2004 music highlights, best of 2004

2004: The year that was, you know, just sorta there.

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This is what is known as a lean year for BE’s resident Pop Boy, and the reason is pure economics. Two words: double mortgage. CD’s instantly became a luxury, and for a guy like me, not buying music for three months is pure torture.

This is why the annual list of this year’s best is a little thinner than usual. Instead of talking about Top Ten albums, singles, etc., I’m going to try something a little different. And so, without further ado, 2004, from A to Z.

Well, okay, A to W, skipping Q along the way.

Air – Talkie Walkie

Forget their hipster connections. The first half of this album is bulletproof. One wonders when 10cc will finally hear “Run,” the band’s tribute to “I’m Not In Love,” and release the hounds.

“Butterflies and Hurricanes,” Muse (Album: Absolution)
Okay, so this actually came out in 2003, but the world needed roughly a year to catch up. Of all the tracks from their excellent Absolution, this is the watershed moment, a near perfect blend of Queen’s grandeur and Radiohead’s pessimistic optimism. “Use this chance to be heard,” indeed.

“Ch-Check It Out,” Beastie Boys (Album: To the Five Boroughs)
If MCA invites you into his garage, politely say no. He’s fond of his needle nose pliers, in a Marcellus Wallace kind of way.

Duran Duran – Astronaut

If this album was half as good as their recent live shows…oh, wait. This album is almost exactly half as good as their recent live shows. If this album was three quarters as good as their recent live shows....

Eminem, “Just Lose It”
Okay, so he’s encouraging people to fart on the dance floor. But that Miami break beat just kills.

Finn Brothers – Everyone Is Here

Neil Finn is one of the greatest songwriters ever. How he phones this album in, with older brother (and equally competent songwriter) Tim, plus pop virtuoso Jon Brion in attendance, is anyone’s guess.

Green Day – American Idiot

Aw, HELLZ yes. What a sharp kick in the ass this album was. Catchy, ambitious, whip smart and mad as hell, the best band from the Bay knocks it out of the park.

“Happy Goth,” Divine Comedy (Album: Absent Friends)
Rhyming Goth with cloth was pretty obvious. Dropping the “Star Wars” ice planet of Hoth into the mix is nothing short of genius. That Neil Hannon, he’s pretty bright.

Ian Broudie – Tales Told
For this diehard Lightning Seeds fan, this import only, mostly acoustic solo album was nice, but nowhere near as fulfilling as the sugar buzz that comes with a Lightning Seeds album.

Junior Boys, Last Exit
Um, I know you’re an electronic band and all, but you’ll eventually play something that’s danceable, right?

Keane – Hopes and Fears
One of the most encouraging signs that radio is starting to discover the error of its ways is the success of this unassuming piano pop trio.

“Laura, ”Scissor Sisters (Album: Scissor Sisters)
That damn Babydaddy. Why don’t he give me he love?

Morrissey – You Are The Quarry
The rumors of Moz’s return to form are only slightly, only slightly less exaggerated than the rumors of his creative demise. This wasn’t quite the Smiths-like effort we were promised, but it’s easily his best in a decade.

“Nearer Than Heaven,” The Delays (Album: Faded Seaside Glamour)
Never mind Song of the Year status. This is one of the truly great pop singles of all time. Think “There She Goes” is catchy? That song is rubber, this song is glue.

“Old Whore’s Diet, ”Rufus Wainwright
It was to be expected that Want Two, the experimental successor to 2003’s already experimental Want One, would be a tough love. Thankfully, the overblown ballads are redeemed by this delicious slice of Latin sleaze.

Polyphonic Spree – Together We’re Heavy

Yeah, I’m guessing if we weighed all 25 of you at the same time, you probably would be pretty heavy. Now how about making a decent record?

REM – Around the Sun
They swore that if anyone ever left the band, they would break up. They swore that at midnight on December 31, 1999, they would break up, whether anyone had left the band or not. They reneged on both counts. Karma, it appears, has taken care of the rest.

Secret Machines, “Now Here Is Nowhere"
Forget the Pink Floyd comparisons this band has had to suffer. This song is like New Order after listening to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless for weeks on end.

Tears For Fears – Everybody Loves A Happy Ending

Sadly, it looks like this is more of an ending than any of us realized. Fuckers. To tease us with a record of this caliber, only to break up again, is just cruel.

U2, “Vertigo”
You know what? It just isn’t that good. Sure, it’s still better than material from nearly any band their age – in fact, they’re quickly establishing that they are the best band of all time, and that includes my beloved Beatles – but let’s be real here: this doesn’t hold a candle to “Beautiful Day.”

Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn

Worth it solely for “Portland Oregon,” but the rest of it ain’t bad, either.

William Shatner & Ben Folds (Has Been) with Joe Jackson, “Common People”
Folds and Jackson by themselves, that alone would make for a great cover of Pulp’s searing take on class warfare. But to first bring the song to Admiral Kirk, well, those are the moves that make it into the history books.

Other assorted one-liners

From the Department of Redundancy Department
From “Dry Your Eyes,” by the Streets. “I know you want to make her see how much this pain hurts.” Of course it hurts. That’s why they call it PAIN, you dolt. Is there such a thing as pain that doesn’t hurt? If so, sign me up.

Get This Kid a Thesaurus
From “Somebody Told Me,” by the Killers. “It’s not confidential / I’ve got potential.” Ye gods.

Only Alanis Would Call It Ironic
Interpol’s Antics might be the most emotionally unmoving album of the year.

Those tossers stole our riff, Jimmy!
Does anyone else think Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” is a sly ripoff of Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Underfoot”?

Hey, Franz Ferdinand did it, why can’t we?
“Night on Fire,” VHS or Beta. “Family Man,” Hall & Oates, which is a cover of Mike Oldfield. One guitar riff fits all.

Godspeed, Bob
Guided by Voices calls it a day. The world suddenly seems a much scarier place.

~David Medsker