Song of the Day #4,494: ‘Bright Future in Sales’ – Fountains of Wayne

Oddly, my #6 album of 2003 might be even higher on this list if it were a few songs shorter. Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers starts off with a bang but ends up fizzling out.

But, oh, what a beginning! The first six tracks (‘Mexican Wine,’ ‘Bright Future in Sales,’ ‘Stacy’s Mom,’ ‘Hackensack,’ ‘No Better Place’ and ‘Valley Winter Song’) make up one of the greatest runs I’ve ever heard. Smart, hooky power pop peppered with a couple of melancholy ballads, that stretch is a display of pure songwriting genius by Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger.

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Song of the Day #4,493: ‘Homecoming King’ – Guster

Keep It Together is the fourth studio album by Boston-based alternative band Guster, and my #7 album of 2003.

After three records on which the band stuck to its signature sound of two acoustic guitars and a set of bongo drums, this album saw the trio introduce traditional drums and bass to the mix. While the move was met with skepticism by some fans, it resulted in their best album.

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Song of the Day #4,492: ‘Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings’ – Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams’ seventh studio album, World Without Tears, is my #8 album of 2003. This record was Williams’ follow-up to 2001’s plaintive Essence, and it finds her in a very different mood.

Much of World Without Tears is relentlessly bleak, touching on sexual abuse, drug addiction, domestic violence and historical atrocities. Fun!

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Song of the Day #4,491: ‘2 Become 1’ – Jewel

I feel like history caught up with me when it comes to my #9 album of 2003, Jewel’s 0304.

The earnest acoustic singer-songwriter’s abrupt move into dance-pop territory was greeted with suspicion and derision at the time. Jewel was called a sell-out who embarrassed herself by embracing her sexuality and exploring a musical genre so far outside her wheelhouse. But I kinda loved it.

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Song of the Day #4,490: ‘Clear Blue Day in Limbo’ – Stew

It’s time for the next installment of my Decades series, wherein I dive into the albums from a certain year across four decades. It’s time to close out the 3’s. After covering 1973, 1983, and 1993, I’ll dedicate the next few weeks to 2003.

As always, I’ll start by counting down my favorite albums from the year, and then turn my attention to some of the critically-acclaimed records with which I’m less familiar.

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