- Pernice Brothers, Yours, Mine and Ours. Said it before, I'll say it again: Joe Pernice is America's best songwriter, and this album adds a few more jewels to the crown: dead perfect choruses on "The Weakest Shade of Blue" and "Baby in Two," the gorgeously desperate “How to Live Alone,” and the soaring harmonies at the end of “One Foot in the Grave.” Not quite as great as the Scud Mountain Boys' Massachusetts or the first halves of Big Tobacco or The World Won't End, but pop/rock doesn't get much better than this.
- New Pornographers, Electric Version. Power pop done right, with all the trimmings - ringing guitar work, catchy choruses and hooks aplenty. It’s not a reinvention of the wheel, but the New Pornographers take all of those pieces that you’ve heard before and meld them into something fresh and invigorating. My one complaint is that nothing really burrows into your brain the way other classics of the genre do - there isn’t a “Southern Girls” or “Starry Eyes” here - but it’s damn fine stuff nevertheless.
- Cat Power, You Are Free. Solid songwriting, pretty in spots (particularly “Good Woman”), but the up tempo numbers desperately need a jolt of electricity. “He War,” specifically, is too restrained to be the searing, intense number it yearns to be. Chan Marshall is talented, but she really needs an actual band to support her instead of the minimalist backing she receives on most of You Are Free.
- DJ Shadow, The Private Press. The best album of 2002 from the 30 or so I listened to last year. (Hey, I have to pay for my CDs, or at least steal the MP3s from eMusic or elsewhere. So, Record Company Promotional Types, send me free stuff and I’ll review it on this site. Unless, of course, I get an idea for a Jayson Blair parody, or decide to convert this blog into a detailed description of what I eat every day and pictures of my parents’ cats.)
So, anyway, The Private Press is even better than Endtroducing… in my view - it’s one of those albums that creates its own world and draws you in on its own terms. How you feel about The Private Press will probably depend on how you feel about “Blood on the Motorway,” the album’s centerpiece. It’s a remarkable piece of work - Josh Davis takes various pieces of musical detritus that would be unremarkable on their own (a Journeyesque power ballad, dated 80’s synth lines, an understated piano line) and blends them into something that is evocative and oddly resonant.