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The Best Songs of 2003

Only Available in Archive Formats.
The Best Songs of 2003

Music Articles

The Best Songs of 2003

The Best Songs of 2003

Only Available in Archive Formats.
All Songs Considered show image

It certainly is the age of the song. The days of the MP3 aren't so different from the days of the 45 rpm. You pay a buck; the quality is good, but not as good as its more expensive counterpart. Back in the days of the 45, you'd stack your faves on a round 45 adapter, best side up, and one by one they would play, the tone arm lifting off the record long enough for the next 45 to magically fall onto the platter and play. You'd hope it wouldn't skip. The days of the 45 or even mix tapes seem antiquated in the age of the iPod and homemade CD's. We've "streamed" our picks for 2003's best songs, so click to listen and hope it doesn't skip!

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The Best Songs of 2003

Fever to Tell

Maps

  • from Fever to Tell
  • by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"The only reason to believe all the hype on this band. It's not post-punk or nuevo-garage or whatever overwrought jargon the band has been labeled with - it's a soulful, bittersweet break-up song."

-- NPR reviewer Mikel Jollett

"Very close to being my album of the year and this song is one of the main reasons. One of the most intense, emotional rock releases in recent memory."

-- KEXP morning DJ John Richards

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Room on Fire

12:51

  • from Room on Fire
  • by The Strokes

"It's the song of the summer, only in the fall: ephemeral and catchy, invoking everything good about the Cars, Blondie, and getting lost between bars on a Friday night in New York."

-- NPR reviewer Mikel Jollett

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Room on Fire
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Room on Fire
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The Strokes

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It Still Moves

Golden

  • from It Still Moves
  • by My Morning Jacket

"An absolutely hauntingly beautiful traveling song to play again and again on headphones during rainstorms."

-- NPR reviewer Mikel Jollett

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It Still Moves

Mangeetah

  • from It Still Moves
  • by My Morning Jacket

"A glorious rock anthem and it's almost like the band won't let themselves finish it."

-- World Cafe host David Dye

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The Transient

Ashes on the Highway

  • from Transient
  • by Dave Dondero

"This is the sound of a man on fire. Smart, funny and honestly out of his mind; but he comes back long enough to sing about it. One of the best singer/songwriters I've ever heard."

-- All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen

"In a good year for songs about death -- half of Dave Matthews' Some Devil meditates on it -- this dramatic little ode is among the most unusual, wry and haunting at the same time."

-- NPR reviewer Tom Moon

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The Transient
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The Transient
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David Dondero

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Sumday

Now It's On

  • from Sumday
  • by Grandaddy

"If you've been in the house too long, staring at the screen, roll down the car windows and sing this song, and sing it loudly. This is why pop music makes great radio."

-- All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen

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Sumday
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Sumday
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Grandaddy

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The Raven

Who Am I?

  • from The Raven
  • by Lou Reed

"Reed made another brilliant record this year, and few noticed. It wasn't an easy listen. It's not easy to sum up the magic and wonder of life in a 4-minute song. But he did. One day, if you are over 50, you will need this song."

--All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen

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The Raven
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The Raven
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Lou Reed

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Shine

I Love You

  • from Shine
  • by Daniel Lanois

"Lanois' preternatural gifts as a producer have never been more evident than on this piece. How does he do it? What does he Lanois know that other producers and musicians don't? The remarkable world of sound Lanois creates in this beautiful work of art literally gives me goose bumps."

-- All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton

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Shine
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Shine
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Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lakes State

Romulus

  • from Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State
  • by Sufjan Stevens

"From my runner-up for best album of the year: a deeply personal and intimate collection of delicate songs of love, sorrow and remembrance. This song brought tears to my eyes, and that's enough for me. We'll be hearing a lot more from Sufjan Stevens in the coming years."-- All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton

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Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lakes State
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Give Up

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Only Available in Archive Formats.

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

  • from Give Up
  • by The Postal Service

"This cross-state collaboration (through the mail and Internet) between Death Cab for Cutie singer Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello showed what music could be in the 21st century. It's a brilliant marriage of electronica and indie rock. This is the stand-out track."

