30 Years of Music: 2003

My roundup of personal favorites from 2003 errs a bit on the interconnected nature of music. One artist knows another who worked with another who was inspired by another, and on and on. I enjoy seeing and hearing my favorites overlap, as it’s just one more way to show that art is not created in a vacuum. So let’s get to it:

Logo for 30 Years of Music: 2003

Rock and Roll – Rasputina

When I first heard Rasputina, I think I was in high school. My dad had borrowed a CD of theirs from someone, and I dubbed myself a copy onto cassette. Their 2001 covers EP, The Lost and Found, was reissued in 2003 with extra songs. Their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” features on both editions, and like all of their music, it makes me wish I still owned a cello. Or if the money gods were feeling especially kind, an electric cello and a looper. Imagine the fun one could have with that.

The Last Ride – Johnny Marr + The Healers

In 2003, I was not even remotely aware of this song, but since by time you read this, I’ll be on my merry way to see Johnny Marr play in Portland, I must mention it. Included instead of the official video, here’s the performance on Letterman because Marr’s wearing a ridiculous parka and I want to tell him not to chew gum while performing. I dig this song – it’s woozy and loud, and it features Zak Starkey on drums. Starkey is Ringo Starr’s son, and he played drums with Oasis for several years. And as we know, I am self-contractually obligated to mention Oasis connections.

Marr himself played on one Oasis song – 2002’s “(Probably) All in the Mind,” a song Noel Gallagher calls, “probably the shitest track I ever wrote.” I wouldn’t go that far (*grumblegrumbleSwampSongcough*), but no, it wasn’t exactly an insta-classic.

Wonderwall – Ryan Adams

You’re goddamn right I’m including this one. Ryan Adams released two EPs in 2003 – Love is Hell Pt. 1 and Love is Hell Pt. 2 – and Pt. 1 included a cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” About the cover, Noel Gallagher said:

We’ve never got it right. It’s too slow or too fast. I think Ryan Adams is the only person who ever got that song right. I’d love to do the Ryan Adams version, but in front of 60,000 Oasis fans that wouldn’t be possible.

Adams’ version is an entirely different rhythm, with the guitar resembling very little of the original. I’ve heard Noel, on his own, play “Wonderwall” as sort of a hybrid between his original and this cover. The way Adams almost winces through the lyrics is lovely – “Maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me…”

Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet

If I were still going on the Oasis train of thought, I’d tell you that Jet toured with them during the Heathen Chemistry tour, and how singer Nic Cester seems to have gone to the Liam Gallagher School of Rock, sound-wise. But no, no, let’s talk about Jet themselves.


I’ll admit I grew a bit tired of “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” when it first came out. It’s been rather omnipresent ever since, and also one of those songs that keep popping up in incongruous commercials. The song is some ’70s-esque danceable rock ‘n’ roll, complete with hand-claps at the end – which we all know can improve just about any song.

Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone? – Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

One year I participated in National Novel Writing Month, I used this song and band’s name as something my character listened to only because it was a cheap-n-easy way to boost my word count that day. And that’s why NaNo is great for making you sit your ass down in a chair to get some work done, but not necessarily so great for quality output.

I do really like this song though. The falsetto bits, the crunchy Gibson guitar riff, and how this almost sounds like it belongs to the ’90s instead of 2003. The mister once saw Ted Leo and The Pharmacists play in a tiny Spokane club, and I’m still a bit jealous.

Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

And speaking of Spokane, “Seven Nation Army” will always remind me of moving there. The mister and I, looking for a change, moved from Missoula, MT to Spokane, WA during the spring of 2003. We stumbled across an alternative rock radio station while moving our things inside our apartment, and I swear, they must have played “Seven Nation Army” once an hour, if not more. That low riff and steady drum beat is the sound of moving boxes, friends. We lived in Spokane for seven years, met a lot of people, and it was a great time.

The Leaving Song, Pt. II – AFI

Oh, Sing The Sorrow – my favorite AFI album. I’ve previously talked about “Silver and Cold,” which is my favorite song on the album, and it was difficult to decide on another song for today. Though “This Celluloid Dream” almost made the cut, I decided to go with “The Leaving Song, Pt. II” because I like the video and singer Davey Havok is a beautiful, beautiful man.

Look what I built
It shines so beautifully
Now watch as it destroys me

You drop that mic, Davey.

Bleed to Love Her – Fleetwood Mac

Yes, friends, it is entirely possible to have both AFI and Fleetwood Mac among a personal list of favorite bands. Say You Will was the first studio album from Fleetwood Mac proper (that is to say, let’s not talk about the Stevie and Lindsey-less early ’90s) since Tango in the Night, though it lacks Christine McVie. It runs a little long, as is their wont, but there are some good songs, including “Bleed to Love Her,” first featured on the live album The Dance. If I’m honest though, I prefer that live version, so forgive me for embedding it instead.

