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Monday, December 13th, 2004

At Least That’s What You Said

So here we are at yet another year-end list. I think the results are pretty predictable – I mean come on, what am I going to do? Surprise you? Silly rabbits, tricks are for kids. These ten albums amount to pretty much my most-listened to and most-enjoyed records of 2004. There’s no ranking this time as doing so would be almost completely arbitrary and meaningless – on any given day, depending on my mood or frame of mind, any of these could be the greatest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. So we’ll just leave them alphabetical-like and be done with it, shall we?

As always, I’ve included a sample mp3 of maybe my favourite tracks on each album, eschewing the singles or whatnot that you’ve probably already heard. If you like, go buy. None of these artists are rich, not by a long shot. Well, Wilco and Steve Earle are probably doing okay, but that’s not really the point. I’ll leave the tracks up probably till the end of the month or so. So without further ado…

American Music Club
Love Songs For Patriots
Merge

“Another Morning”

It may have been one of the most low-profile of the indie rock reunions to take place this year, but I’ll wager almost none of the others was more focused on being artistically vital in the present rather than just cashing in on the past. Even after a decade-long break, Mark Eitzel and his compatriots managed to craft an album that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with their best work, and that’s saying something.

The Arcade Fire
Funeral
Merge

“Rebellion (Lies)”

In just a few short months, this Montreal collective went from well-kept local secret to kings (and queens) of the indie scene. Yes, the hype can be overwhelming but if you get past all that and just focus on the music, you’ll find that Funeral is a stunning record, bristling with energy and emotion. And it’s also true that as good as the recorded product is, the live show puts it to shame.

Drive By Truckers
The Dirty South
New West

“Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”

Another slice of Southern gothic mythology served up by Alabama’s finest. With three top-notch songwriters and guitarists leading the assault, the Drive By Truckers manage to turn all stereotypes about Southern rock on their heads while being just as ass-kicking as you’d expect and want Southern rock to be.

Steve Earle
The Revolution Starts… Now
E2/Artemis

“The Seeker”

Written largely off the cuff and in the studio to meet an election day deadline, this record could have turned out to be a half-baked rhetoric pastiche – instead, it’s as passionate and incisive a piece of social commentary as you were going to find in 2005. It also rocks, hard. The world has provided Earle with lots of reasons to be pissed and he tackles them all head-on with humour, hope and his razor-sharp pen. Defiance never sounded so good.

Feist
Let It Die
Arts & Crafts

“Let It Die”

Americans reeling from the ongoing invasion of excellent Canadian music be warned – the best may still be to come. Leslie Feist radiates star power and this record, with its lush, European feel and jazzy, sexy vocals only begins to scratch the surface of what this girl could do. Expect big things from this Calgarian ex-pat. Hell, even The OC has caught on.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Shake The Sheets
Lookout!

“Walking To Do”

If I had decided to rank albums this year, this one would have been damn near the top. Impassioned, literate, stripped-down, urgent, fun and balls-out rocking, Ted Leo is rock personified.

Luna
Rendezvous
Jetset

“Malibu Love Nest”

Bidding the indie rock merry-go-round a farewell, Luna’s swansong is their finest in years. Recorded very much live off the floor, Rendezvous is warmer, more cohesive and more intimate-sounding than their last few records, and it suits them well. Plus there’s more guitar solos! Ah, Luna. We will miss you.

Rilo Kiley
More Adventurous
Beaute/Brute

“Does He Love You?”

A textbook definition of a breakout record, Rilo Kiley’s third album and sorta-major label debut brims with sass and confidence while jumping from style to style, anchored by Jenny Lewis’ marvelous voice. Addictive from the first listen and it only gets better from there.

Saturday Looks Good To Me
Every Night
Polyvinyl

“Lift Me Up”

This probably qualifies as the dark horse of the list, but what can I say – this record just makes me happy. For whatever reason, it took seeing the live show to really make it click for me, but when it did I couldn’t get it out of my CD player. These Spector/Motown-worshipping pop tunes make me wanna dance, and that’s no mean feat.

Wilco
A Ghost Is Born
Nonesuch

“Muzzle Of Bees”

Possibly the very definition of “a grower”, it’s hard to separate the record from everything that made up the year in Wilco. It may be a bit of a cop-out to say that it makes more sense if you’ve read the press about Jeff Tweedy’s rehab, seen the live show or read The Wilco Book, and I’ve obviously done all of the above, but it’s true. It may take a while, but when A Ghost Is Born finally reveals itself, it’s worth the effort.

You know, this list was a hell of a lot harder to write than I’d expected. Now I remember why I didn’t bother with writeups last year. I also forgot what a pain in the ass HTML in Nucleus is… but I’m done today’s post before 8AM, and that’s a good thing (and rare thing). Aaah.

By : Frank Yang at 7:48 am
Category: Year-End List
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  1. craig says:

    wow pretty great list…like you said no big surprises but it’s great to be able to sample all of these

  2. Gary Campbell says:

    Did you notice that the album cover art for most of your fav releases is very similar? Few bright colours, lots of simplified illustration… I wonder how the cover art influenced your purchase and repeated listening to these releases..? It’s also very odd that my in-the-works 2004 list contains not a single album of crossover with yours.

  3. Matt says:

    Great list…I’m sure I’ll end up buying many of the releases on this that I don’t have already; that’s what happened when I read/heard your recommendations and samples last year :-)

    thanks!

  4. Paul says:

    I can’t argue with any of your choices (except Wilco and Rilo Kiley, of course, who received special awards from me). I’m just surprised we don’t have a single crossover pick. Isn’t music wonderful?

  5. Frank says:

    I’ve never even heard of most of the stuff on your list, Paul. I just noticed the zip file you’ve graciously provided, though, so that’ll change shortly.

    I think my list is pretty populist, relatively speaking.

  6. becksfan says:

    pretty cool :)

  7. Justin says:

    I’m with you on the first three – AMC, DBT, and Arcade Fire. I have the Ted Leo and Luna discs on my Christmas list. Rilo Kiley and Wilco will be very close to the top ten, if they don’t make it. I really like the Steve Earle but I can’t see it getting up that high…maybe if Kerry had won. :) Haven’t heard anything of the other two as of yet.

    Oh, and how did you grab a copy of the Fiery Furnaces EP already?

  8. Frank says:

    haha – "Dammit Steve Earle, if only your album was better, then Bush wouldn’t have won! Go stand in the corner! You too, Ted Leo. You stand there and think about what you’ve done."

    The Fiery Furnaces EP album came courtesy of the good folks at Rough Trade America. Finally, two years plus of steady blogging has paid off with a free CD! I can retire, now.

  9. spencer says:

    thank you so much for the luna track

    been meaning to pick that one up.

  10. James says:

    How about Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Like Bad News? Pedro the Lion’s Achilles Heel?

    But of course, you knew you were going to get a few "But what about…" comments. Never mind me. Great list, and thanks for the MP3s, too.

  11. Frank says:

    Modest Mouse just didn’t grab me all that much and I didn’t hear the Pedro The Lion. I don’t doubt I missed out on some good stuff this year – that’s why I like the "but what about…" comments, they point me at stuff that slipped under my radar this year.

  12. Rachel says:

    Modest Mouse–over-played and over-rated. The Bukowski song is funny, though.

  13. James says:

    Who overplayed Modest Mouse? Since I never listen to radio, the only one who can be guilty of overplaying anything is…me! And I didn’t.

    :)