150 Best Albums of 2004

The fifth year of the 21st Century, in case you forgot, is the year that started with an areola belonging to Janet Jackson being exposed to 150 million or so football-watching couch potatoes in January and everybody blaming her for it when maybe they should have blamed Justin Timberlake instead or even better just ignored it and paid more attention to the war in Iraq, and the year that ended with Dimebag Darrell who played guitar for Pantera and on that particular night Damageplan getting shot dead on stage by a fan with a semi-automatic pistol.

Well okay, to be technical, there were still 23 days left in 2004 when Dimebag died, and a whole month of the year had already passed before the Janet thing happened , but you get the idea. In between, Simon & Garfunkel played a comeback show to 600K people at the Roman Colosseum, and Ashlee Simpson got Saturday Night Live viewers’ Fruits of the Loom in a twist by dancing instead of lip-synching — i.e., pretty much the same thing that John Lydon had legendarily done on American Bandstand a quarter-century before. Also Britney Spears got married not once but twice, the first time just for 55 hours. And George W. Bush got 53.3% of the electoral vote and even 50.7% of the popular vote (only time since the ’90s a majority of American president-election ballot-filers picked the Republican guy) over accused flip-flopster John Kerry. Which was horrible news.

Green Day (American Idiot) and Eminem (“Mosh”) and Yonkers rapper Jadakiss (“Why?”) did their best to explain why — or, well, at least to explain something or other. St. Louis rapper J-Kwon had a #2 pop hit called “Tipsy” that sounded like he was yelling “Everybody in the club get pizza!!” (in the misheard tradition of Yello yelling “Everybody! Pizza party!!” in “Bostich” and Musique chanting “peats-peats-pizza pie!” in “In The Bush.”) (You know they ate a pizza, dancing to the beat. A cold Italian pizza, they could use a lemon squeezer.) The biggest hit of 2004, #1 for 12 weeks in the United States and who knows how many weeks in countless other global territories and still to this day aggravatingly unavoidable on car radios, was “Yeah!” by Usher/Lil Jon/Ludacris (who humorously mispronounced Usher’s name), not to be confused with “Yeah” by LCD Soundsystem which was a big hit in a couple neighborhoods in Northwestern Brooklyn, not to be confused with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were big in the same neighborhoods but didn’t put out any new music that year. Also there was Franz Ferdinand, who asked us to take them out, thus starting World War I.

In long hindsight, 2004 was better than the average year for Southern hip-hop (four of my top 15 albums) among other kinds, teen-pop women shifting toward pop-punk like they’re still doing almost two decades later (four of my top 30) among all sorts of women rocking out in general, Eastern-and-Central-European rock/folk/dub hybrids of various potencies and concentrations, maybe even powerpop — the latter, especially, for no fathomable reason except that sometimes different people coincidentally wind up reviving similar obsolete sounds well around the same time. Honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Skye Sweetnam, Red Planet, the Briefs and Local H never even heard of each other. And though it’s possible they all heard of Rick Springfield, that doesn’t mean they had any idea he made the best album of his life at age 55.

Personally, I’m pretty sure I got through the year without checking out any “mp3 blogs” (in fact I pretty much sat out the mp3 era entirely) or understanding why “mixtapes” didn’t look like tapes anymore. Also fairly certain nobody told me about TheFacebook, which Mark Zuckerberg launched for the amusement of horny Harvard classmates in early February. On late Friday afternoons rentacarring through Staten Island toward Bucks County PA to spend weekends with my kids, I tuned into Air America, the liberal talk radio network that hit the airwaves in March and would apparently last for six years but I doubt I heard after 2005.

On extremely early Monday mornings driving back, I listened to Art Bell discussing cryptozoological and UFOlogical and otherwise conspiratorial mysteries on Coast to Coast AM, which confusingly was on FM, and which in retrospect strikes me as proto-Alex Jones (speaking of fake pizzagate news) without the paranoid crypto-fascist false-flag parts even if Jones was already on the air in Austin. (When I moved here in 2009, Infowars bumper stickers were everywhere. Now, thankfully, not so much.) Regardless, I even put Crystal Gayle’s “Midnight in the Desert” — the Coast to Coast AM theme song — on my top 10 singles list for 2004. Quite spooky-sounding on lonely PA-313 and US-202 at oh-dark-thirty (as they used to say in the Army).

Anyway, what follows are several (very gently edited) paragraphs I hacked out at the end of 2004; as usual, take them with a pillar of salt. For one thing, I contradict myself about whether I think experimental bands should try to write songs per sé. I honestly have no memory of ever particularly liking not quite always unlistenable Detroit noizeniks Wolf Eyes (didn’t they have some kind of Andrew W.K. connection at first?), and I don’t remember Outburn magazine at all, even after looking it up. (Apparently it still exists, at least on the web.) I do remember loving Big & Rich as much as I say I do here — in fact, my affection for them is rather infamous in some circles. And while I’m considerably less an evangelist for their corny cheeseball schticks and/or incredibly influential innovations now (I could live without maybe a third of their debut album and it was obviously all downhill from there, plus John Rich turned out to be a major jerkwad), there’s still no 2004 album that means more to me. So sue me. The rest of what you’re about to read, I wrote 18 years ago.

