As any music connoisseur knows, initial impressions certainly matter, but the true test is the album’s (or song’s) lasting value. We all discover those tunes that we’re crazy about for a month, two months, six months, but rarely if ever listen to after the initial infatuation. Then there’s the music that we play for years, but at some point we outgrow it — for example, five years ago I listened to Blue October on a weekly basis, and now they’re never on my playlists.
While those two categories might comprise 95% or more of the music we hear on a regular basis, everybody eventually stumbles over albums and songs that never seem to expire, music that we never tire of hearing. Whether because it reminds us of a certain period in our lives, or because it seems to speak directly to our souls, or because it’s simply fun as hell and never gets old, these recordings seem fresh for years or decades after we first discover them.
At 25 years old, the tunes I’ve loved for two decades are few and far between (and completely relegated to classic rock and classical music) — but as I started to really get into modern music in 2000, the tunes I’ve loved for 10 years are plentiful. Therefore, I decided to make a playlist of songs that have stood the test of an entire decade for me, songs that were released in 2002 and that I still play all the time in 2012. These are all personal choices, obviously, but perhaps you’ll find something you’ve missed over the last decade — and you’ll still be listening to it in 2022. At least, that’s what I hope.
1. Spoon – “The Way We Get By” (Kill the Moonlight, 2002)
I’d never gotten “high in the backseats of cars” when I first heard this bouncy piano-led indie pop song, but it struck a note in me any way — because whatever “way we get by,” that’s how we get by. And “The Way We Get By” knows “the way to my heart,” which it’s memorized from repeated listens over the past decade.
2. The Flaming Lips – “Fight Test” (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002) MP3
“The test begins… now!”
The second those Beatles-esque synth melodies and that beautiful first line (“I thought I was smart, I thought I was right…”) enter, I can’t tear myself away. ”It’s all a mystery” why “Fight Test” never gets old, no matter how many times I play it. It’s the perfect opening to one of the best albums of the ’00s, and I can easily see myself playing this for my grandchildren.
3. The Libertines – “Up the Bracket” (Up the Bracket, 2002)
To me, this sounds just like The Clash transposed into my teenagerhood. In an era when I knew almost nothing about British music, I somehow stumbled across this song, and have rocked out to it ever since.
Other songs that I still play all the time from this album: “Time for Heroes“ MP3.
4. Hot Hot Heat – “Oh Goddamnit” (Make up the Breakdown, 2002)
To be fair, like a handful of other songs on this list, I didn’t discover Hot Hot Heat for a year or two after it was released. I decided to organize the songs based on when they came out rather than the exact time I found them, however, as memories are faulty. Eventually, I saw the band in concert, and this has always been my favorite track of theirs, appearing on their debut album Make up the Breakdown. It’s such a perfectly peppy and organized song for being so pessimistic (“Shot down, it’s just such a shame/ I think that I’m losing this game/ No fair, why don’t you seem to care?”) and full of non sequiturs (“Antioxidants have got me causing accidents/ Because my wine is spiked with pomegranate”). I love the juxtaposition.
5. Taking Back Sunday – “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” (Tell All Your Friends, 2002)
God, I love to scream this one so loud my throat hurts afterwards. Possibly the best song emo ever made.
6. Bright Eyes – “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” (Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil…, 2002) MP3
First Bright Eyes song I ever heard, and it’ll probably be the last one one I listen to a few decades from now. For some reason, that whiny, rebellious, masochistic chorus — “I want a lover I don’t have to love/ I want a girl who’s too sad to give a fuck” — appeals to me no matter how my romantic life is going. It’s the ‘tude more than the precise sentiment, methinks. Plus this is catchy as hell.
Other songs that I still play all the time from this artist: “Haligh, Haligh, a Lie, Haligh.”
7. Calogero – “En Apesanteur” (Calogero, 2002)
Speaking of catchy… this is a track I’ve known since the moment it came out in 2002, and it’s never lost its freshness. I stumbled over the French pop-rock artist Calogero purely by accident: I was staying at my girlfriend’s grandmother’s house for the week, and my girlfriend’s uncle happened to be living there with his French girlfriend at the time. She played this song repeatedly, and I finally built up the courage to knock on the door and ask who it was. I’ve never looked back, and am still a huge fan of Calogero, even performing one of his songs (“Le Saut de L’ange“) on guitar for my French class last year. No, you probably won’t be able to understand the lyrics, but it’s a lovesong about being stuck in an elevator with a woman who’s making you crazy without saying anything. Quite sexy. ”En Apesanteur” means “In Weightlessness.”
8. Kent – “Pärlor” (Vapen & Ammunition, 2002)
And while we’re on the subject of foreign languages, here’s my favorite song ever written in Swedish. Kent, one of the best-selling bands of all-time in Sweden, are a kickass alt-rock that I also found in 2002, the year they released their fifth album and highlight of their career (I’ve listened to all nine), Vapen & Ammunition. It’s probably my favorite foreign-language album ever — the title means Weapons & Ammunition, and it has that bullet-like smoothness to it’s alternative pop and rock songs. ”Pärlor” lies more on the pop side, driven by a steady beat and a memorable guitar line, with an explosive chorus that would’ve been a huge hit in America… if it’d been written in English. The sad part is that Kent released English versions of their third and fourth records for British consumption, but after they failed to sell well, the band decided not to do it with Vapen & Ammunition. But hell, the Swedish would’ve probably been better anyway.
9. Wilco – “Jesus, Etc.” (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)
I play this on guitar very frequently, and I play Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (only one of the greatest albums ever written… ask anyone who knows music) frequently, so between the two, “Jesus, Etc.” gets a lot of attention ’round here. This smooth beauty is an instant classic, a song that’ll be admired in 100 years. Mark my words.
10. Nelly – “Air Force Ones” (Nellyville, 2002)
Believe it or not, this may actually be the most frequently-played track on this list. Blasphemy, I know. But it’s a fucking rap song about SHOES, and on top of that, it’s terribly catchy. Let’s put it this way: I never skip “Air Force Ones,” but sometimes I skip to it.
Other songs that I still play all the time from this album: Nuthin’, but “Hot in Herre” is a fun song.
A few other great songs from 2002 that I still play all the time, but didn’t make the list:
The All-American Rejects – “Swing, Swing“
Bowling for Soup – “Girl All the Bad Guys Want“
Elbow – “Any Day Now“
Goo Goo Dolls – “Sympathy“
Howie Day – “Morning After“
Lifehouse – “Sky Is Falling“
Maroon 5 – “Harder to Breathe“
Matchbox Twenty – “Downfall“
Our Lady Peace – “Somewhere Out There“
Phantom Planet – “California“
Something Corporate – “Punk Rock Princess“
The Used – “Blue and Yellow“