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Monday, December 29, 2003

Tom Breihan's Favorite Recordings Of 2003

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: As 2003 draws to a close, we're running those much-anticipated Neumu "best-of" lists. Each year we ask our contributors to consider all that they've listened to during the past year, and to come up with a list of their favorite albums (and, if they are so moved, their fave songs, concerts or whatever). Today we present Neumu Contributing Editor Tom Breihan's fave music of 2003.

1. Postal Service, Give Up (Sub Pop): The sound of sunlight bending, fog refracting, leaves falling upwards. Give Up is what all emo should be but never is: sharp, woozy, clever, gut-wrenching, hopeful, gorgeous, unafraid to have a fucking beat. This very moment, that little chump from Saves the Day is somewhere scratching his head and trying to figure out Pro-Tools.

2. Grand Buffet, Pittsburgh Hearts (self-released): The sound of Daft Punk partying with Humpty Hump in a 7-Eleven parking lot. They're eating burritos, they blasting Danzig, they're smacking their Game Boys against the side of the van to get rid of that weird little bar on the bottom of the screen. They're shroomed out of their minds. Except, like, Pittsburgh Hearts is better.

3. Jay-Z, The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam): Jay-Hova's "goodbye" is a monument to self almost as audacious as the giant statue on the cover of Michael Jackson's HIStory. But the melancholy, disappointment, and paranoia that have always been just around the corner for Jay are finally out in full view. Simultaneously lush and sparse, celebratory and mournful, brash and frustrated, The Black Album is one for the ages. Too bad about those Neptunes tracks.

4. The Rapture, Echoes (Vertigo/DFA): Listening to Echoes is like getting crazy drunk by yourself on the sidewalk at four in the morning in a neighborhood your friends warned you not to go near. The bass booms and the drums rattle gloriously, but Luke Jenner's voice is so knife-edge tense that you just know something bad is coming around that corner.

5. Rancid, Indestructible (Hellcat): Music about heartbreak and poverty is not meant to be this joyous and full of life. After Tim Armstrong's wife left him, he turned to his friends, and the result is an album exploding with camaraderie instead of bitterness, drinking songs instead of crying songs.

6. Spiritualized, Amazing Grace (Spaceman/Sanctuary): Rather than the druggy, blissy haze of his previous work, Jason Pierce gives it to us raw on Amazing Grace. What we get is scorching garage rock, plaintive gospel, and the fragile whisper of a man always on the verge of falling apart. And it's nearly as gorgeous as the druggy, blissy haze.

7. Atmosphere, Seven's Travels (Epitaph): Slug is honest enough to tell us that he's a fuckup, a thirtysomething small businessman with a drinking problem and a fear of commitment. This sort of vulnerability and truthfulness is rare in hip-hop, but it's not the only thing Atmosphere has going for it. Thankfully, Seven's Travels is still great hip-hop, with force and swagger fully intact. Ant's beats are direct and hooky, and Slug's gift for imagery and eye for detail reach a stunning apex in the masterful "Always Coming Back Home to You".

8. Bubba Sparxxx, Deliverance (Beat Club/Interscope): Country and rap have long led utterly separate existences, coming together pretty much only when some asshole would claim to like "all kinds of music except country and rap." So it's ridiculously audacious to combine the two into some sort of totally integrated whole. But Bubba does it on Deliverance, and he does it with bluegrass and Southern bounce, possibly the two most disparate strains of these disparate musics. Timbaland somehow turns his futuristic electrospazz into jug-band funk. Bubba talks about living on a dirt road. It's really fucking strange.

9. Richard X, Richard X Presents His X-Factor (Astralwerks): X-Factor is as cold and hard as a diamond, and it glints like one. Richard X combines early-'80s synthpunk and late-'80s icy R&B, pristine sheen and nasty hooks. The result is a perfect catalyst for dancefloor debauchery, the one exception being the breathtaking Jarvis Cocker collaboration "Into U," which twinkles like falling snow.

10. Fannypack, So Stylistic (Famous Celebrity/Tommy Boy): If you're going to name your band "Fannypack", you're probably going to have to deal with the grim specter of irony. My recommendation: Bury that shit. Replace it with a ridiculous wide-eyed kickass sexy gum-snapping teenage-girl enthusiasm. Bite directly from L'Trimm and JJ Fad, except do it over insanely catchy beats that sound like someone replaced Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor's coke with Pixie Stix. Drop lyrics like "booty up booty down." Flip a Yeah Yeah Yeahs sample that sounds better than anything on that band's album. And maybe drop some of those skits, please? Thanks. That should do it.

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