I am on a roll here, aren’t I? In addition to the mouthy wrap-up of my Chicago trip, I also posted another small tidbit of fiction below. I’m inviting anyone and everyone to post their opinion about it, I’d be quite anxious to know if you think it’s good or if it sucks. I can take the criticism. No really, I can.

Anyway, you got a Chicago wrap-up, you got some fiction, and now, from the home office in Maynard, MA, I offer you my top-ten albums of 2003. To steal the thunder of my friend Dave Klug, rave on…..

1. Tim Easton, “Break Your Mother’s Heart” – the guy just keeps getting better and better. At some point, he’ll get to the point where he crashes head-on into the “good” wall and can’t go any further or do any better. “Poor Poor L.A.” might be my song of the year.

2. Drive By Truckers, “Decoration Day” – This is the album I’ve been waiting for from these guys since I first heard them. I remember getting a CD from them back in the Tar Hut days and I specifically remember thinking to myself “Patterson Hood’s got a great voice.” Boy, have they come a long way since then. What an excellent batch of songs. “Outfit” is quite an emotional song if you think about it for a few minutes.

3. Sloan, “Action Pact” – this was released only in Canada in 2003 (no U.S. release yet) but I don’t care. At some point, my current favorite band in the world will get the respect and attention they deserve. “Action Pact” is, yet again, an almost entire set of unstoppable power pop, filled with gooey hooks and not one, not two, but three great singers. I believe it now more than I did before – I’ll take the last few Sloan albums over any Cheap Trick album anyday. Okay, I might keep “In Color” over “Pretty Together.”

4. Graham Lindsey, “Famous Anonymous Wilderness” – at first listen, you might flick this CD like a frisbee into your pile of records and write it off as a Dylan wanna-be. But don’t. Please, I beg you, do not do that. Lindsey, without a doubt, wears some of the Dylan speak-sing on his sleeve, but he can write a song. God damn, he can write a song. Buy this album. Right now.

5. Kathleen Edwards, “Failer” – I am not a sexist, I promise. For whatever reason, I’m just not terribly fond of many female singers. I’m also not incredibly fond of many Rounder releases, but that’s another story entirely. Edwards’s talent is too much for me to ignore and this album was the surprise find of the year. A delight to listen to. Imagine me in my James Lipton voice saying to Kathleen Edwards: “YOU are a deLIGHT!”

6. The Tyde, “Twice”– What a surpise this was. My good buddy Dave Klug sent me this one day and I listened to it and thought “hmmmm….not bad.” Four months later I went to see The Pernice Brothers and King Radio at The Paradise in Boston, and The Tyde was slotted in between. Hoo-boy did they rock! They also have a sweet Japanese keyboard player with her hair down to her butt. The Beach Boys kinda meet Pavement. I went back and listened to the album again and now I’m a fan. A big fan. The album is, front to back, loaded with great music. Hated Beachwood Sparks. Love The Tyde.

7. The Autumn Defense, “Circles” – take two of my favorite 1970s bands (Bread and Big Star), put them all on stage and abracadabra – you’ve got yourself The Autumn Defense. All hail Pat Sansone. Oh yeah, there’s that Stiratt dude, too. But after seeing them live last weekend in Chicago in what turned out to by my favorite show of 2003, this band is ALL Sansone’s. I am now trying to secure everything Sansone has put to tape. What’s that? You say he sung in the 2nd grade Christmas play? Get me the fucking tape. Now.

8. Kings of Leon, “Youth and Young Manhood” – whooo! Some good old-fashioned, fun rock and roll with a little twist, just a tiny smidgen of ’60s blues (Stones-like Blues?) thrown in. Love the long hair. Love the voice. Love the album. Love that there’s a band called Kings of Leon.

9. The Wrens, “The Meadowlands” – I don’t know much about the Wrens. They haven’t out out an album in like 42 years or something. All I know is that this jangly, indie-rock 13 song set of near-perfection keeps sticking in my head as much as eggs stick to the pan when I forget to use the Calphalon. “Ex-Girl Collection” is also a great name for a song.

10. The Darkness, “Permission to Land” – Finally. The combination of Queen and Def Leppard that I’ve been waiting for since…..I was born. Long live bombast. Oh yeah, they’re kidding, sure, but don’t let it fool you – they play every note with precision and talent and as a bonus, the lead singer wears a leotard. It don’t get any better than that. It probably does, actually.

Song now playing: The Wrens, “13 Months in Six Minutes”