Well, it's that time again. The end of the year brings about the inherent drive of all webzine ass-monkeys to force their opinions of music upon everyone. And don't think I'm any different. I've been working on my list now for a long time, in fact, ever since New Year's Eve last year. See, I was at a party at Megan's apartment (some of you might remember Megan; some of you despised her reviews very much) and was hanging out with Scott, when all of a sudden he goes apeshit and says, "Hey, why aren't the lists up yet?" Well now, I was confused, to say the least. What lists? Why, of course, the "Top Ten (or twenty) of 2003" lists, of course! Being the aspiring pretentious asshole music geek I was back then (oh, believe me, it's a skill that takes developing), I was new to the idea of a tangible list being created. Not just a general idea in your head about what to listen to, but a full blown touchable list. Not only that, but I saw the ultimate power attained in these lists. Complete. Utter. Control. Those lists were unabashed opinions; the editors' way of perpetuating mind-control. And I wanted a piece of it.
Up until that point, I only had a handful of reviews published for Punknews, and wasn't exactly staff yet. But let's go back further and give you the full story of my coronation as a staff reviewer. Back in September, when I hit the road with my friends Michael and Claudio to go see a few shows in Chicago (back when I lived in Minnesota, not Chicago), we had a stop to make in between. Yes, that stop was to pick up their friend Scott, who apparently worked with some sort of webzine. By the end of the trip, Scott and I had finally accepted each other as vicious rivals, and put down the ninja swords we were battling with long enough for him to agree to let me review a couple of CDs that had already been passed through Megan, Katie, and were now in the hands of Claudio. The thing was ‚?? the CDs were terrible and nobody had the heart to bash them openly on the Internet. Well now, I thought, isn't that what the Internet is for? So I accepted the challenge, under the stipulation that if I reviewed these two CDs, Scott would give me a staff reviewer slot. Scott agreed, but only under the ultimatum that I would be reviewing the absolute cr√®me de la shit that was piling up at Punknews Reviewing HQ (meaning Scott's bedroom). I gladly accepted and published those two reviews. After those, I reviewed a few personal favorites of my own that I felt were necessary for the Punknews archive. And that was 2003 for me, as a reviewer, but at that New Year's Eve party, I had a new goal. Now that I was (supposedly) a staff reviewer, I had to step it up a notch. I wanted my own "Best of..." column.
And now, here I am, writing this column for you, dear reader, spoon-feeding you every last drop of my pretentious asshole opinions, bit by bit. Surprisingly enough, I didn't have to beg or force my way into getting my own list. One day I said to Scott, sternly and openly, "I want my own ‚??Best of 2004' list." He replied with, "Okay." It seemed too easy. There must have been a trick. And there was. This year is different. EVERY staff reviewer was invited to write their own Best of 2004 list. Oh well, I'll take what I can get. So without further ado, here are the records you should have been listening to in 2004, the records that you should take note of from 2004, the records that make your taste in music resemble a fat guy getting drunk at a wine tasting party, and the stuff I was ACTUALLY listening to in 2004.
Best of 2004 in alphabetical order
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
This record was recommended to me by a man who I view as sort of my music mentor. I have yet to get a recommendation from him that hasn't been amazing. What we have here is a record full of crazy percussion, amazing vocal melodies, and kickass acoustic guitarage. A delicious neo-folk treat for those of you who want to be hippies, or just those of you who love good music.
Akimbo - City of the Stars
Yeah, I've got a major hard-on for theses guys, and their new album shows tons of progression. If you want more, you can read my review of the album here.
In short, a mash-up of Black Flag and Black Sabbath. Rock like whoa.
Black Lips - We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow
I got this CD from Punknews to review, and I listened to it four times straight the first day I got it. It blew me away. Like, lo-fi 60s pop mashed together with noise punk. Indiscernible vocals. Really, this is what punk music is supposed to be. Easy to play songs, loud, noisy, sloppy, simply produced, and overall, just fun to listen to.
Blonde Redhead - Misery is a Butterfly
This record wasn't specifically recommended by my mentor, but he definitely was the one who turned me on to Blonde Redhead. I grabbed this one while I was collecting Blonde Redhead albums on the Internet, and at first wasn't impressed. Later I revisited it and was blown away. I think out of all the albums on my list, this one has the most songs on it that make me say, "Yeah, that's awesome!" Lush melodies, strings, layers of guitars, and of course, kickass drumming.
Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands
I had dream last night that this guy made it huge and was starring in two big-budget movies that were coming out. Don't ask. Was introduced to him through that terrible Kill Rock Stars Comp
that Punknews made me review. I guess he used to be a homeless dude just playing his guitar in San Francisco when some label guy grabbed him and signed him. He did one recording session and got something like 50 songs tracked. He put out three albums this year, but this is the only one I've heard, and seems to be the best one he put out. Acoustic folk music that's mostly him and a guitar.
Heiruspecs - A Tiger Dancing
Razor & Tie
These guys have been the best live show around the Twin Cities area for years. They just haven't been able to capture it on record. "Small Steps" from 2002 was nothing to shake a stick at, but it definitely showed promise. I put off checking this record out because "Small Steps" was such a disappointment, but holyfuckshit this album is amazing. Yeah, whatever, I know it's a hip-hop album in my Best of 2004 list for PUNKNEWS, but fuck you. Almost none of my records on this list are "punk." Amazing lyrics with inventive and experimental beats from a full-band hip-hop group.
The Icarus Line - Penance Soir√©e
I had a few of their old mp3s a looooonnnnnggg time ago, and just never pursued getting anything from them. On this release, they evolved from mediocre hardcore band to tripped out rock n' roll, like a space age Stooges ‚?? but on more drugs. Another album that feels extremely complete when listened through fully. Highly recommended.
Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
Last minute submission. Down to the wire. Sam Beam ‚?? another bearded acoustic folksy songwriter. I have special ties to this album. Like the circumstances in which I really first listened to it and heard it. I don't need to divulge, but you can probably guess. It's really just amazingly beautiful. That's it. What a songwriter. This just bumped Vietnam down to the Honorable Mentions slot. I'm sorry Vietnam, you're good, but this is just much better music to fornicate to.
Jon Brion - I Heart Huckabees ‚?? Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
This guy has played on so many albums as an additional musician, not to mention solo releases and multiple original movie scores he's written. Here is a full list of what he's done.
What this album sounds like to me is a mix between Elliott Smith and the stuff that Mark Mothersbaugh writes for Wes Anderson films. Amazing variety of music that all flows together into one big piece of art.
John Vanderslice - Cellar Door
The first thing I could think of when I got this CD was that it wasn't as good as "Time Travel is Lonely." The lyrics are much more straightforward, and not as poetic. The instrumentation varies a lot, so it seems a little bit disjointed. But then I pulled the stick out of my ass and realized that this album is amazing. In my opinion, Vanderslice has one of the best commands of melody and harmony out of any songwriters.
Liars - They Were Wrong So We Drowned
To most people, this album is a steaming pile of shit. And no, I don't like it just because everyone hates it. It honestly blows me away. Lo-fi weirdo freak-out sorta rock type stuff. Noisy. Retains some of the dance-qualities that "They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top" had. Mostly, just the most original album of the year. No one else is doing stuff like this well. And if you don't like it? Fuck yourself. Oh, it's about witches or some shit like that.
Lords - The House that Lords Built
I think technically this qualifies as an EP, but fuck it. Lords brings the rock, and that's undeniable. Another album I got from Punknews that just blew me away. Nothing of 2004 rocks as hard as this record does. Balls to the wall with short songs for short attention spans. Loud and fast without being a dumb grind-core band. Like rock n' roll on crack, which is actually how Outkast described "Bombs Over Baghdad" when I saw them play live a few years ago. That's all you need to know.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
Nick Cave is fucking awesome. Basically, picks up where Nocturama left off. Rockers and slow ballads. Generally just songs that sound evil. Upbeat songs about love. Shit, "Breathless" sounds like Van Morrison. There's a lot of Gospel background vocals. But other than that, it's another Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds album. Fucking amazing.
Panda Bear - Young Prayer
Solo release from the leader of Animal Collective. Minimalist songs based around the Gregorian chant. Weird shit. It's about the death of his father and was recorded in his father's house. The words are hard to decipher, but who cares? This shit rules.
Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
Forty-something noise rock fixtures come back with a blend of every album to date. Yeah I know what you're thinking, and yes, this is like their thirtieth album. Shit, they've been a band for over twenty years. A great mash-up of their early atonal rock from the late 80s and their newer, more melodic material from "Murray Street." But don't go out and buy this album if you don't have any other Sonic Youth. Shit man, you'll lose all your street cred. Go get "Goo," "Sister," or "EVOL" first. Then "Murray Street." Stay away from "NYC Ghosts & Flowers." Then "Sonic Nurse."
