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The Best of 2003

Was 2003 a good year for South Florida music? Sort of hard to tell, innit, when we're always worked into a self-flagellating lather over how tough we have it down here? Well, buck up, lil campers! Sure, the radio sucks wet, musky, pachyderm balls, our big concert venue is named after an ink-jet printer, and most of our enjoyable indigenous acts leave home for better luck elsewhere, but take heart. What we don't lack are rich veins of musical talent and ambition, mostly mined by those with enough of a sense of humor to realize that this place is only as bogus as we allow it to become. We may not have as much of an astounding in-your-face culture as a hipper-than-thou college town might offer, but with all the extra time on our hands, we can, and should, build us a new society.

Before we begin, though, don't forget that 2003 was the slightly melancholy year in which we lost such greats as June Carter and Johnny Cash, Celia Cruz, Elliott Smith, Warren Zevon, and Wesley Willis.

To divert attention from those losses, we're laying out a smorgasbord of lists for those who appreciate order, organization, opinion, and smarmy self-absorption all in one handy, easy-to-reach location. Instead of hitting readers over the head with endless reams of inventory, this year we're divvying up items a bit differently. Of course, there are a few items you should hear from 2003 if you haven't: Bandwidth will gratuitously name Outkast (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), Sun Kil Moon (Ghosts of the Great Highway), the Shins (Chutes Too Narrow), Death Cab for Cutie (Transatlanticism), the Postal Service (Give Up), and the Electric Six (Fire) as albums not to be missed.

Oh yeah -- those local releases we teased you with. We selected a nice, even number (in this case, since the pickings were so slim, the number nine), and this is what we came up with (we being Tom Bowker, Audra Schroeder, and Jeff Stratton).

1. Psycho Daisies, Snowflakes Falling on the International Dateline

With a touch of sci-fi psychedelia and a near-overdose of mood swings, the second Psycho Daisies album sounds like a timeless classic. The toothsome guitar work of Johnny Salton is prophetic yet rooted in the good dope/good fun heydays of the '60s and '70s. A trio of well-chosen covers (The Drones' "I'm Down Today," Bevis Frond's "Lights Are Changing," and the Gun Club's "She's Like Heroin to Me") mix perfectly with Salton's lengthy, liquid originals. The sound of Salton's demons chasing him down dark hallways manifests itself in some rather harrowing music. The needle and the damage done? Some good damage, then. -- JS

2. Billy Boloby, The Revival

Their mission: to create "rock and roll absurdist theatre." Billy Boloby incorporates jumper cables, fake mustaches, and gay priest jokes into its stage show and still easily delivers infectious, '60s-inspired rock 'n' roll. The Revival is six tracks of jerky, frenetic lunacy, and rather than try to literally revive a certain genre of music, it puts you in a headlock and makes you realize music can be fun again, whether you like it or not. Mission accomplished. -- AS

3. Panda Bite, Doom Box

If you've shopped at Guitar Center's Hallandale Beach location, you've bought strings and drumsticks from the monsters responsible for Panda Bite, who will, if asked, test-drive the CD over the house PA system. Once you've heard Panda Bite's catchy-yet-satanic blast (like Guided by Voices and Slayer sitting side by side) and soaked up the band's decimation of Aphex Twin's electro-anthem "Come to Daddy," you'll succumb. About the only place you won't hear the best recorded output to come out of South Florida this year is in a record store. But that's to your benefit. After all, why pay for it when the band will gladly burn it in exchange for a promise that you show up at the next gig? -- TB

4. Whirlaway, Pompano

How often do you come across an album where every song is good, an album that urges you to tear off your clothes and run through a sprinkler? Whirlaway's third release explodes with song after song of perfectly crafted indie rock -- songs that are at once beautiful and gritty, ethereal and cinematic, and, yes, sonically sexual. It could easily be the soundtrack for a passionate love affair, a beer-soaked bar fight, or both, if you're feeling adventurous. -- AS

5. The Holy Terrors, This Is What It Sounds Like When You're Dead

Sure, Fort Lauderdale legends the Holy Terrors are completely cask-conditioned, trotting out material that's been cellared and aged for this "new" release. No matter. This Is What It Sounds Like When You're Dead still sounds as fresh today as it did when it was recorded back in '98, '92, and '91. Rob Elba's blistering scream and undeniable pop sensibility shine through. The earlier tracks also showcase Sam Fogarino's brilliantly angular percussive attack -- long before he put on a suit and tie and became a member of Interpol. Listen to their beautiful musical marriage on "Cigaretello," among the catchiest tunes ever to come out of these parts. -- TB

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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