So I says to myself, “everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”. And then I started to think about it, and you know, coming up with my favourite 10 albums of the year is actually not that hard. So in no particular order, here are the 10 albums that rocked my world this year:
I was worried this highly catchy, danceable pop would wear thin after a while, but every listen stands up on this fantastic album, but “Jacqueline” and “Michael” both immediate favourites, are still that good after all this time. That their show at Richards on Richards was one of the best I went to all year certainly helps their case, too.
Garden State Soundtrack
The companion to one of those “defining” films, the music makes the movie and also results in a compelling soundtrack, full of sweet, soft tunes. I feel that one of the most interesting musical trends of this year is that “folk” is no longer a dirty word. It has found new footing, and many artists on this soundtrack exemplify that trend.
Arcade Fire: Funeral
One of the best debut albums of all time, this album screams instant classic. Vast, encompassing music that begs to be listened to, I almost hope that this Montreal group never makes another album, because I doubt they’ll ever match the quality they’ve found here.
Erlend Øye: DJ Kicks
The best “house” disc I’ve heard in a long time, this CD is more in line with the Back to Mine series than others in the DJ Kicks series as well, it’s more collection of tunes, rather than a “pure” DJ mix-set, but for anyone who likes techno, this is a must-own. Also interesting is the curious aspect of Erlend singing overtop of his mixes here and there (his day job is being half of Kings of Convenience)
Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill
Re-enforcing just what a loss he was this year, this posthumous release by Eliott Smith is also probably his strongest, featuring sad, sweet, melodic pop tunes.
This is my guilty pleasure of the year, a silly, insanely catchy pop-album. Check out, in particular, the single “Chewing Gum”.
The Streets: A Grand Don’t Come For Free
A compelling concept album of a week in the life of a young, going-nowhere punter, Mike Skinner continues his success with strangely off-kilter rhymes about everyday life, mixed with intelligent beats & melodies to back him up. My favourite hip-hop disc of the year by far.
William Shatner: Has Been
I was originally convinced that this would be a one-listen, one-song joke, but this album has not only stood up to multiple listens, it gets better everytime I hear it. Spoken word mixed with sly folk edges, this album is probably the biggest surprise of the year to me. Of course, with Ben Folds producing, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so astonished to like it — Ben Folds has the midas touch, as far as I’m concerned.
As difficult an album as Björk has ever made, Medulla is fascinating to listen to, as Herself and various collaborators stretch what sounds can be made by the human voice into an enchanting, mesmerizing listen. This one was a slow grower on me, as it wasn’t until the third time through I was able to relax into it, but once it hooked me, it had me hook, line & sinker.
U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
A cop-out, easy choice to be sure, what with it’s recent release date and massive publicity, but this album is really, really great. It continues the same “we’re just here to rock” vibe from All That You Can’t Leave Behind (what is it with them and their long Album titles now?), but, in my opinion, does it even better, with the one glaring exception of the last track, “Yahweh”. For any casual fans of the band, or straight-up rock fans, this album is a must.
So of course, this list could have been longer, and if I did it, say, yesterday, a couple of these albums may have been replaced by others. But all in all, I’d say 2004 has been a pretty good year, musically.