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
Homeboy embraces slick production and makes an album that's rocked everyone's socks. Although I love the lo-fi of "Hearts of Oak," it's so hard to deny how amazing this album is. Unabashedly shows the influence punk and ska have on his music. Any way you cook it, Ted Leo is the motherfucking man. Not to mention Chris Wilson being one of my favorite drummers and Dave Lerner being one of my favorite bassists. Ted, I love you.
Tom Waits - Real Gone
His grittiest record to date. Like gravel through your headphones. So lo-fi it hurts. Noticing a trend? I like to say lo-fi a lot. Tom's still got his unmistakable voice, and this time he's accompanied it with vocal percussion loops, guitars, and bass, and then ran it all through a tin can. Excellent guitar solos. Fucking amazing. Can't get over it.
TV On the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
Touch and Go
Holy fuckshit. Best lyrics of 2004, hands down. One of the most inventive musically of 2004 as well. An a cappella track. Loops and guitars. Layers of vocals. Shit, it won the Shortlist Music Award. Mindblowing.
Various Artists - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
This album made my list solely for the fact that it had "Queen Bitch" by David Bowie on it. I've declared "Queen Bitch" to be the best song of 2004. Besides that, tons of Bowie on this release, though not as much as was in the actual movie. There was a Sigur Ros song in the movie as well that was left off this album. And a Devo song. And The Zombies. But they didn't forget The Stooges' "Search and Destroy," which is the second best song of 2004. Oh, and Mark Mothersbaugh rules.
The Velvet Teen - Elysium
I never liked The Velvet Teen. People told me how much they loved them. I didn't. But then they abandoned the guitar for a piano themselves. And then Elysium came out. I saw them live, and was blown away. Extremely lush piano and string arrangements dominate the entire album as the basic instrumentation. Makes me feel like a pussy when I listen to it, but I can't help it.
And now on to the Honorable Mentions category. Maybe the album just wasn't as good as these others in my list. Maybe they were great albums, but just not as good as stuff the groups put out in the past. In any way, it's listed randomly as I remembered which albums to add to it.
Vietnam - The Concrete's Always Grayer On the Other Side of the Street
Perhaps what would have happened if CCR slowed themselves down, did more drugs, and tried to emulate The Velvet Underground's self-titled album. Bluesy, and recorded live, I just picked this album up very recently, and it's extremely deserving of full praise. A very quiet record at most times, it's something you want to play loud and lay in bed just listening to. Fuck, it's awesome.
Bj√∂rk - Med√ļlla
I love Bj√∂rk. But "Vespertine" and "Post" were just much better albums. Awesome in the fact that it's almost entirely a cappella.
Mos Def - The New Danger
Mos Def's "Black on Both Sides" is in my Top Ten list of all time. This album experiments with minimalist beats, hardcore riffs with hip-hop, and flows. Awesome that he's trying hard, too bad it wasn't as good as "Black on Both Sides."
The Arcade Fire - Funeral
It's really good. Just not that good.
Joan of Arc - Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain
"The Gap" and "How Memory Works" were much better. This is almost too conventionally written. Normal song structures and the like. Not why I listen to Joan of Arc.
The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
Awesomely awesome rock n' roll.
Guitar Wolf - Love Rock
It kicks ass, but Jet Generation was just so much better. I'm sorry.
Elliott Smith - From a Basement On a Hill
Just couldn't get into it as much as his self-titled release. Haven't even had enough time to make it all the way through it, either. Otherwise, it could have had a crack at the Top 20.
Aloha - Here Comes Everyone
Amazing album. Just didn't make the cut.
Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
Just haven't had enough time to get into it, but boy, does it ever bring the rock.
2004 Mix Tape
Pig Destroyer - Terrifyer
Some crazy thrash/grind/metal/hardcore-punk. Whatever. Fuck genre. This record is so hard that I can't even listen to it all the way through without needing to look at pictures of kittens and puppies in the middle of it.
So Adam wants us all to make a mixtape of the records we listed. Sure, why not? So I compiled a list of the best songs to be released in 2004, regardless of artist or album. Yeah, you might think I'm crazy, but I'm just letting you know that I listen to good music ‚?? and good music can come from anywhere, so here it is. Also, for a limited time only, if you send me a self-addressed stamped envelope big enough for two burned CDs, I will send you copies of my mixtape. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is your very own chance to BE LIKE ME. Which we all know is part of your highest aspirations in life. Pretentiousness aside, you would do best if you addressed your envelope containing the SASE to:
Jesse Carrington Raub
731 S Plymouth Ct
Chicago, IL 60605
And please, don't be a dick and send me random trash or hate letters. And don't look up my address and stop by. I have a very good doorman, and he's very good at keeping out the riff-raff. I'm doing you a favor and a service; don't take advantage of it.
