Musicology: Best albums of 2002

WANNA feel old?

The albums on this list all celebrated their 10th anniversary this year - that's right, these records are a decade old.

So here is a hastily-thrown-together-in-the-pre-Christmas-rush list of the best albums of 2002.

Songs For The Deaf - Queens Of The Stone Age

WITH Dave Grohl pounding the skins and Mark Lanegan and Dean Ween helping out, QOTSA belted out the coolest and toughest rock album of the '00s. Framed as a flick through radio stations while on a cross-country journey, this is top-notch driving music - just try not to put your foot down and burst through the garage door to opening salvo You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar.... A rhythmic onslaught, this features Josh Homme's best song ever - the distorted jive and freakout of No One Knows - but once again his best trick is to prove you can rock hard with only one chord (A Song For The Dead, the faux-glam Do It Again, the bent-time Hangin' Tree). His guitar sounds are so muscular and nuanced it's no wonder he keeps his set-up a secret, but one oft-forgotten ingredient in this mix is Nick Oliveri, who left the band after this album, robbing QOTSA of a malevolent punk danger that helped make this such a ball-tearer of an album. Also best not forgotten in the maelstrom of Grohl's percussive brilliance and Homme's guitar wizardry are the glorious melodies throughout - First It Giveth, No One Knows, Go With The Flow, Do It Again all have first-rate singalong choruses. Songs For The Deaf swaggered, crooned and, occasionally, it rocked so hard it punched you in the face. In a good way.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco

WILCO'S fourth album is filled with relatively straight-forward acoustic rock songs. Then the band took those and threw them in some kind of sonic blender, coming up with a wonderfully unique and challenging record that takes abrupt left-turns, buries its hooks in noise and generally goes about tearing up the rule book and then setting it on fire. The songs are strong enough to survive what their label saw as a kind of self-sabotage but it's actually nothing of the sort - this is a band following its artistic goals and merging bold experimentation with intelligent songwriting, as best illustrated by the otherworldly I Am Trying To Break Your Heart and War On War, and adding to the mood of each piece in just the right way. The proof is also in the mostly untampered-with gems like Kamera, the charmingly nostalgic Heavy Metal Drummer and Jesus, Etc - these guys knew what they were doing and when to do it.

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips

THEIR spectacular 1999 record The Soft Bulletin brought The Flaming Lips in from the fringes of lunacy and led to Wayne Coyne and his cohorts being crowned the current kings of psychedelic pop. Yoshimi was the confirmation that they deserved the throne - it's a lush, beautiful and wonderfully strange album that takes you on an LSD-fuelled journey through the rabbit-hole. It's been suggested it's a concept album about a sick young girl who escapes into her imagination, but its kindred spirit is Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon (which the Lips covered in 2009). Like a futuristic metaphysical version of Floyd's epic, Yoshimi tackles some big life stuff, from violence (Fight Test) to mortality (Do You Realize??), from fate (In The Morning Of The Magician) to living in the moment (All We Have Is Now, Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell). Oh, and robots. With an increased reliance on electronics, bizarre noises and moody keyboard flourishes, the album is a passport to a weird new place that gives you plenty to think about as you take the journey. Do You Realize?? alone is enough to make your head explode when mixed with the right level of hallucinogens as Coyne reminds us in his tremulous voice that we're all just floating in space and only here for a moment, but we're all still beautiful creatures. It's new millenial hippie, but it's still a nice sentiment and an amazingly powerful song.

Sea Change - Beck

APT title that. Once a wise-ass, sample-happy, indie loser, Beck got introspective in the wake of split from his long-time girlfriend and ending up penning the break-up album of the decade. He rarely shifts his voice out of first gear as it crackles with honesty over the top of country-esque ballads and down-tempo pop numbers. That's not a bad thing - the album's a bit of a downer and Beck sounds like he's on a downer, so it's a perfect fit. He lays bare his soul with frightening honesty and comes out of his darkness with a beautiful and moving album that rolls from country-tinged to cinematic. Nigel Godrich's production adds tasty dressing and sombre touches to the straight-ahead arrangements, but listen to his previous sex-funk album Midnight Vultures and then this and you'd never know it was the same guy - who knew Beck had it in him? There are so many tasty moments, particularly the alt-country duo of Paper Tiger and Guess I'm Doing Fine, but this is definitely the soundtrack for crying into your gin. It is the sound of a breaking heart and the moments of enlightment and hope that can be found when picking up the pieces. Those few who still thought of Beck as a smirking slacker were proven wrong once and for all.

Source Tags & Codes - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

THE critical darlings with the absurdly long name crossed over to a major label and released their magnum opus, a stirring collection of dark guitars and grandiose ambition. That they pulled it off and managed to make an epic album that wasn't necessarily long was an achievement in itself. The secret of the success is in the layer of dust that coats those dirty duelling guitars, crashing crescendoes and wonderfully constructed songs - lo-fi yet somehow still rich. Highlights include the not-quite-punk Another Morning Stoner, the rollercoaster of How Near How Far, and the Sonic Youth-meets-Supergrass of Baudelaire. There are noisescapes aplenty, but they just serve as moments to build the tension before the next cool riff.

Honourable mentions: Maladroit - Weezer, Power In Numbers - Jurassic 5, A Rush Of Blood To The Head - Coldplay, American IV: The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash, Lost In Space - Aimee Mann, Phrenology - The Roots, Turn On The Bright Lights - Interpol, Up The Bracket - The Libertines, ( ) - Sigur Ros, The Eminem Show - Eminem, Audioslave - Audioslave, Original Pirate Material - The Streets, The Music - The Music, In Search Of - N*E*R*D, Alice/Blood Money - Tom Waits, One Beat - Sleater Kinney, Yanqui U.X.O - Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Guest - Phantom Planet, Geogaddi - Boards Of Canada, Blazing Arrow - Blackalicious, Deadringer - RJD2, Come With Us - Chemical Brothers, Kill The Moonlight - Spoon, The Big Come Up - The Black Keys, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone - The Walkmen, Mclusky Do Dallas - Mclusky, One By One - Foo Fighters, By The Grace Of God - The Hellacopters, The Last Broadcast - Doves, Behind The Music - The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, The Datsuns - The Datsuns, Lack Of Communication - The Von Bondies, B.R.M.C. - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

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