disclaimer is not a toy

Mix Suggestion: The Best of 2003

This one's easy. Just pick your favorite songs that have been released this year, cram 'em together on a disc, and arrange them in a pleasing fashion. Almost no creativity needed! Especially since this has been an extraordinarily fertile year for quality music.

"Whiskey-Soaked Dalai Lama"
by Willie

1. White Stripes- "Seven Nation Army" (3:50) The only wholly enjoyable song this Detroit duo has yet released, it's a mighty good single, grounded by a simple, ominous bassline. (Yes, a bassline. You know, that thing that's missing from their other songs. No, no- not "talent." That other thing.) Oh, but I kid the White Stripes. It's really a good song, highlighting Jack White's swaggering falsetto and tossing in some power chords without losing its slinky cool. For those keeping score, it's easily better than anything off the Strokes' new album.

2. Idlewild- "You Held the World in Your Arms" (3:21) Yes, The Remote Part came out in 2002 in the UK, but not till this year in the United States. And since we're the only country that matters (as evidenced by Bush's recent decree that Taiwan, of all places, is getting too big for its britches) and I really want it on this CD, I'm including it. I'm not sure what it's about, but that doesn't make the yearning in Roddy Woomble's voice any less powerful as he soars through one of this band's most aching and anthemic choruses to date- and that's saying something. It's not punk, it's not "grunge," it's not nu-metal, it's not garage-rock, it's just rock. Plain ol' melodic, noisy rock. With strings!

3. They Might Be Giants- "Am I Awake?" (3:04) Music by caffeine addicts for caffeine addicts, and thus one of my favorite TMBG songs of the past 10 years. It's nice to hear John Linnell's unstudied voice muttering about his disrupted sleep rhythms as he's backed by a lethargic autoharp sample and a giddy skitter of a drum machine, because you can tell he's a man who's been forced to blur the line between alertness and slumber way too often. These guys should do electronica-based pop more frequently.

4. Pernice Brothers- "Baby in Two" (3:36) Joe Pernice has already written his share of hauntingly pretty acoustic-pop masterpieces in his career ("Silo," "Bum Leg," "Everyone Else is Evolving"), so how is it that he keeps topping himself? I don't know anyone else who weds half-joking pitch-black imagery to heavenly choruses like Joe, and his talented bandmates coat the medicine in just the right amount of sugar. It's stunning.

5. Delgados- "The Drowning Years" (5:12) This harrowing, beautiful song highlights both a full string section and utterly explosive drumming, but it's impossible to focus on anything but Alun Woodward's frozen-in-time fixation on the loss of his lover. At first, I thought the references to death were non-literal descriptions of her succumbing to mental illness, but I now think that she may be losing her grip on reality as she's overtaken by disease. Either way, he sings lines like "Bring on the screaming and I'll take your demons now that I'm already dead" in a tone of such sorrowful resignation that it's like watching all the color drain out of the world.

6. Mike Doughty- "Cash Cow" (3:22) To follow the Delgados, let's have some aural Zoloft. By now, Doughty owns the "gangadank" rhythm in much the same way Sean Paul owns his "diwali" one, but this time, it's snuggled up beneath a fuzzy, minimal keyboard-and-drum-machine backing that is ineffably comforting. And as always, his lyrics are a singalong-mandatory collection of rhymes and assonance ("Refreshing bills to warm the slots in the till!").

7. The Postal Service- "Nothing Better" (3:46) Staying with the neo-new wave style, the Postal Service's homage to the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" is as affecting as it is adorable. Ben Gibbard and Jen Wood's "Please take me back"/"Sorry, no" dialogue is charming in its gentle, mutually respectful firmness ("Your heart won't heal right if you keep tearing out the sutures"), and the boingy keyboards, clackity glitch-pop rhythms, and string samples programmed by Jimmy Tamborello are good, airy fun.

8. The Northern State- "Dying in Stereo" (4:45) A silly party hip-hop song by three awesome girl rappers from New York! With one of those trendy, frog-voiced Jamaican rappers adding little flourishes! And a great, lightweight funk bassline! And samples of Kermit and Miss Piggy! Seriously, people, what's not to love? I want to drive the Northern State's tour bus.

