2004, Year In Review, Part 1: Music.
I could be saving this for a few more weeks, since 2004 isn't done yet. But, in terms of music, it is. Nothing's going to be released in the next month that I would be interested in, as the holiday season approaches. If it were, it would've leaked already, as I've heard stuff due for release next year already. That said: Wasn't a Built To Spill album supposed to come out this year?
Album of the year was, I guess, Liars' They Were Wrong So We Drowned. Which, come to think of it, I had heard by this time last year. I remember listening to it on someone else's stereo in the mods, on a disc burnt for me by Alex. My heroin-addict roommate at the time commented that it sounded like Sonic Youth. I think I had already presumptively called it the best album of 2004. It turned out I was right, because 2004 mainly sucked. And a lot of people hated that Liars record, thinking it unlistenable noise. They were wrong. I also saw Liars live, on March 26th, a day that is both my brother's birthday and Angus Andrews'. The show kicked ass, and kind of helped me put them over the edge.
I saw a lot of live music this year, all of which I could probably give the album of the year too in a half-assed fashion. I saw Deerhoof, and apparently Spin called Milk Man a perfect album. They're wrong. They also gave Liars their lowest rating. They are a bad magazine.
I also Mirah live... Thrice, actually, twice with the Black Cat Orchestra. C'Mon Miracle I've already burned myself out on, actually. I'd done it before it came out, due to the leak. At first I didn't like it so I kept on listening until I got it. I only get half of it, probably, the other half is dull borderline adult-contemporary. But the stuff with weird instruments? Those parts rule.
I also saw The Blow live. Her Poor Aim: Love Songs EP is pretty great, which is weird considering what it is.
For a while I was calling Girl Talk's Unstoppable my favorite album of the year. This was me, being insane. It's not that important. It's completely disposable plunderphonics fun. It's a collage record. Calling it my favorite album of the year is the twenty-first century equivalent of calling some garage band's album my favorite record of the year, like giving a shout-out to the Electric Prunes or something. It's just weird, even though it was incredibly enjoyable, and good for a few laughs. Not really amazing or anything.
This year I got really into the Mountain Goats, thanks mainly to the greatness of All Hail West Texas, which came out in 2002. That record's amazing. We Shall All Be Healed isn't nearly as good, as it's frequently restrained and maybe a bit too slickly produced. But I've been downloading a shitload of Mountain Goats, with iTunes currently listing me as having 237 songs. None of those are live shows.
I also listened to The Hold Steady, who John Darnielle recommends. Lyrically they're awesome... I posted a verse from an unreleased song a while back, and the ones on the album are pretty good too. The vocalist mainly just speaks and the backing music sounds like a bar band. So that's The Hold Steady. I guess they're good.
John Darnielle also likes Destroyer, who I listened to this year. Streethawk: A Seduction was quite the discovery, as was City Of Daughters. But the album that came out this year, Your Blues, isn't very good. It's consciously designed with a difficult, irritating, anti-rock aesthetic, and I didn't dig it. What-the-fuck-ever.
The Arcade Fire and The Fiery Furnaces: Overrated. Pish-posh!
!!! are rad, but the album they put out this year was kind of disappointing, although I guess it's good.
McLusky are great, and the album they put out this year doesn't seem to be getting the respect that it's due. But when I think about it, McLusky Do Dallas just has much more good songs than the new record. When I listened to them at work, I liked both almost equally, but the songs on that older record just stand out and distinguish themselves more.
Wolf Parade put out a really good EP this year, and I think their full-length should be rad. They're not to be confused with Wolf Eyes... Because Wolf Eyes are fucking terrible.
The Pixies put out two new songs this year. Hot damn. Amazing. I guess Loren didn't like Bam Thwok but then, Loren never heard the Pixies until this year so maybe he just doesn't know. Bam Thwok! Wakka wakka wakka! Oh, fuck yes.
This was the year I got to raid the KAOS record library. I guess the best things would be Silver Jews and Brainiac. Brainiac are amazing. Shit. I guess I hadn't heard Hissing Prigs In Static Couture until this year? That album owns. As do their other albums, which I didn't hear until this year. God, that kind of makes the year better.