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In 2003 I spieled about how I suddenly liked all kinds of protest songs by the Living Things and Merle Haggard and so on, and even voted for a few, seeing how the state of the world was impossible to ignore, blah blah blah. In 2004 the state of the world got even worse, attaining levels of suckitude unimaginable even 12 months ago, culminating, obviously, on November 2. And guess what? Protest songs (as overjoyed as I am that they’re still allowed to exist, and that they still do) really started to get on my nerves. Or at least lots of the ones that seem to matter to other people I know and trust did. Perhaps it’s just atrocious cynicism on my part; maybe November 2 makes protest seem more ineffectual than I’d briefly hoped. Or maybe it’s just that any mere song is by definition going to feel like pissing in the wind when the wind is Zell Miller and Alberto Gonzales and Abu Ghraib and the ownership society.

Though of course there were plenty of personal exceptions passing through — For instance, I did name that one funny Todd Snider song about right wing Republican males my number-ten country single of the year for the Nashville Scene‘s poll. Kinda had to cut it slack to do so, though; I still wish it had half as much music in it as, say, any random track by right wing Republican males Montgomery Gentry. And Snider is more John Prine folkie than country anyway. He’s a really good songwriter; that one about the Kingsmen and Marilyn Manson gets me every time. I just wish his record didn’t mostly sound like songwriting demos.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Green Day album I tried really hard to appreciate was their least songful ever (hey kids, a nine-minute single! what is this, 19fucking68? oh wait, maybe that’s the point…), and the Beastie Boys album was worse than that (with MCA or was it Ad-Rock straining his voice even more than Brian Wilson, more on whom later), and Drive-By Truckers (who I’m told said interesting things about Dixiecrats, and good for them) dragged dragged dragged through interminable ballad after interminable ballad, and Eminem’s “Mosh” read great on paper and came out at just the right time but the poor guy turns so ponderously leaden and humorless whenever he wants us to let us know what a serious man he’s grown up to be (and he sounds so tired and monotonal otherwise — I miss Slim Shady so much) that he just bummed me out. And being bombarded every ten minutes with water-torture ads that went “The Revolution Starts…..Now!!” last fall on Air America convinced me that Steve Earle’s clunky Condi calypso (dude totally needs a Margaritaville vacation with Kenny Chesney) was even dumber than I thought.

My favorite album of the year if not decade (only album I’ve ever given 30 points to, I think) was way more politically subversive than any of these; hell, this year, even the “Love Everybody” on Big Kenny’s guitar was — Big & Rich are grandchildren of the cowboys from the Village People and Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and that flyover country bought their shtick was the best music news in recent memory. (Hey, at least I didn’t also vote for their late-year EP/DVD dualdisc set, the most revealing moments of the which might be the part where John Rich says — I’m paraphrasing, so check DVD for actual words — that Big Kenny “keeps trying to touch me, and I let him” and the part when Big Kenny says — I’m paraphrasing here too — that when they first met they were “like two bird dogs sniffing each other’s butts, and we didn’t know whether to fight or fuh……um, chase down some lady bird dogs.” I mean, holy shit, you know?

I like Franz Ferdinand fine — in fact, I will go on record here as saying that if the undeniably cute Ferdinand/Killers/Futureheads/Interpol triumph of revived swishy ’80s pretty-boy haircut-pop you can kinda sorta dance to had happened at the height of the High Indie Era, I would have been pogo-ing for joy in a thrift-store skinny tie, especially if you toss in Flesh/Fever/Bloc Party/Watchers, who are even bouncier. But Big & Rich make all these lavender-lunged young metrosexuals seem as bloated as Bono in comparison. Big Kenny’s mastery of pulling one over on his consituency would make Freddie Mercury and Sylvester stand up and take notice, and those two were doing it when Jimmy Carter was president, for crissakes; so what the hell did they have to lose? Except Jimmy Carter was a born-again Christian, remember. And anti-fundamentalist evangelist websites got me through November this year, and Big & Rich do a song called “Saved,” and it might even be my least favorite song on their album. And I haven’t even mentioned the harmonies, or the jokes, or the rhythm section, or the live show, or the videos, or Cowboy Troy, or Gretchen Wilson, or the Muzik Mafia’s action painter.

And yet, somehow, these freethinkers (and Gretchen too) wound up sharing CMT’s Outlaws stage with Kid Rock and Montgomery Gentry. So maybe “love everybody” really does mean “love everybody,” even misguided morons who don’t deserve our love. My own love for Kid Rock and Montgomery Gentry is, um, somewhat tainted by now, to say the least. Though truth is, if Kerry had won, Montgomery Gentry’s album may well have snuck into my top ten, partially because it rocked (and frequently funked) like a motherfucker (or maybe like Steeleye Span, as some on-line scholar with a better memory than mine claimed, so suddenly I’m searching used bins for those geezers) and partially because it pissed me off so much.

