My favorite CDs of 2003

Better late than never, I suppose, so here are my favorite CDs from among those that came out in 2003. There were other CDs that were pretty darned good, but these are the ones I liked the best.

Michael’s Favorite CDs of 2003:

The Dresden DollsThe Dresden Dolls

This one is absolutely brilliant, and is far and away my favorite CD of the year. The Dresden Dolls are Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, a duo who play what’s often called punk-cabaret. That’s probably as good a description as any of what they’re doing, but it’s really something you need to hear for yourself. Maybe there are words that can really capture Amanda’s excellent, passionate piano playing, her dark (and often darkly humorous) lyrics, and Brian’s outstanding work on the drums, but I’m not sure what those words might be.

The Innocence MissionBefriended

I’ve loved The Innocence Mission since way back when their first CD came out, and their new one in 2003 didn’t disappoint at all. It’s all so fragile and beautiful and….well, innocent somehow. Highly recommended.

Daughter DarlingSweet Shadow

Sometimes my tastes run more toward the electronic side of things, and this debut album from Daughter Darling is a fine example of what I like…. gorgeous vocals over some great trip-hop beats.

Throwing MusesThrowing Muses

I love Kristin Hersh, and I really love the Throwing Muses, so this album, which saw Kristin reunited with her sister (and original Throwing Muses member) Tanya Donnelly, was one I was very much looking forward to. Though I would have liked to have had at least one new TM song with Tanya on lead vocals, this is still a really great album, and one which reminds me more of the earlier TM stuff.

The Fiery FurnacesGallowsbird’s Bark

Fun, but decidedly odd. It’s a lo-fi skewed blues sort of thing, and you’ll either like it or you won’t. I, obviously, liked it a lot.

Over the RhineOhio

I’ve been an Over the Rhine fan for quite a while now, and I think this double album ranks among their best work. I’d been half expecting that with 2 CDs full of material there’d be more throw away tracks, but they somehow managed to instead come up with a wealth of really great material. Karen’s voice somehow just keeps getting better and better too.

Noe VenableThe World is Bound by Secret Knots

Okay, I’m not sure whether this album really belongs on this list or not, but here it is anyway. There are basically two different styles of song on this CD. The first is Noe singing very well-written songs in her quirky, but very good, voice, and I love all of those a lot. Then there are the tracks that are more spoken word with musical background, and those might be good, but they just aren’t to my taste. I guess it says a lot that the CD made this list despite that.


This is the album on my list that probably skews the most toward the folk side of things, but McKinley adds enough interesting touches that it doesn’t just turn into one of those stereotypical girl-with-guitar outings. The main attraction for me though is her voice, which is just really amazing.

Disappointment of the Year:

Kristin HershThe Grotto

I’ve really liked most of Kristin’s solo stuff, but I thought this one was just dull. Maybe working on it at the same time as she was doing the new Throwing Muses album was a mistake, as it seems like that one got most of the passion.

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