-- All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton

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Give Up
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Give Up
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Speakerboxxx / The Love Below

Happy Valentine's Day

  • from
  • by

"'Happy Valentine's Day' from Outkast's amazingly all-over-the- place Speakerboxxx/The Love Below has rapper cum-singer Andre 3000 playing a thugged-out Cupid, an idea I really like. 'Now when arrows don't penetrate/Cupid grabs a pistol and shoots straight for your heart.' It's part spoken word, part rap, and part indelible chorus - strange construction, great song."

-- NPR reviewer Will Hermes

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Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
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Transatlanticism

Title and Registration

  • from Transatlanticism
  • by Death Cab for Cutie

"Singer Ben Gibbard was responsible for two of my fave LPs this year: Give Up by the Postal Service and Transatlaticism by his main group, Death Cab for Cutie. The latter has 'Title and Registration,' the only song I know that finds the depths of heartbreak in a glove compartment."

-- NPR reviewer Will Hermes

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Transatlanticism
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Transatlanticism
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Death Cab for Cutie

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Lost in Translation (Soundtrack)

Kaze Wo Atsumete

  • from Lost In Translation
  • by Original Soundtrack

"I think 'Lost in Translation' is one of the year's loveliest films, and music played a huge role in the spell it cast. The entire soundtrack is good, but I especially like 'Kaze Wo Atsumete' by Japan's Happy End. It sounds like something off James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, and while I have no idea what the guy is singing about, it still makes me happy every time I hear it."

-- NPR reviewer Will Hermes

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Happy End

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Youth and Young Manhood

Molly's Chambers

  • from Youth & Young Manhood
  • by Kings of Leon

"You can keep the Strokes and even the White Stripes. It's all about Kings of Leon. They take garage rock down south, to the land of the Allman Brothers and Leon Russell. This is a perfect rock song: lean and mean with a killer beat and primal, gut piercing riffs. When I was a kid, I loved punk and garage rock and I used to laugh at people who listened to any song over 3 minutes. Now I love Southern rock more than anything, especially the Allmans. So this song marries my past to my present."

-- NPR reviewer Meredith Ochs

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Youth and Young Manhood
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Failer

Six O'Clock News

  • from Failer
  • by Kathleen Edwards

"Edwards is a young Canadian who made a big splash this year. This song opens her debut album, and it paints quite a picture. It's sung from the perspective of a girl who comes home to find her boyfriend - who has apparently committed a crime - holed up with a gun in their apartment, surrounded by police and TV camera crews. As a copy shoots and kills him, she reveals that she's pregnant with his child. When I met Edwards, I asked her what inspired the song. She said she was living in a rural area and just gotten cable, and she'd been watching a lot of CNN. I never watch CNN, but I guess they broadcast a lot of this stuff. The song also has a killer hook and a melody that stays in your head for days."

-- NPR reviewer Meredith Ochs

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Failer
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Failer
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Kathleen Edwards

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The Soul of John Black

Scandalous (No. 9)

  • from Soul of John Black
  • by The Soul of John Black

The dual solo offering of Outkast was a constant presence in the car, right alongside the debut of this extraordinary duo, John Bigham and Christopher Thomas. Starting at the crowded intersection of R&B and hip hop, they gather in elements of the blues and psychedelic rock and Stevie Wonder-ish vocal improvisation, yet never sound pretentious."

-- NPR reviewer Tom Moon

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The Bandwagon

Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul)

Only Available in Archive Formats.

Ringing My Phone

  • from The Bandwagon
  • by Jason Moran

Accompanying the happy, chattering taped voice of his Istanbul tour guide with darting piano trio counterpoint, Jason Moran here creates a new kind of jazz interaction. Simply amazing."

-- NPR reviewer Tom Moon

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The Meadowlands

Everyone Chooses Sides

  • from Meadowlands
  • by The Wrens

"It's been seven years since the last Wrens album and it'll be seven more before this song gets out of my head."

-- KEXP morning DJ John Richards

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The Soul Sessions

Super Duper Love

  • from The Soul Sessions
  • by Joss Stone

The first time I heard the album that this song comes from, I assumed that Joss was most likely a thirtyish black woman from Philadelphia. She's actually a blonde haired sixteen year old white girl from the south of England with a that can only be described as a gift."

