In 2002 Napster officially declared bankruptcy. And although the major labels were rejoicing at this milestone, it was the beginning of the mainstream moving to a digital music headspace (iTunes Music Store was just on the horizon, launching in 2003) and the old guard buckling underneath that weight.
And while 2002 also saw the rise of Audioslave, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s musical career, and something called the “Ketchup Song,” it was also a year of very important, career-making (or changing) albums. Let’s get nostalgic, shall we? Below, a list of six amazing albums that turn a decade old this year.
6. Tom Waits, Alice/Blood Money, released May 4, 2002
It’s officially two separate records, but Alice and Blood Money effectively work as a double album. Blood Money is the dark side and Alice is the light. They also both act as soundtracks to theatrical productions that Tom Waits scored for critically acclaimed, avant-garde director Robert Wilson. Alice was scored for a play loosely based on Alice in Wonderland and contains some of Waits’s most touching songwriting. Blood Money is the soundtrack for an interpretation of Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck, and is more in keeping with the rough, barroom, vaudeville sounds Waits is known for.
Key tracks: “Alice” and “Flowers Grave” from Alice; “God’s Away on Business” from Blood Money.
5. Sigur Ros, ( ), released Oct. 28, 2002
This is the band’s third full-length record, but it is a very important recording because it marks the introduction of “hopelandic” – the gibberish language made up by lead singer Jonsi Birgisson that the band has become synonymous with.
Key tracks: "untitled #1" (a.k.a. "Vaka"), "untitled #2" (a.k.a. "Fyrsta").
4. Beck, Sea Change, released Sept. 24, 2002
In the late ’90s, Beck defined what we thought was his sound: heavily instrumented, high-energy funk with samples and uncouth lyrics. Aptly titled, Sea Change changed the world’s perception of this multi-layered artist. Essentially, this record acts like a singer-songwriter album and shows that Beck can write a traditional ballad if wants to – but he’s still gong to add his sonic touch.
Key tracks: “The Golden Age” and “Lost Cause.”
3. Hot Hot Heat, Make-Up the Breakdown, released Oct. 8, 2002
[Listen to Hot Hot Heat on CBC Music.]
In the early 2000s, independent pop/rock bands started making dance floors move again but none did it better than Victoria, B.C.’s Hot Hot Heat. Part art-rock, part disco-punk, this debut album brought what was happening in the underground to the surface and gave it to the masses.
Key tracks: “Bandages,” “Oh Goddamit” and “Talk to Me, Dance with Me.”
2. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, released July 16, 2002
Although the Flaming Lips released nine albums before Yoshimi, this record (and the one before it, The Soft Bulletin) is the one that captured the public’s attention in a major way. It deals with robots and death and tells the fictional story of Yoshimi, and yet it is super accessible. The last track on the album even won the group a Grammy for best rock instrumental performance.
Key tracks: “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 1,” “Do You Realize?” and “Fight Test.”
1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, released April 23, 2002
This album is so seminal that they made a documentary about it, called I am Trying to Break Your Heart. The record is not only important because it has been heralded as some of the band’s best musical work, but also because of the major label politics behind its release since the story is so indicative of what was happening in music at the time. Warner Music’s Reprise Records refused to release Foxtrot, Wilco streamed it on their band website, Nonesuch Records (a smaller label but still under the Warner umbrella) said they’d release it and the thing went gold.
Key tracks: “Jesus Etc.,” “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” and “Pot Kettle Black.”
Any other albums turing a decade old this year? Post them in the comments below.
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