2003 Year End Thoughts
10 Bands That Defined 2003
ush/The Verve: I spent much of 2003 discovering the whole back catalogues of these two mid-90s shoegaze groups. Neither was ever the most innovative of bands, but both have a formidable claim to the Best B-List Band of the 90s category--fighting competition from other '03 discoveries Archers of Loaf and Lilys.
9. New Order: My favorite band of all-time, these guys pretty much deserve to be on every list like this every year until I die. They deserve a place this year in particular, however, due to The Perfect Kiss, my self-made New Order box set--my obligatory Summer Project for 2003. Now all I have to worry about is what's left of them to discover. Ugh, now time for all the side projects. Dammit.
8. The Wrens: One of the only bands this year whose back catalogue I discovered in time for their '03 release, The Wrens were a splendid find. I tried really hard to love Secaucus because I wanted to believe in what Ryan Schreiber said about the band, and eventually I think I legitimately did. Meadowlands was shockingly different, but "Happy" was easily one of the year's best songs and, all in all, The Wrens were one of the most fascinating new bands for me in 2003--even though they'd been around for about a decade already.
7. Orbital: I've loved these guys for a couple years already--my pending classic review of In Sides will attest to that--but for some reason I had never really enveloped myself in their music until this year. I also discovered that two of their songs--"Belfast" and "Chime," just mild favorites of mine before--were quickly becoming two of my favorite songs ever. "Belfast" is probably the best song I discovered this year.
6. Primal Scream/Blur/Wire: Perennial favorites, Spring 2003 was all about these three. I was writing an article on Primal Scream, and Blur and Wire both had (fucking awesome) albums pending that I needed to prepare for. I estimate that at least 60% of the music listening to in March, April and May were by these guys. For all I knew, no other music existed, and that was perfectly OK with me.
5. Dinosaur Jr. : How the hell did it take me this long to hear this band? I loved them right from the first note of "Little Fury Things," and since, You're Living All Over Me has become one of my favorite albums of the 80s. Then the greatest hits--"Freak Scene," "Thumb" and "Feel the Pain"--and I'm hooked for life. For me, these guys make Peter Frampton cool again (as if he needed the boost).
4. The Rapture: It's wonderful how exciting music can be sometimes. Discopunk truly is a dream amalgamation of genres, the entire "a revolution that you can dance to" theme being so enthralling sometimes it feels like my heart could burst. I'm sick of the backlash against Echoes--take out "Heaven," replace it with "Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks" and it's the album of the year--and even if it wasn't exactly the discopunk Nevermind the Bollocks, it shows signs that one day they might be capable of the discopunk-plus of London Calling.
3. Sean Paul: The man of 2003 was unquestionably none other than Sean-a Paul. I still can't believe just how popular "Get Busy" was (coming in at #5 in MTV's most requested videos of the year) when the song was essentially beatless and free-form, while "Like Glue," and "I'm Still in Love With You" were even better, the latter criminally underrated. Pop really turned the indie world upside down this year, but it didn't really hit me personally until I discovered that "Like Glue" was maybe the best thing I'd heard all year. An impulse-purchase (yeah, the album as a whole sort of sucks) that defined the musical climate of 2003.
2. Lilys: I spent much of 2003 disillusioned with music--by my final count this year, only six of my 100 favorite albums were ones I discovered in '03. But maybe even if I'm not discovering The Smiths, Pavement or The Velvet Underground for the first time anymore, I'm discovering far more personal treasures--ones that weren't necessarily jammed down my throat by canonization. Lilys were the best example of this phenomenon this year--they totally enveloped me in their world, a world for which I had few reference points, since not so many people knew them that well. "Claire Hates Me" and "Ginger" are possibly the two greatest dream-pop songs ever written, and Eccsame the Photon Band's charm on me is like that of Loveless to many others. Lilys were hardly my first favorite band, but they were probably the first that felt like a true discovery, and not just myself acting in compliance with my pre-destined favorites. If I discovered one band like Lilys every year, that would be enough for me.
1. Broken Social Scene: The possibilities of great music are alive and well with this band and their latest album, You Forgot it in People. I don't think I truly understood this fact until I saw them in concert in September--quite possibly the first gig I've ever been to where I wasn't always anxious to hear what the next song was, willing to stay for hours under the spell of each individual number. They made me see stars, and just thinking of that magical night makes my pulse beat faster. I returned to YFIIP later trying to recapture the thrill, and it was impossible, but months later, it's still the best album I've heard all year, filled with wide-eyed wonder and endless potential. If I still believe in music at the outset of 2004, it's probably because of these guys--the new songs at the gig sounded even better. God, can you imagine???