Monday, April 12, 2004

Favorite albums of 2003

In a typical year, my CD buying habits will consist of completist purchases (Sinatra's Capital records), canonical albums (Love's Forever Changes), random acts that I get into for a month or so (Fantastic Plastic Machine; The Orb), random classical albums, and catching up to records I missed out in the late Nineties while toiling away at torts and contracts (U.N.K.L.E., Mos Def). I used to buy maybe four or five new albums a year, but last year I became much more "contemporary" in my music listening, primarily because (1) half of my time is spent driving, the other half at work -- hence the need for aural distractions; (2) the newly discovered pleasures of CD-R; (3) the newly discovered pleasures of P2P; (4) more social outings to see live perfomances. Free music makes the world go round, I tell you.

I spent a good part of the last ten months catching up to post-millennial music. So I haven't always been hip and with it like The Unit, but it sure beats feeling like some washed-up hipster bitching about how some new hot band is just biting Husker Du.

Anyway, in a class by itself (and utterly deserving of its wild acclaim):

01 Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast. Especially The Love Below, which is like the late-80s Prince masterpiece the Purple One never recorded. "Roses" is dedicated to my loyal reader Sally. Also, thanks to JZ for springing for this...


02 Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins. Oh, Inverted World redux, but why should that be a bad thing?
03 Shades of Blue, Madlib. Tops Guru's Jazzmatazz as the best fusion of straight-ahead be-bop to hip hop grooves I've heard.
04 Haha Sound, Broadcast. Broadcast's Emperor Tomato Ketchup -- more jamming and a richer, warmer sound, and I still dig how Trish Keenan's spacey vocals linger outside the melody.
05 So Much for the City, The Thrills. An Irish band singing about Santa Cruz and Big Sur -- poseurs or not? Who cares, when their shit is so damn melodic.
06 One World Extinguisher, Prefuse 73. The hip hop Fantasma.
07 Give Up, The Postal Service. Eighties kitsch -- OMD synth pop sung by the Death Cab dude who sounds just like the New Order dude. And with that obscure New Order/Smiths-like lyrics to boot. Pretty awesome, especially "Such Great Heights."
08 Neon Golden, The Notwist. I'm hooked on "Consequence".
09 One World Underground, Where Are You Now?, Metric. Ditto "Combat Rock."
10 You Are Free, Cat Power. I don't usually go for Lilith Fair stuff, Chan's wild child volatility is pretty bracing (and sexy). She's no Indigo Girl, that one.
11 Boy in Da Corner, Dizzee Rascal. Some awesome tracks mixed with annoying tracks, all courtesy of Dizzee's alternatingly awesome machine gun staccato flow ("Brand New Day") then annoying stylings ("Fix Up, Look Sharp").
12 Daily Operation, Gang Starr. Old school Gang Starr -- I'm a fan.

A few runners-up:

Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie.
Elephant, White Stripes
The Black Album, Jay-Z
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell [EP], Flaming Lips
The Secret of Elena's Tomb [EP], And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead

Overrated: Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle & Sebastian. Sounds like a bunch of guys whose hands will snap clean off upon lifting a coffee pot. I'm all for fey, foppy music in small doses, but this is like a fucking frilly shirt convention. Maybe I'll give this a few more spins, but right now, it's looking like a fine re-gift item.

Is the Delgados' Hate considered a 2003 release? If so, I'd have it in the top 15 somewhere.