9. Ween- "The Argus" (4:53) This song has no right to be as beautiful as it is, since its lyrics are basically a smirky parody of prog-rockers' sci-fi obsessions ("Will the God Eye grant his forgiveness, letting droplets of light erupt from the sea?"). But man, the simmering, Pink Floyd-style guitar line and almost ghostly melody are so inherently emotional that it's hard not to be moved- which, of course, means they beat you yet again. Curse you, Ween! The melancholy melodic turn at the end where Gener sighs, "And the Argus, he cries" is one of those rare, perfect rock moments that literally gives me goosebumps every time.

10. Radiohead- "Sit Down. Stand Up." (4:20) No, there's no hope for humanity. And Hail to the Thief has no shortage of tracks that expertly present the sounds of The End, but none features such a dramatic, a-little-too-quiet opening (The glockenspiel that was so comforting on "No Surprises"? It's a harbinger of doom here) that builds and builds until the clouds open up and you're pelted with "the raindrops" over and over and over until you almost can't take it anymore. It leaves you feeling both cleansed and paralyzed by hopelessness.

11. New Pornographers- "The Laws Have Changed" (3:26) Okay, no weirdness here. Just a great, backward-looking bounce-rock song that's built like a frickin' tank. Seriously, who else writes verses so impossibly infectious, and then brings in Neko Case's commanding vocals in the chorus to make things more addictive still? Plus, those carnival keyboards! There's hardly enough room in my head to accommodate all the cheerful pop goodness here.

12. Goldfrapp- "Train" (4:11) When I finally get around to making the long-awaited "Gettin' It On" mix page, this one's a shoo-in. Pulsating, buzzy keyboards (including Mark Linkous on Casio!), a thumping rhythm, and Allison Goldfrapp's sultry purr... it's not really electronica, not really pop- it's basically just sex in audio form. Moreso than "Little Saint Nick," even.

13. Dandy Warhols- "Scientist" (3:13) The most successful tune to come from Welcome to the Monkey House, the Dandies' scattershot foray into New Order/Depeche Mode-style electro-pop, "Scientist" announces its presence with three massive bass drum thumps and builds from there. Courtney Taylor's typically sullen delivery plays well as robotic calculation, since it's surrounded by whirring samples of guitar, synth, and a Bowie song. It's hard not to bounce rhythmically around at least a little bit during this song.

14. Starlight Mints- "Pages" (3:32) Stealing the bassline from the Pixies' "Dig for Fire" and surrounding it with xylophones, pizzicato strings, and guitar arpeggios, the Mints whip up a plinky, plunky pop dessert with a strangely emotional chorus.

15. The Incredible Moses Leroy (with Miho Hatori)- "The Color of Sky" (2:55) On his second album, there are moments where Ron Fountenberry gets so high on his own blissed-out poptimism that the music just sort of wanders off to la-la land without inviting you along. It's a nice change, then, when Cibo Matto's Hatori takes over the vocal duties and imbues this indie-pop beaut with just the slightest hint of sweet sadness. (And I can't recall ever before getting misty-eyed at a bassline the way I do here. It feels like a hug.)

16. Cat Power- "He War" (3:31) Less lyrically specific than some of the other tracks from You Are Free (of course, if I'd slipped "Names" into this tracklist instead, I'd never listen to any of the songs following it because I'd be too busy weeping helplessly in the fetal position for the next hour), but easily the most infectious track on the album. Chan Marshall's gift for simple, repetitive wisps of melodic brilliance is shot out of a torpedo tube in "He War," which sounds practically joyous with its two drummers and "Hey! Hey! Heeyyyyyy!" backing vocals. It's nice to hear Chan having fun.

17. Fountains of Wayne- "Stacey's Mom" (3:18) If I'd seen or heard this song as often as people who listen to the radio or watch MTV apparently had to, I may have replaced it here with "Bright Future in Sales" or "Little Red Light." But you know what? Overplayed or not, it's an undeniably addictive power-pop single: nothing more, nothing less.

