Puckett's Favorite Albums Of 2004
I don't want to call 2004 a wasted year for music because some great records came out, but too many bands called it a day, too many people died, too few people did too little that was interesting and most publications might have well have phoned their shit in while selling their asses to corporate record companies in the last and dirtiest stall of a bus station bathroom. Tapping Usher as one of the best artists of the year or lauding the virtues of Janet Jackson's "Damita Jo" is such an utter abdication of critical thinking and an egregious display of pandering that the writer should be shot in the head and cited for indecency, in that order.
I lost count of how many new releases I bought or received to review this year - calling it a lot hammers the point home because I've sold more albums this year than most people would buy. However, a few records grabbed my ears in a huge way - they would be stunning artistic accomplishments in any year. In this year, listening to a song like Ted Leo's "Me And Mia" might as well have been hearing "Satisfaction" or "Twist And Shout" for the very first time. The moment when Ted Leo morphs his voice from a croon into a tuneful shout to call everyone to action with a single couplet ("Do you believe in something beautiful? / Then get up and be it!") is as good as anything else I've heard in rock 'n' roll.
The Explosion returned with an album on a major label; while I have no practical use for majors, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day and "Black Tape" is both of those moments. The first track, "Deliver Us," runs for one minutes and 42 seconds. In less than two minutes, this song reminds me why I've loved this band since I heard them and reaffirms that faith; just like the Paris Texas record that I fell head over heels for earlier this year, this song makes me want to do backflips and is exactly the sort of thing that makes me feel half my age and far more inspired, the sort of song that - heard live - would not only have me singing along with every word, pointed finger in the air, but would also be likely to have me reminding everyone in the surrounding area how to have fun at a punk show. After all, what are a few elbows and shoves amongst people who will either be fast friends or throwing punches in short order? Sure, maybe street punk can seem tired every once in a while but this entire album is a potent reminder of just how great it is when done properly.
And then, once again, there's that fucking Paris Texas album that I still cannot get over. Sure, you can dismiss it as calculated, constructed pop assembled out of fragments of prior trends, genres and hits, but so what? I don't think I know a single person who's given this album half a chance and hasn't had to admit - no matter how grudgingly - that it's fucking catchy as hell and spawns some of the most stubborn earworms I've ever heard.
However, albums like these were the exception this year. Promising EPs yielded lackluster follow-ups; most of the full-lengths turned out to be tremendously bloated singles and fodder for home-made compilations which salvaged the handful of good moments before tossing the remainder overboard into the swollen seas of the used bins.
In 2004, punk effectively lost a great deal of its conscience - only a handful of punk bands bothered to comment on the state of things as one of the most important elections in recent memory came and went, as the country basically handed the reins over to zealots and fascists. While those statements are memorable artistic accomplishments, for the most part, punk sat on the sidelines and seemed more concerned with navel-gazing introspection instead of opposition and resistance. In the face of what could have been the most politically galvanizing year for punk since the 1980s, punk - for the most part - focused on the critical issues of relationships and hurt feelings with enough catchy melodies to transform those songs into pop ditties suitable for soccer mom radio. And that capitulation, more than anything else, is what I will remember this year for.
I will only claim one thing about the following records - this is what 2004 sounded like for me. Some guilty pleasures, some great artistic accomplishments, and some selections that will likely leave you scratching your head. So be it. Music - and writing about it - is a frustrating thing and lists like these are intended to spark discussion and debate. With that said, let's get on with it. Here are the disclosures:
- I have some level of personal involvement with a number of bands on this list. I have either interviewed them, am in the process of interviewing them, am friends with them, talk with them on a regular basis, drink with them or otherwise have a relationship which extends beyond merely hearing the record. There are a substantial number of records which were released in 2004 by bands that I also have some relationship with that do not appear on this list.
- The only albums on this list which I did not pay for are as follows: The Bars, Communiqué, The Dukes / Altaira split, Lords, Sex Positions and The Vanishing.
