December 01, 2003
2003 Top Eleven Albums

Give Up
1. The Postal Service, Give Up
When a project includes Ben Gibbard of DCFC (Largehearted Indie Man Of The Year) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) and draws on the services of Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley for backing vocals, expectations are high. Fortunately, the end result doesn't disappoint, blending Gibbard's pop sensibility with Tamborello's melodies and beats into my favorite release of the year.
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More Parts Per Million
2. The Thermals, More Parts Per Million
From my contribution to donewaiting's Tuesday Three: This record allegedly cost only sixty dollars to produce, but like most great art, its value lay in the substance, not the trappings. Fuzzed out pop with glittering hooks and danceable rhythms, the songs are a testament to a lack of pretense, no demographically calculated post production here. This band is all circumstance and no pomp. The first single, "No Culture Icons" gets repeated regularly at full volume in my car, where I scream along with the lyrics, "Hardly art, hardly starving, hardly art, hardly garbage," to the consternation of passersby who just don't get it.
mp3 video (Quicktime)

Chutes Too Narrow
3. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
The Shins' sophomore effort found them recording in a basement and working with a producer bent on paring down their sound. The net effect was frontman James Mercer's songwriting being pushed to the forefront, and a pop masterpiece was achieved.
mp3 video (Quicktime)

Electric Version
4. New Pornographers, Electric Version
Sugary pop hooks saturate the sophomore effort from this Canadian supergroup.
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Charm School
5. Bishop Allen, Charm School
From my 75 or Less review: Bishop Allen brings to mind at different times the Kinks, the Velvets and the Pixies, but with strong songwriting and crisp production (and a whole lot of talent), "Charm School" is simply amazing on its own merits without seeming too derivative. Clever lyrics, jangly guitars and soothing harmonies make the band's debut album a pop masterpiece, solid from the first track to the last. This is pop music that makes the perfect summer soundtrack.
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Apple O'
6. Deerhoof, Apple O'
Deerhoof added a second guitarist, Chris Cohen, for this album, but two guitars didn't just add to the systematic joyful noise meltdown that is this band. Instead, he helped pare down the sound, making this album slightly less cacophonous than Reveille, but more approachable.
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Decoration Day
7. Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day
From my 75 or Less review: Here in the American south, decoration day refers to placing bouquets of flowers on loved ones' grave sites. A more fitting name couldn't be found for this brilliantly crafted collection of songs covering dour and depressing topics with southern boogie, insightful lyrics and country wisdom. Whether it's a song about an incestuous brother and sister ("The Deeper In"), an ode to a father and his advice to an unheeding son ("Outfit") or the reaction to a friend's suicide ("When The Pin Hits The Shell"), "Decoration Day" manages to flesh out its stories while never losing its dignity.
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Blackberry Belle
8. Blackberry Belle, Twilight Singers - Greg Dulli returns with his second Twilight Singers album and focuses on songwriting while bringing in experienced session men to handle the musical load. The resulting album makes me fondly remember the Afghan Whigs, but look forward to Dulli's growth as both a songwriter and arranger. Look for the third Twilight Singers in this spot next December.

Guitar Romantic
9. Exploding Hearts, Guitar Romantic
Powerpop with an edge, this record was most likely to make my wife ask me to turn down the volume. The band tragically lost of two band members this year in an automobile accident, and they will be missed.

Fever To Tell
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
This was the most anticipated album of the year for me. Slightly less gritty production (compared to their EP's) actually works in the band's favor, and the band continues to be greater than its estimable parts.

11. Wrens, Meadowlands
It took the Wrens seven years to record the followup to Secaucus, and Meadowlands is worth the wait. Intimate and strong from the opening song to the last, you'll be hooked from the first listen.
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Posted by david on December 01, 2003

damn you, David, I was going to post my list tonite. BEAT ME argh!

Posted by: troy steele on December 1, 2003 02:07 PM

I figured my list was early, but I've already heard the few releases (for the rest of the year) that might have made the list.

Posted by: david on December 1, 2003 04:16 PM

I love your list because I know you love your music. (btw - the list I've had floating around in my head is far more "mainstream" than yours, but I still like it.) :-)

Posted by: kelly on December 1, 2003 04:51 PM

That's the great thing about lists, especially those made by a single person: they are unoque to theindividual and give us insight into that person on some level. I'm sure I'd like most of the music on your list, too, Kelly.

Posted by: david on December 1, 2003 05:45 PM

Error! Error! I'm not seeing any White Stripes! Error! Error!

Posted by: highronimus on December 1, 2003 06:18 PM

I love it -- not 10 items, not 12, but 11!!

