Biggest Surprise 2002 Year in Review

Biggest Surprise 2002 Year in Review
Against Me! Against Me is Reinventing Axl Rose (No Idea)
Some of the most heartfelt and emotional protest music I've heard in a while. Rob Ferraz

Bad Religion The Process of Belief (Epitaph)
With Brett Gurewitz back in the band and a return to the Epitaph label they founded, the godfathers of melodic punk strike back with their best album in more than a decade. Stuart Green

Once confined to weddings and "ethnic" TV programming, Hindi musicals are suddenly in vogue. Maybe it was Lagaan winning an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Sunil Bansali capitalised on the snowball with his take on Devdas — not only the most expensive Hindi film of all time, leading to full-page ads in Canadian papers. The frivolity continued with Bollywood/Hollywood and Bollywood Bound (both of which are Canuck contributions) as well as Monsoon Wedding and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams. The popularity of parties like Funkasia and My Bindi in Toronto and the prevalence of Lata Mangeshkar samples in hip-hop are telling signs that the epic, three-hour Hindi music-video format may finally find a home in the West. Prasad Bidaye

Buck 65 Signs with Warner
A label not really known for taking chances takes a chance on Canada's least marketable hip-hop icon, a good sign for underground hip-hop in this country. Thomas Quinlan

Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head (Capitol)
As good as the Bunnymen that inspired them? Why not. Cam Lindsay

I'm hooked on the new album. Something about its melancholic wistfulness. Perfect for daydreaming and calming down. Carla Gillis

I am a huge fan of synth pop in all its forms, so I should have welcomed an influx of artists who worshiped early electro funk and Depeche Mode. But the high nerd factor of this music should have kept it buried in the shadows. It's hard to accept indie-rock purists seemingly enjoying synthesiser-based pop music. Weren't these people usually poking fun at this music and its fans? A quick dive out of the limelight will return things to normal. Rob Bolton

From Fiction
In an act of perfect timing, math-rock quartet From Fiction came out swinging this year with a blitz of jaw-dropping performances around Southern Ontario. Meticulously working out all the loose ends before their first show, the band's perfectly calculated set has gained them more buzz in their short-lived existence than most can gather in an entire lifetime. With a new record on the way and the momentum continuing, From Fiction is the band to watch this coming year. Neil Haverty

Hardcore As Next Big Thing
The trend of major labels turning their eyes towards hardcore/metal came out of nowhere. Hatebreed, Poison The Well, distribution deals with known independents labels and a slew of up and comers targeted for recruitment. Obviously, this will end badly. Remember Amphetamine Reptile and noise rock? Sure, Helmet sold a few records, but it decimated everyone else even looking in the general direction. History will repeat itself. Chris Gramlich

Mary Lee's Corvette Blood On The Tracks (Bar None)
A courageous tackling of Dylan's opus, captured during one of New York club Arlene Grocery's "Classic Album" nights. Anyone familiar with the original will be amazed by Mary Lee Kortes's interpretation, as well as the hilarious Dylan impersonation by the guy from the audience at the beginning of "Lily, Rosemary & the Jack Of Hearts." Jason Schneider

Merzbow's Beats Album
Somehow, Masami Akita found it in himself to weld and rivet together a heavy breaks and distortion set worthy of Bryn Jones (Muslimgauze). Merzbow putting together a structurally linear album? Who would have thought? I. Khider

Neptunes and Timbaland Productions
Under pseudonyms, side-projects, production and remix duties, these two could be found in the hip-hop and pop top ten charts every week of the year. Their stark, simple, primitive beats and grating melodies are fine for me, but seeing them regularly on MuchMusic was a real treat. Philip Downey

No Doubt Rock Steady (Universal)
After two very disappointing records, No Doubt has reconnected with the style that grabbed attention on their breakthrough, Tragic Kingdom. It contains booty-shakin' dancehall elements with pop influenced electronica and straight ahead rock tracks. Although Gwen Stefani has found herself amongst the rock elite with her chameleon style and her recent marriage, Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont deserve praise for their contributions to the creative threesome. Amber Authier

Mary Margaret O'Hara Returns
By releasing her first album since 1988, the return of Mary Margaret O'Hara was surprising, to say the least. The soundtrack to Apartment Hunting was a beautiful balance of O'Hara's dual musical personality: carefully constructed, spine-tingling torch songs and off-kilter vocal experiments, both richly rewarding. Michael Barclay

Pet Shop Boys Release (Parlophone)
Revealing your latent capacity to be sincere can make you a greater artist, especially if you have great songs to support the gesture. Michael White

Prince Tours
When the former artist formerly known as Prince played an intimate venue tour across Canada, going from city to city and giving only several days notice to the public in each stop. Intending to give priority to his NPG club members, he advertised briefly giving only those lucky enough an opportunity to score some much coveted tickets. Coreen Wolanski

Promise Ring's Sonic Shift
Unfortunately fans and/or critics didn't buy it and the band broke up later in the year; but the album is actually chock full of good fake Britpop style and the lyrical twists which made them charming in the first place. Eric Hill

Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf (Interscope)
Finally a heavy disc that booms without going overboard and still keeps a creative technical flair through toe tapping tunes. Stacey Abramson

The Rebirth of Rave
Even as the era of massives ended, community-oriented parties came back in a big way. In the desperation to avoid cracked-out candy kids and the jock-stripper contingent, the aging raver crowd rediscovered loft spaces, beaches, forests and farms. These generally more intimate events — though some, such as the annual Om festival, attracted thousands — provided a refreshingly old-school rave vibe where people could unabashedly cheer the sunrise and where it was still mostly about the music. Joshua Ostroff

Snapcase End Transmission (Victory)
After 2000's Designs for Automotion, many thought Snapcase were on the way out. They were. They left hardcore behind entirely and refined their sound into a post-hardcore Quicksand-esque rock'n'roll outfit. Paul Gresch

Soilwork Natural Born Chaos (Nuclear Blast)
I'm still having a hard time convincing people that they don't just sound like good second-gen Gothenthrash anymore. Such a drastic and impressive maturity and progression may have been too much for the metal world. Greg Pratt

Trio Mocoto Samba Rock (Six Degrees)
Twenty-six years after their last album came out, they reappear with Samba Rock, one of the year's most enjoyable albums. Is this some kind of record for a hiatus between discs? David Dacks

The Used
One second the Used are a bunch of poor kids in a Utah town, the next second they are touring with some of punk's finest in support of their major label debut. And the singer is dating Kelly Osbourne? Sounds like another pop-punk boy-band to me. Yet, the Used are able to prove me wrong with the addictive, brilliant self-titled debut disc and incredibly entertaining live show. This is the perfect balance of pop punk and hardcore, and is possibly one of the best records out right now. Jasamine White-Gluz