Fester’s Lucky 13: The Best Albums of 2003

The Bad News

2003 was a nasty, nasty year, with the war, the government lying to us more blatantly than ever, corporate corruption and globalization more out of control, and the economy down the toilet. And those of us who find solace in music found it increasingly difficult to do so, as the music industry waged war against its best customers. Here’s some behemoth-sized irony worthy of the colossal stupidity and arrogance of the giant media conglomerates. A very tiny proportion of the population are music geeks with large collections. The majority of the industry’s profits are made from blockbusters that people pick up from Wal-Mart. People who buy no more than a few albums a year. It is obvious that if lot of those people download a couple of those albums, it might be half or all of what they would have paid for, and that would certainly affect profits. In contrast, I know people who buy anywhere from forty to over four hundred albums a year. Just imagine if even just a few percent of the casual music-buying public decided there was enough music worth buying to dramatically increase their collections. The music economy would be revolutionized, and more artists than ever would be sustained by their income. This is what was happening at the peak of Napster a few years ago. 20 million people were regularly downloading music, and discovering that there was a whole world of good listening other than what’s on Billboard’s Top 100. Music sales was at an all-time peak. But the major label industry didn’t want that, because the sales were spread throughout a wider variety of artists, including, god forbid, more artists on independent labels. They would much prefer all consumers bought the same dozen chart-toppers like good automatrons, maximizing efficiency and profits.

So like a wounded, confused, blundering rhinoceros, they stamped out Napster and other filesharing networks, and destroyed their most brilliant promotional tool without realizing it. Post-Napster, sales have plummeted. People went back to buying the chart artists, but with less enthusiasm, and in fewer numbers. Despite only a fraction of filesharing taking place compared to Napster, the industry continued to blame filesharing, and initiated the most ridiculous slew of arrests and lawsuits since McCarthy’s witch hunt for Communists in Hollywood. Many of the people targeted had over a thousand songs on their hard drives — the same people who spend their hard-earned income on forty to four hundred albums a year. The industry’s best customers, but least important demographic, the music geeks. Meanwhile in this litigious culture of cowedness, downloading has decreased even more. And so has sales. After the inevitable demise of the industry and its weaselish tools of industry with their expense accounts, cocaine lunches, schmoozing, and little passion for the art, I’ll be the first to celebrate.

Since the sales peak of 1999-2000, the number of new releases has dropped by over 30 percent, as major labels focused their resources mainly on low-risk chart fodder rather than nurture and develop career artists. In late November I only had listed 35 albums that made my 9+ rating or higher, when I’ve had between 80 and 95 in the last four years. Excluding the possibility that I’m becoming and out-of-touch geezer, has the amount of good music dwindled along with the industry? With my belief that good music exists despite of the industry, I remained hopeful. It’s just harder to find the good music and weed it out from the tripe floating about. Armed with newsgroups and bulletin boards (CMJ, Big Takeover, The Wire, Metal Forums), Google, All Music Guide and SoulSeek, I spent a month scouring for more surprises, letting the laundry pile up and subsisting on week-old leftovers and Trader Joe’s ethnic microwave meals. I managed to ferret out an additional bakers dozen of gems, most not available in North America. If it weren’t for filesharing, I would have been able to find any of them and order the best of them that are available for reasonable prices via import, or recommend them to my modest 20,000 readership.

The Good News

Despite the continued homogenization of radio by the rabid corporate Clear Channel guerrilla, music
continues to evolve and diversify. Global pop is no longer a ghetto genre for ethnic regional music pasteurized into bland aural wallpaper lifestyle music for yuppies. While it’s certainly only the tip of the iceberg, some strange, beautiful, original and challenging music leaked out this year from Mexico (Cafe Tacvba), Sweden (The Concretes, Magnet), Brazil (Otto, Lucas Santtana, Daúde, Tom Zé, Tribalistas, Virginia Rodrigues, Fernanda Porto, Cibelle), Argentina (Juana Molina), France (Colder, M83, Pascals), Japan (Tujiko Noriko, Kahimi Karie, Haco & Sakamoto Hiromichi, Kazumi Nikaidoh), Canada (Stars, Do Make Say Think, Manitoba, Hawksley Workman, Bonobo, Metric, Constantines, Stills, Silver Mt. Zion, Metric, Frog Eyes, The Russian Futurists, The Unicorns, The Weakerthans, Kid Koala, The Hidden Cameras), Mali (Rokia Traoré, Oumou Sangare), Australia (Architecture in Helsinki ), Algeria (Souad Massi), Iceland (Bang Gang), Czech Republic (The Ecstacy Of Saint Theresa) and Germany (Ellen Allien) among others.

