This was the year that DVD-Audio, which takes full advantage of the sonic and visual capabilities of DVD technology, began to attract attention beyond serious audiophiles. Such best-selling albums as OutKast's "Stankonia," Sheryl Crow's "The Globe Sessions," and Usher's "8701" made their debuts in this high-resolution format with sterling 5.1 surround sound. (Though a 5.1 Digital Dolby mix is available via DVD players, a player with specific DVD-Audio capabilities is required for the high-resolution tracks.) Although DVD-Audio discs aren't yet as plentiful as standard CDs, the slow but steady rollout of new titles will continue with releases from Beck, Neil Young, and Alicia Keys. Here's the best of 2003:
1. Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" (Warner) If, in their short history, high-resolution recordings have a killer application, this remarkable disc -- exultant, enveloping music, with a bevy of bonus materials -- is it. Beautifully conceived and masterfully executed.
2. Big Phat Band, "XXL" (Silverline) As with the Flaming Lips', this disc uses all the ear-teasing wonders of surround sound technology and has lots of cool extras.
3. Frank Sinatra "Sinatra at the Sands With Count Basie & the Orchestra" (Reprise) It's Frank at his swingin' best, and the sound reproduction is so authentic you can practically hear the ice tinkling in the drinks.
4. The Beach Boys, "Pet Sounds" (EMI Capitol) Some quibbled that this disc, one of the greatest pop albums ever, failed to fully realize its surround sound mix. Whatever. You'll get chills all over again listening to Brian Wilson's bittersweet pop symphony.
5. Barenaked Ladies "Everything to Everyone" (Reprise) The jokey nature of these clever Canadians sometimes masks their solid musicianship, which is captured in all its warmth and abundance. Lots of bonus material, including a filmed acoustic concert.
6. Megadeth, "Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying? (DTS Entertainment) Big, bruising '80s metal never sounded so glorious. Also noteworthy: two videos and a "play-long" version of "Devil's Island."
7. Various, Sound in Color/
MU.SIC presents "Pixelated Pulse" (Myutopia) For anyone who still believes electronica is too distant and alien, this kaleidoscope of sound and movement will inspire both heart and hips.
8. R.E.M., "Document" (EMI-Capitol) One of R.E.M.'s best albums gets a first-class remix, but the topper here is that it rovides synched, on-screen lyrics, so you can sing along with the tongue-twisting "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)."
9. The Band, "Music From Big Pink" (EMI-Capitol) Skimpy on extras, but this great group was always about the purity of its music, as evidenced on this 1968 classic. Includes "The Weight," "I Shall Be Released," and "Tears of Rage."
10. Led Zeppelin, "How the West Was Won" (Warner/Atlantic) Bonzo's gone, so there won't be a true Zeppelin reunion. This set is as close as you'll get to the power and joy of Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham in their prime.