The Personals


Okay, I’m a 27-year-old, half-Mexican, half-white straight/single
woman and I do need a hook on this beat, thank you. 2003 was the
year I began: 1. DJing, and 2. Blogging. As my friend Joe Gross put
it, “Djing is the new playing bass in a shitty rock band.” Writing
for a weblog is obviously the new “starting a fanzine,” except the
two are so inextricably connected, along with 3. Downloading music,
which made the DJs and the blogs so much better, archival,
anthemic. More information is good, not bad. Downloading music
would be the new “fucking the system,” except the RIAA is already
totally screwed.

Julianne Shepherd

Portland, Oregon

My name is Nate and I live in St. Paul Minnesota and am 26 years
old. I like sports cars and Rey Mysterio and girls and Drunken
and convoluted portmanteaus. My favorite kind of music is
a tie between the kind that uses notes and the kind that uses
beats, though the kind that uses both is super and best. I write
for City Pages (Mpls/St. Paul) and Seattle Weekly and Red Flag
Media and a blog that lots of Googlers looking for the word
“hipster” stumble into. I’m glad that rock is back because I look
kind of stupid throwing devil horn hand signals at Aesop Rock
shows. Oh, hell, I look kind of stupid no matter what.

Nate Patrin

St. Paul, Minnesota

I felt pretty lucky this year: the Bay Area music scene was
politically charged, crazy-active, noisy and gossipy, even. I might
have had something to do with the latter but I can’t be held
responsible for the rest of the lovable mess. Panic-rock poobahs
wormed their way into Chinatown dice bars. Afterhours clubs
throbbed like bad hangovers. Cross-disciplinary comminglings sexed
up art galleries, warehouses, and house parties. Afterward everyone
had a cigarette outside; I had a Diet Coke. I like to think it was
all the happy, lingering fallout of the dot-com boom, which
attracted creative types from all over the country a few eventful
years ago—and left a few with half a brain. And then there was the
regular influx of short-timers. All were welcome and all united to
back the Green Party’s bass-playing mayoral candidate and everyday
indie-boy Matt Gonzalez.

Kimberly Chun

San Francisco, California

Madeline Adams (#3 album) is an 18-year-old girl from Athens, GA
who barely anybody has heard of except for my friends and I (she’s
the younger sister of my buddy Carter) and Mike Mills of R.E.M.,
who allegedly tried to make out with her after one of her gigs.
Madeline plays acoustic guitar and sings, and on this album, her
friend Alex adds some percussion. Listening to her wide, innocent
soprano, I realize why our culture is so obsessed with staying
young: because youth can be so stunning, so full of hope, so
capable of creating beauty.

Amy Phillips


I want to call my emo band Smash Your Head on the Dashboard. This
is after me and my friend Amy Salit start our all-girl Jewish punk
band Burning Bush and our all-girl Afghanistani band She-had.

Sara Sherr

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The utter brattiness of “Stacy’s Mom” makes it more fun than any of
us should admit to—and for women of a certain age, it can also add
a little smugness as the freefall of age anxiety is foisted onto
your plate. Rather than swallow, turn this baby up–and bite back.

Holly Gleason

Nashville, Tennessee

I’m still a gay Caucasian male, now 36 and partnered, living and
working in Seattle. I took a pretty big hit, in terms of (critical)
writing gigs, in 2003, so in addition to my DJ career I now
supplement my income with a part time job at an indie record store.
My writing currently appears in No Depression, The Stranger,
Time Out New York, Boston Pheonix, Flaunt, and The
. I’m currently working on a new book proposal and a radio
show pilot—hopefully 2004 is going to be a more prosperous year! Xoxox, El Toro

Kurt B. Reighley

Seattle, Washington

Country Music Magazine senior editor from ’99 to July ’03, when
it was closed by its corporate owners. Now freelancer, writes for
Nashville Scene, L.A. Times, No Depression, Country Music
, other magazines/weeklies. White male, 47, married, father
of two.

Michael McCall

Nashville, Tennessee

I suspect in reading the winning Top 50, my eyes will glaze over in
befuddlement. “I never heard of any of these motherfuckers.”

