Saturday, January 29, 2005

Top Albums of 2004

I don't think I have it in me right now to go into why each albums is where, isn't it enough that I wasted my time writing a list that may not be read by anyone? Here goes.

40. The Polyphonic Spree, Together We're Heavy
39. Squarepusher, Ultravisitor
38. Madvillain, Madvillainy
37. Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown
36. The Magnetic Fields, I
35. Piebald, All Eyes All Ears All the Time
34. Muse, Absolution
33. Morissey, You Are the Quarry
32. The Stills, Logic Will Break Your Heart
31. The Walkmen, Bows and Arrows
30. Feist, Let It Die
29. Jimmy Eat World, Futures
28. Straylight Run, Straylight Run
27. Mum, Summer Make Good
26. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
25. Air, Talkie Walkie
24. Bjork, Medullah
23. MF Doom, Mm...Food
22. Iron and Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
21. Handsome Boy Modelling School, White People
20. Masta Killa, No Said Date
19. The Arcade Fire, Funeral
18. Ratatat, Ratatat
17. The Killers, Hot Fuss
16. The Go! Team, Thunder Lightning Strike
15. Death From Above 1979, You're A Woman I'm A Machine
14. Wiley, Treddin' On Thin Ice
13. Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender
12. Stars, Set Yourself On Fire
11. Interpol, Antics
10. Snow Patrol, Final Straw
09. The Streets, A Grand Don't Come For Free
08. William Shatner, Has Been
07. Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News
06. Kings of Convenience, Riot On An Empty Street
05. Kanye West, The College Dropout
04. Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous
03. The Foreign Exchange, Connected
02. M83, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts


#1. Phoenix, Alphabetical

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Top 40 Songs of 2004

So, the album list is still coming, just give it time. To tide you over, here are...

The Top 40 Songs of 2004

A few quick notes on the rules/guidelines for this list.
-These are my top forty songs of 2004, it is not limited to best singles of 2004.
-All of these songs were either a) on an album released in 2004, b) released as singles in 2004 from albums that came out last year, c)became available this year despite maybe being older than 2004 (live albums, downloads, etc.).
-Older songs from newer soundtracks were excluded, so, for instance, everything from the Garden State soundtrack was pretty much ineligible, except for the Iron and Wine cover, which if I'm not mistaken was a B-Side from 2004 (and if I'm wrong, well...)
-Bands were not limited to one song in the Top 40. I figure if a band is good enought to come up with 2-3 songs in the Top 40, there is no reason to exclude them to let in a lesser song.
-I put some comments for each song in the top twenty, after that, I just let the songs speak for themselves, if anything needs clarifying, I'd be happy to explain it.
That said, away we go...

