It’s hard to believe that 2004 is finally coming to a close. The Bush election was painful, but it was a tough year all around. Old Dirty Bastard died. So did Rick James. And Dimebag Darrell’s death last week was the final, morbid icing on the cake. Rest in peace guys. We’re ready for a sunnier 2005.
Musically speaking, it was a disappointing year as well. Everyone we talked to when conducting this poll agreed: there weren’t enough standout releases in 2004. TV on the Radio, who earned our number two spot last year with their debut EP "Young Liars," failed to impress us with their spotty full length Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Interpol gave us too much of the same with Antics. (Like many New York bands, TV on the Radio and Interpol both suffer from stellar-EP/anticlimatic-LP syndrome). And Jeff Tweedy continued to ruin his band by including self-indulgent, pill-induced bursts of noise on his records.
In 2004, critics and fans curiously fixated on the word "angular" when describing bands that sound like Gang of Four (see Bloc Party, Futureheads, Moving Units). Art school folkies continued playing whose-the-most-avant-garde table tennis (yes you Bright Eyes and Animal Collective). And New York failed to decide upon a new "it" band to get Rapturous about. The most exciting thing about 2004 in fact, was the Pixies reunion tour. We’d wager that half the people reading this article caught at least one Pixies show, not to mention shelled out 30 bucks to buy the respective live release.
Here at FREEwilliamsburg, we often found ourselves pulling out our old Kinks, Television, Steely Dan, Captain Beefheart, and Ralph Stanley records, frustrated by our inability to find anything truly great in the new release section of Other Music. The critics at FREEwilliamsburg all had different opinions about what should make our Best of list, but we all agreed on two things: 1.) Toad the Wet Sprocket still holds the title for worst band name ever and 2.) 2004 was a mediocre year for music.
But, of course there were highlights ….
FREEwilliamsburg’s Best in Music 2004
25. Weird War
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em
When we heard that The Make-Up was breaking up several years ago we were devastated. Thankfully, Ian Svenonius and Michelle Mae continue to pump out the hits under different monikers. This year, they called themselves Weird War. Last year they were The Scene Creamers. We don’t care what they call themselves as long as they keep kicking ass. Their high energy blend of Motown, funk, gospel and punk transports us to some inverted parallel universe where it’s always 1967 and the Punk movement just conquered the US.
The Present Lover
The first disk by Vladislav Delay under the Luomo moniker (Vocal City) is the one of the best House disks ever made. It was a glitchy, dub-inflected masterpiece. Vocal City was also a fluke since it was intended as a slight side project for the Helsinki-based techno artist. The long-awaited follow-up, The Present Lover is more accessible but not quite as essential. It features more straightforward pop hooks and vocals than its predecessor. Fans of minimal, spacious House music may feel a bit short-changed by this disk when comparing it to Vocal City, but it is nevertheless a danceable delight. Funky, sexy, and a little less patient that Vocal City, The Present Lover would be considered a great record if released by any other artist.
23. Sonic Youth
Everyone needs to cut Sonic Youth some slack. In their heyday, Sonic Youth pushed the envelope with each new record. Now, they’re getting older and notably less experimental.