I have grown old.

But I feel young.

Chip Stern


I have to admit I spent many hours in the past year listening to
dead white guys. No, I don’t mean Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon
(although I listened to them, too). I mean a little classical music
there, kids. Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky, Bartok: The
last frontier for an aging rock critic. Of course, none of those
guys had a new album out last year, at least as far as I know. So
I did the next best thing: I tried to vote only for artists who
were either already dead or older than me, and I am getting pretty
old for this gig. Fela, Zevon, Waylon; gone, gone, gone. Emmylou,
Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Crusaders, Ibrahim Ferrer; all eligible for
membership in AARP, or getting really damn close. I did vote for
Black Eyed Peas, which was too much fun to leave off (hey, I am not
dead yet), and Roy Hargrove, who combines an old soul with a young

Rick Mitchell

Houston, Texas

Johnny Cash didn’t shot anyone in Reno, but he imagined he could.
Just to watch him die. Some redneck Goethe who couldn’t imagine a
crime of which he wasn’t capable. A walkin’ contradcition, partly
truth and partly fiction, his buddy Kristofferson called him. If he
was damned so be it—he could ask for forgiveness, but he’d never
take his salvation for granted. Johnny Cash always stood with
humanity, flawed and hurt and hopeful.

Philip Martin

Little Rock, Arkansas

Johnny Cash. Rest in peace, you old weird American monument head.
I loved you. But can I tell you something in strict confidence,
Johnny? I’m kinda glad you passed before they could prop you up and
hand you the lyrics to “Oops I Did It Again.”

Scott Seward

Tisbury, Massachusetts

Like most people, I’d anticipated Johnny Cash’s passing for a long
time. It was when June Carter Cash died unexpectedly–the media
accounts alone had been heartbreaking enough, husband Johnny at her
bedside in the hospital, sending out a request to everyone to
please pray for her recovery–that I found myself pondering life
and death, however. I just couldn’t shake the mental image of
Johnny sitting in his Tennessee home, alone in the dark, grieving
for June, maybe asking himself some of the same questions we were
asking. He was the hard-living one, right? The one with the recent
health problems? The impossibly frail-looking man in that video of
“Hurt”? The one who was supposed to go first? And I thought of my
mother, upstairs in her room, alone with her TV shows, in the weeks
after my father died. Did she ask any questions? Did she get any
answers? Is that why she came to accept death with such grace and

Fred Mills

Wadesboro, North Carolina

Despite what her justifiably proud husband said in his last
autobiography, June Carter Cash was never one of the greats of
country music. She had, however, have one of the great American
lives. She co-wrote the indelible “Ring of Fire.” She flirted with
Elvis Presley and dated James Dean and studied acting under Lee
Strasberg. If she hadn’t wrung the drugs out of Cash and saved him
for the rest of us, she might have developed her cornpone Little
Junie Carter act and given Minnie Pearl a run for her money. She
made the right choice.

Werner Trieschmann

Little Rock, Arkansas

Best New South: Bubba Sparxxx

Best Old South: Al Green

Best Really Old South: Geeshie Wiley (on Yazoo’s The Best There
Ever Was

Best South London: Basement Jaxx

Best Southern Canada: Buck 65 (from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia)

Best Southern Rock: Drive-By Truckers

Best Cover by a Southerner: Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”

Todd Kristel

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gone but not forgotten: Tony Thompson.

Forgotten but not gone: Metallica.

Rob Sheffield

Brooklyn, New York

It almost seemed scripted that, so soon before Bush’s go-it-alone
war, we should lose Mister Rogers, the last beautiful American.
Hey, he was a singer-songwriter to—and as far as “Won’t You Be My
Neighbor,” “Tree, Tree, Tree,” and all the rest go, we’ve seen
worse material for boxed sets, and will again.

Adam McGovern

Mount Tabor, New Jersey

I’m 33, married, and have a two-year-old son. I saw Finding Nemo
34 times this year, more times than I heard any record.

