I’ve been going through all of the end of the year lists for the best music in 2003 for a couple of days and matching them in my mind with what I’ve heard and what I agree with. One thing I noticed is that much of what I liked this year didn’t come from this year. With that in mind, understand that what I’m talking about below isn’t necessarily what was the best or worst of 2003, but are instead CD’s that I first listened to this past year.
My best guess is that I bought somewhere in the neighborhood of about 120+ cd’s this year for my wife, my daughter, and myself. I normally make my purchases at a local used CD store where I can usually pick up what I want for about $7.99 or better. Many times this year I was able to pick up something that was only a day or two removed from its release date for only $8.99. At those prices I’m more inclined to pick up something or two that I’m not too familiar with, sometimes for as low as $1.99 (This year that included Nina Gordon, PM Dawn, My Bloody Valentine, and Dream Theater whose Six Degrees of Turbulence was far and away the worst thing I listened to this year. It might have been the worst this millenium). I guess I should qualify anything I have to say by pointing out that I’ll listen to just about anything as long as it doesn’t wear a cowboy hat (Lucinda Williams excluded).
For me there were a lot of disappointments this year including Neil Young, A Perfect Circle, and a new Van Morrison that makes me feel like he’s just going through the Bonnie Raitt-phase of his career of putting out the same CD year after year. Another disappointment was the much-hyped, got-me-scratching-my-head, what-the-hell?, De-Loused in the Comatorium by Mars Volta. Close but no cigar CD’s included releases by Trust Company, Vendetta Red, Rooney, and Disturbed, although none of those should come as any suprise.
So what did I like? There was the classic pop tunesmithing of Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers that proves once again that the songwriting team of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood belongs in the same breath as Lennon/McCartney, Difford/Tilbrook, and the Posies’ Auer & Stringfellow.
Cassandra Wilson’s Glamoured was, in a word, gorgeous.
Speakerboxx/The Love Below by Outkast was good dumb fun, if not as groundbreaking as everyone seems to believe.
Allison Moorer’s live Show is a terrific showcase for her amazing voice and included the added bonus of a DVD of the same concert.
It’s unfair to include greatest hits CD’s, but too bad, I love my copy of Beth Orton’s Pass In Time and The Essential Bruce Springsteen, although I could go the rest of my lfe without hearing that crappy Glory Days ever again.
Although his hardcore fans seemed to hate it, Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night is pure gold. I highly recommend it as a companion piece to go with his Charlie Haden collaboration: Beyond the Missouri Sky. If you don’t have Missouri Sky, shame on you.
Lastly, my favorite of the year…came from the previous year. I absolutely love Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it reminded me of what Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized could have been. It’s just sonic heaven.
Maybe these aren’t the edgiest or the most “in the know” picks, but as The Refreshments once sang:
“I was never cool enough to get a job at a record store”.
Ain’t it the truth.
(Added): Just a note that I did not include the new Johnny Cash boxset, Cash Unearthed that I received for Christmas (big holiday…happened last week…that Christmas) since I haven’t sat down to listen to it yet. I also never got to listen to the New Pornographers Electric Version, the Pernice Brothers Yours, Mine, and Ours, the Shins Chutes Too Narrow because I have yet to find copies of them.
(Added…again): I can’t believe that I forgot to mention Hem’s Rabbit Songs which is an absolute revelation. There is no describing the beauty of Sally Ellyson’s voice or the spare but perfect arrangements. It’s not the easiest CD to find, but you can pick up used copies here. Grab one as soon as possible. Hurry! Hurry!