But in the end I decided otherwise, just like I decided otherwise top-ten-wise about Wolf Eyes partially because their fans on the Internet mostly all seem to be creepy parodies of Steve Albini in his mid ’80s Howard Stern mode, except way less articulate, or maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy to think the joke of making all your net posts read like Boredoms song titles might stop being so hilarious after you’ve spelled “poop” wrong two or three times. Though mostly I didn’t vote for Wolf Eyes for the same reason I didn’t vote for any of the scores of gloomy new age elevator-metal albums I exercycled and ingested antihistamines and tried to keep my blood pressure down to while reading front page stories about medieval torture this year, which is to say that as lovely as their noise sounds when their CD is spinning, they don’t leave much of an impression when it’s not. The tracks never wind up feeling like songs, never wind up telling me anything about the people who made them.

Hey, it’s a game of inches out there, and at least Skye Sweetnam and Rick Springfield and Trick Daddy provide clues about who they are. Though I do want to say that almost all the metal and hardcore bands interviewed in Decibel and Outburn lately seem like totally sweet kids, with eclectic tastes and excellent politics. It’s very heart-warming! Except, did you know there’s this one vegan metal band now called Cattle Decapitation, and on their album cover there is a cow, but its head is not chopped off? What the hell?

Speaking of cutting, am I the only person who thought the “blaze to blaze” line in M.I.A.’s “Galang” was about razor blades? I know, I’m totally out of it; don’t tell Cam’ron, but I thought her purple haze stuff was a Hendrix allusion as well. Still, it’s fun to imagine the song is about a knife fight, with our Sri Lankan sweetheart slicing up her rival: “too late you dooooooowwwwwwwn.” And yeah, the video should go down in history — partly because M.I.A. dances so bad, skinny legs and all.



And speaking of collectives (unless we weren’t), Animal Collective and TV on the Radio and the Liars and Walkmen made me mad this year, and it probably wasn’t even their fault. It partly has to do with how none of them sound anywhere near as weird or original as fans seem to think they do (Animal Collective were better back before some practical joker convinced them they should start writing songs), but maybe it’s partly also because critics who make those their favorite bands pretend New York City is the center of the universe at the precise time when anybody entertaining such delusions is clearly shooting himself in the foot.

There was something encouraging and timely about how pitchforking hipsters suddenly embraced a zillion acts from Canada, though. Arcade Fire and the Junior Boys and all those hockey pucks struck me as slightly less of a retreat from reality than the New York hypes. I even managed not to be bored by the Les Georges Leningrad album and some single by the Unicorns. And likewise, I now tend to be a sucker for the Cerberus Shoal-style subspecies of communal psychedelic tensome that hibernates away from it all in remote New England farmhouses — seems strangely sane these days, somehow.

Back in Bucks County, my teenage daughter Coco just called me and said her public high school newspaper’s new issue just came out, compete with an anti-gay marriage editorial by the same kid who wrote a rave review called “Get Out Your Credit Card for Yellowcard,” wherein he went on to praise Relient K for being less secular than Blink 182 or Sum 41. The future of Pazz & Jop; Goddess help us all. Not to mention life as normal these days in the exurbs, where evolution isn’t science, just a theory, even in a state that went for Kerry. These days Coco loves the Incredible String Band, Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie, U. Utah Phillips, David Rovics, Michael Hurley, Si Kahn, and Fairport Convention; she also insists Merle Haggard sounds more “folk” than “country” to her, and that (though she can’t stand most pop-country) Big & Rich remind her of the Holy Modal Rounders. She liked the Vashti Bunyan reissue she got for Christmas, too, so I would assume Joanna Newsom and Devandra Banhart can’t be far behind, oh well.

I like old music as much as the next old guy: Numbers Band, Nektar, Notekillers, all those blasts from no past anybody ever heard of til now. But as for Brian Wilson’s canonical masterpiece…it’s, um, pretty, I guess. Some parts are even prettier than pretty. And they would be prettier still if Brian’s voice having seen better days didn’t clog up the works, but people tell me that makes the eternal relic more poignant somehow, and I guess I understand their logic, even if I insist on shrugging my shoulders while doing so. I still don’t get how SMilLE‘s operatic trajectory is all that much easier to follow from beginning to end than, say, American Idiot‘s, but then The Wall never really sunk in for me, either; I’m prog as nails, but I’ve just never been a concept album kinda guy. I’ve always preferred surf songs to pet sounds, and I’ve also never been the kind to romanticize mental illness, and sometimes I wonder if Brian is really just Daniel Johnston or Jandek or Chan Marshall for (other) old people. But I’m probably wrong.

