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. Bye!