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2003 Year End Best Of

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I've heard more than one person say that 2003 has been a crappy year for music. I don't know what these folks listen to, but from where I stand, it's been pretty durn good. Then again, until I read other publications' Top Ten Lists, I didn't even realize that Radiohead had released an album this year. So I suppose this means I live in a somewhat rarified musical world. Anyway, If you doubt my word, perhaps you should listen to the following:

10 Great Albums:

These are Good Times by The High Strung. This album is a genre buster much liked by most of my friends, even those who aren't huge fans of The High Strung's type of music. Full of great music, fun and literate songs, and excellent recording.

Converted Thieves by Black Lipstick. Wonderfully bitter and sarcastic garage rock straight out of Austin, Texas. Although some critics say it sounds like the Velvet Underground, I still don't hear it. Rather I'm focused on the funny lyrics and hooky guitars.

Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory by The Deathray Davies. I may not think this album is wholly successfully, however, it's still one of the most ambitious achievements of 2003.

Live 2003 by Saturday Looks Good to Me. This limited edition CD shows more passion and energy than the album from which most of the material is drawn. As such, it's a better reflection of the skill of this Detroit collective.

Cedarland by Palaxy Tracks. You'd think that I'd have this one ranked higher, based solely on my rating. It's an excellent album driven by the utterly beautiful guitarwork and Brandon Durham's vocals.

It's a Secret to Everybody by The Close. Hands down, this is my local Atlanta album of the year. Solidly catchy dance music that's moody and held together by some amazing musicianship.

Something Must be Transmitted Somehow by The Eskimos. A release that's grown on me since January. I may have issues with some of the production, but the songs themselves are catchy nuggets of retro pop lyricism.

Friends are Ghosts by Taking Pictures. Technically a 2002 release, this one is held together by the dueling vocals and off-kilter rhythms.

Tomorrow Waits by The Silent Kids. Yet another album that's grown on me since its original release. It also still has production issues, but nevertheless Tomorrow Waits has some beautiful songs that aren't undermined their complexity.

Cup of Sand by Superchunk. Yeah, it's a retrospective that collects previously released B-Sides and rarities. So it may not technically be new, but this double CD reminds me of why Superchunk has remained one of my favorite bands for years.

Top 10 Concerts:

As you may know, I prefer live concerts to the recorded medium. Some of this rankings are based on a singular performance, while most get ranked due to the combination of bands on the bill.

The Deathray Davies and French Toast on 27.Mar.03 at The EARL. The Davies played one of their usual brilliant shows, but the highlight and revelation came from my first experience with DC's French Toast. The combination of both bands left me humming and singing for weeks.

The Possibilities and The High Strung on 3.May.03 at The Engine Room. After an abortive show in Atlanta the previous evening, both band pulled it together for this show in a somewhat limited venue. The High Strung were amazing, showing how touring has turned them into one of the tightest bands I've heard. And for once the Possibilities showed off their skill and musicianship to an extremely appreciative crowd.

Superchunk on 11.Oct.03 at The Echo Lounge. It was great to see my old stalwarts put on an excellent show. Mainly relying on older material, the band rocked hard and kept the energy going.

Tijuana Hercules and Envie on 30.Aug.03 at The Star Bar. In retrospect, this is still a strange bill. Both bands played with a fierceness that impressed the audience and showed off their different musical styles to best advantage.

The Karl Hendricks Trio on 29.Sept.03 at The Echo Lounge. You weren't there. I know you weren't. How? Well there were only 5 people in the audience, and Evil Sponge represented three of them. Wonderful Wonderful show that turned into a request-fest. And you missed it!

The Eskimos and The Fairburn Royals on 16.Jan.03 at The Star Bar. I hadn't seen the Fairburn Royals prior to this concert, but I was quickly converted to their poppy style. And The Eskimos displayed their music to good advantage, despite some sound issues. I may have been ill, but I forgot my fever while both bands played.

MidStates on 21.Aug.03 at The EARL. Another band I hadn't seen previously. I was expecting Space Rock, but instead I got something else. It was reverb-y and rock-y and wonderfully beautiful. I watched in awe as the band crossed musical styles without apparently breaking a sweat.

Moreland Audio and Rizzudo on 15.Feb.03 at The EARL. I always loved Moreland Audio. It's not normally my thing, but the sheer talent and interplay of the band can't be denied. Furthermore, I was utterly impressed by the changes and improvement in Rizzudo.

Centre and Teen Wheat on 23.Oct.03 at Lenny's. A show which I was glad to attend. Teen Wheat was solidly punky and fun, but Centre was a revelation, as they played tightly structured yet seemingly effortless instrumental math rock.

Octopus Project on 17.July.03 at The Echo Lounge. This band put on an utterly amazing show that very few people saw. The music is loud and a little abrasive, but underneath it all, it's all catchy and interesting and different.

Five Catchy Songs You Really Ought to Hear at Some Point:

Noah by Artichoke. Artichoke's album is fairly good, but this one song is easily the catchiest thing I've heard all year. Besides, how often do you get to hear a rock song about the building of Noah's Ark?

Shady Lady by The Possibilities. A brilliant piece of dancey song work, this one had 50 year olds dancing in the aisles in Auburn, Alabama, of all places.

Amelia's Dream by Envie. In this case, it's not the lyrics that make this one so catchy. Rather it's the way that Renee Nelson's keyboards interact with the lower drones of the rest of the band.

Radio Kill Radio by The Young Antiques. The Young Antiques are a solid rock band, but this one song contains a bridge that's utterly transcendent.

Jealousy by The Eskimos. This song isn't on the Eskimos' most recent album, but you might be able to find a copy elsewhere. The repetitive chorus and Drew Sinclair's vocals combined with some excellent bass playing makes this one of the best songs I've heard all year.

Related Links:
  Return to the End Of Year Lists menu.
Tracers' 2000 Year End Bests List.
Tracers' 2001 Year End Bests List.
Tracers' 2002 Year End Bests List.

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