2003, In My Humble Opinion
1. Calexico – Feast of Wire
A slightly obscure pick for the one slot, but I really love the originality and overall talent in this band. Their music has been described as a soundtrack to a spaghetti western that was never made. They blend southwestern instrumentation, some stark musical landscapes, a smidgen of experimental jazz and storytelling in the vein of “Ghost of Tom Joad”. Every time the mariachi trumpets kick in, you’ll swear you’ve been transported to the Old West.
2. The Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love
This Danish Duo followed up an outstanding 2002 debut EP, Whip It On, with a tribute to South Bay surf bands. This album has rockers, harmonies, and great backbeats. Pure sugar, it’s California sun meets “That Thing You Do.”
3. White Stripes – Elephant
Jack and Meg come through again. They return to the heavy Zeppelin songs of De Stijl but continue to add more to the mix. Classic rock hasn’t sounded this good since the seventies.
4. The Libertines – Up the Bracket
The Strokes follow-up album the Strokes wish they had made. This is what a Stooges rip-off should sound like – drug-addled and gravelly like it could veer out of control at any moment. Like Iggy Pop, the Libertines are true songsters at heart and it comes through despite the rough exterior.
5. The Thrills – So Much for the City
Ireland is a dreary, rain-soaked country for ten months out of the year. So it makes sense that if you send a group of Paddys to California they’d find inspiration in the sun-drenched coast. The result? The year’s second great tribute to California beach music, this time invoking the harmonies of the Byrds.
6. British Sea Power – The Decline of British Sea Power
Guitar wizardry of Built to Spill meets the 80’s emoting of Interpol (i.e Morrissey, Gene, etc.). Start the disk at track 4 and enjoy as good of span of tuneful, rockin songs as you’ll hear this year.
7. The Sleepy Jackson – Lovers
The Sleepy Jackson sound like The Flaming Lips on some of these songs, the Kinks on others. Not a bad combo for my money. More than a few really well written tunes on this.
8. IMA Robot – IMA Robot
A buddy of mine called this December show the best one he’s seen in five years. Picture Robert Smith of the Cure (with a mullet) fronting a punk band, with some Devo thrown in for good measure. A little extreme, but it rocks.
9. Legendary Shack Shakers – Cockle Doodle Don’t
The production on this hillbillies-from-hell, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-type project is less-than-great. But the energy and spirit of their live act comes through. En fuego.
10. Greenhornes – Greenhornes, Dual Mono
This one shouldn’t count because the albums are from 2000 and 2002, but I discovered these guys this year. As 2003 was a big garage rock year for me, definitely had to be included. Like a lost Animals or Doors album. I listened to it endlessly.
11. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief. Waiting for friends to disown me for not putting in the top ten.
12. The Strokes – Room on Fire. Previous dis notwithstanding, there are a couple of great songs (Reptilia for one).
13. New Pornographers – Electric Version. More Neko and this could have been the best one of the year.
14. Yo La Tengo – Summer Sun. Not as good as the previous two, but still pretty solid.
15. Jane’s Addiction – Strays. Great return to form.
16. Stills – Logic will break your heart. Nice stuff.
17. Ryan Adams – Love is Hell Pt. 2. Third one this year is the charm.
18. Tommy Guerrero – Soul Food Tacqueria. Electronica with a Mexican twist.
19. John Mellencamp – Trouble No More. His best one in years and years.
20. Fifty Cent – Get Rich or Die Trying. Inescapable in the clubs of NY this year, but for a reason.
Best Name for a Band / Best CD Titles(tie):
Japanther – Dump the Body in Rikki Lake
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Twinkle Echo