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Top Albums 2003

The whole 2003 list

01 The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow

Built on the foundations of 2001’s great Oh, Inverted World, Chutes Too Narrow is a smash-hit 2nd album.&nbsp&nbspNo big production tricks, no tracks to skip, not a down moment beginning to end.&nbsp&nbspJust excellently written and presented rock with a brilliant, groovy pop-sheen.

02 The Dirtbombs – Dangerous Magical Noise

RIGHTEOUS!! The Dirtbombs are the Detroit rock sound (via The Gories : best band ever??).&nbsp&nbspEveryone else are mere pretenders (and know it).&nbsp&nbspThe party starts with the first note, and refuses to slow down, much less stop, until the album has sweated you through 3 T-shirts.&nbspThis is a boiling rock-n-roll fever that will kick your ass as you beg for more.

03 The Black Keys – Thickfreakness

A two-piece (drums & guitar) from Ohio, The Black Keys churn out blues-rock.&nbsp&nbspNot some modern-rock wanker version either, but the raw, growling, sawdust-cigarettes-and-whiskey kind.&nbsp&nbspSupposedly recorded start-to-finish in one day, don’t look for frills, just 2 dudes getting it all out.

04 New Pornographers – Electric Version

Sugary-sweet, with every hook in the book, this is POP music at it’s finest.&nbsp&nbspIntricate, smart and polished, it’s a delight to hear boppy, upbeat rock that doesn’t end up mocking itself.&nbsp&nbspAnd Neko Case.&nbsp&nbspOh, Neko.&nbsp&nbspCan’t get enough Neko…

05 Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood

Three sons of a preacher (and a cousin) give off a blast of Southern-rock yumminess.&nbsp&nbspThe AMG review hits all the right phrases, so I’ll just straight crib it!: “hymnal of rock & roll redemption”, “country-rock hootenanny”, “honky tonk rowdiness”, “coarse-grained drawl”, “greasy licks”.

06 Calexico – Feast of Wire

Slide guitars, trumpets, accordions, strings, vibes, complex percussion rhythms…&nbsp&nbspIt’s extremely hard to describe the multi-instrumental Calexico sound, but with Feast of Wire, they’ve tuned it into a spectacular sonic whole.&nbsp&nbspA soundtrack for the Southwest desert.

07 The Kills – Keep on Your Mean Side

A boy (Hotel) and a girl (VV) play punk-blues.&nbsp&nbspSounds familiar, tired even.&nbsp&nbspBut it ain’t.&nbsp&nbspThe Kills are a big, passionate, sexy blast of everything you’ve been told to be wary of.&nbsp&nbspIf you get a chance, absolutely go see them live, and hurry, before they burn themselves up.

08 The Decemberists – Her Majesty

Big, romantic, quirky, literate stories over folksy, lo-fi, melodic rock.&nbsp&nbspHer Majesty is not a casually assembled rock album, rather it’s a brilliantly dramatic piece of art, firmly in the spirit of Neutral Milk Hotel.

09 U.N.K.L.E. – Never Never Land

Very different than 1998’s (also brilliant) Psyence Fiction, but no less compelling.&nbsp&nbspBest absorbed in whole, the album traces all around different musical styles (rock, metal, downbeat, folk) while keeping to it’s trip-hop based foundations.&nbsp&nbspAn awesome example of artistic exploration.

10 The White Stripes – Elephant

Everyone knows about this record.&nbsp&nbspWhich doesn’t make it any less good.&nbsp&nbspJust when it starts to feel like you know where it’s going, it turns on it’s head.&nbsp&nbspThe tunes are all firmly embedded in a folk-blues simplicity, but expand in all directions to encompass just about every type of music.&nbsp&nbsp(Also, don’t miss the Jack White tracks on the Cold Mountain soundtrack…)


Other notables:

11 Spiritualized – Amazing Grace

Bumped from the top 10 very late. Amazing Grace finds J. Pierce toning down the grandeur and returning to something closer to the Spaceman 3 sound.&nbsp&nbspJust a great rock-n-roll record with great stand-alone tunes.

