2003 is just days away, and thus it's time for us unholy rock worms to weigh in on the best we've seen come through the CityBeat office. Interestingly, three of the best bands San Diego's seen have emerged in the last two months-Reeve Oliver, the Stereotypes and Remedy Motel. Do yourself a favor and check these bands out. As for the list, here's our ranking of San Diego's finest output for 2002:
Top 10 local albums
1. Black Heart Procession, Amore de Tropico (Touch & Go) Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel had mastered the psychotropically dark epic, but on Amore they up the tempo and get their voodoo on. It's the soundtrack to one hell of a sexy murder mystery, and it makes a good case for BHP as Pink Floyd for the indie nation. www.blackheartprocession.com
2. The Stereotypes, 1 (Earthling) Recorded as a “fuck around” one-off, their debut is a romp through garage pop that has the pomp, attitude and songs to show the world that NYC and Detroit aren't the only locales doing this whole garage thing, and doing it really, really well. (Note: Reportedly, the first song-which overtly mimics the Strokes-was meant to do exactly that.)
3. No Knife, Riot for Romance (Better Looking) After having basically called it quits, San Diego's melodic indie kings-who've influenced everyone from At the Drive-In to Jimmy Eat World-decided on one last hurrah. It kicked so much ass that Jimmy Eat World took 'em on tour and major record label execs came a-courtin'. www.noknife.net
4. gogogo Airheart, ExitheUXA (GSL) Punks found their groove in 2002, with frantic squelchers fronting bands that accessed your mojo. They called it “dance punk.” And when gogogo Airheart released ExitheUXA, they joined the ranks of the Rapture and Radio 4 as the genre's top contenders. As X was to the Ramones, gogogo is to the Liars. www.gogogoairheart.com
5. Maquiladora, Ritual of Hearts (Better Looking) Slow to the point of narcolepsy, the trio used archaic instruments, gruff, hushed voices and tender melody to create the sonic equivalent of a ghost town. All tumbleweeds and a dusty sort of romance. www.maquiladora.cx
6. Aspects of Physics, Systems of Social Recalibration (Imputor?) This year's soundtrack to most of the city's swankest art exhibits, AOP combined “glitch pop” (the fascinating, insectile sound of computer glitches arranged in melody) and downtempo electronica. Brainy, cinematic, Systems bridges the gap between the museum crowd and alternative music lovers. www.aspectsofphysics.com
7. The Displaced, Nine Tracks (self-released) A boy/girl couple from New York move to San Diego with a lo-fi, Pixies-like vibe and do more for the scene in one year than most vets will ever do. The nine songs are red raw and unbelievably catchy, and their fascination with geography (Toledo, California, etc.) doesn't get old. www.thedisplaced.com
8. Ilya, Poise is the Greater Architect (self-released) When Ilya's first CD release party sold out easily, eyebrows raised. More would be raised when listening to their icy, cinematic take on orchestral rock. Vocalist Blanca Rojas is hands-down this year's most entrancing local chanteusse. www.ilyamusic.com
9. Roots of Orchis, Some Things Plural (Slowdance) Joining the lovely, voiceless ranks of San Diego bands like Tristeza, Album Leaf and Oma Yang, Roots of Orchis took jazzy, melodic instrumentals and added some left-field electronics for a Dirty Three-meets-DJ Shadow sort of love. www.slowdance.com/ rootsoforchis.php
10. Hot Like a Robot, Sky (self-released) Out of nowhere, a few tykes release a record that perfectly balances mainstream rock appeal with an edgier side that goes way beyond a few kids with hall passes. It's a high school album that sounds as though written by Steve Albini. www.hot-like-a-robot.com
Gold Records for 2003?
1. Jason Mraz The strangely sexy singer-songwriter with the golden voice and a stirring stage presence has sent sorority girls to climax and even the boys reluctantly like his Dawson's Creek-esque songs. He's already toured with Dave Matthews, been on the cover of CMJ, and Elektra Records plans to push his new album (Waiting for My Rocket to Come) hard starting in January. He's also the most likely to date a Hollywood starlett. www.jasonmraz.com
2. Troy Formerly the Troy Sisters, the two teenagers were signed to Elektra Records as an acoustic duo. Reportedly, their label is spending big bucks turning them into sibling versions of Avril Lavigne. (Thankfully, they've got local sage Cindy Lee Berryhill watching their back and their future.) Brace yourself, pop world.
3. Noise Ratchet The emo rock group has been making noise for a while, and they're reportedly in talks with a few major labels to put their next album out. Crunching, catchy and packaged with a new wave hipness that kids love. www.noiseratchet.com
4. Reeve Oliver They haven't even released a single tune yet, but the demo versions of their first songs are heads and tails above anything else that's come out this year. Prediction for the future: major record contract and serious airplay. Imagine Jimmy Eats World meets Jawbox. Legendary local musician “O” (fluf, Olivelawn) plays bass, and they're reportedly talking to a few labels as we speak. www.reeveoliver.com
Top 10 Best New Bands
1. Reeve Oliver
2. The Stereotypes
3. Remedy Motel An Americana group from north county that sounds a bit like Train (if Train were hip and wrote better songs) co-writing radio hits with Gram Parsons. www.remedymotel.com
4. Congress of the Cow Stimy, he of gravel-voiced Inch fame, is back with a new rock band, and their crowds are multiplying with each show. www.congressofthecow.com
5. The Glossines Three indie gals who don't seem to know how to play their instruments too well-but isn't that what punk-rock 'n' roll is all about? They've got attitude, moxy, great voices and simple-yet-rocking songs by the truckload. They're already getting airplay on John Peele's legendary UK radio show. www.theglossines.com
6. Irradio Angular punk rock that Drives a lot Like Jehu, and no matter in what context, that's always a compliment. www.irradiomusic.com
7. Waterline Drift Art rock/dream pop band that takes a bit of '80s shoegaze and the spaced-out orchestration of Sigur Rós for a heart-rending combo. www.waterlinedrift.com
8. Bartender's Bible A shit-kicking country band that plays it like it should-desolate, barely audible and completely down on its luck. Their singer, Jason, looks like he's either going to drink you under the table or bury your body in the desert. Country done the way Merle and Mr. Cash intended it to be done.
9. The Bipeds A jalopy of a sound that's equal parts geeky hipster comedy and catchy junk pop. Will win next year's “Funnest Band” award at the SDMAs. That is, if....
10. Bad Credit ...If Bad Credit doesn't take home the prize. Of course, there's no such SDMA category, but Bad Credit-a cross between the Beastie Boys and a Saturday Night Live sketch-are bringing slapstick comedy back into the overly serious realm of rock. Of course, joke bands don't have a reputation for long life spans...