Top 10 of 2003 - Aubin's Picks (Cover Artwork)

Top 10 of 2003

Aubin's Picks (2003)

staff picks


So here we are; another year has passed, and the muse of music has proven itself capable of both giving and taking. While we were given many unique, and unexpected recordings over the past year, it bears repeating how much has been lost. Personally important artists took their leave of us this year, and while I could write paragraphs about the number of people that will be missed, I don't want to dwell too heavily on such sad things.

Of course, the so-called "punk" scene both grew and contracted this year, with the NOFX-clones of old being replaced by metalcore whose most notable quality was a clean, whiny singer. While the majority of people embraced this and accepted their bullet-belt wearing brethrin, a glance at the comment boards on this very site shows that not everyone was quite so inviting.

Like many of you, I did grow weary of this preponderance of one note wonders. I can be honest and say that if I hear one more half decent hardcore track ruined by a whiny, Chris Connely-esque "soft part" I am going to lose my fucking mind.

That aside, I could describe this year as the one where I stopped caring about the "punk" rules. Some of the most bland and commercial recordings of the year arrived on independent labels, while some truly exciting music was delivered on the majors.

The majors, however, have shown themselves to be both friends to the independent scene, but also as enemies to people who love music with their very public, and poorly executed attacks on children and the elderly. I'm hoping that 2004 will see an end to these cowardly tactics and more of an emphasis on opening an honest dialogue and communicating with consumers, be they obsessive CD junkies like myself, or devoted file sharers.

My Ten Favourite Records of 2003:

The Bled
Pass The Flask
Fiddler Records

An emotional and intense burst of rage and melancholy; lyrically driving and heavy as a Converge record.

Every Time I Die
Hot Damn!

Yes, Hot Damn does in fact rock. It reunites every element that makes Every Time I Die work, and pushes it further. It's heavy, fast, and chaotic. It's lyrically sarcastic, and vocally caustic. It's the most accessible and catchy record Every Time I Die has made, but it hasn't compromised anything that older fans care about.

The Lawrence Arms
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Fat Wreck Chords

A cleverly written concept record that combines Russian literature, pop culture references and gritty melodic punk. Not everyone "gets" the Lawrence Arms, but those who do understand why they're so special.

Darkest Hour
Hidden Hands of the Sadist Nation

Punk or hardcore only in ethic, but a stellar example of great strongwriting, and impressive musicianship.

Murder by Death
Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them

Probably the most unusual selection on my list. Combining vast instrumentation with thematic concepts from movie soundtracks, hardcore, and classical music, Murder By Death excels are providing unexpectedly compelling music.

Brand New
Deja Entendu
June 17 on Razor & Tie (Triple Crown)

Sure, they've gained a following of Taking Back Sunday and Good Charlotte fans, but Brand New offers far more depth and maturity then their defacto contemporaries. Taking classic moody indie rock the likes of which has rarely been seen since Johnny Marr and Morissey were still friends, and injecting it with a modern edge has pushed Brand New far above their promising but thin debut.

The Blood Brothers
…Burn, Piano Island, Burn
ARTIST Direct Records (BMG)

It's hard to put a down what makes the spazzy fusion of sounds of …Burn, Piano Island, Burn so good, but suffice to say the combination of raging intensity, experimentation and balls out energy is as morbidly fascinating as it is darkly catchy.

Against Me!
as The Eternal Cowboy
November 4 on Fat Wreck Chords

Unequivocal proof that it will be almost impossible to pin down what makes a great punk record, except the proviso that you will know it when you hear it. And I knew it when I heard this.

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
Hellcat Records (Epitaph)

As much as I loved and respect Joe Strummer, his solo work up to this point never seemed to work for me; of course, this was why this final work was so poignant. It was not the tragedy of his death that made this record, but the memory of his life that was so perfectly reflected.

En Garde

In spite of his background in Saddle Creek emo pioneers, Cursive, Stephen Pedersen turns in a raw and rocking record that ignores his pedigree and goes straight for the throat. Simple in concept, and wonderful in execution, En Garde was one of the most unexpected treats of this past excellent year.

Honorable Mentions



The new Blink 182 was pretty terrific. I confess that I expected very little from them, but was pleasently surprised by the rebirth of the band. Inspired by Bad Astronaut and Bright Eyes, the band turned in a dark, catchy and clever record from the least likely source.

Alkaline Trio
Good Mourning


I was a little hard on the band in my review back when the album was released, and I stand by my original criticisms, but in spite of flawed nature of this recording, it's flaws were only glaring because of how damn good these guys are. It might be my least favourite Trio recording, but considered independently of their previous output, it's still a great piece of plastic.

War All The Time


Thursday's much anticipated follow up to their breakthrough Full Collapse was both a success and a failure. The band took too long to record the record and many of the tracks don't seem as focused as they should be, but simultaneously, Thursday has forged ahead of the genre they helped popularize and seems to be moving into a style all their own. Like the Trio release, flawed, but when considered independently, a success nonetheless.

The 2003 Mixtape

Side A: Side B:
1 "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" by Nancy Sinatra
^ An eerie and haunting piece from the Kill Bill soundtrack..
2 "Blue Collar Lullaby" by Coalesce
3 "Busy" by Duvall
4 "Old School Reasons" by Alkaline Trio
^ does it seem that the Trio puts all their best stuff on comps?
5 "The Artist In The Ambulance" by Thrice 6 "Strangers" by Maxeen
7 "Down" by Blink 182
8 "Asleep In The Chapel" by Thursday
9 "Just Like Honey" by the Jesus and Mary Chain
^ A good song made infinitely more powerful by it's placement in Lost in Translation
10 "A Memory" by Statistics
1 "Porcelain Hearts And Hammers For Teeth" by The Bled
2 "Rev 101" by Burnt by the Sun
3 "Godspeed Us To Sea" by Every Time I Die
4 "The Great Red Shift" by Most Precious Blood
5 "Amber Changing" by Rise Against
6 "Ambulance vs. Ambulance" by The Blood Brothers
7 "Love Will Kill All" by Calico System
8 "Blaze" by Strike Anywhere
9 "Cavil" by A Life Once Lost
10 "Confession" by Salem

Albums that Made a Whooshing Sound as they Flew Over My Head

I don't want to be a jerk about this, but what the hell is with the love for the Mars Volta. I heard this kind of self-indulgent, consciously artistic stuff from bands like Jethro Tull and Dream Theater. The involvement of members of a critically acclaimed punk/indie act doesn't impress me.

"De-Loused in the Comatorium" definitely earns my "Those who forget history are doomed to hear it over and over again for seven minutes at a time" award.

The Future

As I write this, 2004 beckons us forward. Music from some of my all time favourites like the Descendents, Social Distortion, Green Day and Bad Religion are promised in the new year. I'm hoping for a new Desaparecidos record if Conor and Denver can find the time. Of course, the new Statistics and Circle Takes the Square records (though I've heard and enjoyed both)

I'm definitely anticipating the new Spider-Man movie written by one of my favourite modern writers, Michael Chabon, and the film version of Hellboy.

I'm also hoping that we'll be able to launch an updated version of the website engine. I worked on maintaining as much of the flow of the site as possible, while cleaning up the code and the design. We're aiming for proper CSS and full support for accessibility features for our seeing and mobility impaired users. You should expect a much faster and cleaner site, while hopefully delivering the content that you expect from us.

Thanks for another wonderful year working on this site, I love music, especially the music we talk about here, and the community of visitors who work on the site with us. I've said it before, but the best thing about working on this site is the contributers from all around the world who have opened my eyes to so much great music, and I hope we have done the same for a few of you.