By now you should've figured the rules: Didn't have to be recorded this year, just had to be discovered by me within 2004. That leaves the door open for a fair bit, but unlike the previous entries, I reckon music will have more to do with the year. In theory.
At any rate, it appeared that this was the year of guitars and tattoos, judging by my unhealthy enjoyment of the latest Green Day album, American Idiot. It's not on the list, but this is only because it's a recent purchase, and I've yet to see how it'll stand up. But you know, I almost considered buying tickets to their live show in March... still, it is a departure for the band, who I stopped listening to after Insomniac. It's an angry little album about American culture, and while it doesn't work as the arcing story album it would like to be, it succeeds, initially, as a cohesive whole. Time will see if it survives. And time is the key, here. In parts of the year, I liked the Velvet Revolver album, Contraband, and the Linkin Park albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora got a lot of spins, along with Refused's Songs to Fan the Fire of Discontent. But time revealed that the last was nowhere near as good as The Shape of Punk to Come, one of my favourite albums, and the remaining three to be a bit like junk food that I consumed and tossed aside when finished.
Music is, for me, essentially a disposable medium. Hence the high rate of turn over.
Other albums worth noting, before the favourites, were the John Butler Trio's commercial version of previous albums, Sunrise Over Sea. I also dug the Daisycutter's Awake Among the Sleepers, and I'm a bit regretful over the fact that I didn't actually go and see them play live. But this year was low for live music, sadly, and 2005 will be picking up as I've already gotten tickets to go see the Polyphonic Spree in January. Anyhow, the end of the year also dropped me Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place and Mum's Finally We Are No One, which I'm enjoying a whole heap, and list here because, like the Green Day Album, they've not yet stood the test of time.
Anyhow, to my favourites for the year.
The Polyphonic Spree, Together We're Heavy. Yeah, I'm going to see them, and yeah, I dig this new album a fair bit. It's a bit of a debate within myself as to which album I like more. The previous album, the Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree, was super listenable, except for the final track, which was just too much humming. But at any rate, I find that Together we're Heavy is just somewhat more uplifting than the first album, as if suddenly having the twenty odd members decked out in coloured robes made them more lively (though I'm pretty sure they weren't recorded while in robes). In fact, I defy anyone to listen to 'Hold Me Now' and not find yourself singing and grooving along to the chorus.
Just take that image and hold onto it for a moment.
Thee Silver Mountain Reveries, Pretty Little Lightning Paw. From what I understand, A Silver Mt Zion, in their last tour, recorded and released this ep for people who went to the live shows. At any rate, it was released to the public, and by chance alone, I came across a review of it, and I've been nothing but glad I did. The last A Silver Mt Zion album had a bit too much of Efrim's vocals, strung across fifteen minute pieces, and while it wasn't a bad album, it didn't equal the use of shorter vocal usage in the first albums. ('Movie (Never Made)' and 'the Triumph of our Tired Eyes' are just fantastic examples of vocal usage.) Pretty Little Lightning Paw is, really, the band getting more comfortable with the direction picked in "This Is Our Punk Rock," Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing, and the album, clocking it at around thirty minutes, is just a little gem.
I Don't Believe, Ash Grunwald. I originally came to this album through Grunwald's fantastic cover of Tom Waits' 'Goin' Out West', which I caught over the radio. The album proved pretty easy to scrounge up, which was a nice change, and it didn't take me many spins to figure that I'd found something really fine. Grunwald's got this deep, rough voice that just booms out there, but with the lack of a band behind him, his use of guitar and a few other percussion instruments combine to create an intimate album experience. Fine stuff.
Tom Waits, Real Gone. Can't really mention a cover of Waits without mentioning the man himself, can I? You sort of know what you're getting with a Waits album these days, with his dirty, carny folk images mixed with down trodden images of the city, and that voice that only Waits can bring. All this is in Real Gone, but there's also some older era Waits, from about Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones, or at least I reckon. But at any rate, the two mix well, producing an album that, outside the opening song 'Top of the Hill' is just fantastic, and able to with stand more than a week of spinning.
Beth Orton, Central Reservation. I suppose I don't have to pick this album, but it was the first Beth Orton album I bought, and thus remains my favourite. The album was picked up for cheap (thirteen bucks, if I remember right) during the search for something new, and while this cheap new music thing has occasionally yielded poor results, I've no complains here with Orton. The attraction is Orton's voice, which is sweet and sticky in the mind, and nothing short of a pleasure to listen to as it overshadows the instrumental performance. But it's nothing but and good thing.
William Shatner, Has Been.
What can I say? I just love this album. There are people who look at me strangely when I say that this album is the best thing I heard all year, that it's one of the most honest, raw, funny, moving things I've heard for the longest time. People tell me it's obvious that I just listen to crap, and well, maybe. Crap is one of those subjective things. But to each person that I've pushed this album onto, who have heard Shatner and Joe Jackson perform 'Common People' and had it slither into the back of their brain, forcing them to an album that then proceeds to show a man who, in his seventies, is still, to quote Ben Folds, "Unable to get his shit together."