Sunday, August 12, 2012

Top 10 Records of 2003

Twenty-aught-003! Moving backwards through the 21st century years known as the Double-O's. (That's a thing, right?) Hopefully it won't take me like 2-plus years to cover these 10 excellent albums - as 2004's did.

Back Maen
There were a few contenders for this year that were a bit hard to eliminate - so I'll just mention them here. Obviously, Zombi's Twilight Sentinel EP. In the alt-indie-rock category, either Malkmus' Pig Lib or Super Furries' Phantom Power would have been legitimate inclusions (both had weaker albums make 2005's Top 10 in a weaker year).

My one chance for later-era hippity-hoppity street cred was from Speakerboxxx / The Love Below, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. On the local scene, and the final cut: Project Grimm's Huge Beings.

And there were some major archival releases as well – J-C Vannier's L’enfant assassin des mouches (1972), Zep's How the West Was Won (live 1972), and finally the Bottles' Let It Be... Naked (1970)... or something like that.

Links to individual album posts will be added over album titles. Okay, enough with the prologue - let's do this!!

#10 Edward's Lament - House of Low Culture

Edward's Lament
"On the Upswing" from Edward's Lament (2003)
"Edward's Lament" [partial, mixed to Isis] from Edward's Lament (2003)

Genre - Ambient & Guitar Drone
Official/Myspace -
Location - Los Angeles, CA

Review -
Download - Insound, iTunes
Purchase - Neurot Recordings

I even surprised myself with this one. Not sure I'll be able to muster a whole post about it, or even explain why I keep gravitating back to this album. One of the tracks is 18+ minutes of like almost nothing - ironically (?) called "... And Now the Man You've All Been Waiting For!" Quotation marks, ellipsis, and exclamation point most definitely part of the title. I don't want to waste too much precious opinion, but this is the 2nd side project album from one of the guitarists for Isis (#3 of 2004, #3 of 2009, #5 Live Show of 2009). It's an odd mix of guitar drone, machine hum, and some unnameable mood-cluster - doomy, dreamy, desperate, forlorn, peaceful? I shall explore my feelings in more depth...

#9 One Step More and You Die - Mono

One More Step and You Die
"COM(?)" from One Step More and You Die (2003)
"Sabbath" from One Step More and You Die (2003)

Genre - Post-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Tokyo, Japan

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Ltd.

Another Top 10 regular: #5 of 2006, #4 of 2009, #7 Live of 2009, #10 Live of 2010. Their 2nd record, but the oldest I'll probably have once we move backwards beyond their 2001 debut, Under the Pipal Tree. Japanese post-rock in the cinematic GY!BE vein - if that means anything to ya: quiets & louds.

#8 The 3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream - The Pillbugs

3-Dimensional Pillbugs
"Heather (Whatever)" from The 3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream (2003)
"Red Light Summer" from The 3-D I-P Dream (2003)

Genre - Retro Psych-Pop
Official/Myspace -
Location - Toledo, OH

Review - Psyche Music
Download - Pillbugs Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Proverus

Repeat offenders all over again: #4, 2004 and #4, 2008. Many more groovy hits from the prodigious, beloved, late, lamented retro-pop ensemble. 1960s fetishism without all the laziness!

#7 HaHa Sound - Broadcast

haha Sound
"Colour Me In" from Haha Sound (2003)
"Pendulum" from Haha Sound (2003)

Genre - Hauntological Art-Pop
Official/Myspace -
Location - Birmingham, UK

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I was introduced to Broadcast super-late, with ... and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (#6 Drone/Ambient, 2009) - which I've enjoyed a lot. HaHa Sound is a terrific album of radiophonic experimental pop, with some folkish nods, and even a little Stereolabic krautiness. This will be the album to break the bank in terms of excellent external YouTube videos in the full post - Broadcast fans make the effort!

#6 Desert Sessions Vol. 9 (I See You Hearin' Me)
and Vol. 10 (I Heart Disco)

Desert Sessions 9
"Crawl Home" from I See You Hearin' Me (2003)
"Subcutaneous Phat" from I Heart Disco (2003)

Genre - Hangin' out & Messin' around...
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Joshua Tree, Calif.

