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Halftime Report

Ten Albums Worth Mentioning From the First Half of 2002

Archived Report(s): Best of 2000-2004 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

Posted: July 18, 2002

Year endings are a time of reflection and summation, a perfect time for assessing all that's transpired in the previous twelve months and issuing Top 10 Year in Review lists. That, however, is not what this is. With the first six months of 2002 already a memory and still some time to go before the next mile marker, we at Shaking Through thought it a good time to go back and shine a light on musical releases we've found especially noteworthy so far. Since this isn't a Best Of list, we've left out some albums we liked that don't really need our help. Instead, we've simply chosen a handful of works -- some already noted by the official hype machines of mainstream publications, some not -- we find worthy of your consideration, or worthy of a second look if you've already come across them in the record store racks (or here on Shaking Through).

Boards of Canada: Geogaddi (Warp)

Cut-and-paste electronica from a Scottish duo that knows how to craft appealing yet sinister soundscapes. One of the most adventurous, meditative and meticulously assembled releases we've heard this year.

Doves: The Last Broadcast (Capitol)

More bracing brit-pop with hummable, sweet-tooth choruses and swirling, psychedelic soundscapes? Perhaps. But don't expect the callow, baby-fat trance-rock of a Coldplay, Starsailor or even Travis. The Last Broadcast carries more heft under its belt than the tired, trite and inevitable Radiohead comparisons would indicate, and brims with a luminous melodicism doggedly reminiscent of one of the biggest British bands of the 1980s.

Gomez: In Our Gun (Hut/Virgin)

Building on the pop-blues formula that made their name, the lads of Gomez put all the pieces together on their third release. Bursting with memorable hooks, crackerjack musicianship and a wealth of variety, In Our Gun establishes Gomez as a major player.

Guided by Voices: Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)

Bob Pollard, GBV's elegantly herky-jerky driving force and motley fool, returns to the safety of indie stalwart Matador, scaling back to the rough, chaotic beauty of his best work. But he's come back from his brief stint in the major leagues with a renewed songwriter's confidence: "Storm Vibrations" builds on the personal explorations of 2001's excellent Isolation Drills, and "Cheyenne" sports an indelible, irresistible melody that stands among his very best.

Jim Lauderdale: The Hummingbirds (Dualtone)

An excellent collection that features Lauderdale doing what he does best: offering up a diverse blend of country music styles and making them sound both fresh and classic. Lauderdale may never make the Top 10, but that's okay. His music will still be around long after people have forgotten who or what was the flavor of the moment.

Meshell Ndegeocello: Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape (Maverick/Warner Brothers)

One of the more challenging mainstream releases of the year. Ndegeocello hasn't allowed success to subvert her agenda, be it personal or political; Cookie is a flawed, but undeniably intriguing, work from one of the most passionate artists working today.

N.E.R.D.: In Search Of... (Virgin)

The Neptunes -- Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo -- have produced hits for Britney, Jay-Z and scores of grateful artists, who must now suspect that the ace production team has been holding out on them. Williams, Hugo and pal Shay Thornton deliver an intriguing mélange of taut funk-rock (courtesy of Spymob), lucid soul and insinuating dance-floor hip-hop. In Search Of's first half is one of the strongest in recent memory.

Rush: Vapor Trails (Atlantic)

Vapor Trails is informed, as ever, by drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's unrelenting determinism. But that Ayn Rand-ian, "just do it" philosophy feels less preachy than usual, given the unimaginable tragedy that shaped one of the power trio's strongest albums to date. "One Little Victory" (with its triumphant drum intro), "Earthshine," "Secret Touch" and the unabashedly celebratory "Sweet Miracle" are uplifting, lump-in-the-throat documents of faith and healing, but this is no Wally Lamb, Oprah Book Club three-hanky weeper; Vapor Trails is a joyous and flat-out rocking document of deliverance.

Paul Westerberg: Stereo/Mono (Vagrant)

A comfortable, if slight, double-set from the Replacements' former drunken garage-rock savant, appealing in its disheveled honesty and lack of consideration for its place in the current climate. There's a bit of affect in the different discs' delineation, and Westerberg's shabby delivery and jagged, jangly musicianship are a bit too familiar in an old-favorite-shirt kind of way. But these discs possess enough unpolished heart and chutzpah to render such concerns irrelevant, at least for the time being.

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)

This received Shaking Through's highest rating, and with good reason. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a thematically challenging, musically adventurous album, exploring ideas of dissonance and distance. Sonically examining how we communicate in an increasingly complicated and impersonal world.

Halftime Report compiled by Kevin Forest Moreau and Laurence Station

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