Monday, April 24, 2017

Flashback to the Oughts: 2003

The trials of 2002 left me somewhat adrift, but by 2003, I started making some long-term goals for myself. The biggest one of these was the acquisition of a Chapman Stick, which I began relentlessly shedding on as a form of therapy. I felt like I had an intensely clear vision for the instrument, and I was determined to become its master.

I moved into a one bedroom apartment off the Denton square with a new, more secure sense of self. I experimented with bachelorhood and dated around a little while. When I stopped trying so hard, I found myself in a positive relationship that continues to evolve to this day (love ya, dear!).

In retrospect, however, my attitude had a selfish undercurrent that would later manifest into some negative behaviors. Regardless, it is fair to say that I was in a much better place than I had been in a long time.  As a result, the 2003 best-of list is generally more upbeat in tone than the one from 2002.

10. Magma - Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh:  But first, nothing acknowledges that sinister, self-indulgent side more than Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, which sounds like what would happen if Frank Zappa was commissioned to write a Klingon Opera. Clearly not the most lighthearted entry for 2003, but its virtuosity and electrifying performances kept it in rotation for a good part of the year.

9. The Darkness - Permission to Land: I realize The Darkness was a one-trick pony, but the trick was really, really good.  Permission to Land was both a reverent commentary on what was great about 80’s hair metal and an irresistible collection of fun, crunchy songs.

8. O.S.I. - The Office of Strategic Influence: One of Mike Portnoy's many side projects, this one with ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore and Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos. O.S.I. captured a broader spectrum of moods and textures than the prog-metal pedigree of its lineup might suggest.

7. Owsley - Owsley: William Owsley only recorded a couple of albums before his apparent suicide in 2010. A look as his resume shows him to be an incredibly talented songwriter and session musician, but a listen to his album reveals him to also be tragically overlooked as an artist in his own right.

6. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief:  Radiohead had been toying with a more electronic sound for awhile by the time Hail to the Thief came out, so I found its more prominent use of guitar alluring.  It certainly did not recapture the magic of OK Computer or The Bends, but it felt more like Radiohead “the band” than Radiohead “the project.”

5. Tsar - Tsar:  I ran across several inspiring power pop albums in 2003, and Tsar was among the best.  It, along with Sugarbomb’s Bully, rekindled my belief that the style was still alive, well, and surprisingly affordable through the Amazon Marketplace.

4. The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium:  This little piece of nu-prog chaos came out of nowhere and, in any other year, probably would have taken album of the year.  In any case, the success of this album would propel my interest in The Mars Volta throughout the rest of their career.

3. Kevin Gilbert - Thud:  If there was any question as to the incredible depth of Kevin Gilbert’s unique genius after his posthumous rock opera The Shaming of the True, Thud lays it to rest.  While his unique progressive pop style obviously resonated with me, I found Gilbert’s lyrics refreshingly genuine and, at times, devastatingly honest.

2. Sugarbomb - Bully:  I often perceived Tsar as the B-side to this amazing and overlooked gem.  Bully, with its ebullient energy, bittersweet lyrics, and excellent production, was in constant play throughout this year and well into the next.

Album of the Year: 2003
1. King Crimson - The Power to Believe: King Crimson’s final studio album is, I feel, still one of their best.  Where The ConstruKCtion of Light was a bit obvious in the way it aligned itself with the band’s back catalog, I would argue that The Power to Believe captured the essence of the band’s past successes and forged an entirely new interpolation of the group.  

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