Here’s the moment that you’ve all been waiting for. Like I do every December, here’s the annual list of my favourite albums from the year that was. It was an excellent year for good music. I mean c’mon, I never thought I’d be able to have Nirvana and Pavement on the same list ever again. I’m in highschool! Anyway, here they are in alphabetical order:
Alexisonfire – Watch Out
To some, Alexisonfire are known as “that screaming band from St. Catharines“. If you tune out the screaming for a moment, you’ll hear some excellent melodic rock music. But at the same time, if you tune out the screaming, you miss out on one of the band’s key instruments. To me, Alexisonfire are a way more agressive version of Sigur Ros, and I like Sigur Ros. Like many Mogwai albums, crank Watch Out realy loud (and thier self-titled one too) when you have some chores around the house to do.
The Arcade Fire – Funeral
If Broken Social Scene were from Montreal instead of Toronto, they might be The Arcade Fire. It should be noted that this album is completely different from any BSS album, so I hope you enjoyed that comparisson 🙂 Funeral is an emotional album with a unique sound, especially given the lyrical content.
The Cure – The Cure
It’s always good to see a new Cure album released. This time Robert Smith is filled with plenty of energy and anger, but not in the manner of any of the Dark Trilogy albums (that includes Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers in case you’re not aware). “Us Or Them” and “Alt.End” are good examples of agitated rock ‘n’ roll ventine against the current goings-on in the world, without the whine of bands like sucky Linkin Park, Papa Roach or Nickelback.
Fantômas – Delirium Cordia
Mike Patton. You can’t really say much more. The album is one 74-minute track of, what I believe, to be a surgical procedure gone horribly wrong. Mike never sings a single note. Instead, he’s twiddling knobs and using his magical voice to scream, gasp and spit over sparse guitar chords, bells, the wind and any sound that you can imagine hearing on a demented surgeon’s operating table. Like Doom3, play this album loudly when you’re alone in the dark. Stare at the gorey surgery pictures in the album art, too. I’ll come to bail you out of the psych ward afterwards.
Frank Black – Frank Black Francis
On the first disc, to hear the original demos recorded prior to the recording of the Pixies‘ Come On Pilgrim is a real treat. Listening as Black Francis is pointing out how these songs will take shape and be played in the studio is phenominal. The second disc is Frank Black re-working his masterpieces, or as the liner notes say, “messing with the gospel”. While the original songs are works of art that most contemporary rock music is based off of, it’s neat to hear them reworked with horns and strings. Sometimes, the lyrics are clearer than the originals and you can hear things you might have missed.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
This is one of those albums that sounds great in the car. I don’t think it would be possible to fall asleep while listening to Franz Ferdinand. The reworked version of “This Fire”, retitled “This Fffire”, makes the re-release of the album worth it.
Interpol – Antics
Turn on the Bright Lights was amazing. Many critics think that Antics is much weaker by comparisson but I disagree, and not just because music critics suck. The heavy Joy Division influence has been shed a little and we’re left with ten excellent songs that work well together as a whole, as well as capable of standing on their own. I can’t wait to hear what’s next from Interpol.
Jimmy Eat World – Futures
Folks expecting Bleed American Part 2 will be disappointed. Futures reminds me of Clarity and that was a great album. There’s some excellent rockers on this album but if I could’ve written a song like “Night Drive” in highschool, I would’ve had all of the chicks 😉
Local H – What Ever Happened To PJ Soles?
This is the best pure kick-arse rock album of the year, IMO. Period. “California Songs” should’ve existed a long time ago so we wouldn’t have to hear all of those songs about California and New York. “Buffalo Trace” is a wild retro ride. Aw hell, it’s all just so rawk-tacular.
