2004 Noise In Review

2004 was a good year for music from my perspective. Maybe it’s just because I spent yet another year working on noise-making software and found/tested more music than ever. Or perhaps it was the Mojo subscription I treated myself to last holiday season. Or maybe it was my sampling of pretty much all the music on the Pitchfork “Best New Music” page. Whatever the reason, I thought I’d share my favorites of the year with the anyone who cares to read.

I’m not going to bother with lengthy reviews of each and every album. I’ll try to toss in enough information to give you an idea the kind of album it is, and you can sort out if you should bother sampling or not on your own.

Music is the best. Enjoy.

UPDATE: I started a playlist of songs from these albums found on the net at Lucas’s great site, Webjay. Click here to listen to songs from this page while you read and check back because I’ll be adding more as I find them. Thanks to Insound and BetterPropaganda for the lion’s share of the mp3s.

The list:

Dungen – Ta Det Lungt
Hot nards. As much as I hate to admit that I like the same music as the people that write Vice and Fader, this is the record of the year, bar none. Maybe the record of the last five years. Beautiful and heavy. See my earlier review (with links to sample, buy, etc) here. Thanks to Pitchfork for this one.


Shock G – Fear of a Mixed Planet

First of all, can I get an email from SOMEONE when Shock G makes a record? I’ve been a Shock fan for long enough to warrant an alert and, come on, there can’t be that many of us that actually bought (and loved) Future Rhythm, but I didn’t find out about this one until long after it was out. For those unfamiliar, Shock G was Digital Underground. There were a few other characters in the group (Money B and DJ Fuze, who also made up Raw Fusion, and 2 Pac for a hot minute), but Humpty Hump, The Piano Man, the cover artist, the producer, the fish character, etc, those were all Greg Jacobs aka Shock G. So the very concept of a Shock G solo record is pretty laughable, but I guess he needed to move on from the Digital Underground “brand”. All his signature moves are here, amazing musical production, unconventional songs, honest and heartfelt rhymes, silly and nonsensical shit, solo tracks and guest appearances. He covers an EPMD track (somewhat) with Money B and Humpty, gives Clev MC a couple of verses, and Yukmouth is in the house. This is real soul music. Hip hop for music lovers. I owe Cocaine Blunts for hipping me to the existence of this one. Shock called me a couple times, as you can hear here. Shock, holla back.

Coliseum – Coliseum

Heavy hardcore from Louisville. Tailor made for those of us who shook our heads ferociously to Poison Idea and Blast! in the 80s. If that wasn’t you, no need to dive into this one. If it was, you want this quick, fast, in a hurry. Thanks to Sam Velde for showing me the way.

Detroit Cobras – Baby

How can an album by a band called Detroit Cobras only be available as an import? This is straight ahead rock with the best female vocals I’ve heard in who knows how long. Strong, simple songs a la The Pretenders. Track down the song called “Real Thing” if you need a new favorite “I’m going out on a date on Saturday night” song. Fun for the whole family (I sent this album to my parents for Xmas). I sourced this one through Mojo. More info on the album and some audio clips here

Morrissey – You Are The Quarry

I must admit that I was never a Smiths fan but the fact is that Morrissey’s schtick works better at whatever age he is now than when he was a whiny 20-something. His voice is incredible, songs brilliant, and attitude out of control. Really a beast unto himself. We’re lucky to have him. Thanks, Moz. I think it was his the Mojo interview that kicked me into actually giving this one a chance.

The Libertines – The Libertines

Far more than “the UK Strokes”, Libertines are a fantastic mess, a brilliant band barely holding on by a thread. But that’s not to say they make terrible noise. They make incredible songs in spite of themselves. Put it back together and do it again, ya fuckin’ bozos.

McLusky – The Difference Between Me and You is That I’m Not on Fire

Ah, so sad to learn that McLusky are no longer. They were 2004’s special something for those of us old Ed Hall, Nomeansno, and Steel Pole Bath Tub fans. Fuzzy math rock produced by Steve Albini donning The Best Song Names Ever (TM).

Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak

I don’t understand the deal with this record. Appears to only be available in the UK. But aren’t they from Memphis? Whatever. Oh wait, they’re finally putting it out here in February. Jackasses. Kings of Leon were The Next Big Thing a year or so ago but I thought their record was only so-so (plus the rumors that they were God Squad freaked me out). But after a very favorable review in Mojo I dug into this record and really love it. Fridge magnet poetry lyrics (she saw my comb over / her hour glass body / she had problems with drinking milk and being school tardy / she’ll lend you her tooth brush / she’ll bartend your party) with clever, catchy 3 minute songs. Love it.

Comets On Fire – Blue Cathedral

This album makes me want to take drugs. I don’t think it’s quite as “Blue Cheer” as all the reviewers do, it goes from blistering shouting noise to Zappa-esque skronk. Excellent. Thanks to Pitchfork for this one.

Country Got Soul, Vol 2

Um, apparently some weirdos in the UK have taken to extracting the soul from the American south. This is the second in their “Country Got Soul” series and it’s (mostly) tremendous. In 2004 they also went as far as spending a bunch of time in the US hunting down and recording these original dudes and made an album called “Testifyin’” by “The Country Soul Review”, but I have to admit I like this comp better than the new stuff. As Steven said, “I have a whole new genre now!” Again, I read about this shit in Mojo.

Ratatat – Ratatat

I really love the first two tracks on this record and then I get kinda bored. But I love the first two enough that it made the list. Plus it wins for originality this year. Basically Ratatat sounds like two guitar nerds having fun with a drum machine, not so different from Trans Am. But they definitely pull together real songs, not just a bunch of bleep blork noise. Track one is even danceable. I played it at a party and it actually worked, and I don’t think it was just the booze. Ed at Speakeasy told me about this one first.

M.O.P. – Marxmen Cinema

So rumor has it that M.O.P. are now signed to Rockafella but before they put together a new album there (and at the same time they released their metal album “Mash Out Posse”, follwed by a tour opening for Linkin Park), they dropped an album of unreleased and B-Side stuff called “Marxmen Cinema”. Hot. Not only that, but there’s a phone number in one of the skits on this album, I called it, and Fox fucking called me back. That’s fan outreach. Thanks to J-Whit of Abstract Elements for telling me about this one.

The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me

What’s his name from Lifter Puller’s new band is basically a nostalgia party, silly and pretentious but addictive none the less. 70s guitar rock with over-the-top scene-aware lyrics. Perfect for those of us that don’t file Thin Lizzy and Fugazi in different places. “Everyone’s a critic and most people are DJs.” True nuff, look at me.

Deerhoof – Milk Man

Not Deerhoof’s best but a noteable release by everyone’s favorite SF oddball rock ensemble.

Tinariwen – Amassakoul

So what happens when you give Sahara Desert nomads electric guitars? They make delta blues, of course. Now I have no idea if they were also given copies of John Lee Hooker records or not, but it doesn’t much matter. This is handsome stuff. I sent a copy to my dad. Maybe your dad wants one, too.

Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine\

If I were still at a record label I’d be trying to sign these guys and put them on one of them there “modern rock” stations. Accessible rock by two young gents from the same scene that brought you Lightning Bolt. Bass, drums, and some keyboards. The drummer sings. That’s it. But it’s not noisy. It’s melodic, yet heavy. Who’da thunk? Note: this does not mean that I want to see Vice Records succeed. I want it to go away like their store on Sunset did.

Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Origin I

From what I can tell, Swedes do one thing: they take our culture and make it more aesthetically pleasing. Another amazing record from Sweden’s Soundtrack Of Our Lives. Rock. I can’t wait to see them live again.

TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes

Not nearly as good as I was hoping after the amazing EP, but a solid and weird effort from Brooklyn’s creative afros.