Thanks to the creativity bubbling throughout the globe, it was far from a sucky year, despite the downturn in commercial music. For the first time, hip hop/R&B filled every top 10 slot in Billboard this year. Unfortunately it was mostly crap. The predictable result is when there is that much money to be made, risk-taking is thrown out the window, and it’s all market research and focus groups. After a strong 2002, there were fewer great hip hop albums released aside from Prefuse 73 and Outkast (though Diverse, Jean Grae, Alias, Madlib, Kid Koala, U.N.K.L.E., Non-Prophets, Beans, Aespop Rock and MF Doom released some good low-key efforts) . Perhaps its because the heavy hitters took the year off. In fact it seems as if everyone held out their releases originally slated for 2003. Waiting for the bad karma to go away, N*E*R*D, Beck, Bjork, PJ Harvey and Liars among others pushed back their release dates to early ’04.

The Triumph Of Independent Labels

Independent releases took an astounding 81 of the top 100 spots at Fast ‘n’ Bulbous. While sales of the majors decreased, indies actually grew! It’s an indie renaissance that surpasses any perceived heyday from the 80s. We’ve got indie pop coming out of our ears, lots of very good albums that, while they break absolutely no ground and challenge no one, I would gladly welcome a coup de tete with them taking over the airwaves and MTV — most notably Elbow (an intelligent, vast improvement over Coldplay), Beulah, Constantines, The Coral, Snow Patrol, The Shins, The Kingsbury Manx, The Rosebuds, The Ladybug Transistor, The Weakerthans, The Hidden Cameras, Mates Of State, The Tyde and Death Cab For Cutie. The Stills take over from Interpol to lead the pack for the early 80s British psychedelic post-punk (Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, The Sound, The Cure, Comsat Angels) acolytes. Their elegent, shimmering songs beat out bands like The Rapture, British Sea Power, stellastarr*, Elefant, Longwave and The Dears. All good, promising bands, they need to push themselves to make some truly great albums.

Bubbling beneath the media attention, there’s plenty of challenging music worth digging for. Do Make Say Think leads the post-rock pack, which includes Mogwai, The Silver Mt. Zion, Explosions In The Sky, The Dirty Three, Lightning Bolt, Cheer Accident, Set Fire To Flames, Polmo Polpo and Growing. Other notable avant rock and out pop not previously mentioned are Broadcast, Menomena, HiM and The Books. The giddy feeling of newness has worn off for electronica, and it has become ingrained in the fabric of just about all music. There is almost nothing that stylistically links these diverse artists, other than they don’t conveniently fit into any other genre label, and they are doing something fresh and unique with electronics: Four Tet, Tujiko Noriko, Bonobo, Hexstatic, B. Fleischmann, Mu, Chris Clark, 7 Hurtz, Ellen Allien, Tim Hecker, Soft Pink Truth and Luomo. The Mars Volta with its prog-Latin flights of fantasy saved heavy music from being a complete waste of time, at least in regards to the likes of Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Korn and the awful Evanescence. Even the slightly ridiculous, over-the-top histrionics of British bands Muse and Oceansize would be a vast improvement, and would do quite well in the States were their labels not full of clueless nitwits. In reality, the sub-genres of extreme music couldn’t be stronger, including death metal, black metal, doom metal, grindcore, hardcore, punk, industrial, noise and gothic. To simplify things and keep it to what I have most affinity for, I included a list of death metal, topped by the absolutely savage Lamb Of God, Dimmu Borgir, Exhumed, Children Of Bodom and Naglfar. Another metal band of note that may fit under the black metal category for their campaign against Catholicism (Jesus was just a man, man) is the astounding The Meads Of Asphodel, who wear medieval armor in performances. Now that’s dedication.

Given the ridiculous staggered release schedules between the U.S. and the rest of the world, these bands, which already got some props in 2002 from myself and others, had a heavy presence in 2003 lists, making them redundant and stale: The Notwist, The Libertines, Broken Social Scene, Kaada, Coral, Lake Trout and The Delgados. While I’m the only person who uses the term “wimp pop,” I use it affectionately, so that a handful of great bands with delicate, sensitive songs will get special attention. This year’s particularly strong (in a fey kinda way) crop are The Concretes, Shack, Stars, Britta Philips & Dean Wareham, Belle & Sebastian, Architecture In Helsinki, The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Milky, The Hidden Cameras, Clientele, Marshmallow and Arab Strap. There was little of special note in new americana, country and folk besides Nina Nastasia, Joe Henry, Mark Lanegan, Calexico and Johnny Cash (R.I.P.)