- I purchased every other album on this list. Thus, you can read every commentary in this list and know that it's from the perspective of someone who worked to earn money to buy these records and still feels that they're stellar.
- The Album Leaf, "In A Safe Place" CD (Sub Pop)
Eerie, frequently orchestral, ambient pop music which can sound like everything from modern glitch ("The Outer Banks," "Another Day") to whales ("Window"). Always stately, always ethereal, The Album Leaf has crafted yet another in a string of masterpieces in this collaboration with Sigur Rós (featuring a number of contributions from Black Heart Procession's Pall Jenkins). While the vocals are a new addition and, much like the Fennesz album listed here, somewhat unsettling at first, it's easy to get used to them and, in time, they add another dimension to TAL's late-night musings ... or, perhaps more to the point, these songs which provide perfect incidental music for too many late nights of recalling things left undone, unsaid, unbroken or unfinished.
- The Bars, "Introducing ..." CD (Equal Vision)
Duh. Like this one wasn't an obvious choice for me. Members of the Hope Conspiracy and Give Up The Ghost get together in a studio and record an album? Sign me up. This record is raw, uncompromising, blistering hardcore which strips away musical frills and offers up a lean, muscular juggernaut of rock-inflected punk. This is the sonic equivalent of a punch in the face and, naturally, a great thing. Does it go without saying that this is exactly the sort of quality record I would expect from the folks involved with this project? If it doesn't, consider it said - or, more to the point, that it surpasses every expectation and hope.
- Camera Obscura, "Underachievers Please Try Harder" CD (Merge)
Soft, gentle, Scottish indie-pop in the vein of Belle & Sebastian - so firmly in that vein, in fact, that it might as well be some addictive substance or another. These lilting pop tunes - usually sung by Tracyanne Campbell - wind up sounded like the best distillations of the most brilliant moments of bands like Heavenly, twee pop, and all things both precious and from the U.K. While I don't necessarily know that Glasgow has a killer music scene, this collection of delicate, affecting, tender songs makes me all the more inclined to go find out.
- Communiqué, "Poison Arrows" CD (Lookout!)
It is no coincidence that projects related to this group of songwriters have made my year-end list in every year that they have released an album and I have done a list. These former members of American Steel constantly craft some of the most inspired and insightful music in any year, moving deftly from punk rock darlings to new wave revisionists while pissing nearly everyone off, alienating fans and confusing critics. Naturally, this is something I appreciate. Continuing in the same vein as last year's "A Crescent Honeymoon" EP, "Poison Arrows" is a collection of beautiful, delicate pop songs about love, heartbreak and yearning ... but for what? A new or better lover? Freedom? To be somewhere else? Transcendence? It seems that elements of all these ideas are present in these songs as Communiqué veers between the debauched cabaret pop of Marc Almond and the insidiously addictive synth-rock that Duran Duran used to launch (probably) billions of teen orgasms. Put simply, this album is a pure pleasure for music fans - and not even close to being a guilty one.
- Converge, "You Fail Me" CD (Epitaph)
There may be a reason why the majority of punk that moved me this year verged on or had elements of metal - perhaps the fusion of punk and metal made the sound more hostile and corrosive, more appropriate for a year in which the nation effectively waved the white flag of surrender and handed the car keys to Christian ideology, allowing it to drive for a while instead of bitching about lane changes from the back seat. What I know is that this album is brutal. It is punishing. It is unrelenting in its assault on your ears. It is totally brilliant. It is probably better than anything else you listened to or heard in 2004.
- Das Oath, "Self-titled" CD (Dim Mak)
One of the few punk titles to appear on this list. In a year when punk stalwarts released sub-par albums - effectively phoning the shit in - or didn't put an album out, Das Oath released 16 tracks of musical annihilation. This wasn't punk so much as it was aural abrasion and genocide for a generation of punks who didn't get the point in the first place. This album is a document of immediacy; more than any other punk album this year, it sounds as though it's on the verge of violent implosion at any moment. It's present, it's now and it's impossible to ignore. It also, in many ways, draws the lines anew; where pop-punk made the style accessible, this album helps transform it back into something which is difficult to absorb, ensuring that only the truly dedicated will get these messages. Fucking awesome.
