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Music. (Best of 2002).

Dennis Cooper

Ben Ratliff

Andrew Hultkrans

Clive Bell

Steve Lafreniere

Dennis Cooper

1. Super Furry Animals, Rings Around the World Britpop suddenly produced its Sgt. Pepper. A shiny, intelligent, genre-pillaging, totally addictive stimulant.

2. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Absolute sincerity plus unrepentant quirkiness equals (in this case) divine beauty.

3. Silverchair, Diorama With help from arranger Van Dyke Parks in full Smile-era mode, these severely underrated Australians finessed the most substantive hard-rock album in decades.

4. El-P, Fantastic Damage Cannibal Ox maestro El-P took a solo turn and made the kind of daredevil, forward-thinking, deftly deformed-sounding CD that hip-hop desperately needed and sorely lacked.

5. The Breeders, Title TK Easing out of their multiyear lost weekend, Kim and Kelley Deal and crew cobbled together a beautiful, goosebump-producing mess.

6. Guided by Voices, Universal Truths and Cycles After two noble attempts to contain his band's gigantic vision in a more radio-conducive form, Robert Pollard is God again.

7. Weezer, Maladroit I love how Weezer's genius evades the radar of so many otherwise savvy rock aficionados.

8. Eddie Ruscha, aka Future Pigeon, Dada Munchamonkey Still mostly unknown outside SoCal, Ruscha is a massively inventive, superadventurous composer, musician, DJ, and sound artist whose local gigs keep LA's music lovers on their toes.

9. Wire, Read & Burn 02 This sequel to Wire's R&B or EP is a harrowing return to form by the smartest gray-haired artists in rock.

10. Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights These Joy Division/Echo and the Bunnymen loyalists subtly revised a dormant but extremely fertile style into something big, stormy, and vital.

Ben Ratliff

1. Steve Coleman (Knitting Factory, New York, Feb. 4) A nearly seamless set of improvisation, and after thickets of odd-meter funk chants, the band launched into Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched."

2. Abbey Lincoln (Alice Tully Hall, New York, Mar. 7-9) Fela, Willie Nelson, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have proved it, too: The best performers play basically the same number over and over.

3. Bill Charlap Trio (Jazz Standard, New York, Apr. 9) The control, the discipline, the variations on old songs and standard jazz forms: Wow.

4. Eddie Palmieri (Woolsey Hall, New Haven, CT, Apr. 22) A re-formed version of his two-trombone Latin-jazz band from the '60s, Conjunto La Perfecta, honored a great, adaptable concept.

5. Mark Turner Trio (Village Vanguard, New York, June 27) I guess it was jazz, but I'm still not sure; elastic and cool, with a strange combination of delicacy and confidence.

6. Super Rail Band/Orchestra Baobab (Central Park Summerstage, New York, July 14) The two great reenergized West African bands of the early '70s. A hot guitar hero in Djelimady Tounkara, a cool guitar hero in Barthelemy Attisso.

7. Hamiet Bluiett's Baritone Nation (Iridium, New York, Aug. 27) Elephant-herd blues, by four baritone saxophones.

8. El Gran Combo (Madison Square Garden, New York, Sept. 7) A three-hour fortieth-anniversary blowout.

9. Grandmaster Flash (MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Sept. 14) A special mix of James Brown's "Give It Up or Turn It Loose" for seventeen thousand Austrian kids.

10. High on Fire (Northsix, Brooklyn, NY, Sept. 27) Matt Pike seems to be a sweet guy with bad teeth and some authority problems, as well as the absolute king of doom metal. And what did you accomplish by age thirty?

Andrew Hultkrans

1. Radar Brothers, And the Surrounding Mountains Clearly the result of bales of dope and an aural diet of country, Brian Wilson, and Dark Side of the Moon, these songs are lighter-waving codas of casual majesty--their beginnings and middles thrown out with the bong water, apparently.

2. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Sure, it's sappy, inspirational sci-fi, but if it doesn't tug at your heartstrings, you're probably a robot anyway.

3. The Notwist, Neon Golden Kraftwerk's homeland spawns a band that merges psych-folk with electronica to arrive at something one could call organic digitalia. Best blend of banjo and electricity since the Monks.

4. Beck, Sea Change Boy Hansen channels Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, and Serge Gainsbourg on this lush, uncharacteristically earnest breakup album. There's blood on these tracks.

5. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Life during wartime in a broke-down palace.

6. Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights Forget electroclash, this is the only '80s knockoff you need. For those who wished Joy Division had been catchier.

7. Love, Da Capo Finally, a proper digital transfer of the most brilliantly unclassifiable LP side one of the '60s.

8. Television Personalities, And Don't the Kids Just Love It An apolitical Billy Bragg fronting early Guided by Voices. Indie rock/pop began here.

