Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Best Albums of 2004, Five Years Later

Back in January 2005, I listed my favorite albums of 2004:

1. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat.
2. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born.
3. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs.
4. Mike Watt – The Secondman’s Middle Stand.
5. Liars – They Were Wrong, So We Drowned.
6. Mission of Burma – ONoffON.
7. Deerhoof - Milk Man.
8. Will Johnson – Vultures Await.
9. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free.
10. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youths, Bloodthirsty Babes.
Best album of 1967 that I never expected to hear in my lifetime: Brian Wilson - SMiLE.
Other albums I considered: Mekons - Punk Rock, Iron and Wine - Endless Numbered Days, Madvillain - Madvillainy, Shearwater – Winged Life.
Bought too recently to review: Oneida, Comets on Fire, Panda Bear, and Cul de Sac/Damo Suzuki.
Would I still rank 2004 albums the same way?  Not a chance!  Last year I gave myself a report card for my 2003 picks, a practice I will continue.  For one thing, it promotes humility. For another, shame. And, as an added bonus, it gives me a chance to revisit favorite albums that may have dropped from my regular playlist. Everybody wins! Here's my picks for 2004 with five years of time to let them percolate:

1. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (up from #3).  At the time I could stop raving about how delightfully psychedelic this album is. I still love it, maybe even more than the Fiery Furnaces, who have finally worn me down. But every time this album or a track from this album crops up in my listening, I am invigorated.

2. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (down from #1). Actually no, I still love this album. But I do have some lingering fatigue for it that I didn't have at the time. I'm much more inclined to listen to only one song from it at once rather than commit to the whole enchilada.

3. Mastodon - Leviathan (not yet on my radar). This album rules. I wish I had heard it in 2004.

4. Deerhoof - Milk Man (up from #7). My affection for this album has only grown, while my affection for the Liars album has plummeted (I mean, yes, the Liars albums is awesome in some respects, but it's also sort of a drag). This one is my favorite Deerhoof album.

5. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender (not yet on radar). I'd read about the twee harp girl on Pitchfork, but I was foolishly avoiding her in 2004. I shouldn't have. This album is chock-full of stunning music and passionate, brainy songs.

6. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born (down from #2). Still a great album and sometimes my favorite Wilco album, but it's tarnished by the lackluster efforts that have followed it. And I don't like the second half as much as I used to. But the first six songs are unstoppable.

7. Comets on Fire - Blue Cathedral (bought but unreviewed as of when I made the list). Comets on Fire will MELT YOUR HEAD. And I like their follow-up album even more. Are they still together? I miss these guys.

8. Oneida - Secret Wars (bought but also unreviewed). This one has the krautrock/punk/drone down flat, but it's also fairly user-friendly for newcomers to Oneida.

9. The Magnetic Fields - i (doesn't appear to be on my radar). Now that I think about it, I may have had this album when I made my list, but I think I had seriously underrated it. Some of the songs are a little lackluster, but most are witty fun.

10. cLOUDDEAD - Ten (definitely not on my radar). I don't remember when I got into cLOUDDEAD, but their freaky psychedelic hip-hop head-trip is an utter delight.

Honorable mentions:

Mike Watt - The Secondman's Middle Stand (down from #4). Watt's song-cycle held a lot of interest for me back in 2004, but it's become the Watt album I reach for the least in the intervening years. Sorry, man. I still like it, but I don't love it quite as much.

The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me (not on radar). Not the best Hold Steady, but still a great album.

Dosh - Pure Trash (radar-less). Martin Dosh's song-cycle loosely about the terrors of parenthood would have resonated with me quite a bit in 2004, when my wife and I were expecting our first child.

Brian Wilson - SMiLE (left off list intentionally). At the time I thought including it would be an automatic #1, but I hear more of its faults now.  Not that there's many, but the album is more of a re-creation than a creation for 2004.

Danger Mouse - The Grey Album (unheard at the time). Everybody was raving about this at the time, but I held off. Probably shouldn't have, though, because it's fascinating.

Mission of Burma - ONoffON (down from #6). Still awesome.

The New Year - The End Is Near (not on radar). Also great.

The Dexateens - The Dexateens (unbought). Killer debut from killer band.

Danielson - Brother Is To Son (unheard).

Of the others, I've sort of lost interest in the Liars album, although I still think it's a significant work of art.  I've really lost interest in Will Johnson and Centro-Matic in general. The Streets don't move me like he used to, and the TV On The Radio is the only album of theirs that I hardly ever listen to.  I like Madvillain, but not as much as other DOOM albums, and I only picked up his other one from 04, Venomous Villain, recently.  So there you go.

That's only 4/10 that stayed on my list, but two of my top three were pretty consistent, and all of my top three stayed on the list.  Not so good overall, but not so bad with the high-profile ones. I'm going to give myself a B for the year. I probably deserve a B-, but goshdarnit, I feel I deserve the bump.


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