2003: The Top 10 Albums
Steve Smith, music writer
Time Out New York, January 1-8, 2004
1. Emmylou Harris Stumble Into Grace (Nonesuch). Alt-country's matriarch makes unrequited love sound positively radiant.
2. Various artists AMPLIFY 2002: balance (Erstwhile box set). European and Japanese improvisers intuitively fashion soundscapes of the future.
3. The Mars Volta De-Loused in the Comatorium (GSL/Strummer). Former emo-ers go for baroque, to thunderous, hallucinatory effect.
4. Lamb of God As the Palaces Burn (Prosthetic). Feral, confrontational metalists slash a topical vein.
5. Erin McKeown Grand (Nettwerk). McKeown's latest is typically literate and eclectic, but also irresistibly tuneful.
6. Dimmu Borgir Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast). Norway's Satanic majesties say yes to excess, resulting in glorious, widescreen mayhem.
7. Cursive The Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek). Tim Kasher spins self-loathing and revenge fucks into a gorgeous, wounded song cycle.
8. Tony Malaby Adobe (Free Lance). New York's fastest-rising tenorman hits his stride with a bluesy, joyously swinging trio.
9. David Sylvian Blemish (Samadhi Sound). Assisted by Derek Bailey and Fennesz, Sylvian creates his most intimate, haunted music to date.
10. In da 'Pod Who needs a tenth album when you can download infectious hits like "Crazy in Love" (Beyoncé), "Hey Ya!" (OutKast), "Seven Nation Army" (the White Stripes), "Ignition (Remix)" (R. Kelly), "I Know" (Nas), "Cry Me a River" (Justin Timberlake)—and, yes, "In da Club" (50 Cent)?
2020 postscript: This list ran in the Music section of Time Out New York; a Classical & Opera list ran elsewhere, but I've not located a clipped copy yet. Among my then-teammates, Jay Ruttenberg cited "various demos" by Nellie McKay as his No. 1 pick; Leah Greenblatt favored Give Up by The Postal Service; K. Leander Williams opted for Passing Ships, by Andrew Hill; and music editor Mike Wolf selected Shivering King and Others, by Dead Meadow.
Leah and Mike converged with You Are Free, by Cat Power. Jay and Mike coincided with Haha Sound, by Broadcast. Erin McKeown appeared on Jay's list as well as mine. Those aside, there were no further overlaps among the 50-ish records we cited collectively. Quite a team we had. (Sorry about R. Kelly—even if it's still a slick tune.)