  1. Big & Rich Horse of a Different Color (Warner Bros.)
  2. M.I.A. Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume One (M.I.A.)
  3. Ashlee Simpson Autobiography (Geffen)
  4. Warsaw Village Band/Kapela Ze Wsi Warszawa Uprooting/Wykorzenienie (World Village)
  5. Bley/Sheppard/Swallow/Drummund The Lost Chords (Watt/ECM)
  6. Skye Sweetnam Noise From the Basement (Capitol)
  7. Trick Daddy Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic)
  8. The Sirens The Sirens (Get Hip)
  9. Mannie Fresh The Mind of Mannie Fresh (Cash Money/Universal)
  10. Burnt Sugar Not April in Paris: Live from Banlieues Blues (Trugroid)
  11. Lil Wayne Tha Carter (Cash Money/Universal)
  12. Moacir Santos Ouro Negro (Adventure)
  13. Dave Burrell Full-Blown Trio Expansion (High Two)
  14. Crunk Classics (TVT)
  15. The Scene Is Now Songbirds (Tongue Master UK)
  16. Pagan Altar The Lords of Hypocrisy (Oracle UK)
  17. Katy Rose Because I Can (V2)
  18. Circle Golem/Vesiliirto (Kevyl Nostalgia/Super Mestä Finland)
  19. The Ex Turn (Touch and Go)
  20. Madvillain Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
  21. Yolanda Pérez Aqui Me Tienes (Univision/Fonovisa)
  22. Last Days of May The First 7 Billion Miles (Doubling Cube)
  23. Jorge Ben Jor Reactive Amor Est (Universal)
  24. The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss)
  25. J-Zone A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work (Fat Beats/Old Maid Enterprises)
  26. Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra Diverted Travels (ECM)
  27. Kenny Chesney When the Sun Goes Down (BNA)
  28. Jill Scott Beautifully Human (Hidden Beach)
  29. Red Planet We Know How it Goes (Gearhead)
  30. Hillary Duff Hillary Duff (Hollywood)
  31. Ghost Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City)
  32. Rammellzee Bi-Conicals of the Rammellzee (Gomma Germany)
  33. Rick Springfield Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance (Gomer)
  34. Subterranean Masquerade Suspended Animation Dreams (The End)
  35. Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats (Essay Recordings Germany)
  36. Courtney Love America’s Sweetheart (Virgin)
  37. Nas Street’s Disciple (Columbia)
  38. Rachid Taha Tékitoi (Wrasse)
  39. Montgomery Gentry You Do Your Thing (Columbia)
  40. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club The Bloudy Tenent Truth Peace (Alternative Tentacles)
  41. Steve Kuhn With Strings Promises Kept (ECM)
  42. Andre Ward Steppin’ Up (Award/Orpheus)
  43. Tomasz Stanko Quartet Suspended Night (ECM)
  44. Mahjongg Machinegong (Cold Crush EP)
  45. Mekons Punk Rock (Quarterstick)
  46. O-Type Western Classics (Quadruped/Family Vineyard)
  47. McEnroe and Birdapres Nothing is Cool (Peanuts & Corn Canada)
  48. Scooter Mind the Gap (Sheffield Tunes Germany)
  49. Sunshine Moonshower and Razorblades (Custer)
  50. Thy Catafalque Tünö Idö Tárlat (Thy Catafalque Hungary)
  51. Federation The Album (Virgin)
  52. BP Vs. Effcee Destroy All DJs (Hypnotic)
  53. Jet Fuel Give It Hell (Black Top Fade EP)
  54. Magma K.A. (Seventh France)
  55. Wolf Evil Star (Prosthetic)
  56. Shukar Collective Taves Bahtolo!/Urban Gypsy (Era Business Romania/Riverboat UK)
  57. The Donnas Gold Medal (Atlantic)
  58. Gretchen Wilson Here For the Party (Epic)
  59. Wolverine Cold Light of Monday (Elitist/Earache)
  60. Navajo Code Talkers Heavy Dirty Sounds (Boogie Van Canada)
  61. Lindsay Lohan Speak (Casablanca)
  62. The Briefs Sex Objects (Better Youth Organization)
  63. Kultur Shock Kultura-Diktatura (Koolarrow)
  64. Blaine Larsen Off to Join the World (BNA/Giantslayer)
  65. Big & Rich Super Galactic Fan Pack (Warner Bros. EP)
  66. Onkel Tom Bon Scott Hab’ Ich Noch Live Gessen (Armageddon Germany EP)
  67. Slum Dunk Presents Funk Carioca (Mr. Bongo UK)
  68. Mushroom Glazed Popems (Black Beauty)
  69. Gold Sparkle Trio with Ken Vandermark Brooklyn Cantos (Squealer)
  70. Heart Jupiters Darling (Sovereign Artists)
  71. DJ/Rupture Special Gunpowder (Tigerbeat6)
  72. Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers The Hideout (Milestone)
  73. Fennesz Venice (Touch UK)
  74. MF Doom Mm…Food (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  75. Chingo Bling The Tamale Kingpin (Big Chile Enterprises)
