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Best Music of 2003 | #46-50

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 46 - 50
forward to 41-45 >

Deliverance (Interscope)
Welcome to the New South... and Bubba Sparxxx and Timbaland mean it. Deliverance literally sounds like nothing you've never heard before: a perfect marriage of rural, white Southern country and bluegrass wedded to urban, black Southern hip-hop and funk. From the haunting refrains of "Nowhere", which convincingly unifies the poor white and black Southern experience, to the pounding horns of Organized Noize's frenetic beats on "Like It Or Not" and the mournful fiddle and high lonesome howl of "She Tried", this record rounds all the Southern musical bases and offers a staggering array of rhythms, moods, and smart lyrics. Just when everyone counted the big man out after his hit single "Ugly", Bubba has surprised us all with a hick-hop masterpiece. And last but not least, props must go to Timbaland for the finest production job of his career.
      � Sarah Zupko :. original PopMatters review

Summer Sun (Matador)
With Summer Sun, Yo La Tengo have fulfilled the promise they first offered with their 1993 album Painful, when a sublime late-night mood began creeping into their music via an organ and a taste for gentle experimentation. Since then they've been slowly showing us they're as in love with jazz and quiet pop as they are rock and roll -- here they reveal that completely, with a stunning album that outdoes its predecessors (even 2000's similarly hushed but less consistent And the Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out) in both atmosphere and emotional impact. It's a real beauty, the mark of a rock band that knows that sometimes turning the guitars down can be even more powerful than turning them up.
      � Dave Heaton :. original PopMatters review

Throwing Muses (4AD)
After a 12-year recording break, stepsisters Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donelly return from successful solo careers to put the band back together once more. Joined by longtime drummer Dave Narcizo and late-era Muses bassist Bernard Georges, the sisters have created their most raucous and off-kilter album to date. Instead of placating their fanbase with nostalgia, Throwing Muses leap forward delivering a difficult album full of therapist-fueled introspective noise-driven anthems coupled with the warm return of the fondly remembered Donelly/Hersh vocal harmonies. A roaring beast of an album that provides a fitting swansong from one of the best and most under-rated rock acts.
      � Jason Korenkiewicz :. original PopMatters review

La Revancha del Tango (¡Ya Basta!/XL)
Like a lot of good records, the debut album from Gotan Project came out pretty much everywhere except the U.S. over two years ago; it finally made its Stateside debut this year, and its brilliance remains undimmed. The programmed beats and dubby keyboard and bass effects from Philippe Cohen Solal and Christoph H. Müller are what give the record its unmistakable sheen of 21st century cool, but the individual musicians are what really make the record and its tango/jazz/dub/electronica fusions so endlessly fascinating. Nini Flores' bandoneon croons and sighs with the seductive allure of a fading cabaret singer who's smoked too many cigarettes; Eduardo Makaroff's crisp, rhythmic acoustic guitar breathes life into the spaces between the looped beats and basslines; and Line Kruse's violin is simply a thing of beauty, swooping and diving through every solo with just the right balance of passion and virtuosity. In a year that saw Latin/electronica crossover acts sprouting up faster than Starbucks franchises, no one ever topped this.
      � Andy Hermann :. original PopMatters review

Black Cherry (Mute)
Okay, I admit it: I was wrong about electro. A year ago I was still railing about what a lame genre it was, but now here I am singing the praises of Tiga's DJ-Kicks and this, the buzzy sophomore album from Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp. Black Cherry surprised a lot of people -- mainly because everything on Goldfrapp's debut Felt Mountain was enveloped in such a soft-focus gauze of John Barry cool and avant-pop sophistication, while songs like "Train" and "Twist" were simple, hooky and defiantly unsophisticated -- raunchy, even, the electro/synth-pop equivalent of Exile on Main Street-era Stones. But Gregory and Goldfrapp are extraordinarily gifted producers and songwriters, and even the simplest songs in this set unfold in ways that still satisfy on the twentieth listen. It's exciting to hear artists take this many chances over the course of just two albums and have nearly all of them pay off. And it sure doesn't hurt that Alison Goldfrapp has one of the most meltingly lovely voices in popular music.
      � Andy Hermann :. original PopMatters review

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