Slate.Year 2002. Five best indiealbums.
By David SamuelsPosted Friday, Dec. 13, 2002, at 1:29 PM ET The most important story of the year in indie rock is that Elliott Smith didn'trelease a record—and when he does release one, sometime in the middle of next year, it will be on Dreamworks. The reigning bard of passive-aggressiverock, Smith is a younger Neil Young minus the country-rock influence—theprototype for an entire generation of indie singer-songwriters, none of whomhave come close to matching his gift for embittered lyrics and deceptivelygentle melodies. The fact that he records for Dreamworks, the corporatemegarock giant owned in part by David Geffen, rather than Kill Rock Stars—the Olympia, Wash.-based indie
for which Smith recorded his first twoincredibly influential records—is as clear a sign as any that indie labels arenow the minor leagues for the big-corporate majors. Only the redoubtableCat Power (whose new record will be coming out in February on Matador),the queen of sadcore, continues to make the case for indie rock as a worldapart.Which isn't to say that niche-market singer-songwriters and bands on theirway up can't still produce great music. What follows is a brief anthology of five of the most notable indie rock artists of the year.
's first solo album,
Sleeping on Roads
(4AD), contains nine modest, literate, intensely tuneful songs. (It actuallycame out last year in Europe but has only been available in the United Statesthis year.) The difference between Halstead and most literate singer-songwriters who play acoustic guitar is that Halstead writes beautiful,dreamy melodies, has a wonderful voice, and can play his guitar—workadaytalents honed by his day job as lead singer and songwriter for Mojave 3, thesadcore champs whose
Excuses for Travellers
was my favorite record of 2000(Elliott Smith's
that seem to move in timewith the wheels of a bus. Halstead writes songs about gentle losers, addicts,lovers, and people looking for shelter—his voice is quiet, tuneful, andunsentimental.