10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 9, 2004
THE ToP TEN ALBUMS
ether another child molestation trial is staring you in the face
or you're still crying about that time Jack Wite beat your
face in, there's no den in that 2003 was a second-rate year
for music. While hip-hop and continued to tighten their grip on
the singles market, rock music, usually perceived as a somewhat
unified genre, diversified until it lost all semblance of an identity.
There were mall-punks, dance-punks, country-punks and people who
just plain got pk'd. Mainstrem music took a major hit, with
inconsistent efforts and falling sales. Stronger, more innovative artists
n.that had long flown under the radar were suddenly hip. As a result, we
witnessed a wealth of new artists and were forced to look beyond the
FM signals to find music worth listening to, furiously adding it to our
iPods. Our lists reflect that. For the first time in recent memory, no
single album distinguished itself at the top of our lists.
- Alex Wolsky and Andrew Gaerig
The Libertines - Up the Bracket
Record a sloppy masterpiece with the Clash's
Mick Jones. Try heroin. Fight. Do more heroin, break
into each other's flats, go to prison, get released and
publicly reconcile in the pages of New Music Express.
These snotty Londoners packed more drama into last
year than most bands pack into a whole career.
. [ The Drive-By Truckers - Decoration
Hurrah for Southern rock piled high with plenty of pounding force, unfor-
gettable lyrics, Dixie heartbreak and miles of twang a la Skynard's three-
 Stephen Malkmus 8 the Jicks - Pig Lib
Nothing but the usual puzzling genius from the brain behind the defunct
indie heroes Pavement. SM jammed out with his new band and released his most
challenging, cryptic album since Wowee Zowee.
[4 The Long Winters - When I Petend to Fal
Intelligent, irresistible and insightful nerd rock from the Pacific North-
west. When indie pop is this damn catchy, how can you resist?
LG] OutKast - Speakerboxxxl/he Love Below
A sprawling double album of groundbreaking hip-hop that sells like hot-
cakes? Be still my cynical, charred-black heart.
['] The Drtbombs - Dangerous Magical Noise
These kings of raw sonic excitement cut straight through the overkill hype
surrounding the Detroit garage scene. Mick Collins for mayor of D-town.
W Frank Black 8 the Catholics - Show Me Your Tears
The ex-Pixies frontman doesn't scream about UFOs or mutilation any-
more, but this collection about divorce-frustration reminds us middle-aged guys
can still pummel a nerve.
[n The Shins - Chutes Too Namoaw
As weird as this sounds, this still-impressive sophomore effort might have
suffered because the band left Albuquerque. Yet the jaw dropping wordplay and
otherworldly tenor of James Mercer survived the move to Seattle,
 The White Stripes - Elephant
If I didn't put this on here Jack White said he was going to stomp my
10 Kings of Leon - Youth and Young Manhood
Did you ever see that SNL where Dave Grohl played drums with Tom
Petty and the Heartbreakers? These sons of a Southern Pentecostal preacher took
that performance to heart.
". Non-Prophets - Hope
Why did two white guys from Rhode Island
f make the best album of the year? It's inexplicable but
HUSSAIN Sage Francis and Joe Beats put together a CD with
countless homages to the old school without ever
r 3M ' sounding dated.
2] OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love
_ _ _ Below
It's a shame Speakerboxxx had to be coupled with
The Love Below. As good as Speakerboxxx is, Below is like nothing else ever
released by a "rapper." Genre shattering and all encompassing, OutKast makes
others look silly with incredible ease.
[i The White Stuipes - Elephant
How much more to-fi does it get? Recorded for pennies in an English
recording studio, they broke it down as far as it can go and while they didn't
exactly shatter the mold, it's as good as ever.
] Victor Vaughn - Vaudeville wlain
Daniel Dumile, a.k.a. Victor Vaughn, the man with more aliases than
ODB and better albums, puts out the most schizophrenic album of the year. One
moment a junior high school boyfriend and a drug dealer the next, the lyrics are
[S Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
Despite being called a mix between KidA and OK Computer, Radiohead's
sixth album has a specific mood neither of those possessed. The anxiety is palpa-
ble here and so are the abstract politics.
F6 Prefuse73 - One Word Extnguisher
Glitch-hop at its best. Jittery, nervous and still cohesive, Scott Herren's
incredible production helped make the best instrumental album of the year.
[j The Shins - Chutes Too Narow
Note to the Strokes: This is how you follow up a critical darling of a
debut. A tad on the short side but good things don't last that long.
En Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.
In a lyrical masterstroke, Magnolia Electric
Co. is a dark acceptance of loss, unfulfilled want
ALEX and need and an understanding of the dividing line
W oU sKYbetween the two. Jason Molina reaches an emotion-
al peak unparalleled by anyone else in 2003.
Saturday Looks Good to Me - Alt
L.J Your Summer Songs
Detroit-based indie-laureate Fred Thomas brings
together a fresh cast of faces to build upon a variety of influences ranging from
rock to doo-wop, and, in the process, crafts 2003's finest pop record.
3 Midnight Choir - Waiting for the Bricks to Fall
So, a drunken, run-down, heavy-hearted, Norwegian bar band frays at
the edges and plays country music with a Tom Waits homage on vocals? Sign
En Blur - Think Tank
Interpolated between losing a founding member and a chaotic four-year
break, Blur managed to spawn a wildly eclectic album that is constantly rein-
F Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher
Scott Herren invariably marks his territory in the hip-hop underground
as the proverbial leader of the digital age while forging the most animated
break-up album of the year.