  76. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers Believe (Yep Roc)
  77. Northern State All City (Columbia)
  78. Red Eyed Legends Mutual Insignificance (File 13 EP)
  79. Masta Ace A Long Hot Summer (M3)
  80. Lif Up Yuh Leg an Trample: The Soca Train from the Port of Spain (Honest Jon’s UK)
  81. Teedra Moses Complex Simplicity (TVT)
  82. The Go! Team Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Memphis Industries)
  83. Orphaned Land Mabool: The Story of the Trhee Songs of Seven (Century Media)
  84. Issa Bagayogo Tassoumakan (Six Degrees)
  85. Circle Forest (No Quarter)
  86. Clutch Beast Tyrant (DRT Entertainment)
  87. Les Georges Leningrad Sur Les Traces De Black Eskimo (Alien8 Canada)
  88. Witchcraft Witchcraft (The Music Cartel)
  89. Local H Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? (Studio 8)
  90. Edguy Hellfire Club (Nuclear Blast)
  91. Red Eyed Legends The High I Feel When I’m Low (Gold Standard Laboratories EP)
  92. Mr. Airplane Man C’Mon DJ (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
  93. Slunt Get a Load of This (Repossession)
  94. Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentent Signs (Okra)
  95. Zeena Parkins Devotion (Table of the Elements EP)
  96. Gogol Bordello Vs. Tamir Muskat J.U.F. (Stinky)
  97. Electrelane The Power Out (Too Pure)
  98. Old Crow Medicine Show O.C.M.S. (Nettwerk)
  99. Gangbé Brass Band Whendo (World Village)
  100. The Magic Carpathians & Cerberus Shoal The Life and Times Of (North East India)
  101. Schultze Gets the Blues (Normal Germany)
  102. The Fever Red Bedroom (Kemado)
  103. The Rogers Sisters Three Fingers (Troubleman Unlimited EP)
  104. Nagg Nagg (Dollar Record)
  105. Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (Emergent/American Roots Publishing)
  106. Dallas Wayne I’m Your Biggest Fan (Koch)
  107. Gang Gang Dance Revival of the Shittest (The Social Registry)
  108. Run the Road (Vice)
  109. Clann Zú Black Coats & Bandages (G7 Welcoming Committee Canada)
  110. Point Line Plane Smoke Signals (Skin Graft)
  111. Bang Sugar Bang Thwak Thwak Go Crazy!! (SOS)
  112. Kanye West College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
  113. Lost Sounds Future Touch (In the Red EP)
  114. Chromeo She’s in Control (Vice)
  115. Modey Lemon Predator (Birdman EP)
  116. Rosy Parlane Iris (Touch UK)
  117. Atomic Swindlers Coming Out Electric (Atomic Swindlers)
  118. Crash Kelly Penny Pills (Liquor and Poker)
  119. The Hiss Panic Movement (Sanctuary)
  120. The Lizards Cold Blooded Kings (Hyperspace)
  121. Brocas Helm Defender of the Crown (Brocas Helm)
  122. Nurse With Wound Shipwreck Radio Volume One: Seven Sonic Structures from Utvær (ICR UK)
  123. Malibu Storm Malibu Storm (Rounder)
  124. Selfish Cunt No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper (Horseglue UK)
  125. Appleseed (Tofu)
  126. Slum Village Detroit Deli: A Taste of Detroit (Capitol)
  127. Rahsaan Patterson After Hours (Artistry Music)
  128. Kill Me Tomorrow The Garbageman and the Prostitute (Gold Standard Laboratories)
  129. Asunder A Clarion Call (Life is Abuse)
  130. The Creeping Nobodies Stop Movement Stop Loss (Blocks Recording Club Canada)
  131. Old Man Gloom Christmas (Tortuga)
  132. Blake Shelton Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill (Warner Bros.)
  133. Climax Za Za Za (Balboa)
  134. Mr. Wonka?! Codeine Rock (Mistrwonka)
  135. Mastodon Leviathan (Relapse)
  136. Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
  137. The Warren Brothers Well-Deserved Obscurity (429)
  138. The Tough & Lovely Born of the Stars (Spoonful)
  139. One True Thing Finally… (Play the Assassin)
  140. Deathprod Morals and Dogma (Rune Grammofon Norway)
  141. Ex-Girl Endangered Species (Alternative Tentacles)
  142. Fiery Furnaces Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade)
  143. OMFO Trans Balkan Express (Essay)
  144. Nomo Nomo (Ypsilanti)
  145. Hocico Wrack and Ruin (Metropolis)
  146. Rattlin Bones Rattlin Bones (Isoxys)
  147. DJ Lil Jay Operation: Playtime (Club Kingz)
  148. Human Television All Songs Written By: (Organic Music EP)
  149. Giant Squid Metridium Field (Tyrannosaurus)
  150. Lickgoldensky Lickgoldensky (Level Plane)