Modest Mouse – Good News For People That Love Bad News
This year Modest Mouse made me feel like a fan of a hockey player who finally made the “big team” after paying his dues in the minor leagues. I never would’ve expected to hear Modest Mouse played on commercial rock radio like the Edge or see them on Saturday Night Live. But it all happened this year. This wasn’t their strongest album but it’s still excellent. Please release “The View” as a single. <TEARING UP>Our lil’ Modest Mouse is moving on to bigger things. I’m so proud of ’em.<SNIFF>
Nirvana – With The Lights Out
It’s called a box set but it would be more appropriate to call it a rarities box set for the fans. I love hearing songs as they take shape, as well as the songs that we weren’t meant to hear. Even the most obscure tracks are better than anything on the radio or music video channels that passes for modern rock these days. And the DVD is a nice surprise. Hearing Kurt announce “a new song…this is called Smells Like Teen Spirit” at a gig in early 1991, prior to Nevermind‘s release will send chills up your spine since you know that music as we know it is about to change forever.
Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain: L.A.’s Desert Origins
If Matador keeps releasing these Pavement collection albums, I’ll keep buying them. There are plenty of unplucked gems to be found that never made it onto Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain like “Haunt You Down”, “All My Friends” and “Soiled Little Filly”. Bring on the Wowee Zowee collection!
Preston School Of Industry – Monsoon
More Pavement? Not really. There’s a definite Wilco influence at work here and it’s a good thing. Spiral Stairs has put out an album comprised entirely of actual songs. In the past, some were songs and some were fragments. I still would rather see a worthy Pavement reunion, though 😉
Snow Patrol – Final Straw
Final Straw is an excellent and varied album. Everbody loves “Run” but take a listen to “Wow”, “Spitting Games”, “Chocolate” and “Half The Fun”. Hopefully Snow Patrol will be around for many years to come to release albums during the years when Idlewild doesn’t release an album.
Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse
I loved Murray Street, after they kinda got off-track a little, but Sonic Nurse one-ups it. Kim hasn’t had any memorable songs from the last couple of albums but “Pattern Recognition” and the very-rollicking “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream” totally redeem her. The album as a whole, though, is wonderful and sometimes harks back to the days of Evol and Sister. Brilliant stuff from a veteran band that hasn’t lost their touch.
Ulrich Schnauss – A Strangley Isolated Place
Ulrich Schnauss is an electronic DJ/composer from Germany. But does he really make electronic music? Sort of. He’s heavily influenced by the shoegazing guitar bands of the late 80’s/early 90’s like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver. Coincidentally, I’m a huge fan of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver 😉 If "A Clear Day" wasn’t inspired by a combination of "When You Sleep", "I Only Said" and "Come In Alone" from MBV’s Loveless, then I’m a poor excuse for a music geek. Ulrich somehow recreates the wall of guitar noise with electronic sounds and the results are amazing. Play A Strangley Isolated Place when you need some soothing.
Worthy Mentions…I’ve a heard a little of but would love to hear more of Singapore Sling’s Life Is Killing My Rock ‘N’ Roll, TV On The Radio’s New Health Rock, Death From Above 1979’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, The Polyphonic Spree’s Together We’re Heavy, The Streets‘ A Grand Don’t Come for Free and The Tragically Hip’s In Between Evolution. I’d even like to take the Deluxe Edition reissue of Nine Inch Nail’s The Downward Spiral into one of those rooms at Future Shop with the surround sound setups. I haven’t listened to U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb enough yet to formulate an opinion but I’ll probably love it and I think “City of Blinding Lights” is a wicked song. The same goes for the Blues Explosion’s Damage; I bought it a couple months ago and like it thus far, but it needs further spins. We even got a new Pixies song this year with the iTunes-exlusive “Bam Thwok”. Could more new material be far behind?
And now for the disappointments. Guided by Voices‘ Half Smiles of the Decomposed contains two amazing soon-to-be classics in “Everybody Thinks I’m a Raincloud” and “Huffman Prairie Flying Field” that bookend an entire album of wishy-washy filler crap. I think it’s a good thing that Bob decided to end GbV right now before any more disgrace comes to the GbV name. R.E.M.’s Around the Sun put me to sleep…literally.
Well that’s the way I heard the music in 2004. It’s pretty varied, don’t you think? Hey, I’m no black rim-glasses-and-thrift-store-clothes wearin’ indie rock snob dork Do you want to be? Either way, I have a feeling that 2005 will be just as good or perhaps even better.