18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- "Tick" (1:49) Ticktickticktickticktickticktickticktickticktick!!! Hey, who let Rich Bunnell write this song's summary? Get outta here, you!

19. Belle & Sebastian- "Piazza, New York Catcher" (3:03) A really simple folk ballad about a marriage of convenience: the narrator and his bride are a perfect match intellectually, but there's no romantic spark between them whatsoever, and Stuart Murdoch lays out their passionless relationship in six heartbreaking verses. Even the smirky references to Mike Piazza's sexuality are of a piece with the song's mood, though I'd be hard pressed to explain exactly why they fit as well as they do. It's gorgeous. Does anyone have a live version of this, with Stevie Jackson's harmonies, by any chance? If so, please let me know.

20. Dump- "Daily Affirmation" (7:56) Yeah, if I hadn't included this song, I probably would've been able to fit in three runners-up like Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "The Way" or Yo La Tengo's "Outsmartener," but I would've missed out on a perfect, epic conclusion to this mix. The title is probably a Stuart Smalley reference, but with James McNew's gentle, plaintive voice rubbing up alongside a blustery guitar part that threatens to fly off into outright noise at any moment, this song really does feel like the sunrise on the day that you finally get your shit together and do something with your life. So go do that in 2004! And let me know how it goes! I'll be right here, reading all your magazines.

"The 2003, The"
"It's Been a Rough Year"
by Norville Barnes

1. Guided By Voices- "My Kind of Soldier" (2:37)

2. Ween- "If You Could Save Yourself, You'd Save Us All" (4:46)

3. White Stripes- "I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart" (3:20) I love this band a lot actually, and I don't need any snide comments from you, Mr. I-Don't-Like-Blues.

4. Outkast- "Hey Ya" (3:55)

5. The Decemberists- "I Was Meant for the Stage" (7:02)

6. The Flaming Lips- "A Change at Christmas" (5:17)

7. Louis Logic- "Revenge" (4:06)

8. Disclaimer- "Please Pardon Our Progress!!!" (5:24) No, I'm not just ass-kissing the webmaster here, I'm really addicted to this song.

9. Manitoba- "Kid You'll Move Mountains" (5:01)

10. REM- "Bad Day" (4:07)

11. Spiritualized- "Lay it Down Slow" (5:00)

12. Cafe Tacuba- "Hoy Es" (5:00)

13. Junior Senior- "Move Your Feet" (3:01)

14. Radiohead- "We Suck Young Blood" (4:56)

15. Dead Science- "Unseeing Eye" (7:04)

16. Panjabi MC- "Jogi" (3:11)

17. King Geedorah- "All About U" (4:43)

"Chia Pet Ex Machina"
by Mike DeFabio

1. Guided By Voices - "Useless Inventions" - This is currently my favorite Guided By Voices song. And they've got a lot of songs. Robert Pollard must own some kind of secret hook machine.

2. Super Furry Animals - "Golden Retriever" - I almost picked "Venus And Serena," which is arguably the more well-written song, but I HAVE a golden retriever, which makes quite a difference.

3. Outkast - "Hey Ya!" - I know that all of you people are sick and tired of this song by now, but you have to understand that I live in a cave, and I've only heard this song about four or five times, so to me, it's still just the greatest thing ever.

4. Radiohead - "Sit Down. Stand Up." - The best song they've recorded in YEARS. It's little more than a single sustained build and its subsequent explosion, but it's executed flawlessly, and to this listener, there's NOTHING like a good build. This is the sound of compulsively washing your hands over and over until your skin comes off. Intense, my friend.

5. Prefuse73 - "Perverted Undertone" - An atypically low-key track from Prefuse73, who usually fills up every second of a song with chopped up noises. Here, he goes mostly for mood, and comes up with a gloriously somber rainy day number.

6. King Crimson - "Eyes Wide Open" - Maybe King Crimson haven't been doing anything new since 1984, but Adrian Belew can still write an awfully nice little pop song.

7. The Rapture - "House Of Jealous Lovers" - I got a fever!! And the only prescription...is MORE COWBELL!!!

8. Disclaimer - "Fixing A Hole" - All manner of infuriating delays have kept The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss from being released on time, but it's a 2003 album at heart. My current favorite cut from the album is this magnificently self-deprecating tale of a lonely vocoder and all of his faults.