2 comments

  1. My favorite part of your original write-up is your, sighing, benevolent dad/rock critic interactions with Coco’s evolving music tastes. Sweet. Similarly, I found MIA’s gangly, punky dancing, the one time I saw her live, anyway, endearing. I need to listen to more Burnt Sugar. I feel embarrassingly out-of-it (again) that I’d never heard them, or even of them that I can remember, until learning of Greg Tate’s recent passing. I and I, peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. via facebook:

    Chuck Eddy
    This post marks the momentous occasion of my so-called blog now containing “150 Best Albums Of…” lists from 1957 all the way through 2005 (though for the ’50s, ’60s and uh ’90s I admittedly combined two or three years into the same lists. I may need to rectify that shortcoming someday.)

    Kevin Bozelka
    Your #2 was my #1. And wow – Air America and Art Bell. Logged many hours with both, especially the latter courtesy of an Infowars-loving ex. One of my fondest memories ever was driving on the 401 in Canada in the wee hours listening to a dude on Coast to Coast talk about Jesus rising from the dead multiple times, once with all other dead people. Scary but somehow warm and comforting at the same time. The Crystal Gayle song aided in the effect although I remember it being about wolves. Also also, Xgau let me write the Pazz essay that year:
    https://bozelkablog.blogspot.com/2017/06/louie-louie-and-jaws-pazz-jop-essay.html?fbclid=IwAR3Qg060NkHp1u2meQhFhPpkVbuk9JvS_mkhHU24IFGDukoiIQYjieznMRI

    Chuck Eddy
    Confession: I couldn’t find the entire Stephen Foster compilation on youtube. (It wasn’t on Rhapster/Napsody or Apple at all.) But I found enough to guesstimate where it probably deserved to rank. The two albums I wanted to hear that I couldn’t find anywhere were by the Perceptionists (possibly considered a “mixtape”?) and This Moment in Black History.
    And yikes, Kevin, an Infowars-loving ex!! I assume that must have been in Austin? Also, do you think Art Bell’s and Alex Jones’s audiences overlapped as much as I suspect they did? It’s weird to remember that back in pre-Trump /9-11-was-an-inside-job days, Jones wouldn’t necessarily have been thought of as “far right,” except I guess in the Ron Paul sense maybe.

    Kevin Bozelka
    oh absolutely there was overlap. And yes, this was in Austin. I don’t know what happened to Jones. Not that he was a paragon of sharp critical thinking. But I was far more willing to hear him out in the early aughts. Did attention whoredom get the best of him?

    Chuck Eddy
    Yeah, I found him more “weird and nutty” back then than “scary and dangerous.” I wonder if it’s more just a matter of his kind of conspiracy mongering going mainstream, with Trump and all the Q-Anon types. Did he even change really? Or did the world just catch up with him?

    Kevin Bozelka
    I think he definitely changed. His narcissistic personality disorder distorted whatever trenchant points he might have had.

    Scott Woods
    I think around that time, Alex Jones was even syndicated up here (though I’m not sure how long it lasted). I remember landing on his show in the car once, and not knowing what to make of it, or him. I was not nearly as allergic to conspiracies at the time (there was a local college radio guy I used to listen to who turned conspiracies into great art/entertainment back in the ’80s and ’90s), so it was probably less Jones’s theories that rubbed me the wrong way (though some of it did seem laughable) than that *voice*. You can get away with saying a lot of dumb shit on the air, but with a voice like sandpaper–that’s tough going.

    Chuck Eddy
    He’s always sounded about three times his age. (He’s only 48 now!)

    Scott Woods
    Wow, figured he was at least my vintage.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Singles
    1. Destiny’s Child: “Lose My Breath” (Columbia)
    2. Armand Van Helden: “My My My” (Southern Fried)
    3. MIA: “Galang” (XL)
    4. Alcazar: “This Is The World We Live In” (BMG International)
    5. Black Leotard Front: “Casual Friday” (DFA)
    6. Usher: “Yeah!” (Arista)
    7. Vybz Kartel: “Buddy Nuh Done” (Baby G)
    8. Franz Ferdinand: “Take Me Out” (Domino)
    9. Yolanda Perez: “Estoy Enamorada” (Fonovisa)
    10. Belle & Sebastian: “I’m a Cuckoo (by the Avalanches) (Rough Trade/Sanctuary)

    Seppe Sandra
    Kevin Bozelka Your #4 is my #1

    Kevin Bozelka
    best disco band of the aughts!
    Also: Basement Jaxx: “Plug It In” (XL/Astralwerks 2004), MC Lars: “Signing Emo” (Sidecho 2004), Portobella: “Covered in Punk” (Universal Island 2004).

    Chuck Eddy
    My very country-heavy P&J Singles ballot that year, with the top two violating my (apparently later) rule not to vote for singles off albums I also vote for:
    1. Big & Rich “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
    2. M.I.A. “Galang”
    3. Yolanda Perez con Don Cheto “Estoy Enamorada”
    4. Martina McBride “This One’s for the Girls”
    5. Chris Ryan “East Coast Liner”
    6. Toby Keith “Whiskey Girl”
    7. Terri Clark “Girls Lie Too”
    8. Gretchen Wilson “Redneck Woman”
    9. Phat Sk8trax “Boogie Back Rap”
    10. Crystal Gayle “Midnight in the Desert”

    Patrick Hould
    I kinda sorta understand the idea of avoiding overlap between your singles and albums lists – it makes things livelier and less predictable. On the other hand it’s, well, *inaccurate*. It did work well in the context of the Stranded discography, I guess, but that was all one list.

    Chuck Eddy
    It’s also REDUNDANT though. You’ve already *voted* for those singles.

    Christian Iszchak
    “Also there was Franz Ferdinand, who asked us to take them out, thus starting World War I.” 😂

    Chuck Eddy
    Hey, never claimed I was above cheap and easy jokes.