!!! – Louden Up Now

Ditto for this, I was a bit disappointed in this much-anticipated follow-up after running their debut into the ground, but there is still plenty of bedroom dance party to be had here, plus great choruses such as “Like I give a fuck about that mother fucking shit”.

Prince – Musicology

Not sure why Prince decided to make his first amazing album in god knows how long in 2004 but it was (almost) worth the wait. Also, the scheme of giving it out as part of the price of admission at an endless sold-out tour, thereby boosting soundscan sales through the roof, is the most brilliant music biz move of the year.

Autolux – Future Perfect

Yay! Carla and company finally came through with a full-length record and it’s great.

Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles

This record reminds me of why I loved buying records out of the back of Maximum Rock n Roll every month in high school (prior to the dawn of online ordering). Every now and then you come across something that just seems based in nothing else, true subversive spirit coming through in song, noise, and more noise. Brave and soulful, in that SF art punk kinda way.

Stereolab – Margerine Eclipse

I keep having this experience with Stereolab where I forget about them for a while, then I trip across them again for whatever reason and realize that they’re my favorite band. With this, their 10th full-length album, and their first after losing a key member to a bicycling accident in 2002, solidifies them as one of the most consistently amazing bands on earth. It doesn’t sound so different from the rest of their catalog, but since they’re the only ones who sound like that it’s most welcome. Keep ’em coming, please.

Kanye West – The College Dropout

I’m not going to lie and say that Zoe and I didn’t learn every word to this album this year. School spirit mother fucker.

Destroyer – Your Blues

This crazy canadian finally stopped sounding like a Ziggy-era Bowie ripoff and made an incredible and original album. With hyper-thespian lyrics over music that sounds like someone trying to conduct a symphony with no more than an acoustic guitar and a mid-priced keyboard, this album speaks to the Rob Lord in all of us.

Super Furry Animals – Songbook, The Singles v.1

Greatest hits collection from the most under rated and my most favorite Welsh pop rock band.

Masta Ace – Long Hot Summer

Far from Ace’s best work but we’re glad to have you back, man.

Jello Biafra and The Melvins – Never Breathe What You Can’t See

With the election and all the fun we’re having in Iraq I’ve been screaming along really loud in the car to Dead Kennedys a lot this year, wishing that someone 18 and whip smart would come along and give us a 2004 version. We need a musical reaction to the Bush years even more than we needed one to the Reagan years, and lets face it U2 ain’t it. Well, instead Jello got together with The Melvins (!) and made basically the best DKs record since In God We Trust, Inc.. This is actually way better than I thought it was going to be. A must-hear for any old Dead Kennedys fan or modern day SUV-hater. More for DK fans than Melvins fans, I think.

I was going to put the Black Mountain album on the list but it says the official release date is 2005. Sorry.

Older stuff that got a lot of play from me this year: James Brown – Motherlode (Since You’ve Been Gone is one of my favorite cuts, ever), Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark, and both of the Gary Wilson reissues. Other stuff of course but I can’t think of it at the moment.

Lemme know what I missed. Enjoy 2005.

ian

J.Rocc vs. Mason (whoever that is)

J Logic just forwarded me this. Supposedly it was on some MySpace message board:

Direct from JRocc. To Mason:

“HOMEBOY KEEP THE CREW’S NAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.”

This is old school, straight battle. Get your scion ass on the phone and handle this.

“Battle Plans:

Round 1:
1 hour sets each

Round 2:
Record For Record

Round 3:
Rock The Other Persons Records For 15 mins.

oh yeah i forgot….4 TURNTABLES. You and your boy (no disrespect to him. I haven’t heard him say anything. He’s still cool. But, he probably was in on a couple of jokes.) and me by my lonley. THAT’S HOW HEATED I AM.

THE WINNER:
loser has to give up a crate of records. NO JOKE!
and you can’t go hiding records from the loser.”

To anyone that knows this Mason guy. Tell him to step the fuck up.

Beat Junkie Sound!!!!

Someone lemme know if that really goes down!

UPDATE: Here’s the original thread from the Beat Junkies’ site.

ian