Hayden Childs

McChesney Duntz

William Ham

Dana Knowles

Gary Mairs

Leonard Pierce

Michael Tomczyszyn

Scott Von Doviak

George Wu

The Algonquin Kids’ Table: 2003 Top Ten Lists


Top 10 Albums of 2003

It’s time for another music geek tradition: the Posting of the Year-End Top 10 List. Honestly, I’m probably not qualified to create one due to my somewhat lax new-CD purchasing last year and my lack of up-to-date knowledge about any and all non-rock genres in 2003. Plus, it’s always difficult to judge anything accurately without some time and distance. If you asked me again in 2008, I’d probably have a completely different (and much more complete and accurate) list. But making lists is fun, and I like things that are fun. So here goes: my 10 Bestest Albums of 2003 at This Given Time!

10. The Fall — The Real New Fall L.P. (Formerly Country on the Click). Okay, I can probably be accused of fanboy ardor here — the Fall are my favorite band ever, and I can even find much to like about many of the largely abysmal Fall releases of the past decade. TRNFLP(FCotC) is a fine return to early-’90s form — this year’s version of the Fall is the most inspired in years, while Mark E. Smith’s lyrics and vocals have a renewed sharpness and focus.

9. DJ Spooky — Dubtometry. Remix albums generally suck — either they slightly shift everything around to uninspired effect or they completely eliminate anything that was memorable about the original album in the first place. But Dubtometry reshapes last year’s excellent Optometry into new and interesting forms, using the originals as a springboard rather than a canvas.

8. Mogwai — Happy Songs for Happy People. Haunting, somber mood pieces that linger long after the album is over.

7. The New Pornographers — Electric Version. The best pure pop album of the year — hooks and clever melodic ideas thrown off like sparks, covered in a candy-coated sheen. Like four packs of Pop Rocks chased down with a six pack of Coke.

6. Hella — Bitches Ain’t Shit But Good People and Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass. Hella delivered a much-needed set of electrified jumper cables to the testicles of prog-rock with this pair of EPs. Tight, complex, precise and loud as hell.

5. The Pernice Brothers — Yours, Mine and Ours. Another brilliant collection of heavenly pop songs with incredibly sad and wistful lyrics that should (but, alas, won’t) make Joe Pernice a radio staple. Bipolar depression never sounded so good.

4. Radiohead — Hail to the Thief. Yeah, Radiohead. They’re great.

3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists — Hearts of Oak. Anyone who can make simple, straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll sound fresh again deserves high praise indeed. Hearts of Oak isn’t revolutionary, but it has everything you want in a rock record: catchy songs, insistent and energetic performances, smart lyrics and some fine guitar playing to boot.

2. The Rapture — Echoes. Not unlike last year’s Turn On the Bright Lights by Interpol, the Rapture strip-mine the seemingly bottomless post-punk sound for inspiration. What could have been an uninspired pastiche is transformed by the Rapture’s incredibly propulsive rhythm section and barbed wire guitar outbursts. “House of Jealous Lovers,” “I Need Your Love” and “The Coming of Spring” are as irresistibly unstoppable as music can get.

1. The Wrens — The Meadowlands. The type of album that only could have been made by a band like the Wrens — a veteran group met by mass indifference and record label treachery at every turn. The Meadowlands perfectly captures mid-30s pre-midlife-crisis directionlessness, wistful regret and resignation like no album before. A deeply felt, rich and rewarding masterpiece that only deepens with each listen.