A look back at the best albums of the year

A look back at the best albums of the year

Ah, the mind of the music critic — a fabled
breeding ground for some of the most wonderfully insightful and
creative thought in the history of mankind. Some of history’s greatest
achievements were forged by music writers: Hamurabi’s ancient edict "an
eye for an eye" was developed while reviewing the mediocre Boston
hardcore band of the same name. Not many folks know that George Foreman
worked briefly as a rock critic (sample from his review of the Bens EP:
"Blows. Should’ve been called the Georges"), during which time he
invented his grill, now a staple graduation gift for state-college
bound chubby high school seniors everywhere. The list is endless.

Take for example, this seemingly simple directive:
Dear Prefix Staff Writers:
Please submit your Top Ten lists for 2003 as soon as possible. Thanks.
Your feeble non-music-critic mind probably sees only a basic
request for a specifically formatted submission. But oh simple reader,
you fail to see that to the creativity-factory that is the mind of a
music critic, this is simply yet another opportunity to express the
inner genius. You could for example, reject the boring, traditional
"ten" and instead submit, say, three. Or you could do fifteen, you
could list your favorite bubble gums, you could include explanations,
you could make bad jokes about your favorite albums, you could invent
cheese and eat ten pieces of it. Or twelve. Or you could top them all
and not do a goddamn thing, an option so creative that seventy percent
of our music scholars opted for it.
And so without further ado, Prefix‘s Best of 2003. Make of it what you will simple reader; you may not be able to keep up — we on some next level shit.
~Ryan Duffy, Staff Writer




25 White Stripes


sure packs a punch on the band’s fourth album, with tracks such as
"Black Math" and "Hardest Button to Button" more than making up for the
album’s weaker moments.

24 The Mars Volta

De-loused in the Comoratorium

their three-song teaser last summer, my appetite was properly whetted
for De-loused, an album that comes through in every way that had been
promised. While maintaining the energy of ATDI, the band forges on with
a prog and Spanish influence.

23 Jaylib

Champion Sound
Dee and Madlib take the bling-oriented approach to contemporary hip-hop
that typically irritates the crap out of me and make it unbearably
alluring. Even a skinny white kid from Northern California feels like a
badass while listening to this record.

22 The Darkness

Permission to Land

Mercury and Angus Young apparently made sweet, sweet love about 25
years ago and birthed these lads, like so many demon spawn in
Cronenberg’s The Brood. Best is that these guys aren’t kidding, and
almost brought back butt rock to the masses. "Giving Up" and "Love is
Only a Feeling" are the best examples. A hilarious, staggering

21 Radiohead

Hail to the Thief

pretty fucking amazing when a band is so good for so long that you feel
you need no discussion of one of the year’s most forward-thinking

20 The Rapture


flagship act finally arrives. Credit is due to the much-heralded DFA
production team, but Luke Jenner’s tortured/drunken wails run a close
second. No soul? No problem. Just shake it, and "House of Jealous
Lovers" will guide you.

19 Belle & Sebastian
Dear Catastrophe Waitress
New York Catcher" is clearly the masterstroke. But there’s lots of good
tunes on this, the best Belle & Sebastian product in years:
complex, initially off-putting tunes that eventually win you (several
times) over, which, of course, have been B&S’s stock-in-trade since
Tigermilk’s "The State I Am In." And by the way, why did folks make
such a big stink over Isobel’s leaving the group? Did she strike anyone
else as, I dunno, overly twee? Maybe even fey? Anyhow, this is a neat
album, because the title track sounds like an outtake from Forever
Changes and it’s almost as good as "All the Things She Said."
18 Ted Leo

Hearts of Oak

This man is the Chevy Truck of fucking rock music. Is there a more consistently marvelous songwriter alive?

18 Lightning Bolt
Wonderful Rainbow

love Lightning Bolt but I’ve never been able to listen to their CDs.
All that has changed with this one. They lay down 10 of their best
songs ever with a better production to boot. Still won’t compare to the
live show though.

18 The Gossip


Beth can sing. Yes, Nathan is one of the most eccentric people around.
All the hype is true. Don’t get caught calling it "blues" or "garage"
because this is straight up punk rock.

