cruel" (Island Records)
6) The Vines, "Highly Evolved" (Capitol Records)
7) Foo Fighters, "One By One" (RCA Records)
8) The Roots, "Phrenology" (MCA Records)
9) Los Lobos, "Good Morning Aztlan" (Mammoth Records)
10) Queens Of The Stone Age, "Songs For The Deaf" (Interscope
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