    Patrick Hould
    Your description of Wolf Eyes’ fan base = priceless, and a bullseye. Also, what were the “High Indie years”? I would think they didn’t happen until later, not that you could have known that in
    Also, is this really your final top 150 list? 😞

    Kevin Bozelka
    Patrick Hould he hasn’t done 1901!

    Chuck Eddy
    When did I say that?? (I guess by “high indie” I meant the ’90s? I dunno…)
    The Golden of Age of, like, Pavement and Sebadoh, a/k/a the Golden Age of Me Totally Missing New Wave and Frequently Saying So.

    Christian Iszchak
    Patrick Hould something I read yesterday about the high indie years, or post-high indie years, or something.
    https://last-donut-of-the-night.letterdrop.com/c/37-thoughts-on-yeah-yeah-yeahs-music-writing-animal-collective-indie-grizzly-bear-the-xx-and-how-things-change?fromEmail=true&fbclid=IwAR1gkEWJFesMmVLaaPOKkF_lOJc1hI9-p7NkhjvXkN-t2FslZff4JJF5xko

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh, THOSE High Indie Years. I wrote about them once too.
    https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/01/19/the-year-of-too-much-consensus/?fbclid=IwAR2e1n9n-jlQ285K5mAD8kJ9I6c0yujlcmd-KZc_qxkT1CSyI3fv2VTSI8o

    Patrick Hould
    Christian Iszchak Some interesting inside baseball there. I had no idea that The XX had placed 2 albums in Billboard’s top 5 (!!). And it’s certainly the first time I’ve heard of the mid-2010s being peak years for music writers. Wonder what older critics would say about that.

    Chuck Eddy
    Well, considering that I mostly stopped reading music writing when I left the Voice in 2006, I’d say it sounds crazy, but who really knows?

    Patrick Hould
    I interpreted the “this post marks the momentous occasion…” bit as meaning “okay, I’m done!”. I’m relieved if I got that wrong.
    That Pazz & Jop essay was on the money. And I was part of the problem at the time, if not quite to the extent of talking myself into enjoying that Animal Collective album.

    Chuck Eddy
    Thanks. Still don’t know what the headline’s supposed to mean.

    Tom Lane
    Gotta say that even though very few people have paid attention to his albums after the 80’s, Rick Springfield has put out some good ones in the last 20 or so years. That one you got on there is a winner.

    Chuck Eddy
    Also really like Venus In Overdrive, from 2008.

    Patrick Hould
    I’m not sure many critic types paid attention to his 80s albums either. It’s never occurred to me to look into any of them, even though I liked a few of his hits. Any good ones I should know about?

    Tom Lane
    Definitely his best is Working Class Dog, its followup Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me and Living In Oz are good too.

    Chuck Eddy
    Working Class Dog would be the obvious starting point, I’d think. (I doubt many ’80s critics even paid attention to his ’80s *singles*. “Jessie’s Girl” didn’t even place in P&J. Though I think Richard Riegel voted for it.)

    Patrick Hould
    I liked all 3 of his singles off the Hard To Hold soundtrack, but I think not all of it was by Springfield?

    Tom Lane
    That’s a decent soundtrack. The first 3 songs were all Top 40 singles. 4th song charted too. The soundtrack has some other performers.

    Kevin Bozelka
    and you see his butt in Hard to Hold!

    Patrick Hould
    Also his song about being confused for Bruce Springsteen was, um, a moment. If Alfred Soto ever does a list of songs about groupies, that should totally be on there.

    Patrick Hould
    Chuck, I vaguely remember you liking Nellie McKay’s first one back then. Did you lose interest, or just overlook her?

    Chuck Eddy
    I actually listened to it yesterday! Which I doubt I had done since 2004. Had admittedly forgotten how clever she could be. But after a couple songs, I also remembered how insufferably precious she was — she annoys the living hell out of me. I guess this is how some people feel about the Roches’ first album. (Not sure where you would have got the idea that I liked the album back then, since I don’t *think* I wrote about it anywhere. But I also don’t remember hating it. Trying to remember who I assigned to write about it in the Voice — my best guess is Nick Catucci, but I could be way off. After her debut, she could have fallen off the planet earth for all I know.)

    Patrick Hould
    maybe it was on ILX? Something along the lines of “not bad for cabaret”? I might be misremembering the details, but I’m pretty sure you said something about her. Her 2nd album Pretty Little Head (also a double CD) did make P&J. It was alright, but less memorable than the first. I don’t think she’s generated much critical discussion since then. The 2 albums of covers are decent, but Get Away From Me is her best by a mile in my book.

    Chuck Eddy
    OK, a backhanded ILX compliment is entirely possible. A lot of what I wrote there, I I’d probably forgotten about before I even stopped typing.

    Peter Gorman
    Fair enough on her preciousness re original material. Her cover albums (Normal as Blueberry Pie and My Weekly Reader) are excellent though.

