Look No Further

In 2003, the best was hard to find but easy to hear

Athlete is such a British darling it has three different songs on three different made-in-the-U.K. compilations, among them the Qmagazine Best of 03disc and the Panasonic Mercury Music Prizecollection--both of which suggest there's a wealth of primo pop across the Atlantic to which we're being woefully deprived. Consider this: Most of the best albums of 2003 in the U.K. won't even be released here till 2004, among them discs from dizzying rapper Dizzee Rascal, prog-popsters Muse, moody Elbow, velvety John Cale, prefab sprout Paddy McAloon and a surprisingly awesome Starsailor, whose debut was so awful I wouldn't even give it to former pageant queens with bad attitudes.

And God knows she'd hate the best of the boots downloaded off the Web, from such still-hanging-in-there sites as www.ultra396.co.uk, www.gohomeproductions.co.uk and the assorted few that still believe in the power of the cut-and-paste. The fervor of 2001 has waned, and the flood of mash-ups has been rendered a comparative trickle--though that hasn't stopped true believers at Get Yer Bootleg On (http://gybo.proboards4.com/index.cgi) from competing in regular cutting contests, ahem. The best of the year's boots is, easily, one resulting from the Slow and Beautiful Challenge: the music from Soundgarden's "Like Suicide" and the vocals from Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" combined to make something seething and delirious and wholly unexpected, a moody metal masterpiece from a woman who probably doesn't give a folk.

The British CD single of "Stacy's Mom" featured the year's best Fountains of Wayne song--a charmingly straight version of "Trains and Boats and Planes."
The British CD single of "Stacy's Mom" featured the year's best Fountains of Wayne song--a charmingly straight version of "Trains and Boats and Planes."
The band of 2004: Athlete, whose album Vehicles & Animals wowed U.K. critics but has yet to nab American distribution
Joseph Cutlice
The band of 2004: Athlete, whose album Vehicles & Animals wowed U.K. critics but has yet to nab American distribution

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