It was a pretty fine year for music. Twenty years from now I’ll look back on 2004 and say, “Damn!” Just because it was so fine. So here’s my top 15 of the year.
15) U2- How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb… Ok, so I’m not the biggest U2 fan (for instance, Pop is my favorite album by them for crying out loud!) but this album really grew on me. There are some skippers, namely the bookend tracks, “Vertigo” and “Yahweh,” but in between is some really tight songs.
14) Kaada/Patton- Romances… A dreamy ocean of Mike Patton off-beat vocals and avant garde arrangements. An exploration of using vocals without needing lyrics.
13) Devendra Banhart- Rejoicing in the Hands and Nino Rojo… Two cds by Banhart in one year. his stuff paved the way for the freak folk’s new popularity, as exploited by magazines like Spin. Each of Banhart’s albums has high and low points… but it all feels starkly honest.
12) Eagles of Death Metal- Peace Love Death Metal… A shake your *** mix of stoner rock, country, and Elvis. So bad upon first listen… but then grows and you and has you singing the songs in the most awkward situations. Very dancable and fun.
11) Brian Wilson- Smile… This album sounds too happy to be good listening material for most of my moods. An album that’s been delayed for decades needs to have some sadness to it. However, there is no denying Wilson’s genius… it’s a pop tour de force.
10) Tom Waits- Real Gone… Waits’ voice sounds like he’s smoked cigarette after cigarette while tipping back shots of the strongest whiskey available inbetween the recording of this album. The results are about as unique as they ever are with Tom Waits.
09) mewithoutYou- Catch For Us the Foxes… This album features some of the best lyrics ever shouted, spoken, or sung. Repeated listens elevate this album from merely good to fantastic.
08) Jem- Finally Woken… This is really just fine, magnificently layered pop. The songs don’t just flirt with you… they kiss you square on the lips. Catchy and fun.
07) Brother Danielson- Brother : Son… The “solo” effort from Daniel Smith of the Danielson Famile will not appeal to haters of the Famile, but may reach a broader audience, thanks to Sufjan Stevens’ recent fame and involvement with this album (and indeed, past Famile cds), who’s banjo is all over this freak folk gem.
06) cLOUDDEAD- Ten… This cd should have been called, “How To Make The Catchiest Experimental-Pop Rap Album, Ever.” It’s so rich, sonically, but has that great pop hook. Needless to say, your average 50 Cent fan will not be amused.
05) Buddy Miller- Universal United House of Prayer… Miller, Emmylou Harris’ guitar player, has made quite a name for himself with his own solo records. This is easily the best one of the lot and the best country release of the year.
04) Bjork- Medulla… What can be said of Bjork that hasn’t been said before? This album is a study in Voice and it’s possible sounds. Sonically, it’s like swans having sex. Choral anthems, gothic chant, beatbox… its all used and mastered.
03) The Residents- WB:RMX… Taking the never-before-released tracks of the odd demo The Residents sent to Warner Bros. back in the 70s and adding modern techno beats, WB:RMX is a helluva lot better than you might think from the description. The fact that the demos have never been released before in any form makes this a must for any Residents fan… but considering how great the final product sounds makes it an interesting buy for anyone interested in music off the beaten path.
02) Sonic Youth- Sonic Nurse… Terrible album name, but the music is a great marriage of the prog-drone of “Murray Street” and the spazz pop of “Goo” and “Dirty.” I don’t know, Sonic Youth could fart in a can and I’d love it.
01) Woven Hand- Consider The Birds… Some of the best material ever written by David Eugene Edwards, of 16 Horsepower fame. Keeping more experimental nature that trademarks the Woven Hand material, while adding the dark passion of 16HP.
00) Sufjan Stevens- Seven Swans… Seven Swans is amazing. Stevens doesn’t write songs… he composes them. It’s delicate, layered folk that sooths without being sleepy. Each note is meticulously placed without feeling forced or mastering. His songs take you on a trip. A trip I’d take any day.
That’s it. It may not be a “best of” in the traditional sense, but those are the albums that greatly impacted me. There would probably others that would make the list if I had heard the albums, but it would be impossible to listen to everything.
Have a good 2005.