    Chuck Eddy
    Are they standards, Great American Songbook stuff? Suppose I could look it up, but vocally she’s no Anita O’Day or Keely Smith I don’t think. How many Christmas albums has she made? She must have a few of those, right?
    Also, did critics in general care much about anything she made after her debut? Honest question — She seems like the kind of artist who would have placed high in Pazz & Jop once, then never come close again.

    Peter Gorman
    Normal as Blueberry Pie is her cover album of Doris Day songs (which is like a cover album of Frank Sinatra songs, in that the singer had hits with these songs but didn’t write any of them), and My Weekly Reader is 60s covers (Beatles, Kinks, Small Faces, Zappa).

    Peter Feldstein
    Normal as Blueberry Pie is her take on Doris Day of all people, and works beautifully — last album my mother and I bonded over before she passed. My Weekly Reader is sort of a droll concept album about how boys sang about girls in the 60s — go… See more

    Chuck Eddy
    So, looks like Xgau likes her a lot — But you guys already knew that. I may have some catching up to do. (Whether I ever will is another question).
    https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Nellie%20McKay&fbclid=IwAR3RHrrNZ5BV3CJPK9eNBK864RWztigS35kREte0SugaIU_7DRKwuqEdNmA

    Nora Hollywood
    I have to say, I think her whole career has been excellent, and she is particularly amazing and distinctive live. The albums are not all equally good, but there are good songs throughout. I don’t see anything precious about her at all — she’s clever, and gets pretty pissed off with men: that seems reasonable to me. I once met her Mom, I think it was at either an animal rights fundraiser, or some other fundraiser, in a shabby room at the conservatory of flowers (or something) in Golden Gate Park, where Nelly pounded away at the worst-looking piano I’ve ever seen used for a live performance.

    Steve Pick
    First thing – I have only heard four of these 150 albums in their entirety, and I’m not sure I heard any of them except maybe Jill Scott in 2004. The Hold Steady came my way a couple years later when my friend and fellow scribe Roy Kasten gave me a money-back guarantee that I would like them in concert. Dallas Wayne was somebody I listened to more a year or two later when I started writing occasionally for No Depression. The Loretta Lynn was an abomination of a record that I hated from day one. I don’t remember the second Jill Scott record making as much of an impression as the first one had done four years earlier.

    Chuck Eddy
    Wait, so did you like Hold Steady, or did you get your money back? As for Loretta, I still like “Portland, Oregon” a lot. The rest seemed fine the last time I heard it — okay, except maybe the song about God never making mistakes — but clearly her high (#3!) P&J ranking was owed more to her lifetime stats and Jack White’s imprimatur than anything in the actual music.

    Steve Pick
    Oh, no, I did become a fairly solid Hold Steady fan once I saw them. I think of them as pretty much guaranteed to put out B to B+ material every time out. As for Loretta, I think Jack White fundamentally misunderstood how to make her sound good – she was not a sloppy hack like he has always been.

    Steve Pick
    That’s a killer opening paragraph filled with great points and the hilarity of being so absolute about the dates. The second paragraph reminded me of how much I loved PiL on American Bandstand when I saw it the first time it aired. This was actually a few weeks after Joe Jackson’s band accidentally knocked over a microphone stand or the hi-hat – I forget the specifics, but it broke the illusion of the lip synch, too. It seemed at the time like the New Wavers were gonna show Dick Clark and the world how fake their traditions were. I think when Ashlee Simpson did it on SNL, the holders of No Illusions were shocked to discover anybody would lip synch on live TV at all!

    Steve Pick
    J-Kwon – the biggest oversight in my book St. Louis Sound, as it wasn’t until we were looking over the first published copies that my co-author Amanda Doyle and I independently slapped our foreheads and asked how could we have left that guy out after three years of work? That said, there are quite a few artists in your essay and/or this list whose names bring next to no memories to my head. J-Kwon was as much a one-hit wonder as the Human Beinz or the Chantays, to mention 2 I happened to hear on a small set of them on Little Steven’s Underground Garage this morning.

    Steve Pick
    Looking back at things I wrote in 2004, my mind was on Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton, Tony Bennett, Dan Bern (who did put out an incredible and hilarious and musical album of protest songs for the election that year) the Meat Purveyors, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, David Lindley, John Reborn, Allison Moore, the Holmes Brothers, the Proclaimers, and St. Louis’ own Love Experts. Obviously, I was ready to start writing for No Depression.

    Patrick Hould
    Fun fact I was previously unaware of: Skye Sweetnam now fronts a metal band named Sumo Cyco. They put out their 3rd album last year.

    Chuck Eddy
    True. Kind of nü-metalcorish, unfortunately, from what I’ve heard.

    Patrick Hould
    Their name is very un-promising.

    Chuck Eddy
    For one-stop shopping:

    150 Best Albums Of…

    Josh Langhoff
    this is helpful! i consult these regularly

    Josh Langhoff
    like, not saying you were my ONLY guide when i was buying Cameo LPs the other day… but i did get two that you like

    John Ned
    he mother lode. Or she it be, the möther load?

    Kembrew McLeod
    “I’m prog as nails, but …” is my favorite sentence from this.

    Chuck Eddy
    What was I thinking?? These guys weren’t prog at all!

    Like

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