The top music of 2003

Jan. 31, 2004, midnight | 20 years, 2 months ago

Josh Gottlieb-Miller
, Online Associate Entertainment Editor

Branden Buehler
, Online Editor-in-Chief

Best album of 2003
The White Stripes Elephant gets my pick of the year for best album, and not just because it's one of the only albums I've bought this year. Elephant is a step above the norm for a number of reasons, but mostly thanks to its excellently sharp, bluesy-rock. Guitarist Jack and drummer Meg White benefit from a nicely evolved, newly expansive sound that is no longer simple (though rocking) garage. Instead, Elephant ranges from beautifully bone-rattling hard rock to coolly charming and melodic pop, always intelligently written.

The White Stripes come hard out of the gate with the catchy opener "Seven Nation Army," full of perfectly sparse drums and bass, accentuated by Jack's hard electric licks and vicious lyrics. Pop masterpiece "There's no home for you here," is a particularly pretty highlight, as well, all walls of sound and bright harmonies. From there on out, though, Elephant only gets maturely darker. "I just don't know what to do with myself" and "You've got her in your pocket" are perfect examples: the pianos are slowly haunting rather than hard rocking; the guitars are thoughtful and sad. Indeed, Elephant is a thoroughly well-considered rock album, excelling in its dark honesty and powerful arrangements.

Best radio play for 2003

1. "Hey Ya!" (Speakerboxx/The Love Below): Outkast's "Hey Ya!" must be the most highly played, obvious choice for best single of the year. That's because it is the best single of the year. "Hey Ya!" works mostly because it just sounds so happy, and the music's joyfulness shines through even as it documents some sadly typical relationship troubles. Andre 3000.s wonderfully upbeat evocation makes "Hey Ya!" great, but it also benefits from being thoroughly soulful and smart. Keyboards, handclaps and Andre 3000's hopeful singing are perfectly mixed with intelligent lyrics ("Don't try to
fight the feeling, because the thought alone is killing me right now/Thank god for mom and dad sticking together, because we don't know how") that even still don.t depress, thanks to the utterly happy and creative arrangement.

2. "Harder to Breathe" (Songs about Jane): Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe" was one of the nicest surprises in 2003: A uniquely rocking single that featured inventive guitar, soulful vocals and a quirkily catchy rhythm. The band does an
excellent job painting a desolate urban landscape of relationships gone wrong (marked by Adam Levine.s desperate vocals), that makes you feel every slight the righteously angry (yet knowledgably sad) narrator suffers. Of course,
otherwise un-fantastic, this sexily cold, slightly posturing song slides along thanks to the most energetic, almost passionate riffs and steady musicianship, making it one hell of a sharply sugary treat.

3. "Stacy's Mom" (Welcome Interstate Managers): There.s something charming about a song as ridiculously funny and sincere as "Stacy's Mom." Fountains of Wayne.s deliciously amusing stab at adolescent love and lust is great not
because it scores easy points making fun of it.s ludicrous narrator, but rather because it plays gently tongue in cheek, throughout. This rightfully sunny power pop gem not only has a sense of humor, but one surrounded and enhanced by its beautiful melody and straight-forwardness. A genuinely good narrative, too boot, "Stacy's Mom" does have it going on.

Honorable Mentions:

"Can't Stop" (The Red Hot Chili Peppers)

"Go with the flow" (Queens of the Stone Age)

"12:51" (The Strokes)

Best albums of 2003

1. Beulah - Yoko

Although I could like this album merely because the band's name sounds an awful lot like my last name, the true reasons for my love of this album lie with its amazing pop sensibilities. Every song on this album, whether it be an electric guitar-driven rocker like the intense "My Side of the City," or a light acoustic tune such as the wistful "Hovering," has an excellent hook. Most songs also boast wondrous instrumentation, with string and brass instruments used perfectly. The members of Beulah have also proved to be masters of vocal harmonies, as blissful collages of vocals make appearances on almost every song.

2. The Postal Service - Give Up

The first time I heard this album, it only took 20 seconds of listening for me to realize I was in for a unique experience. Over three droning synthesizer notes came the voice of Ben Gibbard, full of emotion, setting up a perfect
contrast between the sounds of technology and humanity that would not wear out its welcome over the album's ten tracks.

3. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot it in People

Every song on this album sounds as if it was written and performed by a different band. Some songs sound like traditional rock, such as "Stars and Sons," which features a superb bassline, and "Almost Crimes," but others don't
fall into traditional rock molds. "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl" consists of a repetition of a short distorted vocal line on top of strings, but it still manages to sound beautiful. "Pacific Theme," meanwhile, is a mellow delight containing mostly ambient instrumentation.

