Albums that got me through 2004
A few things you should know before we begin:
1) Ordering a list like this is difficult because it is arbitrary. What I mean is that I would not want anyone to think that I’m saying Bobby Darin’s Aces Back To Back is necessarily a “better” album than the Garden State soundtrack. Though one appears higher on my list than the other, both are collections of merit and very different listening experiences. You can’t really compare one to the other.
It’s very roughly in bottom to top order; but as you read this list, please keep in mind that the order is essentially unimportant. You could just as easily read it top to bottom or throw all the pieces into the air to see where they come down. In fact, I’ve decided to remove the numbers from it, but the mathematically inclined among you will notice that:
2) There are only 18 titles but 19 CDs on this list. If you like, you can say that the missing 19th title represents all the great music you and I both missed last year.
3) A couple of these picks were originally released, technically, in 2003, but either they were not released in the US, or I just did not hear them, until 2004, and I want to single them out for special attention.
And now, on with the countdown:
The String Quartet Tribute To Duran Duran (Vitamin) • The weirdest things come in my mailbox…
Chromeo “You’re So Gangsta” / Freezepop, “Jem Theme Song” / Brookville, “Summer Parade” / Electric Music aka, “Something Up With The Stars” • These experimental, futurist and Casio-loving groups are lumped together because they were my favorite “one-hit wonders” of the year. All released albums that were mostly fog with one shining star in each to light our way. You can find these standout tracks on Chromeo’s She’s In Control, Freezepop’s Fancy Ultra-Fresh, Brookville’s Wonderfully Nothing and Electric Music aka’s The Resurrection Show, respectively.
Peplab, Drive (Neurodisc) • Retro-dance, electric disco style. Get down tonight.
Bent, The Everlasting Blink (Guidance) • This sample-heavy record may have deserved a better review than I gave it. Certainly the bouncy “Stay the Same” has ended up in my player a lot more times than I would have expected this year.
The Music Lovers, The Words We Say Before We Sleep (Marriage Records) • Yes, Virginia, this is a great album.
Sahara Hotnights, Kiss & Tell (RCA) / The Sounds, Living In America (New Line) • Call it pop, call it punk, call it New Wave, call it alternative — call it what you’d like, but you can’t beat it. Interpretations and reinterpretations of the standard elements of dance-rock rescue Sahara Hotnights and The Sounds from the trap of becoming pastiche snapshots of the other songs and bands they do resemble (think Eurythmics and especially the Go-Go’s). All buzzing guitars, washes of synthesizer and throbbing drums, this is danceable rock at its most basic and most effective.
Junkie JXL, Radio JXL: A Broadcast From The Computer Hell Cabin (Koch) • Wonderful album featuring vocals by Gary Numan and Dave Gahan that are better than anything they’ve done in years.
Broadway Original Cast Album, The Boy From Oz (Decca Broadway) • Hugh Jackman: Not just another pretty face.
What’s That Sound? Music from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Capitol) • Not to go too serious on you here, but in the aftermath of the recent election and the subsequent rise in seemingly acceptable homophobia, I had begun to wonder whether Queer Eye, and by extension this album, would take on the aspects of a broken promise. But what’s emerged, what I want to emerge, is that this album has been transformed into a collection of fight songs. All things just keep getting better. And don’t you ever forget it.
Katrina and the Waves, The Original Recordings: 1983-1984 (Bongobeat) • The first two Canadian, critics’ favorite albums, released in the US for the first time.
Bobby Darin, Aces Back To Back (Hyena) • “No doubt some folks enjoy doin’ battle, like presidents, prime ministers and kings, so let’s all build them shelves so they can fight among themselves. And leave the people be who love to sing. / Come and sing a simple song of freedom, sing it like you’ve never sung before, let it fill the air, tell the people everywhere: We the people here don’t want a war”