[ Guided by Voices - Earthquake Glue
Thwarting the demons of history, GBV concoct their best album in
nearly a decade, and posit Robert Pollard as a befuddled genius.
W The Books - Lemon of Pink
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F DM & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life
Producer Danger Mouse and MC Jemini tear down the walls of the hip-
hop nation and deconstruct the sound, the image and the feel of an entire gener-
ation while rebuilding it on their own terms.
gL The Strokes - Room on Fire
The striking sophomore effort blends the lyrical ambivalence of their
debut with a sonic leap forward to shrug off any thinkable slump.
[F The Rapture - Echoes
Amid the blustering horns and pre-programmed schizophrenia lies a
rock band, once declared DOA, now suddenly rejuvenated.
[j] The Libertines - Up the Bracket
For those of you unfamiliar with the Lib-
ertines, you take the Strokes, move them to Eng-
land and give them twice as much talent. Up the
Bracket is reckless and loud but still tuneful and
 Jay-Z- The Black Album
Ya know, Jesus was 33 when he left the
game, too. We'll miss you, Jigga.
Ira'::=. nz;>;i. ui Yaix snrxr'i: e:,t+';s:;:i ; ^y :j 7
3 The Drive-By rduckers - Decoration Day
Incest, suicide and broken marriage go hand-in-hand with literate, beauti-
fully written Southern rock..
Stephen Malkmus the Jicks - Pig Lib
LiI Even at the ripe old age of 37, the godfather of indie rock still does it bet-
ter than all of his disciples. Rock on, old man.
Fountainsof Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
Why did it take a song about a horny 10-year-old for people to sit up and
take notice of Fountains of Wayne?
6 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Sold crack since age three. Got shot 37 times. Started rapping. Signed
with Eminem's label for $30 billion. Sold 10,000,000 records his first week. You
know the story.
7 Lucinda Williams - Worfd Without Tears
Aching slide guitars and country twang perfectly accompany Lucinda's
soulful voice and sorrowful lyrics. Cheer up, Lulu. Everything's gonna be all
[j Atmosphere - Seven's Travels
Just because Atmosphere front man and underground hip-hop icon Slug
has "got a thing for the women that don't love themselves" doesn't mean you had
to go and call him emo.
] Rancid - Indestructible
Punk rock with a heart. Rancid combine their characteristic Clash-influ-
enced sound with surprisingly emotional, heartfelt lyrics.
OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
... but I wouldn't be upset if I never heard "Hey Ya!" again.
C 1 The White Stripes - Elephant
In a year of good, the Detroit "siblings" pro-
duced the only quintessentially great. Meg's improve-
ment as a complement is only overshadowed by the
supreme modern rock instrument, Jack's "Luke Sky-
walker" of a left hand.
there ain't no war in my
place or mine?
[j Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.
Finally surrounded by a full band, Jason
Molina distills the essence of classic country and
blues into a bristling, electric burn, his steely voice
bouncing urban poetry off of the Chicago skyline.
W Blur - Think Tank
Amid strutting bass, Moroccan rhythms
and sweet soul, Damon Albarn drops the post-
Iraq pickup line of the year: "TV's dead / And
head / and you look very beautiful to me." Your
[31 Cat Power - You Are Free
Rarely has such a jaded, self-obsessed soul soundedso empathetic.
Chan Marshall finally drops a set of hymns that echo as well in your room as
in her head.
Fil The Wrens - The Meadowlands
Balding, underemployed and frustrated. The Wrens make soulful,
undeniably intelligent punk rock. What happens when you get old before you
n Manitoba - Up in Flames
Dan Snaith rakes in the glitch and releases an organic, pastoral mash-up
of breakbeats and guitars. It sounds like a summer road trip gone terribly right.
6] Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
The return to guitar rock was overstated: it succeeds because of its
bubbling, creative instrumentation. Rag men, wolves and raindrops all
threaten, but Thom finally sounds wily enough to fight back. Hypocrite.
W Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
Tim Rutili mines classic Americana, but runs it through duct-tape
amplifiers and a leaning tower of half-working keyboards. "Michigan Girls" is
the most beautiful, optimistic summation of his vision yet.
2 Jay-Z - The BladrAIum
The man rhymes about dumbing down his
lyrics, yet still turns out the premier rap-game of the
year. May his retirement be brief- a #45 jersey is waiting.
Fj] Idlewild - The RemotePalrt
With Roddy Woomble's classy delivery of pop poetry, the outfit proves
it's not shite to be Scottish.
En Frank Black& the Catholics - Show Me Your Tears
Heartbreak should only be wished on musicians as intelligent and
introspective as Black.
S"twt-Spea"rx"lhe Love Below
Hip-hop has a future; its name is Big Boi. The spirit of Prince is alive
and well; its name is Andre 3000.
n Radiohead -Halto the Thief
S 1While not meeting impossible "return-to-guitar-rock" expectations, Yorke
and company still craft a time capsule of the mood of 2003, never belittling their
genius in the process.
Super Fury Animals - Phantom Power
The Brit-poppers keep promising a full-on techno album, but for now we
must all survive on their unique blend of Burt Bacharach and genre-bending. Plus,
with names like Gruff, Huw and Guto, how can you not love them?
[ The Strokes - Room onFire
If it weren't for the influence of the Cars on these Big Apple dwellers, the
whole '80s retro trend of 2003 would have had no positive consequences.
E Randd - Indestnicdble
The infectious joy of "Ruby Soho" never died, it was just the radio
that turned its back on the Bay Area-punk legends.