by Mike Corrigan

It's customary during New Year's transition time for everyone in and around The Inlander who loves music to pick through the previous year's releases and assemble lists of recommendations -- recommendations for each other and for you, oh cherished reader. If among these lists there happens to emerge a common favorite, we go completely maniacal and name it "Album of the Year."

With these, our picks for 2002, we'll try as always to dazzle you with a few $10 words and advance our pet theories with dubious evidence in an effort to affirm our music critic credentials. But really, what it all comes down to is opinion. And love, I suppose. This ain't gospel. It's personal and, as such, completely subjective. Read along with only one commandment to govern you -- the same commandment that governed us during the compilation of these lists: HAVE FUN.

Album of the Year Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

Wilco front man and songwriter Jeff Tweedy's long trip into the American weird has resulted in an album that flirts with modern textures and noise-art experimentation but is, at its foundation, comfortably familiar. Breaking through all the crackling, tinkling, buzzing, droning background atmospherics are the warm, intimate sounds of strummed guitar, piano, organ and Tweedy's own wonderfully ragged vocals painting wildly expressive portraits. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is an absurdist love song while "Ashes of American Flags" quietly laments our crumbling Western culture while acknowledging the finality of our decisions. "Heavy Metal Drummer" is a fun, summer-y diversion.

This is the Wilco album that was rejected by the band's former label (Reprise) on the grounds that it wasn't commercial enough. Fortunately, there are those in the music industry who see the value of creativity for its own sake. And while there are many who only pay lip service to the notion of popular music as art, there are, fortunately, plenty of musicians out there that care enough about what they're doing to take chances and routinely challenge their audiences. (For the record, Tweedy is in a far better position these days creatively and financially thanks to new label, Nonesuch.) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot smolders with possibilities. It demands your full attention, though it's far too shy to come right out and ask for it.

Mike Corrigan

Staff Writer, The Inlander

1. Queens of the Stone Age,

Songs for the Deaf (Interscope)

Ah, the Queens. While there were many fine albums released this year that successfully wormed their way into my cortex, none of them took my skull for a ride like Songs for the Deaf. Maybe I was long overdue for a gratuitous regression into the unholy pleasures of riff-heavy fuzz rock. Or maybe these guys got it just so exactly right that I was helpless to resist them on any front. QOTSA have completely exploited the soft underbelly of metal by mixing thunder and menace into a cauldron percolating with smart hooks, silken vocals and raw sex appeal. It's devastating, intoxicating, thoughtful and fun as hell.

2. Wilco, Hotel Yankee Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

3. Sonic Youth, Murray Street (Geffen)

4. Sleater-Kinney, One Beat (Kill Rock Stars)

5. Mary Timony, The Golden Dove (Matador)

6. ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & amp; Codes (Interscope)

7. Neko Case, Blacklisted (Bloodshot Records)

8. Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner)

9. Guided By Voices, Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)

10.Weezer, Maladroit (Geffen)

Sheri Boggs

Arts & amp; Culture Editor, The Inlander

1. Patty Griffin, 1000 Kisses

(Ato Records)

From the first melancholy chords of the opening track, "Rain," it's clear that Patty Griffin is of the Emmylou Harris/Gillian Welch/Nanci Griffith school. Not quite folk, pop, rock or country, she inhabits that wondrously subtle, twilight world of Grange Hall dances, Depression-era moxie and silk stockings-with-sensible shoes. Where another singer might not be able to pull off the right sound and tone, she manages to be both reflective and wry. "Stolen Car," originally a Bruce Springsteen song, is something altogether new here, and the Latin-flavored "Mil Besos" is a deliciously torchy number full of long looks and dancing-from-the-hip rhythms. On "Long Ride Home," Emmylou Harris's backup vocals offer hauntingly sweet harmonies, but it's the lyrics -- a woman's thoughts on the way home from her husband's funeral -- that linger long after the notes have slipped away.

2. Beck, Sea Change (Interscope)

3. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

4. Aimee Mann, Lost in Space (Superego)

5. Beth Orton, Daybreaker (Astralwerks)

6. Los Lobos, Good Morning Aztlan (Hollywood)

7. Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel (Universal)

8. Rosie Thomas, When We Were Small (Subpop)

9. Eva Cassidy, Imagine (Blix Street)

10. Peter Gabriel, Up (Interscope)

Marty Demarest

Correspondent, The Inlander

1. Glenn Gould, A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations (Sony)

A three-disk set that brings both of Gould's Goldberg recordings (his first and last efforts) together for the first time. The performances are as wisely assured as Dolly Parton's, as technically dazzling as Cornelius's, as joyous as Puffy's and as culturally innovative as Yo Yo Ma's. But it's the only music released this year that I'm certain I'll be listening to regularly decades from now.

2. Puffy (Ami Yumi), Illustrated History (Bar None)

3. Dolly Parton, Halos and Horns (Sugarhill)

4. Yo Yo Ma, Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet (Sony)

5. Cornelius, Point (Matador)

6. Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel (Universal)

7. Kronos Quartet, Nuevo (Nonesuch)

8. Tom Waits, Blood Money (Epitaph)

9. Bangs, Call & amp; Response (Kill Rock Stars)

10. Neil Halstead, Sleeping on Roads (4AD)

Miranda Celeste Hale

Freelance Writer, The Inlander

1. Sleater-Kinney, One Beat

(Kill Rock Stars)

Sleater-Kinney is my favorite band, and I waited in hyper anticipation for their latest release in August of 2002. I'm glad to say that it didn't disappoint -- in fact, it exceeded my high expectations. One Beat is as political as a musical work can get, yet is also full of human emotion. These political anthems are as strong as they are precisely because they are so intimate. The political is personal, and the personal results in amazingly strong feminist takes on the culture we currently inhabit. Sleater-Kinney is a truly great band, and One Beat is their strongest release yet.

2. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

3. Mary Timony, The Golden Dove (Matador)

4. John Doe, Dim Stars, Bright Sky (Artist Direct BMG)

5. Billy Bragg, England, Half English (Elektra/Asylum)

6. Sing-Sing, The Joy of Sing-Sing (Manifesto Records)

7. Ryan Adams, Demolition (Universal)

8. Aimee Mann, Lost in Space (Superego Records)

9. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol)

10. Mirah, Advisory Committee (K Records)

Dan Egan

Freelance Writer, The Inlander

1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

Risking untold scorn and mockery for my debatable lack of originality and cutting-edge esoteric-ness, I suggest that Wilco's latest was as satisfying as any piece of music I heard all year. (If you can trust the opinion of someone who once paid full price for a Timbuk 3 album.) Jeff Tweedy has come a long ways from his Uncle Tupelo days and continues to evolve from the limiting alt-country genre for which he, as much as anyone, is responsible. The swirly sounds of horns, xylophones, bells and whistles blend perfectly with a strummy-fuzz guitar and narcoleptic vocals. This is Wilco's Veedon Fleece, destined to sound even better in 10 years than it does today.

2. Mekons, OOH! (Quarterstick Records)

3. Sigur Ros, ( ) (MCA)

4. Beck, Sea Change (DGC)

5. Solomon Burke, Don't Give Up On Me (Fat Possum Records)

6. Lambchop, Is A Woman (Merge)

7. Ralph Stanley, Ralph Stanley (DMZ/Columbia)

8. Elvis Costello, When I was Cruel (Island)

9. David Kilgour, A Feather in the Engine (Merge)

10. Guided By Voices, Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)

Andrea Palpant

Freelance Writer, The Inlander

1. Ladysmith Black Mambazo,

Chillout Sessions (Wrasse)

Paul Simon knew a good thing when he heard it. The limber rhythm. The a cappella hum. The lyric timbre of warm, well-harmonized vocals. Simon's 1987 Graceland album owes much of its popular success to a South African group called Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Their 2002 release, Chillout Sessions, travels a first-time retrospective through electronic remix. LBM's trademark harmonies ("deep, sinewy and spiritual"_ blend with the urban undercurrents of House and Ambient machines married to organic vocals. All in all, the album offers a sound recourse from pop sap, tunes off the beaten track veering hard at the heart with reverb and resonance.

2. Glenn Gould, A State of Wonder: the Complete Goldberg Variations (Sony)

3. Pearl Jam, Riot Act (Epic)

4. Tom Waits, Alice (Anti)

5. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner)

6. Arvo P & auml;rt, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orient and Occident (ECM)

7. Cliff Martinez, Solaris Soundtrack (Trauma)

8. Blind Boys of Alabama, Higher Ground (Real World)

9. Eric Clapton, One More Car, One More Rider (Warner)

10. Badly Drawn Boy, Have You Fed the Fish? (Artist Direct BMG)

Clint Burgess

Freelance Writer, The Inlander

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way (Warner)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers sparked another miraculous return to form this past year with the release of By The Way. The music on this record is mature and has evolved from the bootie-shakin' party funk with which the Peppers first forged their popularity. The beauty of this album is in the flawless melding of past sounds with new and exciting ones. The songwriting is incredibly solid, the vocal and instrumental hooks are undeniable, and all this from a bunch of guys who are known for hanging socks on their genitals. Simply put, this is a fantastic record, the band is brilliant live and when their U.S. tour finally rolls around, audiences will be served a veritable sonic feast.

2. Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador)

3. Sigur Ros, ( ) (MCA)

4. Clinic, Walking With Thee (Domino)

5. White Stripes, White Blood Cells (V2/BMG)

6. Pedro The Lion, Control (Jade Tree)

7. The Arrogants, Nobody's Cool (Shelflife)

8. Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Vintage Slide Collections From Seattle Vol. 1 (Independent)

9. Vincent Gallo, Recordings of Music for Film (Warp)

10. The Pianist, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony)

Tiina Teal

Freelance Writer, The Inlander

1. Queens of the Stone Age,

Songs for the Deaf (Interscope)

Call it stoner rock, desert metal or a hedonistic trip, Songs for the Deaf will rearrange your DNA a la the audio equivalent of a Timothy Leary be-in. The Queens intertwine psychedelic harmonies, cactus-fuzz guitar and impossibly bottom-end bass lines that would make both Jimi Hendrix and Bootsy Collins proud. Infamous drummer Dave Grohl is so precisely all over his kit that he must be the reincarnation of the multi-limbed deity Shiva. To be sure, the songs themselves are blissful unions of shadowy pop and thunderous power. Embrace your inner Queen and join the party.

2. Steve Earle, Jerusalem (Artemis)

3. Juanes, Un Dia Normal (Surco/Universal)

4. Pearl Jam, Riot Act (Sony)

5. Sigur Ros, ( ) (MCA)

6. Beth Gibbons & amp; Rustin Man, Out of Season (Universal)

7. Bill Miller, Spirit Rain (Paras Recordings)

8. Common, Electric Circus (MCA)

9. Solomon Burke, Don't Give Up On Me (Fat Possum)

10. Dredg, El Cielo (Interscope)

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