Was 2004 a great year for music? It's all relative, but if you go looking in the corners, there were some fantastic people making equally fantastic music. Granted, alot of the discs I'm seeing on other year end lists (Kanye West (not really my style), The Arcade Fire, Brian Wilson, Wilco) I never got a chance to hear. But, with the addition of my ears into the streaming blitz of sound resonating from something called Sirius radio, my musical horizons have been indefinetly broadened. With one flip, I can jump from old school remixes to left of center college radio ( a truly awesome experience, hearing everything from Straylight Run to old PJ Harvey) to world beat... it's enough to make the gentlemen from "High Fidelity" go bonkers. So, maybe I should give Kanye West a listen.. some of the surprises on this favorites list popped in from nowhere. Maybe I'm missing something.....
1. Interpol "Antics"- The second album from these New York rockers is as close to perfection as you can get. Borrowing their driving rhythms from Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine, the songs come fast and furious, sometimes slipping into pretentious lyrics, but ultimately arriving at cathartic moments.
2. The Killers "Hot Fuss"- Certainly the best album of 198.... I mean one of the best of this year. Their sound is so deliberately 80's it's not funny, but in an utterly tremendous way. Foot tapping and melodic, I want to hear everything from these guys. And they hail from Las Vegas. How many great bands come from there?
3. The Mars Volta "Tremulant" (EP)- Formed from the remnants of the fabulous West Texas band called At the Drive In, The Mars Volta further their experimental sound with this new formation. Just as unpredictable as ever, the three songs on "Tremulant" range from weird techno to pulsating 'tejano' rock featuring the truly original voice of lead singer Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Certainly not for all tastes, but for the life of me I can't figure out why At the Drive In never broke through. I think The Mars Volta will. Soon.
4. Burden Brothers "Buried In Your Black Heart"- Another group formed out of the ashes of a dominant Texas band featuring a unique lead singer, the Burdon Brothers compiled members from The Toadies and Reverend Horton Heat after both folded. Singer Valden Lewis and the others tear it up here as well. The paranoia and darkness of The Toadies "Rubberneck" LP is still on display to some extent, while the tunes are much more optimistic than one would expect. A terrific album to drive to also... which is all anyone can really ask for right?
5. Muse "Absolution"- My love for Radiohead should, naturally, exclude this English band from the list. Fact is they do Radiohead pretty damn well. Certainly more mainstream than their idols, "Absolution" reaches some great heights of sound and vocals. I listened to this album more than anything else this year.
6. "Garden State" soundtrack- While the film is one of my favorites this year, the soundtrack has some value also. Gems from indies (Iron and Wine, Remy Zero, Frou Frou) will linger with you for days. The whole album is quiet and sublime. It sneaks up on you and never lets go.
7. U2 "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"- Another given.. I just love U2. They hardly ever do wrong in my opinion.
8. Modest Mouse "Good News For People Who Love Bad News"- When I heard the single for "Float On", I thought.. wow the Talking Heads are back together? Truth is, I had never heard of these guys before. After the first listen to this album, I began to question my sanity. Why hadn't I (and for that matter the whole world) been breaking down the doors for Modest Mouse? I've gone back and listened to a majority of their older stuff now and am thoroughly giddy. Altogether playful and hum-inducing, this album is proof that you can have fun making and listening to music.