Mixes By Year: 2003 Most Recommended Albums

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For over thirty five years the album had been the dominant format for rock music.  Sure, you could purchase physical single tracks in stores up until the mid 1990’s, but ever since 1967 and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the album reigned supreme. 2oo3 was a pivotal year in the pendulum shift back to single tracks, largely due to the opening of the iTunes store in April of ’03.  Though MP3’s had been legally and illegally available for several years, the iTunes store gave the music fan and easy and relatively inexpensive way to purchase music- to be able to cherry pick a great track off of a not so great album was decidedly a good thing!  Though there were plenty of great albums released in 2003, the year stands out more for its great and abundant singles including two of the most enduring hits of the decade- “Hey Ya!” by Outkast and “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce, both playing constantly at a summer wedding near you.  Some other excellent singles (their corresponding albums certainly vary in quality) include “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior, “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness, “It’s My Life” by No Doubt, “Milkshake” by Kelis, “Never Leave You- Uh Ooh, Uh-Ooh” by Lumidee and “Pump It Up” by rapper Joe Budden.  The music industry had not seen a more singles dominated year since arguably the early sixties, when full albums were almost always made up of filler surrounding a few hits.

2003 had more very good and even great albums than most years but it probably lacks the one of two definitive albums that can end up defining a year.  My favorite albums, the Shins “Chutes Too Narrow” and the Wrens “Meadowlands” are too understated (the former) or unknown (the latter).  The White Stripes “Elephant” is a great album and probably the group’s most popular, but it’s probably their 2nd or 3rd best.  The Strokes “Room On Fire”, also great, is too similar to their even better debut.  Outkast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” is certainly epic in concept, but it’s too disjointed and far from the group’s best work.  “Hail to the Thief” is good enough for most band’s to be able to call it their best work, but it winds up somewhere in the middle for the mighty Radiohead.

Other great and or notable releases coming out of the indie rock sector include “Thickfreakness” by Akron’s the Black Keys, the group’s second album and the first to give them prominence, Canadian indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographer’s “Electric Version”- ditto, the debut from Portland punk revivalists the Exploding Hearts with “Guitar Romantic”, a dead ringer for the 1977 version of the Buzzcocks, and “Hearts of Oak”, indie guitar God Ted Leo & the Pharmacists second and best album.  Brooklyn buzz band the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s also released their much hyped debut “Fever to Tell”, which contains their signature song “Maps”, another stand-out song of the year for ’03.  Death Cab for Cutie released their last album on an indie label before heading to Atlantic records and “Transatlanticism” is still arguably their best.  Deathcab’s singer Ben Gibbard, combined with electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel to form the Postal Service and their one off album “Give Up”, was an even bigger hit than “Transatlanticism:- it was certainly an important year for Gibbard.  “Give Up” has proven to be a one off recording with no follow up in site to this day.  Talented and eccentric Brooklyn band TV On the Radio and Arcade Fire both released their first EP’s.  Brooklyn singer song-writer released “Michigan: the Great Lakes State”, his first in a planned fifty albums for fifty states (still holding at two).  Portland’s the Decemberists released their 2nd album “Her Majesty the Decemberists”, which helped to raise the band’s profile- it was unthinkable at the time that a band this offbeat and literary would have a #1 album eight years later.  Beautiful and enigmatic singer Cat Power released “You Are Free”, perhaps her best full length as well.  ’03 was also a big year for indie dancing as the Rapture’s “Echoes” was released, containing their signature song from the previous year “House of Jealous Lovers”, though to be the key track in the short lived dance punk movement started in Brooklyn.  Hey, anything to get the hipsters to stop staring at their shoes while watching a live show!

’03 was also big on the rap front.  In addition to the aforementioned Outkast and Beyonce, Jay-Z released “The Black Album”, said to be his last album before his retirement (a lie!).  “The Black Album” was one of his very best albums and brought him more mainstream appeal than he had ever previously achieved.  50 Cent released his monster debut album “Get Rich Or Die Trying”, though overrated, it was a commercial juggernaut and contains his signature song “In Da Club”, another monster ’03 single.  Some other great rap tracks from the year were “Pass That Dutch” by Missy Elliott, “A.D.I.D.A.S.” by Atlanta’s Killer Mike, and “Rubberband Man” by fellow Atlantan T.I., his first big single paving the way for commercial domination later in the decade.  Yet another Atlantan “Ludacris” had the great “Stand Up” from his album “Chicken & Beer”.  A big year for the dirty south!  The most original rap release of the year was by teenage Londoner Dizzee Rascal.  His debut album “Boy In Da Corner” would bring notoriety to U.K. rap and Rascal would become the biggest face of the U.K. grime scene, which would remain a influential creative force in rap for the rest of the decade.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Fever to Tell

Buy Fever to Tell – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Buy Fever To Tell [Explicit]Amazon

Cat Power- You Are Free

Buy You Are Free – Cat Power

Buy You Are Free Amazon

Belle & Sebastian- Dear Catastrophe Waitress

Buy Dear Catastrophe Waitress – Belle and Sebastian

Buy Dear Catastrophe WaitressAmazon

The New Pornographers- Electric Version

Buy Electric Version – The New Pornographers

Buy Electric VersionAmazon

The Rapture- Echoes

Buy Echoes – The Rapture

Buy EchoesAmazon

The Strokes- Room On Fire

Buy Room On Fire – The Strokes

Buy Room On FireAmazon

Drive-By Truckers- Decoration Day

Buy Decoration Day – Drive-By Truckers

Buy Decoration DayAmazon

The Exploding Hearts- Guitar Romantic

Buy Guitar Romantic – The Exploding Hearts

Buy Guitar Romantic Amazon

Broadcast- HaHa Sound

Buy Haha Sound – Broadcast

Buy Haha SoundAmazon

The Shins- Chutes Too Narrow

Buy Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins

Buy Chutes Too Narrow Amazon

Death Cab for Cutie- Transatlanticism

Buy Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie

Buy TransatlanticismAmazon

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists- Hearts of Oak

Buy Hearts of Oak – Pharmacists & Ted Leo

Buy Hearts Of OakAmazon

Outkast- Speakerboxx/The Love Below

Buy Speakerboxxx / The Love Below – OutKast

Buy Speakerboxxx/The Love Below [Explicit]Amazon

The White Stripes- Elephant

Buy Elephant – The White Stripes

Buy ElephantAmazon

My Morning Jacket- It Still Moves

Buy It Still Moves – My Morning Jacket

Buy It Still MovesAmazon

The Wrens- The Meadowlands

Buy The Meadowlands – Wrens

Buy The Meadowlands Amazon

The Black Keys- Thickfreakness

Buy Thickfreakness – The Black Keys

Buy ThickfreaknessAmazon

Radiohead- Hail to the Thief

Buy Hail to the Thief (Deluxe Version) – Radiohead

Buy Hail To The Thief (Collector’s Edition) [+Digital Booklet] Amazon

The Postal Service- Give Up

Buy Give Up – The Postal Service

Buy Give UpAmazon

Jay-Z- The Black Album

Buy The Black Album – Jay-Z

Buy The Black Album [Explicit]Amazon

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