Top 10 Albums of 2003
It’s time for another music geek tradition:
the Posting of the Year-End Top 10 List. Honestly, I’m probably
not qualified to create one due to my somewhat lax new-CD purchasing
last year and my lack of up-to-date knowledge about any and all
non-rock genres in 2003. Plus, it’s always difficult to judge
anything accurately without some time and distance. If you asked
me again in 2008, I’d probably have a completely different
(and much more complete and accurate) list. But making lists is
fun, and I like things that are fun. So here goes: my 10 Bestest
Albums of 2003 at This Given Time!
10. The Fall — The Real New Fall
L.P. (Formerly Country on the Click). Okay, I can probably
be accused of fanboy ardor here —
the Fall are my favorite band ever, and I can even find much to
like about many of the largely abysmal Fall releases of the past
decade. TRNFLP(FCotC) is a fine return to early-’90s
form — this year’s version of the Fall is the most
inspired in years, while Mark E. Smith’s lyrics and vocals
have a renewed sharpness and focus.
9. DJ Spooky — Dubtometry. Remix
albums generally suck — either they slightly shift everything around
they completely eliminate anything that was memorable about the
original album in the first place. But Dubtometry reshapes last
year’s excellent Optometry into new and interesting forms,
using the originals as a springboard rather than a canvas.
— Happy Songs for Happy People. Haunting, somber
mood pieces that linger long after the album is over.
7. The New Pornographers — Electric Version. The best pure pop album of the year
— hooks and clever melodic ideas thrown off like
sparks, covered in a candy-coated sheen. Like four packs of Pop
Rocks chased down with a six pack of Coke.
6. Hella — Bitches Ain’t
Shit But Good People and Total
Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass. Hella delivered a much-needed
set of electrified jumper cables to the testicles of prog-rock
with this pair of EPs.
Tight, complex, precise and loud as hell.
Pernice Brothers — Yours, Mine and Ours. Another
brilliant collection of heavenly pop songs with incredibly sad and
wistful lyrics that should (but, alas, won’t) make Joe Pernice
a radio staple. Bipolar depression never sounded so good.
4. Radiohead — Hail to the Thief. Yeah, Radiohead. They’re
3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists — Hearts
Anyone who can make simple, straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll sound
fresh again deserves
high praise indeed. Hearts of Oak isn’t revolutionary, but
it has everything you want in a rock record: catchy songs, insistent
and energetic performances, smart lyrics and some fine guitar
playing to boot.
Rapture — Echoes. Not unlike last year’s
Turn On the Bright Lights by Interpol, the Rapture strip-mine
the seemingly bottomless post-punk sound for inspiration. What could
have been an uninspired pastiche is transformed by the Rapture’s
incredibly propulsive rhythm section and barbed wire guitar outbursts.
“House of Jealous Lovers,” “I Need Your Love”
and “The Coming of Spring” are as irresistibly unstoppable
as music can get.
The Wrens — The Meadowlands. The type of album
that only could have been made by a band like the Wrens —
a veteran group met by mass indifference and record label treachery
at every turn. The Meadowlands perfectly captures mid-30s pre-midlife-crisis
directionlessness, wistful regret and resignation like no album
before. A deeply felt, rich and rewarding masterpiece that only
deepens with each listen.