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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 2003

I have two simple rules when making my "Best of" song lists. First, an artist can't appear more than once. Second, I will not rank my lists. The first rule makes the list-making harder, and the second makes it easier. This paradox creates a happy medium.

For all of 2013, I have been working on lists representing 30, 20, and 10 years ago, along with a list for this year. The weird thing about making these lists after the fact is the use of hindsight, for I have discovered new artists and new songs in the interim years and, in some cases, during this process of trying to fill out a 100-song list.

Even more interesting to me, an perhaps best evidenced in this particular list, is the commingling of pop songs that I'd eschew on a similar list today, alongside obscure tracks—ones I might not never even have heard of back in the day—that have only emerged through time.

Still, what you see below is an honest attempt to assess a year in time, merging the idealistic nature of a list made 10 years after the fact with the idea of what I actually loved and was into at the time. Given that it was only 10 years ago, this list probably doesn't differ too much from what I might have made then, but it definitely has more breadth than even my all-consuming musical tastes of the time would have allowed.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available, but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Blackberry Belle

    Teenage Wristband

    The Twilight Singers

    Blackberry Belle

    Navarre

    Notes

  2. Fever to Tell

    Maps

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    Fever to Tell

    Interscope

    Notes

  3. Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

    Combat Baby

    Metric

    Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

    Everloving

    Notes

  4. You Forgot It In People

    Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl

    Broken Social Scene

    You Forgot It In People

    Arts and Crafts

    Notes

  5. I Am the Fun Blame Monster!

    Twenty Cell Revolt

    Menomena

    I Am the Fun Blame Monster!

    self-released

    Notes

  6. When I Pretend to Fall

    Scared Straight

    The Long Winters

    When I Pretend to Fall

    Barsuk

    Notes

  7. Speed Graphic

    In Between Days

    Ben Folds

    Speed Graphic

    Attacked By Plastic

    Notes

  8. Keep It Together

    Homecoming King

    Guster

    Keep It Together

    Palm Pictures

    Notes

  9. Rainy Day Music

    Save It for a Rainy Day

    The Jayhawks

    Rainy Day Music

    American

    Notes

  10. The Future That Was

    I Am Not the Only Cowboy

    Josh Joplin Group

    The Future That Was

    Artemis

    Notes

  11. True Reflections

    True Reflections

    Boyd Tinsley

    True Reflections

    RCA

    Notes

  12. Rockity Roll

    Ossining

    Mike Doughty

    Rockity Roll

    self-released

    Notes

  13. Khronos

    You Can't Hide

    Maktub

    Khronos

    Velour

    Notes

  14. Chocolate Factory

    Ignition (Remix)

    R. Kelly

    Chocolate Factory

    Jive

    Notes

  15. Later That Day

    Callin' Out

    Lyrics Born

    Later That Day

    Quannum Projects

    Notes

  16. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

    Hey Ya!

    Outkast

    Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

    La Face

    Notes

  17. D-D-Don't Stop the Beat

    Move Your Feet

    Junior Senior

    D-D-Don't Stop the Beat

    Crunchy Frog

    Notes

  18. In Time: The Best of R.E.M.

    Bad Day

    R.E.M.