9. Various artists, The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever Salt 'N' Pepa pushin' it with the Stooges, Destiny's Child smelling Nirvana's booty, etc. There's a fine line between clever and stupid, and this illegal DJ collection walks it beautifully.

10. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells I give up: They're pretty great.

Clive Bell

1. Stereolab (Royal Festival Hall, London, Feb. 1) Live, the drums are much punchier and more humorous, and Laetitia Sadier's trombone has the same chilled dignity as her singing.

2. Mark Ribot (Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, Feb. 3) Utterly solo on a cussed-looking old guitar. The antithesis of ambling through his licks, Ribot always chooses the difficult and highly personal route.

3. Akio Suzuki (SOAS, London, Feb. 27) Sea-sculpted stone flutes and long coils of wire. Suzuki walks a Shinto tightrope between the simple and the uncanny.

4. Cornelius (Royal Festival Hall, London, May 6) Audience and band sucked into a vortex of world-beating video on the big screen.

5. Jocelyn Pook (ICA, London, May 17) Playful, intimate storytelling and choreography from an all-female string quartet.

6. Eleni Kallimopoulou/pocket (Blue Camel at Arcola Theatre, London, May 19) Exquisite Greek kemancha fiddle opposite Pocket's joyous, tumbling guitar instrumentals.

7. London Musicians Collective Festival (Purcell Room, London, June 2.) Excellent evening of largely acoustic improvisation. John Butcher, Xavier Charles, and Axel Dorner place astringent wind chords into silence. Sylvia Hallett and Anna Homler (saw, accordion, toys) give whimsy a good name.

8. Jordi Savall (St. John's Smith Square, London, June 20 Viola da gamba maestro unleashes Baroque passion, twirling the gamba like a waxed mustache.

9. Mick Beck (12 Bar Club, London, Aug. 25) Is it possible to excite with nothing but a clanky bassoon? Beck improvises a resounding yes.

10. Michael Hurley (12 Bar Club, London, Sept. 19) Irresistible slow grooves on a red electric guitar; songs about weed, money, life--you know.

Steve Lafreniere

1. Paperecordings, Splinter 05 The best compilation yet from Manchester's bewitching left-field deep-house label usefully narrows the distance between sex and thinking.

2. Linda Thompson, Fashionably Late After seventeen years, Linda Thompson appears from out of the mist to plunge in a few more daggers. One of the most beautiful voices on earth.

3. Royksopp, Melody A.M. Norway's darlings cross Arling & Cameron with Sparks, but their lyrical heart belongs to Rod McKuen.

4. Would-be-goods, The Camera Loves Me A rerelease of the strangest art-rock album of the '80s. Proteges of ultradandy producer Mike Alway, the preposterous WBGs sang about sex, languor, Cecil Beaton, and tequila over ocharinas and a Gary Glitter beat. A must-own.

5. Loraxx, Western Wear A real punisher from Chicago's most disciplinary power trio. It absolutely kick-starts the opening scene of Rick Powell's forthcoming Open Mikes, itself a film about how unforgiving music can be.

6. Wire, Read & Burn 01 and 02 The perfect storm.

7. K-rakos, storynaught More albums of gleaming sonic puzzles that resolve themselves in quavering emotional hues, please.

8. Various artists, Disco Not Disco Vol.. 2 Knit-brow classics from the first era of postpunk disco. I somehow forgot that we all danced to Can and Material in the early '80s and that every Arthur Russell twelve-inch was a revolution.

9. Six Organs of Admittance, Dark Noontide Lo-fi acoustic psychedelic folk with moaning, for those who started missing John Fahey in about 1971.

10. Gus Gus, Attention These people could probably belch a good groove.

MUSIC: BEST OF 2002 CLIVE BELL, a frequent contributor to The Wire magazine, is a musician and composer specializing in Far Eastern musics. Featured on recent albums by Jeff Beck and Bill Laswell, he is currently working on a 2003 performance with Theatre de Complicite. DENNIS COOPER is a contributing editor of Artforum. His sixth novel, My Loose Thread (Canongate), was published in May, and he recently coedited a volume of the selected writings of Kathy Acker. ANDREW HULTKRANS is editor in chief of Bookforum. His extended meditation on Forever Changes, the cult-classic record by the '60s band Love, is forthcoming in 2003 from Continuum. STEVE LAFRENIERE, a writer and independent curator based in New York, is editor at large at Index magazine. He cocurated an exhibition of work by '80s video artist Nelson Sullivan at Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, in 2001, and regularly spins records at Brown's Fifteenth Street bar, Passerby. BEN RATLIFF is a jazz and pop critic at the New York Times. His book, The New Y ork Times Essential Library: Jazz (Times Books/Henry Holt), was published last month.
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Publication:Artforum International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:1523
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