The best albums I heard in 2002:
- Guided By Voices: Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)
- Diana Krall: Live in Paris (2002)
- Jacques Louissier Trio: Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2000)
- Puffy: AmiYumi Jet Fever (2000)
- Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996)
Sonically, it’s leagues away from their lo-fi classic Bee Thousand; the production is wholly beefed up, and the usual song fragments now get the full Who treatment. But Robert Pollard’s amazing songwriting still shines through.
Her last two albums were profound disappointments — too much gloppy strings and not enough swing — as they relegated her piano-playing to the background. But on this live album, Krall acquits herself very nicely, with long, almost fiery solos, and on the DVD the groove within the band is crystal-clear.
I became obsessed with the Goldberg Variations (and Glenn Gould) over the past few years or so, and so it was a lovely surprise to hear jazz interpretations of the pieces. There is little room for the band to fling itself into the material, jazz-wise, as it conforms very strictly to the pieces’ original durations, so they make do extremely well with those time constraints — a bass solo here, a samba rhythm there.
The best pure pop rush of the year. I don’t know much about Puffy — do they write their own songs, even? — but if there was some pop candyland realm out there somewhere, Ami and Yumi would be the reigning queens. Makes my previous pop favorites, the Cardigans and Girlfrendo, seem indie-rock by comparison. Puffy cribs from a whole slew of different genres, and steals riffs from the Beatles, and puts them all together into a too-sweet power-pop lollipop. Or something like that.
I got turned on to the Swans fairly late in my musical listening life, and it’s a wonder I wasn’t into them earlier. Soundtracks distills industrial clang, gothic death strum and nihilistic wallow into a sonically bleak and adventurous double album.