BSOTS faves of 2003

may the rhinecliff hotel rest in peace.  groovefood, upstate new york.

I don’t know about you, but for us here at BSOTS, the year 2003 can be summed up in two phrases: TOO MUCH MUSIC and TOO LITTLE CASH. In previous years, we would list some releases that slipped through our fingers in addition to our favorites. That list for the “oh-three” is so long that if we were to post it, we would probably be overcome by a bout of uncontrollable sobbing. There’s no way to get to hear everything that you’re curious about, but we were fortunate enough to listen to some great releases this past year, a few of which totally blew us away. It’s only fair that we share what we came across with you. We're always down to compare notes, so hit us up on email and let us know what your top picks for 2003 were...


BROKER/DEALER – Initial Public Offering [Asphodel]
San Francisco outfit making solid, accessible, and memorable electronic music. Be it minimal techno, atmospheric ambience, or somewhere in between, Broker/Dealer comes with quality compositions every time. {steve crognale}

FULL – Dimstar
The surprise favorite of the year, the one that swooped in unexpectedly and ROCKED US. Avant-pop from Michigan making dogged attempts to squeeze harmony out of dissonance and discord, the results of which leave you awestruck every time you hear it. {chloe knuckles}

KING BRITT - Adventures In Lo-Fi [!K7]
The Silkworm’s come a long way since his days of tagging the tables for Digable Planets. Whereas When The Funk Hits The Fan is thick with ‘70s influence (even on the rap numbers), Lo-Fi looks towards the future of soul and, in doing so, examines a range of possibilities for where black music can go. {macedonia}

MADLIB - Shades of Blue [Blue Note]
Otis Jackson, Jr. is a genius: part Prince Paul, part jazz legend walking through the wrong time and space. His experiments in jazz as Yesterday’s New Quintet is enough proof that he could let loose when given a chance to play in the sandbox (or vaults, rather) of Blue Note Records. Madlib treats the catalogue with tender loving care, replaying, reworking, and redefining what it means for hip-hop to pay tribute to its musical elders. {macedonia}

DUDLEY PERKINS - A Lil' Light [Stones Throw]
Usually when rappers turn singers, disaster ensues. So why does it sound go right this time around? Probably because it’s so wonderfully wrong. Declaime transforms into a chronic crooner and enlists the omnipresent Madlib to stir up a stoner’s soundtrack. This is beautifully blunted soul - quite possibly the Beat Conductor’s best production all year. Music for a 21st Century blaxploitation movie that has yet to be made. {vic feedle}

To listen to the Rapture is to be reminded of a time when punk rock got down and dirty with disco, laying down a groove for you to dance to. Excitable guitars, shrieking vocals, accentuating synths, screeching saxophones...seriously, if you don’t get caught up in an album this fun, you may want to check your pulse. {cali ginseng}

THE SOFT PINK TRUTH - Do You Party? [Soundslike] (UK)
Drew Daniel (one-half of Matmos) took up Matthew Herbert’s dare to make a house record. He came back with campy disco/electro funk that slices up the vocals of R&B divas and rap MCs into audio confetti. Sexy and silly at the same time, there is no other dance record released this year that’s more fun than this one. {cali ginseng}

SPACEK - Vintage Hi-Tech [!K7]
This is what the future of soul is all about: subtlety, grace, and a dazzling spacey quality that this South London trio can call their own. Often released as the “Radiohead of soul,” Steve Spacek and company have shown us the way to next level R&B. {downtempo don}

DJ WALLY - Emulatory Whoredom [theAgriculture]
Inspired by the aftereffects of the 9/11 attacks, this album embodies all of the feelings that were running high in the weeks and months to come. Consider this effort the abstract hip-hop/illbient answer to Bruce Springsteen’s *The Rising*. {steve crognale}

*Honorable Mention*

DAVID HOLMES - The Free Association [13 Amp]
After many successful solo projects, Holmes debuts his four-piece band and shows his knack for collaboration. While the vocalists are the focal point for this release, everyone works well together to pull off an album of mostly future primitive blues that’s quite pleasing to the ear. {chloe knuckles}

DJ OLIVE - Bodega [theAgriculture]
While it’s mind boggling to think that the Audio Janitor went so long before dropping his full-length solo debut, it was totally worth the wait. Never before has an artist LP sounded so much like a mix tape. Bodega picks up beats and sounds from every passing jeep and street corner in Brooklyn for a bangin’ mashup session to shake your rump to. {downtempo don}


!!! - "Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard" [Touch & Go]
Yeah, Bloomberg may be the mayor now, but Rudy was largely responsible for making it really difficult to dance in New York City. Why can’t all protest songs be this infectious? Another danceable groove brought forth by a live band and it’s fantastic. “Everybody cut...everybody cut...everybody cut footloose.” {cali ginseng}

CLARO INTELECTO - Peace of Mind EP [Ai] (UK)
One 12-inch. Four songs. Each one stellar in its own right. Grounds covered include soulful electro, sinister acid, and deep house. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this single is a deadly weapon for dance floors worldwide. {steve crognale}