9. The White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army" - The White Stripes are either on or they're off. When they're on, they're an unstoppable force, and when they're off, they're just annoying. On "Seven Nation Army," they're on ALL THE WAY.

10. TV On The Radio - "Satellite" - What the heck kind of music is this? Hardcore techno barbershop?? I don't understand. Let's just call it "post-punk," just to be on the safe side.

11. Electric Six - "Danger! High Voltage!" - Why do I love this stupid disco song so much? There are many possible reasons, but as usual, the best explanation is the simplest: FIRE MAKES IT GOOD.

12. Limozeen - "Because, It's Midnite" - Although the music of Limozeen is best appreciated by devout Homestar Runner fans, "Because, It's Midnite" is a terrific hair metal song in its own right. A guaranteed eyebrow-raiser for those unfamiliar with the cartoon.

13. The New Pornographers - "The Laws Have Changed" - Electric Version was slightly disappointing compared to the Godlike Mass Romantic, but it was still packed with rousing singalongs, of which "The Laws Have Changed" is one.

14. Four Tet - "Unspoken" - For those of you who wish DJ Shadow and Amon Tobin would hurry it up and release more albums, there's the new Four Tet album to keep you occupied.

15. Ween - "Zoloft" - It appears that Ween's new drug of choice is endorsed by that happy little oval guy that bounces around your TV screen. Not only is this song a fitting ode to antidepressants, but it also serves as an antidepressant in its own right.

16. Cat Power - "Speak For Me" - The rousing "He War" was the reason I bought the album, but this darker, moodier track has gradually replaced it as my favorite. She needs more songs with drums.

17. Mogwai - "Hunted By A Freak" - A Mogwai song you can actually remember after it's over? We haven't heard one of those since 1997! Way to go, Mogwai!

18. The Other Leading Brand - "Desk Drawer" - I made this! I'm particularly proud of this song because it's made almost entirely out of objects I found in my desk. The bass drum is a big rubber ball, and the snare drum is a stapler. I realize it's kind of smug of me to include one of my own songs on a "best of the year" mix, but how many other songs this year included an extended protractor solo?

19. !!!- "Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard" I think the RIAA needs to realize that the best way to reduce illegal filesharing is to sign more bands with unsearchable names like !!!. I would also appreciate it if said bands were also as awesome and funky as !!!.

20. Stereolab - "Jaunty Monty And The Bubbles Of Silence" - How is it that Stereolab can give their songs titles that make absolutely no sense and still describe the music better than I possibly could? This song, like all their best songs, is full-strength, undiluted joy.

Untitled Best of 2003 Mix
by SoulCrusher77

1. "Inertiatic ESP" - Mars Volta There are better songs on the Mars Volta album, I mostly went with this because 1) it's the only real song under 5 minutes long and I already have a damn 10 minute song on here later, and 2) a lot of the rest of album wouldn't sound as good out of context. Anyway, this is basically as good a 4 minute encapsulation of the Mars Volta's messy but intriuging Fugazi meets King Crimson meets Led Zeppelin at their most "out there" moments sound as you can get, and you have to be impressed at how Cedric manages to hit those impossibly high notes in the chorus ("now I'm LOOOOOOOOOSSSSSTTTTTT!").

2. "So Says I" - The Shins One of the few songs I can think of where the verses are actually more catchy than the chorus, and the harmonies on the bridge are great too.

3. "Step Into My Office Baby" - Belle And Sebastian Just a really good hooky, clever song about reverse sexual harassment with lots of sly office terminology as sexual innuendo lyrics ("I took down everything she said, I even took down the little red dress", "I'm pushin' for a raise, been pushin' now for days"). Brilliantly arranged too, especially when everything drops out but the strings.

4. "Miss Teen Wordpower" - New Pornographers Pretty much all of Electric Version has a tendency to bounce through my head weeks after I last listened to it, but this song is especially incessant.

5. "Free" - Cat Power As agressively rocking as a song this hushed can possibly get.

