Top 20 Albums Of 2003

Top 20 Of 2003

Introductory Notes

Welcome to my Top 20 Of 2003.  The last official column I did for 411mania
was my Top 20 of 2002, so I figured that doing the list again would be a good
way to mark my re-entry into the columnist world here at the site.  Widro’s
pretty much given me free reign to do anything I’d like around here in the
way of columns, so I’ll probably wrap up music, movies and wrestling into
one neat little package and post it on a weekly basis. 

You can also read more of my “mainstream” columns over at Backwash.com, and I’ve got a photo album
with a lot of pictures from my time here in Iraq located here.
I used to have a blog site but I recently closed the account — Widro finally
got 411Black running and I have the photo album, so there’s no more need for
me to shell out money every month for a website when I’m trying to save up
for an engagement ring. 🙂

I’m going to do a follow-up to this column with a READER-SUBMITTED Top
10 Of 2003 Special Edition
.  This is the place where, if you disagree
with what I include in my list (which most of you likely will), you can have
a space to put YOUR Top Ten.  This special edition column will likely
be ready for publishing sometime right after Christmas, so you’ve got about
10 days to get your thoughts in. All you need to do in order to get involved
is to send me your Top 10 and comments,
and I’ll include them in the follow-up.

Enough chatter — let’s get on with it.  The list goes in reverse order
with random notes included on a few albums, and full write-ups are included
for the Top Five Albums.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that a lot of these albums are considered “popular.”
They’re also good.  Get over it now and save yourself some grief.

20. Coldplay — Live 2003
19. Cursive — The Ugly Organ
18. Junior-Senior — D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat
17. The Raveonettes — Chain Gang Of Love
16. Bubba Sparxx – Deliverance
15. Delirious — World Service
14. Warren Zevon — The Wind
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Fever To Tell
14. Lucinda Williams — World Without Tears
13. 50 Cent — Get Rich Or Die Trying
12. Radiohead – Hail To The Thief
11. Mur — Mur
10. Kings Of Leon – Youth And Young Manhood
9. Grandaddy — Sumday
8. Dashboard Confessional — A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar
7. The Libertines — Up The Bracket
6. The Strokes — Room On Fire

THE TOP FIVE

5.    Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown (****½)
Switchfoot’s been around for a long time — they’ve been playing together
professionally since they were 14 years old.  After years in the meager
Christian music industry, the band finally struck out into the world of mainstream
music and signed with Columbia Records.  With “The Beautiful Letdown,”
they’ve been able to make an album that is both catchy and poignant, which
is tough to do in these days of overwrought rock clichés.  References
to Scarface and Al Gore are only part of what makes this album so good; the
main message of the entire album is that there’s still hope and sweetness
to be found in a world where we’re becoming increasingly bitter and pessimistic. 
Not only do they give you a message of hope, but they do it in the most meaningful
way — directly in the middle of excellent and artistic music.

4.    Outkast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below(****½)
In going their separate ways on this dual-disc project, Big Boi and Dre
may have doomed themselves to failure.  After all, quite often the strength
of the unit is far greater than the people who make it up, and this disc could
have easily ended up a failure.  However, the creativity and sheer disregard
for making “pop music” displayed by both artists involved in Outkast ensured
that this album would not only be good, but absolutely great.  Dre’s
portion of the disc is my favorite by far, because he’s a risk-taker to the
degree that he doesn’t care about success or failure — only being true to
the music he’s got in his soul.  Outkast have been one of the best artists
of the past decade, and if this is indeed their last album as many have speculated,
then it was a good run indeed — and this album was a fitting way to end
it.

3.      Ryan Adams – Rock And Roll (*****)
People who’ve followed my music writing know that I’ve long had a soft spot
for the songs of Ryan Adams and the precursor to his solo career, Whiskeytown. 
With Rock And Roll, Adams makes a drastic departure from the alt-country days
of his youth and drives a nail deep into the heart of punk-rock territory.
Gone are the steel guitars — they’ve been replaced by scratchy fuzz guitars
wailing with a frantic fervor that’ll take you by surprise if you’re expecting
it to sound more like “Gold.”  Adams has said that he’s tired of the
alt-country scene, and we can only be thankful for that, for this album might
prove to be the watershed album of a skyrocketing career.  Adams parties
hard, but his love for the music hasn’t waned and this album is so full of
true rock and roll passion that you can’t help but love it.  

2.      The White Stripes – Elephant (*****)
The White Stripes might be one of the most exciting things to happen to
rock and roll music since Elvis Presley.  I realize that’s a big stretch
to make, but the music that fills the spaces on Elephant is music that is
both refreshing and revolutionary at the same time.  With the fervor
of punk rock and the grit and sorry of the blues, Jack and Meg White rail
through every track on this record with a passion for music that is undeniable. 
Jack White might just become one of the seminal guitarists of his generation
by creating riffs that display more passion than technical prowess, and Meg’s
simple drumming gives the songs room to breathe.  It’s a landmark album
and will long be remembered as the one that gave the Stripes critical acclaim
as well as the commercial viability that so long eluded them.

1.      Fountains Of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers
(*****)

Despite the (enter Grammy organization name here)’s assertion that Fountains
Of Wayne have never been heard from before (they’re up for Best New Artist
at the Grammy’s this year), Fountains Of Wayne have been producing hit songs
like “Stacy’s Mom” for nearly a decade.  Back in 1994, they had a respectable
hit with “Sink To The Bottom” and likely would have rocketed to the top with
“Kill The Biker” if the label hadn’t pulled the plug on the second single. 
All things happen for a reason, however, and in 2003 Fountains Of Wayne returned
to the spotlight with the remarkable and genuine “Welcome Interstate Managers.” 
Through each of the songs on the album, Chris Collingsworth crafts incredible
pop songs with real emotion and real background.  The scenery and imagery
displayed on this album are able to take on lives of their own by virtue of
the simple yet effective songwriting, and by the end of the record you’re
not just involved in the music — you are consumed by it.  They may have
made their commercial success off “Stacy’s Mom,” but that song is just the
tip of the iceberg when it comes to Welcome Interstate Managers.  It
was the catchiest album of the year, but it was also the best.