The Top Albums of 2002: IV

1. While You Weren't Looking, Caitlin Cary (Yep Roc). Former Whiskeytown sidekick Ryan Adams should take notes on her songwriting craftsmanship; there's not a song or an arrangement on here I don't love, and her voice is like honey, rich and sweet.

2. Battle Cry for Help, Grand Champeen (Glurp). Some slime stole my portable CD player from my car and I only cried because this was in it--my morning coffee, my after-work spree, my garage poppin' energy delight, my next favorite thing to my cat. (Seriously, you can return it to me care of The Weekly, no questions asked.)

3. Home, Dixie Chicks (Sony). I'm not apologizing for this; I thought they were loads of fun even before they started recording their very own songs using ace bluegrass backing.

4. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco, (Nonesuch). I never tire of hearing this band (read: Tweedy) change and grow, even though I suspect this art piece is a passing fancy (read: Bennett).

5. Echolocation, Fruit Bats (Perishable). Juicy good to listen to, with more flavors than Jelly Bellys, this was the most original sounding music I heard all year--more rock-energetic than Califone; more literate and witty than Richard Buckner.

6. Now Again, The Flatlanders (New West). There's a reason they're legends: Classic Townes Van Zandt style songwriting, memorable melodies, charisma to burn.

7. V, The Fucking Champs (Drag City). It's a giggle the packaging lets you peel off their name; otherwise this is serious, brilliantly played, even cathartic jazz fusion by heavy metal fanatics on an improv bender.

8. The Executioner's Last Songs, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, (Bloodshot). Mekon Jon Langford and friends do their bit to bury the death penalty with this collection of mostly traditional ballads of untimely demise, compellingly performed by denizens of Chicago's countrified rock scene.

9. Antidote, Jenny Toomey (Misra). Liz Phair, Aimee Mann, Edith Frost, Geraldine Fibbers (well, kind of), Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin, Tara Jane O'Neil, Marlee MacLeod, Mary Chapin Carpenter, PJ Harvey and maybe Belle and Sebastian.

10. Is A Woman, Lambchop (Merge). Here's your drowsy Saturday morning, picking up socks, melancholy-lovely facts of life soundtrack full of moody piano and guitar, worn-in vocals, inventive orchestration and wry humor.