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The best albums of 2003 (or those we think you should have listened to!)


Compiled by: Jack Foley

NOW that most music journos have named their favourite 50, 25 or 10 albums of the year, we thought we'd bring you an alternative spin on things.

Everyone knows about The White Stripes, The Darkness and Radiohead, so we thought we'd concentrate largely on the ones that may have escaped your notice - the albums we feel that may have passed you by.

Needless to say, there is the odd obvious choice we felt was so good it couldn't be missed off the list, but here are the 25 LPs which made our year worth listening to.

And, what's more, they're in no particular numerical order - as we feel music can depend on your mood; so that today's choice cut might not necessarily be the CD you listen to tomorrow, but rather stack fondly away.

l Unkle - Never, Never Land
What we said:
Whereas Psyence Fiction produced only fleeting moments of brilliance (such as the Ian Brown, Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft collaborations), Never, Never Land is an altogether different affair; an album which works as a collective whole, and which forces you to think about your place in the world, while wrapping you up in its mesmerising beats.
Best track: What are you to me?
Review l Buy it

l White Light Motorcade - Thank You, Goodnight!
What we said: Perhaps most surprising, however, is the blatant Stone Roses homage contained in the guitar riffs of Dream Day, which flirt with Waterfall, before veering off into early Feeder rock 'n' roll territory.
Best track: Dream Day
Review l Buy it

l DM & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life
What we said: Hip-hop fans rejoice, for here we have the real deal, an old school hip-hop album that has to rate among the finest records of this or any year in that particular genre.
Best track: Bush Boys
Revew l Buy it

l Blur - Think Tank
What we said: Think Tank, their seventh album, is a prime example of this ability to surprise and progress, succeeding in the face of enormous pressure, both from their own internal conflicts (founder member, Graham Coxon, departed midway through recording) and from critics keen to see 'pretentious' lead-singer, Damon Albarn, come unstuck.
Best track: Out of Time
Review l Buy it l Caught live

l Bonobo - Dial M for Monkey
What we said:
The presence of a bigger label has also enabled Green to bring in more instruments - so as well as the trademark drums and percussions, we are also now treated to woodwinds, sitar (on the superb Flutter) and saxophone at certain points, making Dial M for Monkey a far richer listening experience than some of its predecessors.
Best track: Pick Up
Review l Buy it

l The Strokes - Room on Fire
What we said:
Room on Fire actually clocks in at three minutes shorter than its predecessor, at a tight 36 minutes. Yet there is probably more to say about it than the majority of the over-cooked likes of some of the albums currently doing the rounds at the moment. Personal favourites include the tender (by their standards) Under Control, which actually flirts with soul, and the searing guitar loops of Automatic Stop.
Best track: Under Control
Review l Buy it

l Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
What we said: Critics regularly hail founding members, Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, as the masters of writing the perfect alternative pop song and, once more, they live up to that billing by delivering an album of simple, but clever, feelgood music.
Best track: Supercollider
Review l Buy it

l Nelly Furtado - Folklore
What we said: Turning its back on the radio-friendly pop-format of Whoa! Nelly, Folklore combines elements of rock, with Furtado's Portuguese background, and folk, to deliver a truly accomplished album which should set her up well for the future.
Best track: Powerless
Review l Buy it

l StellaStarr* - StellaStarr*
What we said:
Much of the pleasure in listening to Stellastarr* is ticking off the various comparisons/ references that drive their sound. Take, for instance, former single, Jenny, with its Smashing Pumpkins rock out finale; the Big Country-inspired guitars of My Coco, or the hopelessly Cure-based guitar rifts of A Million Reasons.
Best track: Somewhere Across Forever
Review l Buy it l Caught live

l Nitin Sawhney - Human
What we said:
What could have been a painful, difficult listen, actually turns out to be one of the most uplifting and sinfully beautiful experiences of the year; an album rammed full of creative passion that is a vast, sweeping testament to why Sawhney is one of the most highly-respected musicians working in the UK music industry today.
Best track: Falling
Review l Buy it l Feature

l Earlimart - Everyone Down Here
What we said: California's sun-drenched sound is given a darker spin by Earlimart, a hip three-piece whose new album, Everyone Down Here, should certainly be generating a lot more buzz than it currently seems to be. Co-produced by Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, the album bears a lot of the hallmarks of the Grandaddy sound - folk-inspired indie-rock - while fusing a grittier, more rock-based edge that could easily find a place in the songwriting book of, say, The Dandy Warhols or The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Best track: We're So Happy
Review l Buy it

