12/22/2003

2003: The Year in Review

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Outkast Speakerboxx/The Love Below [Arista]

A badly needed kick in the pants at a time when mainstream hip-hop is choking with stagnation. If this turns out to be their last effort together, well, what a way to go.

Runner Up:
Radiohead Hail To The Thief [Parlophone]


ALBUM OF THE YEAR (in another language):
Café Tacuba Cuatro Caminos [MCA]

Just as R.E.M. did with Monster, the Mexico City quartet decided to accentuate the rock side of their musical equation on Cuatro Caminos. Unlike Athens, Georgia’s favorite sons Tacuba succeeded wildly and in the process got more accolades and lip-service from the U.S. press than ever before.


FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Nada Surf Let Go [Barsuk]

A band that we never really cared for–and that many had left for dead, after being dropped by Elektra–came out of nowhere and for quite a while laid almost exclusive claim to our cd player with one of the best records out this year.

Runner up:
Zwan Mary, Star of the Sea [Reprise]


SINGLE OF THE YEAR:
Outkast / "Hey Ya"

You had to be dead to not be captivated by the infectious spirit of this one.


BEST REISSUE:
Guided By Voices Human Amusements at Hourly Rates: The Best of Guided By Voices [Matador]

As Favor Flav once said, "we got some non-believers out there." This should take care of ‘em.

Runner Up:
The Beatles Let It Be … Naked [Capitol]
Stone Temple Pilots Thank You [Atlantic]


GUILTY PLEASURE OF THE YEAR:
Mandy Moore Coverage [Sony]

If someone had told us early in the year that towards the end of ’03 we’d be grooving to a Mandy Moore record, we’d have taken them out back and shot them like the rabid dog they would’ve seemed at the time. But lo and behold, Ms. Moore’s collection of covers grabbed a hold of us and we’re not ashamed to admit it.


BEST BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT:
The iTunes Music Store/Service

Sure, they need to get their indie catalog going and the lack of artwork for your purchases does kind of suck, but who can argue with tunes for 99 cents and whole albums for 10 bucks these days?

Runner up:
Universal Music lowering their non-multiple CD prices so that they retail for $12.99


WORST ALBUM:
Madonna American Life [Maverick]

After the return to form of Ray Of Light, Madge cashed in whatever forward momentum she’d earned by collaborating with dj/producer Mirwais twice. And while Music was a head-scratching affair, American Life is just plain dismal. Madonna, rapping?! Need we say more?


MOST UNWELCOME COMEBACK:
Liz Phair

Five years waiting for an indie rock queen to finally come out as a lame-ass pop star wannabe is wrong on so may levels. That she chased after Avril Lavigne and her ilk just adds insult to injury.


MOST UNDESERVED HYPE:
The Distillers

Ah, the great punk rock hope. Or so we were told. But when every single article and review placed more emphasis on frontwoman Brody Armstrong’s messy split from husband/Rancid leader Tim Armstrong than on their album Coral Fang, we knew something was up. Leave it to our friends at Mojo to articulate it best: "Coral Fang finds The Distillers aping the bloodless Hollywood impotence of Hole's Celebrity Skin, their 'punk rock' inoffensive and utterly forgettable." Ouch.


ANTI-ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Jason Mraz

This guy is so lame he makes John Mayer–aka Dave Matthews Jr.–seem like Lemmy from Motorhead. Unfortunately, enough frat girls bought his bland ass album to make him a constantly annoying presence. King Wuss, ascend to your throne. Your Abercrombie+Fitch-clad subjects await you.


WORST REISSUE:
The Fugees Greatest Hits [Ruffhouse/Sony]

This is not about the music but the fact that an artist with only 2 albums to their credit does not warrant a ‘greatest hits’ release. Especially when the bulk of said release is from their breakthrough album, which is what you should own to begin with.


WORST COVER VERSION:
Lots of bad ones out there lately but we settled on a tie between Kid Rock’s "Feel Like Making Love" and Pink’s "Trouble". Wait, that last one isn’t a cover–just a rip-off of The Vaselines’ "Molly’s Lips" made famous by Nirvana. Sorry.


MOST UNNECESSARY REHASHING:
Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time

For their 20th anniversary in 1987 Rolling Stone compiled a list of the best albums of the previous two decades. Quite good, as a matter of fact. But plenty of great albums have seen the light of day in the last 15 years, so an update was in order. Not wholesale revision, which is
what this amounts to. Now that there are ex-Maxim people running the show over there we dreaded this sort of list ever making an appearance. No dice.


GOODBYE
The great Johnny Cash; Afro-Cuban music queen Celia Cruz; The Bee Gees' Maurice Gibb; music critic Ian MacDonald, author of Beatles reference tome Revolution in the Head; veteran solo artist and Power Station vocalist Robert Palmer; Cuban legend and Buena Vista Social Club member Compay Segundo; indie troubadour Elliott Smith; soul/R&B icon Barry White; the one and only Warren Zevon.

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