- Julie Doiron, "Goodnight Nobody" CD (Jagjaguwar)
Soft, melancholy, late night music for the lonely. These songs sound despondent; not bitter, merely resigned to ... what, exactly? A number of these songs seem to focus on road-weariness, that state of being away for too long and yet not exactly homesick, but something else. Restlessness perhaps? And yet despite that, there seems to be a contentment present here, both buried in semantics and context and brought to the surface with explicit meaning. The music tends to be more gentle and restrained, but at times (in "The Songwriter," for example), the accompaniment becomes louder, harsher ... in some respects, even more abrasive, raising the dynamic tension between presence and absence, wanting and needing, coming and going, staying and leaving to what - for this album - can best be described as a fever pitch. The guitar parts are more jagged, like shards of broken glass; they are cutting and speak of hurtful things. Taken as a whole, this album slowly develops, unfolding just a little more with each successive song. It tends to operate largely in one melodic, gently building mode, throwing moments like "The Songwriter" into substantially sharper relief. Much like Doiron's previous solo albums, this one is a keeper.
- Dukes Of Hillsborough / Altaira, "Sometimes You Eat The Bar Sometimes The Bar Eats You" Split CD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
The Dukes' four-song contribution to this nine-track split is noisy, howling, banshee punk, sounding like Motörhead channeling the more angular and edgy parts of Florida's music scene. Then Altaira kicks in. Sloppy. Heartfelt. Melodic. Shouted vocals and ringing guitars, all empty pints being refilled with fists in the air and arms around each other. And then ... look, the song title is silly ("Dudes Air Fresheners And Rotten Beer Smell Like Dirty Diapers") but it's simply the single best song on any punk record this year. Davey tiltWheel contributes lyrics and a vocal track; Altaira just delivers. The song gallops along, driven and punctuated by the rumbling bass lines and stuttering drumbeats. There's an underlying guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted from Iron Maiden and run through Hüsker Dü's Minneapolis meatgrinder around 1985. Yes, Davey's voice is distinctive and yes, the guitar lines sound like something tiltWheel might have written but that's almost irrelevant because it's perfectly in keeping with what Altaira has done in the past - it's just the best distillation of all those ideas, boiled down to their barest essentials and their purest form. At one point, I think I called this the best tiltWheel song never released - while that's a pretty high compliment, I'd like to retract it because this is, for all intents and purposes, the best Altaira song that tiltWheel never recorded. And really, could I say much more about it than noting, yet again, that it's been on repeat for hours? Could I say much more than noting that this song is pretty much single-handedly salvaging this fucked-up, drunken Christmas Eve? Since J dropped this off with me when Altaira stayed here, it has been a constant soundtrack to the good, the bad, the cheerful and the hopeful. If you've never heard a song that makes you cry from happiness, sadness and everything in between, I can't expect you to understand it, but I couldn't ask for much more from an album or, for that matter, a song.
- The Explosion, "Black Tape" CD (Virgin)
The first song lasts one minute and 42 seconds. I heard it and was practically doing stage dives off the desk in my home office (yeah, I have a home office - where the fuck else am I going to do this site?). Even now, as I listen to it for about the 800th time this year, I'm going nuts and have the volume far above where it should be for headphones. Shouted choruses, hook-laden and '77-inflected riffs, screamed slogans for lyrics - there are times when reverting to older forms carries as much power as blowing up the past or creating something entirely new. The entire album is like that - encrypted ciphers that can only be decoded by the initiated and those in the know; the people who have been there, done that and printed the t-shirt. Of course, the entire album is covered with dire copyright warnings that all but threaten pirates with execution by vivisection but that's just part and parcel of being on a major these days - it's an example of the last desperate gasp that we've come to expect from industries that require government intervention to exploit labor. While the Explosion may have signed to a major label, it only means that, for once, some A&R rep fucked up so badly that they signed a good band. Go figure.
