Music

Best Music of 2003 | #11-15

That favorite rite of passage for all music critics is here again . . . the annual top 10 lists, or in this case top 50. As in years past, we have top 10s from the whole crew of regular PopMatters music writers, but this year we're adding a twist. What you have before you is our mammoth list of the 50 best records of the year as voted on by our entire music staff.

BEST MUSIC OF 2003 11 - 15
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15 THE POSTAL SERVICE
Give Up (Sub Pop)
Ben Gibbard is the man of the year, as far as I'm concerned. Not only did his primary band, Death Cab for Cutie, release its best album yet, but his side project, the Postal Service, came up with "The Little Album that Could", Give Up. Released in February, the record hit it big on the college charts and since then, has been gaining popularity on a broader scale. Hell, my mom loves this record. Of course, she works in a post office. Anyway, on Give Up, Gibbard, with the help of Dntel mastermind Jimmy Tamborello, creates nearly perfect pop songs. Sure, most of them are about relationships, but listening to the lyrics is a trip through the minutiae of love -- the awkwardness surrounding a meet-up with an ex in her new apartment, matching freckles, and dream realities where kisses rival Clark Gable's. Throw in a few social commentary tunes and one wild, indie-pop's-version-of-drum 'n' bass last track, and you've got the most infectious album of the year.
      — Christine Klunk :. original PopMatters review

14 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
You Forgot It in People (Arts & Crafts)
I'm not entirely sure what to say about this collective that has not already been discussed in the American or Canadian music press. The fact that this effort still seems worthwhile after so much attention their way should attest partly to what they accomplished with this release. For anyone living north of the US border, their sound will not have been new to you. It is, if anything, the sound kicked around and teased upon by numerous others in and around Toronto and Montreal. And while those groups worked hard to release arty work upon arty work, here they came together to offer a perfectly concise study in what pop should and could be right now.
      — Sal Ciolfi :. original PopMatters review

13 WARREN ZEVON
The Wind (Artemis)
The man was dying. The man had friends with big names. The man kept a recording studio in his own home. The man covered Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". The outlook was not so good for either Warren Zevon or what was seemingly his final record. But, bucking the odds, Zevon assembled a wonderfully rocking album of great tunes that sings far more of the joy of living than the pain of dying. "My Dirty Life and Times" and "Prison Grove" are two of the strongest songs this writer of strong songs has ever penned; "Disorder in the House" and "Rub Me Raw" are some of the nastiest blues Zevon ever committed to tape. And, ultimately, on an album that tries so hard not to be trite and tired, "Keep Me in Your Heart for a While" is a perfect, poetic epitaph for a man who deserves precisely such an honor.
      — Seth Limmer :. original PopMatters review

12 RADIOHEAD
Hail to the Thief (Capitol)
Forget trying to trump the insane expectations placed on Radiohead by fans and critics alike, Hail to the Thief was promised as a return to the past, and in some ways it succeeded. If its politics fell somewhat short of adequate, "2 + 2 = 5" remains a great song, while "A Punchup at a Wedding", "Myxomatosis", and "A Wolf at the Door" helped make Hail to the Thief another engaging release by a still-relevant Radiohead. Perhaps the relaxing of the noose will help Yorke and company put the past behind them in the future.
      — Patrick Schabe :. original PopMatters review

11 DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
Decoration Day (New West)
It's not often that you get three brilliant songwriters in the same band, but here we have it. Patterson Hood says, "The sound you hear is my daddy spinning". Mike Cooley says, "Well my daddy never pulled out, but he never apologized". And Jason Isbell, the band's secret weapon, says, "Don't act like your family's a joke". All that Faulknerian squalor gets distilled and straightened out for the 21st century, plus you hear straight-no-chaser accounts of boys acting like sensitive assholes. Cooley's "Sounds Better in the Song", for example, refers to the classic "Free Bird" refrain ("Lord knows I can't change"), and he actually makes you give a shit. His other classic, "Marry Me", is the best Stones rip in recorded history, and a good candidate for song of the year. The album rocks, gets solemn and serious, then gets real pretty, then it rocks again. Mostly it's an all-too-candid accounting of two generations of boys (fathers and sons) finding, feeling, fucking, and never forgetting.
      — Mark Desrosiers :. original PopMatters review

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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