A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
Back in February, I argued 2002 was an important year in music of the 2000s. 2003 is no slouch in that regard either. The list from that year sees no major changes.
Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana
Molotov, Dance and Dense Denso
Café Tacuba, Cuatro Caminos
Sasagawa Miwa, Jijitsu
bloodthirsty butchers, Kouya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers
Bonnie Pink, Present
downy, untitled third album
Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place
Other favorites from the year:
Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism
The Postal Service, Give Up
NUMBER GIRL, Sapporo OMOIDE IN MY HEAD Joutai
Onitsuka Chihiro, Sugar High
Original Cast Recording, Avenue Q
Emmylou Harris, Stumble Into Grace
Rufus Wainwright, Want One
Hayashi Asuca, Saki
Caitlin Cary, I’m Staying Out
The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas
DJ Krush, Shinsou ~Message from the Depth~
Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5
The Wrens, The Meadowlands
Longwave, The Strangest Things
The only change is switching out Explosions in the Sky for Outkast, and the extended list adds the Wrens and Longwave.
I was working at Waterloo Records in 2003, and legitimate download services hadn’t gotten off the ground yet to stem the tide of rampant file sharing. So I was discovering a lot of great music through word of mouth and on the job.
While I’ve added a number of 2003 titles to my collection in the following years, few have edged their way into this already crowded field.
So I guess I’m pretty set where 2003 is concerned.
It’s time we turn this list around. Instead of tracking the favorite new releases of 2018, I’ll start with my favorite catalog discoveries. The vast majority of my listening these days is old music that’s new to me, so let’s pretend no longer I have a read on anything current.
Patti Smith, Horses: PJ Harvey sure owes a lot to Patti Smith. The first time I played Horses, there were moments I thought I was listening to Polly Jean. This album confounded me, thus forcing me to play it multiple times, each time engaging me more than the last. Smith has been described as the godmother of punk, and I half expected a proto-Sleater-Kinney. Nah, man. That’s not it at all.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?: Maybe it’s because of Emmylou Harris and Kronos Quartet that made this album feel instantly familiar, or maybe its influence extends as far as the arm of Sauron.
Roxy Music, Avalon: Smooth
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska: This shit is dark.
Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark: Without some schooling in Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, I wouldn’t have understood how ground-breaking this album is. Otherwise, the cheap imitations it spawned would have been my only reference.
Fugazi, The Argument: I didn’t think anything could top 13 Songs or Repeater, but this album comes damn close.
Dwight Yoakam, Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.: Honky-tonk AF
Benjamin Gibbard / Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5: Even after 15 years, this split EP holds together well.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer: This is the album I wished The ArchAndroid was. I still think she hasn’t yet recorded her Shousou Strip.
Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, Landfall: I found myself engaged in this album more than I expected.
Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo: Shiina Ringo is one of the best songwriters, because the strength of her writing cuts through even the most ordinary interpretation of her songs.
Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly, Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music: It’s an improbable concept album based on transcriptions of Balinese gamelan music by English composer Colin McPhee. In execution, it’s a stronger concept than the Planetarium album Muhly did with Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister.
Steve Grand, not the end of me: Grand has gone through some serious shit since his debut album, and this sprawling sophomore effort lays it all out.
Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi: Check out the rhythmic modulation on “Chikai”. She does some amazing obfuscation with the downbeat.
Igor Stravinsky, Chant Funèbre / La Sacre Du Printemps: It seems Funeral Song didn’t really answer the question of how Stravinsky bridged his Scriabin-influenced early work with the Firebird and all that came after.
Tracey Thorn, Record: Tracey Thorn returns to the dancefloor, thank deities.
A few weeks back, I spotted a used copy of Home, Vol. 5, a split EP between Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set.
I listened to that EP quite a lot when it was first released, but I never got around to picking up a physical copy. It’s been nearly 15 years since it came out, and I had to listen to it on Google Play to remind myself what drew me to it.
I barely remembered that I actually wrote a review for it in the earliest incarnation of this site.
Home, Vol. 5 holds up really well, and while my writing about it was clumsy and stilted, the conclusions still bear out.
Gibbard had a really good year in 2003. Death Cab for Cutie would release its best album, Transatlanticism, that year, and Gibbard’s collaboration on the Postal Service would also prove fruitful. On Home, Vol. 5, he already sounds ready for a major label budget.
But Andrew Kenny’s quiet delivery and darker writing lingers much longer. When Gibbard sings Kenny’s “Choir Vandals”, he’s forced to turn the wattage on his demeanor, and when Kenny takes on Gibbard’s “Line of Best Fit”, he’s not browbeated to be more than he is.
Split EPs are economical for labels, but at their worst, they result in clumsy pairings. Home, Vol. 5 avoids that pitfall by allowing Gibbard and Kenny to inhabit different corners of the same aesthetic space.
The sparse instrumentation and light production make the EP cohesive without impinging on their distinct styles.
Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.