Posted by: Terry on December 1, 2003 06:34 PM

I see a total of two albums we agree on, and almost three. (the Exploding Hearts album was good, but didn't quite make the cut)

Posted by: troy steele on December 1, 2003 06:41 PM

Terry: last year I named my list "Davey Goes To Eleven" after Superdrag's song, "Baby Goes To Eleven."

highronimus: "Elephant" just didn't hold up after repeated listens for me. I find myself playing their first three albums lately much more often than the latest.

Posted by: david on December 1, 2003 09:25 PM

I tried this earlier and it didn't work, so I thought I might try it the top 11. Here is mine:
10.Grandaddy, Sumday
9.The Jealous Sound, Killing Them With Kindness
8.Cursive, The Ugly Organ
7.Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.
6.Various, Lost In Translation (OST)
5.The Appleseed Cast, Two Conversations
4.Thursday, War All The Time
3.The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site
2.The Postal Service, Give Up
1.Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism

Posted by: caley on December 2, 2003 04:27 AM

great list. how can you go wrong with those 11?

Posted by: rob on December 2, 2003 01:24 PM

I'd have to swap the meadowlands for give up, and probably kill the thermals entirely, but it's a good list. I might shuffle The Long Winters - When I Pretend To Fall and Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place in there somewhere, too.

Posted by: Eric Gideon on December 2, 2003 03:07 PM

I'd have to swap the meadowlands for give up, and probably kill the thermals entirely, but it's a good list. I might shuffle The Long Winters - When I Pretend To Fall and Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place in there somewhere, too.

Posted by: eric on December 2, 2003 03:07 PM

It is a crime against humanity that DCFC was left off your list. Glad to see Postal Service made the cut though. Good list overall.

Posted by: kevin on December 7, 2003 04:24 PM

not to be a big bummer, but three exploding hearts died, not two. jeremy, adam, and matt.

it's so nice to see them on an indie rock list!

Posted by: kelley on December 15, 2003 09:33 PM

Why, oh why, has everyone's list managed to skip over The Mars Volta "De-Loused in the Comatorium"? It's got a 2003 release date. It's un-fudging-believable. So yeah. Wake up. Thanx.

Posted by: James on December 17, 2003 08:57 AM

no really a 'best of' list per se cuz i haven't really listened to all that many albums! but here's what i've found that i just wound up listening to a lot of through the year in no particular order :D

califone - quicksand and cradlesnakes
yeah yeah yeahs - fever to tell
broken social scene – you forgot it in people
white stripes – elephant
blur – think tank
postal service – give up
the innocence mission – befriended
max tundra – mastered by the guy at the exchange
the jicks – pig lib
ugly cassanova – sharpen your teeth (i know not 2003, but so good!)

also does anyone know if the love liza (2002) soundtrack is ever gonna be released? or like ping pong (also 2002 :)? the all the real girls one was pretty good, too! oh and btw no culture icons is a great song! dunno about the rest tho :D

Posted by: kenny on December 17, 2003 10:59 PM

Where is Jay-Z and Brand New?

Posted by: Bryson on December 19, 2003 10:18 AM

I take it youre not much into what made my list: Prefuse, Ace Rock, Manitoba, Soft Pink Truth - where's the beat man, wheres the beat?!

Posted by: clockout on December 19, 2003 02:28 PM

The Exploding Hearts lost all but one of their members.

Posted by: Lindsay Curtis on December 30, 2003 01:36 AM

A recent live radio show in Austin, TX, dwelling on the beautiful terror of our world leaders, involved live remixing of Explosions in the Sky - "Your Hand in Mine."

Hear this 2-hour manipulation here:
Ken's Last Ever Radio Extravaganza - Beautiful Terror

Posted by: Beautiful Terror on January 14, 2004 02:16 AM

I have been looking for an old indie album i had a few years ago ont he net but as i cant remember the title its proving to be a little difficult! I hope someone canhelp me, it was a green covered album with a list of all the artists on the front in white writting on the lower half of the cd cover, it had songs by the stone roses and blur and the seahorses does anyone know what i mean?

Posted by: Lucy on March 2, 2004 10:00 AM


Posted by: Googl on May 27, 2004 01:53 PM

you would like my band kinetic, i swear to you.

Posted by: Ken on August 16, 2004 02:18 PM

Thank to this site I "discovered" The Postal Service. So... what's on the radar for 2004? =)

Posted by: Muk on October 18, 2004 01:29 PM

Interesting... Thanks for sharing that.

Posted by: Computer Guy on November 23, 2004 12:18 PM

It's time for a new list. (Grüsse aus Deutschland, Thüringen. Bin seit einiger Zeit Fan deiner Seite. :)) Thanks, not only for the list.

Posted by: Grizzly on December 16, 2004 07:14 PM

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