Somebody’s got to see this through
All the world is laughing at you
And somebody’s got to sacrifice
If this whole thing gonna turn out right

Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I never quite understood the hipster-hate for this song. Was it because it became popular? I don’t know. Screw the haters; I love this song without apology. It’s beautiful, Karen O is a legend, and “They don’t love you like I love you” is the essence of so many songs, spelled out here without hesitation. And how can you not love that introduction or the guitar solo? Honestly, hipsters. I just don’t know.

Black Cherry – Goldfrapp

Goldfrapp songs are some sexybusiness. Electro-beats, whispy vocals, fantastic make-up – even when the words are sad, you’re still glad to be there. What more can I say?

Crazy in Love РBeyonc̩ (feat. Jay-Z)

The horns, man. The horns. They are what make this song extraordinary. Also, remember when Jay and Bey pretended like they barely knew each other? And let’s not forget one of the all-time best booty-shakes in all of music videos. (Don’t front, you know you love it.) Ah, yes, “history in the making” indeed.

99 Problems – Jay-Z

This was the very first Jay-Z song I loved wholeheartedly the very first time I heard it. Rick Rubin created some magic with Jay on The Black Album.

If you don’t like my lyrics
you can press fast-forward

Now, does the guitar-crunch have something to do with me paying attention first thing? Probably, but the way the whole song is put together is infectious, and for reasons I can’t really explain, I always get these lines stuck in my head:

I ain’t passed the bar but I know a little bit
enough that you won’t illegally search my shit

Hey Ya – Outkast

Yes, maybe you are still tired of this song, ten years later (Ten years later?! You shut your mouth, time!), but come on, it’s fantastic. Also, hand-claps. Hand-claps are magic.

Fun fact: Outkast used to practice their rhymes while running so that they could perform without being short of breath. Think about that next time you see some live act who are clearly not used to being outside the studio.

Cats Van Bags – Atmosphere (feat. Brother Ali)

And now, how about a little underground hip-hop? I mentioned Atmosphere is last week’s column as one of my husband’s favorites, but another favorite of his is Brother Ali. Both do amazing things with their writing and production, even if the subject matter isn’t always easy. Above everything else, it’s honest, and I appreciate that.

What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?/ It Sucks to Be Me – Avenue Q

2003 was the year the musical Avenue Q premiered. I am only a little bit familiar with the show, but the song title “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” makes me laugh, since in 2003, I’d only recently dropped out of college where I was… wait for it… a creative writing major! Yes, it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t prudent to go further into debt for a degree I didn’t necessarily need. That’s not disparaging undergrad or MFA writing programs at all; they just weren’t right for me and my piddly, piddly income. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

After you’re done sighing at the balance on your student loans, do take a look at 2003 in music, and tell me your favorites.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

11 replies on “30 Years of Music: 2003”

I saw Avenue Q on Broadway right after it opened. I lost it during that song since I was a few years out of completing college with a, you guessed it, BA in English.

Other random story, when I worked at Zara for a time, I had a “Get the fuck out of the store mix” that I would play about 5 minutes before closing and “Wonderwall” was on it. Not because I don’t love the song, but because it’s slow and signals closing time.

Can I tell you how much I love you for including Avenue Q? You need to listen to the whole soundtrack immediately, because it is some of the funniest shit I’ve ever heard.

In other 2003 music, I’m still amused by “In Da Club.” I will admit to a certain fondness for some of the Evanescence songs that came out that year, though I’ve heard them all so many times as to be kind of sick of them too. I love everything about Linkin Park’s Meteora album and I will fight anyone who gives me shit for it. I like a lot of songs from Three Day’s Grace’s album, especially “I Hate Everything About You.” I know I’m missing a ton of other singles, but that was a damned long Wikipedia list!

YES on Ryan Adam’s Wonderwall. I flipping love it with all my heart. And it breaks my heart a little every time I listen to it.

99 Problems is the best. It always ends up being the last song on my random work-out mix, so I always spend the rest of the afternoon at work with it stuck in my head, which has been inappropriate when clients are in the office and I don’t realize it and I am singing this song in the kitchen. Oops. Whatevs.

There are people out there that hate Maps? I’m flabbergasted. Its a gorgeous song in every way. I’m still not tired of it this many years later.

And for my money, Rasputina does some of the best covers in rock. Its totally the cellos, but whatever. I love the shtick.

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