- Fennesz, "Venice" CD (Touch)
Glitchy electronic music has been spending a significant amount of time in my CD player lately; Fennesz' work may well represent the best the genre has to offer. While this album makes one or two missteps (honestly, the vocals are a difficult flaw to overlook), it is a gorgeous, soothing, ethereal, relaxing, calming, tranquil and utterly beautiful work of art, filled with gentle synthesizer washes of ambient sounds over bubbling electronic noise. It's like being submerged and hearing malfunctioning electronics remaking a form of composed and structured music not too far off from Erik Satie reverberating underwater. Frankly, that sort of thing is incredibly appealing to me in general and particularly in this case when it's so carefully crafted and melodic - it just takes a slightly broader definition (or perhaps expanding an existing idea) of what music can be to fully appreciate it.
- God Forbid, "Gone Forever" CD (Century Media)
In 2004, metal filled the void that punk left. While punk took a year off, metal stepped up to the plate and proceeded to launch long ball after long ball - political, ridiculously technical and filled with the inspired resistance that punk seemed to embody at one point, metal just fucking killed damn near everything released as a punk album this year. In God Forbid's case, they tackled war, propaganda, questioning one's place in the world - the big stuff that punk should always provide conscientious and righteous direction for and never cede to another genre. "Determination" was a mind-blowing record of progressive technical metal; "Gone Forever" follows up that stellar release with more hooks, more stunning musical performances and ideas which are even bigger. Strip out the solos and this is the record that most punk bands should have been recording this year instead of singing more songs about popular girls; leave the solos in and you have an idea of what punk rock could be doing as a rule.
- The Great Redneck Hope, "Behold The Fuck Thunder" CD (Thinker Thought)
Brutal, screaming, technical, grindy, spastic music. At times, TGRH tosses in brief (we're talking about seconds) passages which reveal diverse influences - something sounding like a Les Claypool bass line here, some harmonica there, a piano somewhere else. For the most part though, those moments are merely accents to the constant barrage of notes and riffs which seem like nothing so much as machine gun fire. As a result of the musical complexity and grinding riffs - much like "'Splosion!" - the song titles once again become a focus since, besides elements of the music, they are the only readily intelligible thing on this album. With the biting, pointed sarcasm shown in titles like "Let's fall in love over AIM so we can fuck when we meet at Cornerstone.," TGRH's attacks on social mores and hypocrisy hit every mark they target.
- The Haunted, "rEVOLVEr" CD (Century Media)
I've always had a fondness for gut-check thrash metal, the kind of sphincter-clenching record which looks the listener dead in the eye to see what they're made of and then punches them twice for flinching anyway. In baseball terms, it's like a pitcher who can shave 30 m.p.h. off a fastball for a changeup which hitters can swing at twice before it hits the plate or a curve which disturbs a nanometer of the strike zone before almost diving into the dirt. With songs ranging from declarations of defiance to dissections of family values and excoriations of hypocrisy, The Haunted (former members of the legendary At The Gates) takes a page or twelve from Slayer, the darkest of the mainstream metal bands, and tries to find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes. The answer? Pretty fucking deep. This album is a singular vision of viciousness and precision anger, something so refined and pure that it seems like nothing so much as a violent and sometimes disturbing form of art. However, not all great art is soothing. Sometimes, the best art is that which disturbs us most. While "rEVOLVEr" is hardly that extreme (we are not, for example, talking about an album as obsessively brutal as Godflesh's "Streetcleaner"), it still looks into darker corners with a sinister smile.
