MUSIC 2002
by Alarra

Remember: this is a highly biased round-up. Below I list the albums I bought or received this year, and what I thought of them. So it won't be about the most popular music out in 2002, nor the "best" in terms of musical technicalities and sensibilities. It's just what I enjoyed.

On with the show!

Albums Bought or Received by Alarra in 2002

in alphabetical order by artist

I think this is an accurate list. I certainly don't remember buying this many CDs this year, but I also realise that every time I got stressed I rang to my Bermuda Triangle of escapism, encompassing the area within Kino, Borders Pitt St Mall and HMV. And when I get stressed I buy things. So, yeah. Oops.

Gold - Ryan Adams     (2001)
This really really grew on me. I still love Heartbreaker more for individual songs (but I can't find it in any store in Sydney so far), but Gold is beautiful as a whole, from peaceful love to regret for failed relationships. Rock'n'roll country hybrid at its best. Nobody Girl, with its hopeless crushing lyrics and extended guitar solo, makes me want to cry. La Cienega Just Smiled lulls me to a calm. I love singing - no, crooning - to some of the love songs, whether they be happy (New York, New York) or not as happy (When the Stars Go Blue etc).

Greatest Hits - Chapter One - Backstreet Boys     (2001)
Gift from April. Has basically all the decent songs from their four previous albums, plus Drowning, which I am ashamed to admit is probably one of the best songs to sing along with. Pretty. It tends to fade into the background when I play it though.

Ben Folds Live - Ben Folds     (2002)
Excellent album. Ben Folds (Five) was such a great live band, and you can still hear the showmanship and energy in Ben Folds' solo performances. There's solo songs and band songs and some new material including adlibs from concerts (One Down is funny and is a good song to boot); this 'audience-participation' version of Army kicks ass, and the softer songs sound beautiful, stripped back with piano accompaniment only.

The Living End - The Living End     (1998)
I finally got me a copy of this CD. I once borrowed it for 6 weeks straight from our local library, so yeah, I'm glad I found this for a good price. Reasons for the love? Social issues and teen rebellion in Aussie punk rock; they have a double bass; Chris Cheney writes good songs. And Closing In, an instrumental, remains one of my favourite tracks ever. What more, what more?

Room for Squares - John Mayer     (2001)
I read yesterday that his sets in Australia were pretty good, one of the journalist's picks for 2002. Gah. I bought the No Such Thing single on a rec from someone else, and fell in love with the electrifying covers of Lenny (guitar only), and The Wind Cries Mary (a Jimi Hendrix song). The boy can *play*. The songs on the CD are mostly soft, easy to listen to, introspective. Neon is jazzy and smoky; St Patrick's Day one of the saddest songs about love, all hopeless over the prettiest melody.

In Search Of... - N.E.R.D     (2002)
A little more hardcore than I was expecting (I'd only heard a not-as-heavy mix of Truth or Dare and Bobby James when I bought this) but since the guys behind this produced some of favourite pop tracks this year I do like listening to this in certain moods. I have to not listen to the words though. Ahem.

No Strings Attached - *NSYNC     (2000)
Some of you, just tune out for the next two CDs. OK, now we can move on. This is my happy time CD. I put it on loud to do housework and chores to, because it has an infectious beat (only 2 actual ballads of a 14 track disc, yay!) and is a lot of fun. I'll never be able to convince people who don't like them to like them, but they really make good disposable pop. And they can sing. I Thought She Knew still blows me away with how pretty it is, a capella, the harmonies are lovely. Even the evil Digital Getdown is growing on me (it has a good beat, darn it).

Celebrity - *NSYNC     (2001)
Originally, I thought this was the better album of the two. And yes, I agree that it is more technically polished - produced by better people and with a harder sharper edge. But now I've had time to spin these two albums on high rotation, I like NSA better because there seems to be more fun, more happiness in it. Celebrity is bitter, songs talking about the backlash from fans and critics, songs about girls dating them only because of their success. The soppy ones aren't any better, lacking feeling behind them. However, it is still catchy and full of energy, just not as comfortable to listen to.

