The Best of 2003

Ranking and filing our Local Top Ten

6. Trapped by Mormons, Go Go Go

Any South Floridian who has left the house in the past couple years has probably run away screaming from TBM frontman Todd Nolan. Fortunately, Go Go Go allows you to enjoy TBM's evil blues without having to deal with Nolan spitting beer in your face, jumping in your lap, and otherwise proving that he should be locked away for crimes against sobriety. But Nolan still runs free, and his bandmates are there to make sure Nolan doesn't get them banned from the handful of clubs that still let them play. -- TB

7. Remember the Ocean, Tomorrow After Dark

Although guitarist Earl Coraluzzo is one of those old Margate punks, his band Remember the Ocean is all about grown-up refinement. The most nonthreatening entry on our list, RTO's subtle pleasures revolve around the interplay of Coraluzzo's gorgeously warm and shimmering acoustic/electric six- and 12-string arsenal and the sincerity of Kristin Larkin's lovely vocals. Tomorrow After Dark's shimmering folk-rock twang and unapologetic professionalism make RTO's lighter-than-air sweetness easy to swallow. Your cookie-baking grandma would approve. -- JS

8. Lansing-Dreiden, The Incomplete Triangle

The mysterious Lansing-Dreiden (local art-terrorists? NYC fashion designers? Is it even a band at all?) has left this piece of its puzzle for us to decipher. The Incomplete Triangle sounds like Thin Lizzy re-creating Brian Wilson's Smile with Modern English at the controls. Is it art-rock? Post-punk dilettantism? Edgy post-modern eclectic experimentalism with a maraschino cherry on top? Lansing-Dreiden describes itself as "a closely-knit collaborative of like-minded people and computers." Whatever -- it's weird. And good. -- JS

9. Heatseekers, In Praise of...

The 'Seekers took the rock out of the garage this year and drove it drunkenly, doing donuts on your lawn. Musically speaking, of course. They're loud, they're fast, they cover an Otis Redding song, and they have a "Top 10 Rock Crotches" list on their website. Amen! -- AS

New Times writers from across the country were asked to name the best discs in several categories: wack (which we're calling "Wonka"), ironic, Latin, hip-hop, and hard rock and metal. Here are their choices:

Chestnuts roasting over an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Tim Allen and Billy Bob Thornton dressed up like Santa Claus -- that's right people, the holidays are in full swing! And along with all the other gifts bestowed upon you this year, get ready for a nor'easter's worth of self-indulgent, blurb-a-licious critics' top-ten lists. That's where we critics remind you of our stunning, encyclopedic knowledge of the past year's musical highlights; where we subtly say, "Shame on you for not buying, loving, and proliferating this obscure band." And, "Shame on you for not sending us bouquets of posies when first we revealed the genius of Outkast, the Rapture, the Postal Service..."

Fuck that. Let's do something different.

This was the year of what I call the "Wonka record." A Wonka record is not merely a bad record but a bad record that sounds as if it were made Gobstopper-like in an eerie factory by elves with pointy ears and graphing calculators. Wonka records seem invented by marketing teams that know way more about what you want than you do. They are sometimes disguised as "artistic triumphs," but this is just part of their spin. Here are my favorite Wonka records this year. Sadly, this is only a partial list.

1. Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Yes, it was an interesting album, and entertaining. But did you notice how the duo's high-concept approach kept a lot of people from admitting that you can't sit all the way through it and that a lot of the songs on it are really just crappy, meandering sketches? Mainly, though, this record is Wonka because of its insidious marketing angle: One single, André 3000's "Hey Ya," got playlisted on alt-rock radio, while the other, Big Boi's "The Way You Move," topped the charts on hip-hop and R&B stations. That's a great ploy. Outkast's strategy scored the group a two-for-one deal. You know who else did this in 2003? It's...

2. Ryan Adams, Rock N Roll/Love Is Hell

The titles say it all. One is the gritty, alt-rock radio staple, the other the wounded, lite-rock radio staple. The two records are utterly different and clearly marketed to two distinct audiences. Listening to them, it's hard to imagine they came from the same artist. Strange, and very Wonka.

3. The Strokes, Room on Fire

Wonka because it's the exact same record the band put out two years ago, yet fans and critics ate it up anyway. That makes it more like a McDonald's combo meal than an album: You know it's processed and reheated junk, you know it's bad for you, but you eat it anyway because, hey, at least it's consistent. Also, the group's live show sucked big hairy moose balls.

4. Any Tupac release

The guy put out four records when he was alive, and eight (!) after he died. As many before me have pointed out, if it had been good enough to be released, someone would have done so while Tupac was still breathing. Profiteering from someone's tragic death is totally Wonka.

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