March of 2003 was…interesting, to say the least. On a personal front, the day job had become considerably busier due to Yankee Candle’s new deal with Bed, Bath & Beyond…while the post-Christmas months had quieted down, the volume was still more than before. But on a more serious note…the Bush II administration had chosen to go ahead with its invasion of Iraq, upselling the ‘they have weapons of mass destruction’ message as far as it could go. Those who believed in it (mainly conservatives) leaned heavy on the American Patriotism to the point of absurdity (anyone remember freedom fries?), while those opposed to it (mainly…well, a lot of people, not just liberals) protested loudly and repeatedly.
I suppose this might be part of the irritation I felt and inserted into The Balance of Light. That novel contained a lot of tension between sides that refused to acknowledge the other; the war didn’t make sense to me, and that became Denni’s focus in the third book: Why the hells are we fighting? What are we trying to achieve by it? It also became Alec Poe’s as well: This makes no sense, and it will all end in destruction. I refuse to be a part of it.
Evanescence, Fallen, released 4 March 2003. “Bring Me to Life” was everywhere that spring, having also been in a key scene in the Ben Affleck’s movie version of Daredevil. I could have easily filed this away on the alt-metal/hard rock bandwagon that was becoming rather crowded at the time, but this one stood out with some really great songwriting and production.
The Ataris, So Long, Astoria, released 4 March 2003. I was never the biggest fan of emo, but I was drawn to this band’s amazing cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” — quite possibly my all-time favorite cover version at that. [Bonus points for updating the bumper sticker lyric to ‘Black Flag’, heh.] I found myself listening to this one a lot during my writing sessions when I needed a good punchy soundtrack for some heavy action scenes.
The New Folk Implosion, The New Folk Implosion, released 4 March 2003. This iteration of Lou Barlow’s band is far moodier and robust than his previous versions, which drew me to it. The epic “Releast” is my favorite off the album and ended up on a few mixtapes that year.
Kelli Ali, Tigermouth, released 4 March 2003. The former Sneaker Pimps singer’s first solo album is a luscious trip-hoppy chill-out record and a perfect album for writing sessions. “Sunlight in the Rain” is one of my favorite tracks of this particular year.
Cave In, Antenna, released 18 March 2003. This New England band started out as hardcore metal but could also write some wonderfully melodic alt-rock. This was one of my favorite albums of the year and was one of the most played cds during writing sessions!
Longwave, The Strangest Things, released 18 March 2003. This too got a lot of Belfry play with its hybrid of indie emo and shoegazey riffs. Not as loud as most similar bands of the time, and definitely far more adventurous.
Zach de la Rocha & DJ Shadow, “March of Death” single, released 21 March 2003. The invasion of Iraq was not a popular move in the US, and several musicians let it be known how pissed off they were, many uploading songs for free online in protest.
Placebo, Sleeping with Ghosts, released 24 March 2003. In my opinion this is their best album ever, full of tight and driving melodies from start to finish. This was also one of my top favorite albums of the year.
Linkin Park, Meteora, released 25 March 2003. I kinda sorta liked the band at the time, but not enough to go out of my way to buy their first album…until I’d heard several of the singles off this one and realized what I was missing. This is an absolutely stellar record worth having in your collection, especially the new twentieth anniversary edition that just came out earlier this month.
Coming up: more indie rock goodness, mixtapes and bands whose future started here.