Least Heard 2002 Year in Review

Least Heard 2002 Year in Review
Abdominal and DJ Fase Flowtation Device (Tuneup)
While everyone was praising the mediocrity of K-OS as Toronto's great hip-hop export, Abs and Fase were busting mics and entertaining heads on a much smaller but more powerful scale. Noel Dix

Aaron Booth
Jumping ship from Calgary to Toronto in hopes of tapping into Ontario's thriving music scene, Aaron Booth is a perfect example of a true professional yet to be recognised as such. His dedication and sheer talent should be enough to garner some attention but for whatever reason, many have decided to ignore his beautiful pop songs and endearing poise. Booth's songs could very well be major pop rock hits amongst the indie set, so why isn't anyone taking notice? Neil Haverty

Berlin's Electronic Pop Scene
If there was any justice, the electronic/pop/guitar hybrids coming out of Berlin would be on everybody's top ten. Led by the Morr Music and City Centre Offices labels, no end of great pop tunes and songs came from Germany this year, culminating in the fall release of Blue Skied an' Clear, a double CD of Slowdive covers and original tracks. Philip Downey

Caitlin Cary While You Weren't Looking (Yep Roc)
On this beautifully crafted folk-rock gem, Cary shows that she is much more than an "ex-Whiskeytown side player." She can also sing rings around her former partner Ryan Adams. Jason Schneider

Coheed & Cambria
Want to know if a hardcore kid knows his stuff? Ask him what Co & Ca stands for. Coheed and Cambria is one of the greatest things to happen to hardcore in a long time. Lead vocalist Claudio is a pop icon in the underground scene due to his amazing vocal range and writing abilities. Its only a matter of time before these kids bring their science-infected, highly conceptual, ingenious sound to the masses. Jasamine White-Gluz

Definitive Jux
Heads heard it, the hipsters heard about it and writers wrote reams, but El-P's Definitive Jux label took over the underground without rising above it. Despite releases from perhaps the strongest stable in hip-hop today — dark and crunchy Aesop Rock, fantastically damaged El-P, mad-as-hell Mr. Lif and subtly cinematic RJD2 — they failed to move the kind of units even rote gangstas still manage. It might seem unfair to expect Def Jux to save hip-hop by winning over the mainstream, but this is a mainstream in love with the sci-fi sonics of the Neptunes and Timbaland. Joshua Ostroff

EchoBrain (Surfdog)
The idea of blending a player with years of experience in a successful recording and touring band together with young and fresh players with new ideas sounded novel. I can't help but be mildly disappointed that this brilliant debut CD hasn't received any notoriety at all. Jason Newsted deserves more credit for EchoBrain (and in general, I mean he is breathing new life in Canadian metal gods Voivod). For that matter so do Brian Sagrafena and Dylan Donkin. I still can't seem to get enough of the disc. Amber Authier

Marcos Fernandes Hybrid Vigor (Accretions)
It's a great combination of electronics, improvisation, rhythm and production. Lest that put you off, there's a hefty dose of free funk to keep you focused. David Dacks

Floor (No Idea)
After years of obscurity following in the musical shadows of Eyehategod and Cavity, Floor release one of the heaviest and catchiest albums ever, keeping the sludge and doom but throwing in clean vocals, undeniable melodies and the heaviest tuning yet witnessed in the underground. And, despite their grand accomplishment, they will probably continue to dwell in obscurity. Chris Gramlich

Darren Hanlon Hello Stranger
A truly wonderful album where the art of the songwriter is demonstrated almost perfectly. Indispensable. Michael Edwards

Mates of State
Hailing from San Francisco by way of Kansas, this married duo offers up a most delicious slice of pop. Still virtually unknown and I don't know why, considering they are gorgeous beings with mainstream pop sensibilities. Maybe people are thrown off by the band's prog-rock tendencies, like the off-putting time changes and a mantra-like repetition of weird lyrics on the 2002 release Our Constant Concern. Carla Gillis

Noah 23
On his second album Quicksand, this Guelph, ON MC promises that his next album will come with a dictionary. His dense and dextrous vocabulary is matched producer Orphan's eclectic beats built for both the dance floor and the mind-fuck. When not buried in books and beats for inspiration, Noah runs the burgeoning hip-hop indie label Plague Language. Michael Barclay

Primal Scream
No North American label would touch this record. Could it be because there was a track about bombing the pentagon? Well, it was removed from the track listing, so everyone not willing to pay import prices missed out big time. Cam Lindsay

Soft Pop Gems
With such colossal media attention given to garage rock bands over the past couple of years, it's sad that so many quiet indie-pop bands have gone largely unnoticed. Club 8 and Acid House Kings both released seminal albums this year, and it seems that the only time anyone cared about bands that use electronics is if they are either an IDM artist or an electro-clash-in-the-pan act. To top it off, one of the genre's best hopes, Barcelona, packed it in without much fanfare. Don't people want to hear nice simple songs anymore? Rob Bolton

Sweat Shop Union Local 604
A conglomerate of west coast independent hip-hop artists, Sweat Shop Union combines the artistry, beats and words of Dirty Circus, Creative Minds, Innocent bystanders and Kyprios in to both a collaborative effort and a showcase for each of the individual groups. Polished but still fresh with enough roughness to ensure an independent flavour, the Union's hard work and creativity pay off big time with a classic debut album that is one of the best representations of conscious fresh coast hip-hop around. Romina Wendell

This band, based in Orange County, California is better than the other bands from this area who are some of the biggest in hardcore/metal right now (Eighteen Visions, Throwdown, Bleeding Through). If given the chance, Taken will blow away the competition. Paul Gresch

Fred Thomas
He's been humbly skulking about the Ypsilanti, Michigan (and greater Detroit) scenes for years now. A former member of Chore (the Michigan one), a sometime member of His Name is Alive, and a mainstay of quiet-pop band Flashpapr and the spirited pop ensemble Saturday Looks Good to Me, and a phenomenal solo artist as well, Fred is pretty much the present and future of Southwestern Michigan's indie-pop scene. Look for someone to scoop him up and put him on a pedestal any time. Liz Clayton