Duff’s Top 5 Albums of 2002
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen. Hands down, best album of the year and the first-ever Springsteen purchase in the Duff music library. This is one man’s rockin’, personal redemption, I will go on, answer to September 11, although only some of the songs are overt responses to those events. The lyrics on this album are beautiful, quietly powerful; I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to it. And the upbeat songs just fill up the room. One of the few solidly rock albums this year that didn’t give off an “already been done” feeling. Fave songs: “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)” and “My City of Ruins.”
The Eminem Show, Eminem. My boy Marshall Mathers. OK, the caveat here is that I do not actually just put the CD on and walk away. I do not listen to any of the “skits” between songs (there are five) and I do not listen to song no. 9 (“Drips” with Obie Trice) – it’s completely nasty. Yes, I know, to think there is a song worse than any of the others on here…but there is – take my word for it. So those items deleted, and this album kicks ass. “A tisk-it a task-it, I’ll go tit for tat with anybody who’s talking this shit that shit…” Hello, a rapper who incorporates nursery rhymes. He gets better with every album, more sassy, more irreverent, more in your face. Love it. He is to the new Millennium what Madonna was to the ’80s. Pushing boundaries, pissing people off, and doing it with flare and pizzazz. You go, boy. And now that he’s starting to show off his tender side (listen to “Hailie’s Song”), there’s no telling what he can do. My friend Marcus’ comment was ” he cleans up his act a little more and he’s the next Will Smith!” “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too…” Fave songs: “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” and “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.”
Come Away with Me, Norah Jones. This album was probably the biggest surprise of the year commercially, and five Grammy nominations just shot her up to No. 1. Go see this girl live. The songs sound just as good as on the album, but she’s got a lot more twang to her than Blue Note recorded here. (We had front row seats at Town Hall, a tiny little intimate auditorium; her voice just filled up the room.) She’s the next Sarah McLachlan/Beth Orton without all the synthesizers and production. Fave song: “Seven Years.”
No More Drama, Mary J. Blige. Another first-by-artist-in-Duff-collection. Don’t know what made me pick this one up. But I listened to almost nothing else in July. Until I saw her in concert and she was all about drama. Mid-concert 15 minute monologue on sexual abuse among families. All true, I’m sure, but way to bring the concert mood down. It was very odd. Apparently followed by a similar melt-down at the Apollo a few weeks later. Mary, put it in the songs! Or see a shrink! That said, there are five to six songs on this album I’m still not done listening to, and in the new one-single-makes-an-album world, that’s saying something. Fave songs: “Rainy Dayz” with hottie Ja Rule and “Flying Away.”
**Reissue** Let It Bleed, Rolling Stones. Hey, if they had re-released a bunch of Beatles’ albums this year, you can bet some of those would have been on the list too! Hello, every song on the album could have been a single, although only two or three are still on the Stones’ concert play list (they’ve got a mighty lot to choose from, don’t they). This makes all those modern-day wanna-be rock stars look like chumps in comparison! Fave Song: “You Got the Silver.”
Albums Noticeably Not on My List
The Strokes, the Hives, the Vines. I bought The Strokes’ album purely on hype. Played it once. “Huh?” Put it aside. Discussed it with my friend Dan, found ourselves in agreement that it sucked. Forgot all about it. Fast forward six months or so. Reading end of year lists. It’s all over the place. Huh? Give it another listen. No thanks. Have no desire whatsoever to even try the other two beyond what’s been on the radio.
Albums that Almost Made My List
The White Stripes, White Blood Cells. The only so-called garage rock out there that’s living up to the hype. And the only one that doesn’t totally scream “80s!” and “College!” while you’re listening to it… Two people, one guitar, one drum set = a surprising amount of noise. Noise you want to hear more of. “Who do you think you’re messin’ with, girl? What do you think you’re tryin’ to do?” This really belongs up “top” but that would make it a “top six” list and that’s retarded.
Ryan Adams, Demolition. Well, doesn’t every Ryan Adams album almost make my list? This one didn’t because it wasn’t really an album, as much as a bunch of singles that belong on other albums all just thrown in here. The gems get hidden between the so-sos, and taken overall it’s not that enthralling of a listen.
Badly Drawn Boy, Have You Fed the Fish? and the About a Boy soundtrack. I think this guy’s amazing. I loved both the albums he put out this year. But I haven’t listened to them quite as much as anything that made the top five.
Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel. This is a great album, and he was totally rockin’ out in concert. Broke a guitar string one song in! But I really haven’t listened to it that much as I didn’t even get it until after going to see him. I kind of missed its window.
Beck, Sea Change. I like the thick, orchestralness of this album. Reminds me of David Gray’s White Ladder or REM Automatic for the People. That said, it gets a little drone-y, and the melancholy of it can really drag you down. Not in a willing-to-be-dragged-down mood these days (my one New Year’s resolution = “To be in a good mood.” It’s working out well so far except for last Friday when return of illness really kicked me in the butt).
Honorable Mentions from the Ladies
Sheryl Crow, Come on, Come on. I didn’t buy this album until many months after its release, on Nan’s recommendation. It surprised me, I never find myself fast forwarding when it comes up on the iPod, and it’s a much better album than it’s been given credit for. On the other hand, none of the songs really jump out on an individual basis.
Pink, Missundaztood. If they play “Just like a Pill” on the radio one more time, I might scream, but this is actually a decent album. I play “Lonely Girl” over and over at the gym, and even “18 Wheeler” has some moments. I’ll be interested to hear her next release, I think she’s getting stronger as she goes.
Dixie Chicks, Home. This is a solid third album, but I think they screwed themselves by doing a cover of “Landslide.” It just blows away everything else on the album and, frankly, makes me feel like throwing on some Stevie Nicks instead!
Duff’s Top 5 Albums of 2002