I also got a job at a record store and it kind of sucked, which is too bad. That's the kind of fact that suggests I will never be happy.
Animal Collective's Sung Tongs sometimes seems like it should be the record of the year: I definitely liked it, and other people love it. It's one of those hippie-kid/indie rock/electronic crossover hits, kind of like Manitoba last year, but I just didn't dig it as much as other people. Most of the songs seemed kind of aimless. It's part of the overall aesthetic, and that whole freak-folk thing was big this year... And they were the only ones who did it well. Fuck Devendra, Joanna, and all the rest. Bah I say. The Animal Collective songs I liked were the ones least in that aesthetic, that were more focused and on-point. When that was the case, they owned it. I'm calling Who Could Win A Rabbit the single of the year. Leaf House might get that honor if it were released as a single, as that one's pretty damn great too.
The Go! Team also had some great singles, and an album I was disappointed by. They're kind of a singles band, but they were also mining the best aesthetic of the year. The songs are just frequently not there. There's never really songcraft in the traditional sense. The comparison to TV theme songs is apt. I liked it a lot in isolation.
Anyway, Who Could Win A Rabbit is the single of the year, but it didn't get any airplay, which isn't surprising at all. In terms of stuff that did get airplay: Modest Mouse. Their album sucked. And I bought it the day it came out. I remember in 2001, getting people into them and feeling bad as the word of their awesomeness got out to lame-asses. Now, all the lame-asses know about Modest Mouse. And I don't feel bad about it. I just feel shocked and strangely alienated from this band that was once one of my favorites. I hope their next record is incredibly weird and alienating. Not to ward off the new fans. But because I like record that are weird and alienating. Interpol got airplay this go-round too. The video for Slow Hands is hilarious: It seems like it's mainly about the one dude's hair. And Antics is mainly a piece of crap, even though it's not really that different.
Yeah, I hate to be the asshole who's all singing the praises of hip-hop radio. Because that asshole is frequently completely full of shit. But I'm calling the two best singles of the year that received radio airplay 99 Problems by Jay-Z and Jesus Walks by Kanye West. The Kanye joint is a distant second. 99 Problems is... I've only heard it twice, seriously. But in theory, it's just so damn great. The video has Vincent Gallo in it for some reason. And Rick Rubin is also in it, but that makes way more sense. I was talking to Alex about this earlier, and he said that there were the highlights of the radio this summer at his job, along with the three Outkast songs on Alaska radio. (two of them were played out by the end of 2003, the other one most people hated but I think is OK) He qualified that they were only highlights in terms of him just being glad they weren't playing the other shitty songs again. These songs got played a lot. But a funny connection between both these songs is they both make references to not being played on the radio. That's awesome. This is not to say that the radio isn't terrible, but to say that isn't to downplay the greatness of these songs either.
I guess I got more into hip-hop this year? I don't know. Still don't own any records. Mainly I just like the fact that some of it is good and there's a lot of the good stuff that I haven't heard a million times, as all my favorite records are the kind of thing I'll listen to three years from now. (Speaking of which: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain got reissued. That's probably the best thing to come out all year, but I haven't heard the bonus material yet.) So I can listen to Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy and finally get into all these classic records that will probably never mean anything to me, and can serve as background noise that still has lyrics to pay attention to if I see fit. And Ol' Dirty Bastard's Nigga Please is a fucking masterpiece, and one I only discovered this year. And then he died. Shit. Saddest death of the year, if it's not too crass to rate such things.
Last year I did one giant post that tied my life into the culture I experienced. This year my life was considerably less interesting. And very little dominated the culture I experienced, so there'll probably be more posts like this, that skim the plain as there were very little highlights. In future: Comics/books, my life, and movies. Movies will come last as a lot of stuff I want to see I won't be able to see for awhile, possibly until the middle of 2005. (Right now it's just Sideways, A Very Long Engagement, and The Life Aquatic, but that could change. What's sad is that those first two movies look kind of ass.) The other two ideas for posts might be condensed into one.