Top 10 of 2003
Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy
01. Pinataland – Songs from the Forgotten Future Vol. 1
An enveloping and seamless collection of collage-conscious indie rock, modern Americana and Old World portraits, this 10-track gem is one of the most brilliant debuts in recent memory. An intelligent work of breathtaking scope that makes others exploring marginalized genres seem uninspired or just plain clueless. This is a full-fledged, fully realized masterpiece.
02. Rachel’s – Systems/Layers
An ambitious and wonderfully ambiguous piece of work that puts you right in the heads of these avant-classical musicians just as much as it follows the implied narratives they are scoring. Though heavy with found sounds and pockets of dark, empty space, some of the compositions here are the most haunting and elegant the group has ever released.
03. Do Make Say Think – Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn
The Canadian ensemble offers a bold, new chapter in post-rock by combining the scope and swagger of its guitar-driven soundscapes with the subtly intricate patterns and repetitions of a three-part epic. Even the naked and understated moments have a kind of trembling intensity to them.
04. Calexico – Feast of Wire
Burns, Convertino and company continue to mature on this full-length offering, tossing off southwestern desert ballads and intoxicating mariachi rhythms with as much ease and success as their forays into straight-forward indie rock, lush, string-accented pop and even Latin dub. These guys are making it increasingly difficult to say Calexico is just a Giant Sand side project.
05. Papa M – Audio Tour Diary EPs
Though these discs are more multi-faceted journal entries than a single release, they give further proof – if any were needed – about how David Pajo can engage a listener with even material he views as secondary. A real window onto the Papa M creative process and a wonderful bridge between Whatever, Mortal and its eventual successor.
06. (Smog) – Supper
Everyone’s favorite storm cloud returns from the dirgy swamp rock of Rain On Lens with a full-length that combines an unabashed affection for folk and country-blues with Callahan’s trademark delivery. One of the most tender records (Smog) has released since Red Apple Falls.
07. Shipping News – Three/Four
An experiment that actually lives up to its concept, the latest RMSN disc broke the Louisville trio into three individual parts to write, perform and record a new album. Incredible for revealing the solo talents of Crabtree, Mueller and Noble as much as it is for reminding us why, when combined, the equation works so well.
08. Tomahawk – Mit Gas
The second full length from this indie uber-supergroup shows that it’s more than just another Mike Patton aside. The rhythm section of John Stanier and Kevin Rutmanis assaults the listener and Duane Denison nearly steals the show, reminding everyone how big a role he played in The Jesus Lizard. A stadium-sized record made to destroy stereo speakers and punch holes in eardrums.
09. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Master and Everyone
Arguably one of Will Oldham’s most spare offerings to date, Master and Everyone became a reminder of just why we loved this Palace Brother in the first place: an emotive voice in all its naked glory and songs that explore the complicated relationship between man and his own spirit.
10. Ui – Answers
The band’s locked grooves and intuitive sonic expansiveness get a welcomed twist with the help of new addition Erik Sanko, of Skeleton Key and Lounge Lizards fame. The end result is a record that forces itself, looping infinitely, into your memory.
11. Snowy– Lilywhite
12. The Great Shakes – S/T
13. Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
14. Zykos – Comedy Horn
15. Dw. Dunphy – The Look and Social Discomfort