6. "Theme From Sparta F.C." - The Fall A great combination of Mark E. Smith's usual incoherent grumbling (about soccer hooliganry this time, at least I think), a surf-garage riff as catchy as anything that graced This Nation's Saving Grace, and hillarious but infectious pep-squad-like backing chants from whoever the hell else is in this band now.

7. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" - The Darkness Ah yes, another example of the nuts-in-a-vice falsetto making a return in rock. While admittedly gimmicky as hell, if you ignore the flamboyant glam-rock thing this band does have some really great hooks most of the time. This in particular is the sort of song where even if you sit through the whole thing against your will, by the time the guitar solo kicks in, it will tap into the part of you that secretly likes "More Than A Feeling" by Boston (which I know we all have), and you will find yourself unabashedly rocking out. Incidentally, also one of the most hilarious music videos of the year too, which I believe you can check out at their website thedarknessrocks.com.

8. "Hey Ya" - Outkast It's amazing how much momentum this song got, appealing to hipsters, teen pop fans, and apparently even news anchors (there's something just bizarre about seeing someone on your local "news team" announcing "Shake it like a polaroid picture!", even in the context of a teaser for a roundup on the Grammys). I guess that's how far an unlikely but irresistable combination of a quirky Frank Black-like acoustic guitar riff, endearingly dinky electronics, an early r and b-like chorus, and hilarious lyrics will get you.

9. "Danger! High Voltage" - Electric Six "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior could have gone here too, but I decided to go with the novelty dance-rock single that got somewhat less overplayed. Also, as hilarious as their video is, Junior Senior did not pen the line "fire in the disco, fire in the... taco bell-ah!".

10. "Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard" - !!! Every once in a while, a song will come out that's so undeniably funky that it will tempt even the awkward dorky white boy that is myself to dance. This is that song, and not even the fact that it's 9 and a half damn minutes long and I could have easily squeezed in 3 tracks in it's place can stop its inclusion.

11. "The Undefeated" - Super Furry Animals Easily the best latin-dancehall-brit-pop-techno single of the year. The firework sound effects at the very end are a great touch too.

12. "Pass That Dutch" - Missy Elliott Another variant on your basic Missy Elliot club track, right down to use of sound effects (this time it's car alarms and air raid sirens), but every year she releases a single almost exactly like this, and every year I somewhat ashamedly eat it up. Not quite as good as "Work It", but addictive nonetheless, and as a bonus it doesn't start off with her saying "this is a Missy Elliott exclusive" like every single song she released last year did.

13. "Such Great Heights" - The Postal Service I never got into the Death Cab and to this day have never heard Dntel, but this song made me want Give Up the moment the chorus kicked in. Somewhat sappy lyrics, likeable sensitive young man vocals, a driving chorus, and lots of pretty synth pop sheen; if this were 1983, it would be a much bigger hit than it actually was.

14. "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" - White Stripes I like The White Stripes actually, but yes, the best song they put out this year was a cover.

15. "Hackensack" - Fountains Of Wayne Even if I hadn't heard "Stacey's Mom" way too much this year, this great little throwback to Rubber Soul era Beatles ballads deserves a place of its own.

16. "Under Control" - The Strokes I'm never going to be a huge fan of this band, but this is easily the best song on Is This It II: Electric Boogaloo, I mean um, Room On Fire, because they ease up on the (admittedly kind of cool sounding) formula a bit and thus produce a lovely almost r and b sounding semi-ballad, and one that grew on me a pretty good deal.

17. "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)" - Ween For my money this is the best of the prog-rock homages on Quebec, mainly due to one hell of a terrific bombastic Dark Side Of The Moon-esque chorus melody. Cool epic-sounding ending too.

18. "Captain Midnight" - Tomahawk There's just a really great contrast between the mellow but paranoid trip hop verses (with a twitchy almost-impossible-to-follow drum machine beat, atmospheric keyboards and guitars, eerie sampled background screams, and Mike Patton's none-too-soothing creepy guy pleas of "don't be afraid!") and a more straightforward but still unsettling late Faith No More-esque dramatic metal chorus. Basically this is the song the Deftones and Korn have been trying to write their entire careers.

