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Kevin's Best of 2003
12.30.2003 by Kevin

Instead of a boring old Top Ten, here is a hodge-podge, slapdash, year in review. Here we go:

Best Album of 2003: The Strokes returned boldly with Room On Fire. Dismissive critics accused the band of rehashing their debut, but closer listening reveals influences of funk, reggae and soul that were only touched upon on their debut. "Under Control," the band's first full-blown ballad, is also one of their best. "Meet Me In The Bathroom," "Reptilia" and "The End Has No End" are perfectly written, magnificently executed cuts. A more cohesive effort than their debut, Room On Fire proved the Strokes are here to stay and leading the pack.

Most Disappointing Album Of 2003: Hail To The Thief, if anything, proved Radiohead are human. After three astonishing releases, Hail To The Theif unfortunately found the band trying to make both alt-radio and hardcore fans happy, resulting in a middling album that fits somewhere between The Bends and Kid A. While people cheered the more obvious, radio ready tracks "2+2=5" and "There Ther,e, ignored were the bolder compositions of "Punch Up At A Wedding" and "Wolf At The Door" (a truly terrifying nightmare vision of kidnapping).

Biggest Surprise Album Of 2003: I never thought much of the Constantines. Hyped from the get-go I never got what all the fuss was about. However, Shine A Light, their Sub Pop debut, made me a believer. Fierce and passionate, the album drips with the sweat and fevered howling of these Guelph boys. "On To You" is truly moving; "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Allright)" and "National Hum" are some of best rock songs I've heard in years. Sub Pop may have the next Nirvana on their hands.

Most Underrated Album: Rufus Wainwright's Want One was a sprawling mess of a masterpiece. Giddily operatic, bold, and fiercely ambitious, Want One reaches the heights of pop majesty that most songwriters never achieve. The album is a drunken broadway production that reels and swaggers triumphantly down the avenues of New York, charming the pants off everyone along the way.

Best Song Of The Year: "Hey Ya!" by Outkast. "Shake it like a Polaroid picture." Do I really need to say anything else? Didn't think so.

Putting The Nail In The Coffin Of Two Careers At The Same Time: Madonna kissing Britney Spears. Nobody cared. Madonna is about as threatening and controversial now as Carrot Top. Even her Gap ad with the brilliant Missy Elliot flew under the radar. Britney Spears is desperately trying to seem like relevant adult pop singer and failing miserably. Each move looks more and more calculated. At least Christina Aguilera came out of the incident unscarred.

A Trend That Must Stop: Misspelling band names. Trapt. Limp Bizkit. Puddle Of Mudd. What's wrong with you people!? Why does "Mudd" need two Ds? Trapt? What, you couldn't spare the extra letters! Argh!

Best Concert: The Flaming Lips narrowly beat out Bjork for show of the year. While Bjork's well engineered outdoor concert – complete with Icelandic string quartet and fireworks – was a stunner, The Flaming Lips gutsy, unchoreographed, and undeniably passionate show even had stodgy cynics like me with hands in the air, singing along. Blood, balloons, confetti, robots, animal costumes... it was truly an experience.

Biggest Question For 2004: Radiohead's EMI contract is officially over. Will they re-sign to a major or release all future recordings independently?

Most Anticipated Releases For Next Year: Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed; Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Like Bad News; new Tom Waits; new Wilco.

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