ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead -- Source Tags & Codes
Was there ever a question that this was the best album of 2002? Well, for those who are blind to rhetoric -- there wasnít.
Put simply, Source Tags & Codes is everything that a music purist could wish for in an album. The overall sound never strays away from radiant, as soul-scraping lyrics glisten like laquer atop a masterful foundation of rhythm. If youíve ever wondered why rock bands have two guitarists, Source Tags is your answer. Rather than duel, these guitars make love and climax in a reverberent orgasm that leaves a similar tingle and curl in the toes of the listener.
Rooted deeply in punk, there are certainly aggressive moments, but Trail of Dead know just where to pull the plug, and let what looked like an implosion turn into a miracle. Raw emotions fester like moss on a streamside boulder, only to be washed over and decontaminated by clarity. In the movie Natural Born Killers, a key line is "Only love can kill a demon." Trail of Dead know this, as aural brutality is ultimately slayed by gentle ardor.
Conrad Keelyís lyrics are intricate little bursts of poetry. Any music-lover will melt for "Early Morning Stoner", as Keely begs the answer to "Why is it I donít feel the same?/Are all my longings to be blamed?/For not seeing heaven like you would see/Why is the song a world for me?", and the ending statement is nothing short of brilliant hopelessness. "What is forgiveness? Itís just a dream/What is forgiveness? Itís everything," oozes out, and youíre not sure whether to cry, smile, pray, die or just cuddle up under a blanket knowing that you just ingested magnificence.
Or consider the lyrics from "How Near How Far". Art becomes music with "She stares with arms stretched out/ towards the mountains & the clouds/oil-painted eyes, blind yet hypnotized/I swear I donít know why/those eyes have always left me dry".
Great music is something that you feel more than you hear. It makes you a little nervous as youíre listening to it. You begin to wonder if the next listen will actually make you sweat or pass out. It makes you question everything youíve ever heard or done, and wonder if youíll ever come across anything better. And after the final (and title) track, youíll begin to realize that you just listened to the final tale of a masterpiece. The core of the song ends, and after nearly a 20-second pause, a cello-heavy orchestral finale singes whatever neckhairs might remain. Itís the stuff that gives you the chills and hot-flashes at the same time.
Source Tags & Codes is -- from first notefall to final chordstroke -- flawlessly devised.