In lieu of holiday cards that I am horrible at selecting, and which tend to linger on my desktop rather than make their way to a mailing, and seeing that music is the best expression of celebration, what better way to wrap up the year than a compilation. So that’s what I did for my friends an family this year.
I am hesitant to say that this is representative of my thoughts on the top 10 albums released this year, though several fit that description, more it is a sampling of my favorite releases of this year, in no particular order or ranking. This is followed by a selection of songs from albums reissued this year and wrapped up with a smattering of songs from bands that have reunited for tour this year, or in the case of the Feelies, announced their intent to reunite.
Luna-“Speedbumps”; Rendezvous, Jetset 2004. Luna is hands-down my favorite band, and Speedbumps is the most frenetic and addictive off of their swan song, Rendezvous.
Aloha- “Summer Away”; Here Comes Everyone, Polyvinyl Record Co. 2004. Simple rock arrangements and discernible pop hooks laced with a dose of vibes and restrained longing for youth.
Camera Obscura- “Keep It Clean”; Underachievers Please Try Harder, Merge Records 2004. Hailing from Glasgow and embracing the textures of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Camera Obscura has made a home on my ipod hot list. “Keep It Clean” showcases the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry- Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra styling of its lead songwriters.
The Arcade Fire- “Neighborhood 1”; Funeral, Merge Records 2004. Believe the hype. This is the first band (since Luna) to catch me uttering profanities out of shear amazement. Seriously. Holy Effing Fill In the Blank. I screamed myself speechless.
Calexico- “Alone Again Or”; Convict Pool EP, Quarterstick Records 2004. Technically an EP, assuredly a cover (Love) but an incredible offering from Tucson’s finest. Sonorant, decked with conversing trumpets and topped-off by Joey Burns’ tenor and John Covertino’s smooth command of the throne.
Fiery Furnaces- “Chris Michaels”; Blueberry Boat, Rough Trade 2004. Almost a rock-opera, the weaving of different musical parts alongside apt storytelling make the sophomore release of Brooklyn-based brother-sister duo Fiery Furnaces a top contender of many critics year end lists. Where did your for lunchtime go?
AC Newman- “Drink to Me Babe Then”; The Slow Wonder, Matador 2004. Frontman for indie supergroup the New Pornographers follows up last years most excellent Electric Version with his first solo effort- chock-full of stellar songwriting and rock candy structure.
Death From Above 1979- “Romantic Right”, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine Vice 2004. Noise rock at its screeching metal best. Danceable odes to frustration and angst. Perhaps the best act on the Vice label.
Blonde Redhead- “Falling Man”, Misery Is A Butterfly, 4AD 2004. Biggest musical surprise of the year. Band transitioned from noise rock to sweeping, orchestral mood music. Almost indefinable but definitely incredible.
Franz Ferdinand- “Take Me Out”, Franz Ferdinand, Domino 2004. I almost didn’t want to include this, what with the MTV2 and the hype and all. But gosh darn, it is down right addictive. It’s even my ringtone.
Galaxie 500- “Blue Thunder (w/Sax)”, Uncollected, Rykodisc 2004. Seminal shoegazer band Galaxie 500 entered this year with a career-spanning DVD, “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste”. To follow the frenzy, Uncollected, which was originally packaged only in the hard-to-obtain box set. Full of covers, demo takes and rarities it is a completists dream. Blue Thunder appears in this version with sax solo, a version originally procured from the 12inch single. Haunting, shattering and perfect. I’d drive so far away.
Talking Heads- “Stay Hungry”, The Name of This Band Is the Talking Heads, Rhino 2004. David Byrne, et al commanded a lot of playtime on my first Sony. I credit this song, and Tina Weymouth’s infectious and urgent bass line with convincing me to save for a fender four string.
Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico- “Pale Blue Eyes”, Bataclan 72, Pilot 2004. A lo-fi unplugged version of one of my favorite Velvets songs from a pre-solo Paris show. Beautifully simplistic, who can argue- “Down for you is up”.
Pavement- “Cut Your Hair”, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Matador 2004. Pavement was a band that I had to my own in high school. My friends, a group of equally obsessed music fanatics, skirted the shoals of industrial and mope rock, while I danced closer the edge of indie. Malkmus convinced me that college boys could be punk too.
The Go-Betweens- “The House that Jack Kerouac Built”, Tallulah, Jetset 2004. The Go-Betweens were always just under the radar, despite having an arsenal of tunes that threatened to launch them into relative notoriety. Critics adore them, and for good reason- they are quite the gem. Former bassist Rob Vickers now run’s Jetset records and had re-issued the band’s middle catalog this November.
Songs from bands reuniting in ‘04 (In part or whole)
Feelies- “Higher Ground”; Only Life, Coyote 1988. The Feelies just may be the best thing to ever come from New Jersey. Reuniting sans Bill Million these Maxwell’s mainstays create intricately woven tapestries of sound with frantic drumming and wailing guitars. Higher Ground is a glimpse at their hookier soft side.
Mission of Burma- “Progress”; The Wasted Years. Always intense and captivating, and always loud MOB were a great cult band that is finally getting proper attention this go-around. I swear that seeing their reunion tour prior to On/Off/On, coupled with seeing the Stooges reunited had me shaking that those men could rock as hard as they did when they were my age.
Pixies- “Broken Face”; The Purple Tape. 2004 is the year of the Pixies. ‘Nuff said.