2003 was a strange year for music. It is a year lacking a dominate trend with the only exception being garage rock, still burning fuel from the prior year. Radiohead, The Strokes and other critical faves released new mammoth albums. Out of nowhere several artists such as Evanescence, 50 Cent and yes, even Hillary Duff, debuted to post tremendous album sales. And somewhere else new bands Jet, Brand New, Soul Position and From Ashes Rise as well as mainstay favorites Tomahawk, Ween, Kid Koala, Jay Z and Belle and Sebastian released absolutely stellar albums. For the first time it almost was scary to be a music fan on account of the RIAAâ€šÃ„Ã´s mass lawsuits against music fans uploading MP3â€šÃ„Ã´s. We hung our heads good and long for the loss not only of Warren Zevon but also for Johnny Cash himself and too many more to be named.So there was much loss, but also much gained. As with any year, many bands’ debuts or sophomore albums showed lackluster results (See: Korn, John Mayer or Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man), but many were awe-inspiring. Yes, for every pretentious self-titled “more serious” album from Blink 182 and Kid Rock, there was seemingly as many quality records from hard-working challenging musical talents. Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s conveyed here in our first ever album of the year list: quality music from around the musical map. Everything from dark progressive melodic metal, to blip-hop folktronica-emo, to countrifried bluesy garage rock. Most importantly, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s made by bands or artists of true vision and passion. They may have little in common musically from selection to selection on this list, but all the artists here show how much can be accomplished with the right combination of drive and ingenuity. The top 2 in particular highlight how simple and pure an album can be, yet boast an astounding dynamic song range and also how complex and well assembled an album can be and still have that same sense of vision and range. So congratulations are in order for these 5 albums, selected and voted on by the entire mxdwn.com staff.