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Kevin Forest Moreau's Top 10 Albums of 2003

1. The Weakerthans: Reconstruction Site (Epitaph)
John K. Samson's literate lyricism can get the best of him, turning some songs into laborious musical metaphors. But on the Canadian indie-rock quartet's third album, Samson makes his quirks work for rather than against him, thanks to a reedy, brainy Everyman delivery, stirring post-punk melodies and muscular, rocking arrangements.
2. Matthew Ryan: Regret Over the Wires (Hybrid)
Ryan's always been a poignant and rousing songwriter, and after a bare-bones acoustic set and two DIY home recordings, he once again proves it. Wistful, reflective, angry and redemptive, it's every bit as strong as his criminally overlooked heavyweights, May Day and East Autumn Grin.
3. The Twilight Singers: Blackberry Belle (One Little Indian)
Greg Dulli fuses the atmospheric melancholy of his previous Twilight Singers project with the darkly comic rock and sensual punk-soul of his best Afghan Whigs efforts. Dulli's seductively murky grooves and hedonistic persona have rarely meshed so perfectly.
4. Al Green: I Can't Stop (Blue Note)
The legendary soul singer tries to recapture past '70s glories, with veteran producer Willie Mitchell obsessing over every vintage detail. If the pair's reach exceeds their grasp, this note-perfect pastiche nonetheless captures the joyful essence of Green's best work.
5. Guster: Keep It Together (Palm/Reprise)
The New England trio sands down the expansive edges that made their last album so intriguing. But the melodies are so incessantly memorable, and Ryan Miller's genial presence so ingratiating, the songs worm their way into the subconscious regardless.
6. Jay-Z: The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
On his way out the door to "retirement," one of rap's biggest stars (and, it must be said, biggest blowhards) crafts a compelling and commanding record. Most of its power may come from the built-in sense of Event, but Jay-Z delivers the goods to live up to his hype.
7. Drive-By Truckers: Decoration Day (New West)
Those who figured Southern Rock Opera was the Truckers' creative peak got a rude surprise with this ragged, rebellious and righteous effort. The songwriting triple-threat of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and newcomer Jason Isbell turns in a collection of arresting songs as ruminative as they are rocking.
8. Eels: Shootenanny! (Dreamworks)
These intimate and evocative sketches of unhappy losers and maladjusted loners prove that singer-songwriter E is more than just a quirky, downbeat popsmith. Like a Prozac Nation Raymond Carver, E mines the everyday details of dead-end lives for moments of emotional authenticity.
9. Sun Kil Moon: Ghosts of the Great Highway (Jetset)
Many critics prefer My Morning Jacket's ethereal, Neil Young-ish vocals and ambient Southern rock. But former Red House Painter Mark Kozelek turns in an equally moody, atmospheric and affecting take on that gauzy template, less droning and with meatier, more weathered lyrics to boot.
10. Dizzee Rascal: Boy in Da Corner (XL)
Forget the "This year's The Streets" hype. Dizzee Rascal's twitchy, vulnerable musings and youthful two-step swagger, along with his jumpy, skittering beats and baroque, clanging sonic backdrops, move into new territories marked by a jarring fusion of forms and sounds.
Notable near misses:
Top 10 Songs of 2003
  1. "Psalm For An Elks Lodge Last Call" The Weakerthans (Reconstruction Site)
  2. "I Can't Steal You" Matthew Ryan (Regret Over the Wires)
  3. "Fix Up, Look Sharp" Dizzee Rascal (Boy in Da Corner)
  4. "All of This" Blink-182 featuring Robert Smith (Blink-182)
  5. "I'd Still Choose You" Al Green (I Can't Stop)
  6. "Carry Me Ohio" Sun Kil Moon (Ghosts of the Great Highway)
  7. "Moment of Clarity" Jay-Z (The Black Album)
  8. "Bring Up the Failure" Pete Droge (Skywatching)
  9. "The Best of Jill Hives" Guided by Voices (Earthquake Glue)
  10. "Hey Ya!" Outkast (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below)

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