Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The Herald presents the top 20 albums of 2002

#1 Eminem

The Eminem Show

Interscope Records


The Avalanches of the spring subsided, Marshall unanimously claims ArtsEtc.’s pole position for the fall semester. After the almost-nuclear fallout of Vanilla Ice, the public would have never envisioned a white emcee from one of America’s greatest sewers ascending to a position atop the dominantly black genre of hip-hop.

Em stresses this point at the outset of “White America,” the starting point of the modern hip-hop classic that is The Eminem Show. With unparalleled braggadocio and the ability to lyrically slit the throat of anyone who crosses his path, Em changed the game, put Detroit on the map and stirred up a lot of industry envy from less-talented icons.

Despite the media’s attempts to caricaturize Em and his own inability to steer clear of controversy, his rhymes flow like no other artist. The Eminem Show is solid from start to finish, with a crossover mentality and live sound that has made the record accessible for rock fans, hip-hop neophytes and genre experts.

With razor-sharp enunciation and biting commentaries, Em constructs songs that, although often tongue-and-cheek, seem so much deeper than the stale misogynistic swig about bitches, ho’s, expensive liquor and hubcaps that comprises at least 50 percent of the songs in the genre.

No matter how much you may detest elements of this hip-hop icon, one listen to this album is sure to convert you. You can’t deny the points Em makes or the way he seems to float above his beats.

In “Business,” Em rhymes “An emcee who breathes so freely, ease over these beats and be so breezy, Jesus how can shit be so easy.” If this shit is as easy as Em makes it seem, then hopefully he’ll give some lessons to those who lay flatlined in his wake.

–Nathan Lichtman

#2 Silverchair


Atlantic Records

A no-brainer for rock album of the year. Disagree? Bono advised listeners to “swim to Australia if you have to hear this band” and Rolling Stone chalked up five stars for this rock masterpiece.

At the age of 22, Daniel Johns asserts himself as one of the most underrated and brilliant rock architects to emerge in recent years, even if he’s struggled with a debilitating illness that has prevented touring since the release of Diorama. Cries of “derivative rock” are uniformly silenced on Silverchair’s latest, a modern-day equivalent of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

Full of lush orchestral elements thanks to Beach Boys collaborator and legend Van Dyke Parks, Diorama pushes the envelope further than any cynic could have imagined. You’ve been told to love the nearly talentless Vines, but Silverchair is Australia’s greatest gift to music in recent memory, and Brian Wilson may have finally found his heir in Daniel Johns.

–Nathan Lichtman

#3 N.E.R.D.

In Search Of…


If you’ve never heard of the super-producing duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (a.k.a. the Neptunes), chances are you’ve willfully avoided pop music for the past 18 months. Brother, you’ve been missing out. Single-handedly lifting mainstream hip-hop and R&B out of the hedonistic gutter, the combination of Hugo’s tripped-out keyboard funk and Williams’ neo-soul crooning have been responsible for just about every top-20 head-nodder in recent memory.

Paradoxically, for as visible as their guest-production jobs have been, the duo’s debut LP (released under the moniker N.E.R.D.) barely made a blip on the radar of Americans’ cultural consciousness. It’s a shame, because with the endearing dirtiness of “Tape You” and heartbreaking fantasy of “Run to the Sun,” In Search Of… is an unqualified masterpiece of progressive sexual politics and unparalleled beatmaking.

–Nick Marx

#4 Coldplay

A Rush of Blood To The Head

Capitol Records

For once, the masturbatory English rock press has latched onto an album that’s worth talking about. Coldplay’s latest, A Rush of Blood To The Head, is the antithesis of the group’s first hit, “Yellow,” the grating and Dave Matthews-cloning effort that was an immediate turnoff for anyone with a shred of decency or taste in music.

A Rush of Blood To The Head offers a delicate complexity that sounds natural and almost effortless. The sentimentality of “In My Place” coupled with the soaring “God Put A Smile On Your Face,” atmospheric “Clocks” and textured beauty of “Warning Sign” make this album one of the best to emerge from the U.K. hype machine in quite some time. If only every act from our neighbors across the Atlantic sounded this inspired.

