Top 10 of 2003


* Calexico: Feast of Wire

Of all the CDs on my list this year, Calexico's spent the greatest amount of time

spinning in my stereo. This is just a fantastic album. Their earlier recordings

are a sublime mix of alt-country, folk-rock, film noir, and spaghetti western

fusion. But they nail it on this one, with a little mariachi thrown in for good

measure. Plus they come up with the best song title of the year:

"Attack el Robot! Attack!" So yeah, this deserves spot #1.


* Ellen Allien: Berlinette

I discovered this two weeks before the end of 2003. After the first listen, I

knew it would find its way onto my list. YOu can tell she's grown up around the

German electronic music scene. First a producer, then a club organizer, then a

DJ, and now a musician, her sophomore release shines on tracks like "Wish" and

the (good) Orbital-y "Sehnsucht."


* Desormais: Iambrokenandremadeiambroken

Released in uniquely-shaped hand-stitched matchbox-coveresque packaging, this is

one of the most haunting albums in my collection. Shifting guitar loops, static

pulses and ethereal female vocals float along 9 tracks. These are some of the

prettiest moments I've heard this year. Special order this from your favorite

local record spot because it's not getting the domestic exposure it deserves.


* So: So

Wondering what happened to Oval? Me neither. But like it or not Markus Popp

returns, this time, with Japanese singer Eriko Toyada. Well, it's less of a

collaboration and more of Toyada laying down some folky tracks and Popp

deconstructing them on his laptop as he's prone to do. This is much better

than so-so. Tracks alternate between grating (with thin references to Toyada's

orginals) and comforting (with Toyada's voice and guitar-plucking surfacing

from the chopped chords and beats). The ten tracks are titled alphabetically

A through J. That's probably for the best.


* Ricardo Villalobos: Alcachofa

I thought I exhausted the microhouse/glitch genre late last year after tracking

down almost all the major artists plus the three Clicks & Cuts compilations.

But just when you think you're done, you're not done. Villalobos, whom I knew

from tracks on the heady Superlongevity mixes released by Playhouse, raised the

bar on the genre a bit with this one. It contains sounds that have been around

before, but somehow he uses them in a new way giving tracks like "Easy Lee" and

"Dexter" a fun twist on the microhouse theme.


* Broken Social Scene: You Forgot It In People

An uninspiring band name and forgettable cover art doesn't stop this Canadian

supergroup from releasing what I found to be one of the most refreshing listens

of 2003. Part ambient indie-rock, part straightforward pop, this one's all over

the place but it's definitely an enjoyable listen all the way through. What's up

with the handclaps?


* Ulrich Schnauss: A Strangely Isolated Place

Ulrich Schnauss seemingly popped out of nowhere two years ago with his debut

"Far Away Trains Passing By." His new one takes the beat programming a little

further but keeps with the same catchy melodies. Not too unlike Jonas Munk's

project Manual, Schnauss has delivered another solid release that invokes a

combination of Slowdive, Global Communication, and just about anything coming

out on the Morr Music label lately.


* Matthew Dear: Leave Luck to Heaven

I stopped reading Rolling Stone magazine years ago, so I'm not up on the type of

releases they review these days. I guess they continue to occassionally unearth

suprises like this one. Rolling Stone awarded "Leave Luck to Heaven" four stars.

Not that you should rely on their opinion, but I have a feeling they're on to

something. A late November release, this one will likely crop up on top ten lists

and recommendations for a little while to come. There's nothing terribly new about

the sounds here, but he has a knack for making the minimal techno/microhouse

sound instantly accessible. Vocoder's typically not a good thing, but he can pull

it off. Any track here can nicely round out an electronic mix.


* Busdriver & Radioinactive with Daedelus: The Weather

You know you're dealing with misfits when you've got track titles like "DJ Furry",

"Germs That May Cause the Following:", and "Carl Weathers." This hip-hop collective

on Mush Records drops a release that's equal parts Clouddead and They Might Be

Giants. Utterly stupid. Check out the track "Name Forgetter" for some fun interplay

between a children's game sample and the MCs. Dumb.


* Geoff White & Stewart Walker: Discord

My favorite mix-CD of the year. Tracks alternate between White and Walker originals.

This is solid minimal techno all the way through, and I imagine it would make for

good driving music or for playing Metroid. The Force Inc. label continues to impress.