Flashback: The Best Music of 2004

In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entries before they become harder to retrieve.

This entry was originally posted on December 31, 2004.

I admit that, with the birth of my son, Harry , this past August, my actual purchases of new music have fallen a bit by the wayside, however that did not stop me from (1) listening to the radio, and (2) downloading music from the iTunes music store. I would therefore like to present the “awards” that I choose to present for new music this year.

Best song — “Every Time It Rains,” by Charlotte Martin
Worst song — “Come to Jesus,” by Mindy Smith
Most easily overplayed song — “Mad World,” as performed by Gary Jules. (It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had occasionally been tempered with the original version by Tears for Fears.)

Best song of seduction (female) — “Me Be Me,” by Jen Chapin
Best song of seduction (male) — “Come With Me Tonight,” by Bob Schneider

Best “free download of the week,” from the iTunes Music Store — “Everything Is Everything,” by Phoenix.

In terms of judging whole albums, it was somewhat more difficult to define the best and worst. Here is the list of my top ten albums of 2004. I will also provide a series of honorable mentions, and finally explain why certain albums clearly don’t belong on any “best of” lists.

Obviously, if there’s an album out there that I didn’t buy — or at least hear in its entirety, I won’t include it in my consideration, and there was a lot of new music out there. When it comes to established artists, I will try not to compare their releases this past year against other releases, however in the case of two particular artists, I don’t believe that’s possible.

1. Jen Chapin — Linger
2. Charlotte Martin — On Your Shore
3. Franz Ferdinand — Franz Ferdinand
4. Hungry Lucy — To Kill A King
5. Zero 7 — When It Falls
6. Modest Mouse — Good News for People Who Like Bad News
7. Polyphonic Spree — Together We’re Heavy
8. Green Day — American Idiot
9. Vanessa Carlton — Harmonium
10. Thornley — Come Again

Honorable mentions:

U2 — How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. I like the grinding, harder style, but in what was a very political year, it just feels out of place.

Marah — 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. This is one of the two albums I can’t help but compare with past efforts. Their previous album, Float Away with the Friday Night Gods, was criticized for being too different from their earlier efforts. Strangely, I saw that as a good thing (not that there was anything wrong with their earlier efforts; it just seems that they were growing as a group). Their new album won praise for “going back to their roots,” while I view it as pandering to the critics of their previous album. Musically, though, it deserves an honorable mention.

Bob Schneider — I’m Good Now. I don’t dislike a single song on this record. The only problem is, the album as a whole doesn’t seem to work for me. Kind of like The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.

The following albums would be better if they weren’t brought down by individual tracks:

Various Artists — Enjoy Every Sandwich: a Tribute to Warren Zevon. Take off the Wallflowers’ insipid version of “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” and you’ve got a winner.

Vienna Teng — Warm Strangers. “Shasta (Carrie’s Song” doesn’t sit right with me, and “Passage” feels too empty.

Air — Talkie Walkie. Half of the album kicks proverbial ass. The other half, well, sucks.

And the worst album of the year, in my opinion is R.E.M. — Around the Sun. I admit up front that I don’t know whether I’m saying this because it is nowhere near as great as past albums they’ve released, or if it’s because it’s a legitimately bad album. Either way, it feels like a contractual obligation album that has no merits other than to get the band out of a recording contract.

Let’s see what 2005 holds.


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