-- Morning Becomes Eclectic host Nic Harcourt

"I honestly heard this for the first time not knowing her age or her ethnicity and told the World Cafe staff to book her and that I would strew rose petals up the steps to our studios in front of her. Each 'wait a minute' sucks you in to this perfect arrangement.

-- World Cafe host David Dye

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It All Starts Here…

They

  • from It All Starts Here... [EP]
  • by Jem

"Jem is somebody whose demos I first heard almost a year ago. She's a star in the making from Wales in the UK with a sound that mixes dreamy vocals with well written songs incorporating beats and samples."

--Morning Becomes Eclectic host Nic Harcourt

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Hello Starling

Kathleen

  • from Hello Starling
  • by Josh Ritter

"Tops in singer/songwriter-dom. When you talk with Josh and find out that the night he mentions in this song had more to do with having the car keys for the first time than the girl, it completely takes me back."

-- World Café host David Dye

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Hello Starling
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Josh Ritter

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Free Country

This Land Is Your Land

  • from Free Country
  • by Joel Harrison

"Rubbery notes on guitar by Harrison suggest it's go into be a radical reinterpretation of the Woody Guthrie song, but soon Uri Caine's piano places the rendition in a jazz context, as does David Binney's sax. But the performance ultimately transcends genre: it's just a new way of looking at a familiar tune, a beloved American classic. For me, it became a metaphor for how we have to remember to look at the US with fresh, probing eyes and understand that America is a work in progress, subject to a variety of affectionate interpretations."

-- NPR reviewer Jim Fusilli

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Free Country
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Free Country
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Joel Harrison

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Shootenanny!

Saturday Morning

  • from Shootenanny!
  • by Eels

"A get-up-and-go song told from the point of view of an eight year old eager to start the weekend. It instantly reminds me of how much fun it is to think like a kid. it's one of the high points of a very, very good album by Mark Oliver Everet and the band."

-- NPR reviewer Jim Fusilli

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Shootenanny!
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Shootenanny!
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Eels

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Hittin' the Note

Old Friend

  • from Hittin' the Note
  • by The Allman Brothers Band

"I love the interplay between Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks on this acoustic blues. It's the closing track on a terrific album from a band I'd thought was on life support. Maybe their best studio album in 30 years, thanks to Haynes and Trucks."

-- NPR Reviewer Jim Fusilli

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Hittin' the Note
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Hittin' the Note
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The Allman Brothers Band

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Congo Life

Issake Shango

  • from Congo Life
  • by Kekele

"The dance pop music of the Congo is full of formulas, but it didn't become the most popular dance music in Africa by accident. On this song, everything hits home - the singing, the arranging, the instrumental and vocal hooks, the production, and sterling acoustic guitar work to boot. No matter how disillusioned I become with all the posing and recycling in this music, I can put this on and remember all at once why I still love Congolese music so much."

-- NPR reviewer Banning Eyre

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Congo Life
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Congo Life
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Kekele

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Radio Kaboul

Hama More (All My Life)

  • from Radio Kaboul
  • by Ustad Mahwash/Ensemble Kaboul

"This remake of a classic from old Afghanistan radio number spotlights the country's ties with North Indian culture, although the notes say the song is Persian. Whatever its origin, there's something in the lyrical melody, the unusual mode, the complex rhythm -- a slow waltz, but with a rolling, swinging undercurrent -- the searing violin and soaring voice of the revitalized radio diva, Mahwash, that is pure magic. I put this on and melt every time."

-- NPR reviewer Banning Eyre

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Radio Kaboul
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Radio Kaboul
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Mahwash

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True Love Waits

Knives Out

  • from True Love Waits: O'Riley Plays Radiohead
  • by Christopher O'Riley

Performance Today host Fred Child's pick.

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True Love Waits
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True Love Waits
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Christopher O'Riley

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Stacie Orrico

More to Life

  • from Stacie Orrico
  • by Stacie Orrico

"This is my pancultural hit of the year -- deep structures of layered dance rhythms, perfect complex counterpoint, spiritual message within 'hot' street-dance genre. Big-time modulation at the high point. Traditional Ground Bass structure (not unlike the Baroque period). This is the blending of several cultural strains beyond style and time."

-- NPR reviewer Tom Manoff

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Stacie Orrico
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Stacie Orrico
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Stacie Orrico

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