Comebacks of the Year

This is difficult to judge, as few artists are ever totally inactive. Robert Wyatt’s previous album came out six years ago, which is becoming par for the course. It’s good to hear from Terry Hall (The Specials, Fun Boy Three) again in his arabic project with Mushtaq, formerly of Fun-Da-Mental, though he also released an album in 1997. I’m just going to make this a six-way tie between Wyatt, Hall, and four reunited post-punk bands (The Buzzcocks, Wire, Killing Joke and The Undertones) who all released albums that were far better than they had any right to be. I’m looking forward to be even more shocked by new releases by Mission Of Burma and Television in 2004.

Overrated of the Year

Every critic seemed to fall over each other to be the first to praise Dizzee Rascal, having much to say about his age, race, and inner-city credibility, and little about his music and lyrical skills. The few who bother to ever listen to his album a second time after 2003 will suffer a morning-after “what was I thinking?” revelation that this stuff is excruciating and tedious. Runner-ups: 50 Cent and redneck rock (My Morning Jacket, Kings Of Leon, Drive-By Truckers). At least they gave me greater appreciation for Lynyrd Skynyrd, who were genius compared to the lazy, meandering cowflop the younger bands are churning out. I heard MMJ is an excellent bar band, and I would gladly see them live, but It Still Moves isn’t even worth the space on my hard drive.

Disappointment of the Year

The number of previously great, accomplished artists who released highly anticipated albums that simply didn’t measure up are too many to count this year. So it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one disapointment. It’s a tie between Massive Attack, Grandaddy, Nick Cave, Spiritualized, Blur, A Perfect Circle, and Goldfrapp. Perhaps they don’t deserve such intensely high expectations. Nevertheless, aside from a few stray great songs, none of them delivered the the promise indicated in past groundbreaking achievements. Let’s be thankful for every artist who loses their muse, there’s two more new ones to replace them.


These bands offered pleasure for the present, and a window into a future that isn’t all bad: The Mars Volta, Yeah Yeah Yeahs,Menomena, TV On The Radio, M83, Pelican, Colder, The Darkness, Bonobo, Bang Gang, The Bug, Head Of Femur, Architecture In Helsinki, The Stills, Metric, The Fiery Furnaces, Cass McCombs, stellastarr*, Milky, Marshmallow, Sun Kil Moon, The Unicorns, Diverse, The Rosebuds, Fannypack, Fernanda Porto, Mu, and Oceansize. For other artists, it took them another album or three to make it into public consciousness (or are still working at it): The Concretes, Otto, Sufjan Stevens, Stars, Tujiko Noriko, Do Make Say Think, Daúde, Juana Molina, Lucas Santtana, A Frames, Haco, Dead Meadow, Pascals, Kazumi Nikaidoh, Souad Massi, Alias, M. Ward, Explosions In The Sky, Dean Roberts and Madlib. Find new favorite artists at Best
New Artists of 2000-03.

Critics Polls and Our Rights

Despite the efforts of the evil music empire, good music continues to be created, and tastes become increasingly diverse. There is still an astounding array of variety, and thanks in a large part to filesharing, more people are aware of the vastness of what’s available. In turn, there is less consensus over what is “the best of the best.” Increasingly, I witness negative reactions to year-end critics polls. It’s true that some deserve it — some hacks barely listened to more than twenty albums throughout the year, and then randomly pull ten titles out of their ass only because those are what they remember at the moment. They hardly deserve to be called critics, which isn’t a coveted title in the first place. In my case, I’ve sampled about a thousand albums this year, listened intently to nearly 500, ranked just under 400, and written reviews of 35. I’ve combed through every major critics poll to make sure I track down and hear nearly every album that I think might be a contender for my top 200. I put a lot of thought into the final order, and tweaked and changed it dozens of times in the final few weeks. This doesn’t make my list definitive. But it’s certainly more useful than most. Don’t dismiss it just because your favorite band isn’t in my top ten or hundred. The specific order of my rankings are not all that relevant — they’re based solely on my own tastes, biases and personal experiences. It would be a bland universe if any two people could exactly match the order of their favorites. However, I am confident that I’ve picked a good portion of the top 1% of the 25,000+ new releases, and that my top 200 has at least a couple albums to discover and love for everyone and anyone who cares to dig in.