–Nathan Lichtman

#5 Bruce Springsteen

The Rising

Columbia Records

A solid-soul journey rich in gospel spirit, The Rising is a sermon drenched in healing waters. As with so much of Springsteen’s work, themes of love, hope and strength appear throughout this collection of expertly written and played material; Bruce has now fully completed his ongoing transformation into rock ‘n’ roll preacher man.

Although Springsteen acknowledges 9/11 as the basis for much of this material, it is clear that what he’s really tackling are issues that humanity’s always faced.

With total conviction, Bruce (back with the mighty E Street Band) delivers a consistently excellent set of rock and soul music. Between this album and the accompanying tour, Springsteen stepped to the front of the line this year, preaching the truth with the passion of King and the beauty of Curtis.

–Charles Hughes

#6 The Roots


MCA Records

Beginning their career as what was seen as hip-hop’s tryst with live jazz instrumentation and marketable bohemian images, the Roots embodied a maelstrom of ideas. With Phrenology, the band’s fifth studio album, a seamless flow of music finds cacophony concurrent with commercial appeal.

Even with the cameo contributions from several colorful artists (Amiri Baraka, Cody Chesnutt, Dice Raw), the Roots have not strayed too far from their hip-hop “roots.” With all the ambition of the new sounds and influences, Black Thought still remains as the stable rhyme basis, and Phrenology finds him at his best on the chaotic, bongo-heavy, “Thought @ Work.”

Created over an extended period of time, “Water” perhaps reflects the maturity of the album, and as the lyrics read, “They say a record is nothing if it is not touching / Grippin,’ draw you in closer / Make you wanna listen to it.” Enough said.

–Colin Finan

#7 Beck

Sea Change


Apparently tired of creating party-ready albums, Beck’s mood makes a sea change as he moves to calmer territory, summoning the spirit of Nick Drake in the later tracks of the album. Uber-producer Nigel Godrich, who is now coincidentally working in the same studio with Radiohead on the group’s sixth album, is back at the dials, and his touch is definitely felt.

The album at first glance appears to be more simplistic than Beck’s other work (One Foot in the Grave excluded), but that is part of its genius.

Upon the second look, the true complexity of Sea Change is revealed. Beck and Godrich create an album full of melodies that are so pure that it feels as though you already know them.

–Nels Mattson

#8 Wilco

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


This postmodern masterpiece comes from a band that previously was identified as alt-country, but this new album is a very distinct departure from that appellation. Wilco’s alt-country past is only hinted at as it hops from pop to ambient, and all so skillfully the shifts are barely noticeable.

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth, Gastr del Sol) is to thank for the seamless nature of this album; its brilliance can be largely attributed to O’Rourke and lead singer Jeff Tweedy. But most of the songs were written by guitarist Jay Bennett, who left the band during the production of YHF. If you like YHF, keep your eyes open in January 2003 for Loose Fur, which consists of Tweedy, O’Rourke and drummer Glen Kotche.

–Nels Mattson

#9 DJ Shadow

The Private Press


Turntablism’s original eclectic genius kept us waiting over six years for a follow-up to his groundbreaking and genre-defying Endtroducing…, but The Private Press is worth the wait.

Soaked in a wistful ambience that leaves behind the unmistakable signature of a vinyl virtuoso, the album is perfect headphone music for anything ranging from a lazily rainy day to a life-altering experience.

DJ Shadow has it within his ability to completely displace the trendy hipsters of electronic music and legitimize the genre, but such is the persona of a truly obsessive crate-digger — he has an all-consuming love of music that allows him to make great records but ostensibly prevents him from caring about how they’re received.

–Nick Marx

#10 Red Hot Chili Peppers

By The Way

Warner Bros. Records

Not at all surprisingly, this summer’s release from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of the most successful and groundbreaking alternative rock bands of the past 20 years, lives up to its expectations. Most of the tracks are superbly melodic, rivaling the group’s phenomenal last album Californication.

