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Laurence Station's Top 10 Albums of 2003

1. Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve)
Fountains of Wayne have always had great hooks, but now the band's added uncommon depth to its arsenal of pop ditties. Tales of loneliness, job insecurity and heartbreak lurk just beneath the Top 40-polished surface, and it's that ability to operate on multiple levels that makes Managers so welcome.
2. The Wrens: The Meadowlands (Absolutely Kosher)
Meadowlands is a triumph of integrity over product, a report on the hereafter from a band that spurned the brass ring and has struggled mightily ever since making that fateful decision to continue following its indie-rock muse while its members hold down day jobs.
3. Manitoba: Up in Flames (Domino)
Dan Snaith seamlessly melds computers and instruments on his sophomore release, a dizzying blend of '60s Beach Boys pop sensibility and dense '90s shoegazer aesthetics.
4. Radiohead: Hail to the Thief (Capitol)
Not Radiohead's best album (thematically or cohesively speaking), but it is the Oxford quintet's most impressive collection of songs from start to finish.
5. John Cale: HoboSapiens (EMI)
Cale smartly addresses the disorderly state of the world, and in doing so makes one of the strongest musical statements of his long and storied career.
6. Dizzee Rascal: Boy in Da Corner (XL)
A bracing examination of life at street level, as witnessed by a teenager who, rather than celebrate the treacherous world around him, takes refuge within the protective enclosure of London's garage club scene.
7. Four Tet: Rounds (Domino)
Not as warm and life-affirming as labelmate Manitoba's Up in Flames, Rounds nonetheless finds Kieran Hebden blending natural and artificial elements as powerfully as anyone currently operating in the field of laptop composition.
8. Nina Nastasia: Run to Ruin (Touch & Go)
Nastasia proves more is less on Run to Ruin, which shaves a quarter of an hour off her debut's running time, but feels far more substantial.
9. Damien Jurado: Where Shall You Take Me? (Secretly Canadian)
Jurado improves with each release, and here he advances well beyond his usual clip, offering ten folk-oriented sketches of American life that run the gamut from harrowing to nostalgic, while never seeming overly derivative or baldly counterfeit.
10. The Decemberists: Her Majesty the Decemberists (Kill Rock Stars)
Colin Meloy and his talented cohorts make brainy indie-pop that appeals to the heart as well as the mind. Meloy might rely on a thesaurus (circa 1875) to flesh out his tunes, but critically, he never loses the human element in his tales of shanghaied wayfarers and merry, trench-warfare-loving soldiers.
Notable near misses:
Top 10 Songs of 2003:
  1. "Crazy in Love" Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z (Dangerously in Love)
  2. "Hey Ya!" OutKast (The Love Below)
  3. “Milkshake” Kelis (Tasty)
  4. "Pendulum" Broadcast (Haha Sound)
  5. "Lucky Star" Basement Jaxx featuring Dizzee Rascal (Kish Kash)
  6. "The Best of Jill Hives" Guided by Voices (Earthquake Glue)
  7. "Season of the Shark" Yo La Tengo (Summer Sun)
  8. "Lights Out" Lisa Marie Presley (To Whom It May Concern)
  9. "The Laws Have Changed" The New Pornographers (Electric Version)
  10. "You Were the Last High" The Dandy Warhols (Welcome to the Monkey House)
Best Reissue/Previously Unreleased Material:
Led Zeppelin: How The West Was Won (Atlantic)
Vintage early '70s Zeppelin gives us a glimpse at a great live band near the height of its powers. Indulgent? Absolutely. But when the musicianship is this uniformly brilliantly, a little slack must be given.

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