1. Modest Mouse- Float On: The romp-stomping best time of the year to be had. A jangly guitar and stilted vocals that tell you everything is going to be all right. I can envision listening to this song in twenty years and it still being as fun and meaningful as it is today.
2. Wilco - At Least That’s What You Said: If the entire album had been like this, it would be my number one. It starts out as a whispery ballad about someone the singer just can’t live with or without. Then, out of nowhere a burst of electric guitar comes in and the song erupts into the best breakdown/jam of the year with an amazing drum beat that you can’t help but tap your foot to.
3. Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes: This is an amazingly catchy song that really should’ve catapulted Rilo Kiley to O.C. guest appearances like “Float On” did for Modest Mouse. The most transcendant moment of the year comes toward the end of this one. Toward the middle of the song, Jenny Lewis sings “And you’re bad news/My friends tell me to leave you” and you think it might be over, but then she changes her mind “And you’re bad news/but I don’t care I like you/I like you!” and it’s all too perfect.
4. M83 - Run Into Flowers (Abstrackt Keal Agram Remix): While the original version of this song is great, the remix takes it to even greater heights. The beginning of this song is turned into a menacing hip hop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest RZA-produced Wu-Tang solo album. Then it explodes into an amazing cacophony of electric guitar that just makes the song soar.
5. Joanna Newsom - Crab, Clam Cockle, Cowrie: Joanna Newsom seems to be the most polarizing singer of the year. I think Said The Gramaphone described her the best in saying she sings “in a borrowed voice.” And it’s that voice that drives so many away. But on this one, a tender ballad, one of the the greatest things occur. Newsom sings “I do as I please/I’m down on my knees/and your skin is something I stir into my tea/And I am watching you/and you are starry, starry, starry.” But when she hits the “Starry, starry, starry” part she does each word higher and more heartfelt than the last so it sounds something like “starry! STARRY!! STARRY!!!” And on that last “Starry”, her voice breaks through and the borrowed voice is broken for a second and you get a taste of what Newsom’s normal, speaking voice would be like. But, then she goes back to her “borrowed voice” and all you’ll get is that one glimpse.
6. Rachel Stevens - Some Girls: I always figured that the blonde girl with the bad teeth or the spunky brunette, Hannah, would be the breakout stars of S Club 7. As attractive as Stevens is, she was always the kind of plain one on S Club. Then this song comes along, a borrowed groove, pretty inane lyrics, really it shouldn’t work at all. But it does. And it does so well. This is just purely great pop music. As I’ve said before, if there were any justice in the world, this is what would be played daily on my local “hits” station.
7. The Foreign Exchange - Let’s Move: Somehow a rapper, Phonte, from a group (Little Brother) I’d never heard before this year, and a beatmaker, Nicolay, from the Netherlands who wouldn’t look out of place on your local debate team, came together on a message board and put together not only the hip hop album of the year, but the hip hop single of the year, as well. “Let’s Move” rides an entirely too-happy beat that works against all odds and provides the perfect backdrop for Phonte realizing that everything’s going to be okay despite the fact that he’s been writing cheques that should say “Spalding on ‘em”.
8. Snow Patrol - How To Be Dead: I get a distinctly Coldplayish vibe from Snow Patrol, which is fortunate, because I love Coldplay. Snow Patrol remind me of a younger (I don’t know if that’s true), hungrier, rawer Coldplay. This song, however, is the greatest radio hit that Coldplay never came up with. A weepy little one that keeps the music catchy enough and not ballady enough that it never becomes too much. The singer’s voice is too perfect, especially when he nails lines like “Dr. Jekyll is wrestling Hyde/for my pride.” Get in on them now, because I have a feeling they could be huge in a few years.
9. Phoenix - Victim of the Crime: Picking a fave track from my fave album of the year was difficult, as there is not a bad song on there, but this one is one I could never get tired of. The first thing you notice about this one (or at least I did) is how similar the music is to Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” But, I don’t think of it as a theft or a rip-off at all, because it’s done with such joy. Whereas Dre used the music to answer his critics that he was still hard, Phoenix uses the music to tell a sad little story about girls. The soundtrack to my summer.
10. Frakkur - ?: I don’t know the title of this, as it was offered up as a free download simply titled “Frakkur Live” on the Sigur Ros website (it’s still there, too). Frakkur is the side project of the lead singer of Sigur Ros and it’s truly amazing. To get the full effect, you have to see the pictures of him dressed up in a black and red marching band uniform with butterfly wings on the back. The song itself is a soaring epic with vocals, a choir, guys playing on pots and pans and no discernible lead vocals. Crappy live recording and flaws aside, this is amazing.
11. DJ Shadow - Blood On the Motorway: If you were smart enough to pick up the DJ Shadow DVD this year, you got a little bonus inside, a CD of live DJ Shadow material. Live, “Blood On the Motorway” soars as DJ Shadow adds a sample of strings that makes this even better than the original, which is hard to do.
12. Snow Patrol – Run: A brilliant quiet verse-loud chorus type song. The video to this one is the perfect complement.
13. Air - Alone In Kyoto: First surfacing on the Lost in Translation soundtack, Air brought this one back on their album this year and it’s amazing. A quiet, contemplative song.
14. Kings of Convenience - I’d Rather Dance With You: Kings of Convenience break from the Scandinavian Simon and Garfunkel comparisons for one glorious song on this one that espouses the virtues of forgoing conversation and just getting down: “I’d rather dance with you than talk to you”.
15. The Foreign Exchange – Happiness: “Good people, good loving, good music in my life it makes me happy”, I think that should’ve been the title for this list.
16. The Mountain Goats - Dance Music: I’m not sure where this came from, but it just kind of popped up online this year and it’s an amazing love song to dance music by John Darniele.
17. The Walkmen – The Rat: The best, angry moment in music this year as the Walkmen bemoan feel outside the crowd: “When I used to go out, I knew everyone I saw/Now I go out alone, if I go out at all” all over a rampaging loud guitar attack.
18. Dilated Peoples featuring Kanye West - This Way: Kanye West was all over 2004, but he’s not the highlight of this song. Instead it’s the flute. We need more flute in hip hop in 2005.
19. Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights: This is the way rock ‘n roll should be. Loud, a little obnoxious, and with a definite strut. And what’s most amazing about is that it’s just two indie rock guys, not some big rawk band.
20. Masta Killa, Old Man: Why this wasn’t ODB’s last big moment, I don’t know. This should’ve been all over the radio and everything. Masta Killa is happy to sit back and let Ol’ Dirty Bastard steal the show with his “I want two beef patties, special sauce on a sesame seed bun you big dummy!” line.
21. The Streets - Dry Your Eyes
22. William Shatner - That’s Me Trying
23. Phoenix – Everything Is Everything:
24. Kings of Convenience – Homesick:
25. Stars – Ageless Beauty:
26. Jon Brion – The Strings That Tie To You
27. MF Doom - Kookies
28. Switchfoot - Dare You To Move
29. Modest Mouse - The World At Large
30. Iron and Wine - Such Great Heights
31. Kanye West - Jesus Walks
32. Wiley - Pies
33. Phoenix - Love For Granted
34. Kanye West - Family Business
35. The Streeets - Blinded By the Lights
36. Dizzee Rascal - Dream
37. William Shatner - Common People
38. Bjork, Desired Constellation
39. Madvillain, All Caps

40. The Killers, Somebody Told Me

Number 41 is a number of songs that were close or that I stumbled onto late so I didn't feel right including them, they can be considered the runners-up if anything on this list is ineligible, then they can take that song's crown: M83 - America, Sebastien Tellier - Le Ritourenelle, The Arcade Fire - Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels), The Go! Team - Ladyflash, Mase - Welcome Back, The Postal Service - Against All Odds, Gwen Stefani - Cool, John Mayer - Kid A, The Stills - Lola Stars and Stripes.