The Year In Review - 2003

The Year In Review - 2003
The year's best offerings in pop and rock, punk, electronic, hip-hop, country and metal are joined by essays on Canada's new romantics, the loss of Johnny Cash and June Carter, Canadian success abroad, the hottest labels, best concerts and other 2003 highlights.

Best Pop Album - Top 20
Best Punk Album - Top 10
Best Hip-Hop Album - Top 10
Best Metal/Hardcore Album - Top 10
Best Electronic Album - Top 10
Best Folk, Country & Blues Album - Top 10


The New Romantics
They made an album of pure pop perfection with lush backdrops, tales of mended hearts and oooey-gooey unrequited love. Stars' Heart is #18 on our year-end Pop and Rock chart this year and with their new focus — s-s-s-sex! — it might bump them up higher next year. more...

Best Concert
There was no orchestra or choir in tow to worry about. There wasn't a new band of collaborators to break in. There was no new album to flog, just a glut of archival material for diehard fans to pore over, an ideal opportunity to mine a rich catalogue. And, ten years after her Debut, it was a good time to let loose and literally unleash a few fireworks. more...

Greatest Loss
We knew it had to happen, but something told me the first time I listened to American IV: The Man Comes Around, that this would be Johnny Cash's final statement. While far from the best of the American series, the song choices told the whole story — "In My Life," "Danny Boy," "Streets Of Laredo," and of course "Hurt" — the Man (this time, death) was indeed about to come around. Yet, for all the things he can be admired for, the greatest could be that Johnny Cash did not go gentle into that good night.more...

Hot Imprints
Five exceptional records in 12 months is pretty good for a label that has only existed as long. Based out of Fairfax, Virginia, Silverthree's roster is as diverse as it is talented, ranging from the post-hardcore/new wave of Retisonic (featuring ex-members of Blue Tip and Garden Variety), to the dissonant atmospheric rock of Kimone. more...

Most Prolific Lab Rat
Madlib's wildly eclectic output in the last year has traversed hip-hop, jazz, reggae, broken beat, reggae and several alter egos. A restless creative spirit, the connection between this producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist's varied output is his intentionally raw, dusty and quirky style. This inimitable sound is forged by Madlib's consistent approach to avoid rueful revisions or perfectionist tendencies whether he's banging out beats on his $300 sampler or tickling the Rhodes keyboard and press on to the next sonic adventure. Add the fact he often logs 20 hours a day in his converted bomb shelter studio basement in L.A. and the accounting for his prolific output becomes abundantly clear. more...

Industry Trend
It's said that if you're not a rebel at 18, you have no heart, but if you haven't turned establishment by 30, you have no brain, and this is an axiom the underground metallic/hardcore scene has embraced in 2003. What started as a surprising anomaly over the last couple years — underground bands signing with majors, indie labels taking distribution and first-look deals, even selling stakes in their companies — is blossoming into a full-fledged sprint for mass appeal madness. And although the mainstream mentality was once anathema to a scene built to rally against those values, money talks and ethics walk, as the mainstreaming of the underground continues. more...

The American Perspective
Isolating artists by homeland is a sucker's gambit. If we learned anything from the great grunge wars of the ‘90s, it's that the surest way to kill a rock scene dead is to paint all of its players with the same stiff brush. Right now, in every American bookstore there are about a dozen magazines with big, hyperbole-laden articles dying to hawk the "Canadian Explosion" to naive goggle-eyed consumers. Most of these articles have as their unspoken underlying principle the idea that the Canadian rock scene can be freeze-dried and packaged the same way that Britpop and reggae and Dirty South hip-hop have been. This, of course, is lunacy. more...