Dylan Hicks

Minneapolis, Minnesota

At #9, I have The Cheetah Girls, but really I don’t know anything
about the album, just the single, “Cinderella.” It’s been in the
Top Three of the Radio Disney Nightly Countdown for weeks now,
mostly in the top spot. You’d know this, too, if you had an eight-
year-old daughter with a voracious, encyclopedic, catholic taste in
music, not excluding the sounds of her generation. “Cinderella” is
a deliciously catchy pop tune, like nearly everything on Radio
Disney; like “So Yesterday,” like “Holes,” and, like, so on. And
the lyrics are protofeminist: “I don’t wanna be like
Cinderella/Sittin’ in a dark cold dusty cellar/Waitin’ for
somebody/To come and rescue me/I’d rather rescue myself.” Now, a
doting dad like me probably reads more meaning into this than my
daughter and her third-grade friends, who don’t need a song to tell
them how to act. One day I.m picking up my kid and one of her
friends and they drop this on one of their male classmates who is
standing there. Girl: “Hey, why do boys like smart girls?” Boy:
“Uuuhhhh.” Other Girl: “Opposites attract.” And they walk away
without even laughing, leaving the befuddled moax knowing he’s been
punked but unable to sort out the details.

Bart Becker

Seattle, Washington

“Yeah, yeah,” folks snort about Amy Rigby, “raindrops keep falling
on her head.” But you can’t convince me that she knows less about
the look of love than you-know-who. And is there another major
songwriter in the history of rock who’s been so consistently dead-
on and neglected? Amy’s a great one because the thing in her songs
that seems like fatalism actually evinces more hope, charity and
non-religious faith than you’d find in the Bible. Makes me wonder
if midlife ambivalence is too much for our allegedly aging
population to deal with.

K. Leander Williams

Brooklyn, New York

If Fever to Tell was my new girlfriend, Liz Phair was an ex I
hadn’t seen in awhile who’s superficially so different from when
I last saw her (she’s totally tarted up and her new boyfriend looks
like he’s actually upwardly mobile and probably has nothing
interesting to say, oh fuck you Liz I bet you’re secretly miserable
now that you’ve entered the real world) that it took me a long
time to realize that she’s happier and more confident then I’ve
ever seen her before. Sure her cynicism and bluntness was a lot
more attractive when, like, she was in love with me, but if I
actually stop thinking about myself for a second, I have to admit
that she’s way too frikkin’ cool for me to be so possessive. I
always feel awkward saying that having cool ex-girlfriends is,
fuck, for the lack of a better word, educational. But in all
reality I’m just lucky to know someone this honest, funny and

Anthony Miccio

State College, Pennsylvania

Living Things, who recorded the year’s best hard rock song, and
whose very good album might never come out now since the advance
says “DreamWorks” on it, are actually three young brothers from St.
Louis whose ’60s radical Dylan-and-Neil-Young-fan mom useta slide
Malcolm X and Chomsky books down the chute to the basement ever
since they were 11 years old, and she’d only let them have a band
if all their songs had political messages. If they learned a
cover tune, they’d have to change its words, even. In Metal Edge
they said they read newspapers front to back every day, and are
planning a national tour to let kids know why the Patriot Act is so
dangerous. I hope they still get to do it.

Chuck Eddy

Brooklyn, New York

This year I won’t rant and rave about the destruction that is
Dubya. We all know what we having to do on Election Day. I would
like to point out, however, that Sweden’s Katatonia made the best
rock and roll album of the year and that all of you Wilco-loving
motherfuckers who have never heard of them should be ashamed of
yourselves. What are you afraid of? Does the heavy metal font of
their band logo scare you? Are you afraid of sweet little Swedish
boys? What are you, a big baby? What if I told you it sounded
exactly like the Byrds? Then would you buy it? Well it does, yeah,
and um, it sounds like the Band too! Just like the Band! You
probably will buy it now, you unadventurous moron. Yeah, you! The
one in the corner waiting for another friggin’ Big Star reunion.
Why don’t you go write the gardening column, pal? Yer dead to me.
No, but seriously, it’s a great album.