- Usher -‚?? Confessions Pt. II
- Akimbo ‚?? Circle of Hair
- Ted Leo/Pharmacists ‚?? Heart Problems
- Arcade Fire ‚?? Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
- Comets On Fire ‚?? The Antlers of the Midnight Sun
- Death From Above 1979 ‚?? Turn it Out
- Animal Collective ‚?? Who Could Win A Rabbit
- Heiruspecs ‚?? 5ves
- Blonde Redhead ‚?? Pink Love
- Mos Def ‚?? The Rape Over
- Animal Collective ‚?? The Softest Voice
- Tom Waits ‚?? Hoist that Rag
- TV On The Radio ‚?? Don't Love You
- Iron & Wine ‚?? On Your Wings
- Lords ‚?? Headache Heartattack
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ‚?? Babe, You Turn Me On
- Panda Bear ‚?? (untitled) (track 1)
- The Icarus Line ‚?? Spike Island
- The Hives ‚?? Diabolic Scheme
- Vietnam ‚?? Too Tired
- John Vanderslice ‚?? Pale Horse
- Liars ‚?? There's Always Room On the Broom
- The Hives ‚?? No Pun Intended
- Heiruspecs ‚?? I'm Behind You
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ‚?? Fable of the Brown Ape
- Ted Leo/Pharmacists ‚?? Shake the Sheets
- Blonde Redhead ‚?? Misery Is A Butterfly
- Alicia Keys ‚?? If I Ain't Got You
- Devendra Banhart ‚?? Poughkeepsie
- Animal Collective ‚?? Mouth Wooed Her
- Tom Waits ‚?? Metropolitan Glide
- TV On The Radio ‚?? Ambulance
- The Velvet Teen ‚?? Penicillin (It Doesn't Mean Much)
- Iron & Wine ‚?? Naked As We Came
- Pig Destroyer ‚?? Lost Cause
- The Icarus Line ‚?? Kiss Like Lizards
- The Icarus Line ‚?? Getting Bright At Night
- The Icarus Line ‚?? Big Sleep
- David Bowie ‚?? Queen Bitch
- Hidden track:
The Stooges ‚?? Search and Destroy
The making and sending of the mixtape was an idea I lifted from www.sayrah.net. Give credit when credit's due.
Worst of 2004
Wow, there was a lot of terrible, terrible music this year. Let's start by saying that anything Lil' Jon was a part of this year is better than any record that even touches the words "emo" or "screamo." And if you are someone who uses these words dearly as your favorite genres of music, then let it be known that you aren't even worthy enough to lick my asshole. Let's move on and say that any band featured on the cover of AP deserves the same title of not worthy to lick my asshole. My hatred towards bands like The Used and My Chemical Romance is obviously justified, but now some asshole is going to say, "Hey, what about Green Day?" Well let me tell you this: Green Day isn't worthy of licking my ass either. "American Idiot," despite the fact that it ripped off D4's "Doublewhiskeycokenoice," was a killer single, made me say, "Yeah, they've got something there." But the rest of that album is atrocious. And do I have to bring up the fact that everyone in that band wears eyeliner now? I don't know, there's a lot of bullshit forcing its way into the mainstream of music these days. Go read Buddyhead's "Worst of..." list, I'm sure it's going to be much more complete than this one...I can't even concentrate on what I hate because I hate it so much. Let's also add anything on Victory Records. You know what I'm talking about: Hawthorne Heights, The Hurt Process, Taking Back Sunday, Atreyu. That stuff sucks.
The Blood Brothers - Crimes
"Burn, Piano Island, Burn" was at the top of my list in 2003, but this is just a pile of shit. I was looking forward to it so much, and then they put out a boring record. You can actually hear the apathy in the bass and drums, which sucks because those were the two key elements of the band. Cody forgot he wasn't in Waxwing anymore with this album, and Jordan and Johnny's vocals are steaming piles of shit. The reason I loved "Burn, Piano Island, Burn" was because it was a great mix of amazingly technical songwriting and out of control craziness. This is just a shitty album.