    In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  19. 39 Minutes of Bliss

    Jerk It Out

    Caesars

    39 Minutes of Bliss (In an Otherwise Meaningless World)

    Astralwerks

    Notes

  20. Chili Peppers: Greatest Hits

    Fortune Faded

    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Greatest Hits

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  21. No Doubt: The Singles

    It's My Life

    No Doubt

    The Singles 1992–2003

    Interscope

    Notes

  22. Blink-182

    I Miss You

    Blink-182

    Blink-182

    Geffen

    Notes

  23. Everyone Down Here

    We Drink on the Job

    Earlimart

    Everyone Down Here

    Palm Pictures

    Notes

  24. So Much for the City

    One Horse Town

    The Thrills

    So Much for the City

    Virgin

    Notes

  25. Feast of Wire

    Not Even Stevie Nicks

    Calexico

    Feast of Wire

    Quarterstick Records

    Notes

  26. Hotel Vast Horizon

    Breaking Your Fall

    Chris Whitley

    Hotel Vast Horizon

    Messenger

    Notes

  27. Soul Journey

    Look at Miss Ohio

    Gillian Welch

    Soul Journey

    Acony

    Notes

  28. Failer

    Hockey Skates

    Kathleen Edwards

    Failer

    Socan

    Notes

  29. Leaving Not Arriving

    Everyday Dream of the West

    Downpilot

    Leaving Not Arriving

    Blue Disguise

    Notes

  30. Ghosts of the Great Highway

    Carry Me Ohio

    Sun Kil Moon

    Ghosts of the Great Highway

    Jetset

    Notes

  31. The Strangest Things

    Tidal Wave

    Longwave

    The Strangest Things

    RCA

    Notes

  32. Man of the Hour

    Man of the Hour

    Pearl Jam

    Man of the Hour

    Pearl Jam

    Notes

  33. Pass in Time

    Pedestal

    Beth Orton

    Pass in Time

    Heavenly

    Notes

  34. Folklore

    Picture Perfect

    Nelly Furtado

    Folklore

    Dreamworks

    Notes

  35. Young Liars

    Staring at the Sun

    TV on the Radio

    Young Liars

    Touch and Go

    Notes

  36. New Sacred Cow

    Freetime

    Kenna

    New Sacred Cow

    Columbia

    Notes

  37. Boy in Da Corner

    Fix Up, Look Sharp

    Dizzee Rascal

    Boy in Da Corner

    XL Recordings

    Notes

  38. Chicken - N - Beer

    Stand Up

    Ludacris

    Chicken - N - Beer

    Def Jam

    Notes

  39. Tasty

    Milkshake

    Kelis

    Tasty

    Arista

    Notes

  40. Black Cherry

    Train

    Goldfrapp

    Black Cherry

    Mute

    Notes

  41. The Golden Path

    The Golden Path

    The Chemical Brothers featuring Wayne Coyne

    The Golden Path

    Astralwerks

    Notes

  42. Rounds

    Slow Jam

    Four Tet

    Rounds

    Domino

    Notes

  43. Dancehall Places

    Princess

    Mint Royale

    Dancehall Places

    Faith & Hope Records

    Notes

  44. Give Up

    Such Great Heights

    The Postal Service

    Give Up

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  45. Become the Soft.Lightes

    Country Robot/A Letter to Dorothy

    The Incredible Moses Leroy

    Become the Soft.Lightes

    Ultimatum

    Notes

  46. Quixotic

    Lying

    Martina Topley-Bird

    Quixotic

    Independiente

    Notes

  47. No Holding Back

    No Letting Go

    Wayne Wonder

    No Holding Back

    Atlantic

    Notes

  48. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

    Unhappy

    Outkast

    Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

    La Face

    Notes

  49. Clones

    Frontin'

    Pharrell

    The Neptunes Present… Clones

    Star Trak

    Notes

  50. Dangerously in Love

    Crazy in Love

    Beyoncé

    Dangerously in Love

    Sony

    Notes

  51. The Black Album

    99 Problems

    Jay-Z

    The Black Album

    Roc-A-Fella

    Notes

  52. Permission to Land

    I Believe in a Thing Called Love

    The Darkness

    Permission to Land

    Atlantic

    Notes

  53. Spend the Night

    It's on the Rocks

    The Donnas

    Spend the Night

    Atlantic

    Notes

  54. Hearts of Oak

    Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?

    Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

    Hearts of Oak

    Lookout

    Notes

  55. Welcome to the Monkey House

    We Used to Be Friends

    The Dandy Warhols

    Welcome to the Monkey House

    Capitol

    Notes

  56. In the Zone

    Toxic

    Britney Spears

    In the Zone

    Jive

    Notes

  57. Fire

    Danger! High Voltage

    Electric Six featuring Jack White

    Fire

    XL Recordings

    Notes

  58. Fake Songs

    United States of Whatever

    Liam Lynch

    Fake Songs

    Global Warming

    Notes

  59. Thickfreakness

    Thickfreakness

    The Black Keys

    Thickfreakness

    Fat Possum

    Notes

  60. Place You Call Home

    Golden

    Radio Nationals

    Place You Call Home

    Roam

    Notes

  61. Welcome Interstate Managers

    No Better Place

    Fountains of Wayne

    Welcome Interstate Managers

    S-Curve

    Notes

  62. You Are Free

    He War

    Cat Power

    You Are Free

    Matador

    Notes

  63. Electric Version

    The Laws Have Changed

    The New Pornographers

    Electric Version

    Matador

    Notes

  64. Let Go

    The Way You Wear Your Head

    Nada Surf

    Let Go

    Barsuk

    Notes

  65. Youth & Young Manhood

    California Waiting

    Kings of Leon

    Youth & Young Manhood

    RCA

    Notes

  66. It Still Moves

    One Big Holiday

    My Morning Jacket

    It Still Moves

    ATO

    Notes

  67. The Day After My Confidence

    Rear Window

    Michael

    The Day After My Confidence

    Be Your Demon

    Notes

  68. Arcade Fire

    No Cars Go

    Arcade Fire

    Arcade Fire

    self-released

    Notes

  69. Hail to the Thief

    There There

    Radiohead

    Hail to the Thief

    Capitol

    Notes

  70. The Fire Theft

    It's Over

    The Fire Theft

    The Fire Theft

    Rykodisc

    Notes

  71. Chutes Too Narrow

    Kissing the Lipless

    The Shins

    Chutes Too Narrow

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  72. A Beautiful EP

    Beautiful

    Clem Snide

    A Beautiful EP

    spinART

    Notes

  73. Logic Will Break Your Heart

    Yesterday Never Tomorrows

    The Stills

    Logic Will Break Your Heart

    Vice

    Notes

  74. Mouthfuls

    Slipping Through the Sensors

    Fruit Bats

    Mouthfuls

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  75. Not Exotic

    Jenny Place Your Bets

    Dolorean

    Not Exotic

    Yep Roc

    Notes

  76. Po' Girl

    City Song

    Po' Girl

    Po' Girl

    Hightone

    Notes

  77. More Like the Moon

    Handshake Drugs

    Wilco

    More Like the Moon

    Nonesuch

    Notes

  78. Elephant

    I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart

    The White Stripes

    Elephant

    V2

    Notes

  79. Little Worlds

    Off the Top (The Gravity Wheel)

    Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

    Little Worlds

    Columbia

    Notes

  80. On and On

    Wasting Time

    Jack Johnson

    On and On

    Universal

    Notes

  81. The Sea & The Rhythm

    The Sea and the Rhythm

    Iron & Wine

    The Sea & The Rhythm

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  82. Transfiguration of Vincent

    Let's Dance

    M. Ward

    Transfiguration of Vincent

    Merge

    Notes

  83. Her Majesty The Decemberists

    Red Right Ankle

    The Decemberists

    Her Majesty The Decemberists

    Kill Rock Stars

    Notes

  84. Baby I'm Bored

    Hard Drive

    Evan Dando

    Baby I'm Bored

    Bar/None

    Notes

  85. 1972

    Love Vibration

    Josh Rouse

    1972

    Rykodisc

    Notes

  86. Everyone Deserves Music

    Everyone Deserves Music

    Michael Franti & Spearhead

    Everyone Deserves Music

    Parlophone

    Notes

  87. You Gotta Go There to Come Back

    Maybe Tomorrow

    Stereophonics

    You Gotta Go There to Come Back

    V2

    Notes

  88. Down With Wilco

    The Family Gardener

    The Minus 5 featuring Jeff Tweedy

    Down With Wilco

    Yep Roc

    Notes

  89. Day I Forgot

    All at Once

    Pete Yorn

    Day I Forgot

    Columbia

    Notes

  90. Some Devil

    Some Devil

    Dave Matthews

    Some Devil

    RCA

    Notes

  91. Love Is Hell

    I See Monsters

    Ryan Adams

    Love Is Hell Pt. 2

    Lost Highway

    Notes

  92. Michigan

    Romulus

    Sufjan Stevens

    Michigan

    Asthmatic Kitty

    Notes

  93. My Baby Don't Tolerate

    Working Too Hard

    Lyle Lovett

    My Baby Don't Tolerate

    Lost Highway

    Notes

  94. O

    Volcano

    Damien Rice

    O

    Vector

    Notes

  95. Diamonds on the Inside

    Amen Omen

    Ben Harper

    Diamonds on the Inside

    Virgin

    Notes

  96. The Wind

    Keep Me in Your Heart

    Warren Zevon

    The Wind

    Artemis

    Notes

  97. Want One

    Beautiful Child

    Rufus Wainwright

    Want One

    Dreamworks

    Notes

  98. Cherry Blossom Girl

    Cherry Blossom Girl (Hope Sandoval version)

    Air

    Cherry Blossom Girl

    Astralwerks

    Notes

  99. The Lemon of Pink

    The Lemon of Pink

    The Books

    The Lemon of Pink

    Tomlab

    Notes

  100. Transatlanticism

    Transatlanticism

    Death Cab for Cutie

    Transatlanticism

    Barsuk

    Notes