l Sleepy Jackson - Lovers
What we said: In between the expertly crafted pop songs, there are moments of psychedelia, or country-ballad, just to keep listeners on their toes. The result is an intoxicating blend of music which, for the most part, hits home.
Best track: Don't You Know
Review l Buy it

l Palo Alto - Heroes and Villains
What we said:
Some of the leading names in the American music industry - including Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Welland and Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath - are raving about them, yet Paloalto have, so far, yet to make much of an impression on UK shores, despite recently touring with former Stone Roses guitarist, John Squire, and producing one of the best rock albums I've heard for a long time.
Best track: Throwing Stones
Review l Buy it

l Aqualung - Still Life
What we said:

Best track: It is an altogether bolder, more concert-friendly long-player, which boasts some really terrific tracks, as well as some quietly affecting ones, which serve to underline Hales' talents as a songwriter of genuine worth.
Best track: Brighter Than Sunshine
Review l Buy it l Interview

l Clarkesville - The Half Chapter
What we said: Hence, almost every track contains a catchy hook, some frivolous melodies and a strong set of vocals that mark a compelling opening chapter in this young musician's fledgling career.
Best track: Spinning
Review l Buy it l Interview

l Cardigans - Long Gone Before Daylight
What we said: Long Gone Before Daylight is delicate, gorgeous and subtle album, and though it may disappoint admirers of their earlier material, it will no doubt bring a new set of fans to the fore; and might give the band the commercial success they so richly deserve.
Best track: You're The Storm
Review l Buy it

l Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Take The On, On Your Own
What we said: It is an angry album, but also an intensely personal one. Yes, it contains social and political commentary, but it also contains moments of personal reflection, of looking in on one's own world, as well as out at another person's. And it's a mightily impressive album to boot.
Best track: And I'm Aching
Review l Buy it

l Grandaddy - Sumday
What we said:
Kicking off with the brilliant first single, Now It's On, which captures the brighter outlook of the band in lyrics such as 'I got not reason to be weathered and withery, like in the season of the old me', the album then proceeds to deliver a laidback journey through some of the best space-rock since last year's equally sumblime Flaming Lips album.
Best track: Now It's On
Review l Buy it

l Martina Topley-Bird - Quixotic
What we said:
Mixing a number of different styles, Quixotic is probably not going to be the album many were expecting. Yet its quality is unmistakable, thanks in no small part to the quality of its collaborators - which include Tricky (of course), David Holmes and James Bond composer, David Arnold.
Best track: Lying
Review l Buy it

l Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power
What we said:
While the sunshine melodies of old remain largely intact, particularly during the wonderfully feelgood Valet Parking (which seems made for a Southern Californian coastal drive - it's actually about a trip from Cardiff!), the lyrics have become a little darker, dealing with subjects such as disease, death and Holy War in a bid to echo the feelings of the world as it stands today.
Best track: Cityscape Skybaby
Review l Buy it

l Longview - Mercury
What we said: Longview's album, Mercury, is a moody, sprawling and frequently beautiful debut, crammed full of terrific songs that mark them out as the best indie/rock act to come out of Manchester since the likes of The Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets.
Best track: Falling For You
Review l Buy it l Feature

l Elbow - Cast of Thousands
What we said:
Combining some memorable guitar riffs with some nice gospel choir interludes, Cast of Thousands is a far more rewarding listen than it would first seem. Moody, for sure, but occasionally quite hopeful, and frequently beautiful, particularly during its more expansive moments.
Best track: Snooks
Review l Buy it

l Travis - 12 Memories
What we said:
12 Memories may not be as instantly accessible as the likes of The Man Who or The Invisible Band - given its darker edge and tougher subject matter - but it might yet prove the most durable.
Best track: Walking Down The Hill
Review l Buy it

l Muse - Absolution
What we said: There is an epic, almost surreal quality to their music, as though they are constructing something much bigger than mere records - virtually every track takes the form of a sprawling odyssey, brimming with inventivity, as though being constructed on the widest possible canvas.
Best track: Blackout
Review l Buy it

l Un-Cut - The Uncalculated Sum
What we said:
Highpoints include the current single, Fallin', as well as the former effort, Midnight, and the album, on the whole, is a success, justifying Un-Cut's reputation as a UK act to watch.
Best track: Loveless
Review l Buy it

 

 

 

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