Best Albums of 2003!

363 days before everybody else!

AUGIE
The year 2002 was a big, vicious circle for Augie. The Santa Ana-based emo trio put the recording life on hold in favor of seeking paying gigs to raise money for studio time. But big venues don't take kindly to demo-less acts, so Augie's 2002 tour of OC's prettiest back yards was a forced, rather than deliberate, choice. Both musical fronts are still looking dim for the working-class gals; their last concert was at a quinceañera in front of perplexed elders. So here's hoping the gently grandiose drumming of María Pastrana, the soothing rhythm section of little sis Dianna and Cathy Phan's weeping (but never wimpy) leads of both the guitar and vocal variety are finally burned onto a disc, which would be their guaranteed get-out-of-quinceañeras-free card. Where's a girl-group Svengali when you need one? (Gustavo Arellano)

C. CHARLES BOWDEN
Last year was bittersweet for this Long Beach native, whose alterna-country group Other Desert Cities released their excellent eponymous debut, only to have the band break up shortly after. Bowden has no immediate music plans as he decides whether to embark on a solo trek or create a new band (or even join another band as a session player). But the LBC's own Woody Guthrie is so talented, his voice and lyrics such capsules of redemptive heartache, that whatever he releases this year with whoever should surely enrich the region's flaccid roots scene. (GA)BUCHANAN
Jay Buchanan
Photo by Jack Gould