By The Way reflects a scope of influence, with some songs rooted in funk elements similar the RHCP’s 1984 release Freaky Styley, while others don’t shy away from incorporating everything from Latin-inspired tunes to orchestral backdrops.

Many would argue that the Peppers have never released a less-than-amazing album in their long career, which has been marked by fierce commitment to the defiance of musical boundaries, suffering through many tragic personal battles, and the always-favored unbelievable live concerts showcasing their delightfully outrageous displays of freakish stage antics — chiefly their penchant for playing in nothing but tube socks dangling from certain unmentionable parts of their anatomy.

–Elly Rifkin

#11 Nappy Roots

Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz

Atlantic Records

At a time when recycled and digitized beats ruled the popular music scene, the boys of Nappy Roots managed to sound fresh with their backwoods southern sound and organic rhythms. The Kentucky-bred hip-hop sextet stayed true to its roots and relished in the fact that it’s a bunch of countrified homeboys, which was refreshing in the face of pop music’s corporate-generated sound.

The first single off the album, “Aw Naw,” was both catchy and funky and went on to become one of the summer’s biggest hits with its mixture of banjo, harmonica and thumpin’ bass. The second single, and arguably the best track on the album, “Po Folks,” is a chill song with one of the catchiest hooks on the radio today. This album is sure to be only the beginning of a long career for these talented MCs.

–Caley Meals

#12 Norah Jones

Come Away With Me

Blue Note Records

If the quiet beauty of her album cover doesn’t seduce you into buying this CD, the husky intimacy of her voice surely will. For a girl of just 22, Norah Jones sounds wise beyond her years and is often compared to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Although the genre of “girls accompanied by piano” is nothing new, Jones manages to mold it into something more than other artists of her age.

She covers Hank Williams classic “Cold, Cold Heart” with such beauty and precision it’s hard to believe the song wasn’t written for her. The melancholy single “Don’t Know Why” managed to break the pop charts this summer due to the sultriness of Jones’ voice, but it only hints at the beauty the rest of the album holds. Jones is an amazing new talent, and her album simply shines.

–Caley Meals

#13 Foo Fighters

One By One


As giddy and playful his veneer may seem, Dave Grohl has had a lot of heartache. He was a member of the most important band of the past 20 years, dealt with his friend blowing his head off, almost lost his best friend and drummer Taylor Hawkins to a drug overdose and has had enough collapsing relationships with females to comprise a memoir.

Yet despite all this, Dave told a tiny Chicago crowd in October that he’s realized just how incredibly lucky he is.

One By One is as fluctuating and restless as Grohl himself. Admitting his weaknesses, alluding to the past and challenging his own conventions, Grohl and the Foos live for the moment in an album less edgy than their self-titled debut but infinitely more introspective than the sum of their previous releases.

In “Times Like These,” Grohl sings, “I’m a little divided, to stay or run away and leave it all behind.” Here’s hoping that Grohl stays just where he is.

–Nathan Lichtman

#14 …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead-

Source Tags & Codes


Prepare yourself for the sonic onslaught that is Trail of Dead. If you’re new to harder music in general, or feel like checking it out, Trail of Dead is a perfect place to start.

As many other bands rely on power chords to add energy to their music, TOD does the opposite by creating incredibly intricate and beautiful music that is more powerful than any power chord will ever be. Each band member plays several instruments, showing on this album both the technical mastery they have over their instruments and their collective melodic genius.

Following the precedent set by Modest Mouse and Built to Spill of making a shift to a major label and still making an extraordinary album, TOD makes its best yet.

–Nels Mattson

#15 Solomon Burke

Don’t Give Up On Me

Fat Possum Records

Don’t call it a comeback — Don’t Give Up On Me is nothing less than a monumental addition to the work of one of America’s best — and most under-appreciated — R&B legends. Wrapping the noble intensity of his sweet-as-sin voice around songs by some of the best living songwriters — Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison, among others, all contributing songs that are far from throwaways — Burke digs deep into the pain and redemption that he has always examined so well.