14 The Mars Volta – De-loused in the Comatorium

I absolutely did not get this record the first 4-5 times I listened to it.&nbsp&nbspNow I do (I think), and I’m loving it.&nbsp&nbspA huge, grand, creepy prog/art/punk/rock album; it’s easily the concept-album of the year.&nbsp&nbspGood luck.

15 Steve Burns – Songs for Dustmites

The host of the childrens show Blue’s Clues hooks up with some of the Flaming Lips’ posse and makes a fantastic pop album!!

16 +/- (plus/minus) – You Are Here

Moody and atmospheric, a great headphones record, with enough groove to listen again and again.

18 Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash

Great guest vocalists higlight this fun, funky dance album.&nbsp&nbspHead and shoulders better than any previous Basement Jaxx releases.&nbsp&nbspA bit of dead-on Prince, too.

20 Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic

Power-pop in the raw.&nbsp&nbspNo frills, just straight-ahead and go.&nbsp&nbspSadly, 3 (of 4) band members died in a van accident while on tour this year (leaving SF, no less…).

24 The Tyde – Twice

Great psychedelic summer-pop.&nbsp&nbspVaried enough to hold interest, but focused enough to be coherent.

Al Green – I Can’t Stop

The good Rev. Green can still bring it!&nbsp&nbspClassy, professional R&B, with that groovy 70’s sound.

Clem Snide – Soft Spot

Very emotional with a tinge of alt-country, this is a masterfully presented album.&nbsp&nbspBest served with a stiff drink.

Joss Stone – Soul Sessions

She’s a 16 year-old white girl from Britain, but she has one of the truest soul voices out there.&nbsp&nbsp10 well chosen covers, with an all-time-classic band.

The Thorns – The Thorns

Crosby-Stills-Nash as done by Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins.&nbsp&nbsp3-part harmonies to die for.

The Thrills – So Much For The City

Five boys from Ireland make the most ‘California’ record of the year.&nbsp&nbspVery radio-ready, it holds up nonetheless.

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Too late for the list, but definite contenders

Bill Frisell- The Intercontinentals

Fascinating rhythms and percussion sequences.&nbsp&nbspEach song stands out on it’s own, but together weave into a remarkably enjoyable and relaxation-inducing album.&nbsp&nbspThe Intercontinentals has Bill Frisell racing back to his Nashville levels of virtuosity.

Lost in Translation OST

The incomparable Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) drops 5 tracks onto a lofty, ethereal soundtrack.&nbsp&nbspThe rest of the songs fit the sound-concept well, but Shields’ genius makes this a don’t-miss album.

The Radio Dept. – Lesser Matters

Nice Swedish pop band.&nbsp&nbspLo-fi, c86-ish, but still sounds current.&nbsp&nbspGreat turntable fixture for your local rainy season.

Cracker – Countrysides

Eight drunk wise-ass country covers with a big flying bird flown toward an old record label at the end. Drink a lot + listen to Countrysides = have a damn fun time.

The Hurricane Lamps – Sing Me A Song

Great good-time guitar power-pop. Nothing terribly new or groundbreaking, but very well done and fun as hell to listen to.

The Long Winters – When I Pretend to Fall

Awesomely fun psychedelic, quirky, pop album. Consistently excellent songs start to finish. Horns, harmonies, wit, sunshine and not a minute of let-down. Easily top 10 material!

Ulrich Schnauss – A Strangely Isolated Place

Great atmospheric shoegaze-esque release. Beautifully spacey, without being cold and heartless.

Califone – Deceleration Two

Musical cinema at it’s finest. The final half of the disc, music to accompany the movie “Salome”, is just unbelievably excellent.

M83 – DeadCities,RedSeas&LostGhosts

Awesome ’synthgaze’ album. The drone and hum of classic MBV, with modern club atmosphere vibes.

Juana Molina – Segundo

Incredibly textured folk-electronic-Latin album. Transport your mind into a relaxed state you previously only dreamt of.

Luminous Orange – Drop You Vivid Colours

From Japan, a great MBV-esque shoegazer with some awesome pop overtones.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Take Them On, On Your Own

Fantastic rock-n-roll album, driving guitar lines and pounding drums. Somewhat reminiscent of VU, with some Detroit attitude.