Scott Seward

Tisbury, Massachusetts

I could have given 90 points to Erase Errata, because even though
their album was not my most listened to of the year I feel like
they are the only band in a long time that has galvanized the
people, shook some shit up, and made us content with what we are
all so afraid of,
which as I see it is adventure and giving the
consumerist impulse a mouthful of dirty snow. The consumerist
impulse dictate that if we do not obey it, an icicle will penetrate
our hearts and we will be doomed for all eternity to never get laid
and will be forced to accept that we have flat/lumpu butts and are
not friends with the Strokes.

Jessica Hopper

Chicago, Illinois

Calexico: Feast of Wire. Visitors from places covered with trees
and high buildings always surprise me with their awe of the desert.
Invariably they frame their response in terms of beauty. How blue
the sky! How grand the mountains! Having lived here most of my life
I see through their struggles with the vocabulary. The desert? It’s
hideous, mishapen. It’s awkward and gangly, its colors faded by the
endless, cruel sun. The mountains don’t sit for their postcard
pictures, they loom, insolent, abiding until we leave this place.
The desert will kill you in its broad, glaring spaces. And it is
beautiful, beyond words.

Linda Ray

Tucson, Arizona

Buck 65 felt like the record of the year from the first play. The
beats seem so right. His one little sample jumps right out at you.
And the words—I never listen to words, but I find myself hanging
on every line. Everyone I’ve played it for loves it. When my
sister-in-law finally finished her college math requirement my
nephew came back quoting Buck 65: “I don’t ever have to cut my hair
or do math again.”

Tom Hull

Wichita, Kansas

Kid Rock’s latest displays a Dixie-fried dandy aesthete still at
war with himself, tentative about his artistic moves due to an
innate fear born of years of taunting by idiots and ingrates, and
yet valiantly determined to be simultaneously true to the Africa
and Dixiana he has loved all his life. Kid Rock—single father,
classic rock standard-bearer (like Aragorn, the ghost of a million
Led Zeppelin song fragments), Coors-chugging badass redneck hip-hop
son of the Motor City—does not believe in “separate but equal,”
personally or professionally, so bless his heart, as they say in
the Southland.

Kandia Crazy Horse


I took up substitute teaching last year, while waiting around for
graduate school to start. One day I was assigned to high
school/grade school music class. For the latter, I wound up cutting
short the vague lesson plan to play jazz (seven-year-olds dig Dizzy
Gillespie, Sketches of Spain not so much, although they enjoy
hearing of Max Roach playing jazz clubs with when he was about
their age) and quiz them on their favorite music. There were some
Hilary Duff fans and one tiny, angelic blonde who declared her
favorite song was “the `Hey ho let’s go’ one from the car
commercial,” but the vast majority were hip-hop fans–not for the
beats or the rhymes or the message but “because of the dirty words”
or, more often, “because I like the rapper.”

Lissa Townsend Rodgers


It all got a bit ridiculoid when 7L and Esoteric’s long-running
battle-rap beef with Cage and Copywrite spilled out to throw barbs
at Cannibal Ox. Vast Aire spat back, and the next thing you know
Can Ox producer/underground space-beat kingpin El-P is poking his
head into Aesop Rock’s album to say hi on “We’re Famous.” “This is
for all those super-scientifical geniuses turned underground thug
who think hip-hop is dead but can’t get their fuckin’ style outta
’94—point to us like we’re not hip-hop.” Enter the Blade
Runner/Akira remix of the “Grindin'” beat, and four minutes of Last
Real Indie Rapper Alive fury, and a couple of fiercely obtuse
verses from Aes later the beef has carved a deep schism in the
post-Rawkus rap world. Subsequently, we were treated to the supreme
ironies of an MC called Esoteric mocking the “nerd rap” of “Def
Sux” and “Gaysop Rock” (damn, settle down, Beavis) and El-P
barking mockeries of Dangerous Connection‘s poor unit-shifting
over the same “Vital Nerve” beat he once spat “when sales control
status I place no faith in the majority” over.

Nate Patrin

St. Paul, Minnesota

I had drinks with Meltzer New Year’s Eve, and all of a sudden he
says, “Can I eat your pussy?”

I’m a bit shocked, pause, say, “Of course you can, but may

“May I eat your pussy?”

Viva Las Vegas

Portland, Oregon