Friday, July 25, 2008

2003 Was Pretty Damn Good Too

I went through my 25 favorite albums from 2005 a little while ago, so I thought I would do it for another year. I'm only going to go to 15 for 2003 because, well, I didn't feel like writing up an extra ten. I skipped 2004 because it only has a couple of albums that I really liked, and I may do those individually at some point.

15. The Postal Service - Give Up
"Like any worthy match, the coming together gives each aspect assets that they'd be wont to find otherwise, the eletroclashy bursting with depth and the indie-croon thankfully adrenalized. " - Pop Matters
A "classic" electro-pop album. Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard blends his usually strong song-writing and voice with the intricate production of Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello, and they may have made something better than either has produced independently. There has been talk for years of them getting back together, but it hasn't happened yet.
Notable Tracks: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight; Such Great Heights; We Will Become Silhouettes

Such Great Heights

14. The Long Winters - When I Pretend To Fall
"When I Pretend To Fall is a mature and nuanced work, full of well-crafted songs and superior musicianship." - Pop Matters
Catchy and filled with hooks, but the second half falls a little flat.
NT: Scared Straight; Shapes; Cinnamon

Blue Diamonds

13. The Decemberists - 5 Songs [EP]
Colin Meloy and company can do more with 6 songs than a lot of artist can do with whole stacks of albums. The songs are simpler and less imaginative than their later work, but still very enjoyable. "I'm really sorry Steven, but your bicycle's been stolen…" is the first line of "Apology Song" - even if it's not based on a real story, it's still amusing.
NT: Oceanside; Angel, Won't You Call Me; Apology Song

Apology Song

12. Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib
"What makes these songs really special is their ability to maintain a pop coherency, whilst being genuinely quirky and experimental." - Dot Music
Easily my least favorite Malkmus album but some people swear by it, and it does have some great songs. The Malk is like Albert Pujols - even at 85% he's still hitting 280 / 360 / 520, and not a lot of people can top that. "Animal Midnight", which I could sadly not find a good video of online, has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now. The guitar solo about half-way through the song is awesome, and the lyrics are classic Malkmus.
NT: (Do Not Feed The) Oysters; Animal Midnight; Dark Wave

Dark Wave

11. Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.
"Magnolia Electric Company is a watershed album, an artistic breakthrough, and the first album to fully realize Molina's potential." - Delusions Of Adequacy
Jason Molina decided to back up his song-writing and singing with some rock music. "Farewell Transmission" is over 7 minutes long, but it still ends too soon every time. It's only 8 songs - and there are a couple I skip once in a while - but overall it's a clear success. I would really have liked to see him live while he was touring for this album.
NT: Farewell Transmission; I've Been Riding With The Ghost; Hold On Magnolia

Farewell Transmission

10. Okkervil River - Down The River Of Golden Dreams
"These sentimental, acoustic tracks do feel like old friends... Songs this poignant and easy to digest will always have relevance. - Pitchfork
Will Sheff writing and singing with conviction, but a little more laid-back musically than Black Sheep Boy.
NT: It Ends With A Fall; Blanket And Crib; The War Criminal Rises And Speaks

It Ends With A Fall

9. Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame Monster
"While the production techniques are so ingenious as to occasionally outshine the melodic content of the songs themselves, these are first and foremost pop songs." - Under The Radar
This album was recorded using computer software that the guys designed themselves. It's really unlike anything else I've ever heard, but the songs are more than good enough to make up for their unconventional nature - even on the first listen.
NT: Cough Coughing; The Late Great Libido; E Is Stable

Cough Coughing

8. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
"The faster, moonshined rock epics border on the kind of indulgent radio classics that leave you banging your head in the car, singing out of your range, and drinking with more swagger than your body can actually handle." - Pop Matters
The first half of this album is what I associate with MMJ - melodious southern rock with big guitars and and an even bigger voice (Jim James'). The second half drags on a bit too long, but that's easily forgiven.
NT: Mahgeetah; Dancefloors; One Big Holiday


7. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Hearts Of Oak
"Insanely hooky and tortuous." - Pop Matters
If Ted Leo isn't the best guitarist around, then he's got to be in the conversation. He puts as much heart and energy into his music as anyone, and the punk-influenced indie-rock that comes out is something to behold. And just for the hell of it, he goes ahead and adds great lyrics too.
NT: Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?; I'm A Ghost; The High Party

Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?

6. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?
"Those without a stomach for a little humor in their music will surely thumb their noses, but for everyone else, this is essential listening: a whip-smart band of originals, living with death, throwing coconuts at the rest of us from greener pastures." - Delusions Of Adequacy
This is pretty weird pop music, but I've maintained that by the time you listen through the whole thing you'll be caught by one of it's many hooks.
NT: Tuff Ghost; Sea Ghost; Jelly Bones

Jelly Bones

5. The Decemberists - Her Majesty, The Decemberists
"Meloy's words stir your insides like good poetry, his imaginative tales climb into your mind, set up camp and stay awhile. But without the enchanting, heart-wrenching and totally affecting power that is the consequence of The Decemberists' music, the words would not have ever found life." - Neumu
More stories in musical form.
NT: Billy Liar; The Soldiering Life; Red Right Ankle

The Soldiering Life

4. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
"Not simply an excellent album, Chutes Too Narrow is also a powerful testament to pop music's capacity for depth, beauty and expressiveness. " - Pitchfork
Yeah, what they said. It doesn't have the singles of Oh, Inverted World, but it is more consistently excellent throughout.
NT: So Says I; Young Pilgrims; Saint Simon

Saint Simon

3. The New Pornographers - Electric Version
"Tremendous craft, winning enthusiasm." - Village Voice
Just ridiculously good power-pop, with everyone firing on all cylinders. Dan Bejar's lyrics and Neko Case's voice backed by Carl Newman's hooks are dangerous.
NT: The Laws Have Changed; Testament To You In Verse; Ballad Of A Comeback Kid

The Laws Have Changed

2. The Wrens - Meadowlands
"A fascinating, brokenhearted mess of a record." - ShakingThrough
I thought this album was kind of "meh" until I saw then live - they absolutely blew me away. They haven't released an album since this one, but still have a following based largely on their shows. These guys can seriously rock, even though it's sometimes difficult to get the impact of the very good lyrics with the fuzz.
NT: She Sends Kisses; Faster Gun; Everyone Choose Sides

Everyone Choose Sides

1. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
"The painstaking arrangements, dynamic shifts and tempo changes of Dear Catastrophe Waitress equal or surpass the chamber-pop perfection of the group's earlier work." - Pop Matters
Yes it's twee/pop, but of the very best kind. Their sound is becoming richer, but the strong song-writing is still there and Stuart Murdoch's voice is still soft and pleasant. Plus, this album has my favorite B&S song - "Piazza, New York Catcher". It's pretty much just Murdoch and an acoustic guitar, but the line "Piazza, New York catcher, are you straight or are you gay?" is funny every time, though the song isn't not really all about baseball.
NT: Dear Catastrophe Waitress; Piazza, New York Catcher; I'm A Cuckoo

Piazza, New York Catcher

Many of the same names as 2005, but there's a reason for that - these artists put out very good work. 2003 is the first year I actually started listening to "good" music, though I didn't hear most of these until later. Thanks, Sean, for playing "Big Dipper" while I was in the room.

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