From ClearChannel-controlled radio to MTV and VH1, we have little control over the content. We can turn off the radio or TV, but we have no choice over what we’re forced to hear in packaged and canned music in public – in restaurants, stores, clubs, sporting events, health clubs, elevators, waiting rooms, skate rinks, etc. Yet the corporate entertainment industry isn’t satisfied merely colonizing our own headspace. They also want the Internet and our hard drives. They’re systematically destroying Internet radio, and soon I won’t be surprised if RIAA men-in-black come crashing through my windows and put a sack over my head Brazil-style next time I put my cell phone next to the stereo to play part of a song for my girlfriend, because I’m breaking some archaic copyright law.

The beauty of year-end-lists, be they authored by yourself or a critic or publication you respect, is that they offer a reprieve from the oppressiveness of commercial trash culture. It’s a glimpse into an alternative universe where we can hear music that matters. And we may indulge in some trash pop pabulum at times, but it’s on our own terms without having it shoved down our ears and throats. It’s a chance to discover some albums that have no corporate marketing budget, and their only tool for exposure is word-of-mouth.

Digging into lists and seeking out better music is not the only possible course of action. It’s not too late to regain our rights to radio programming that serves our communities and to fight back against corporate deregulation. The Future Of Music Coalition has useful information from research reports (such as “Radio Deregulation: Has It Served Citizens and Musicians?”) to FCC public hearings you can attend and make your supremely pissed-off voices heard. May the Bulbous force be with you, have a good 2004.

As I have for the past seven years (!), I included blurbs with the lucky 13, along with genre breakdowns. Feel free to write if you think I’ve missed anything significant. And if you have something you think I need to hear and want to trade, I’m offering an MP3 compilation of nearly 200 songs, mostly from the Fast ‘n’ Bulbous top 100 albums (click here for the rest of the list).

— A.S. Van Dorston

Fester’s Lucky
13 — The Best Albums of 2003


Radiohead, Hail To The Thief (Capitol)

It’s ironic how Radiohead is better than ever, yet now they’re taken for granted. My guess is that once the fans of the old Radiohead realized that the new Radiohead refuse to repeat themselves, they resigned to the soft-rock of Coldplay. Not that it should be surprising. For every fan of Coltrane or Mingus are ten smooth jazz listeners, a hundred Eagles fans for every Gram Parsons devotee. Cheers to them, then, for not measuring their success with record sales.
Full review.


Four Tet, Rounds (Domino)

Albums like Rounds nearly ruin it for everyone. Like Amon Tobin, Four Tet turns the usual flat sonic palette into a four dimensional sensory wonderworld, sending thousands of grumbling musicians back to the drawing board. Let’s hope some young upstarts are up to the challenge, otherwise everything that follows will bore us silly.

Full review.


  • Cafe Tacvba, Cuatro Caminos (MCA)

    The handful of critics who said that Cuatro Caminos isn’t as good as their 1994 album Re are, to put it bluntly, complete idiots. How insulted the band must be that people would sniff in disdain at their nine years of growth and progress, just because they don’t sound Mexican enough. Having mastered nearly every genre, from banda to punk, metal and even post-rock, Cafe Tacuba is simply a peerless rock band that makes most everything else seem dreary.

    Full review.


    The Mars Volta, De-Loused In The Comatorium (GSL/Universal)

    Reactions have been typically polarized toward The Mars Volta, as it should be. Old-soul-searchers with young hungry hearts, their dense, cryptic, mystical music wouldn’t be quite so special if your older frat/sorority or younger pop-punk siblings “got” them.



    The Concretes (Licking Fingers, Sweden)

    The Concretes are a modern miracle. They push the precious ‘n’ cute factor past eleven, miraculously circumventing the gag reflex. It must be the kickass songwriting. Of course they’re Swedish, where else could they come from?

    Full review.


    Lomax, A Symbol Of Modern Living (93 Records UK)

    No offense to The Libertines and their wonderful tunes, but I’d all but given up hearing a new punk band from Britain who had more to offer than empty bluster. Introducing Lomax, — fairly original, fiercely passionate, unapologetically political and mad for it. I’ve gotta go, I hear Satan needs another member on his ice hockey team…

    Full review.


    Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell (Interscope)

    It’s telling that those who stopped kvetching about the hype and actually listened to the damn album actually liked it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs never claimed to be saviours of rock ‘n’ roll or reincarnations of any CBGB-era icons. They’re simply a great rock band, who happened to blow away the latest efforts by NYC contemporaries The Rapture and The Strokes. Though if they make another album with songs half as good as “Maps” and “Y Control” they just might be the stuff legends are made from.
    Full review.


    Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State (Asthmatic Kitty)

    The dark horse of the year is a man with a funny name who was previously unknown to nearly everyone, partly because his last album was challenging experimental electronica. Word of mouth spread like wildfire late in the year of this enigmatic, mysterious concept album of otherworldly folk. With outrageously ambitious plans to write an album for every state (though I suspect about 95% of what he says is mischeviously pulling interviewers’ legs), the one sure thing is this is the sound of genius in bloom.
    Full review.


    Prefuse 73, One Word Extinguisher (Warp)

    Prefuse 73 is so wonderfully strange and unique that people often make up words to try to categorize it, like “glitch hop” or “click hop.” Yet Scott Heron insists it’s hip hop. Harking back to the originally adventurous, pioneering spirit of hip hop, he’s got a point — Heron has shat turds with more hip hop spirit than the overrated Jay-Z, Dizzee Rascal or 50 Cent. Intelligent young headz are listening and learning, dreaming up an exciting future for the genre while the current live-for-the-moment commercial jokers dig their artistic graves. Full review.


    Otto, Sem Gravidade (Trama)

    Given that about three writers in North America seem to be aware of it, you wouldn’t know that some of the most exciting music in the world is currently coming from Brazil. Why haven’t we heard any half-assed English-language crossover attempts? Because Brazil has an extremely healthy, self-sustaining musical economy and they could give a rat’s ass if we pay attention. From my limited readings of Google-translated press, artists like Otto are tackling some heavy stuff. Together with another dozen potential classics by his contemporaries, it seems worth it to tackle learning some Portuguese.
    Full review.


    Super Furry Animals, Phantom Power (XL/Beggars)

    When the Super Furry Animals released Fuzzy Logic seven years ago, I never would have guessed they’d grow in stature like they have. Far from mere wacky indie rock, the Furries have matured into an estimable beast, with political rage seething just beneath their perfected pop melodies and electro-orchestral arrangements. Try to characterize their signature sound and they become as easy to grasp as mercury, making other pop bands sound superfluous.

    Full review.


    Broadcast, Haha Sound (Warp)

    Not a prolific band, Broadcast is worth the wait, surpassing their influences and maybe even taking some baby groundbreaking steps. This is one case where I wouldn’t mind more Broadcast copycats. Remember those “beautiful music” radio stations in the seventies? This would be the new, improved krautrock-influenced easy listening. Coming to a shopping center near you, 2010.
    Full review.

  • Ed Harcourt, From Every Sphere (Astralwerks/Heaven)

    Ed Harcourt is the perfect example of an artist held back by obsolete music biz economics and politics. An incredibly prolific, talented songwriter, he has a few dozen extra unreleased tracks that would probably still top the best the more popular Rufus Wainwright has to offer. From Every Sphere was already in the can two years ago. For the love of god, would somebody please liberate this muse and let it run wild?
    Full review.


    2003 Breakdown

    Click on linked titles go read review.

    Albums released in 2001 or 2002 but reissued in 2003.

    1. The Notwist * Neon Golden (City Slang)
    2. The Libertines * Up The Bracket (Rough Trade)
    3. Broken Social Scene * You Forgot It In People (Paper Bag)
    4. Kaada * Thank You For Giving Me Your Valuable Time (Ipecac)
    5. The Coral (Sony UK)
    6. Lake Trout * Another One Lost (Palm Pictures)
    7. Dub Pistols * Six Million Ways To Live (Universal)
    8. The Delgados * Hate (Mantra UK)
    9. Nicolai Dunger * Tranquil Isolation (Dolores/Virgin)


    Albums released in 2002 that should be reissued cuz we missed ’em.