CARL CRAIG - "Tres Demented" [Planet E Communications]
This was the single that set it off for the summer. More primal than anything he has made in years, Craig brought back his early techno sound. An uncompromising monster of a tune to blow off steam to in these drastic and spastic times. {chloe knuckles}

MATTHEW DEAR - "Dog Days" [Spectral Sound]
A perfect blend of Chicago and Detroit. Accessible and funky, yet streamlined and classy. I don’t see this one leaving the DJ bag any time soon. {macedonia}

FOUR TET - "She Moves She" [Domino] (UK)
The only way to describe it is “folktronica” – acoustic sensibilities merging with digital glitches and twitches. A wonderful choice to release for a single from the Rounds LP. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing it in commercials sometime soon. {downtempo don}

GOLD CHAINS - "Nada" [Pias]
Meet Topher LaFata – former IDM bratty upstart turned smack talkin’ MC. Gold Chains has been the official BSOTS guilty pleasure of 2003 and with “Nada,” it’s easy to see why. With its staggered percussion kicks and an all-too likable chorus (“yeah, but you can still end up with nada / diamonds slit the hands and wrists when you accumulate mad dollars / what is life when you have no one to love ya / even if you can afford to wrap that Cali ass in Prada?”), you’ll be droppin’ it like it’s hot in no time. {chloe knuckles}

THE JUAN MACLEAN - "Give Me Every Little Thing" [DFA]
Another bomb tune in DFA’s sonic arsenal. It’s like new wave disco funk or something. A bonafide anthem. This label’s been killin’ it this year. {cali ginseng}

OUTKAST - "Hey Ya!" b/w "The Way You Move" [Arista]
Whether or not they’re actually going to break up is irrelevant. The fact remains that they are a force of nature. Wouldn’t it just figure that Andre 3000’s biggest hit to date isn’t even hip-hop? He’s completely lost his mind, but that’s half the reason why I love him. But don’t front on Big Boi: he ain’t nobody’s second fiddle. “The Way You Move” is a hot cut and the double album is probably the best thing to happen for his notoriety. Speakerboxxx allows him to shine like the rims that still spin even after your ride’s come to a complete stop. In my considered opinion, the ‘Kast gon’ last, ya heard? And even if they don’t, what a way to go out... {vic feedle}

SPEARHEAD – "Bomb The World" []
In a country where disagreeing with the government’s policies and members is considered being unpatriotic, Michael Franti and crew delivered their most potent message to date. A line from the chorus itself says it all: “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace.” Both the file-sharing public and the FBI took notice, so while the MP3 traveled through cyberspace, the Feds took snapshots of Franti in concert and questioned the families of his band members. Too ill. {chloe knuckles}

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Solid Steel Presents Sesame Street [Ninja Tune] (UK)
The Ninja Tune label has released more than its share of gems, but this one takes the cake. If you grew up watching Sesame Street, there’s no need to even explain why the “Pinball Number Count” (which was never released before in any format) is so special. And as if a DJ Food extended re-edit of that wasn’t enough; the 12-inch also includes a pair of disco remixes of “C Is For Cookie” by Larry Levan and Roy Thode. I think I stared at the cover art for ten minutes before I actually put the needle to the record. The Ninjas totally outdid themselves with this one. Bravo. {macedonia}

*Honorable Mention*

BEANS – "Phreek The Beat" [Warp] (UK)
Nobody was more upset than me when the members of Anti-Pop Consortium parted ways, but at least Beans held it down in ’03 with his solo debut. “Phreek The Beat” was our first peek at this tongue-twisting cat striking out on his own. A great combination of next school rhymes and old school spirit. {vic feedle}


Never front on the Left Rev. McD. This Black Power rock ‘n’ soul classic is as timely now as it was in 1970. Few are speaking truth to power these days, so this joint is vital. {vic feedle}

MELVIN VAN PEEBLES – What The....You Mean I Can’t Sing?!? [Water]
I still can’t believe that Atlantic Records put this out back in ’74. Not that it’s’s brilliant. But if you know how Melvin Van Peebles does it, then nothing else needs to be said. Over a lavish musical backdrop, brother Sweetback shows us his pipes. An acquired taste, to be sure, but full of feeling all the same. Funny, irreverent, this is classic Van Peebles material. {vic feedle}

STARK REALITY – Now [Stones Throw]
Monty Stark was on some other ish altogether. Stark Reality conjured up a jazzy, psychedelic funk that could only be truly appreciated 30 years after the fact. Sample fodder for the most dedicated crate diggers, much props to Stones Throw for unearthing another lost classic. {downtempo don}

VARIOUS ARTISTS – New York Noise [Soul Jazz]
This compilation focuses on the downtown New York scene during the late ‘70s-early ‘80s. Punk bands ride the groove, artists pick up instruments and wash out their immediate surroundings in dissonance, cultures clash and give birth to new sounds. An essential release documenting an exciting time in music for future generations. {macedonia}
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