Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That Wonderful Year in Music... 2004

For this month's musical tribute I chose 2004, a year that featured a number of albums that were greater than the sum of its parts. Don't get me wrong, some amazing music came out five years ago, but many discs were stronger artistic statements than the individual songs. If there was a theme to '04, it was the year of the comeback; Green Day, Mission of Burma, David "Fathead" Newman, and even Loretta Lynn resurfaced from long absences to release critically-acclaimed albums. (R.E.M., not so much.)

Where was I in 2004? Well, it was my first full year at WDCB-FM in Chicago (my very first paying job), where I was given the Sisyphus-like task of writing playlists for a Sunday morning new age music show. I edited five shows and ten people at the old TV Tome (but not SNL or Letterman, believe it or not) while taking classes at the College of DuPage, where I was earning my associates in arts. 2004 was also the year I made my first (and so far only) trip to Canada, specifically Toronto, where I caught a Blue Jays-Red Sox game and visited the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Here's my favorite albums from 2004:

1. American Idiot, Green Day. At this point in time GD was AWOL after a string of hits in the mid-to-late '90s; two members of the band were raising young families while frontman Billie Joe Armstrong battled a personal demon or two. That made their return to form all the more shocking; most of these tracks trump anything they'd recorded since Dookie.
2. The Gray Album, Danger Mouse. This copyright-baiting fusion of Jay-Z and The Beatles is a marvel. DM's take on "Encore" not only puts a unique wrinkle on the Fab Four's "Glass Onion" and "Savoy Truffle" but puts Kanye West's original mix to shame.
3. Louden Up Now, !!! Catchy, fun dance-punk. "When The Going Gets Tough" and "S*** Scheisse Merde" are the stand-out tracks.
4. Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse
5. The College Dropout, Kanye West
6. Bows and Arrows, The Walkmen
7. Get Away from Me, Nellie McKay
8. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
9. ONoffON, Mission of Burma
10. Song for the New Man, David "Fathead" Newman. Earlier this year we lost one of the all-time great jazz saxophonists in Fathead, and this late-period outing with Curtis Fuller and John Hicks was probably one of the strongest efforts as a headliner. One of the better straight-ahead jazz discs of the past decade.

Honorable Mentions: Talkie Walkie, Air; Our Shadows Will Remain, Joseph Arthur; How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2.

Best Album of 2004 That I Incorrectly Credited on a Previous List as a 2005 Release: Funeral, Arcade Fire

These are my ten favorite songs, not including tracks from the aforementioned discs:

"Somebody Told Me," The Killers
"Walk Idiot Walk," The Hives
"Take Your Mama," Scissor Sisters
"Now Here is Nowhere," The Secret Machines
"Maps," The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"She Wants to Move," N.E.R.D.
"Over and Over," Nelly feat. Tim McGraw
"C'mon C'mon," The Von Bondies (if you watch the MLB Network, you probably hear this song about every five minutes)
"Banquet," Bloc Party
"Portions for Foxes," Rilo Kiley

My five favorite music videos from 2004:

1. "Walkie Talkie Man," Steriogram. You'll never look at yarn or clay the same way again.
2. "99 Problems," Jay-Z. The last single from what was supposed to be Hova's farewell album is a doozy. One "final" jab at urban race relations, complete with a shocking, violent ending.
3. "Pony Ride," Bumblebeez 81. An instance where the video makes the song... because the song makes absolutely no sense.
4. "Mr. Brightside," The Killers. Arguably the best performance of Eric Roberts' career.
5. "Ocean Breathes Salty," Modest Mouse. You were probably expecting to see an individual mention of "Float On," a magnificent song in spite of getting way too much radio play. In the video category, however "Float On" is no match for "Salty," a charming little clip about a little boy and a wounded bird.

Next Week: My 2009 baseball preview.


  1. 2004.... I busy listening to "The Drive" and getting what last free mp3's I could get. All that modern music, I just couldn't get into it. Didn't even listen to Green Day back in the day. I've never been to Can-o-da, don't know why I would want to.

  2. Uh... for the hockey and cheap beer?