19. "Wolf At The Door" - Radiohead Radiohead almost always have really great closers (even Pablo Honey had the amazing "Blowout"), and this is no exception. There's a great visual feel to this song: the anxious repetitive guitar line in the verses coupled with the way Thom rants out his lyrics in an increasingly agitated manner just gives me this image of him pacing around a stark, near empty room muttering this all to himself as he waits in anxious fear for the phone to ring again so he can hear the extortionists' demands.

20. "Hurt" - Johnny Cash. An obvious choice, yes, but honestly, could anyone else take this Nine Inch Nails hit and make it transcend the stuff of gothic teenage girl's poetry journals to become an aching statement of last regrets? Even the normally ridiculous line "and you could have it all, my empire of dirt" gains a degree of poignancy.

"2003: An Exhaustively Researched Archive of Music
The Year We all Realized Rock Will Outlive Spin Magazine and Rejoiced!"

by Mike Bryant

1. “This Is Your Life” Dropkick Murphys- These Irishmen combine the Irish drinking sing-alongs with old school punk rock. While counterparts, Flogging Molly, focus on the drinking part of this marriage, the Murphys focus on the punk. At least, that is, on their earlier records such as ‘Do or Die’. ‘Do or Die’ was a great album full of fist-pumping anthems about immigrant (and punk) life. With this release, they move away from punk towards stadium rock but with their Irishness still intact. Traditional songs abound and the punk energy of ‘Do or Die’ is hard to find among these pretty straightforward Pop/Rock songs. Yet they still can rock a great fist-pumping anthemic sing-along, and this song is the evidence. “Fight! Fight! This is your life! This is your time!” The optimism is infectious.

2. “Lola Stars and Stripes” The Stills- They hail from the city OF MONTREAL, Canada. However, they share a sound with New York bands Interpol and Longwave. But unlike Interpol, these guys have as much in common with New Order as they do Joy Division. Not dance music, but the overall uplifting feel to their music. They mix this with the Joy Division styled, not-as-uplifting music very well. Yet they never plunge into despair. This is a really great pop record (as is the album) and is EXTREMELY catchy! This will be stuck in your head for days, and those days will be enjoyable ones too!

3. “The End Has No End” The Strokes- I love The Strokes. Their new album is both more polished than ‘Is This It’ and less polished. The Television influences fade, as Julian and Co. incorporate more 80s music into their 70s style. Reggae, Soul, some synths in some songs. One reviewer said they’ve progressed from late 70s to early 80s. Whatever has been said (good and bad) about the Strokes, they can write some fantastic pop hooks. Combine that with detachedly cool (I saw them live, and they really are the coolest mofos out there) vocals and world-weary lyrics, you’ve got you’re new favorite album. I love The Strokes.

4. “Don’t Look Back Into the Sun” The Libertines- One of the best new bands to come out of England in these past few years. Many people lump them into the New Garage Rock movement in this country, but they have more in common with The Kinks and The Buzzcocks than they do The Vines. This single (which is not on their debut album ‘Up the Bracket’ but is on a US release single of “I Get Along”) is a great summer tune with irresistibly catchy vocals and guitars. These ramshackle Londoners know how to have a good time and convey that in their music (and Mick Jones produced it, what more do you want?).

5. “See You Soon” Coldplay- This is on the Live 2003 CD/DVD. It’s a great concert and the DVD has an interesting (if sometimes boring, but Coldplay can’t help that) documentary. This is one of their new songs. It’s a nice acoustic number that would have easily fit onto ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’. The other new material sounds a lot like U2.

6. “Sound of Settling” Death Cab For Cutie- At first I thought this album was merely okay, but as I let it sink it, it’s really a great album. The second half sounds a lot like Elliot Smith, but the first half is a perfect set of dreamy, acoustic pop songs. The lead singer writes some great lyrics too (a little bit like Stuart Murdoch’s lyrics). This song sounds like it could have been on an early Beatles record!