    1. Rob * Satyred Love (Source/Virgin Fr)
    2. Plush * Fed (After Hours Jpn)
    3. Nação Zumbi (Trama)
    4. Domenico +2 * Sincerely Hot (Nippon Crown)
    5. Max De Castro * Orchestra Klaxon (Trama)
    6. Ampop * Made For Market (TMT/Thule Musik Iceland)
    7. Gallon Drunk * Fire Music (Sweet Nothing UK)
    8. Ms. John Soda * No P. or D. (Morr)
    9. Totonho & Os Cabra (Trama)
    10. Devendra Banhart * Oh Me Oh My… (Young God)
    11. Deadly Avenger * Deep Red (Illicit)
    12. Kent * Vapen & Ammunition (BMG)
    13. Lewis Taylor * Stoned Part I (Slow Reality)


    Rock & Pop

    1. Lomax * A Symbol Of Modern Living (93 Records)
    2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs * Fever To Tell (Interscope)
    3. Sufjan Stevens * Greetings from Michigan -The Great Lake State (Asthmatic Kitty)
    4. Super Furry Animals * Phantom Power (XL/Beggars)
    5. Ed Harcourt * From Every Sphere (Astralwerks/Heaven)
    6. Josh Rouse * 1972 (Rykodisc)
    7. The White Stripes * Elephant (V2)
    8. Hawksley Workman * Lover/Fighter (Universal)
    9. Elbow * Cast Of Thousands (V2)
    10. TV On The Radio * Young Liars EP (Touch And Go)
    11. A Frames * A Frames 2 (S-S Records)
    12. Zoot Woman (Wall Of Sound)
    13. The Twilight Singers * Blackberry Belle (One Little Indian)

    Avant Rock & Out Pop

    1. Radiohead * Hail To The Thief (Capitol)
    2. Broadcast * Hahasound (Warp)
    3. Do Make Say Think * Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn (Constellation)
    4. Menomena * I Am The Fun Blame Monster (Muuuhahaha!)
    5. M83 * Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (EMI)
    6. Colder * Again (Output UK)
    7. Mogwai * Happy Songs For Happy People (Matador)
    8. Manitoba * Up In Flames (Domino)
    9. HiM * Many In High Places Are Not Well (Bubble Core)
    10. The Books * Lemon Of Pink (TomLab)
    11. Kahimi Karie * Trapèziste (Victor)
    12. Pascals * Abiento (Les Disques Du Sol FR)
    13. Bang Gang * Something Wrong (Recall Iceland)

    Hard Rock & Metal

    1. The Mars Volta * De-Loused In The Comatorium (GSL/Universal)
    2. Mastodon * Remission (Relapse)


  • Grand Magus – Monument (Rise Above)
  • Abramis Brama – Nothing Changes (Transubstans)
  • Solace – 13 (Meteor City)
  • Zebulon Pike – And Blood Was Passion (ZP)
  • Pelican * Australasia (Hydra Head)
  • The Darkness * Permission To Land (Must Destroy)
  • The Meads Of Asphodel * Exhuming The Grave Of Yeshua (Supernal)
  • Krux (Mascot)
  • Opeth – Damnation (Koch)
  • Dozer – Call It Conspiracy (Molten Universe)
  • Boris – Boris At Last -Feedbacker- (Fangs Anal Satan/Conspiracy)
  • Poison The Well * You Come Before You (Trustkill)
  • Lightning Bolt * Wonderful Rainbow (Load)
  • Envy * Dead Sinking Story (Level Plane)
  • The Distillers * Coral Fang (Sire)
  • Rancid * Indestructible (Epitaph)
  • Wire * Send (Pink Flag)
  • The Deadly Snakes * Ode To Joy (In The Red)
  • Nebula * Atomic Ritual (Sub Pop)


Death Metal


  1. Lamb Of God * As The Palaces Burn (Prosthetic)
  2. Dimmu Borgir * Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast)
  3. Exhumed * Anatomy Is Destiny (Relapse)
  4. Children Of Bodom * Hate Crew Deathroll (Century Media)
  5. Naglfar * Sheol (Century Media)
  6. Chimaira * The Impossibility Of Reason (Roadrunner)
  7. Old Man’s Child * In Defiance Of Existence (Century Media)
  8. Grimfist * Ghouls Of Grandeur (Candlelight)
  9. Arch Enemy * Anthems Of Rebellion (Century Media)
  10. Entombed * Inferno (Koch)
  11. Occult * Rage To Revenge (Pavement)
  12. Dew Scented * Impact (Nuclear Blast)
  13. Katatonia * Viva Emptiness (Peaceville)

Wimp Pop


  1. The Concretes (Licking Fingers Sweden)
  2. Shack * Here’s Tom With The Weather (North Country UK)
  3. Stars * Heart (Arts & Crafts)
  4. Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham * L’ Avventura (Jetset)
  5. Belle & Sebastian * Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Sanctuary)
  6. Architecture in Helsinki * Fingers Crossed (Trifekta)
  7. The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa * Slowthinking (Labels Czech Rep)
  8. Milky * Travels With A Donkey (Siesta Spain)
  9. The Hidden Cameras * The Smell Of Our Own (Evil Evil/Rough Trade)
  10. Clientele * Violet Hour (Merge)
  11. Marshmallow (Lo-Max Aus.)
  12. Isobel Campbell * Amorino (Instinct)
  13. Arab Strap * Monday at the Hug and Pint (Matador)

