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Cursive's The Ugly Organ
Cursive front man Tim Kasher wrote what basically is a first-person rock opera about the turmoil between himself and his organs (heart, cock, etc.). He called the album The Ugly Organ. Not only is it the best rock album -- make that hard-rock album -- I heard all year, but it's also an evolutionary leap forward for Cursive, which added a cellist, Gretta Cohn, to its lineup for this record. Listen to Cursive's last full-length, Domestica, and The Ugly Organ consecutively and you'll hear a story of true love lost, the hunt to replace it with superficial pleasures, the subsequent self-loathing, and weary resignation to the fact that none of it is supposed to make sense. -- B.J.K.

Assembling songs: Ohia and the Palm Springs windmills
Driving back from Los Angeles in February, I approached Palm Springs in the blanched gold of a winter sundown. The fearsome windmills pulsed with light. I picked up my mini-DV and started filming out the passenger window, eyes on the road ahead. The self-conscious proletarianism of songs: Ohia on the stereo, incongruous in the land of roads named for Bob Hope, kept pace with each blade, making for a strangely perfect soundtrack. The tape plays like a country music video on another, better planet. -- C.B.

The video for "Crazy in Love"
After years of thinking I was a leg man or a jugger nut, I may now have to renew my passport to reflect the change to "butt aficionado," thanks to Beyoncé's ass-idious video for "Crazy in Love." You'd have to go back to Dana Carvey's spoof of George Michael to see so many "cut-to-the-butt" shots. But after reading about her diet secrets, I'm losing sleep worrying she might do something crazy, you know, like eat a box of raisins or something. And you'll note I haven't even used the word "booty-licious" once! D'oh! -- S.D.

Creed and limpbizkit get sued by their fans
Perhaps this was the healthiest trend of 2003: fans suing bands for subpar performances. Though we suppose non-Creed fans should also be allowed to file suit for all the mental anguish they've suffered over the years. While that case was dismissed (Scott Stapp covered his ass by heaving "one last breath" before passing out), limpbizkit got served for ducking out of a show early. If a judge grants the case class-action status, it would allow Metallica fans who heckled Fred Durst to receive cash compensation. Here's the real question we're left with: Can people sue right-to-die crusaders Hell on Earth if they perform a show and someone doesn't commit suicide? -- S.D.

The Coup reissues Steal This Double Album
The reissues we really need are for the desaparecidos like this 1998 masterpiece from Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress. "Cars and Shoes" is still hilarious, "Underdogs" still the best social realism ballad in hip-hop. New material makes the second coming better than the first; the show in Eugene, Oregon, on the second disc proves the Coup can thrive onstage when most of their brethren can't. Best of all is the extra studio track "Swervin'," anchored by stutter-step percussion and Boots' dissection of American hypocrisy: "Is this a War on Drugs or just my community?" -- C.B.

The Clean's Anthology
A teenage New Zealand trio launched in 1979, The Clean rode the first wave of international pop underground, beat Sonic Youth to the live psychedelic drone 10K relays and, despite a quarter-century of underappreciation and break-ups-to-make-ups, seem philosophically unaffected by indie's sense of secondhand self-defeatism. Merge's two-CD comp bests the '86 Homestead collection by including 16 more years of reverberating lo-fi majesty, catchy yelps, and the promises that anything could happen, any time, and that the choice is yours. Om! -- P.O.

Calling Shelby Lynne?
Three years ago, I couldn't have called Nashville refugee Shelby Lynne without weed-whacking my way through a thicket of handlers determined to keep an air of mystery about a singer who finally won an audience with the ironically titled I Am Shelby Lynne. This year, I just called her up one day at her house -- and she told me she wished I hadn't. There's not much mystery to Lynne's 2003 volley Identity Crisis -- just stripped-down country and gospel and a production number that Lynne bets Patsy Cline would've loved. Recorded at home, it might be the year's most guileless record. Why does no one seem to care? -- M.W.

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