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||21 - 25|
|forward to 16-20 >|
|25|| GRANDADDY |
Following their much-lauded third album, The Sophtware Slump, Grandaddy decided to change things a little bit on their new one. The band still combines indie rock with electronic elements, but on Sumday the techno touches are more subtle, as singer/songwriter/producer Jason Lytle takes a more middle of the road approach, veering away from the artsy pretensions of the previous album. The result is a sumptuous pop rock album, blending relaxed, sunny West Coast rock ("El Caminos in the West", "Now It's On") with sly lyrical wit, best exemplified on tracks like "The Group Who Couldn't Say" and "The Go in the Go-For-It". People like to praise bands for producing obtuse, impenetrable art rock, but these days it's even more daring for a band to go the mainstream route and pull it off with as much skill as these five guys from Modesto, California have done.
Adrien Begrand :. original PopMatters review
|24|| THE STILLS |
Logic Will Break Your Heart (Vice)
After a 1980s-influenced EP that featured the brilliant "Still in Love Song", these Quebec natives updated their sound for their first full-length, stepping beyond the retro-'80s trend to release a grandiose account of lost love and post-9/11 angst. The influences here are bands like Radiohead and the Doves as much as Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure, but while Coldplay's ability to write soaring anthems that recall early Radiohead is only matched by its lyrical vapidity, the Stills offer a complete package. Get it now so you can say "I told you so" when the Stills take over the world.
Marc Hogan :. original PopMatters review
|23|| THE THORNS |
The Thorns (Sony)
One of the more annoying buzzwords in music circles lately has to be "edgy". The implication, of course, is that if a band aren't edgy, they're irrelevant. Rubbish. Bread and the Carpenters were both critics' darlings and fan favorites, and the Thorns clearly remember those bygone days of smooth, west coast pop. Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge assemble a delightful collection of CS&N-inspired country rock with harmonies to the heavens. Sadly, the album stiffed. The Thorns just weren't made for these edgy times.
|22|| ANTHONY HAMILTON |
Comin' From Where I'm From (Arista)
The best R&B album of the year is also the best country album of the year. Like the young Al Green, he's got a lot of voices and every one of them has a depth and heft that no one else can touch. With this kind of arsenal, it's easy to type him as just a singer, but Hamilton's real strength is as a songwriter. Every track has some kind of left-field genius to it, from the Ken Nordine wordjazz that dots the sexscape of "Float" to the pimpinometry of "Cornbread, Fish, & Collard Greens": "I put the juice in Jheri Curls."
|21|| THE TWILIGHT SINGERS |
Blackberry Belle (Birdman)
Former Afghan Whig leader Greg Dulli has hit a cocksure musical stride on his second Twilight Singers record. Fifteen years in, strutting along a rough and tumble world of lost loves, major label bullshit and the constant battle for mainstream appeal in one of the greatest soul rock bands ever, it's about time for people to stand up and take notice. Not exactly a solo project and not quite as dysfunctional lyrically as his previous outfit, Twilight brings together a collective of musicians diverse as Mark Lanegan, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Apollonia to help spread (or shed) the love. The result is the equivalent to a cinematic masterpiece where all the characters play their roles to the hilt, while Dulli shines in the lead. Start to finish, Blackberry Belle is a ride full of tragedy and love with just enough of a pop sheen to mask the lyrical bloodletting. It's got mainstream appeal ("Teenage Wristband"), it's bleak ("Martin Eden"), and it's pure brilliance in a place where the sun doesn't rise and the darkness is constant.