7. “Float On” Modest Mouse- Some more optimism for you! (I guess this came out in 2004, but whatever). A quintessential optimistic song. This is a lot different than the stuff on ‘The Moon and Antarctica’. As the song closes, singer Brock, repeats over and over “We’ll all float on! All Float On! All float on?”. Yes, that last time he says it as a question in a wavery voice as if to ask “we will all float on?” The song sounds like he is trying to convince himself that we will all actually be okay in the end. Whatever happens, we’ll all float on.

8. “Out of Time” Blur- The best song on the Coxon-less Blur album. Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz side project and Moroccan stuff (he did some album that was world music, but I don’t feel like looking it up right now). This recalls songs like “This is a Low” and is on par with some of Blur’s best.

9. “Maps” Yeah Yeah Yeahs- The greatest song of 2003. Period. Great drums, great guitars, great vocals!!! Great emotional vocals! “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you, Wait.” Karen O spends her whole time hiding behind horny phrases and charades on the album, that when she finally opens up to feeling vulnerable, it’s an amazing experience.

10. “Tidal Wave” Longwave- While most New Yorkers are either copying 80s bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four or 70s bands like Television, these guys are copying Ride. That’s right, shoe gazer is back, and hasn’t sounded this good since “Vapor Trails” trailed off on ‘Nowhere’.

11. “Sittin’ Here” Dizzee Rascal- How did a 19-year-old rapper defeat Radiohead AND Coldplay for the Mercury Music Prize? Because the English don’t like giving Radiohead awards and they’ve already given Coldplay enough to last a whole career. Oh yeah, and maybe because he’s a good rapper also. His voice and accent is really hard to sit through for me though. And I never really got through his whole album. I like this song a lot though, as it is reminiscent of Tricky (the song is about boredom).

13. “2+2=5” Radiohead- Radiohead said that ‘Hail to the Thief’ was a shiny, pop record. I wish they’d warn us when “shiny, pop” really meant “dark, pessimistic.” But they serve up another great album (and a good packaged one too) full of songs that could not be mistaken as by any other band. Rock is back in Radiohead, and maybe the next album will actually be shiny pop? Heh, I think not.

14. “Televators” Mars Volta- Prog anyone? That’s right; those hardcore/emo/Fugazi/Rage Against the Machine boys formerly of At the Drive In have given us a prog-rock album. One that is all-over the place musically and has a concept that is impossible to figure out. Songs over 10 minutes? Check. Energy? Check. Wait is prog supposed to have energy? Yep, prog with punk energy. What will they think of next?

15. “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21” Flaming Lips- They re-released this with a DVD in 2003, so it counts. My favorite song on ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ is a song about a robot wanting to be human. Wayne Coyne also muses on life and death like no one else can do better.

16. “Happy Valentines Day” OutKast- Sure, everyone loved “Hey Ya!” and rightfully so. But Andre 3000 has some truly funky, soulful, and fantastic tunes on his ‘The Love Below’ than are not named “Hey Ya!”. Who else could pretend to be Cupid and say, “When arrows don’t penetrate, Cupid grabs the pistol!” And there is a rumor going around that he is going to play Hendrix in an autobiographical movie about the legend. Now that’s what I call typecasting.

17. “Ball and Biscuit” The White Stripes- Someone once said to me that the White Stripes suck, because all their songs are exactly the same. Well after hearing “Seven Nation Army” and “The Hardest Button to Button” over and over again on the radio, I’d feel the same way. He obviously hasn’t heard this eight-minute blues epic. “Now, you could care less about me girl, but soon enough you’ll care by the time I’m through. Now Listen!!” Cue loud, awesome guitar solo. Jack, play the blues!!

18. “Hurt” Johnny Cash- I know somebody already said this, but it’s a classic song. Not the NIN one, but this. He makes it his own song, and it is essentially his epitaph as he died a few months later. One of the greatest music videos ever also.

"My Awesome Mix Tape #2003
...or: Joe Friesen's short collection of 2003 favorites as of May 2nd, 2004."

by Joe Friesen

1. Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around" - Screw Hurt... in case you hadn't noticed, Johnny Cash isn't too bad of a songwriter, and this ranks among his greatest achievements. I have no problem calling this, the last great song of a great career, the best song of 2003.

