Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Major Leaguer Top 10 Albums of 2004

Right. So after 363 days, these are the LPs that have been stuck in my hi-fi the longest. Any notable omissions? If so, have your say below....OK, let's count 'em down....

10. No Cities Left – The Dears
Yes, this year’s finest Britpop album came from a bunch of Canadians led by vocalist, writer, multi-instrumentalist, and, ahem, ‘director’ Murray A. Lightburn. Once you get past the sound-a-like qualities of Lightburn’s voice (is he Albarn or Morrissey? You decide!), and the Stephen Street style production, what you’re left with is an album of lush melancholia fit for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Although there’s no denying The Second Part, with ‘smoke/broke/smokes’ rhyming is truly, utterly, awful. Now, hand me my Gitanes…

9. The Futureheads – The Futureheads‘Hey guys, lets pay homage to Kate Bush by covering her in a Jam-styleee!’, ‘Yeah!’ Well, it probably didn’t pan out like that, but with Hounds Of Love, Sunderland’s The Futureheads had the cover version of the year by a long, long way (and if you like that, you’d be mad not to track down their remix of The Streets Fit But You Know It). Like Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads debut was a joy from start to finish, and another reason why British rock music in 2004 was near-unstoppable.

8. Happiness In Magazines – Graham Coxon
Right, so while Damon Albarn’s still stuck in his bongos and marimba phase, we can get back to why Blur were so exciting: Graham Coxon. Happiness In Magazines is Coxon’s strongest solo set to date, packed full of memorable tunes, stellar riffage and two of the best singles of the year, if not any year (Freakin’ Out, Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery). Oh, and has anyone noticed Graham’s vocals have gotten better?

7. Now Here Is Nowhere – Secret Machines
Like Led Zeppelin and Rush in a head colliding in a head on car crash, with Neil Young first to the scene, Texas trio Secret Machines were the discovery of 2004. Brothers Benjamin and Brandon Curtis and Josh Garza proved that power-prog was definitely not just for the likes of The Mars Volta, as Now Here Is Nowhere’s krautrock stylings and blistering psychedelic wigouts made the Machines a must-see live show. Your move Messer’s Bixler and Rodriguez.

6. Destroy Rock & Roll – Mylo
In a year where the ‘death’ of dance music was widely reported by broadsheets across the UK, it seemed that no-one had told Myles MacInnes about the funeral. With a magpie like approach to melody (‘Bette Davis Eyes’ anyone?), MacInnes set his phasers to ‘fun’, his tongue firmly in cheek on In My Arms, and the title track. His trump-card though was Drop The Pressure, a beast which was in the box of every self-respecting DJ, and thanks to its filtered vocal got everyone in the land dancing to the word ‘motherfucker’ whether they knew it or not. Sheer class.

5. From A Basement On A Hill – Elliott Smith
It’s no use looking for clues and answers on Smith’s posthumous release because that would be missing the point. Try this: here’s a fitting farewell to an artist who wasn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, his bittersweet songs capable of connecting to troubled souls the world over. From A Basement captures Smith at his rawest, and despite being littered with references to drugs (Kings Crossing, A Distorted Reality…), death (Last Hour, Let’s Get Lost) and depression (Pretty (Ugly Before)), it again shows Smith was an extremely under-rated lyricist. He’ll be missed.

4. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Scooping every music prize under the sun (except the always odd American Shortlist gong), Franz Ferdinand were everywhere in 2004. By the end of it, they were understandably in fisticuffs having spent the previous twelve months in each others pockets, whether on a mammoth world tour promoting their stellar debut, or trying to take home their mountain of trophies from every award show. Intelligent, danceable rock and roll the likes of which haven't been heard in a decade, Franz Ferdinand were pretty darn special.

3. Antics – Interpol
Just like 2002’s Turn On The Bright Lights, Antics was again a slow-burner. However, once it got through to you, the New York groups’ second album was a thing of dark beauty. Take You On A Cruise’s majesty grows with repeated listening, Not Even Jail hits the headphones like a sledgehammer, while in Slow Hands the band had a song indie kids the land over could pogo to. So, ‘difficult’ second album sorted then.

2. Madvillainy - Madvillain
In a pairing to wet the pants of every underground hip-hop head, producer Madlib teamed up with rapper MF Doom for a blunted beat-fest. Slick rhymes about sneakers, rhinestone cowboys, groupie love, and of course rollin’ a few proved that Doom was truly an MC’s MC, while Madlib continued to show why he’s the king of the boards (check Shopping Bags on De La Soul’s Grind Date for further proof). A stone-cold classic.

1. A Ghost Is Born – Wilco
If this is the music Jeff Tweedy makes on painkillers, Ryan Adams might want to consider changing doctors. Following on from 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born showed Tweedy was finally making music on his own terms, with Jim O’Rourke again at the helm. Earlier Wilco fans welcomed tracks such as Hummingbird and Theologians as glimpses into the bands past. More importantly though, it was the Can-inspired Spiders (Kidsmoke), and the buzzing Less Than You Think that provided a view of Wilco’s future. Stunning.

3 comments:

Calico said...

> 6. Destroy Rock & Roll – Mylo

ha! this sucks, to the maxx!

Euan said...

No way! It's a guilty pleasure! Hey....you free for coffee this week boyo?

Anonymous said...

Calico's album is much worse!