2003 had lots of great releases, both those you couldn't escape (OutKast, "Hey Ya"), and those you could, even if you didn't want to (Sascha Funke, "Strassentanz"). Here are some albums we felt okay with not listening to every single day, but also sometimes wanted to listen to, too.
#38. Various Artists, New Latin Xpress (Shakti)--Putting a comp on your "middle 11" list is sort of cheating, and most of the songs on this collection of contemporary Latin pop, rock, and electronica were released a year or two ago. But one second basked in the warmth of Manu Chao's "La Primavera" or Ely Guerra's "Yo No"--songs about the mysteries of the heart--make up for the V/A nature of this entry, and that one kind of cheesy house track in the middle.
#37. Brown Sugar DVD release--Technically this is a romantic comedy starring Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Queen Latifah and Mos Def. But when was the last time an ENTIRE FILM was based on a song ("I Used to Love H.E.R.") by Common Sense?!
#36. Marilyn Manson, The Golden Age of Grotesque (Interscope)--This album was all right, and had some great lyrics, too. On "This is the New Shit," a tongue-in-cheek indictment of capitalist entertainment, MM sings, "This is the new shit/Stand up and admit/ Do we get it? No!/ Do we want it? Yeah!" Ah! That was a good one.
#35. Beyoncé, Dangerously in Love (Sony) Forging a new path outside her Destiny, Beyoncé is often not-that-great without a couple of podnas. This album's excellent singles ("Baby Boy," "Crazy in Love") were products of chemistry (with Jay-Z, Sean Paul). The rest? You know. It was okay.
#34. Various Artists Toast & Jam Nine (Toast & Jam,
www.tandjrec.com)-- Cheating with another comp again, but I really liked this one--forward-thinking, not-always-linear IDM bangers and burners from local artists like ML, Glomm, Ainu, Decapod Claw, Roshi, Solenoid and N-Grava.
#33. Chingy, Jackpot (Capitol)--To paraphrase the Rollins Band, I love it and hate it both at the same time. Chingy came with two of the most mediocrely awesome radio tracks of 2003: "Right Thurr," "Holidae Inn." The skit, where he said, "Fuck the stock market, I'm on the cock market," sums up the hilarity and loathing this record invokes.
#32. Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf, Big Shots (Stones Throw)--The long-lost collabo between sadly departed emcee Charizma and his best friend, Peanut Butter Wolf. Would have made it to the top ten, but it was actually created in the '90s.
#31. Azita, Enantiodromia (Drag City)--This was in actuality one of my favorite records of the year, but no one around me would let me listen to it. Azita (from Scissor Girls) wails in a disturbed voice most people find intolerable, but I find fascinating. Added bonus: she plays piano and writes like Steely Dan!
#30. RP Collier, Tilting @ Windmills (Self-Released)--This longtime Portland musician made a curious, experimental record from thumb pianos, broken guitars, toy pianos, and subwoofers that varied somewhere between accidental Congolese rhythms and visceral psych-outs.
#29. Scream Club, Self-Titled (Self-Released)--Along with such electro-rapped hits such as "What the Fucking Shit," and the classic lesbionic slow jam "And You Belong," Scream Club is definitely the first queer Olympia rapping/ matching hair-do'd lady duo to land on an Afterlife Records comp!
#28. The Dishes 3 (File 13)--No-bullshit rock and roll with solos. It's pretty good for tough times, or when you want to punch someone in the face.
#27. Revenge of the Robots Def Jux Tour DVD (Def Jux)--It was kinda boring in parts, but the Murs, El-P videos; C-Rayz Walz freestyles; plus Mr. Lif, Vast Aire and Aes Rock in candid moments, all land this one on the coveted 27th spot of this list.