Electronica, Techno & Dance


  1. Four Tet * Rounds (Domino)
  2. Tujiko Noriko * From Tokyo to Naiagara (Tomlab)
  3. Bonobo * Dial “M” For Monkey (Ninja Tune)
  4. Hexstatic * Listen & Learn (Ninja Tune)
  5. B. Fleischmann * Welcome Tourist (Morr)
  6. Fannypack * So Stylistic (Tommy Boy)
  7. Basement Jaxx * Kish Kash (Astralwerks)
  8. Mu * Afro Finger and Gel (Tigersushi/Output)
  9. Chris Clark * Empty the Bones of You (Warp)
  10. 7 Hurtz * Electroleum (Output)
  11. Ellen Allien * Berlinette (Bpitch Control UK)
  12. Tim Hecker * Radio Amor (Mille Plateaux)
  13. Soft Pink Truth * Do You Party? (Soundslike)
  14. Luomo * The Present Lover (Force Inc)



  1. Cafe Tacvba * Quatro Caminos (MCA)
  2. Otto * Sem Gravidade (Trama)
  3. Lucas Santtana * Parada De Lucas (Diginois Brazil)
  4. Daúde * Neguinha Te Amo (Realworld)
  5. Juana Molina * Segundo (Domino)
  6. Rokia Traoré * Bowmboï (Tama)
  7. Tom Zé * Imprensa Cantada (Trama)
  8. Terry Hall & Mushtaq * The Hour Of Two Lights (Astralwerks)
  9. Kazumi Nikaidoh * Mata Otosimasitayo (You Dropped Something Again, Didn’t You) (Poet Portraits Jpn)
  10. Souad Massi * Deb (Wrasse)
  11. Fernanda Porto (Trama)
  12. Tribalistas (Marisa Monte, Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown) (EMI)
  13. Virginia Rodrigues * Mares Profundos (Edge Music)


New Americana


  1. Nina Nastasia * Run To Ruin (Touch And Go)
  2. Joe Henry * Tiny Voices (Anti)
  3. Mark Lanegan Band * Here Comes The Weird Chill EP (Beggars)
  4. Calexico * Feast of Wire (Quarterstick)
  5. Firewater * The Man On The Burning Tightrope (Jetset)
  6. M. Ward * Transfiguration of Vincent (Merge)
  7. The Handsome Family * Singing Bones (Carrot Top)
  8. Willard Grant Conspiracy * Regard The End (Glitterhouse)
  9. Songs: Ohia * The Magnolia Electric Co. (Secretly Canadian)
  10. Jay Farrar * Terroir Blues (Artemis)
  11. Crooked Fingers * Red Devil Dawn (Merge)
  12. Califone * Quicksand/Cradlesnakes (Thrill Jockey)
  13. Matt Eliott * The Mess We Made (Merge)

Country & Folk


  1. Johnny Cash * Unearthed (American)
  2. Shelby Lynne * Identity Crisis (Capitol)
  3. Richard Youngs * Airs Of The Ear (Jagjaguwar)
  4. Eleni Mandell * Country For True Lovers (Zedtone)
  5. Emmylou Harris * Stumble Into Grace (Nonesuch)
  6. Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire * Dragging Wonder Lake (Thrill Jockey)
  7. Alasdair Roberts * Farewell Sorrow (Rough Trade)
  8. Erin McKeown * Grand (Nettwerk)
  9. Lucinda Williams * World Without Tears (Lost Highway)
  10. Damien Rice * O (Vector)
  11. Amy Rigby * Til The Wheels Fall Off (Signature)
  12. Caitlin Cary * I’m Staying Out (Yep Roc)
  13. Gillian Welch * Soul Journey (Acony/WEA)

