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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
forward to 6-10 >

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

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

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

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

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

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