Though nearly every song is a masterpiece, a particular highlight is “The Judgment,” written by Costello and Cait O’Riordan, a piercing, soul-shaking tragedy that gets the truly royal treatment from Mr. Burke, who has now clearly solidified his position among American music’s great living legends.

–Charles Hughes

#16 Nine Inch Nails

And All That Could Have Been

Nothing Records

After stripping away the guitar-bashing, amp-destroying, and musician-to-musician mutilation that has earned Nine Inch Nails notoriety as the most intense live industrial band of the late 20th century, all that remains on this album is the live auditory testament of NIN’s 1999-2000 “Fragility” tour.

From the synth-rock classic “Head Like A Hole” to the libido-inducing “Closer” to the social-outcast anthem “Hurt,” there is not an emotion that is overlooked on this collection that brings to light even the darkest, most-overlooked corners of the NIN catalogue.

With every guttural scream, synth pulse and guitar squeal of a NIN show intact, one can almost imagine fighting for their life in a mosh pit catalyzed by Trent Reznor and his four-piece industrial army.

–Alex Larson

#17 Weezer


Geffen Records

Weezer has triumphantly returned with an album that more-than-redeems the poor production and incomplete, hasty songwriting that appeared on certain a 2001 catastrophe known as the Green Album.

Thankfully, Maladroit immediately echoes that unique brand of power-pop instantly identifiable with Weezer. It demonstrates a deliberate and earnest effort toward sophistication in songwriting, a trajectory taking off from Pinkerton’s similar musical brilliance.

The tracks create grander soundscapes that have a “retro” feeling with throwbacks to all generations of rock, yet seem to put that intelligent, kitschy Weezer spin on it all. The return of wildly exciting guitar solos and faster beats on emo-inspired songs are a welcome change after waiting five years for the derivative yet commercially embraced bits of drabness like “Island In The Sun.”

–Elly Rifkin

#18 30 Seconds to Mars

30 Seconds to Mars

Immortal Records

In an era where musical originality has become an endangered species in the modern-rock realm, 30 Seconds to Mars has arrived to breathe new life into the state of music as a whole.

Although fronted by actor Jared Leto, the members of 30STM refuse to let gimmicks and aesthetics come between them and their innovative, non-monotonous melodic glimpses into the multiple states of human suffering and coping in a machinelike society.

Consisting of one part digital and one part analog instruments, 30STM weaves an original blend of Eastern rhythms, distorted guitars, synth drones and flowing lyrics in an attempt to strip the listeners from their pasteurized worlds and gaze back at it with a new perspective. It is just a matter of time before the rest of Earth comes to appreciate the view from Mars.

–Alex Larson

#19 Jurassic 5

Power in Numbers


With Power in Numbers, J5 continue to perfect its old-school-meets-new-school aesthetic — the rhyme schemes are more tightly constructed, the message is a little less aggravatingly didactic, and Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark continue to prove themselves as two of the most innovative producers on the West Coast.

Every moment of watered-down-so-whiteboys-can-sing-along lyricism is nicely countered by weeded-out party jams (“Hey”), bangin’ battle-rhyme sessions (“A Day At The Races”) and instrumental mind-bogglers (“Acetate Prophets”). For a group so deeply grounded in the past, Jurassic 5 is moving forward with reckless abandon. –Nick Marx

#20 Counting Crows

Hard Candy


When Counting Crows, a band that had previously provided the soundtrack for cursing love, released its fourth studio album smack bang in the middle of the season of fun and sun, something was up. The Coke commercial furthered perplexed us all and left us wondering if the Crows had finally cracked. With notions of selling-out looming, the band fired back with its most listenable album to date.

The taut, layered Hard Candy ushered in a new kind of musical maturity. The growing pains were a thing of albums past. The uninhibited wailing has been replaced with Adam Duritz’s distinct, controlled, yet no less passionate, vocals. Long, unfinished oeuvres are now solid, quick and powerful tracks. And blurred melodic outings have evolved and improved.

The band as individuals have never sounded better, making them more effective than ever as a whole. Now, like the experienced rockers they are, they explore the idea of the memory and the past, making Hard Candy anything but forgettable.

–Anna Roberts

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