2. Belle & Sebastian, "Piazza New York Catcher" - Mike Piazza, Sandy Koufax and The Left Banke... believe me, it's a helluva feeling to know that one of your favorite bands wrote a song specifically for you.

3. Guided By Voices, "The Best of Jill Hives" - * YAWN * Another year, another Robert Pollard classic. I picked this over some of the other great tracks from Earthquake Glue, despite it's conspicuous hooklessness, because it has a kind of downtempo melancholy maturity that doesn't turn up much in Pollard's work, but sounds absolutely gorgeous when it does. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.

4. The Decemberists, "July, July!" - God, what a fucking gorgeous song. It could seriously challenge The Exploding Hearts and New Pornographers' best stuff for title of "Best Spine-melting hook of the year". If I ever get sick of this, I'm gonna cry for a week.

5. The Decemberists, "Song for Myla Goldberg" - The Decemberists put out two of my five current favorite albums in 2003, so they're allowed to have two entries. This song is fantastic, but Her Majesty didn't have a total standout track like July July!, and I also considered The Chimbley Sweep, I Was Meant for the Stage and Billy Liar for this spot.

6. Outkast, "Ghetto Musick" - If you don't like this song, you suck. This, along with "Shopping" by the Pet Shop Boys prove that songs that spell out the song title in the chorus do NOT suck. Unlike people who don't like this song.

7. Jay-Z, "Moment of Clarity" - Fuck, I hate Jay-Z. Congratulations, your final album is an incredible achievement of self-promotion and rampant egotism never before seen in hip-hop history, which is really saying something (especially in light of his earlier crap). Different producers for each song?? Excuse me, but... what the FUCK?! But I can't just toss him aside as yet another annoying MTV-created "icon", because every once in a while he forgets the suffocating inanity of his normal work and puts out a pretty darned good song. Like this one. It's not world-beating or anything, but it's pretty good, with a nice atomspheric backing track courtesy of Eminem.

8. Ween, "Transdermal Celebration" - Everyone has their personal favorite cut from the best album of 2003, and mine changes every month. Right now I think it's The Argus, but just to shake things up, I think I'll go with this one. Eh, whatever, it's all top drawer.

9. Ween, "Where'd the Cheese Go/Where'd the Motherfuckin' Cheese Go At, Bitch" - Heh. Yeah, this song is really good. And so is the cool extended jammy version they did for All Request Live.

10. The New Pornographers, "The Laws Have Changed" - Overrated, but only in that it's a merely great song, not the best New Pornographers cut or the best piece of power-pop of the last decade. I'll still echo Willie's endorsement of Letter From an Occupant over this, but when the songs are this good, the real winners are the fans, am I right?

11. The Exploding Hearts, "I'm a Pretender" - I could do without life occasionally giving me a swift emotional kick in the balls. If there was any justice, these guys would have torn up the charts and shown the world what real power-pop is all about, and dorks like Jack White would be a mere afterthought.

12. Disclaimer, "God Said, 'Plastics!'" - Willie kicks hacks like Granddady to the curb with his unique brand of asskicking post-OK Computer rock and/or roll. I was going to pick "Please Pardon Our Progress!!!" and it's riff that refused to get out of my head for this spot, but I think I like the herky-jerky new-wavey vibe he's got going on this song a bit better.

13. Yo La Tengo, "Season of the Shark" - When it comes to sizing up Summer Sun, I'm riding the fence -- most say it's bland and YLT is just treading water, while CWW says it's better than And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. One thing I can't deny is the coolness of this delightful little drone-pop nugget, which I think is probably the best song they've come up with in years.

14. Junior Senior, "Shake Your Coconuts" - Just as 2003 brought about a mini-renaissance of unpretentious indie-pop classics from old favorites, we were also inundated with an endless supply of pre-fab Brit- and Euro-pop. But while The Darkness looked to supercede Oasis as Talentless uber Annoying Britpop Supergroup Numero Uno, I not-so-quietly enjoyed this goofy little bit of dancy Danish obnoxiousness. Awwww, poor roommate.

15. The Unicorns, "I Don't Wanna Die" - What the heck is this? Alls I know is it's pretty darned cool.