Best Albums I Heard in 2002

The best albums I heard in 2002:

  • Guided By Voices: Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)
  • 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.

  • Diana Krall: Live in Paris (2002)
  • 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.

  • Jacques Louissier Trio: Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2000)
  • 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.

  • Puffy: AmiYumi Jet Fever (2000)
  • 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.

  • Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996)
  • 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.