Amnesiac - Radiohead     (2001)
The first time I heard Pyramid Song, way back when it was still new and only live, I was so scared by it. It sounded so sparse, so bleak; a big change from the heavy guitar laden angst of OK Computer and The Bends. But some tracks of this album are excellent music, just not songs for radioplay. Atmospheric and moody and calming but always with an edge. The first half is better though, towards the end it starts to sound the same.

Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers     (1999)
I could not stop playing this the first few days I got it. Even songs I previously didn't like all that much (eg. Scar Tissue), just on this It's a great CD. Good beats, beautiful melodies; sometimes funky, sometimes sparse and sad. Yes, there are one or two songs I don't like very much, but it's overshadowed by how much I like the remaining tracks.

By the Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers     (2002)
This took me longer to appreciate. There's still songs with the beats, the melodies, just nothing jumps out and grabs me as much as the songs on Californication do. But some of the songs (Venice Queen, Minor Thing, This is the Place etc) still have me turning up the stereo when they come on. I think they've chosen weak singles apart from By the Way, because Can't Stop and The Zephyr Song are good, if not great, representatives of a overall good album.

Britney - Britney Spears     (2001)
No, bear with me. Even before this year I've been a Britney fan, because her songs are ultimately pure fun. You can't possibly take her seriously, and I don't believe that she expects you to. Once you get that down, her music is great. This album is probably the best of the three she has, because there's less of the cheesy little girl ballads, and more of 'grown-up' Britney, which means she moans a little and gets some hardcore remixes and the Neptunes to write her a track or two. It works for me. Other than one or two tracks that are very derivative of late-era Janet Jackson (doesn't work) and a misjudged ballad with one of the worst Claydermans ever (I leave the room where I hear it coming up), the songs are energetic and poppy, a mix of girl power and confused teen. She's not as bad a singer as she's made out to be, her voice has its interesting charm, and the music suits her more. And you can really move to it.

Justified - Justin Timberlake     (2002)
Heheheh. So far I have spread Justin love to at least a few of you. I know Steph hums Cry Me A River a lot, and we've all witnessed what happens when we get the Like I Love You outro in our heads for several day straight ("drums! duh-duh-duhduh"). I like this album. It's quite different to the NSYNC sound, much more influenced by Nelly, N.E.R.D then by mainstream pop. I love Senorita because it's a lot of fun (call and response! sung intros!); Cry Me a River because it's lush and there's obviously so much history behind it and the stalker video is GREAT ( completely freaked out Gail); Rock Your Body because it's old-skool Michael Jackson and makes me want to dance (a horrifying prospect to be sure, note that I've said "want to dance", not actually "dance"). There's a few more great tracks with excellent beats and production; but there are also some dreary ballads. They make ok background music.

For an in-depth review of this album, as written by Alarra, click here.

Maladroit - Weezer     (2002)
Rivers Cuomo gets his college degree so puts his band together for a fourth album, which actually has a title! This isn't as memorable as the blue album or Pinkerton - lacks the hooky angst of the first, and the overwrought opera themes of the second - but it is by no means a bad album. There are some very catch songs, as Cuomo delves more into pop roots than the earlier guitar rock, and I still think Island in the Sun is one of the best summer songs ever (and hahah! I didn't need to buy the green album to get it!). Songs such as Dope Nose, Keep Fishin' and Burndt Jamb are lots of fun; and there are even some songs with the idea of love going right (eg. December, I think). But it just doesn't stick in my mind, or stand out in my mind, as much as the first two albums.

Alarra's Top 3 Albums of 2002

Of albums released this year, my top 3 (with my favourite song from each in brackets) were:

Ben Folds Live - Ben Folds (Army)
Justified - Justin Timberlake (Cry Me A River)
By The Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers (Venice Queen)