By Garth Paulson

Picking a single best album for any year is a daunting, if not impossible, task. Sometimes it even seems slightly pointless. There is so much music out there that missing a great deal of it is inevitable. The truth about music is there will always be a few albums that are obviously amazing; it’s picking one album out of this pool that becomes difficult.

It’s quite hard to actually compare and quantify the difference in greatness between the bombastic attack of The Constantines’ Shine a Light and The Be Good Tanyas’ ultra-mellow but undeniably beautiful Chinatown. It’s also quite hard to compare Calexico to anything.

Feast of Wire finds this ridiculously talented band at its finest. Calexico explores everything from alt-country to dub to indie rock to jazz to spaghetti western-inspired songs with an ease that is just baffling. Unlike many bands, Calexico can seamlessly pull off just about anything they want on a single album without it sounding jumbled and incoherent.

The songs on Feast of Wire are usually complex, layered numbers where just about any instrument is fair game: accordions, cuatros, cellos, mandolins, banjos, organs, pedal steel guitars, mariachi trumpets, flutes, trombones and violins all strikingly complement the usual guitars, bass and drums.

But Calexico isn’t some inaccessible math rock band. One of the strongest moments of the album is the stripped down "Not even Stevie Nicks…" which relies on little more than some first-class-of-guitar-lessons acoustic strumming and frontman Joey Burns’ emotion-filled vocals.

So is Feast of Wire the undeniable best of album of 2003? Probably not, but it is an album that anyone who truly appreciates good music should have in their collection.

Runners up:

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros–Streetcore

The Be Good Tanyas–Chinatown