4. Mates of State - Team Boo

If you like your music angsty and angry, then Mates of State are not the band for you because practically every song on Team Boo teems with joy. The band, a husband-wife duo that creates all of their music almost entirely out of drums and organs, makes their love for each other easily apparent, and as a result, each song is a bundle of happiness. Even songs that appear to be taking relatively gloomy directions, like "Middle is Gold," eventually turn into jubilant tunes. It is easy to imagine such a happy album, with lyrics like "And I imagine I will see you there/You will have long flowers in
your hair/I imagine I will see you there," would grow tiresome, but the melodies are so infectious and the organ playing and vocal harmonies are so stunning that the album is a compelling listen until the very end.

5. Shins - Chutes too Narrow

The Shins' first album, Oh, Inverted World, contained many excellent pop songs, but an excessive amount of reverb that often grated on me. Their new album, Chutes too Narrow, however, does away with most of the reverb. As a result, I find Chutes too Narrow a much more enjoyable listen, for it still contains all of the great melodies that were found in Oh, Inverted World, but with a much cleaner sound. "Kissing the Lipless" gets the album off to an excellent beginning, with singer James
Mercer's voice majestically soaring above the electric and acoustic guitars. The album doesn't let up much, for two tracks later it moves into the energetic "So Says I." Other strongpoints on the album include "Fighting in a Sack," which makes excellent use of a harmonica, and "Turn a Square," which rocks more than most Shins songs ever do.

Anthony Glynn, Online Staff Writer

Nick Falgout, Online Staff Writer

Best album of 2003

The best album of the year is undoubtedly Thirteenth Step by A Perfect Circle. This is the long awaited sequel to their first album
Mer de Noms from 2000.

Even the title refers to an issue much deeper than it sounds: the 12 step program to getting sober. With this, Keenan brings back that eerie longing we all remember from the amazing Sober, which he sang while on Tool. It's almost ironic because the more you listen to this CD the more addictive it gets. Billy Howerdel's work with the Smashing Pumpkins and former SP member James Iha, APC's guitarist, has a definite effect on the mood of the music, creating a strong background to accompany
Keenan's unbelievable vocals.

By far the most important aspect of this album is the focus on emotion. While the songs range from hard rock to almost romantic there is this underlying intensity that, as Keenan said a month ago, was his "search for the meaning of life."

Thirteenth Step takes music to a whole new level.

Best albums of 2003

Honorable Mentions:
A Perfect Circle "The Thirteenth

Respectable pop-minded rock with a Tool-like bite. Not to mention the incredibly disturbing video for annoyingly catchy first single "Weak and Powerless." And the crazy yellow leech album cover thing. Not necessarily
a must have, but you could do worse.

Three Days' Grace "Three Days' Grace"
More of an actual rock
album, with hooks and loud guitars and screeching vocals and such. "I Hate
Everything About You" is among the best songs released this past year, and
the rest of the album is at worst decent. Repetitiveness keeps these
guys out of the top five.

#5: Outkast "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"
Outkast's best effort
to date, and it comes complete with an identity crisis. Anyone who has heard
"Hey Ya" followed closely by "The Way You Move" knows what I'm talking about. Smooth R&B hooks blended with stadium-rocking tendencies and a flair for the wonderfully dramatic. Definitely one to own, not borrow.

#4: Radiohead "Hail to the Thief"
Radiohead's most political
album to date, and a wonderful thinking break from today's mindless pop drivel.
Also, Radiohead's first truly complete album since "Pablo Honey," with the weird and spooky, the hard and rocking, and a ballad thrown in for good measure. Singable lyrics, solid arrangement, and true song diversity are the icing on this strange, twisted cake.

#3: Thursday "War All the Time"
The third release and major
label debut from Screamo outfit Thursday combines the very best in song writing
with complex instrumentation and more emotion than a chick-flick marathon. Talk about the polar opposite of a one Britney Spears. Great for all moods, "War" will variably move you, pique your interest, and make you want to throw furniture. The best band you've never heard of.

#2: The Darkness "Permission to Land"
A glamorously appropriate return to glam rock. People have already drawn comparisons between these guys and outfits like Queen and David Bowie. Hard rocking in places, milder in others, but always insanely catchy, and of course a touch off-beat. Drive much? Party? Kill brain cells by bang your brain against your
skull? Pick this one up pronto.

#1: The Mars Volta "De-Loused in the Comatorium"
If that title
wasn't weird enough for you, the album cover depicts a gold, severed head on a
plate with golden light spilling from its mouth. If you still aren't turned off, or if you simply want to try something new, stop reading this right now, grab sixteen bucks and go buy this album. The sheer volume and magnitude of variation on this mammoth of an album is staggering. Formed from the ashes of At the Drive In, the Mars Volta rocks, floats, screeches, and sometimes does close to nothing en route to nearly an hour of absolute trippy-ness. Throw in the bonus "story behind the music," which could take you dozens of listens to decipher, and you have yourself a complete and completely different album, and my pick for best album of the year to boot.

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