- Isis, "Panopticon" CD (Ipecac)
Epic, stunning, majestic panoramas of sound. It's heavy, but also drifting and dreamy, not unlike the more sweeping vistas that the shoegaze crowd of the early 90's attempted to create, only fully realized (and featuring bass lines that wouldn't sound out of place on a New Order album) as opposed to the half-baked effects-driven records that My Bloody Valentine imitators generated. This album is as awe-inspiringly, jaw-droppingly incredible as The Cure's "Disintegration," echoes of which can be heard in these songs. It's as sonically dense as My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless," one of the deepest and aurally richest albums in recent memory. It's as complex as Peter Hook at his best in New Order's early years. Yes, I'm well aware that these are comparisons to legendary albums and musicians, but in 10 years, I'll probably be talking about this record like I currently talk about "Loveless," so deal with it.
- Kings Of Convenience, "Riot On An Empty Street" CD (Astralwerks)
I don't think it would be unkind or inaccurate to think of this album as something Chet Baker might have recorded if he were younger and focused on indie-pop that wouldn't sound too out of character with his jazz work (if involving more of a bossa nova feel). Rest assured, there is nothing rock about this record - with the possible exception of Leslie Feist's (Broken Social Scene) presence. It's simply a lovely, lilting collection of well-crafted songs performed primarily on acoustic guitar with some accenting instrumentation like strings and pianos. As a whole, it's gentle, affecting music which is perfect for nearly any occasion to relax.
- Ted Leo / Pharmacists, "Shake The Sheets" CD (Lookout!)
For about the first week I had this album, I only listened to - at most - the first three or four songs because I kept wanting to hear "Me And Mia" again. While this is more direct than Leo's other records - and, by proxy, less referential and less opaque - it is also their equal in a different way. While Leo still offers cryptic ciphers on occasion ("I went looking for some writing that I knew would not be there," anyone?), it is far more frequently the case that Leo leaves less to interpretation this outing. While the clarity of his messages and crisp commentary on the state of things benefits, one of the more enjoyable aspects of any new Ted Leo album was sitting down and puzzling through references, picking up on the allusions (which, in some cases, turned into elusions as they dodged my best research efforts) and piecing meanings together out of them. But despite this new-found directness, "Shake The Streets" is still a lyrical juggernaut of ideas and hope, backed up by some of the catchiest indie-rock riffs and rhythms on any record this year. Emma Goldman once said words to the effect that it wasn't her revolution if she couldn't dance; this album provides an ideal soundtrack for joyous rebellion and reclamation of a country that belongs not to ideology, but to the people who live in it.
- Lords, "The House That Lords Built" CD (Initial)
This record is simply far too short. Two songs on here approach the two-minute mark. They don't actually reach it, but they come close. The rest? They hover at or around the one-minute mark. However, that suits this yowling, cat-fuck rock because these songs would be much tougher to handle if they were any longer.
- Owen, "I Do Perceive" CD / "Self-titled" CD EP (Polyvinyl)
This album and EP have been pissing me off for several weeks now because nothing about them stands out as being any more exemplary than anything else that Mike Kinsella has released as Owen. While that might sound like a criticism, the problem is that Kinsella's work as Owen - as a general rule - is leagues beyond a vast majority of the albums out there. It's gentle, melodic and affecting; while these two efforts seem more bitter than prior releases, they paint events in human terms with subtle details and images which drive the point home more effectively than a nail gun. Frankly, these things are so good that they almost make me wish I was single so I could listen to them and feel sorry for myself. How's that for a recommendation?
- Paris Texas, "Like You Like An Arsonist" CD (New Line)
One of the single catchiest records I've heard this year. I've already written massive amounts about it on several occasions, but it's so tasty that I can't help but do it again. It's a new wave dance party in 11 songs, a collection of stupidly infectious riffs which are more contagious than Ebola outside a clean room and lyrics which don't always make clear, logical sense but always convey a passion for living each moment to the fullest. It may be a slightly guilty pleasure because it sure sounds a lot like some of the best moments of new romantic guitar rock, but it's just so goddamned good that it's really pretty impossible to resist.