Review - Ultimate Guitar
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Boom! Queens of the Stone Age main dude Josh Homme wraps up his series of desert studio party-downs, with these last two EP's. Features significant QOTSA participation, including superman Dave Catching, plus PJ Harvey & Dean Ween. The end of not only the Sessions series, but the Nick Oliveri era of the Queens. Afterwards, all the records seem to begin slipping... Lotsa great stuff here though!

Desert Sessions 10
I think the top 5 of the list might be comparable to the lower half. An inexplicable ambient drone album, a retro-rock classic, some Deaner-infused heaviness, groundbreaking crossover electronica? Maybe so...

#5 It Still Moves - My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves
"One Big Holiday" from It Still Moves (2003)
"Mahgeeta" from It Still Moves (2003)

Genre - Rock 'n' Roll
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Louisville, KY

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

At some point, I stopped believing in the power of rock 'n' roll... to produce any good new albums. I remember because that faith was restored, however tenously, when I got this album at a steep discount (maybe due to another record store chain biting the dust). MMJ at this point was still kinda-rootsy, American, southern R&R. And for all their subsequent maturation (#5, 2005), I still think this is what they did best.

#4 Halve Maen - Double Leopards

Halve Maen
"The Fatal Affront" from Halve Maen (2003)
"Viking Blood" from Halve Maen (2003)

Genre - Murk Ambient
Info - The History of Rock Music
Location - Brooklyn, NY

Review - Pitchfork
Download - later album from Insound & on iTunes
Purchase - used 2xLP's, used CD's

This here's one dank record. The spell of mystical undead shaman, chanted from the ocean's floor, the waves are slow & hypnotic, phosphor light burns aqueous like distant lanterns, tendrils of seaweed envelop from below, or some creature of the blind depths grasping for prey? As you approach the surface, you start to worry about the bends...

#3 Quebec & All Request Live - Ween

"Transdermal Celebration" from Quebec (2003)
"Mononucleosis" from All Request Live (2003)

Genre - Alt-Psych Prog Nightmare
Official -
Myspace -
Location - New Hope, PA

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Chocodog Merch

At this time, I was fairly disappointed in White Pepper (2000) - by Ween standards (#1, 1996 and #1 Repertoire, 2005). I've since grown to enjoy more of it, but in 2003 it had been 6 long years since The Mollusk. I remember a lot of people reacting very poorly to Quebec upon release. I loved it right away... but I've always liked the "brown"-er side of Ween, as well as their hazy-noodly prog excursions.

All Request Live is almost perfect for what it is - an internet-streamed live-in-the-studio all-request "show." Six tunes from The Pod (1991)?! All 5 chapters of "The Stallion" (mang)? All that + more!

#2 C6H8O6 - Linus Pauling Quartet

"Cole Porter" from C6H8O6 (2003)
"Hall of Mirrors" from C6H8O6 (2003)

Genre - Heavy-Duty Space-Psych
Official -
Facebook -
Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Aural Innovations
Download - Other LP4 at Amazon & on iTunes
Purchase - Discogs Marketplace

We here at Astral Headspace love us some LP4 (#3 of 2007, #14 of 2010, #9 of 1995, #2 Repertoire from 2005, and a few Live Top 10 appearances). But this will be our first real dip into the Pinnacle Period of the band: ca. 1997-2004. Arguably their best record!! (let's argue...)

#1 Up In Flames - Manitoba

Up In Flames
"I've Lived on a Dirt Road All My Life" from Up In Flames (2003)
"Jacknuggeted" from Up In Flames (2003)

Genre - Neo-Retro Electro-Indie-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Dundas, Ontario

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes (w/ bonus)
Purchase - Amazon

To this day, I cannot figure out who we saw Manitoba open for on this tour (at Mary Jane's/Fat Cat), but that show probably marked a greater openness for me to certain modern electronic music(s). Videos projected over the band back then ended up on the Marino DVD/EP (2005), so I'll probably discuss those. But this is one of those albums you just have to hear - the whole thing is just so right, so good, so impressive.

After the ridiculous "Handsome Dick incident," the act was renamed Caribou and made some more good, different music (#4, 2007 and #44, 2010).

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