One rock fan's immodest refusal.
3. Go-killaz: The Reremixaz Gorillaz
Long thought to be the work of Blur's Damon Albarn, Dan the Automator and others, it was revealed by British news source the Daily Mirror that the "cartoon" group was actually made up of real people/animals who just happened to have cute names.
Albarn confessed to the scam and sheepishly went back to arguing with Liam Gallagher, while (in an effort to prove he's still got it) Dan Nakamura created this album of remixes of remixes of the original Gorillaz album. All but two of the 19 tracks are versions of the hit single "Clint Eastwood." The actor himself has called this album "indispensable."
4. Amerikkka by Steve Earle
Though heavily criticized for its relentless indictment of U.S. foreign and domestic policies, Earle's latest nevertheless boasts some of the prettiest cover art so far this decade. The closing track, "Sometimes I Feel Like Pol Pot," is a stunner.
5. Feelin' Alright by the Strokes
One of the bigger surprises of the year was when indie maestro Jim O'Rourke became a permanent member of international boy-band the Strokes. Eventually causing the dismissal of singer Julian Casablancas (he later joined the Vines), O'Rourke's presence lent an air of credibility among the avant-garde while providing some mainstream exposure for the hitherto marginal composer.
Combining the sensibilities of Chicago post-prog with New York-style clothing, this was perhaps the most talked-about album of May 2003.
6. Duets by Bj�rk et al.
Featuring rapturous renditions of classic songs from every era with the likes of Bono, Bernadette Peters, Little Richard, Courtney Love, Rufus Wainwright and others, Bjork finally left all that boring, weird shit behind. The recording was made with the now ubiquitous method known as "Dogma 95 technique," in which no artificial light is used during any stage of the recording process.
Highlight: a hilarious "How to Disappear Completely" with Broadway sensation Nathan Lane.
7. My Sister the Apricot by Belle and Sebastian
The first half of this double album (released only on vinyl and available via the Internet to fan club members who received golden tickets in the mail) is business as usual for the chambermaid popsters. It's full of the delicate arrangements we've come to expect, with high points being the tender "She Addresses Me Thusly" and the tenderer "Have You Noticed My Jacket?"
The second song on disc two makes a wild departure into thoroughly masculine territory. Bragging about his sexual conquests all over Glasgow, singer Stuart Murdoch sounds as much like Sammy Hagar as Nick Drake. It's a surprise, to say the least, and the rest of the collection falls into line with a series of abrasive, tightly played tunes about driving too fast and doing a whole lot of coke ("Doing a Whole Lot of Coke"). The shift in style and substance has an undeniable impact and, in retrospect, seems all but inevitable.
8. Space Oddity by Lance Bass
After three years of haggling and ferocious physical training, Bass finally made it into space, making him only the third pop star to do so (you might recall the "accidental" launch of Mandy Moore). This EP was released to little public recognition, but those who heard it found a positively revelatory reading of Bowie's famous tune as well as a swaggering "Would You Like to Swing on a Star," a playful "Subway to Venus" and the singer's own contribution "I Can't Believe I'm Finally in Space." Mesmerizing.
9. Par-taay by Beck
After the quiet introspection and doleful arrangements of last year's Sea Change, the pioneering artist spent six weeks doing "research" at the Phi Delt house at Texas A&M. Emerging with a batch of dazzling new songs extolling the virtues of 12-foot water bongs, beer bongs and cocaine bongs, Beck threw together this wild collection of anthems dedicated to the Art of Letting Loose.
Hearkening back to 1999's Midnite Vultures--as well as calling to mind the recent work of Nelly--Par-taay was almost unanimously hailed as Beck's finest work to date. The singles "Sizzle Drunk Honeypot" and "Burgertongue" provided the summer's bootiest-shaking rapture from a white person. Andrew W.K. provides guest vocals on five tracks.
10. Mama Knew Better by the Corn City Crackerjacks
Proving that alt-country is far from over, this rowdy quintet from the outskirts of Austin dropped this incendiary debut. Containing the movingly patriotic "Gimme Dat Dar Flag," as well as some fine tear-beer balladeering that would make any of the Hanks proud, Mama gave the Ikea set another CD to slide next to their O Brother soundtrack after recent offerings from Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss were deemed "too hick-y."
The inclusion of a fine rendition of "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" (here titled "O Brother, I Got Constant Sorrow [theme from O Brother, Where Art Thou?]") could have only helped matters. Nonetheless, a fine first record from a band to watch.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Dinner with Luke Palladino