Tuesday, December 16, 2003

My preliminary Best of 2003 list:

* The Decemberists - Her Majesty the Decemberists
Fun, funny, and literate. It's like listening to Stephin Merritt and James Thurber share a joint and finish each other's sentences.

* Go-Betweens - Bright Yellow Bright Orange
Boasting their legendary ability to turn phrases and a more focused and folky feel, Robert Forster and Grant McLennon cast the mold for aging gracefully in rock music.

* Knife in the Water - Cut the Cord
Atmospheric as the previous KITW albums, but actually reaching a sense of RAWK at times. Although some of the lyrics wouldn't be out of place on a Yes album, the male/female harmonies and spacey redneck pop bring them home.

* Pernice Brothers - Yours, Mine, or Ours
Like Big Star, Joe Pernice is obsessed with building a better pop song. He reaches perfection on several of these, and the relaxed-but-rockin' feel of the overall album sits together very well.

* Calexico - Feast of Wire
It's like a mix tape of all the best Calexico on the previous albums, but it's all new, too.

* Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
Someone has to pick up the mantle of pub rock. Smart lyrics and booty-shaking indie-rock.

* Summer Hymns - Clemency
Gorgeous chamber-pop/alt-country that calls to mind the guaziest, cliched summer memories and makes them live.

* Okkervil River - Down the River of Golden Dreams
Brimming with Fender Rhodes and bucolic instrumentation, this album sounds like Will Oldham built a time machine to recruit the top session players from 1972 and 1927.

* The American Song-Poem Anthology
Rock's bizarre coupling of inept folk art and slick studio hackdom. Incredibly fun to listen to the session guys decide that these lyrics -- unlike the hundreds of dry tunes they'd been churning out -- these lyrics really had that special something. They were worth pulling out all the stops and going for it.

* New Pornographers - Electric Version
Insanely infectious Nuggety postpunk-pop. And the bells go, "No no no No no no No no no No no no No no no no no."

Honorable mentions:
* Yo La Tengo - Today Is the Day EP
All is ephemeral. Quiet songs become explosive. What was a blow to the head shall be as gentle as butterfly kisses. The journey is short, but the terrain covers the map.

* Consonant - Love and Affliction
Moody rockers straight from the heart of the 80s underground scene.

* Iron & Wine - The Sea & the Rhythm EP
Bitterness can be murmured, too.

* Elf Power - Nothing�s Going To Happen
Goofy lo-fi covers album with impeccable taste and inspired wit.


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