I seem to remember that the New England summer of 2003 was extremely warm and humid, which meant that I’d have the garage door open at night when I worked down in the Belfry. This was well before my parents’ house started seeing more surprising wildlife cutting through the yard, by the way, so there was little expectation of a wildcat or a bear walking its way in to see what was going on.
This was also the time of several weekend road trips! I was still heading into Boston every now and again, spending the day hitting my old book and record store haunts, spending some time in Back Bay and on the Common, then taking the Red Line up to Harvard Square where I’d hang out for a good few hours before heading home again. More locally I was still hitting Toadstool Books up in Keene, and the Newbury Comics/Barnes & Noble run in Leominster. (Sometimes both on the same day!)
Speaking of books, it was around this time that I really started reading more voraciously. Before then, I’d pick up the occasional book I was interested in but stuck with comics for the most part, but I’d finally decided that if I was going to be a writer, maybe I should, y’know, do my homework. I soon had a mountain of books next to my bed with both SF/Fantasy and litfic, ready to be opened.
A lot of money spent on shopping and gas, but it was definitely a fun time!
Stereophonics, You Gotta Go There to Come Back, released 2 June 2003. I’d been a fan of this band since the HMV days, and still am to this day. This album feels more organic than some of their previous records with some genuinely heartfelt tunes like “Maybe Tomorrow”.
Rob Dougan, Furious Angels, released 3 June 2003. The man who brought us the classic Matrix moment with “Clubbed to Death” released exactly one album, and this was it. Half instrumental and half growly vocals, it doesn’t quite measure up to his signature song (which is included here) but it did work perfectly as writing session soundtrack material. He’s done a lot of production and scoring work, however.
Dave Gahan, Paper Monsters, released 3 June 2003. The other lead singer of Depeche Mode finally released his first solo record this year, and you can kind of tell that his songs are chillier and more visceral than Martin Gore’s whose songs tend to have more heart to them. Still, this one’s an interesting record that proved he could go it alone.
Love and Rockets, Sorted! The Best of Love and Rockets, released 3 June 2003. One of my favorite bands of the late 80s finally dropped a greatest hits to tie in with their expanded rereleases of the last couple of years. It’s a simple selection with not that many deep cuts, but it does prove just how great they were!
Soundtrack, The Animatrix – The Album, released 3 June 2003. The two-fer of Matrix movies was supplemented by a third project, an anthology of American-Japanese animation containing in-canon back stories and side stories, many that actually tied in directly with the three movies, and released as a box set with a dvd and a soundtrack.
Radiohead, Hail to the Thief, released 9 June 2003. After their one-two weirdness of Kid A and Amnesiac, the band didn’t quite return to their previous sound but instead chose to find a middle ground between the two styles. This one’s probably my favorite of their later period and there are a lot of deep cuts on this album that I love.
Duran Duran, The Singles 81-85, released 10 June 2003. Finding singles from this band was always an adventure, considering their first few years were filled with alternate versions, dance remixes and odd b-sides, sometimes only available on import. This box set compiles every one of them up to “A View to a Kill”, and it’s a great mix.
Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers, released 10 June 2003. The third record from this band finally saw them get major airplay thanks to the “Stacy’s Mom” single, but the rest of this record is just as fun and quirky, including the fabulous album cut “All Kinds of Time” which is the best song about football I’ve ever heard.
Ambulance LTD, Ambulance LTD EP, released 17 June 2003. This band from NYC only stuck around for a couple of years before vanishing, but what they put out was a couple of records full of wonderfully understated indie rock. They’re definitely one of those ‘oh, that band! I remember them!’ groups, but they’re well worth checking out.
Michelle Branch, Hotel Paper, released 24 June 2003. I didn’t actually own this album, but I did own its lead single “Are You Happy Now” which I thought was an excellent eff-you pop song that wasn’t sung by Alanis Morissette. Definitely a change from her previous poppier singles.
Liz Phair, Liz Phair, released 24 June 2003. You either loved or hated her, and I think I started with indifference (her 90s single “Supernova” got way overplayed on WFNX), but over the years I’d grown to enjoy her work.
Coming up next: summer songs and mixtapes