17 Viktor Vaughn

Vaudeville Villain

Doom is an odd one, and this release just pushes his boundaries even
further with odd lyrical phrasing, seemingly out of place spoken
samples and tight production. Despite all of this, Vaudeville Villain
is one of his best pieces of work to date and shows that with each
alter ego MF tries on, we’re sure to expect something totally

16 Manitoba

Up in Flames

Snaith’s musical career travels from the bedroom to the universe at
large with this stunning bit of musical amalgam. It’s ’60s pop, it’s
electronic goodness, and it’s the kind of album that reminds you that
art is truly boundless.

15 Broken Social Scene

You Forgot It in People

dense yet sprawling masterpiece from Canada’s preeminent "music
collective." From the anthemic rock of "KC Accidental" to the offhand
grace of "Pacific Theme," this record really did have something for

14 Cat Power

You Are Free

So fucking gorgeous. I don’t care if she rapes pigeons at her live shows, this is breathtaking.

13 Dizzee Rascal

Boy in Da Corner

raps fast and with a British accent, so I understand about every 35th
word, but fortunately Diz speaks the universal language of "HOLY FUCK

12 The Decemberists

Her Majesty

quite showtoons. But taking orders from "the corporal of regimen five"
is suspect if you ask me. This album could be the only release this
year that would make your history teacher proud. It’s amazing. Go buy

11 Matthew Shipp


A strong year for Thirsty Year. Highlighted by super jazz pianist Matthew Shipp.

10 Aesop Rock

Bazooka Tooth

seamlessly segues from good to great within the first few moments, as
slow, chunky beats drag along behind Ace’s witty verse. Hip-hop song
cycle of sorts, complete with character sketches in the tradition of De
La Soul is Dead but heavy-handed social critique like Edutainment. See
pseudo-intellectual Prefix review.

9 Pretty Girls Make Graves
New Romance

than Liars if not the Strokes, brighter than the Rapture if not the
Shins, PGMG had to deal with their share of that backlash bullcrap that
typifies the (ahem) indie-rock (ahem ahem) scene in ’03. Their loss
The New Romance is loaded with emotions, fiery, complex, interesting
emotions set to commensurately rousing music loved the twin guitars,
guys, keep it up. My favorite moment is when Zollo goes "We’ll! Have
such a fabulous time!" on "Chemical, Chemical." What’s yours?

8 Four Tet


Hebden may be swamped by scientists for discovering astounding humanity
in his mess of computer wares. IDM finally delivers on so much promise
with unlikely but elegant blends of found sounds and harsh electro

7 Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Fever to Tell
out a record this spectacular when everyone is expecting you to put out
a record this spectacular is almost as impressive as the album itself.

6 The Wrens

record was written with the bitterness that only years of obscurity,
botched attempts and getting screwed over can accomplish. The pain in
these songs is the universal tension of getting older and circumstances
one can’t control. A simple, stark return from hiatus.
Did people forget about this record? Why have I not seen this on other ‘Best Of’ lists? Fucking anthems.

5 The Shins

Chutes Too Narrow

Mercer and Co. stripped down their sound significantly for their second
round, which was a wise decision, as these songs, without the bells and
whistles, show their impeccable songwriting, and captivating harmonies.
Given the variety, from the layering of "Saint Simon," to the twang of
"Gone for Good," the Shins have earned their place in the major

4 The Strokes

Room on Fire
of the same from high fashion New Yorkers, and it’s quite good. This
one has a couple of road bumps, but delivers the same fiery guitar
licks, underwater vocals and catchy melodies that Is This It? carried.
Particularly fond of the single "12:51," and its flippant remarks
regarding 40s. Pour a little on the curb, fellas.

3 The Unicorns

Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?

synths, detuned guitars and undoubtedly drug-fueled Canadians prove a
volatile but enchanting brew that intoxicates you into arguing that a
song called "Tuff Ghost" might be one of the year’s best.

2 OutKast

Speakerboxxx / The Love Below

Honestly. These doods are just toying with us now.

1 Prefuse 73

One Word Extinguisher

hip-hop (and henceforth nowadays, pop culture) appeared to nurture only
the superficial and the vacant, this album single-handedly infused the
genre with depth and vulnerability-without uttering a single word. Your
brain can translate sound into emotion, but then, so can Scott Herren.


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