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2003 Year End Best Of

Minion Name:
          Recorded Music

I found 2003 to be a very good year for music. Well, i like ambient electronica and spacey rock, and i found lots of stuff to enjoy, so it was easy for me to make a list of The Top 10 Albums for 2003. Many of my favorite bands released new albums, and i discovered a lot of stuff that i had, for one reason or another, missed over the past few years. So, overall, a good year.

I have a tie for "album of the year" simply due to the fact that i have fallen in love with 2 albums, each for drastically different reasons. Listed alphabetically, these are:

  1. Passages Through by Landing. This is a masterpiece, surely. Landing have found a way to merge their exploratory psychedelia and their slowcore pop into one sound, and still make it enjoyable.
  1. The Happiest Days of Our Lives by My Favorite. My Favorite gather together their three most recent EPs, add 4 new songs, and arrange the whole thing so as to draw attention to their thematic similarities. So, overarching thematic content cleverly arranged, and you can dance to it as well! Good stuff.

Those two albums represent the disparate sides of my music listening habits. One side loves complex meditative music, which was fullfilled by Landing. The other side wants poppy sing along stuff, and that side of me was more than happy with the latest My Favorite record.

Now, if those 2 are tied at number 1, how does the rest of my Top 10 Albums of 2003 turn out? Here you go. Note that the actual placements are approximate -- all of these are good albums, and the ordering more has to do with my current mood than anything. (Perhaps i should not compile this list while my mood is "bloated with tryptophan-laden turkey and assorted sweet stuffs", but that is another matter entirely.)

  1. Imperial by Robin Guthrie. An obvious choice if you have read me rant about Cocteau Twins and the genius of this man before, but really: this is a solid, beautiful album, and non ambient fans have enjoyed it as well.
  2. New Found Land by Yellow6, Rothko, and Landing. Music Fellowship records really did a fine job with this album, drawing out great performances from three talented bands, and arranging the whole thing in a lovely fashion. This is simply stunning stuff.
  3. Promise by Portal. A band matures, and turns out a diverse album showing a wide range of strengths, from New Wave dance pop to ambient guitar work. Diverse, interesting, and lovely.
  4. The Stars at Saint Andrea By Devics. Another band that seems to have "grown up" a lot with their latest release. Devics have produced a melancholy masterpiece of subtle pop.
  5. The Decline Of by British Sea Power. A great rock band with talent by the bucketful and great songwriting. What's not to like?
  6. Midnight At The Black Nail Polish Factory by The Deathray Davies. I think this is simply a stunning work. Not as sheerly poppy as their previous albums, but bold and experimental and very deep. Listen on headphones -- they did an amazing job of mixing this, and the love they poured into this album really shows.
  7. Send by Wire. This gathers together the songs on the two Read and Burn EPs, along with 4 new songs. Plus, if you were a geek like me and pre-ordered it from the band, you got a free CD of Wire live in Chicago on the last tour. This is some damned fine angry punk.
  8. She Has No Strings Apollo by The Dirty Three. I love this band -- i can listen to them all day, and often do. This is another fine outing by them.

Of course, not everything is albums of course. So my Top 4 EPs of 2003 are:

  1. Bugman by French Toast. This is some awesome punk music, and i really hope to see an LP by these boys in 2004.
  2. EP by Schengen with Portal, Innerise, and Weyland. This is quality music that spans the border between ambient guitarwork and ambient electronica. Oh yeah!
  3. Headlong by The Frames. This is the closest i got to seeing The Frames live this year, and it will have to tide me over until Glen and the boys swing back down this way...
  4. 3D Concepts by Miles Tilmann. This is probably the best ambient release, heard by me, that was released this year. Of course, i probably missed a few, but still this is some damned fine stuff.

This was also a good year for re-releases. Here are a few that i thoroughly enjoyed.

Victorialand by Cocteau Twins
Forever Breathes The Lonely Word by Felt
Marquee Moon by Television
Every Man and Woman is a Star by Ultramarine

Of course, there were also many compilations released this year, CDs that gathered together the previous work of an artist into a "convenient to carry in the car" form. Of these i recommend:

Wake by Dead Can Dance
Singles Compiled by Hood
Cup of Sand by Superchunk
Must I Paint You a Picture by Billy Bragg
Rost Posts by Mouse on Mars
No Thanks: The 70s Punk Rebellion, a 4 CD boxed set from Rhino

          Live Music

If this was a good year for recorded music, it was an even better one for live music! My Top 10 live shows of 2004:

  1. Windy and Carl at Eyedrum on Wed.23.April. I still can remember the unique feeling of the overpowering drone that started their set, the intensity of it, and the amazing calm which it imparted to the listener. All i can say is, "Wow".
  2. Landing at Eyedrum on Mon.24.Nov. Another stunning set of droning ambience.
  3. Bigmouth Strikes Again at The EARL on Sat.1.Nov. In Atlanta we have a Halloween tradition wherein bands pretend to be another band, and do covers. BSA are a Smiths tribute act, apparently out of Athens. I have no idea what their "other" band(s) is/are, but their performance this night was amazingly fun. I am a pretty big Smiths fan, and this show delivered what Johnny Marr failed to deliver back in May. Tremendous fun, plus, they did do What Difference Does It Make!
  4. Envie and Hubcap City at Eyedrum on Sat.25.Jan. Two unique local bands turning in performances that were classic for entirely different reasons. Hubcap City made me laugh, and Envie made me gape in awe at the beauty they created. Fun and enlightening -- what a night!
  5. Robert Rich, Lanterna, and Envie at Eyedrum on Sat.14.June. Three great sets of quirky ambience. I was, almost literally, in heaven this night.
  6. Moreland Audio at The EARL on Sat.15.Feb. It was their album release show, and Davis and Flom were ON, man! Such amazing guitarwork...
  7. Joe Jackson at The Roxy on Fri.15.Aug. The man is a great performer, and even his new music sounded good live.
  8. Miles Tilmann at Eyedrum on Wed.2.July. Seeing Miles work his magic live is a great thing. He put on a really fun set, and scarily enough i was able to identify the new "versions" of Underland tracks as he played them.
  9. Potomac Accord at The EARL on Sat.3.May. This band is so excellent live. Why don't more people know about them?
  10. Karl Hendricks on Sun.28.Sept. There were 5 people in the crowd, including Tracers, Malimus, and me. Yet Karl and his band still played their little hearts out. Plus, he was really nice when we talked with him.

Hmmm. Wow, looks like i really like Eyedrum, huh? Who knew? I guess that Eyedrum is the only Atlanta venue really willing to give ambient artists a show....


And finally, my Top 2 Cinematic Releases of 2003:

Why a Top 2? I only saw 2 (two) films in theatres this year, and they were both "children's movies", meaning that there was no swearing, gatuitous violence, or nudity. And i thoroughly enjoyed them both. They were Holes and Finding Nemo. Both were very fun movies, but if i had to pick between them, i would say that Finding Nemo was better than Holes. But really -- both were good.

      Okay, well, that about sums up 2003 from my perspective. And 2004 looks like it should be pretty good too, at least from this very early perspective....

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