Monday, January 03, 2005

More on my Top Ten list for 2004:

1. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat. This is the wildest album of the last ten years, full of mini-operas that tell Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead part-stories over the most inventive music composed by ADHD indie rockers ever. Hyperbole? I'll tell you next year.

2. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born. This is Tweedy's Sister Lovers album, as raw a view into his soul as conceivably possible. Somewhere between the direct lyrics of his first three albums and the abstract lyrics on YHF, this one is a fur coat full of hidden razor blades. Those who call it boring probably hated The Wild Bunch, too. And might kick kittens, I'm not sure.

3. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs. P-sychedelic, DAMN! What do these guys sound like? Honestly, they sound like what went on in my head when I used to do drugs. References? Lessee: a bit o' the Godz, some SMiLE-era Beach Boys, Faust, Simon & Garfunkel, Os Mutantes (also a big influence on the Fiery Furnaces, whowoulddathunkit?), Holy Modal Rounders, Flaming Lips, Spacemen 3, I give up. They wack.

4. Mike Watt – The Secondman’s Middle Stand. Post-punk's standard-bearer goes prog. Watt cuts the guitar from his trio and adds a Hammond B-3 organ, then tells the story of his illness and near-death from a burst perineum with constant allusions to the Divine Comedy. Did I mention that it's funny as hell? This guy should be on the dollar bill.

5. Liars – They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. That's right, two concept albums in a row. If you count Blueberry Boat, Milk Man, and A Grand Don't Come For Free (not to mention the extra-special category for SMiLE), 2004 was The Year Of The Prog for me. This one is a creepy, electronica-heavy concept album about Walpurgisnacht as told by both villagers and witches. And it's good! Again, bucking the odds here.

6. Mission of Burma – ONoffON. Why, yes, I do like rock music for its own sake, too. MoB deliver the goods, despite their brief (23 year) hiatus.

7. Deerhoof - Milk Man. A concept album (again!) about a dream monster, as delivered in Deerhoof's traditional avant-rock meets Japanese pop stylings. This is the catchiest Deerhoof album ever. I hated it at first, but found myself unable to sleep at night without getting a small fix. It's a gateway album.

8. Will Johnson – Vultures Await. With too much piano for a proper Centro-Matic release, this sleepy, pointed album had to come out under Will Johnson's own name. Beautiful stuff.

9. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free. Q: Why is this here and not Madvillainy? A: I am a goober and like the same. Awkward delivery and stiff beats can't keep the narrative force of this album down. Nice stuff and thanks to Jim for the tip.

10. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youths, Bloodthirsty Babes. Freakin' great. TVOTR sing about existential crises as if they were at a Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting with passionate, insistent musical backing.

Best album of 1967 that I never expected to hear in my lifetime: Brian Wilson - SMiLE. What an amazing time to be alive, when this can see the light of day. Yeah, it's stiffer than the fragments from the original sessions, but good lord. It's like Bach deciding that he couldn't finish his Brandenburg Concertos, so he just sat on them for 40 years. If I were ranking this as a 2004 album, it would be #2 on that list above. But I'm not; this is a special case.

Other albums I considered: Mekons - Punk Rock, Iron & Wine - Endless Numbered Days, Madvillain - Madvillainy, Shearwater – Winged Life. I recently got copies of albums by Oneida, Comets on Fire, Panda Bear, and Cul de Sac/Damo Suzuki that I need to digest before really considering them for the purposes of this list. Panda Bear's album is abstract folk (which makes sense 'cause he's a member of Animal Collective) centered around wordless vocals, acoustic guitar, and analog ambient noise. I understand that it's a mournful song cycle about the death of his father. I'm sure there are other interpretations, because it's basically Abstract Expressionist indie-folk. Oneida is krautrock-influenced drone-and-groove music with a sense of humor. I'd first heard them on a split EP they did with the Liars a few years ago, but this is the first full album of theirs I've heard. They have a great melodic sense, which plays well with the noisy krautrock-ish rhythms. Comets on Fire play swollen guitar-heavy psychedelia, as if the 13th Floor Elevators hooked up White Light/White Heat-era VU for an echo chamber orgy. Finally, the Cul de Sac & Damo Suzuki album sounds, very simply, like slightly more out-there live Can (with a bit of Court of the Crimson King thrown in for good measure).

More news: we purchased a new 2004 Honda Element last week. Yummy!

Fetal music last night:
Schubert, Quintet for 2 violins, viola & 2 cellos in C major with Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs

Finally: Eppy at Clap Clap Blog quoted my entire e-mail to him on the Fiery Furnaces' "Mason City" in his typically brilliant analysis. He has also rearranged the narrative parts of the album in chronological order. Check it out!


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