10 Best Albums From 2002
A nation was pulling itself back together in 2002, but you wouldn’t know it by most of the year’s best alt-rock records. In fact, only one of them is directly tied to 9/11, and it’s by accident. Maybe it’s because most of the LPs on our list of the 10 Best Albums From 2002 were already in progress when the events happened on that day. Or maybe it’s because hope mattered more that year than reliving the tragedy. Whatever the case, indie rock’s best of 2002 featured a diverse range of artists.
‘Kill the Moonlight’
Spoon released two albums before 2001’s ‘Girls Can Tell,’ but nobody paid attention to them. ‘Girls’ was a huge step forward from the spare, tentative early records, but the Austin band was still grasping for style and sound. They got much closer to defining it on ‘Kill the Moonlight,’ a jerky mix of indie pop, New Wave and fractured art rock.
‘Up the Bracket’
Produced by the Clash‘s Mick Jones, the Libertines’ debut album features a spiky blend of punk, pub and indie rocks that rarely takes time to catch its breath. It’s steeped in a long tradition of spit, fury and a messy drug culture that eventually took its toll on the band, which split after just one more album. Frontman Pete Doherty‘s tabloid-attracting lifestyle didn’t help.
The Swedish garage band’s second album was released in their homeland in 2000. But most of the rest of the world didn’t hear it until two years later, which is why it’s on our list of the 10 Best Albums From 2002. Its 15 songs clock in at less than half an hour, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about these sharp-dressed punks who make the most of the four chords they know.
Interpol’s debut album got a lot of attention for its finely tuned recreation of Joy Division’s down-tuned gloom. But the post-punk spark the New York City band ignites on ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ goes beyond those easy surface comparisons. There’s attention to detail riding through almost every single groove, and the cold, menacing tone of many of the album’s songs show that the band understood what made those late-’70s/early-’80s groups tick.
Yes, Sigur Rós’ third album can be painfully pretentious: Its title is two parentheses, its eight tracks are untitled and every single word is sung in Hopelandic, a made-up language. But it’s one of the most haunting, moving and beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. Like 1999’s ‘Ágætis Byrjun,’ ‘( )’ unfolds at a dreamlike pace that grows more inviting and revealing with each listen.
Conor Oberst‘s fourth album as Bright Eyes is the one that finally comes together for him, tying a sprawling, weighty concept to sprawling, weighty music. If the title (‘Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground’) doesn’t tip you off that Oberst is on to something grand here, the songs — from ‘The Big Picture,’ which opens the album, to the 10-minute closing track, ‘Let’s Not S— Ourselves (To Love and to Be Loved)’ — certainly do.
After more than a dozen years of making wrecked and dizzy psych-rock records, the Flaming Lips went prog on 1999’s ‘The Soft Bulletin’ and checked in with the best album of their career. This follow-up is almost as monumental, bridging a sci-fi-themed story to some of the group’s most ambitious (and hopeful) music.
Coldplay’s second album, its dick-joke title notwithstanding, is an overly earnest attempt by the still-young band to break from the Radiohead and U2 comparisons of its debut. And they mostly pull it off, with their best-ever songs and a sweeping sense of hugeness that never gets too swallowed up in its own grandeur.
Did anyone expect an album like ‘Sea Change’ from Beck? After almost a decade of space-funk, old-school b-boy hip-hop, tropicalia, garbage-can-folk and whatever else raced through his mind for most of the ’90s, Beck got over a massive broken heart by penning stripped-down songs about it. It’s a lovely, bare-bones personal piece that you want to turn away from occasionally. But you’ll end up hanging on every word.
So much happened between the recording and release of Wilco’s fourth album that it’s hard to separate the stories from the music. Famously rejected by the band’s record company for not being commercial enough, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ sat in limbo for several months while Wilco switched labels. By the time the album — which was recorded before 9/11 — was released, its songs of fear, paranoia and terrorism took on whole other meanings. It became a masterpiece by accident, but it’s a classic either way.