March or April should finally see a new album from Jay Buchanan's band, Buchanan. We know what you're thinking—"You mean like Nelson and Winger and Bon Jovi, where they go and name the band after the front guy?" Yeah, but in this case, Buchanan are actually listenable, which you know if you've been reading the Weekly long enough. And the album's on a kinda-big label, too, the William Morris Agency-co-owned Ultimatum, currently mining airplay out of Sugarcult. Here's what else we know: it's a mix of older fan favorites such as "Reborn," "Satan Is a Woman" and "American Son" with newer tunes even we've never heard before; it was produced by Don Gehman, who got famous doing all those huge '80s John Mellencamp records; and there appears to be enough cash floating around to let the band quit their day jobs and do music full-time. Yo, Jay! Don't forget us on the way up! (Rich Kane)ENJAMBRE
Unlike most local bands, Enjambre worry not about financing because their manager is Latin-alternative avatar Javier Castellanos of JC Fandango fame. He currently has them locked in a studio, tweaking what will be their debut album (slated for release in the middle of the year). Only one question (with two subparts): Why? Why keep the quartet holed-up until summer, depriving us of their shimmering downbeats that alternate between alt.-something, punk and weird monkey marches that sound like an Easter egg from The Wizard of Oz DVD? Why delay Enjambre's addicting alchemy for months (the album's tracks are all recorded) while a slew of subpar sonic sludge from other, lesser bands has time to fester and infect OC ears? Rest assured, however, that whenever Enjambre finally wraps the album, it'll be just like their boss's nightclub—one of the best in OC, if not the nation. (GA)THE FUSE!
Technically they're from Downey, but if that's OC enough for the überlocals at Hostage Records (who nudged the Fuse! onto their surf-and-destroy punk comp Cuts: Volume 2 by changing their home address to "Downey Beach"), who are we to argue? And besides, you just can't argue with the Fuse!—they're an elemental force. This is what mods sound like in hell: it's razor-slash raw soul on a 45, the kind of overdriven manic rock & roll that's only born out of bedrooms and bars where the record collections are as artfully potent as the mixed drinks. Call it Germs Brown: we taped them live once for science's sake, and the resulting session is a fucking inferno. Singer Mars reaches right out of the speakers, grabs your pasty little paw, and makes you turn the stereo up all the way. God knows what their upcoming LP on In the Red (home of best-album-of-2002 contenders the Hunches and Reigning Sound) will do to us. We'll go with heart attacks and happy aneurysms. (Chris Ziegler)GREYBOY
Greyboy's last full-length, Mastered the Art, sounded something like Starsky and Hutch breakdancing while Shaft laid down beats framed by a backdrop of a fabulously shag-carpeted dance floor. Yet back in the land of easy metaphors, Greyboy spent most of the Clinton era (possibly the last moment in American history we'll remember as funky) telling music journalists that the acid jazz moniker they gave him was overblown. But at the same time, he did tours billed as the Greyboy Allstars, featuring such serious jazzbos as Karl Denson, even though Greyboy's work amounted mostly to spinning smooth hip-hop beats—um, they used to call that acid jazz, right? Now Greyboy has purchased a new pad in Long Beach and will be releasing a full-length on Ubiquity in April. The new angle for this untitled thang? It's singing—but not Greyboy stretching his voice box, natch. Instead, he has soulful dudes such as Bart Davenport along for the ride. Very tasty. (Andrew Asch)INNAWAY
Serious psychedelia packed with the power of a shit hammer, Innaway make you reconsider your bile-soaked, nail-spitting hate for Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd—almost, anyway. But while classic "album-oriented" rock does indeed suck, a few listens to Innaway's upcoming self-titled album makes smoking pot in a high school parking lot or during a midnight screening of Song Remains the Same just seem so right-on. Though just because their music sounds stony doesn't mean Innaway are stony people. For one thing, regular muffinheads can't organize as quickly. This six-piece band only formed and started gigging seriously in 2001, and by the time 2002 rolled over and collapsed, they were doing a residency at the Detroit Bar, usually the domain of hepster bands with lots more experience. Innaway singer Jim Schwartz says the debut full-length won't be out till September. While you wait, you'll just have to satisfy yourselves with your hookah pipe and Syd Barrett singles. (AA)SMILE
Smile have been around for a buttzillion years, but unlike that brown hairy thing in the back of your fridge, they're only getting better with time. Whereas once they were bombastic and tortured, now they're subtle, nuanced and even the slightest bit jangly. But not in some crappy-assed pussy way—in a sophisticated, Beatles-influenced, pop-with-keyboards kind of way. Singer/guitarist Mike Rosas has a way with words and melody, and thankfully, Smile haven't sacrificed the Rock. Of course, it has been a long time since they've released any new music (you have to go all the way back to 1998's Girl Crushes Boy for their last full-length), but they've busied themselves with stirring live shows and throwing MP3s up on their smilemusic.com website ("I Make the Dead" is our current favorite). "If we haven't released anything by the end of 2003, we'll kill ourselves," promises Rosas. (Alison M. Rosen)STREET TRASH
We haven't even heard note one from this mysterious shadow band, but the Orphans—the same Orphans who end every show in noxious puddles of ropy puke strands, shards of shattered glass, sizzling alcohol-reeking sweat and at least two disabled instruments (one of which is usually singer Jenny)—are simultaneously terrified by and in awe of them. Which is pretty much the same way we feel about the Orphans. So do the math. Obviously, Street Trash will make the Punk Album of the Year—if they live that long. Production note: record this live to answering-machine tape to maximize lo-fi sludge appeal; like we always say, there are certain times when worse just sounds better. (CZ)TYRANIS
Suffer for your art? Fuck the punks who had to move out because mom didn't like their haircuts—Tyranis gave up girls. They don't make auteurs as dedicated as that much anymore, and they don't make heavy metal bands like Tyranis much anymore, either. But they should: since pretend punk is slopped all over the radio, and all the suburbanites who saw 8 Mile are probably only minutes away from PayPaling big bucks to Def Jux, there aren't too many pristine refuges left for the truly alienated. Except, of course, the flayed-to-the-bone Maiden-Motorhead Brit metal the kids in Tyranis live and breathe every long-haired, denim-swathed day. Recent reports had them at the Coach House spitting on hairfarm-metal opening acts. Tyranis, don't ever change. (CZ)
 
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