Since 2003 is almost over, I think it might be about time for me to say what good came out of it, in terms of music.
New albums I've heard this year:
Belle and Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress -- I don't have that much to say about it, but it's a cool album.
Frank Black and the Catholics: Show Me Your Tears -- Not my favorite effort by Frank's current band (I prefer Dog in the Sand by a considerable margin), but still a worthy album. Favorite song: Massif Centrale
Cracker: Countrysides -- Based on what I've read about it, it's a collection of covers of redneck-style country songs, done with a generous dose of irony, but not intended to be funny. I'm not totally sure I understand the concept, but it's fun to listen to, and that's what counts, right?
The Minus Five: Down with Wilco -- This is a good record. I'm glad Scott McCaughey is still writing songs. I hope a new Young Fresh Fellows album will be released in the future. Favorite song: Retrieval Of You
The New Pornographers: Electric Version -- Not as good or as eclectic as Mass Romantic, but really catchy and enjoyable.
Andy Partridge: Fuzzy Warbles Volume 3 -- The third in this collection of excellent but expensive discs of demos and rarities by XTC's leading man. I think Volume 2 remains my favorite, but this is still very good. My favorite song, as it now stands, is probably "My Train Is Coming."
"Weird Al" Yankovic: Poodle Hat -- I've been a big fan of Al for longer than any other musician or band, and a new album from him is always a big event. This was no exception, especially after the long wait since Running with Scissors. This is pretty typical Al, but that's not a problem. "Bob" is one of the most clever concepts he's come up with in some time, and "Why Does This Always Happen To Me?" is an amusing Ben Folds style parody. The best direct parody is probably "eBay," a takeoff on the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way."
Albums I've heard, but not enough times to form that much of an opinion:
Erin McKeown: Grand -- Based on only one listen all the way through, I thought this was a pretty strong album. More average than Distillation, probably, in that there really weren't any songs as good as the best ones on the earlier record, but there didn't seem to be any as weak as the worst ones on Distillation.
Sloan: Action Pact -- I only listened to this once, and I thought it was all right, but not spectacular. Somewhat disappointing when compared with the other Sloan albums I've heard.
Not really albums, but still cool:
Ben Folds: Speed Graphic and Sunny 16
They Might Be Giants: Bed, Bed, Bed
Stuff I'd like to hear, but haven't:
Tori Amos: Tales of a Librarian, Blur: Think Tank, and Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers -- Beth has these, but I've never had a chance to listen to them all the way through.
The Minus Five: I Don't Know Who I Am -- I've seen this listed at Amazon, but they don't have a tracklist, and I know of no other evidence that it actually exists. Maybe I should check on that.
Andy Partridge: Fuzzy Warbles Volume 4 -- There were two of these released this year.
Liz Phair: Self-titled -- I'm not all that impressed by the way "Why Can't I" sounds like a zillion other overproduced female-sung songs on the radio, but I've heard the rest of the album is different.
Not released this year, but purchased by me this year:
The big one here would be the Sugarplastic's Bang, the Earth Is Round, which blew me away. If I were capable of writing songs, the lyrics would probably be kind of similar to theirs. Laura Cantrell's When the Roses Bloom Again is also pretty cool.
Concerts I've attended: Camper Van Beethoven, TMBG (four times, I think), Tori Amos and Ben Folds (twice), Erin McKeown, Belle and Sebastian with Rasputina opening, and that show with Neko Case, Carolyn Mark, Kelly Hogan, and John Rauhouse