Coheed And Cambria - In Keeping Secrets blah blah blah blah blah
I don't care when this record came out, because no one cared about it until 2004. Yes, this year I had to listen to the whiniest piece of shit sing a comic book to me when switching between channels on TV or stations on the radio. A) Your band is glorified pop-punk. B) Comic books are meant to be read. C) Curl up and die. I'll take Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, or Frank Knight any day over this bullshit.
The Casualties - On the Front Line
I haven't even heard this record, but this band is such a joke that it doesn't even matter. If you listen to this band, chances are you have a dyed mohawk and spikes on your wrist and you live in your parent's basement in the suburubs.
Ben Kweller - On My Way
Glorified power-pop hailed as a singer/songwriter. Bob Dylan is a singer/songwriter. Tom Petty is a singer/songwriter. Tom Waits is a singer/songwriter. John Vanderslice is a singer/songwriter. Beck is a singer/songwriter. Cat Stevens is a singer/songwriter. John Lennon was a singer/songwriter. David Bowie is a singer/songwriter. Ben Kweller is a teenager who plays boring repetitive power-pop.
Fear Before the March of Flames - Odd How People Shake & Art Damage
First they ripped off The Blood Brothers shittily, and then they "got harder," and ripped-off metalcore. They give their songs stupid ass boring long names. They named one of their songs after a line in one of the Fensler Films G.I. Joe Public Service Announcement re-dubs. Funny video, terrible song title.
Pedro the Lion - Achilles' Heel
Old Man Bazan wrote a shitty record.
Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
You know what? Double-time drumbeats and three part vocal harmonies doesn't make good music. I've never liked Bad Religion.
Alexisonfire - Watch Out!
Shitty metalcore with singing AND screaming. Ughh.
Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine
There's a point where it doesn't matter how many time signature changes you have, your music is just boring. I mean, honestly, it's just polished technicality without any soul.
MewithoutYou - Catch For Us the Foxes
Tooth & Nail
Yup. They suck.
Jimmy Eat World - Futures
Like flogging a dead horse. Give it up Jim, you're just a washed up pop star now.
Best of 2004 that was not released in 2004
Nirvana - With The Lights Out
Let's show our disrespect for a dead rock star by doing EXACTLY what he would have hated us to do. Let's further this hero worship of him as well. You know what? I love "In Utero." I think it's a great album. This is just ridiculous.
Now this list was a tricky one for me. This year, the illustrious 2004, I made it a point to go back and explore the roots of all the music I listen to now. Sure I liked The Stooges and Bowie and the MC5 and Public Enemy, but I never actually pursued entire records and I never fully digested any of them. So for my final list, allow me to give you the "Best of 2004 that was not released in 2004." Well, for me at least.
#1. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
As an album, it's just unbeatable. Song after song, hit after hit. I can't get enough of this album. Honestly. It's fucking great.
#2. David Bowie - Hunky Dory
Not as many awesome songs, but the ones that do hit, well they hit hard with a vengeance. "Changes" and "Queen Bitch" are like a 1-2 combination.
#3. David Bowie - Space Oddity
"Space Oddity," the song, remains to be the best sing-a-long song ever.
#4. MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
Encompasses everything a rock n' roll rebel record should, and it's recorded live. Top that, motherfuckers.
#5. The Stooges -Fun House
What can I say about this album? Nothing, it speaks for itself.
#6. The Stooges -Raw Power
Again, amazing album, speaks for itself.
#7. Public Enemy -It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Chuck D has some of the tightest flows, Terminator X is one of the most electrifying DJs, and Flava Flav is the best hype man in the biz.
#8. Wu-Tang - Enter the 36 Chambers
Staple of my musical diet. I never go a year without praising this album.
#9. Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
#10. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Creedence Chronicles Vol. 1
Gotta fucking love the Creedence.
And now, onto what I'm looking forward to in 2005. To be honest, I'm looking forward to shitty genres being forced out of the limelight by other shitty genres. The only album I'm looking forward to is the debut full-length release from Somerset, penned to be released in early 2005 on a now mystery label (well, it's a mystery to YOU but I know what label it's on). I've followed those boys from their start, and not trying to be the next Scott here, I've heard the demos and I was blown away by a few tracks. Exciting to hear how it sounds with a real producer working with them on a full length album.
And thus concludes my listings for the year 2004. We've spent much time together; your reading of this article, to me, represents a pleasant fireside chat. We've laughed, we've cried, and then you cried some more for having a terrible taste in music. See you next year, bitches.