Tuesday, June 30, 2009

That Wonderful Year in Music... 2003

Wow, 2009 is almost halfway over already?

This month's musical catch-all throws 2003 in the spotlight. I chose this year for sentimental reasons; I graduated from high school six years ago this month, and it ushered what was for all intents and purposes my last summer of freedom. The lists below symbolize the de facto "soundtrack" of my senior year in high school and my first trimester in community college.


1. Elephant, The White Stripes. This was a no-brainer. Nobody dominated the rock scene in '03 quite like the Jack and Meg White, and no rock album in the past six years has come close to equating, much less suprassing, the statement that was the Stripes' fourth album. When they became the first band to get a full-week booking on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, than proceeded to tear the house down every night they performed, you knew this band had arrived.
2. Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins. Sweet, dorky indie rock from maybe the greatest band to ever hail from Albuquerque, NM. Few bands can sound happy, melancholy, frustrated, and vulnerable all at the same time like these guys; after listening to tracks like "Kissing the Lipless" and "So Says I," you almost want to reach out and hug them.
3. Fever To Tell, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A holdover from the previous year's garage rock/DIY renaissance, the debut long-player from Karen O, Brian Chase, and Nick Zinner is 40 minutes of compelling art-punk. My only complaint is the track sequence; the first half of the CD is mostly raucous noise, while the second half is heavy on ballads and mid-tempo experimentation. Whether you play this disc straight through or on shuffle, it's hard to not be impressed.
4. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast
5. Give Up, The Postal Service
6. Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie. Along with album #5, a banner year for DC4C frontman Ben Gibbard.
7. Hail to the Thief, Radiohead
8. Keep It Together, Guster
9. Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle & Sebastian
10. Absolution, Muse. Long-derided as a diet soda version of Radiohead, Muse hit a creative pinnacle --while not necessarily shaking off the imitator label-- with their third full-length CD. The heavy guitars and haunted harmonics that we'd come to know are tighter and more focused than their first two efforts. Sure, Muse didn't really come into their own until Black Holes & Revelations three years later, but Absolution proved that this power trio was far from derivative.

Honorable Mentions: Permission to Land, The Darkness; Welcome Interstate Managers, Fountains of Wayne; Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 Cent; These Are The Vistas, The Bad Plus; Her Majesty, The Decemberists; Electric Version, The New Pornographers.

BEST SINGLES OF 2003 (in no particular order):

"Reptilia," The Strokes
"Meant to Live," Switchfoot
"Molly's Chambers," Kings of Leon
"Combat Baby," Metric
"Crazy in Love," Beyonce
"Jessica," Adam Green
"Spitting Games," Snow Patrol
"Crazy Beat," Blur
"Crystal Village," Pete Yorn
"United States of Whatever," Liam Lynch

What makes 2003 so compelling (for me, anyway) was that it might've been the strongest year for music videos in recent memory. If the mid-90s were the last gasp for hot clips on MTV, than 2003 was the last banner year for videos on MTV2, the cable channel's unheralded sister station and current dumping ground for old reality shows. Most of the videos on this list, which run the gamit from country to techno to industrial metal, from hilarious to poignant, were in heavy rotation on MTV2 in '03 and they've barely aged a day:

"Hurt," Johnny Cash
"The Hardest Button to Button," The White Stripes
"Minerva," Deftones
"Stacy's Mom," Fountains of Wayne
"The Hell Song," Sum 41
"Move Your Feet," Junior Senior
"The Golden Path," The Chemical Brothers feat. The Flaming Lips
"Step Into My Office, Baby," Belle & Sebastian
"There, There," Radiohead
"Big Brat," Phantom Planet

Well, I certainly hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane as much as it was a pain in the ass to embed all those clips. After focusing mostly on the '70s, '80s, and '00s thus far, next month I promise to look back at a different decade. Seriously, scout's honor. ;)

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