- Pinback, "Summer In Abaddon" CD (Touch And Go)
Let's forget the pedigree for a moment - these off-kilter pop songs are filled with interesting tempos, unexpected musical shifts, melodies which seem to have originated in outer space and a hefty dose of experimentation. To explain what it sounds like further, it's a fusion of the minds behind Heavy Vegetable and Three Mile Pilot, explaining the unsettling bass lines which wouldn't be out of place on a Mingus record, the eerie tunes which twist and turn like a Tim Burton film, always mixing something that sounds oddly familiar with something else that is recognizable as little more than alien. However, every last one of these songs is a singular work of art which coheres into a unified whole that is clearly recognizable as Pinback; more than anything else, that's what landed this album on this list - the distinctive sounds. It's nearly impossible to compare Pinback and no one else really sounds like this. And that's just simply amazing.
- Preston School Of Industry, "Monsoon" CD (Matador)
There's a reason why I'm not so arrogant as to call this list the best of 2004 - I really could care less about which albums were critically acclaimed or met some abstract standard that an overly credentialed intern developed. That's why this list will likely deviate from every other list along the same lines. I simply list the albums I enjoyed and try to provide some measure of explanation about why I found them enjoyable. And thus we have this shimmering pop gem. If quantitative measures exist to evaluate a work of art based on empirical evidence, they might find that this album isn't adventurous or experimental enough; that it doesn't do much new. However, that overlooks how well this record does what it does - this is indie-pop in a mode which hasn't been heard for a while (roughly since the early to mid-1990s), created by ex-Pavement member Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg, one of the form's masters. These records and Steve Malkmus' recent solo work pretty clearly prove that Spiral was behind Pavement's catchiest and most enjoyable moments; much as Tobin Sprout's post-GbV albums revealed where the pop songsmithing came from. For my money, a new PSOI album is always a steal - I know exactly what I'm getting, it's tremendously consistent and highly enjoyable which is, in my world, the sign of a band that focuses on doing something well and perfecting its craft instead of innovating for the sake of doing something new.
- Sex Positions, "Self-titled" CD (Deathwish)
When I first listened to this album, I knew it was something special. Hardcore can get very boring very quickly if it isn't backed up with original ideas or chops; that's what separates Sex Positions from the boys who just want to create the hardcore equivalent of jacking off into a dirty sock and going to sleep. Sex Positions gets positively experimental on this album, offering a dizzying array of moves which were likely learned from the "Kama Sutra." It's a grinding buzzsaw of a record, savagely fucking up expectations and trends in favor of music which incorporates diverse influences - ranging from straight-forward hardcore to angular post-punk (with a dash of Refused for good measure) - and instruments (harmonica? What the hell?). I hope albums like this are an indication of what hardcore will sound like in 2005.
- Some Girls, "All My Friends Are Going Death" CD (Deathwish)
This is a no-brainer. Astonishingly brutal, chaotic, hell-bent hardcore which has all the subtlety of emptying the clip to make a point. By now, everyone probably knows where Some Girls came from, has heard about the legendary EPs and knows that this collects pretty much everything to date with some added stuff, including demos. This album is one of the best punk albums this year and would be among the best in any year. Simply stunning.
- Unearth, "The Oncoming Storm" CD (Metal Blade)
When an album kicks off with a song which includes the line "God sent politics hammered down with a fist too bold" cloaked in bone-crushingly heavy riffs surrounded by Maiden-esque melody lines, you know you're in for something which is both political and awesome. I wasn't especially familiar with Unearth (so don't give me shit if a previous album was, like, way more awesome) before this record, but it embodies nearly everything I typically look for in an album - a conscience, an awareness of the challenges we all face, a sense of community, a unique voice and a different way of expressing it. Since I'm also more than a little buzzed as I write this, factor alcohol into the equation when evaluating my comments, but I'm extremely happy I picked this metallic gem up and brought it home.
- The Vanishing, "Still Lifes Are Failing" CD (GSL)
This still sounds like skronky, no-wave, death disco. It's still pretty goth and pretty industrial with saxophones that sound like they came straight out of James Chance's discography. It's still dark and sexy, much like Siouxsie or Romeo Void. And as a result, it's still pretty fucking awesome.