Hip Hop & Rap


  1. Prefuse 73 * One Word Extinguisher (Warp)
  2. Outkast * Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (LaFace)
  3. Alias * Muted (Anticon)
  4. Diverse * One A.M. (Chocolate Industries)
  5. Jean Grae * The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP (Babygrande)
  6. Viktor Vaughn (aka MF Doom) * Vaudeville Villain (Sound-Ink)
  7. Madlib * Shades Of Blue (Blue Note)
  8. Kid Koala * Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs (Ninja Tune)
  9. U.N.K.L.E. * Never, Never Land (Mo’ Wax/Island)
  10. Non-Prophets * Hope (Lex)
  11. Beans * Tomorrow Right Now (Warp)
  12. Aesop Rock * Bazooka Tooth (Def Jux)
  13. King Geedorah (aka MF Doom) * Take Me to Your Leader (Big Dada)

R&B & Soul


  1. Kelis * Tasty (Star Trak/Arista)
  2. Missy Elliott * This Is Not A Test (Goldmind/Elektra)
  3. Meshell Ndegéocello * Comfort Woman (Maverick)
  4. Amy Winehouse * Frank (Island)



  1. Cedric IM Brooks & The Light Of Saba 1975-78 (Honest Jon’s)
  2. Television * Marquee Moon (Rhino) 77
  3. Lizzy Mercier Descloux * Mambo Nassau (Ze) 82
  4. Toots & The Maytals * Funky Kingston/In The Dark 1972-73 (Trojan)
  5. King Tubby * The Dub Masters Presents The Roots Of Dub and Dub From The Roots 1974-75 (Moll Selekta)
  6. Japan * Tin Drum (Virgin) 82
  7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark * Architecture & Morality (Virgin) 81
  8. Desmond Dekker * Rudy Got Soul: The Early Beverley’s Sesions 1963-68 (Trojan)
  9. Blue Orchids * The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) (Ltm) 82
  10. Essential Logic * Fanfare In The Garden 1978-82 (Kill Rock Stars)
  11. Derrick Morgan * Moon Hop: Best of the Early Years 1960-69 (Trojan)
  12. The Passage * Enflame (Ltm) 83
  13. The Congos * Congo Ashanti (Blood & Fire) 79



  1. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Maps”
  2. Outkast, “Hey Ya”
  3. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, “Coma Girl”
  4. !!!, “Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)”
  5. Radiohead, “There, There”
  6. Fannypack, “Cameltoe”
  7. The Coral, “Don’t Think You’re The First”
  8. Missy Elliott, “Pass The Dutch”
  9. The Darkness, “Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Motherfucker”
  10. The Libertines, “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun”
  11. Kelis, “Milkshake”
  12. The White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army”
  13. The Rapture, “Sister Saviour”



  1. Tabla Beat Science, The Vic
  2. The Mars Volta, Metro
  3. Joao Gilberto, Ravinia
  4. The Darkness, Double Door
  5. Moreno+2, Old Town School of Folk
  6. X, House of Blues
  7. Eleventh Dream Day, Double Door
  8. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metro
  9. Ed Harcourt, Martyrs
  10. Hawksley Workman, Cultural Center
  11. Camper Van Beethoven, Folk Fest
  12. The Fire Theft, Bottom Lounge
  13. Josh Rouse, Abbey Pub

Big Shows I Missed (basically most of ’em): Aterciopelados, Cafe Tacuba, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Black Dice, Rocket From the Crypt, Radiohead, My Computer, The Dirty Three, Notwist, Trail of the Dead, The Faint/Schneider TM, The Fall, Rjd2, Ruins, Opeth, Outhud, Gustavo Cerati, Mooney Suzuki, Roxy Music, Supergrass, Animal Collective, Misfits, Sparklehorse, Broken Social Scene, Walkmen, John Vanderslice, Broadcast, Mondo Generator, Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, Firewater, Twilight Singers, Pelican, Amon Tobin, James Chance, The Shins, Rancid, Rocket From the Tombs,


  1. Big Fish
  2. Love Actually
  3. Lost In Translation
  4. Bend It Like Beckham
  5. School Of Rock
  6. In America
  7. Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King
  8. Whale Rider
  9. Laurel Canyon
  10. X2
  11. Freaky Friday
  12. City Of God
  13. Pirates of the Caribbean

Bad Santa
Finding Nemo
Loonee Tunes
The Triplets of Belleville
Kill Bill
The Hulk

I’m way behind in my movie-viewing. Tellingly, the only heavy, disturbing movie on my list is City Of God, which I saw before I started dating my girlfriend, who sees enough dying people in real life. So it’s happy fluff galore! And to be honest, I personally prefer it to excruciating stuff that’s supposed to be good for you, like Elephant. Gimme happy endings any day. I still haven’t seen American Splendor, Better Luck Tomorrow, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, Mystic River.

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