- Brian Wilson, "SMiLE" CD (Nonesuch)
Yeah, I know. What the fuck, right? This is a punk site, this list is filled with punk, indie and metal albums, right? So what the fuck? It's very simple. This album is brilliant, filled with harmonies not heard in any significant, real or worthwhile way since the 1960s, and reminding me why the first record I ever bought - and I had to put it on lay-away, for those of you who remember such things - was a Beach Boys Greatest Hits album on Ronco. This record is playful, goofy, serious and filled with so many subtleties that you'll be listening to it a decade later and still hearing things for the first time.
Hey, I'm a geek. In any year, there's usually a handful of songs that I just can't hear enough, that I listen to on repeat for hours, that linger in my ears for weeks afterward. If I were making a mix CD of 2004, these songs would be on it.
- Altaira, "Dudes Air Fresheners And Rotten Beer Smell Like Dirty Diapers"
- The Explosion, "Deliver Us"
- Rachel Goswell, "Gather Me Up"
- Handsome Boy Modeling School, "Breakdown" / "I've Been Thinking"
- The Haunted, "99"
- I Am The World Trade Center, "Future Sightings"
- Iron & Wine, "Naked As We Came"
- Ted Leo / Pharmacists, "Me And Mia"
- Miss TK And The Revenge, "Elevator"
- The Mountain Goats, "Palmcorder Yajna"
- Tara Jane O'Neil, "The Poisoned Mine"
- Paris Texas, "Hip Replacement" / "Your Death"
- Tortoise, "The Lithium Stiffs"
- Wilco, "The Late Greats"
Of course, new releases weren't the only game in town. This year was pretty decent for reissues and collections, including:
- A multi-disc reissue of The Clash's "London Calling"
- A multi-disc reissue of Pavement's "Crooked Rain Crooked Rain"
- Jawbreaker's "Dear You" returning to print with bonus tracks
- A killer Bettye Swann soul collection
- Collections of singles, EP tracks and other errata from Black Cross and the now-defunct Give Up The Ghost
If you didn't pick those up, you really might want to do so.
Every year, I wind up with discs that I'm just not sure about - albums that keep me listening and keep me interested, albums that I keep going back to like dysfunctional relationships with addicting people. Think of this list as albums that I reserve the right to add to my list of favorite records for 2004 whenever I see fit. Unlocking their secrets simply requires more time than I had to offer them in 2004.
- Black Dice, "Creature Comforts" CD (DFA)
- Blood Brothers, "Crimes" CD (V2)
- In Flames, "Soundtrack To Your Escape" (Nuclear Blast)
- Iron & Wine, "Our Endless Numbered Days" (Sub Pop)
- The Kite-Eating Tree (Cowboy Versus Sailor)
- The One A.M. Radio, "A Name Writ In Water" CD (Level Plane)
- Submission Hold, "What Holds Back The Elephant" (G7 Welcoming Committee)
- The Sultans, "Shipwrecked" CD (Swami)
- Volante, "Static Until Sunrise" CD (Guilt Ridden Pop)
- Wilco, "A Ghost Is Born" CD (Nonesuch)
Most Overlooked Album Of 2003
How in the hell did I miss The Postal Service's "Give Up"? Good thing I corrected that mistake.
Múm's "Summer Make Good" features what is absolutely the worst packaging of the year. Sure, it looks good but the CD slips into a sleeve which is so tight that it has to be forced back in ... and practically pulled out with tweezers. It's just stupid - if you can get the CD out of the packaging without ripping the sleeve, you will be graced with some delightful glitch-pop songsmithing ... but that's a pretty big if.
2005 is already shaping up to be better - you will be hearing about the Jesu record that Justin Broadrick is releasing - I have a copy here, I can't stop listening to it and it's fucking amazing. If you can imagine a combination of Godflesh, My Bloody Valentine and Sigur Rós, you will have a vague understanding of how mind and genre-bendingly awesome the Jesu album really is.